Việt Văn Mới
Việt Văn Mới


S eeing Tía – mister Nam’s horse – at the firtst time, I and many people including tourists and a jockey were amazed. We just stood there, looking at the horse and listening to him talk about it. He was happy thanks to his beautiful horse.

  “In the race course, its name was Jacqueline. But here, its name is Tía. It sounds simpler and closer!”, he said.

  “Why didn’t you call it Thanh Nga, Ngọc Hương, or Diệp Lang, Vũ Linh…? It sounds more national character”, Tư, a hugging-motorcycle driver, interrupted.

  “It’s nonsense! A name of a horse is just for calling. Why do you talk about national character? Oh come on…”, mister Năm answered.

  Whenever one of us said some bad thing about the horse, mister Năm cut it right away. It was a new, beloved and the most expensive horse in this entertainment place! He spent a whole week, and a tael of gold to choose this horse out of the eliminated horses of the race course. Though it was an eliminated horse, it was still the most beautiful horse of all here. It was very big and very high. Its dark purple hair was mixed with dark red color, and a slender neck, and a well-developed chest, especially a very soft mane, made it look like a war-horse in Chisese movies! Very beautiful!

  Only one duty of Tía was being taken pictures with tourists. Paying three thousand dongs, he (or she) wore a waistcoat, a leather sombrero, a cartidge-belt and a gun – both of them were false, of course. Then he (or she) would have a picture of riding a horse like cowboys (or cowgirls) in Western American movies! Sometimes tourists had to stand in line to wait for their turns, mister Năm and his son just sat there and got money, three thousand dongs each pose! Duck soup! Sometimes, the tourists could rent Tía for hours, it meant one hundred thousand dongs per hour for riding it. People said that mister Năm earned a lot of money thanks to Tía!

  After a week, the horse learned how to know its name Tía. Mister Năm just made sound “tsk, tsk!” then Tía ran to him right away. When tourists din’t come to take pictures, he combed its hair, trim its mane, so that Tía could be more beautiful. When mister Năm was in a good mood, he mounted and rode Tía past the place where people sold special things. Then he pulled the rein lightly. Tía whinnied with pleasure, then galloped to the far-away hills. After that they slowly returned home in the sunset, it was a beautiful scene! Yeah, that was right, not the young and handsome men but mister Năm, the middled-aged man, on the horse, made this place more interesting! But the most interesting picture was the time when Tía rubbed its nose into mister Năm’s body or when he caressed Tía. It seemed the relationship between mister Năm and Tía was nearer and dearer and holier than the relationship between a man and a horse!

  Two years later, though mister Năm loved Tía a lot, he had to give the horse to his son. Đạt got married and of all his family fortune, he liked Tía the most. Tía was not only a gift but also the capital which mister Năm gave his son on his wedding day.

  Mister Năm liked me ‘cause he thought that I knew a lot about horses. Actually, my knowledge of horses was from “the animal world” program on TV, but he still called me when he drank some beer or some wine. That usually made my photographer-colleagues were jealous of me.

  One rainy afternoon, while I was drying my camera, Tư huging-motorcycle driver came to see me.

  “Hey, Thư! Uncle Năm called you!”, he said.

  “What for? At this time? It’s raining heavily! If he wants to take pictures, just calls others! I run out of rolls of film…”, I was surprised.

  “There’s a problem! There are full of photographers! But he wants you!”, Tư shouted at me.

  I considered this mister Năm’s order, so I prepared my camera and went out with Tư. He didn’t take me to the entertaiment place but to the hill behind, and there, I knew the reason why mister Năm called me in the heavy rain!

  The horse Tía! I could only recognize Tía thanks to its head and its mane, but the skin of its body and its thighs were almost peeled. Both its rear legs still quivered and its eyes opened wide like every time I came near it. Mister Năm was in the middle of this scene! I salutted him but he said nothing. His face had a suffering look that I had never seen. I raised my camera, and took a pose as my habit. Then I closed the camera, stood there, observing people cut meat off that horse…

  On rainy days, no tourists came to take pictures, Đạt made Tía a draught-horse. It had to pull a ton of goods or it was beaten unmercifully by Đạt. In this entertainment place, Tía was the only one horse had to pull merchandise with other indifferent horses. Đạt was proud of his good idea and Tía’s power, therefore he tried to make Tía work more and more. Oh poor it, just over one rainy month, it wasn’t as beautiful as it had been.

  The hill behind the entertainment place was leveled, then it was grown many kinds of vegetables. The crops were very good due to the rains, but the road along the hill was getting so muddier that cultivators couldn’t move into and out. The owner asked Đạt to transport goods to the market, he oked happily and made Tía pulled the heavy cart of goods four times that day…

  For the last time, the owner asked Đạt to load a few more quintals on the cart. He oked, receiving extra money and doing it, though he knew that the cart was very heavy and Tía was very tired.

  It stopped raining but the road was still slippery and muddy, Tía had to go slowly step by step. When Tía went down the hill, it tried its best to keep the cart behind it. Suddenly… Crack! Tía stepped into a hole full of mud! It fell down and lay movelessly on its side. When Đạt pulled the cart out of Tía, it didn’t breathe anymore! Knowing that the horse was dead, Đạt called the butchers and sold horse meat to them… When mister Năm arrived, they was peeling its skin!

  “Dig a hole and bury it. Anyway, it was a good horse and it helped our family a lot…”, mister Năm said.

  “Bury it? Bury money? Do you know how much money I get when I sell it?”, Đạt cut mister Năm’s words.

  Knowing that he couldn’t stop his son, mister Năm kept silent. He didn’t want to leave the horse there, so he stood quietly, felt all the pain of the horse…

  I said nothing, leaving the place. That day, I spent time looking at “the album of a horse” again. I thought that was a very rare album, ‘cause I photographed Tía from the first day it arrived until the last day it died. In this picture, Tía bent its front leg, raising its head, whinning! In that picture, Tía was ambling into the pine forest, under the sunset light! In another picture, Tía was spreading four legs, its tail and its mane was flying in the wind, galloping! The album was very beautiful, but the last picture made me shiver. A lot of blood was under its body which was now only a heap of red meat! And its eyes! Its eyes were looking at me as if it were blaming me! A terrible picture! Thinking that, I didn’t let mister Năm see that picture…

♣ ♣ ♣

  I hadn’t seen a beautiful afternoon like that for a long time. The sunlight was as yellow as silk, and there was a green color everywhere. Staying at home meant wasting of time, so I left the house and went around. Just went around the entertainment place and some hills. If a tourist called me, I would photographed him (her), if not, I would enjoy the beautiful nature after more than two weeks of raining.

  Around the hill with green grass, many kinds of wild flowers were blossing made the nature beautiful surprisingly! I raised the camera to take some pictures, but at that time, I heard someone calling his horse!

  At the other side of a small stream, in a bush, there was a figure of mister Năm! He stood there, waving his hands, sounding “tsk… tsk…”, calling “Hey Tía!” sadly. He was crazy. I knew he had gone crazy since the day Tía died…

  I raised the camera up to my eyes, adjusted the lens, then click! Against the sunset sky and under his leather sombrero, mister Năm’s face appeared clearly. His pale, emaciated face and his dull eyes were looking at somewhere aimlessly!

  And that would be the last picture in my “album of the horse”...