It is the summer of 1978, and the two children of Nguyen, are ten and eleven years old now. Vang has been dead for a few years, and Zuxin who worked with Vang in Cam Ranh Bay during the war years is Nguyen’s new wife. During the past couple of years Ming has visited them during the summers. Cam Ranh Bay is being used as a Market Place now, in particular the Air Base there. Things have changed. He worked for the underground in Saigon in those war years, a civilian sanitary engineer, an army-trained sniper no one knew he was, who was assigned to collect data for the underground fighting of the Americans, thus, he was also a spy, his wife never know much of what he was, Vang, although being a one time sniper she did now, thinking he was retired at the time she was with him.
This summer Ming is staying at the house with Zuxin, it has been enlarged to six rooms, instead of three. They now have a sturdy roof and a dog on it to warn them of the midnight robbers, and there are quite a few. He now works in interrogation of the new order, that in which many of the citizens that worked for the Americans were sent to for relearning, to be reprogrammed for the New Life in Vietnam, the new city, his boss is Major Manh, he himself is a Sergeant, it equivalent, he also works for him at his man job. They are even constructing a museum on the victory they had over the Americans. Ming had to attend reprogramming classes within the new order, as to have a new attitude, heart and mind for nationalism, being a friend of Nguyen, she was only limited to a few, she had met Major Manh once, but never talked to him, and thus, because of him and Zuxin’s husband, no harsh punishment was given her, and each summer she had told Nguyen she’d come to help Zuxin with the children and household cleaning, and so forth and so on, and of course, he had and has had, and continues to have a personal agenda with her, during the summers.
She is taller than Vang or Zuxin was, slender, and is younger than Vang, who would be thirty-nine this year had she lived, whereas, Nguyen is forty-nine-years old, and Zuxin, thirty-seven, and Ming twenty-eight, long silk like black hair, and deep dark eyes.
She is not really attracted to him, he is ugly, thin, and his face is sunken in like a squeezed sponge; he has bony hands, and is a very prideful man. But she cannot escape his grip on her, lest she run to Cambodia, where her parents are living still. She also has aunts and uncles in China.
Saigon, now from the ashes of the late war, has been renamed Ho Chi Minh City, is growing not only with new markets, and reprogramming clinics, but with many new cloths shops, Ming has taken a job in one, a part time job, as Zuxin has also-they work sometimes together, allowing the boys to run wild as boys often do anyhow, so they feel, and it brings money into the household.
Nguyen Khoa, is working with Yoon his friend, and the superintendent Mr. Manh, conduction on a preliminary blueprint, witch will enable Mr. Manh to finish his job on the septic tank system for a section of the city. Both Yoon and Manh have been over recently to Nguyen’s house, and have recognized Ming from the reprogramming, and recent years she has visited Nguyen and Zuxin, quite a pretty woman, whom seems quite educated yet fanciful in a almost ill way-as if she is manic if not at times depressed, bored with life, and yet intelligent, and perhaps a little promiscuous, so she seems in the eyes of Manh, and so Nguyen had felt likewise, neither one sharing this opinion with one another. Mr. Manh, sixty-two years old has told Nguyen he thinks she, Ming, if giving a chance will take a liking for him, he feels she has given him the eye, flirting with him, and Yoon over some wine this morning, has said the same thing, but if you were to ask Ming, it would be a simple no, she was being kind the few times she was introduced to the two men, and so often, she has come to the realization, making a man feel good, or smiling, or being kind, seems to give them the wrong message, as if she would like to bestow her womanhood upon them, how wrong can a man be, but she is in a man’s world, and thus smiles and tries to get away like a cat chasing a mouse, or a bear scenting his honey–thinking it belongs to him, and she, trying to cover the scent up, before she gets eaten up because of her honey.
Manh, asks when Nguyen’s shift will end, as for Yoon also, his shift, and Nguyen says, at 4:00 PM. He tells Nguyen to bring Ming to the outside truck, parked in the back where all the trucks are park when they arrive back from their trips throughout the city. There he will wait for her.
Nguyen, when he asks Ming to come to the plant, he doesn’t tell her exactly the truth, he says,
“It’s for showing you the place, Mr. Manh wants you to see it,” and she replies,
“I expected something like this, he’s always checking me out,” but she wasn’t thinking what Manh was thinking, she had never been married, and was thinking along those lines, and perhaps he’s interested.
She somewhat resists, even though Nguyen pleads, she knows there is something there she can’t escape and therefore, doesn’t want to go, call it in tuition.
Zuxin is at work and the boys are running around in a gang.
Nguyen starts to think about Vang, shakes his head as if it wouldn’t happen again, couldn’t happen again, that was in wartime when she got her disease, this is different (he had gotten medication, but it was too late for her, and that child of her’s, Langdon’s child).
On the other hand, he doesn’t want to upset Mr. Manh. Hence, she calls Zuxin at work so she can let Vy Hoang know, Ming will not be to work, and she is going with him to see the plant where he works. Zuxin hesitates, says, “Oh, I see, tell her I love her.”
Funny response, thought Nguyen, I mean, was ‘I love her,’ necessary, simply going to the plant.
In his own way, he loved Vang, but it was all too late to save her from syphilis, and as soon as that thought came and left, thus, he allowed Zuxin to go on with him to the plant, no more pauses.
As Mr. Manh waits he continues to examine into the phases of the new drainage system construction, he and Yoon and Nguyen were looking on, or at. Then they arrive, Zuxin and Nguyen, he sees Nguyen bringing her into the plant, and several other men see him do it, and Mr. Manh sees that all the men are watching, attracted to her, he then whispers something to Yoon, and greets Zuxin.
“I will take you on a tour of the back area of the plant,” Manh tells Zuxin, “and Nguyen, he can come with,” now Yoon is talking to the workmen that saw Ming come in.
“Miss Ming, in a plant like this one, as you can see we are many serious men, seriousness in anyone of them, sometimes here we work twelve to fourteen hours to make sure the city has a sanitary drainage system in place, we all call it part of participating in nationalism, the new national government, where North and South now have been united as one, as you are one of us, as you remember your reprogramming.” (Although he is concealing his real motives for showing her the plant, and brings her to the back parking lot; she smiles, nods her head as if she understands the word patriotism.)
Ming, for the most part is a good observer, and knows something is up, but feels helpless, and is hoping for the best, but she also knows the evil in men, those with power, and feels she will have to cooperate, and unable to confront at anyone. And they, both Manh and Nguyen, and now Yoon is keeping her company, and will not tell her why.
It dawns on Nguyen, that Manh would do such a thing, plan such a thing, didn’t think he had it in him, and is quite bold on the situation, meaning, he did not think much about asking him to do what he was planning on doing, he didn’t know exactly what he was thinking, but it was one of those things, that strain you, until you can figure it out, and hopefully when you do it is not too late. He says to himself, aloud,
“My wife, I should call my wife let her know I’ll be late.”
“Didn’t Ming call her?” said Manh, “she knows you’ll be late.”
Then they arrived at the truck (among many trucks), Yoon opened it, there was a mattress in the back of it,
“You must be careful dear, you don’t want to fall. And if you do not go onto that mattress for me, I will have you sent back to the reprogramming… and this time harsh punishment will prevail.” and said no more. And he took her by her hand and led her to the mattress, and he took her, and Yoon took her, and several men from the planet came down and waited for their turns.
“Fine, Nguyen now you can go call your wife, tell her we are done today with Ming, for her to bring her back tomorrow,” said Manh.
“Why her?” asked Nguyen.
“Why not her,” replied Manh.
“Because she is my wife!” said Nguyen, with a struggle holding his anger back.
“Because she knows her way down her, and I need you to finish the work we are working on, she’s been here before, you can’t tell…!” said Manh.
Then Nguyen looked at the several men going into see Ming, and Yoon, and they all laughed at him, smirked, and tears came down his cheeks, shame filled his face. These men you see, along with twenty others are willing to sacrifice you for your wife, they are what you call, stockholders in her,” and he laughed, and the men ganged up on Nguyen, and beat, and beat and beat him to pulp, and there he lay in a pool of his own blood, as the last man, carried Ming out said, “We’ll send his wife his checks, he will not be needing them,” Manh added to that little monologue, telling Ming “And tell Zuxin, I will be seeing you both tomorrow, be here at 4:15 PM, sharp.”