Võ Thanh Trọng Nhân

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At the age of eleven, I luckily had the good fortune of being admitted to a renowned secondary school and that greatly pleased my parents. Yet at that time, studying to me was just a trivial task. My sole object was to gain attention in an as much rebellious as possible way to stun other pupils. Trying to demonstrate I was a power to be reckoned with, I became a very naughty and aggressive boy. Instead of studying, I formed a gang with other boys, engaging in the pursuit of roaming the streets aimlessly, sometimes searching for fights against other gangs to show them who the boss of the school was. In consequence, my grades began to suffer and just after two years I was "honorably" placed at an almost worse-than-none position in class. Then, exactly as I speculated, my parents forced me to transfer to another school of average fame to get away from the gang, which I finally had to resign myself to though very frustrated. What else could I do then? After all I was only a 13-year-old kid.

The first impression of the new school was, quite surprisingly, all pupils there were just mediocre. They weren't able to solve math, physics and computer problems which took me no time to breeze through. "You're definitely the best in here," my conceit started its voice. And I became really active in class. Snatching all extra exercises raised in class, I tried not to miss out on a single bonus mark teachers offered. I rarely failed. Hehe. People around seemed really astonished. "Good! Keep that up. Pay more attention to me. That's what I want hohoho!"
As you know ordinarily a conceited kid doesn't know well how to mask his conceit, nor at least how to express it in a clever way; and I was no exception. My superior attitude consequently started to backfire - some guys in the class couldn't abide it and began to show hatred toward me. I can still remember one day after recess, I came into the class and saw my school-bag lying on the floor spattered with shoe-prints. Guess what happened? Some individuals did it intentionally. "Shyt!" I didn't bother to care. "Only cowards act like this," I thought. Then I played cool, wiped the prints and got seated. "Girls admire me," (Hey, I know this is an incongruous unfounded thinking), "and that's all I want. I don't care about rubbish..."

Everything, intrinsically my snobbishness, would've been perpetuated that disgracefully if that guy hadn't appeared. Nah, perhaps "appear" is a wrong term. In fact he was always there, just in the class ever since the first day I joined it, only he wasn't a boy of ostentatiousness...

PS. I'm frustrated with the writing stuff and kinda got stuck trying to improve it. Fed up with formal essays already, so I'm trying to find something else less strict to write on. If there are weird things in my writing please chip in with some corrections. Much obliged.
It was an awkward situation where I first noticed him. One day our math teacher raised a quiz with an enticement of 10 marks for an upcoming one-period test; that means, the fastest solver within 15 minutes wouldn't have to take the test yet would receive 10 marks in it. "Wow!," I thought, "a tempting reward. Who's gonna be able to make it faster than me? Hohoho." Hey, until now I still think that over-confident attitude of mine at that time was justifiable, for in fact no one could ever beat me by then at problem-solving speed...
Then the teacher exposed the quiz - a short geometric problem. "Must be like the old times. Just a breeze!," I chuckled with the complacent thought. Yet 5 minutes, then 10 minutes gradually passed but I couldn't come up with any idea. I began feeling anxious. "Really a tough nut to crack. Shyt! Obviously 10 marks for a one-period test is not so lavishly given away."

14 minutes had elapsed already, no idea still. I gave up, discontentedly. "No one's gonna win the 10-mark reward," I thought, "because even I can't solve it!" Looking around, I felt somehow solaced seeing no one seemed to have succeeded. Some were biting their nails or knitting their brows; some were even chatting with each other, not seeming to care about the reward at all. "Really not unexpected. No one's gonna win it," I thought to myself again...

"So no one found the answer?" my teacher asked, after waiting for a while. At that time I felt like all eyes were being directed to me - they were expecting the answer from me I guess, despite the fact that some of them might just hate me to the bone. After all hate has nothing to do with people's judging your aptitude don't you think?
"How about you?" said the teacher again, directly to me this time. She was no exception, also expecting the answer from me. "Sorry ma'am," I replied, outwardly unperturbed, "15 minutes doesn't seem to suffice..." And I didn't forget to hurl a presumptuous smile toward her as if she was supposed to take my reply as "Hey, don't waste time trying to find any successful solver as you'll find none. Don't you see I can't solve it?" Hell, sure the asinine delusions of gradeur had prodded me into such an attitude problem. It's quite funny and embarrassing looking back to it you know...

My teacher responded to me by an... enigmatic smile also. Suddenly I realized she was not surprised at all. Gee, what a shock! Then she moved her eyes looking further behind me and asked somebody else the same question, "How about you, T?" I was completely taken aback. "Who the hell is T? And how come she could ever try to ask somebody else in here after knowing I, the best guy, have failed?" I turned around outright to locate the guy but couldn't, as he was sitting hidden from my view behind some other guys. After making some signal to the teacher, he stood up. "A strange ordinary face," ...
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Rather clumsily, the guy moved to the aisle in the middle of the class and stepped toward the board. I took a closer look at him. Chubby thus somewhat flabby-limbed with a slightly curvy body and a meek face, he made up a feeble-looking guy. Most "imposing" on the face were his protuberant big eyes, of which the aesthetic could only be salvaged a little by the oval shape of their own. Bright velvety skin, like that of a girl, was his only attractive feature. Yet in total he only gave a homely impression. His outward looks in a twinkling gave me the thinking he was just the same as the indifferent mob around, kind of inferior. But it just flashed and then vanished as he got to the board, for somehow the overweening kid inside of me was still aware that effeminate looks could not say a thing about one's smartness as well as capability, and according to my experience by then, "gay" pupils often worked hard and performed darn well in class. "Ok. So just wait and see what this guy can do," I muttered to myself, thinking certainly no one dared play around with his teacher as well as his own pride before the whole class.

He started to jot down his solution on the board along with oral explanations at a few necessary points. Honestly what the problem was about and what exactly he wrote on the board elude me. I just can remember after a few lines, he really threw light on the puzzle and right at the moment I "tasted" that formidable skill, I turned dumbfounded and got truly frozen for a while. The issue was, despite your lofty vainglory, you were still conscious enough to absorb the fact that the very concrete dude who was standing right in front of you at that time was solving a problem that really went beyond your reach and, totally, though not said out, you were filled with shame at your previous delusions of grandeur.
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It was a humbling experience. Afterward somebody told me "he was the best last year," and more than that, "his results inordinately outdistanced the rest of the class." Needless to say, later on that guy's name was deeply inscribed in my mind...
He feels somnolent and parched. It's been almost 30 minutes and he still has to stand upright against the darn soporific flood of torrid summer sunlight. Got no idea when this torment is gonna end. He looks at the bevy of freshmen snuggling under huge shady conifers. How comfortable! He wishes to be one of them.

It was a bit daunting at first for him to know he, like all other freshmen, is to stay within a secluded drill center for half a month to get through mandatory military training before starting real academic years in university. He had never stayed away from home alone that long before. Gotta reconcile himself to it though. He knew he’s 18 already.

On stepping through the center entrance, howbeit, he changed his view at once. In front of him were zillions of new effervescent faces moving about in a tumultuous atmosphere. A wave of pleasant feeling ran through his body. First time in his life he breathed the air of utter freedom. The initial dismay was completely dwarfed by the congenial flavor. He figured he was gonna have a whole bunch of new friends. Smiling, he trod toward the central dorm. "Where's room 017?"
“What vast ground!” he thought. Just getting to the dorm took him around 200 meters at least. He dragged his feet puffing under the weight of the enormous backpack which mom had stuffed the whole world into however he tried to dissuade her. Well, women are sometimes unnecessarily persnickety but that’s one of the things that make them different from men and lovely.

Finally he found room 017. It seemed like all rooms in the dorm are uniform with 2 big front and back doors directly opposite to each other and 4 abutting vast windows. Well-ventilated rooms. No worry he wouldn’t be able to sleep. Beyond the back door was a canteen, appearing to be his second lucky thing besides room 017 being on the first floor. He wouldn’t have to walk too far for food then. Weary, he shambled along into the room to find a vacant bunk and dumped the burden on his shoulders off, stretching out. Phew, what a relief!

A peal of bells ringing signaled the first convening time, the part he was really psyched about. Obviously enough in the drill center boys and girls are segregated, and only at such opportunity can they meet with each other. He lìfted hís back off the bed and was about to leave but held off. "Hey, who's gonna take care of the baggage?"
He would never forget that day, the first day in the center when the darn "catastrophe" befell him.

After the peal of bells, he fumbled with his cumbersome baggage to put it in order, this among rigorous disciplines with which all individuals were to comply in the center, untill a tall, lanky guy, later being the head guy of his class, raised his voice pressing the last folks in the room out for the first gathering. Well, he was the last among the last to get out.

People were lined up neatly when he showed up, into manifold groups in front of which stood sedate servicemen. It wasn't too hard a task to find his group with imposing wooden slats inscribed with the name of major put before each group. All he had to do was to find one with "Environment."

Finally he found it. His classmates were squatting obediently while an old officer was talking the hind leg off a donkey. Suddenly he got caught by his stare, everything hushed for a while. He bowed to the officer and sheepishly moved to the end of a line. Great. He knew he had the officer's menacing notice...
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He couldn't help yawning. "The government must be darn kind," he thought, "what should've been thrown on the scrap heap they retain here and use tirelessly." He was alluding to the superannuated lieutenant preaching in front of him. Just couldn’t bare ponderous speeches.

He kept yawning - his eyes brimming over with enormous teardrops - and his mind wandered ‘till he realized a finger was pointing at him. Nice. Guess whose the finger was? The old man beckoned him to get closer.

“What’s your name?”

“N, sir”

Blah blah blah blah …

“I have a special task for you. An honorable task.”


“Be the Ordnance Chief of your class.”


“Just undertake it. There’re bonus points for the exam.”


“Ok. Go back to your line.”

What the…

Water. He needs some water. Darn. Now he knows what the “honorable” task is…
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Now his lips are well-nigh withered. It's been more than 45 minutes so far. Does that lieutenant really hate him?

Every morning, after early reveille, while his friends saunter to brush their teeth, some even having enough time to take a shower, he has to hasten to an ordnance depot with his drowsy haze to lug all the darn dummy rifles and hand grenades to an appointed “maneuvers” site. Right after the first time he bitterly learns that those dummy things have real daunting weight.

That’s just a small part of the so-called honorable task. After all those cursed stuffs are brought to the site, they must be disposed neatly and he has to wait ‘till his friends come to distribute them according to each lesson taught that morning, and of course, he has to be responsible for all loss and damage. After the morning maneuvers session is a break for everyone to have lunch, and before he's allowed to enjoy his lunch, he has to tug all those stuffs back to the ordnance depot. After lunch he has about 1 hour to relax; then comes the afternoon maneuvers session, and he has to carry out all the similar irksome work. Two times a day, six days a week, continually. He knows he’s falling into an abyss.
He's distributing AK47's. It's the third day in the center and thinking about the number of days ahead with the darn monotonous regularity makes him really sick. Satan is blessing him, he thinks.

One person comes to him and then another. Mechanically, he picks every rifle and passes it. He doesn't care what he's doing though. The darn blazing sun over him and the imperious lieutenant are his current concerns. The third day in the center and his skin is scorched. He's never got scorched even when deliberately sunbathing for hours. There must be magic in here.

Two round eyes capture his attention suddenly. They turn away as facing his. He keeps looking at the lady. A rubicund face with a svelte figure and tan skin. That's just glamorous. Most of his friends prefer snowy girls, but he's different. The lady comes near, avoiding his stare, gets a rifle and leaves. Gosh, he's agog!
She's elegant. That's what he can say after observing her covertly for a while. The way she rounds her eyes every now and then; the way she takes dainty little bites of a plum; the way she languidly covers her lips giggling at a friend's story, they're just irresistable!

He needs to approach that lady. But how?

His class is divided into 10 squads, each including about 10 members sharing joint activities during the training period. The issue is they don't belong to the same squad, and more pathetically, she seems to always go with a group of girlfriends, not to mention the odious artificial barrier by the lieutenent. He would at least have a better chance to talk to her in lines were he not isolated from the rest of his class. Ordnance Chief. Honorable task. Crap!

The harsh sun and perspiration don't seem to allow him to wrack his brains anymore. He'll wait 'till lunch then. How to attract a lady is an exacting task, not one for you to rush out.
Today his burden is eased a bit: there's no maneuvers session and he only has to attend a tactics class indoors in the morning. It's been 2 days since he saw that lady but still he can do nothing to come to her notice. This evening students are let go to get home. He ought to have been happy, but he's apathetic. Perhaps somehow he's realized the shyness hidden within his usual flamboyant appearance.

He's coming to the class a little late, intentionally. That way he can choose where to get seated. You know what he wants.

He's just got into the class.

Too many people, he's bewildered. Where's the lady?

He picks the second aisle. There are 3 rows of tables in the class, and thus 4 aisles, and only idiots choose the two aisles next to the walls.

He's going slowly, his eyes seemingly kept direct, in fact squinting like never before to locate the lady. He sees a vacant seat, and hey, the lady is sitting right in front!
He's sitting behind the lady now, deliberately askew so that he can see half her face. He steals a look at it. The flawlessly straight bridge of her nose, the plump cheek, and the ponytail. He wishes to have a kiss on those tantalizing features.

The serviceman in charge of today class has not come yet, and there are still some guys coming. He thought he was late, but he's not.

The tall, lanky guy is coming near. He takes a seat next to him. No problem. This guy has appeared rather tender and friendly. With glasses, he looks perfectly genuine. Who knows if this guy will be his long-term close friend in the future. He was told people often find their intimates in college.

The serviceman comes. Quiet dominates.

It can't last long though. After a few minutes, students are wont to prattle, murmurs here and there. That's understandable. Servicemen's speeches have never proved so interesting so far, and, as a matter of fact, students have compulsive blathering.

The lanky guy seems like on pins and needles. Then after a hesitant while, he moves to the forward table and sits right next to the lady. She doesn't seem surprised at all. Oh my God! They're talking as though they know each other backwards. Oh my God! The two shoulders are touching each other.

His blood freezes, his whole body numbed. He's staggered.
oops... bi h em mới để ý chữ kí của anh Nhân... cái nì là trong truyện Animal Farm đúng 0 . anh kiếm đâu ra đấy, có bản dịch TV 0 anh (có bản Eng nhưng ngại đọc we')
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