Cha Là Nhà



When she opened the door of the apartment, Linh did not recognize him, though she did see something familiar in his face.

A nice face, she thought.

At first she she thought he was another American salesman who had business with her mother.

The smells of the restaurant downstairs mixed together with the usual odors of a Saigon morning that wafted through the open windows—exhaust, heating wok oil, charcoal fires, humanity.

The stranger with the nice face smiled.

“You must be Linh,” he said in English.

She did not answer.

He said it again in Vietnamese, his accent strange and stilted.




Usually I don’t offer any explanation of the story, but this one needs it, I think. Cha Là Nhà means “Father’s Home” in Vietnamese.  There were more than a few American servicemen with families they were forced to leave when their tour was over.


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  1. Caerlynn Nash

    I suspect this happened a lot in the late sixties, early seventies. I liked your line: odors of a Saigon morning wafting through the open windows—exhaust, hot wok oil, charcoal fires, humanity… This really evokes great imagery (and smells).

  2. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Great story. The location and the first sentence gives us the full story (once you have read to the end) but you have filled it in with great use of the senses — visual pictures, the smell of the food and other odours of Saigon. This must have been quite common after the Vietnam War. Well written

  3. rochellewisoff

    Dear J Hardy,

    The explanation did help. Although I think perhaps if he had called her daughter or she had called him father at the end it would have clarified. Either way, I liked this story a lot.



  4. Margaret

    Brilliant. The first line gives just enough to carry the rest of the story. The title is great, and your translation helpful. I love this story.

Don't just stand there.