Samnang and the Boy
Bunkong "BK" Tuon
Samnang is the boy's
neighbor, classmate and friend. He lives in the same red brick apartment on
Centennial Avenue as the boy. He and his family arrived a little later
than the boy and his family. He's a small kid, an inch or two taller than the
boy, hair unkempt, with dirt under his long fingernails. He is always seen in
the same dirty brown pants and white t-shirt. The white shirt looks yellowish
brown. Together with Samnang, he walks up Highland Street where they gamble with
rubber bands and marbles with other Cambodian kids, where they get their hands
on adult magazines from the older kids, where they go up a small hill
overlooking Route 1A to pick cranberry apples and peaches in someone's backyard.
One time, the boy and Samnang ditch school. They are walking up Highland Street when a car stops them. In the car are Mrs. Katz, the school social worker, and Mr. Keo, the Khmer community liaison. They ask the two boys if they have recently seen Vutha, the artist who has recently arrived. The boys shake their heads and remain quiet as they watch the car move down Highland Street. They are relieved that Mrs. Katz and Mr. Keo didn't ask them why they aren't in school.
Earlier, they planned to head down to the local arcade where they could spend the rest of the day playing Ms. Pac Man and Defender. Now, it is almost ten, and their stomach growl. They did not have anything to eat that morning. They creep behind the houses on a hill that overlooks Route 1A and hide in someone's backyard. They climb up an apple tree and begin picking small crab apples, the kind that Americans find too bitter on their tongues, when a woman emerges out of her house, curls in her hair, and screams something unintelligible to them. > Samnang, frightened by her screams, falls from the tree and lies motionless on the ground. The boy quickly jumps off the tree, takes one of the apples out of his plastic Foodmaster bag and throws it at the white woman, who is then running and screaming back to her house.
The boy picks up his friend, and with hollering laughter together they jump the fence and run down the hill into the arcade.