A cock, a dog and a fly

A dog and a fly made entrance for a worm of self-doubt to gnaw away at my self-confidence.

A dog and a fly made entrance for a worm of self-doubt to gnaw away at my self-confidence.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 words – First memory.

When I was young, I often amused my middle-aged cook with my comments around the family such that she roared with laughter.

“You talk with grace!” She then pointed to my beauty spot on the left-hand side of my chin and said, “People with this beauty spot have a hidden charm that is revealed when they speak.”

I took her compliments with pride and believed that I had a power with words. Every now and then Mum would smile and say “Are you composing?” when she heard I made some witty, descriptive or poetic remarks. I was chuffed to hear Mum saying that.

In Year Four, I was delighted to be chosen together with two others to represent my class of sixty students in a Vietnamese essay writing competition at school. The topic we had to write about was a description of a cock in a home yard. I was so satisfied with my essay in which I described a cock taking his children on a walk to find food.

I thought that I had coined a new phrase when I compared the cock’s claws to “a dexterous drilling machine.” When I was told the news that I’d won the competition amongst the best Year Four students, I was sure it was the newly created phrase that had gained me the victory!

When Dad came home from his military base for lunch and a nap, I beamingly told him the news of my winning as he was untying his boots. He chuckled and said “A dog yawns and discovers that he accidentally catches a fly when he closes his mouth.” That was a Vietnamese idiom which meant “Your winning must be by dumb luck!” Was my success just by luck? I heard myself sadly asking that question. What about “that” phrase? I was very clever to write it, no one else’d ever done it! I kept doubting my triumph for a few years.

Unfortunately, there was no such competition for Year Five students the next year so I couldn’t prove to Dad that I could again succeed with my talent. However, in Year Five, I began to excel in essay writing, gaining top marks regularly. In high school, with my high Year Six marks in essay writing, my classmates voted me to be in charge of the class news posters in Year Seven.

In those years, class news posters were written by hand and posted on the wall. My writing also appeared in the school Spring 1974 fine literary work collection issued before the fall of Saigon. No class news posters nor school fine literary work were produced under communism.

The stream of delicate and complex Vietnamese words in my head turned into poems published in a Vietnamese newspaper as well as translation work of English songs and books in my 20s.

My Dad’s words stuck with me when I received the most important and only literary prize of my childhood. Yet I’d long looked back at that moment and banished the ghost of self-doubt.

Words danced in my head,
Words longed to be spread.
Words flowed on the page,
Words streamed on the stage.
Words induced me to choose them,
Words jostled for space in my poem.

Image credit
by Charles Chan.

A dog and a fly made entrance for a worm of self-doubt to gnaw away at my self-confidence.

A dog and a fly made entrance for a worm of self-doubt to gnaw away at my self-confidence.

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One thought on “A cock, a dog and a fly

  1. hiMe,
    All my life, I remembered a phrase of my father’s and tried to live up to it. Until I was entering my old age and realised that the phrase was not correct.
    The phrase he used was:
    ” To command, one must learn to obey”.
    How different my life would have been had he said:
    ” To command, one must learn to command” !!
    Regards,
    Kevin.

    Like

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