Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Short Story by Cecilia Brainard - 1943: TIYA OCTAVIA

This short story is set in the Philippines during World War II. It is part of my collection, Vigan and Other Stories (Anvil, Kindle, Nook). This short short, or flash fiction piece uses the Second Person Point of View, which is unusual.

by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard 

You dream of fried bananas, sizzling hot in bubbling coconut oil, golden brown, its sweet aroma bringing back childhood memories of your mother in the kitchen — happy times. With a metal spatula, you lift the banana-halves from the wok and roll them in a mound of precious sugar. The irresistible sight of the white grains of sugar clinging to the red-brown surface make your mouth water, pushes your sister's words out of your mind: "No matter what happens, don't leave the house." Ever since the Japanese occupied Vigan, you have not eaten fried bananas. Meals consist of sweet potatoes, cooked with mongo beans, dried fish, and coconut milk. You're fortunate, you realize that, because many have only watery soup to drink.

You slip on your wooden clogs and sling the woven basket unto your right arm. The plants still have dew when you wrap three silver coins in your handkerchief.  You pin the bundle to your bosom, and pat it. With the image of fried bananas shining in your mind, you open the gate and head for the open market. Along the way you run into a skin-and-bones dog rummaging through a pile of garbage. The image unsettles you, but soon you wonder what the banana vendor will say today. He's an old widower who likes to talk. Maybe, if he has them, he'll show you the small bananas called fingers of the Datu; and he'll point out the sweet stubby kinds; and of course he'll bring out the starchy kind, perfect for boiling or frying. You'll buy six of those, hurry back home, and fry the bananas, just on time for breakfast.
But near his stall, you see two Japanese soldiers. They're in their stiff khaki uniforms and they're clutching rifles in their hands. They're shouting at the banana-vendor. You consider turning back, but they see you. Besides, it's too late, your feet can't stop; you're headed toward destiny. 

The loud guttural voices reverberate in your chest. A soldier pushes the vendor to the ground. He falls near a black puddle. Enormous fruit flies alight on his face. The soldiers laugh. They prod him with their rifles. He's an old man; it isn't right for him to be treated that way, but townspeople stay back. They're remembering the seven men beheaded by the Japanese. They were simple farmers, accused of being spies. People slink away, hide behind mounds of wilted vegetables and decaying entrails. In the distance, a horse neighs. There is only one thing to do. While the soldiers laugh, you bend down to help the banana vendor. The fingers that he plants on your shoulders dig like claws. Both of you turn to walk away. For a few seconds, it seems the two of you will make it, but suddenly the soldiers are pulling you away. The old man pushes you, disowns you. Now, you're the undesirable one. He runs and disappears among the cowering spectators. The soldiers drag you behind the banana vendor's stall. Years ago, you found two boys playing with a coconut beetle. They tied a string around its neck and twirled the string around to force the beetle to fly. When the beetle's wings whirred, they laughed. The laughter of the soldiers reminds you of those boys.
Someone throws you down so you lay sprawled on the dirty cement floor. A huge bunch of yellow-green bananas, the kind you were looking for, lies just a foot away from you. You can almost touch them. You try to get up, but one soldier pins your arms to your side. A soldier's face looms in front of you. He has pimples on his face, a boy playing war. You struggle, and he hits your mouth. You start to scream, but the other one holds your chin. The young one kisses you, a salty, foul kiss that forces vomit up your throat. He lifts your skirt. 
"Help!" you shout, but people step back. 
He pulls down your cotton underwear on which you embroidered "Thursday," a long time ago.
Santa-Maria-Santa-Maria, you think.
Then you hear a man scream, "Baka!" It's a third soldier carrying a long curved saber, an officer. The two soldiers release you. The officer slaps them. "Baka!  Baka!" he shouts at them. Briefly you think he will save you. You cling to him, and then, too late, you see lust in his eyes. He struggles with the buttons of his pants, then he gets on top of you. He forces his way inside you. It's like being cleaved in two. You hear the heavy breathing of the two soldiers who are standing nearby, who are watching. When the officer finishes, he turns you over to the other soldiers.
There's so much blood and pain, you shut your eyes, there is nothing else to do.  They have you; they own you; they defile you; and there's nothing you can do except shut your eyes. 
Copyright by Cecilia Brainard, all rights reserved

Read Also
Fiction by Guest Blogger, BRIAN ASCALON ROLEY, "Old Man"
The Turkish Seamstress in Ubec
 Allen Gaborro's Review of Vigan and Other Stories
The Old Mansion Near the Plaza 
Talking about the woman in Cholon
Flip Gothic
Manila Without Verna
Winning Hearts and Minds  
The Black Man in the Forest
The Old Mansion near the Plaza 
An Interview by Luis Diores of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
Oscar V. Campomanes' Cecilia Manguerra Brainard Scenographer

 Read also
 The Importance of Keeping a Journal and My Pink Lock and Key Diary
The Importance of Sensual Writing 
Vintage pictures that help me write my novel - Paris, Barcelona, Ubec
How to Write a Novel #1
How to Write a Novel #2
 tags: fiction, Philippine literature, short story, flash fiction, novel, Cecilia Brainard, Ubec, Cebu, author writer, Filipino, novelist

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