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By Hsu-Ming Teo

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Sample text

Further down the road, halal butchers and kebab eateries nestled next to Chinese poultry shops, Vietnamese grocery stores and narrow doorways where bright-coloured bolts of cheap synthetic cloth angled out of cardboard boxes. The Hos were invisible in the multicultural mix. They felt safe. The family argued long and hard over who should be responsible for bringing up Tien: Duong, with his three girls, or Duc, with his two sons. In the end, Duong got Tien, and Ong Ngoai went to live with his younger son, Duc.

When Gillian said those things, she made Tien feel like a Cause, as though she was being diluted into a group she didn’t really want to belong to: the South Vietnamese who suffered during the war. Those unfortunate boat people—who did not necessarily accept Tien as one of themselves. Gillian made Tien aware of problems she didn’t want to know about, because all she wanted was to be a normal, everyday Australian. She wanted to be Bob Gibson’s ‘Tina’ who came around and played with Gibbo, learned to broaden her speech and toss in the odd slang word as she listened to Bob grouching about pollies and Behind Moon - pages 34 22/6/05 11:38 AM Page 34 Hsu-Ming Teo people in general.

It seemed that his favourite pastime was baiting his wife. They argued constantly about things that did not matter to Tien. One evening, when Gillian invited Tien to stay for dinner after an English lesson, she said, ‘Your father was a soldier, wasn’t he, Tien? I wonder whether he ever came across Bob. Bob was called up to be in the war, you know. ’ Behind Moon - pages 32 22/6/05 11:38 AM Page 32 Hsu-Ming Teo ‘Bloody thanks I got for it,’ Bob grouched. He got up from the dinner table and hunched himself into his easy chair.

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