I don't know whether everyone misses the place where he once lived. But as for me, I still have a deep-felt affection for the little three-room hut where I lived during my childhood. The hut was rented at the cost of one dou* of rice every month. The little hut was cold in winter and warm in summer. Whenever it rained, our bed and desk would be like small islands. There were many bugs and small rodents that lived in our hut like geckoes that would climb on the walls, mosquitoes in the air, and rats that shuttled about the rooms. These uninvited guests far outnumbered my family members. Several times after the rain centipede-like myriapod worms from the cogongrass upon the roof would fall onto our books. From the corner of the clay wall a snake about two feet long would slither out, wandering left, then right. Afraid of being bitten by the snake, my elder brother and I curved up on our bed and sat motionless. At that time we didn't know how to tell if the snake was poisonous or not according to the shape of its head: triangle or elliptical. The only thing we could remember was that it had black and white stripes on its body.
In front of the hut was a patch of land used to plant sugar cane and peanuts and behind the hut was a bamboo grove. When it was blowing, the noises produced by the bamboo grove would make me shiver with terror. Especially when the neighbouring children told me that a woman had hanged herself in the bamboo grove, my feeling of terror became still stronger. When we went to the bamboo grove to pick the fallen shells after the wind, the wet bamboo leaves would rustle under our feet. The soft sensation would always remind me of the horrible feeling connected with the woman that hanged there. Was she right under our feet?
The history of the three-room hut was also mysterious. Some of the neighbours said that robbers had divided their spoils there, while others said they were once the place where mountain hunters had lived for a short time. And still others said that a poor peasant couple used to live there. When her husband was enlisted into the military by the Japanese troops and sent to Southeast Asia where he died, the wife hanged herself in the bamboo grove behind the hut.
Although the hut was in the bamboo grove at the foot of the mountain, although the bamboo became our friend and we used to make beds, desks, chairs, windows and floor with it; when I think of it nowadays, it has no poetic countryside charm. It is in this mysterious little hut that my younger sister came to this world.
At that time, my elder brother and I were going to primary school. At dusk after school I would see my younger sister on the bamboo bed under a dim light. Her bony and fragile appearance made the empty bamboo bed still more vacant and beside her sat my mother looking pale and worn.
We lived in the little hut until my younger sister grew old enough to follow me to fetch water from a well. Several years ago during my summer vacation, I returned to the little hut. There I found the three-room hut had reduced to two rooms and a half, for part of the hut on the right had already collapsed. The bamboo grove behind the hut had disappeared and instead there were some little fruit trees wrapped with rice stalks. The old well where we used to fetch water every day was dried and we could see the stones and garbage that lay at the bottom. The only thing unchanged was the sugar cane in front of the hut. It was green as before.
My younger sister has grown into womanhood, while I myself have become a man with a beard. It is only when I think of the little hut where I lived during my childhood that I remember the time when my younger sister followed me to fetch water in the well against the cold wind and I often wonder whether that snake that frightened my elder brother and me so much is still alive?