So she waited a little longer
at the airport, and went without food or water.
Twelve oclock came. Thongsy saw a car drive
up full of cargo, and a woman got out and went straight to Mister The Lieutenant. She was
the wife of some high-ranking army officer and was able to do business between the
provinces, using the army airplanes to send her merchandise without paying shipping fees.
"The bosses are sending goods to the
soldiers, so the plane is quite heavy and no more than ten passengers are allowed. You
must wait for the next flight."
The hot May sun radiated down on the cement
airfield; seen from afar, it shimmered like hot flames. Thongsy sat under a shade
tree by the edge of the airfield facing Luang Prabang Road, holding her six-month-old baby
with one hand, while fanning herself slowly with the other. Her other two young children
were eating rice wrapped in banana leaves, which shed bought at the market that
morning. The children looked unkempt. Their clothes were old, dirty, and torn. She
had borrowed five thousand kip from a relative to prepare for this journey. But the
fruitless trips to the airport and the money spent to buy food for each day of waiting had
cost her a good deal. Now she had only two thousand kip left. She was trying as best
she could to be frugal. She was thinking of selling her ring so she could bribe
Mister The Lieutenant to let her onto the airplane, but because the ring was the last bit
of wealth shed inherited from her parents, she hesitated. She decided to continue
waiting, hoping shed be able to leave any day now. A lot of other people were
waiting, too, most of them, like herself, the wives of low-ranking army officers. They
knew that, in order to depart promptly, it was necessary to bribe Mister The Lieutenant.
But since they didnt have enough money, they waited patiently for their luck to
change, even though the situation seemed hopeless.