Remember to Remember by Jil Plummer

Remember to Remember

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by Jil Plummer

Chanbopha was born in the bustling city of Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. At four years old she paid no attention to the distant gunfire which reminded adults of the civil war which had been raging across the country for the past five years. Instead she watched the street action from the window of her family’s upper floor flat longing to be in the midst of all the laughter and chatter which floated up from what seemed a thrilling life of constant sunshine. There Tuk-Tuks, the bicycle taxis which towed passengers in their little carts, wove between the few private motor vehicles, buses, motorcycles, myriad bicycles and hand carts which flooded the road. Horns blared, bells rang while pedestrians rushed every which way in excitingly suicidal dashes. Sometimes there were accidents and people stood around waving their hands and arguing until traffic got moving again. Chan, as she was called by family, would laugh and shout unheard encouragement from her lofty perch.


The smells too were wonderful, especially of the fresh bread brought up each day to make a delicious breakfast dipped in a mix of warm water and evaporated milk. Chan may sometimes have longed for the time she was old enough to go outside alone but life was good in the apartment. She had siblings to play with; her three year old sister, Srey, her quiet seven year old brother, Sovirak, and Vuthy, an older boy Ma and Papa had adopted when his parents couldn’t afford to feed him. His job was to look after Chan and she adored him almost as much as she did her soldier father who was also a professor of Economics at Phnom Penh university. The four children would play hide and seek, skulking among the heavy antique furniture that had once belonged to their grandmother, and when they were allowed to polish the silver and brass ornaments it became a competition to see whose were the shiniest. Chan always won, same as she was first to learn the lessons taught by their strict tutor who came each afternoon. Eagerly she studied and could soon read almost anything she got her hands on, even if she didn’t always understand the meaning.


That was how she first learned of the Khmer Rouge and a man called Pol Pot. She picked up the newspaper her parents had been frowning over the night before and spelled out those names. All she understood was that they had been fighting for years in the countryside outside Phnom Penh and a lot of people had been killed. When she went to Ma for information about which people and what “kill” meant, Ma avoided telling her and instead said not to worry because Pa and all his fellow soldiers were here to protect them. Now Chan really was worried and became more and more curious whenever her parents huddled over the radio and snapped it off when she entered the room.


Saturday was the best day of each week. It meant the park and freedom. She would cajole Vuthy into pushing her on the swing until she was dizzy, then she would run off to join games of tag with other children. They ran until they were puffed out and fell giggling to the grass.


On their way home Papa often stopped at a restaurant where she thrilled to see how people admired both him in his fine Captain’s uniform and her beautiful mother. Chan enjoyed that almost as much as the curried chicken with noodles and luk lak. Life was a comfortable routine.


But that was before the one weekday when father came home early.

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Remember to Remember © 2016 Jil Plummer. All rights reserved.

Sample: Chapter One