Thuyền Nhân

The storm blew for three days, took the remaining mast and two of the older children as they bailed with their little hands in a desperate attempt to keep the boat from swamping. Suong had helped as much as she could, but fifty days on the sea had left her so weak she could hardly sit up. After a few minutes, she lay back in the sloshing bilge, her face to the thundering clouds and rain.

It was the sun that woke her, hot on her face. She heard the cry of gulls.  One of the men pulled her up, the old Laotian whose name, Chó Chết, meant “dead dog” in Vietnamese. She remembered how she had laughed  at him the first day, feeling joyously lucky to be among the hundreds on the dock who secured a place on the crowded boat.

After days on the open ocean there was no more food and no more water and it was not so funny.

Chó Chết grinned  at her with betel-stained teeth and pointed across the bow at a low rise of land on the horizon.

“Is that America?” she asked in broken Lao.

“Why is that important?” he said. “It is land.”


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