My uncle callously raised it up so people could see it. The villagers were shocked at his behavior but they didn’t disagree with his actions. The disdain for the Viet Cong was overwhelming. No one made an effort to stop him. Silence draped the scene. The villagers had seen the atrocities carried out by the Viet Cong, including beheadings. Now, they watched one of their own openly defy the Viet Cong and questioned if they could do the same. My mother stood cowering in the alleyway, watching this stranger that once was her brother and pondered the critical question, what will happen next?
She couldn’t take it anymore and fled the scene. She ran back home, crawled into bed and pulled the sheets tight over her head. My grandfather attempted to pry details of her account but to no avail. My mother refused to relive the moment by telling him the gruesome details. Her neighbors told her afterwards my uncle hurled the head into the river. It floated downstream like a piece of driftwood and out to the sea. After the incident, the village carried on as usual. People murmured when they saw my uncle but nobody mentioned anything to him.
A few weeks later, the Viet Cong came to exact their revenge. Once again, my mother remembers hearing the distant screams. This time she ran out of the house to greet them. She intercepted her neighbors in the middle of the streets. They’re coming, they exclaimed!
She didn’t have to ask who was coming, she knew. She ran back home to tell her father. He was waiting impatiently at the door. He had heard the screams as well and knew it didn’t bode well. It pained him to see her running towards him with such fear in her eyes. They’re coming, my mother cried. He nodded in comprehension. Her brother lived down the street but knew the Viet Cong would canadain viagra also search for him in both houses.
Before they had a chance to warn my uncle, they saw the Viet Cong marching towards them. She and my grandfather moved to the street to receive them but they ignored them and rushed into the house. With the thoroughness of prison guards, they ransacked the house looking for my uncle. After an exhaustive search, they reconvened outside and encountered the other search party sent to my uncle’s house. My uncle was missing. Neighbors had warned my uncle early enough so he had time to escape. Thwarted by the villagers, the Viet Cong seethed in anger. They grabbed my grandfather and threatened to kill him in place of his son.
If killing an old man proves your power, then do it, my grandfather told them defiantly.
My mother watched in absolute horror as one Viet Cong raised a gun to her father’s head. She tried to rush to his side but was held down by two of them. She pleaded for leniency and begged them to have mercy. My grandfather didn’t flinch but stared coldly into his assailant’s eyes.
In the end, the Viet Cong knew my grandfather was more useful to them alive than dead. My grandfather also held the same knowledge. They may torture him but they wouldn’t kill him. Like skillful sport fishermen, they released him and my mother with the intent of recapturing them again. They withdrew and announced anyone harboring my uncle would be killed on the spot. Unbeknownst to my mother and grandfather, my uncle was hiding in the outhouse receptacle behind his house. He hid there all day and only surfaced under the cover of darkness. He fled that night with few of his belongings leaving behind his wife and his two-year old son. Several years passed before he was able to reunite with his family. He never returned to Thien Hien.
Before my uncle’s death, my mother asked him about the confrontation that led to the beheading. She asked him if he decapitated the Viet Cong. He looked at her nervous eyes and allayed her fears saying that he did not do it. But why did he carry the head around she asked. He said without remorse, There comes a time when you have to take a stand. When you get to that moment, you know what you have to do. I didn’t think, I just acted. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, it was something I had to do.
June 16, 2009