Tag Archives: Joycelin Leahy short stories

Two Songs for One Opening


J.K.Leahy memoir stories ©

“I have a song”, I told my mother over the phone. The regular 30 minute costly international call between PNG and Australia started with muffled voices. And then, depending on who had used her phone, my mother came on when the phone was passed back to her. Sometimes Mother had to find a good spot to get the best reception. And sometimes her voice changed and I knew other ears were listening. Not all will be discussed, some things will come in the future conversation.

“Hello Ma. Are you there?”

Someone is talking in the background and she is telling them to be quiet. I smiled at myself as the picture of her room flashed in my head with the village dogs barking in the background.

“Hello!”

Family discussions and on-going feuds took up the 30 minutes so quickly. As creators of art and music, my mother and I had agreed on many occasions that we would rather sing and ‘stori’ then exchange on family heartaches. Telling stories about happy occasions and things we enjoyed often took up between ten to five minutes of the entire call.

“What song?” my mother responded.

“A song for the church opening”, I replied in Bukawac.

My mother is the village composer and musician. Not me. I am a dancer, creator of crafts and beautiful things and a fisherman.I cal also catch eels but not my mother. And Mother is not a dancer so Tinang, my grandmother and my aunts taught me. My mother did not teach me to compose nor play instruments, but we still sang together. If I wanted music – she played Skeeta Davies and Jim Reeves and Elvis. She also played her flute.

“Which opening – our village one?”

We sang every day in the evenings with my grandmother when she was alive. There was a ten-pact short biblical songs we sang at dusk. They were my favourite. If we sang at home in the village, all my aunts joined in. My mother returned to the phone after telling someone to close her door.

“Do you want to hear my song?” I said.

“Yamandu? (Really?)” she said.

“Yamandu!” I repeated. That means “true”. I wanted so badly for her to focus and listen my song.

In Wagang Village, all families were asked to contribute to the new village church opening. This was last Christmas. Monetary contribution was at the forefront of this event. In the past when I was growing up, each family whether they were crafts people, hunters or fisherman would be invited to contribute what they had, made and grew. Not anymore. Money was first.

“I may not have enough to give to the church so I wanted to gift a song,” I said. That sentence went to a silent respond. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. I suspected it wasn’t what she anticipated. Perhaps there was more to the silence that I wasn’t aware of.

I let the silent pass. In the background I heard my sister scolding my nephew. I didn’t want to ask my mother why my sister was doing that.

I had composed this song one afternoon at my studio. It just happened. And tonight was the first my mother heard of it. She probably expected me to just send some money. She waited for me to explain.

“I will sing it for you Ma,” I said in Bukawac. “I had composed this song for the opening and you and your sisters can sing it on our behalf”.

“Okay” she said.

The church project was instigated by the provincial government in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. The villagers had been waiting for a church for over three decades. The first church was built by the people themselves – each family contributed the materials showing their craftsmanship through handwoven walls, brackets of pulled and dried rattan, carved seats, and hand sewn sago palm leaves. It was a church none of us growing up with it would ever forget because of its aesthetic beauty and the fabric of a cohesive and supporting community sewn together. In time the church building deteriorated. The maintenance did not happen. The relationships in leadership, the respect between the elders and the younger generation became difficult to maintain and the cohesiveness slowly came apart. Termites slowly and quietly menaced their way into what was left of the handcrafted building. It was sad.

“Ma! Are you there?” I asked her.

“Mnem!” (Sing!) she said. I gathered my thoughts. I was only singing to my mother, but it suddenly felt like I was about to face a grand stand with thousands of people.

My mother is known in our family and the community for her music. She was the composer of original songs and songs she translated from different languages into ours – Bukawac and Yabem. Her music contributes to the Lutheran church for openings, ‘sam katong’, large church gatherings of multiple congregations, and many village events. She was a trained muscian. Germans during the colonial era taught her flute, guitar, harmonica and singing at Bula Girls School, not only did she get trained by Germans to nurse, but also to sing and play numerous instruments. The flute was and still is her favourite.

“It’s called “Conversation with God,” I gave her the title. “It’s between God and I,” I said.

“Mnem!,” mnem ma au wangu”, she said. “Sing! Sing it so I can hear it”, she said and although she softly spoke, I detected the excitement in her voice.

“Ae ngoc geng masi, ae ngoc ming masi, ae gameng gebe yagung yawing aom.” (I have nothing, no words, but I came to sit with you).

I sang the first verse and chorus and then stopped and there wasn’t a single sound from the phone. I wrote the song in Yabem. This was the ‘church language’ like many church hymns – they were in Yabem. I learnt this language by listening to my mother, her parents and two brothers speak it to each other. My grandfather was a teacher and most of his teachings were in Yabem. My late Uncle Kwaslim mostly communicated in Yabem – it was his favourite language.

“Mama! Mama!” I called into the phone.

“I’m here”, she said.

“Did you like the song?”

She was very quiet. Then she said, “It’s beautiful! I don’t know what else to say”.

Three months later my mother tells me that she also composed a song for the opening and she sings it over the phone to me. It was very beautiful – but that is another story.

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(If you like my stories, please share them). I thank you all for being here. If you’re new to my blog – welcome! For all my friends who have been with me for a while, I appreciate you and I want to sincerely thank you for your patience. I have been away for a long while and working on other projects. I will share the news here soon.

A Blue-Tongue Lizard and Then…


A Blue-Tongue Lizard and Then…Short Story

(Memoir) J.K.Leahy

It was a very pleasant Thursday, ending with an evening conversation with both my sons who are away. I sent a picture of the blue-tongue lizard to  Nathan and Chris about 8:30pm. The reptile was staring at me this morning about 9am when I went to let the hen out in Bellbowrie, Queensland. Its brown carpet patterned scales and raised head had stopped me in my tracks. I thought it was a carpet snake at first.

I had seen a carpet snake, this size and only a teenager, in November near the hen pen. The lizard’s arms and legs quickly gave it away.

My older son Nathan texted me back to say it was cool to have a blue-tongue lizard in our yard. It was common for the family to share our discoveries of creatures that lived on our property and the local bushland. There are many beautiful small creatures such as this lizard and water dragons, possums, koalas and other animals and birds of many kinds in Queensland.

I didn’t hear back from Chris, (my younger son), about the blue-tongue lizard. I thought maybe he had gone to bed, because he had started work at 5am.

Nathan texted me again to say an owl threw itself into his car as he drove home tonight. I thought it was strange and I gave Nathan my various symbolic meanings of why an owl would cross his path. It was mostly to do with deception and revealing truth, but when I thought about other meanings, death was one of them. I didn’t want to tell my son that. We talked a little more before he stopped texting back.

At that moment when the owl discussion came to an end, I heard cars speeding, tyre squeals and a loud bang! It was coming from the junction, 100 metres from our house. Suddenly it was eerie and the night was very quiet.

Nathan didn’t text again. I checked my phone twice.

“I think there is an accident”, I texted him again probing for a  response.

From the direction of the accident, I could hear a high pitch horn of one car continuing, even after the crash quietened down. I was in our lounge where the sounds coming from the junction were the loudest.  When the crash happened, I had been in my office. I moved here because it made me feel better somehow.

There have been many crashes on this junction – Moggill, Lather and Sugars roads in Bellbowrie. A few years ago a 65-year-old motor-bike rider was crushed by an unknown vehicle. Later, the man died in hospital. It took police a while to find the other driver.

I had this urge tonight to run 100 metres up the road to the crash, but part of me felt weird and uncomfortable. There were sounds outside my house; voices, branches breaking as if someone or people came into the property through the bush, and then more voices came from the roadside. I could hear other cars drive and stop at the scene. Two minutes later, I heard an ambulance. I felt relief. Some of the birds near our house made noises – echoing the high sirens. The accident must have woken the birds.

Then, a police siren started in the distance and then got really loud before it stopped at the junction. There were more voices, but no-one screamed or shouted. I heard louder vehicles come and then whinges, metal on gravel and then car doors shutting. I could not see  the road; the huge gum trees blocked the accident scene. The sounds were very clear.

I kept thinking I should go and see it, but something stopped me. It was a fair walk in pitch black.

I texted my sons again about the accident. My older son did not respond. I thought he went to sleep. I called his brother Chris.

“What do you want me to do?” Chris asked me when I told him about the accident.

“Nothing – I’m just afraid, so I texted you,” I responded.

“I’m going to sleep”, he said. Chris was travelling for work in the Sunshine Coast.

“Goodnight son, I love you,” I said and hung up.

By the sound of the siren, a second ambulance arrived. It could have been the same one leaving. I wasn’t sure.

More voices came through the trees. I WhatsApp my cousin in Papua New Guinea – and he agreed, I should stay home. If help was already there, no need to go and I can find out more tomorrow. He is a cop.

My aunt called on WhatsApp and I told her there was an accident and that I felt scared. Over the phone, she said she was scared too.

“I think someone is hurt, the horn didn’t stop honking for a long time,” I said.

“Don’t go there”, my aunt said.

She diverted the conversation and soon, behind the night bird calls, the normal traffic sound returned. I shut all the doors and windows.

Two hours later, my son Nathan responded: “Oh shit! I hope everyone is okay… can you see any cars? ..if you can, do you recognise them?”

“No Nat. I was scared to go and see. The ambulance and police came straight away which was good – but the accident sounded bad.”

“That’s awful”.

I said goodnight to my son and told him I loved him.

“I love you too mum”.

I hope no-one was badly hurt or killed. I will know soon.

Friday – 19/1/2018 – Update

To those that read this story – as it turned out, a friend drove by the accident last night between two cars. He said no one was seriously hurt, even though there was a lot of damage to the vehicles. I saw the remnants of the accident this morning, but I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t as serious as I thought.

 

Leaving the Nest – Short Story


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Nathan (right) with his brother Chris and I at his 21st birthday celebration in Brisbane a week ago.

Leaving the Nest – J.Leahy Short Story

One more of mine flew out of the nest. This time, not the feathered kind. As you often read, I write about lorikeets that leave our home. My son Nathan, 21, has moved out of home officially today. He has been moving furniture, but his mattress arrived this afternoon to fill the empty bones of his new bed. He had figured, he said, it was a good enough time to finally tell his mother – he was not coming home tonight.

“I’ll stay at my house”, he said with a smile. “But I might be back tomorrow” he added. His silly and cheeky grin was on. Tonight was his first night in his new home where he shares with two flat mates. It takes less than 15 minutes to drive to him; not far from where we live, but it feels like he has moved to another country. It has taken him 18 months to find a place of his own. I thought it was a threat initially, but now, it was a reality. I looked at him and couldn’t think of much to say so I repeated the same: “text me and let me know.” Somehow this sounded weird, because, I could not possibly check if he has gotten home (his home) every night. I had a flash of memory as he picked up his sheets and headed for the bus stop. (He would not let me drop him off).

19 years ago, he carried his school bag and ran off on his little chubby legs with a back wave and a shout “bye mum” as he ran into the kindergarten. I sat crying in my car before I dried my tears and drove to work. He never looked back that day, although he was under school age and was allowed to go to school. He could not wait to start school. Nathan has always been a very independent child – spending hours alone working out puzzles or building blocks, opening the fridge and feeding himself, even when missing his cup and pouring juice or milk on the floor. Watching him walk quickly away today, I thought to myself, I should be grateful, he didn’t leave our home earlier at 18 or 20 years old. At least I had him here for a few more years.

He took his new white cotton sheets (mine I never used) for his Queen bed. Only I had a Queen bed before. But now, he has the sheets, because he has a new bed, and his old bed was a single King. I was going to wash the sheets first but when I woke up, he had left. I rang him to bring it back, because he does not have a washing. So that’s why he came back with the sheets and waited while I washed and dried them.

All the trips to the new place, since he got his unit keys on November 27th has come to an end. November was a big month for Nathan. He turned 21, completed his exams for a Science Degree and even started dating seriously. It was all new for him and for me. I am proud and happy, really, I told myself that. I miss him already. And, I know he will be fine and will show up in the next couple of days with his silly smile.

The Fate of Little Luigi – Short Story


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Picture credit: Barbara W. Beacham.

Mondays Finish the Story is a flash fiction challenge by Barbara W. Beacham. The story requires 100-150 words (excluding the first sentence). The challenge runs from Monday to Sunday. Here is my short story for this week’s prompt based on the first sentence below and the picture.

The Fate of Little Luigi – JK.Leahy Short Story©

The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be a…murderer.” 

The shock was too much to bear as police led Luigi away from the courtroom. He caught his sister’s gaze and his terrifying eyes softened. Martha turned to her mother; they both buried their faces in uncle Dino’s old, smoke-soaked coat.

“It’s not him, it’s not him – I know… I know,” Martha cried. She felt the 65-year-old Dino’s grip tighten as he led them to his car, barreling through the flashing media cameras and the crowd. Many had come to see New York’s District Attorney Martha Luciano’s brother sentenced today.

“Grim Day for Luciano Family”, headlines screamed across the streets in earlier hours.

Three days later, Martha brought Luigi the aged Polaroid of the family that he had asked for.  Her eyes salted as she tried to smile. Trembling, she leaned closer to her beloved 26-year-old brother.

“I can’t Luigi…you can’t go to jail for me,” Martha sobbed.

(You can read my other short stories by clicking on the top menu on Tribalmystic Stories home page)

The Song of the Turtle – Children’s Story


Winner of the Paga Hill Development Company Award for Writing for Children in The 2015 Crocodile Prize.

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JK.Leahy© Illustration in Pen on paper. 2015.

The Song of the Turtle – ©JK.Leahy Children’s Story

THE night was still and dark. Dogs did not bark. The wind blew gently.

Children and babies had stopped crying and laid their heads to rest. Even the night birds were silent around the coastal Morobe village.

Below the whistle of the gentle breeze, Kalem heard a song. It was soft, beautiful and so sad it almost made her cry. It sounded very familiar.

Lying still on her woven pandanus mat that grandma made for her, she searched through her memories – where has she heard this song? Her grandma had passed away last year. She missed her. After tossing and turning for what seemed like forever, Kalem knew she had to find out.

She picked up her mother’s torch. Beside the torch was a piece of hard shell, a turtle shell she found on the beach. She kept it for good luck. Suddenly she remembered – the song! It was the song of the turtles. Their nesting time happens near Kalem’s birthday, but they have not come to her village for a long time.

Tonight, something was wrong. Grandma said only the mother turtle sang the turtle song. No one in the village knew that song except her grandmother, mother and now her. Grandma sung and taught the song to Kalem while they were fishing. “Who is singing it now?” Kalem wondered.

Afraid but excited, Kalem headed to the beach. As she walked, she remembered Grandma’s words: “Our people are connected to the ocean, we fish to survive but we must respect the lives in the ocean. We must never kill for nothing.”

Not many people can connect to the animals and fish, but grandma said their family had a special gift because their ancestors came from the sea and are tied to the ways of the sea. Kalem walked quickly along the beach as she listened for the song.

“If you ever hear the song Kalem, you know, Mother Turtle needs you”, her grandmother told her. When Kalem was born in the turtle season, grandma told her mother – “this girl would one day meet Mother Turtle”.

Kalem followed the song out of her village and along the shores, further and further away from her house. Her heart beat faster when she arrived at the river where the villagers washed. Where the river met the sea, villagers set fishing nets along the shoreline. Kalem heard a loud splash. She slowly stepped forward, flashing the torch.

Tied to a large driftwood stump on the beach was a long, green fishing net. On the calm water surface, a big red buoy floated just offshore, and at the end of the net.

Something had been caught in the net. The thing splashed again. It rippled and frothed the seawater in a circle. It was large, dark and nearby the shore. It did not look like any fish or crocodile Kalem knew.

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Photo Digital illustration image JKLeahy ©

When she flashed the torch at the dark shape, she was shocked to find a very large sea turtle tangled in the net. It was so large, Kalem was sure it must have been the mother of all turtles. Kalem flashed the torch on the water.

She could see smaller turtles floating about, their heads bobbing in the water. The turtles circled the net. They were all making strange noises like they were crying too. The mother turtle was bigger than Kalem’s ten-year-old body, but Kalem had to try save to her.

Even with no strength left, the mother turtle kept singing her song. Weakly, her tired flippers hit the net and her voice faded to almost a whisper. Kalem’s tears flowed down as she waded through the water quickly and tried to set the turtle free. After struggling with the net and the weight of the turtle, Kalem ran back to the village and woke her mother.

“Help, wake up!” Kalem cried. “It’s Mother Turtle – we must help her”.

Kalem’s mother was confused. Often she thought her daughter was a daydreamer. After Kalem calmed herself and explained, she grabbed her mother’s arm and led her back to the beach. They took a knife and cut the net to set the mother turtle free. The large turtle swam up to Kalem and her mother. She bumped them with her nose before she and the other turtles disappeared into the deep, dark waters.

Kalem remembered grandma telling her about the life of the mother turtle. Grandma said it took many years before the turtle was ready to make babies. Every two or three years, the mother turtle leads her group to her own nesting beach, where she was born. Sometimes she travelled long distances to get there. Usually she would lay over a hundred eggs, but only a few survived.

Other animals, people and large fish eat the eggs and baby turtles. Kalem’s people loved eating turtle eggs and meat. Their village was once a nesting ground for turtles. Lately, less and less turtles have come to lay eggs. Standing silently in the dark with her mother, Kalem thought of how scared the turtles were tonight.

“They might never return…we must teach our people to protect the turtles”, she whispered to her mother.

“I am so proud of you Kalem. The turtles will head to a safe place to lay their eggs. Maybe this was not the right place for them, but they will find a perfect home some day”.

Her mother held Kalem close as they headed back to the village.

Crocodile Prize Anthology cover

The Crocodile Prize 2015 Anthology is out on Amazon

Magda’s Luck – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story is a unique flash fiction challenge where Barbara Beacham provides a new photo and the first sentence of a story each week. The challenge is to finish the story using 100-150 words, not including the sentence provided. This challenge runs from Monday to Sunday.

Magda’s Luck – Short Story © JKLeahy

At first, it looked like an ordinary marble, but it was far from it. Magda got to it, reached down awkwardly and picked it up. It was big and heavy.

Years of factory work damaged her back. Magda longed for an easy way to survive. The ball was larger than a cricket ball yet smaller than a soccer ball.

“Perrr-fect!” she smiled to herself and wiped off the red dirt.

This was a sign. She closed her eyes in prayer. She has seen it done in the markets with no truth in it and told Chek. Besides, who would know? Her husband Chek died last year.

With her gypsy olive skin, a pair of wild gooseberry eyes set against her greyish black hair, Magda was ready.

She pushed her Coles trolley to Brisbane’s West End markets. Already she could predict her own future. Her years of struggle are about to end in a few hours when she starts her new career  – predicting people’s futures.

The Eye of the Storm – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story is a flash fiction challenge by Barbara W. Beacham. Here is my story for this week’s prompt in the first sentence below and in reference to the above picture. 

The Eye of the Storm ©JK Leahy short stories

Zeus was not having a good day and he made sure everyone knew it. Mack was a mess as soon as Zeus got going.

“Get me a cleaver…”

“Nooooo! Pleease! Oh god – I’m sorry!” Mack sobbed and gurgled as I ran to boss’s collection for a blade. I almost dropped it; my legs could barely keep up.

As Zeus’ knuckles tightened to white around the knife handle, I desperately avoided his predatory gaze, leering at me through the lightning bolt tattoo across his right eye.

“Now, get out” he growled. I didn’t linger.

Mack had hidden Zeus’s package as well as the money. He lied. I warned him that Zeus would not buy it. The kid messed up.

I wondered why you’d risk losing some fingers for a few bucks, and then I heard a chop. Mack’s screams battered the walls of the warehouse, and the echoes shook my bones. I guess you never quite get used to working for a psychopath.

(149 words)

The Carménère Moment – Short Story


The Carménère Moment©JLeahy Short Story 

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Picture by Barbara W, Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story with Barbara W.Beacham

“The only residents remaining in the small town of Miners Hill are spirits.” Uncle Joseph said.

A tear rolled down his wrinkled tired face. The Eastern Belt explosion left several hundred dead last week. The town was evacuated. I watched another tear form and my eyes salted.

“My first thoughts were Josepha, Maria, and Antonia”.

“Where were you?”

“We sat for dinner. I went down to get a bottle of wine from the cellar – only minutes away”, he covered his face with bloody bandaged hands and wept.

My 50-year-old uncle cried as I rubbed his shoulders.

“I…I heard a single explosion, it sounded so far away. I thought it was the daily blasting at mine site. I should have come up. Antonio wanted a Carménère to celebrate Maria’s first communion. I couldn’t read the labels…suddenly I heard the crumbling, screams upstairs and everything went black”.

“Don’t cry, please uncle. They are with God now”, I whispered, as I cried with him.

(150 words)

 

Short Story : Enveloped


Enveloped (fiction JLeahy short stories)

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Public Domain image

This is a draft opening of a short story I am working on. I have not decided where the plot is going. I have  a few options and will post more later.

Betty picked up contents of their mailbox. It was only 4pm and she was extremely tired having entered her third trimester last week. Her mother was overseas, and still unhappy at Betty’s choice to keep the baby.

In her Mother’s eyes, Betty was the faltered child, not pursuing the right career or man, having wasted her mother’s precious money and now having a baby at 23 before she had her own income. Her choice to follow arts while keeping her casual job as a Cole’s cashier was beneath her mother’s expectations. Her mother wanted a Law, Business or Accounting Degree – not Arts!

“She thinks just because she herself married a rich man, that I have to do the same, Betty complained to her aunt.

On the other hand, Betty mentioned to her aunt, her younger sister Mina, 22 was exceeding their mother’s expectation with a University degree in business and now engaged to a young engineer from a wealthy family.

Betty has been out of work for three months and already she feared her mother was right – that she needed to find some money quickly. Her mother refused to spare a cent from her own millions.

“Betty must earn it herself, she must work for it”, her mother told her aunt. The house they lived in on the hills in Brookfield belonged to her mother’s multi-millionaire lover. He gifted it to her, after his second divorce was final.

As Betty shuffled white envelopes, bills and junk mail, the young mother-to be wondered how she would pay her bills this month. Amongst the pile she noticed a small yellow aged envelope, stamped and posted in Brisbane. The envelope was addressed to her. Betty examined the back but there was no return address. She looked at the stamp again. She could not think of anyone in Brisbane that would send her a letter, most of her friends contacted her on Facebook or emailed her. The enveloped was marked Monday, January 15, 2013, just two days ago.

Short Story: Swamped


Final part of  SWAMPED

(JLeahy on Creative Writing with Isabel De Avila Winter ) ©

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Public Domain image.

I remained standing at the T-junction and my attention shifted to where the two waterways met. I wondered where the birds were today. By now, the sun rays would have come through the leaves and woken the birds, causing an eruption of an electrifying orchestra. There was not a single bird-song. That part of the equatorial rainforest norm was missing.

My arms hung loose and lifeless, I could not feel them. I tried to, but I could not lift my arms nor move my legs. I was not terrified; I only felt stuck and this alarmed me a little because the mud was not deep. When I drew breath, it was slow, restrictive, and my chest was constricted. Something large of several layers like a heavy coil of thick, soft, rubber hung around my neck and shoulders. It weighed me down. I was tall for a teenager, but my thin, weak and small shoulders were crushed by this weight. I thought it was a heavy towel as we often hung towel around our necks to keep warm while fishing. I shut my eyes.

And then it moved, so suddenly. I realised this was not a towel. It was a large snake, a python! A different set of knots, the horrid kind, started tightening inside me. On me, I saw the coils move and could feel it tightened.

My eyes re-focused. The snake’s colour reflected that of the greyish mud, faint yellow like a banana skin, and the brown mangrove tree bark. I could see the diamond-shaped outline of each scale. It was detailed vividly in intricate patterns on its centre spine above my breasts and just beneath my chin. The scale patterns, beautiful and seamless, disappeared under the next coil. I became more aware, alarmed and numbed by the weight, closeness and firmness of its grip. I shifted my eyes ahead beyond the mangrove. It did not make sense to scream and it seemed too hard to remember how to scream. I refused to imagine where the snake’s head would be, I did not want to meet it nor look into its eyes. Now I remember how that poor pig must have felt when the python took it behind our house. Was this the same snake?

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Timor Python: Public Domain image

I waited for a few more minutes and I sensed the snake was not trying to kill me. That was strange. It seemed comfortable the way it restricted and detained me, and I was afraid to move and disturb it. The dank smell re-appeared and honed the swamp stink. I could not feel the mosquitos. I wondered if that stink was the snake. Its weight became too much and I wondered how long I would be standing there in the mud, carrying the snake.

Then, a single call of a Sock-ngkwing bird, the spirit bird, pierced the silence and my eardrums. I moved to the bird’s cry. The python tightened its grip, and squeezing .. and I screamed just like the bird, feeling my body become alive. I moved my arms and legs. I flipped over and woke up with my bed sheet tight around my neck. It was THAT dream. Before I went to high school, in my early teens, I had this dream so many times. It was always the same dream. I shuddered. Still tense and terrified, I went to see grandma.

I re-told the dream to my grandmother; she looked at me for a long time.  Her eyes searched, speaking to my face, without words.

“There is a decision you have to make, a path you have to choose. What is stopping you from choosing, is your fear”, she said.

I looked at Tinang, afraid.

“Don’t be afraid” she said and hugged me. I shut my eyes and fell against her soft, tattered, spun rayon dress. Grandma’s scent of Chinese White Flower lotion, mixed with mustard and chewed betel-nut soon erased the swamp stink. I had thought about this dream interpretation often when I was growing up, and it always frightened me because I knew what it was, but it was not a single thing; it was many…