Sister stabs her brother in the arm for coming too close, for demanding that she give their cousin’s baby over to other hands. Their mother in the alleyway is passed out drunk in the hammock, brassiere fuller than usual with the color of money. Baby cries and kicks at the blanket. The bands of history press down on him in this rankled air.
Sister wraps the infant up in its favorite blanket and waves down her boyfriend in the Jeep. She thinks of keeping the boy safe at Quan’s place for the time being. Sniper opens a hotel window. One shot, two killed, and the vehicle flips over. Cousin comes home from the market to find an empty dwelling.
Nuns know their prayers are answered when the baby rolls under the orphanage gate into a group of seesawing toddlers. They clean him off and place him in a passport of his own in return for a generous and timely donation. New moms and dads and brothers and sisters don’t come cheap these days, they swear.
A toothless grandmother shuffles into the office to see a little one who trusts his shadow more than his voice. Sister Thi tells her to go home and wait for the war to end. “Quietly erase yourself, bà ngoại, for the benefit of those who fight for the freedom to forget.”