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Thursday, 23/01/2020 00:51

. A short story VŨ THANH LỊCH

Khin came to Vom Temple, also took more than ten people with a trunk with substantial number of new clothes that was enough for 36 Deities and the altar was full of offerings. As soon as Young Princess Spirit had already turned up, a daughter of Khin had not only jumped up, screamed, but also given herself a thick ear continuously and cried. Khin was in deep respect to beseech the deity and said loudly “Well, you have a attractive to deities, I’m determined to invite necromancer in order to build temple and beg all of deities to come for witness”. People around her venerated constantly like mincing Water hyacinth. “If your daughter valets Deities, there will be much endless blessing your family receives”. Dum, a spirits partitioner, incarnated the end of the ninth Chau Van songs with finger are full of candles. Then, the girl lost consciousness, her body was bathed in perspiration and she heavily gasped.

Young Princess Spirit disappeared, Dum incarnated a series of other Deities and Spirits. At that moment, Khin still didn’t make her daughter wake up. So she asked Sang:

“Pluck a bunch of Pluchea indica trees to apply compresses for her”.

Sang looked at Khim with a bewildered eyes because he didn’t know what plant she was saying. Khin scolded:


While Dum was making his head covered by a red silk scarf, he said:

“Pluchea indica is Tu Bi tree”.

Sang dashed straight the temple’s gate. He thought there was not lack of it. The fences around Vom temple were made by Tu Bi trees. When Sang grew up, it was as tall as his neck, almost all its strump was the same size as his ankle. It would have a special smell if grinding it out. Also, its smell, which could blow off all of stress, Sang also had an interest in. Therefore, whenever Vom people caught a cold or have a sore stomach, they would use Tu Bi tree like a medicine. They could use it with many different ways such as: steam therapy, eating with egg congee, etc. Tu Bi trees multiplied rapidly eveywhere in this village, but Vom people was used to picking it in Vom temple. Sang realized one thing that they usually prayed and made obeisances before they picked it. Sang brought a bunch of Tu Bi trees into the kitchen. Then he ground it out with salt. Next he bundled the mixture up and put on her body. After nine times of doing, finally, she woke up. That was so weird, when she woke up, Sang felt desperately sad. That evening,He lost sleep over it. Moreover, he felt scorching inside his fingers and his body. Dum could read Sang’s mind, he asked Sang to pick Tu Bi leaves for disinfecting.

Mother Goddess brought Sang to Vom temple after a huge flood. Dum was cleaning mud in the temple’s yard, he found out a kid at the riverside.As usal, he made arrangements for kid’s funeral beacause he thought that the kid was dead. Like a miracle, he realized that the kid still breathed, he gave the kid a warm hug.After that, the kid was cleaned up by Tu Bi leaves’s water -----. The kid’s body got warmer and warmer, he also breathed regularly. Dum kneeled down faithfully with clasped hands at the altar of Mother Goddess, he prayed “You brought this kid come to me with a completely intact body. Please, direct his spirit come back to complete his work. I promise I will bring him up and teach him to become a good person”.Later, he usually made ceremonial offerings twice a day. After seven days of look after the kid with all his heart, the kid could sit up but he didn’t say a word, just turned his head and allowed Dum’s orders. The kid also was given a name Sang by Dum. So as to show deeply gratitude for Deities, Dum carried out ceremonial rituals and incarnated 36 deities in on session. In spite of the fact that he was mute, he could hear. That’s a reason why Dum taught Nom language and Vietnamese to Sang. No matter what Dum taught, Sang always remembered. He was so careful to do everything Dum asked.Afterward, it was believed that Vom temple became more well-known after Sang had lived here. Vom temple was so attractive that everybody all over the country came to thurify. Besides, Dum helped both the rich and the poor without needing money. He didn’t care how far it was or what he would receive from helping, he was always happy and satisfied with his heart.

Vom temple wasn’t big. The columns of a building were ancient and mossy were lost its smooth by human’s fingers. In addition, there was a cleverly carved roof. Its architecture was covered by dense dust. A river branch in front of this temple flowed in the left side of it looked like appendix. As a result, every thing gathered round this place. Also, there were range after range of mountains in the back of Vom temple. In the yard, Da Huong tree that was as big as an adult’s arms wide combined with a banyan tree to make a huge domed roof. Thanks to a canopy of leaves, Vom temple was very airy. When summer came, Tu Bi trees had a few flowers. Thus, Sang put Dodder on the top of Tu Bi trees. After a period of time, fences were in yellow since Dodder grew too fast and healthily. Sometimes, the fences had a fresh green color, but sometimes had a bright yellow color.How beautiful the fences were! Dum looked at Sang, at the same time he looked at the fences with emotional eyes. Sang knew he got emotional because he felt thankful to The Holy Mother. During a long time of working as a Necromancer, Dum earned little money that was enough for him to build a brick house. His house was near mountain was quite far from Vom temple. Dum passed away suddenly at the age of 71. He always made careful recommendation to Sang about a jar of gold. This was small pieces of gold that he earned during he worked. After his death, whenever Vom temple was broken, Sang would use that money to fix it. Sang nodded his head in agreement. While in the context of incense smoke, he saw Mother Goddess welcome Dum to eternity.

Seven weeks after Dum’s funeral, Khin invited another necromancer to Vom temple to carry out the rituals for her daughter. Her daughter didn’t still start a family although she had graduated from college for many years. Sang came cross her many times when she was standing with her boyfriend in lots of different contexts. Everytime Sang came cross are different people. At that time, he always had difficulty in breathing, his fingers were scorching. So, he had to pluck Tu Bi leaves to rub his fingers even his body time and again. She, as well as village people, just knew Sang was a unknown child and lived on Mother Goddess’s blessing. When Dum was still alive, he never allowed anyone to put things at the altar more than three weeks.Dum had already passed away for thourty nine days, they hung many kinds of votive paper on the roof, put up parasols two sides of the altar, put an electric red lotus lamp in front of the throne.In the palace,there were many kind of brass boxes that were for the purpose of having much money. Also, ceramic vases were innumberous were made of copper, terracotta, glass. Therefore, it took Sang much time to clean all of worshipping objects, as well as furniture.

It’s no room for a pair of ceramic vase that Khin offered sacred gifts in return. While Necromancer was helping her daughter wear costume, he said to Khin: “Her body has an overpowering smell of Tu Bi tree. This smell is too heavy to receive deity’s permission. Deities and Spirits have an tendency to hate Tu Bi’s smell. Don’t forget to recommend her daughter to keep her body clean”. “That was so a bizarre thing” Sang thought! As usual, before carrying out the rituals, Dum always asked Sang to pluck a bunch of Tu Bi trees that were tied by a strings. Then he used it with alcohol or five spicy powder in order to expel evil spirits. Furthermore, He also reminded Sang to take care of the fences made of Tu Bi trees. Sometimes in the bright noontide, Sang still saw Deities and Spirits were in the good mood to come there to hang out their clothes.

The girl was letting the spirit seize her body with tidy clothing and a makeup face. While Sang was looking bewildred, Khin commanded him:

“Light more candles, Sang. Tomorrow I’ll offer a pair of glass oil lamp that will take the place of candles.”

Sang was looking for new candles under a table, he found out an old oil lamp. At the time he intended to use it, there was a whisper into his ear “It’s not worth lighting an oil lamp for them”. Thus, Sang lighted candles.

The girl was incarnating the third deities, a necromancer petitioned to be allowed Khin to build a protect wall round the temple so that keeping the temple restful. A coin fell down to the ground, tail sided up.After three times tossing the coin, there was still tail sided up. The crowd not only whispered loudly, but only prayed constantly.Khin said a necromancer that she wanted to petitioned herself. “here they are! I’m allowed to do it. Give me a good day to start to build the walls, please! I’ll prepare everything until that day” Khin announced everybody,even Sang. Sang raised his eye to balcony, there were angry eyes of Deities. Although, Sang gave signals to Khin not to broke the fences to build the wall, Khin and everyone were paying attention to Khin’s daughter. So at that point, he saw a demon that Sang met when he plucked Tu Bi leaves to treat the girl was standing nearby the girl. He screamed but no one could hear. Then, he ran quickly toward the fence to pluck Tu Bi trees so as to expel a demon from the temple.Unfortunately, Sang just ran to the door, Khin hailed curses down on him.

“Who lets you bring it into here. Throw it away. Right now!”

Khin gave Sang the amount of money that reeked of pigment. Sang resigned himself to go out although he was full of pent-up anger inside his breath while there were noisy sounds still went on.

When the sun didn’t still begin to rise, Khin had come to Vom temple:

“Open the gate!” she urged Sang

Some minutes later, Sang was still feeling asleep, he ran to open the door. She held a tray full of ceremonial offerings in one hand and carried plastic things in the other.

“You wake up so late! If the gate wasn’t made of iron, it would be easy for me to come in myself and I wouldn’t bother you”. she complained:

He rubbed his eyes to look at Khin’s face, as well as tried to hear anything from her. But he just heard the rustling of insects’s sound. Maybe they felt animosity towards him. They used to live happily with every levels of human’s emotion in that place! Base on Vom people, they knew their sounds still existed. Also, village people knew how street they were walking, which based on insect sounds. But now, the fences made of Tu Bi trees, were taken the place of high stone walls, were extirpated. Formerly, Sang always talked to insects every nights. From the date of stone walls, it was in complete silence. Everytime Sang ran to the gate, there was screaming insects, which prevented him from concentrating on hearing anything.

Sang tried to open the gate painted with wood colour. Khim urged Sang:

“Open harem door.Today I am going to carry out big rituals. Now close the door until my childrean come.If village people want to come in, tell them to return tomorrow”.

Sang was so eatirely obedient. Then, he closed the gate.Afterwards, Thanh wanted to offer iron gate as a sacred gift. Despite Sang’s objection, he still did. He said that bamboo gate wasn’t suitable to stone walls. He said to Deities and Spirits “I will offer a iron gate in all sincerity. Hope you help and support my business that means one capital for four profits”. Both Sang, tutelary Deities standing in the balcony,and Lord of the Soil and the Ground standing on the left,Spirits standing on the right, all burst out laughing. Until Mother Goddesssuddenly come in with ragged clothing, all of them were unexpectedly silent. The reason why was there were many high walls with sharp broken glasses all along the top. She was careless to think that was flowers, so her clothing was ragged by these broken glasses. After that, Mother Goddess rarely appeared in the Temple. On the contrary, many demon spirits gathered more than before.

“Light the oil lamp, Sang. Then, carry these trays in Co Dong Palace and Mau Palace”

When Sang didn’t finish working, Khin went on complaining:

“Look so disorderly! There is no space for sitting. Later, if I offer a pair of big vase, where will they be?”

Sang had a buzzing in his ears, he didn’t hear human’s voice anymore without insects. A wooden Crane complained to Sang “I’m getting tired because there is no room for a pair of my wings. Let throw these flock of unsual copper Cranes away! They usually make me have headache”. Sang tried to move big copper Cranes outside. Every copper Cranes had sharp tail feathers and pointy beaks that made a wooden Crane and Sang hurt when they were touched. Because of scare of bothering Dieties and Spirits, they had to bear it, just groaned in pain. In fact, Deities and Spirits would sit carefully to avoid these sharp things, in case they didn’t want their clothing to be rubbed.His familiar old small things were hidden under lots of different things included: kinds of electric lighting lamps, colorful electric candles, many shapes of offerings.etc.Therefore, The furniture was too much for Sang to wipe up.

There was a sound of pagoda bell from the west of Vom village, which made all of Deities wake up and make preparation for clothing.At that time, Sang heard they talked in murmurs “Does Mother Goddess arrive?” “No,.just mandarins. They are standing outside the gate”.Sang put joss-stick down immediately, he intended to open the gate.At the same time, Khin scolded:

“You done yet? Give me two shelves, still more than ten trays of offerings”

Sang hung incense-coil, then he carried two inox shelves and put down two sides of incease bowl. Every shelves ,which had five floors, was as tall as Mother Goddess Statue. So, if putting offerings tray, it would not only be taller than the Statue, but also touch the roof. Khin urged:

“Let open the door to a necromancer and my children come in. Why did you not open the door while the sun had risen high”.

Sang told insects off “why do you let me hear human voice right now”, immediately, there was a reply “Your father made careful recommendation to you before dying. Do you remember it? That is always putting human first because they have less time”.Sang frowned at that “But I’m just greatly indebted to Mother Goddess, I have to valet thoughtfully her” “Stupid! Let take care of human carefully, if you want to be careful” “What should I do? That means I have to obey any orders or object to them?” “Go to ask Mother Goddess!”. Ask Mother Goddess! Sang found it difficult to look straight at her, so asking her was impossible. For this reason, Sang felt full of pent-up. Trying to push the heavy iron gate open, then, he bowed his head to let Deities walk through his shoulder. That were warm and soft footsteps! When the crowd saw Sang open the gate, they drove their motorbikes in. Soon the atmosphere of the Temple was covered in burning smell of vehicles. His heart constrieted. If only there were still the fences made of Tu Bi, It would make Deities’s clothing have Tu Bi’s scent rather than have burning smell of vehicles. Deities and Spirits took a stroll around Vom Temple, there was grass wet in dew.In former days, Sang used to plant and look after many kinds of trees that was not only decorative plant, but also medical plant, such as: Hong Bach, Dinh Lang, Binh Voi, Danh Danh, Cuc Moc,Toc Tien, Huong Bai.etc. Sang couldn’t plant any trees in the front of the Temple’s yard because there were paper lanterns, stone joss-stick bowl and mascots lying in disorder and in the way. From the date of being become inaccessible building, no one in the village didn’t ask medical plants for treatment. Sang followed these Deities and Spirits to enjoy the peaceful early morning like these days his father had still been alive.

“Sang, where are you now? Give me a standby lighting lamp. It’s so dark”

It was dark because the electric light was obscured by hammocks, parasols,etc.Sang mumbled while he was running.

Khim asked permission of Deities and Spirits to offer a pair of ceramic-vase. After three times tossing coins, there were tail and head tided up. She said that Deities and Spirits allowed her to do that. So, she ordered yound people to bring it in. A pair of wood ceramic-vase was nearly twice as tall as The Holy Mother Statue. A necromancer said “It will be full of money soon.Until then, don’t forget me”. Khin smiled with half close eyes, she said “you’re till young with a rosy complexion. If your pray doesn’t have much fortune, I’ll kill you”. At that time, the daughter of Khin had already come in,she sit on a mat,she beseeched continously and mumbled “Why don’t give a Statue.Why don’t give a Statue”, which made everyone filled with terror. Then, the necromancer beseeched ,tossed a coin, lighted joss-sticks.A few minutes later, the girl lied down, her body was bathed in sweat.The necromancer asked “Deity wants to a new Statue. You prepare a new Statue for Deity in order to take the place of an ugly wood one”. Sang stood behind a stone pillar, he was really frightened of her appearing with a makeup face. At that time, his fingers was so scorching, muscles of his face twitched and he was unbreathable. His legs trembled with angry and his hand clenched fist when he saw a demon followed the girl. Moreover, A demon glared defiance at Sang and asked for a Statue, which seemed to be trying to provoke him.

Illustration: Đặng Tiến.

“What are you doing?” A sudden scream into his ears made him feel dizzy,everyone tried to prevent Sang from attacking the girl.

A demon laughed in his face.

Powerlessly, He looked up at the altar but no one was there.

Khin kowtowed to her daughter and promised: “Until village festival, I’ll offer three copper Statues. Hope you witness my offerings. Also, I wish my husband speedy advancement. Hope you witness my offerings”. Then, she went on tossing a coin and Sang was dragged out of Palace.

The girl in colourful clothing performed invocation songs.

As usual, Chau Van made Sang so excited, but today its sound was like a locusts swarm.

is, a woman wore gold from head to foot and some people following behind her was neatly dressed. Her appearance gave Khin a start, she immediately bowed her head politely.

“Oh dear! when did you get back? Why do you not announce it to me to welcome?”

A woman dragged a half-smile out of her lip,gave Khim a nod and shaked hands with her. After then, the crowd moved into the Palace, they lighted joss-sticks and beseeched.At the same time, a woman said “let’s offer a Statue which is the same size as the old one.A Statue must be made of pure copper and gold-plated” “I remember that”a person replied “Done before festival” “Yes,sir”. Khin listened attentively,which made her feel anxiety in her heart.When a woman wanted to offer A Statue, nobody dared contradict her. Besides, there was no reason to have a part in casting a Statue because fortune shouldn’t be divided in two. Also, if asking permission of that made her vexed, she would tell her husband something that could affect gaining promotion of Khim’s husband badly.

After all, they drove Sang from the Temple so he bowed his head and came back home. Then he fell asleep on the doorstep. In his dream, he saw Dum standing in front of him with gloomily sad eyes. Dum looked at him for a long time, there were a few disheveled hairs on the Sang’s forehead, Dum fixed these hairs with his hands. A moment later, Dum held a scissors that was uused to prine off tree branches. He cut his hair, strands of hair fell dowm. Blood oozed out of these cuts,it made Sang’s forehead dripping wet.

In the village festival every year, Mother Godness always went back. The night before festival, some delegates of the village was invited to witness ceremony in whichs Deities and Spirits would be in new Statues. After that ceremony, they asked Sang to throw old wooden statues away. But in the moonlight, there were peaceful statues’s faces looking at Sang and infinite space. Their eyes were sparking like Hoang River in flood. While he was going to the crematorium, he suddenly changed his mind. He ran towards his brick house, then he concealed these statues from everybody under a blanket. When all of them went home, each statues was wrapped in red fabrics was hidden in the attic.

At3:00Am, there was the sound of pagoda bell from the west of Vom village, Sang woke up and prepared things of worship. Sang breathed a sign when he looked at a house was full of furniture. Village people long since rarely came to the Temple, the crowd came to make ceremonial offerings was strangers. On the contrary, Khin frequently came to the Temple to consider where was the best position to put her offering. That position would not only make that woman satisfied, but also be highly appreciated by Deities. Both Khim and engravers still didn’t find out that position, which made her toss and turn all night. Afterward, her husband won promotion, she bursted into laughter, but she was suddenly silent because of thinking about unpaid Mother Godness’s debt. If only the girl followed her mother… Sang suppose. A second later, he broke that thought, then he opened the door, brought a water basin of five-spicy powder in. Unexpectly,a mandarin’s hat falling down hung on the roof. That made him fall head first into a pillar. After some minutes of falling giddy, Sang took a deep breath, put a hat down but it was too heavy to do.

Sang heard the rustling of weapons, clothings... There was a voice “do you know who bring these things in?” "there is owner’s name on each object” ”Take notes on a book.I’ll call”. Sang still didn’t hear a sentence in detail, there was a shout “who dared chang the name of Mother Godness?” 3 bright golden Statues put 3 sparking arica clothings on. There were 2 spaces including: space on the right was to write name of Mau Thuong Thien, Mau Thuong Ngan, Mau Thoai; space on the left was to write name of owner’s offerings. At the same time, Mother Godness turned up in luxurious green overcoat. Then, she pointed at these golden statues.In a second, the names of 3 Deities were effaced. Whereas, there were the names on the left. Silent covered the whole scenery. These objects around gave out filthy smell made Deities and Spirits hold their nose at once.

Sang glared at the altar, his hands couldn’t move although a towel was soaking wet in warm five-spicy powder water.He couldn’t prevent them from bringing these objects in, although he knew it was from greedy jobs and the reason it was presented as offering in order to hope Mother Godness to pardon them.

Sang felt frozen to the bone.

Sang saw Dum’s shadow finding a way to come in, Sang said: “Father”Immediately, his mouth was full of hat’s dust.

“You catch a cold.everyone is finding out Tu Bi tress to treat your illness”

The following night, Sang didn’t lock the door so they willingly came in. Khin looked up at the roof which a hat fell down. Suddenly, there was an idea in her head, which made her rejoice greatly. Then, she went on glaring at the roof which had some lights beamed. Village people came to the Temple. As usual, every family had a sacrifice, a master of the house would put an offering tray on their head, go around the Temple to witness. Then, all of people ate together. There would be much good fortune a whole year, if their tray finished first. No one put their tray at the altar because they didn’t want to disorder the worship.Moreover, unless anyone eas careful to drop food at the altar, they would get into trouble.

The altar was full of ceremonial offerings. Besides, banquetsand feasts were funded, so this custom was left. Everyone just brought some coins to play To Tom game,play chess.Young people bet cock fighting. There were a big pavilion, a luxurious view in white& yellow like a hotel.

After eating and drinking well, village people went home gradually, some people stayed to watch Khim’s daughter until midnight.

When her daughter incarnated, Khin petitioned to be allowed to build a new temple that was adequate to gold-plated copper statues and many other bright objects.

Sang glared at evil spirits lining up to possess the girl. The girl danced so crazily that musicians and singers couldn’t follow. Everything was too troublous. After all, Sang could see that that Demon clearly. It wore a clothing Sang had never seen before. At that time, Dum was bound hand and foot, his body was motionless. Sang forereached. The girl with a sword pointed at Sang.

Sang fell backwards,bumped his head against the joss-stick bowl.

When he woke up, he and his father walked hand in hand under the opaque moonlight. They brought three old statues go home. Around them, there were many Deities and Spirits.

On winter season of that year, these was a fast and thick flood during three days. Also, A few people survived through a flood.The flood went down, all were swept away. There still was a cleverly stone pillar covered by the mud.

Tam Dao composing camp

V.T.L (Translated by HỮU BẮC)

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