“You’re Not Alone” an anthology in aid of MacMillan Cancer Care has been released. A paperback version is also available! Get your copy now!
Twenty-seven writers from around the world, including myself have entered an assortment of short stories for your pleasure, show your support by liking the new page on Facebook and expressing an interest in buying the book.
My friend Steven Winduo(Land Echoes) whom I have featured here wrote this story about the first Papua New Guinea writer, Hosea Linge. Linge’s book, The Erstwhile Savage: An Account of the Life of Ligeremaluoga was published in 1932. Ligeremaluoga is from Kono village in New Ireland Province.
Winduo discovered Linge when he researched into why there are so few published PNG authors, when exposure to writing itself and print technology was introduced when the first Europeans arrived in Papua New Guinea.
“I am particularly interested in answering the question why it took so long for PNGeans to write”, Winduo said.
No doubt by the end of his research, he will reveal the reason for the lack of numbers of published PNG authors. Click the link below to read the Linge story:
My friend Paco D. Taylor enjoys researching and writing articles. I have not met many people who are so fascinated and interested in a culture outside of their own. Paco is from Chicago, U.S.A, but he is intrigued by Melanesia. After a year of exchanging stories, history, art, music, etc, I can understand why Paco feels strongly about the Melanesian people and culture. His study of the black people in Asia has produced some very interesting connections to Melanesians.
In my culture, as you make friends with someone and whether they are from your tribe, a relative or a friend, they become your “wantok”. Some time ago, my wantok Paco published his article, Black East which discusses the ancestry of the black people in the East. I have read and found this story very interesting and Paco has kindly let me share the article on this blog. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions, I’m sure Paco would be very happy to answer them.
By Paco D. Taylor
As a kid growing up on the far South Side of Chicago, whenever I would envision the physical features of Asian peoples—since those I saw most were in martial arts movies and Ultraman reruns on television—a fairly narrow set of characteristics always came to mind. Perhaps not surprisingly, brown skin and curly black hair were never among them. But one fateful day my father told me of an eye-opening experience he’d had as a young man serving in the United States Marines. While stationed in the Philippines between 1961 and 1963, “Pops” learned of Asians whose physical features were significantly different from what most Americans have been conditioned to expect.
There in the Philippines, Pops saw native Filipinos who, albeit small in stature, looked a lot like him, with dark brown skin, curly black hair and—stranger still—African facial features. To say the very least, the sight of such people living in the heart of Southeast Asia was completely unexpected.
It was also unsettling.
Perhaps equally as unsettling, my father learned that these puzzling pint-sized people were referred to locally by a Spanish term, one that translates literally into English as the “little blacks.”
Facts of Life
As the Earth’s largest and most populous land-mass, Asia is home to 60 percent of the planet’s human population. Included in this sum are the continent’s lesser-known groups called the Negritos—indigenous Asians who look a lot more like the relatives of Gary Coleman than Jackie Chan.
Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Paco?
The term Negrito was first applied by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, after encounters with such people during early forays into the region. And though wholly unscientific, the term is still used today to refer to distinct ethnic groups living in parts of Southeast Asia and the Asian Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.
According to James J.Y. Liu, author of the book The Art of Chinese Poetry, the term kunlun is the equivalent of Negrito in the Chinese language, and there are several mentions of kunlun people in the early literature of China. The most well-known of these can be found in the classic adventure romance entitled The Kunlun Slave.
In the language of their Malay-speaking neighbors, Negritos are known as the orang asli, meaning, “first people” or “original people.” This term would come into general use in the 1930s, in response to efforts by the Malaysian government to officially recognize them as the region’s earliest human inhabitants.
Prior to the adoption of a more respectful designation, such people were commonly called by the pejorative term semang (“debt slave”), a word bonded to times when, like other blacks, Negritos too were abducted from their homelands and sold into slavery, but in Asia.
The defining physical features of Negrito people include dark brown to black skin, curly black hair and diminutive stature. The average height among men is 5 feet, 5 inches, and the average height among women is 4 feet, 8 inches.
And though they are seemingly orphaned from humanity’s family tree, Maury Povich won’t be needed to pop for a DNA test to figure out “Who is the father?” According to geneticists, these peculiar Peoples are actually the modern descendants of the first migrant populations to venture into Asia more than 50,000 years ago.
That there is a strong resemblance between Negritos and African groups like the Pygmies of Uganda and Congo is obvious What is impossible to see, however, is that on DL (DNA level), these people share closer genetic bonds to other Asians than they do to now-distant cousins back in the Motherland.
Fossil finds from across the continent suggest that these nomadic hunter-gatherers once lived across Asia from India to southernmost Japan. The southern islands of the Pacific Ocean (Oceania) were also once part of their domain, as well as the southern continent of Australia and the island of Tasmania.
Their stomping grounds today, however, are but mere traces of what they once were.
Challenged by the continuous spread of larger, more organized and more technologically advanced human groups, their once wide-open range has been limited only to isolated parts of the Philippines, Southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Andaman Islands (off the coast of Burma), and Papua New Guinea.
What’s more, populations that were documented as recently as the late 19th century to have numbered in the tens of thousands now number only in the thousands. But the numbers for some groups have become even smaller.
Today, the tribal population of the Onge people in the Andaman Islands numbers less than one hundred. It is conceivable that in the proverbial blink of an eye, this ancient tribe of humankind will simply cease to exist.
Please visit Paco Taylor’s blog link below to read the rest of the article and view images.
This is my second entry into the short story category in PNG National Literary Awards. Some of you know this story. It has been cut down to 1000 word limit. For more stories and entries into the competition, please visit the following links;
I felt his eyes piercing into my back as I struggled over the grassy hill. The air was tight and chilly so early in the morning.
I needed my three-month-old baby Boni’s softness, and the laughter of his older siblings. I was exhausted and wished I could stop. A sudden breeze brushed over the tall grass. Shoosh. I shivered.
Usually, when we returned from the garden, Bomoga walked proudly ahead, carrying his prized spear with a small bilum strapped across his bare chest. The children and I fumbled behind him: me with a child on my shoulder, another in the bilum on my back together with our second bilum of food and pulling our eldest by the hand.
Today, I was in front. I wore my favourite red meri blouse. In haste, I had worn it inside out – its flimsy seams waved loosely.
We reached the top of Kasu Hill. I gasped for air.
My heart pumped. From the only hill in Domogu Village in the wallaby plains of the Western Province, pale yellow-green lowland laid before me. The grass had been burnt in patches to entrap wild game. The lowland was also known for Papuan black, a deadly snake.
I marched down the ridge, as ordered. Cold mud numbed my sore foot. We reached the place where the Ok Tedi Mining had caused hundreds of fish and plants to die along the riverbank. Usually, there were people here. But it was still early – no one was about as we passed.
My milk dripped down my blouse. Without bra, my breasts swung full and uncomfortable. It was feeding time for Boni. The rising sun cast faint shadows and the warm air caressed my face. We had crossed Domogu tribal land. Bomoga’s ancestors, nomads like mine, had decided to settle in this fertile land.
My eyes scanned the mountains that Ok Tedi had exploited. To the south, there was an airstrip where planes flew in weekly. Our village looked like a jewel, deep jade opal, festooned with glassy lakes of many sizes.
I stumbled forward.
We entered a forest. Strangely, the birds here were silent. I heard sorcerers came here for bush medicine and magic making. I searched for sunlight through the tree openings.
“Keep walking,” he hissed.
I had not looked once in Bomoga’s eyes. When his sweaty hands had touched me that morning, I thought he wanted sex, but instead he shook me roughly and ordered me out of the house. His shadow had loomed over me as I took Boni off my breast and put on my meri blouse and my rubber skirt. Boni nestled into his blanket, eyes still shut. He didn’t cry for more milk, thank God. My other children, Eka and Maria were asleep. I heard Bomoga pick up something in the house before closing the door behind us. He was quiet and cagey, which was not like him.
He was never a warm person, not even to his family members, though he was loud to his male friends. He liked sex that was rough and on demand. In any argument, a sudden punch to my face or stomach was a possibility. If the children screamed, he yelled at them. The beatings only worsened if he thought I challenged him. “No one will help you, because you are MY wife,” he said. I felt he was right and did not seek help, not even from his family or other villagers. Recently his best friend Tommy had returned from Port Moresby. I heard Bomogu now liked Tommy’s sister who was younger and prettier than me. He wanted her, I heard.
I stepped on a stump with my sore foot. The pain almost made me cry out. Two of my toes had broken when I fell in the last fight. We continued through the gloomy undergrowth into a flat area. Through an opening I saw sunlight sprinkling light of various colours onto leaves and moss. I saw a beautiful butterfly on a fern. Its brilliant blue wings and black outline set against the leafy greens. I felt a flash of hope.
We walked on and soon I could hear rapids and the forest thinned out as we reached a Y junction. At my feet a Papuan black, unaware, slithered quickly across my path.
“Turn to the river,” Bomoga commanded.
I turned towards the rapids. My throbbing foot distracted me and I was afraid to fall. The river frothed, full from recent rain. Watching water as it rushed away, a thought stirred my mind. Was he going to toss me into the river?
I imagined where my body would lay after death; my treasured red meri blouse, still inside out, clinging to my slim frame. Dragged ashore with a paddle shafted under the hem of my blouse, a trail would be imprinted on the sand on the silky Suki River banks. Villagers rushed to screaming children who discovered me. A woman bellowed my name, “Sulita!, Sulita!” But after hours in the muddy river, half-dressed and impaled by a black palm spear, I would no longer be Sulita.
“Stop!” he yelled.
The ground looked easy to dig in places. I kept my face down. My feet were covered in mud and grass
“Turn around. Look at me!”
I turned and raised my eyes to the point of his most prized black palm spear.
With this spear Bomoga had speared the biggest pig, the fastest wallaby and driven the largest cull of deer. Many feared Bomoga because of his mastery with the weapon. My eyes shifted from the spear to my husband’s eyes for the first time that day. They were bulging and blood-rimmed. His nose flared and his sweat drenched eyebrows twitched. Ten long years and we still stared at each other like strangers.
He raised and pointed with the spear. “Where would you like to be buried?” he asked.
I dropped to my knees, closed my eyes and prayed.
This story is based on a true story set in Suki, Western Province. It is dedicated to the strong women and the survivors of domestic violence in Papua New Guinea and other Melanesian societies.
The Hillside Find is a short story I wrote when I first started blogging over a year ago. It is based on my life as a young journalist working in my first job in Papua New Guinea’s leading daily, The Post Courier.
I have entered this story in the PNG’s annual literature competition which closes on June 30th. If you are interested, please visit also the two links below to see other entries from PNG writers. I will post my second entry tomorrow. The word limit is 1000 words.
We climbed together, side by side. Chief Superintendent Roy Tiden and I stepped through the tall kunai grass and up the rocky Ranuguri hillside. The mid afternoon sun fought with its last strength, throwing an orangey tinge on the grass and on vibrant houses on the hillside. Ranuguri is in Konedobu. Below, the sound of traffic in Kone died down as we moved further up. It was a Tuesday in February 1985; the year Papua New Guinea would celebrate its ten years of independence from Australia. It was also the year the country recorded the highest crime rate in Port Moresby. Solving crimes excited me. At nineteen, and reporting for PNG’s leading daily, life was never dull.
My mother had called the night before from Lae, asking me to bring my little brother to Port Moresby and care for him. I was the eldest of four and Rivona was turning eleven. Port Moresby crime figures were escalating and living here was hardly safe enough for me. I wondered how a historical government post such as Kone boasting the best harbour and a bustling business centre could also be afflicted with such a high crime rate. In the newsroom the talk was that a state of emergency would be declared for Port Moresby. I stopped briefly to wait for Supt Tiden. As he got closer, I continued climbing.
I wanted to care for my brother, knowing how hard it was for my mother with three young children. But I was afraid journalism work would keep me away for long hours. This was my first job, and I wanted to do well. Maybe I could also bring my grandmother, so she could help me with my brother. With my mind absorbed, I didn’t realise I’d left the superintendent behind. Glancing down at him for directions, Supt Tiden pointed to the top of the hill. I headed there with my bag and notebook, stepping carefully over the loose gravel and scattered boulders.
Down the hillside, Mr Tiden’s blue uniform showed through the green swaying Kunai grass. Further past him I could see some of the old colonial buildings. Colourful clothes danced on makeshift lines and smoke escaped from open fires. Next to the police headquarters other old buildings had been converted into the mining department offices. Several dozen vehicles were parked there. I brushed the sweat off my forehead and wiped it on my skirt.
When I got the call, Mr Tiden had mentioned a rise in death amongst gang members, especially young boys. He said he’d been called out a week ago to a crime scene where the body had already decomposed. While moving the remains onto a stretcher, the rotting arm dropped onto the superintendent, and as it brushed him the fingernails came off. Thinking of that story and what we might discover today, I felt nauseous. I wanted to get it over and done with and return to the comforts of the Post Courier newsroom. My workmates there have become my second family, away from my hometown Lae.
I neared the hilltop. Supt Tiden was several meters downhill. His large body restricted his speed up the hillside. He’d started puffing at the foot of Ranuguri and joked about racing me to the top, making light our reason for being there. By then he was already an astute detective with over 20 years of police work.
With the incident report descriptions of the crime location, I figured I would see a crime scene near where I stood. I expected the obvious: signs of damage to the land surface, a scrap of bloody clothing, and any kind of evidence. “Maybe, I am ON the scene,” I whispered to myself. The hairs on my skin stood. At my feet the ground was bare and uneven with rough limestone.
I called out, “Mr Tiden!’ Mr Tiden!” Out of respect I always referred to the superintendent as Mr Tiden. I could hear the wind blowing my voice down the valley. No response. My throat dried up as I hugged myself.
I looked around and across the hilltop trying to see where the sound of buzzing flies came from. I didn’t want to step on anything or anyone. I could not even see those damn flies, but I heard them very close. A crow soared and two others joined the circle, just metres above me. I held my notepad tight. I pulled my bag up to my chest and smelt the leather. Inside it were my no-brand cinnamon lipstick, an extra pen, a bunch of keys and the police issue can of chemical mace. Mr Tiden said I might need it one day.
“The mace!” I almost said out loud. But what help would it be? Apart from spurts of kunai, there was nothing else here. Whatever there was would not be too hard to find, but my legs refused to take me further. I waited. The flies buzzed and the grass shooed. I wished the police helicopter would blast up the hillside and break the silence.
I was about to call Mr Tiden again when I heard muffled cursing and knew he had arrived. “There you are, Joycelin.”
“Am I in the right place?”
“You are! That is great detective work,” he answered cheerfully.
I pretended to smile.
“Come this way.” He started turning down the opposite side of the hill then halted suddenly.
I walked up to him and looked down. Stretched out before us was a boy’s body. He had three large rocks weighing him down – on the neck, the abdomen and the legs. The head had a massive dent and the rock on his neck was covered in blood. “He can’t be more than 11 or 12 years old,” said Supt Tiden after a complete circuit around the body. I had not moved yet.
Supt Tiden looked up at me, waiting for a reaction. The only thing running through my head was my brother, Rivona.
It could have been him, I thought.
Thank you Isabel for all your help. This story is a tribute to Chief Supt Roy Tiden and also my brother, Rivona who are both no longer with us. Roy died years later and Rivona lived to be a young man in Port Moresby. Almost 20 years later and two weeks before his 32nd birthday, Rivona died suddenly.
Here is a story about a storyteller and how he told his grandfather’s story.
This is an interview I found on Malum Nalu blog about a friend and a Papua New Guinea writer and scholar, Steven Winduo. I wanted to feature Steven on my blog because some of the things and the way he wrote his novel is interesting and we can learn from them as writers. In his own words below, Steven explained how he wrote his book, Land Echoes (2014), based on his grandfather’s life story.
It is challenging to write fiction, based on actual history, than on pure imagination. The challenge is to be as close to history, but aided with literary license to reconstruct a storyline that maps out the narrative. The technique known as fictionalizing history is taken on board to plough the field of history and fiction to make something grow out of it.
Land Echoes (2014) is my first novel based on my grandfather, Holonia Jilaka, whose life inspired this book. Although not a biography the novel’s timeline is based on the part of my grandfather’s history.
I recorded my grandfather’s story on tape when I was a University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) student many years ago. The part that I was interested in was the part where he went to the Highlands of Papua New Guinea in 1933 as a shepherd boy with the Catholic missionaries. He spent three years (1933-1935) in Simbu area before being discharged as a mission boy. He then joined the police force, taking his training in Rabaul depot under the instructions from Ludwig Somare and a sergeant from Buka. Kiap Jim Taylor recruited him into the police unit to make the historical Hagen Sepik patrol in 1938/1939.
My grandfather told me only part of the story. The rest I had to read and discover for myself. From the transcript I had of his story I began the writing project in December 1994/January 1995. At that time I was studying for my PhD in English at the University of Minnesota, USA. It was winter holidays but I could not return home.
To keep me busy and distracted from homesickness in the middle of Minnesota winter I decided to write five pages a day the early drafts of the novel, Land Echoes. I wrote every day without for two months, completing the first draft of the novel by the time February 1995 came around. I was quite happy with the self-productivity that winter. I think I completed around 500 pages of hand written notes.
I then started the process of typing the manuscript into my laptop. By the time classes started again I shelved the writing project for my PhD program. From time to time I returned to my manuscript in the next 20 years, even after my doctoral studies. I had some help along the way from colleagues and writers in PNG and Australia. I received documents, manuscripts, and books about the famous Hagen Sepik Patrol that Jim Taylor, John Black, and Pat Walsh, but only as sources of reference to contextualize the history that was made with the help Papua New Guinean policemen like my grandfather.
I was interested in highlighting the life of my grandfather against the early work of the Catholic Church in the Highlands and the Australian government’s administration of the newly discovered highlands region of Papua New Guinea.
The only way I could make sense of this was to delve into history that I was born too late to know. I equipped the writing life with raw imagination to enter into the period beginning late 1920s and 1930s to juxtapose that with periods from 1960s to the 1970s. The challenge with a project such as mine was to make history interesting to read through fictional narrative, while making sure to remain close to actual events in history.
Mondays Finish the Story is a weekly flash fiction by Barbara W. Beacham which runs from Monday to Sunday. This week’s prompt starts with the quote in the story below and the above picture. I hope you enjoy my take on this one. The stories have to be 100-150 words.
A Twill Weave
“What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”, someone had scrawled in bad handwriting. Humidity and stench made the cell unbearable but I wondered who the writer was. Had a moment of epiphany or remorse released those words?
Months have flown by, but I knew after the bundle was found on me, my five years of trafficking ended. The door turned.
“Mr Chris Dam –ass?” he pronounced Dameche.
“Yes”, I said relieved to get interaction after 24 long hours in the transit cell.
“Follow me,” he said with no emotion.
We walked down the hallway, opposite to where I was first led in. My heart sank.
“Where are you taking me?”
“To another cell, we have someone coming in…to use that one” he said.
At the hallway end, he unlocked a cell.
It was smaller. I looked out and through a tiny grilled window. A huntsman is putting the finishing touches on an elaborated web.
Are Australian short story writers an endangered species?
I found this review by Geoffrey Dean, an accomplished Tasmanian (Australian) writer quite interesting especially while editing some of my short stories for competitions recently.
I enjoy writing short stories, ranging from “Mondays Finish the Story” (Barbara W. Beacham) flash fiction challenge of 100-150 words to stories I have written in 1500 to 3000 words in our Creative Writing Workshop with Isabel D’Avila Winter. In short story competitions, the limit to the number of words you are required to write can really change a story, as I have found recently while reducing one of my 1500 word short stories to 1000 words for a competition. I have felt in the past week that I probably could have spent less time and written a better story, if I wrote a completely new story. On the other hand, I found it much easier to increase the number of words of another short story from 800 words to the required number, 1000 words. The additional 00 words may have slowed the phase of the story, but it is work-in-progress.
Submitting to literary magazines also calls for a fit. You have to write to specific requirements with type and paragraphing or head-lining, but the main challenge is the number of words to fit a page or a column. So how can you fit into the system? Can you be less descriptive or reduce the number of characters without taking from your plot or could you do without long passages of back-stories without killing the story?
In the following review, “Are Australian short story writers an endangered species?”, see how author Geoff Dean writes about his process of creating a short story and his discussions on the steps that took him to the end where the answer about short stories and their lengths are quite clear. As Dean writes, one must always aim to write a good short story first and foremost before trying to fit the story “into the system”, i.e., the magazine page size or competition requirements…in other words, to hell with the system, I am going to write my story my way and eventually find a place for it.
Geoffrey Dean has published 80 short stories. The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre (TWC) in conjunction with Island Magazine and the Geoff and Elizabeth Dean Foundation have just launched the Geoffrey Dean Short Story Competition which is now open to Australian writers.
Born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1928, Geoffrey Dean (Geoff) had his first short story published in the mid-1950s. Scores of his stories have appeared in eight collections of his work (Mysteries, myths, and miracles; Under the Mountain; The Literary Lunch; Strangers Country and other stories; Cold Dean Monday and other Australian stories; Summerbird and other stories; Over the Fence; and the Hadlee Stories), as well as magazines, anthologies and collections in Australia, the UK, USA, Norway and China. He won many literary prizes and awards, including the State of Victoria Short Story Award and the Arafura Literary award. His story, The Town that Died was made into a TV drama and broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1986. Geoff died in August, 2011.
RRP AUD22.95, or via this site for AUD$20.
Inquiries to: anne dot hugo @ gmail dot com
Roaring Forties Press,
PO Box 368 North Hobart, Tasmania 7002 Australia
Here is a draft of a potential chapter. I may use it in the memoir, but the story was prompted by Isabel D’Avila Winter in my creative writing workshop last week for the biggest lie I have ever told. I have not shared any memoir pieces lately, because I have not been writing much, but here it is for my readers who enjoy the memoir stories on Tribalmysticstories.
The Chinese kerosene lamp burnt low. It was close to me and I smelt the kerosene cut into floral smells from the freshly washed bed sheet. In a continuous dance, its golden-yellow flame peaked in a steady poise and melted into the dark head of the small metal lamp. The lamp was barely taller than my school ruler but it gave enough light for me to see the print. The flame in the round clear glass, size of an orange, outlined the specs of paprika stains on the lamp. At the same time, the flame threw a soft orange ambiance under my sheet and even around the room.
If I moved too quickly, I could knock the lamp over and burn myself because the lamp was partially under the sheet, and next to my book I was reading. This was my private and peaceful space where I read my books. This was also against Mother’s rules.
Having a lamp to myself was a luxury I rarely had in a noisy, crowded house. My mother and I had a small room about three by three metres and my older uncle (of two uncles) and his wife shared another larger room with their five children. My grandmother and aunty shared the last one. My younger uncle was away at the University of Technology, about 20 minutes from my village. My uncle was the first man from our village to go to university.
It was a house where everyone knew everything that was going on. My family had this one Chinese lantern to use as an inside lamp and one Coleman lamp as the outside lamp. Both lamps burnt on ‘kero’ as the villagers referred to kerosene. Fire was the main source of light and there was a torch, which hardly had batteries because no one could afford them. The torch was mostly used for travelling between the village houses. It was also used to visit my aunts and uncles or for going to the pit toilet away from our house – not for reading or using as a room light. If we left the village to fish or camp, the Coleman and the torch came with us.
I knew I was using the 20 cents kerosene up but I was solving a mystery with Nancy Drew. I liked being a detective myself.
“Ampom” mother called and without saying, I knew she called me for dinner. She used one of my names that meant, light-skinned.
“Ok” I said, without moving.
In the village, kero sellers would buy wholesale in 44-gallon drums in Lae City and retail the kerosene to us in re-cycled wine or spirit bottles – charging 20 cents per bottle. It eventually became 50 cents and then a $1. That was in 1970s. Wholesalers bought kero from service stations and general stores. My cousin and I would take our bottle, a clear Vodka re-cycled bottle, and I did not remember which of my uncles drank the Vodka – to any village retailer for kero. We stood there while they pumped the kerb into our bottle but there was a special technique where the boys in the village mastered. The pump would be pressed a couple of times and stopped. The air would push the blue liquid from the drum through the transparent pump into our re-cycled bottle. You have to stop the pump quickly or it sprayed the kero everywhere. I always thought it was cool and I wanted to have a go at pumping the kero this way.
At home, every night, once the kero was put into our Coleman lamp and some in the Chinese lamp – my family gathered in our blackened old kitchen and ate their dinner.
The floor was uneven and with the weathered timber leaving gaps in between, we dropped the bones of chickens and pork to the village dogs and pigs, which fought over it. Sometimes the fights would become too aggressive and the animals would run into the fragile posts so it felt like the kitchen would drop off the side of the main house. My cousins and I would get scolded for dropping our scraps down the timber gaps. Tonight, my family were only a few metres away from me separated by a couple of walls. I turned the lantern wick higher for more light. I adjusted my bed.
Most of the kapok had fallen out or shrivelled in my pillow so I tucked some clothes under it and raised my head. I reached up with my book and turned the pages.
I knew Mother would place my food on the bench top, near the hot teapot, so it will stay warm. Sometimes grandma would place the covered food at the fireplace and they both would insist I go out and eat before bed. Both mother and daughter always respected my reading and schoolwork, but sometimes, my mother would agitate me with her calling. On this night, I wanted to finish my book.
“Ampom!” Mother called.
“Yes” I answered, annoyed.
“Come and eat”.
“Come now, the food is getting cold.”
“I am coming soon”. I turned to the next page and read faster. This was not fun, but I tried to go as fast as I could without skipping any pages.
A few minutes later, mother called again and I could tell she was getting angry. I was not ready to eat. I did not answer. I removed and turned the wick on the Chinese lamp so low, the room became dark. I shut my eyes and put Nancy Drew away. I was annoyed at my mother. I was hungry but only to find out what had happened in the story.
“Ampom!” I heard mother yell. I did not answer her.
Mother rose from the floor in the kitchen, and I heard her march to our bedroom.
She opened the door by pushing hard against the grating sand on the floor. The door did not have a lock. I had shut my eyes and twisted my body into an awkward position and pretended I was asleep.
Mother started calling my name and sat down and tried to shake me. I did not move.
Mother lifted my shoulders and my head rolled back as if I was unconscious or dead. I was supposed to pretend I was asleep, but somehow, the idea of being dead entered my head – so I went with it.
“Ampom, tisa, tisa” – Mother begged in Bukawa for me to wake up.
“Giuc – Giuc!” mother started calling her sister. My aunt was shocked by the tone of my mother’s voice and tried to ask my mother what was going on. There was no time for mother to explain. By now my mother became hysterical and started calling her own mother for help because she thought I was dead.
In minutes – everyone rushed into the small space on my bed and started pulling my hair and calling all my four names. They would throw cold water on me next to try to wake me.
I finally ‘woke’ up to the relief of my mother – who was already crying. I told Mother I lied and I was pretending to be asleep and she did not believe me. I told her; I only wanted to have some peace and quiet – and even some light to read my book. Being a nurse, she was not convinced so she gave me a thorough check up; feeling the temple, checking the eye-balls, checking the ear and the throat. And then, I had no choice but to go outside and eat.