Tender is the Night
by Kan Chun
Ko Thitsar (Mr. Loyal) turned on his side, from left to his right; he was still
sleepless. It was midnight.
He could still hear Ma Nyo Seint (Mistress Dark and Cool) who had started
quarreling with her husband since nine; and she had not once repeated any of her
arguments or her obscenities since. Ko Thitsar thought gloomily that it was
lucky he was used to heavy metal music's loudness from the tea-shop amps: her
voice surely carried well over a mile at least. But Ko Thitsar was unfortunately
only fifteen feet away as he lived next door.
He had moved only recently to this new town where such niceties of whispered
quarrels and smothered curses seemed to be unknown.
Ma Nyo Seint's husband Ko Than Chaung (Mr. Iron Rod) paddled a trishaw by day,
and eased his tiredness at night by drinking. Ma Nyo Seint was a vendor in the
market, so the couple saw each other only at night; and then and there commenced
on the daily fights.
"Now look here, Ko Than Chaung…."
"Don't shout, I'm only two feet away from you…"
"That's why I'm shouting, so that you can move away, you!...you think I want to
be that close to you? You don't care to lift a finger to work, do you?"
"What do you mean? I lift my damn feet."
"And how much of that money comes home, may I ask? If we had to rely on your
money, we'd be long dead of starvation. Times when I’m not allowed by the
municipality to set up my tray, there's nothing coming in. Isn't it just lucky
we get credit from the corner shop?"
"Shut up, you...."
"I wont. I've been waiting and hoping for years you would somehow change; and to
think we have six kids now, what all this waiting brought me. Now look here.."
"Yes, WHAT! I’m listening."
"I mean, LOOK HERE!"
"I'm LOOKING. I'm LOOKING. Now what?"
"I'm going back to the village tomorrow; we're through."
"Fine, go back, go on, and take those darn kids with you."
"KO THAN CHAUNG!"
This scream was so loud that Ko Thitsar in the next room sat up in bed, alarmed.
"When you married me I was alone; and when I leave you, I'll be alone. These
kids are your property, I'm not taking them."
Ko Thitsar pricked his ears.
"Oh, you women, if the property means gold and silver you'll be begging for
half, as your right. Now with the kids that both of us......"
"Shut UP, Ko Than Chaung"
"I will not; since you started this I have my duty to defend myself."
"Oh, but you easily forget your duty to feed us, right? It rained so hard today
I couldn't go to the market; so I had to pawn something."
"It was MY longyi you pawned."
"And who bought it for you, pray? Do you think you inherited it with your
"Shut up, you long winded woman."
"I'll make you shut up, bitch."
"Try, then, if you dare."
Crashes and bangs indicated that the verbal battle had changed into a more
active one. Ma Nyo Seint, obviously with the belief that winning is not
everything but that participation is noble, seemed to have entered the fray most
It was a stroke of metal upon metal from the fireguard on the street, striking
the time: one in the morning. Ko Thitsar thought he would go to the loo,
situated outside the house at the far end of the back yard, and lit a candle. As
soon as he came out the backdoor, something big and black whizzed by his head,
to land with a crash on the roof of Ko Than Chaung's house, next door. Was it a
bird? Was it a plane? A meteorite?
Ko Thitsar was still pondering, half out of the doorway, when Ko Than Chaung’s
voice roared out.
"Now who's the f—g coward, throwing stones? If you're so brave, come outside."
Ko Thitsar did not know whether to move forwards or back. If Ko Than Chaung came
out he'd surely see him standing there.
Then a voice came out of the night: "Stop shouting, jerk, its me, I'M brave
enough to beat you up. I can't stand your f—g noise anymore."
It was the voice of Ma Kwe Ma (Mistress Lady Dog) from the next house. She
"Really, it's gone on far enough. If you think you’re so brave, bashing your
wife, come on out. No consideration for the neighbours who are trying to sleep;
the neighbours considered your feelings, that's why they didn't say anything.
But this is too much."
The voice of another trishaw peddler, Ko Tet Tu came loud and clear. "We all
work, you know, the whole day. We're bone tired and need our rest. You should at
least have some consideration…."
Ko Than Chaung fell silent. Then only did Ko Thitsar dared make a move to the
"Really, we can't even quarrel in peace; don't imagine I'm too happy with
Close after this remark of Ma Nyo Seint came Ma Kwe Ma's shout.
"Well, you're not happy? Come on out, then."
"I meant my husband! I was talking to him!"
After that Ma Nyo Seint fell silent as well.
"Well, talk during the day, then. If I hear any more shouting I'd really come in
and bash you both. Hey, who do you think I am? Hey? If I think I’m in the right
I'd kick the sky open.."
She went on and on.
"Really, I can’t imagine what kind of people they are. Going on at ten, at
eleven, and now its one. If they don't care for us at least they should care for
old Daw Mai Ma, (Mistress Ladyship.) who's so ill. That poor old thing cant eat,
she needs her sleep. Do they think they live alone? Do they?"
Ko Thitsar felt peckish so he wandered into his kitchen and scraped some
leftovers onto a plate. It was two in the morning when he finished his meal; he
could still hear Daw Kwe Ma.
"Really, it's not only seven houses losing sleep, it's about seventy. Should
know we need our sleep; even poor Pain Thay (Skinny) two houses down who has
asthma coughs with his pillow stuffed in his mouth, poor thing, so he wont
disturb the neighbours; but them! Such lack of consideration is unforgivable."
Ko Thitsar went back to bed. He could still hear Ma Kwe Ma's voice, although it
was not, fortunately, as loud as Ma Nyo Seint's.
"Humans should behave like humans. It's easy to be a jerk. Hard to be
disciplined. Hard to be polite. If you think this Kwe Ma is nothing, well, just
try and find out, that's all."
Ko Thitsar tossed and turned in bed, again trying to sleep.
"Don't imagine I'm afraid of anyone. I don't mind showing what sort of a woman I
am, if there are any takers."
Ko Thitsar tried sleeping on his back.
"People should have some consideration..." went on Ma Kwe Ma with unabated
Ko Thitsar turned on his side.
"...some consideration for the neighbours...."
Kan Chun, born 1946 to U Ba Htay and Daw Aye Shwe of Mandalay, is a journslist,
painter, cartoonist and writer.
He has published a total of 34 books on various subjects ranging from general
knowledge to humour, novels and short stories . As a painter he has participated
in group shows and has held four solo shows. He lives in Mandalay.