A duck lays in the cafe kitchen. It arrived yesterday – unexpected, feathered and gutted.

I was out fishing with my neighbour the previous day. He would set his net carefully into the water near Tra Que, among rice fields, dragonflies and a man sitting on his bufallo. Then he would light a cigarette, and we made splashes and noise to scare the fish into the net. He taught me how to count in Vietnamese as we untangled our catch one after another (My knowledge of numbers in the language increased considerably, from the một-hai-ba I learnt raising glasses of warm bia). He kept five for his family and insisted I keep the other 57 we caught that day.

The following day, his mother visited the cafe, carrying the freshly prepared duck in a pink plastic bag. The family has been busy with the approaching festival and the duck population is now down to seven.

This is how the duck arrived, the day before Tet Đoan Ngo. The duck did not spare us the time for us to find a recipe first, but the special gift is now in fresh orange juice and spices. I hope you’ve had a good Tết Đoan Ngọ too.

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