Around Vietnam [English] · Fiction · nyclovers' blog

The Alley

The alley


Ha Noi

The alley was dirty and full of nasty smells.

‘Damn it!’

Tam kicked an empty can, lying on her path, away. It hit the moss-grown wall on her right. The echoed sound made her more annoyed.

The alley was once again quiet.

‘Damn it! Damn it!’

Tam talked to herself. She was on the way home. Her feelings were not very good tonight. They were not so good every single night. She walked slowly along the poorly–lit alley. The dim lights made it look like an endless road.

Throwing away her cigarette, Tam noticed the bruises on her wrists and fingers. She sniffed indifferently. As far back as she could remember, all her life had been a miserable story. Why should someone like her concern about being hurt? Her drunken father was killed by alcohol, obviously. He irresponsibly left Tam and her little sister with his wife, whose job was swearing and beating her daughters.

It was obvious that Tam hated this life. There was no way she could beat her little sister, so she found another way to get rid of her anger.

She beat anyone who insulted her, talked behind her back, made fun of her. In short, she beat anyone who was ‘annoyed’.

‘Those bitches deserved it.’

That was she thought after every fight.

This was the same road she walked every night, after every fight.


The door swung open.

Chi!’ Her sister cried out.

‘Where is ma?’ Tam gently wrapped her arms around the little girl and gave her a sweet smile, hiding her thoughts.

‘I don’t know. Come, I made some dinner for you.’ Her little hand held Tam’s tightly. It was warm. Suddenly all her anger vanished.

Tam closed the old door, following her sister into the house.

Sometimes she wondered who was older.


Thanh was eleven.

Kids her age had a carefree life. Thanh was different. Waking up early, making breakfast, going to school, going home, making dinner, sometimes hiding from the wicked woman in the house. That was her life. Repeatedly.


Tam remembered seeing her little sister one day at her school. All the chattering was dancing around her head. She tried not to care about them. Playing with the cigarette with her fingers, exhaling the smoke, Tam ignored all the disgusted look of others. With her uniform on, they must have thought she was some kind of bitch. Maybe. Maybe

Whatever. All she knew that she was waiting for her angel.

Then she saw her. Then she screwed up.


Thanh was sitting quietly in the corner, mingling with the shadow of the dirty, shabby house. Tam didn’t say a word, and didn’t have the dare to come near Thanh.

‘Look at the bitch’s sister!’ A kid yelled.

Tam dropped her cigarette, running to her sister. As soon as she knew who said that, she gave him the dreadful slap that made him fall onto the ground. Then she grabbed him up, slapped him again.

Again and again.

She didn’t remember what she had said. Probably was all swearing.

‘Stop it! Chi!’ Thanh’s scream pulled her back consciousness.

‘Fuck!’ Tam spat on the boy and walked away.

Shame on her. She might be the reason Thanh had no friends. Tam never forgot her sister’s eyes that day. They were emotionless, as if they had turned into two cold mirrors, as if she could see her own reflection through them. She was just a lonely girl.


There were strong knocks on the door.

‘Come out! I know you’re in there!’

‘That’s the landlady.’ Thanh said, looking through the door.

‘Just quiet!’ Tam pulled Thanh away from the door. They sat still in the dark.

‘Come out and pay the rent! It’s been three months!’ She just wouldn’t stop shouting, knocking on the door. Tam knew she wouldn’t leave if she hadn’t had the money. But where could she get such amount of money. The wicked woman must have known this. She disappeared again.

The swearing just kept on going. Tam pulled Thanh closer, covering her ears. The two sisters sat there till it was dark.


Everything was quite once again.

Tam opened the door. The landlady had gone.

The alley was dirty and full of nasty smells.

That was all she knew.


Minh Yên Lâu

Nguyệt Hạ


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