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|Essays · Travelogs · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Digifilm||spring 2007|
A Difficult Day
This excerpt is from a longer memoir by Kenya Prach, which tells the story of his childhood in Cambodia, surviving the Khmer Rouge, and his immigration to America.
I suppose it was inevitable that one day I would meet someone from my past.
Angkar had demanded bamboo to build baskets and huts for the village.
I was summoned by the group leader -- dressed in his black pajama pants and shirt, with a red and white checkered scarf around his neck -- to cut bamboo from a grove along the river about seven miles away.
Given only a small axe, and wearing only shorts, I walked the distance barefoot, crossing through woods and farmland. Even at this early hour, the air was hot and humid. It was going to be a difficult day.
The sharp bamboo leaves scratched and sliced my skin. But the mechanical rhythm of the work helped to dull my mind. Suddenly, while tying a bundle of bamboo, I saw four Khmer Rouge soldiers approach from the road. I recognized one as my best friendís older brother.
He knew everything about my familyís Lon Nol government background. He knew that one of my uncles had been a government official who had resisted. I had seen young Khmer Rouge recruits savagely beat, even murder, family members for minor failures against Angkar.
It was unlikely he would extend me any favors.
"Met Leun!" I shouted, smiling nervously, using "Met" -- the word for comrade.
He recognized me instantly. "I know you...."
While the others watched me tying the bamboo with bleeding fingers, Leun crowed, "Now do you miss your warm bed, your big house, and wealthy family?"
I was shocked by his words. They were a death sentence.
"I will take care of you later," he said, and quickly walked away.
Standing alone, beside the bamboo grove along the lulling, slowly moving river, I was stunned. Leunís younger brother was my best friend. His family treated me and my brothers and sisters like one of their own. This man would be my death.
Kenya Prach, with David Grayson