THE LAST CHRISTMAS THERE

Although they were warned not to celebrate Christmas, the group went ahead and planned for it anyway. Still, none could recall who had suggested the idea. They were 12 young male and female teachers, who were trained at Pedagogy Colleges and were assigned to this overcrowded Highschool by the beach. And, although there were only 3 Christians among them, they all decided to celebrate that Christmas Night regardless of the ban. The purpose was to have a good dinner and to spend some time together. The party was arranged secretly without the knowledge of the School Principal and his superior, the Headmaster of the School District.

They were so busy that they rarely had chance to talk because the school had been chosen the Best in the District. Each had to teach at least 10 hours a day. Other school activities and meetings spent the rest of their time. In fact, they could only see one another in the school meeting once a month since being sent here. But even that, they were not allowed to seat together. Therefore, they all thought that they deserved sometime off and Christmas Eve came as an opportunity.

Hoa, a close friend living in the same quarters, brought Hung back to present while preparing a lecture. He had just come back from his last class of the day and he tiredly sat on the other chair when Hung asked him this
-Was Thuoc (Math-Team Leader) going to be with us tonight?
-Yes, but he's kind of scare. I might find some wine to cheer him up and get rid of any hesitation he would have had. I also invited Phuc at Post Office and two other guys at Weather Station. What about the food?
-"Don't worry", Hung said. I had to wait until dark before I could get hens and ducks which teachers raised in the school yard. And, of course, I could always use my last resource, which was the supply I had just received from Mom recently.
They both smiled while rising on their feet and they went separate way to get things ready for the Christmas Dinner.

They were suddenly asked to gather at the school auditorium and the unexpected meeting lasted longer than usual due to the presence of the Headmaster of the School District. And, they were warned repeatedly about the Ban by 2 Representatives of the Communist Party (the Principal and the Headmaster). However, there was nothing in this world would have stopped these young men and women from going to their biggest dinner in 4 months, working tiredlessly with little food each day. Hoa and 2 lady teachers disappeared after the first break of the meeting to prepare the food. The rest stayed impatiently to learn about 2 new Regulations banning any kind of celebration in Christmas Eve that had just been issued by The Central Committee.

At last, they all were released from the meeting and gathered in Hung's and Hoa's quarters which was so small to fit them all in. However, that did not seem to bother anyone but, in fact, the friendlier atmosphere was raised when they sat tighter. Thuoc and 3 visitors came as expected. And, food was plenty in decorated dishes...

They sat on floor in circle around the food and took turns to either sing a Christmas Song or tell a joke while eating. Hoa started it and others contributed their parts when their turns came as the clockwise. Hung sat next to Hoa at the end of the circle and it's now his turn. Suddenly, a loud knock on the door (behind Hung) while he still undecidedly chose what to sing. He stood up and quickly looked at everyone before he opened the door. The Principal was right outside and he did not look friendly at all.
-"I want to see comrade Thuoc", the Principal said.

The Principal was very angry and walked away right after he finished saying. He stepped hard on the ground and did not stop until he was in the middle of the school yard next to the flagpole. Thuoc shrugged his shoulders before he walked toward the Principal. He came back in about 10 minutes and Hung closed the door when he saw the Principal headed to his office.
-"They give us half an hour to clean up and dismiss", Thuoc said.
-"What do you think?", Hung asked.
Thuoc slowly walked around the circle to his place (across Hung) and sat back down. He finished his glass of wine before he said again
-"I'm going to get married on Tet and I won't be back here teaching again. Therefore, you guys don't have to worry about me!"
-"Good, we'll keep going" Hung responded.
Hoa had not said a word since the door knock suddenly made a suggestion
-"Don't hesitate if anyone of you wishes to leave, especially ladies".

They all sat silently for a moment and Hoa repeated what he said again one more time. None wanted to leave because the party had just started. The game which they were playing had not finished the first circle.
-"Don't forget, everyone, it's Hung's turn to sing", Thuoc suddenly said.
Everyone broke out and the party atmosphere came right back after Hung sang his most favorite love song. They forgot the consequences of not ending the party and kept playing the same singing game again and again through circles. Love Songs, which had been banned (by Communists), were sung when they ran out of Christmas Songs. And, the party was so good that they all wished it would have never ended. Food was delicious, too.

It was sometime after 4AM and the party's still in a good stage. Another door knock suddenly came while everyone laughed hard on Thuoc's joke. This time, it was like someone banging the door with something in his hands. And, a strange voice yelled with it
-"Open the door or I'll shoot you all"
Hung stood up and unlocked the door. A group of 10 cops rushed into the room with guns in their hands. Some even had AK-47. And, the party goers were pushed back into a corner.

-"You guys want to revolt the Ban, don't you?", the Captain asked.
-"No, we just have dinner together", Hung responded.
-"Don't bullshit me!, he shouted. "I'll shoot you first, sucker, if you say anything else". He then turned around to give his comrades an order.
-"Tie them all up and take them back to the Station"
Hoa stepped up and said politely
-"Please, just do it on men if you think there is a need. Ladies sure come without any problem"
-"Mother-Fucker, you want to be a hero?", the Captain mocked with a laugh. "I'll let you play that role when we're all at the Station".
The Headmaster appeared at the door and he had a private talk with the Captain, who came back with a better attitude
-"Let them all go without a tie; however, shoot anyone who runs", he said.

They were finally led out of the room one by one. It was dark outside and still had plenty of stars in the sky. And, there was a very bright star in the East in front of them. For a moment, 16 of them thought they might have headed to a place where the Son of Christ had just been born in the 1979th Christmas.

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