Lon Duc Don

7 Jun

By Aidan Maloof
7th Grade

Lon Duc Don was a Chinese man with a problem. He longed to serve his country and fight off the constant Hun attacks and raids of the Song dynasty. He had dreamed of wielding an imperial sword and defending his country’s honor. However, that was his problem. As a child, Don was pretending to fight off Hun invaders, when he fell through the straw roof of his 15-foot-high house. The fall broke his right leg, and since his mother didn’t want to see a doctor, the bone never set properly. This caused Don’s right leg to be one-and-a-half inches shorter than his left.

So, when the recruiting officer came to his village with a list of names of young men who were to go off to war, he looked at Don’s uneven gait and said, much to Don’s dismay, “You can’t serve in the imperial army with that leg. You’ll slow everyone down!”

“But, but, sir, it has always been my dream to serve the emperor as a soldier!” Don replied, trying his best to keep his composure, despite his inner despair.

“I apologize, however we cannot accept you into the army. Instead, you can help by making items for trade like the women do.”

Don walked away from the recruiting officer, head bowed in shame at being turned down. He had finally gotten the chance to fight Huns and he had been rejected because of his injuries. Now he was stuck doing the most dishonorable task of all. He had to stay home and make things with the women to support the country while the men were off fighting a war. As Don limped away slowly, he could hear the officer calling out names of other village men who were to go and fight the Huns, just like he had hoped to someday.

Now Don worked in a prisoners’ camp, washing clothes and bringing meals to the prisoners. One day on his routine meal delivery, he saw a new prisoner. The prisoner was clearly a Hun who had been captured. When Don brought the prison food to him, he spat into his rice and threw the food on the ground without speaking a word. The prisoner yelled at him, saying sarcastically, “Thanks, limp! I sure am glad they didn’t let you into the army!”

That struck a nerve inside Don, who rushed back to the cell and started swearing at the prisoner. Eventually, Don calmed down and began to talk to the prisoner, whose name was Din Dong Dit. Don asked Dit what it was like on the fronts. Dit described the war, while slowly convincing Don to join the Huns. Every day, Don would return to Dit’s cell to hear more and more about the war.

Finally, after about forty visits, Dit simply said, “Why don’t you fight for the Huns? They’ll accept you no matter what!”

Don, caught in the moment, said, “But how?”

“It’s simple. If you sneak out of here, there’s a recruiting station just over the Mongolian border, if you make it that far.”

“Yes, but they’ll never let me join! They’ll think I’m a spy!”

“Just tell them Colonel Dit sent you and that you know the prison I’m stuck in and have a key. Plus, when they notice your leg they’ll know the Chinese wouldn’t have let you join the army.”

“Do you think that they will really let me join?”

“Of course! Especially with all of your knowledge!”

As Don rushed away to what Dit knew would surely be his death, Dit became very confused by his emotions: part of him sad for the soon-to-be-dead Don, and part of him content with his revenge, and the knowledge that even while he was imprisoned, Colonel Dit could still kill his enemies.

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