house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Servant and the Stories

The Servant asked Begum for an old notebook. In the kitchen, after his work was done, he sat down, opened the notebook, started to write. He sat down every evening, once the heat of the day had softened to a golden shimmer. He wrote and forgot to swat away the mosquitoes and they landed on his neck, on his ankles, and gorged. He wrote until the noise of the house fell to murmurs. He wrote until his candle drowned in its own plaintive blood.

When he finished one notebook, he asked for another. Begum started to keep her children's old notebooks for him. And he wrote and he wrote.

'What are you writing?', she asked.

'Stories, Begum. I have too many stories inside.'

'What kind of stories?', Begum's little boy wanted to know.

The Servant looked surprised. Perhaps he thought the world had only one story, that wound about endless and forever, with no beginning and no end - and you could only wade in and fish for fragments. Uncaptured, that tale would flow away and vanish. Perhaps the Servant felt he couldn't let that happen.

But he could not explain all this and perhaps the boy was too young to understand. Still, he was inquisitive and he wanted answers. He found one of the Servant's notebooks and opened it. It was covered in lines of small writing; unstoppable floods of ink and ants - they covered the children's previous drawings and letters; they filled every pencil loop, they stretched inside each inch of white, a breathless tale flying at the eye, rushing to be told.

The boy could read, but not this. This was no alphabet he had ever seen. He took the notebook to Begum. She turned the pages gravely, then looked up and her face looked all strange.

'There must be lots of stories here, jaan, but they are for him alone. You see it yourself. It's not any language we can know. It's just this quirk he's got. Let him be.'

They left the Servant in peace. He continued to write and the notebooks piled up in corners of the kitchen.

The young boy, now a man, still says 'I wonder what happened with those books, where they might be'... In fact he thinks 'What if' and 'I wish'. And deeper still, he needs to know if they had ever been unraveled, if there had ever been a key...


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