Writing has always been a passion of mine. Unfortunately, I feel as if I don’t practice enough and don’t make myself try harder at it. I’m not making any commitments here on this site, but I am going to share with you one short story that I wrote recently, inspired by a picture I saw in the book Cambodia’s Curse by Joel Brinkley. Any feedback is always appreciated. Thank you for reading!
The Unnamed Daughter
Srey Neang did not return the sun’s smile when she awoke in the morning. She rolled to her side and examined her small daughter beside her. Was she still alive? The two-year old was breathing slowly and shortly and did not open her eyes.
With that knowledge, Srey Neang surveyed her small home. If she had any time to think about it, she would have grimaced when she thought of this as her home. It was nothing more than a wooden platform raised a few feet on stilts to protect against the flooding that the annual rains no longer produced. It’s cover was a tin slab and she used old, recycled concrete bags to cover the sides. The front was simply left open with a rugged wooded ladder to climb up and down.
Now it was time to climb down. Without trying to wake her daughter, Srey Neang went underneath her home and started a small fire. Upon three rocks, the same way her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother cooked, Srey Neang sat a ceramic pot filled with rice pieces and dirty water.
This was her daughter’s food for the day – the only food that Srey Neang had to give her. Since her husband’s death last year, Srey Neang’s life had only gone downhill. Not that her husband had provided much more than she did, but having someone to share this misery with had been comforting. Now it was just her and her starving daughter.
Neang did not even know what she would eat on this day. After the rice was finished, she would take a walk in the dwindling forest behind their village and look about for berries and fruit and, if she was lucky, she might catch a fish in the small stream that coursed nearby. But lucky days were fewer and fewer. Still without a smile, she stirred the rice gruel that she would feed her daughter.
Her daughter still had no name. Srey Neang could not pick out a name for her with the knowledge that she would not survive the next year. Tears prickled at the corners of her eyes whenever she thought about it but Srey Neang refused to cry. She had to be strong; it was the only chance that her daughter had, albeit a slim one.
Srey Neang climbed up the ladder with a bowl of watery rice. She shook her daughter gently. The small child, with a bloated belly, opened her big brown eyes and looked at her mother. Her daughter did not smile as Neang spooned a mouthful of food to her daughter. The daughter slurped it down, not caring whether or not she liked it; she was just happy to have food in her belly. It had been almost twenty-four hours since the last time she ate. Although she was too small to understand the poverty that she lived in, she blantantly understood that she was hungry. Her little body knew instinctively that she had to eat whatever she could in order to simply live.
Srey Neang continued to feed her daughter the one guaranteed meal she had that day. Already, Neang was thinking about tomorrow. What would she feed her daughter then?