It’s October 31, 1976, in Anchorage, Alaska. This is the ten-year old boy’s second day in America. He squats at a vent producing warm air. His mother is in the kitchen opening a tin can of sardines and boiling rice on the stovetop. The boy’s father is working on the docks for an American shipping company that brought the family to the cold. A loud knock on the door shakes the cramped studio apartment. The boy stands but doesn’t take a step. His mother quietly puts the can opener on the counter and walks to the door. This time, the knock is louder, more intimidating. The mother says her only English words. There’s another knock. She opens the door and masked men are yelling. She slams the door and fumbles with the lock. The boy is crying. The mother holds the telephone forgetting the necessary numbers for an emergency. She’s hysterical. She turns the lights off and grips a butter knife as her only protection. The woman and child retreat to the bathroom closet. The mother’s cries displace the incessant knocking.
The boy is quiet, remembering his childhood best friend who was flung from their boat fleeing Vietnam. He watched his friend become ill. He witnessed the angry mob claim the sickness would kill them all. The boy fought—biting, kicking and punching—but he could not save his friend. Doubled over in the fetal position, the boy accepts his fate and knows there’s nothing he can do once the angry mob breaks into his home. It’s only a matter of time. The boy imagines the masked mob flinging him into the depths of the freezing ocean. This is America. All hope is gone.

Vilaska Nguyen was born in Anchorage, AK. Being their first American- born child, his parents named him after his birth state and the country they left behind, Viet (Nam). He earned a BA in Creative Writing at the University of Washington and currently works as a felony trial attorney for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. He tweets about fiction, family life and sports @vilaska.