What is Hanoi part 4. Stinky River


What is Hanoi? Part 4

Stinky River


I walk to work past this river five days a week

It stinks like a sweaty ball sack.

Stuck to the hairy leg.

Of an obese, alcoholic Vietnamese gentleman

With a rotten colon

Hotter days bring the humidity – which means you are literally inhaling

All of the drowned, festering rats that live in the holes between the bricks

Of the crumbling walls that surround the once-fancy houses

Owned by the offspring of French colonialists and their annoying dogs.

Little dogs that shit out little turds right in the middle of the path

Where I will inevitably step into them because of my oft-hungover condition

The two chickens – dirty and fat – kick around in the trash

Hunting for little bugs to feast on, or a worm, maybe a cockroach. Scratchy little talons lifting up minute piles of waste and pecking at the ground with their little pink beaks. Fearless birds, without a care in the world – especially not afraid of the tall Tay strolling past with a cigarette hanging from his bottom lip and sweat on his brow.

A wise old mutt with cropped ears and a coat way too thick for the weather

Sits in front of the shack where the recyclers recycle everything

From rubber hoses to entire apartments stripped bare and dumped

By the side of the river where the river runs grey.

I’d never seen a grey river before I walked past the stinky river.

I call the dog ‘Big Pup’ and he has kind eyes and a fair temperament.

More deterrent than attack dog – big enough to scare off the locals,

But, we’re buddies – me and Big Pup – we say hello on weekday evenings

And weekend mornings.

A giant teddy bear lies dead, face down in a pile of garbage and rat skeletons. This once-white giant, probably loved by someone small for a minute or two, is now covered in shit in the most disgusting pile in Hanoi.

I think about taking photos, calling in a crime scene investigation team, because the poor bear has been dumped like so many puppies by the side of the water to rot and decay with his little button nose resting on a faded three of diamonds.

One evening when strolling home with that post-Sunday work swagger it was dark in the alleyway along the stinky river. The sepia glow from the street lamps had burnt out – leaving the walk more treacherous than usual as it was almost impossible to see the bank. A wrong foot could mean a grey dip.

In the immediate distance I noticed a ping-pong paddle sticking straight up.

A peculiar place to find such a thing. But, as I inched closer it moved, flapped and jumped and headed straight for me.

I have never seen a Jurrasic night butterfly before, but now I have.

It made me shriek and perform a small dance of fear in the dark.

A snail the size of a softball tripped me once, a chicken took the feet right out from beneath me.

The day the water flooded I had to wade through the water to get home. All the clothes I was wearing went directly into the trash. I had grey ankles for a week.

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