Lies My Father Told Me - PART 2
Published Thursday, March 30, 2006 by lecram sinun | E-mail this post
This is the next section to the show that premiered at the 2006 Rogue Performance Festival.To read the introduction click here. To read the first section click here.NOTE: A couple of these stories first appeared on this blog as part of a Picture Daze and HNT post respectively.Now, pull up a chair, read and enjoy!There was a 2 year difference between Harold and Cuthbert. Here’s a sidebar … my mother and her sister eventually married my father and his brother. Oh, it gets better! On my mother’s side… my grandmother and her two sisters married my grandfather and his two brothers. Talk about a close knit family.
(Play the following Music… which continues to play under this section.)
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Now, I heard a story about my mother and father courting during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in World War II. Take careful note that they courted back then... not dated. Anyway, on one of their early "courts", my father rode his bike over to her house. And even though arrangements had been made 2 weeks earlier, and everyone knew about it, my father still had to knock on the door and ask my grandmother permission to take my mother out. She reluctantly agreed. See, that was the whole protocol to this courting thing.
They then got on their bicycles and rode to to town… on separate bikes of course. Sharing a bike would have been scandalous… that would have constituted dating.
The plan was to catch a movie… get something to eat and ride her home. Anyway, after the movie they caught dinner at a street stall. Big spender that my father was… movie and dinner cost him… 20 cents. But money went a lot further in those days.
I can only guess that this excursion went pretty well. On their way home my Dad suggested a little detour. They rode to one of biggest roundabouts in town and parked their bikes. This roundabout was decorated with products of the time - 6 foot wooden stakes that held up the recently beheaded - the work of the occupying Japanese force of the time.
They walked around looking to see if they recognized anyone. They didn’t… then they rode home and got back by 7:30 PM. Now, isn't that a charming romantic story? My Dad really knew the moves on how to get the girl. If beheadings were not illegal these days… I would be so hooked up.
(Music fades out. Stop music.)
Back to 1968… my 9th birthday was approaching. Because of the various jungle stories my Father told (which we’ll get to later) I had requested a blow-pipe for my birthday. My father was actually thrilled that I had asked for one. Sensing this, I seized upon the opportunity to suggest that we hit the road and go out to buy one. My father quickly said, no. I was confused but my 9 year old brain reasoned that he would present me with one on the morning of my birthday in a couple of weeks. I went to bed every night dreaming about the precious birthday blowpipe. On the morning of my birthday… no blowpipe… but there was something else to look forward to.
(Play the following Music… which continues to play under this section.)
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Now, most kids had birthday parties - I had birthday picnics in the jungle with my friends. My parents would pack us kids made up of friends and cousins into a couple of cars and drive out into the jungle.
Getting there was half the fun. 20 minutes outside the city - a hard left off the east-west highway onto a dirt road veered into the jungle for about half a mile. When the dirt road ended, we tumbled out of the car and hiked in several hundred yards heading toward the sound of a jungle stream. Monkeys would be jibber-jabbering in the trees as we hurried down the jungle path. The closer we got, the louder the sound of the stream... the less jibbering of monkeys.
Finally, the thick jungle around us would magically open up on our intended destination - tropical paradise with the crystal clear waters of a jungle stream weaving through it. A picnic spot would be picked on the banks. Mats spread and us kids excitedly jumped into the cold clear waters to frolic. My father would always caution us with the same instructions.
"If you need to kenching (pee) go downstream... don't do it in the jungle."
If one of my not-yet-hip-to-the-jungle friends would quizz "Why not the jungle?", my father would launch into a gentle lecture about "respecting the spirits." This would instantly ignite a barrage of "What spirits? Why?" among the kids. His eyes would twinkle and with a sly smile he would say, "I'll tell you after lunch." He always kept his word.
After lunch… tired from swimming all us kids lay on mats under the shade of trees. On the afternoon of my 9th birthday this is the story my father told.
(Music fades out. Stop music. The following is told without any underscore of music.)
A man named Atan had recently lost his job. After several weeks of looking and with his savings rapidly depleting he finally had to swallow his pride and ask a good friend for a loan.
They met at a local coffee shop and chatted about all sorts of things except the loan. At the end of the meeting his friend slid a folded up newspaper over to Atan’s side of the table - said his goodbyes and left. An envelope tucked inside the newspaper contained the money. Atan got what he needed and this simple but elegant maneuver on the part of his friend saved him some face.
Well these meetings took place the same way at the same coffee shop for about 3 months. At the last of these meetings his friend broke protocol and broached the subject of the loan. He apologized and explained to Atan that the loans would have to stop. Atan understood but a darkness came over him. They sat silently for several minutes. Suddenly his friend broke the silence.
“Atan, have you considered … going to the tree?”
“You know the one… I pointed it out to you the last time you came over for dinner.”
“Oh yes… I remember. What about the tree?”
“I’ve heard many people have won the 4 digits lottery after asking for numbers at the tree.”
Atan listened intently as his friend explained.
That night, after parking his car on the side of the road, Atan headed for the tree. In his hands were 2 paper bags. In the moonlight he could see the various offerings other people had left at the foot of the tree and that the trunk of the tree was wrapped with a blue silk sarong..
He knelt at the foot of the tree. He pulled out 2 candles, lit them and pushed them into the soft earth. Then 2 sticks of incense were lit and stuck in the earth between the 2 candles. He then pulled out a sheet of brown paper… tore it into 9 equal pieces… wrote the numbers from 1 to 9 on each of them. Balled them up and put them into an empty cup. He then popped the cap off a bottle of beer and stuck the open end into the earth. As the beer drained out into the ground he shook the cup with the paperballs in them.
“Oh spirit of the tree… grant me the luck of fortune.”
As he said this 4 paper balls bounced out of the cup just as the bottle of beer was completely drained of its contents. He unraveled each paperball and wrote down the numbers in sequence. The next morning Atan invested 10 ringgit on the set of numbers from the night before at the 4 digit lottery kiosk.
Atan opened the papers on Saturday morning to discover that he was a big winner to the tune of about twenty thousand ringgit. He was elated. This provided more than enough to pay off his debts and have enough to live on for at least a year. He went out that very afternoon and bought, his daughter, Intan, a red bicycle. Red was her favorite color and this was a belated birthday gift that he could not afford 2 months earlier.
That night Atan had a dream. In it an old man in a blue turban knocked on his front door and said, “I want to marry your daughter.” In the dream Atan protested that his daughter was too young and closed the door on the old man.
Atan thought nothing of the dream. The next night… he had the same dream. The only difference this time was that the man seemed younger than the night before. Atan woke up in a cold sweat and told his wife about the dream.
The dream continued for the next 2 nights. Each time the man in the blue turban appeared younger and younger.
The check from the lottery by now had cleared. Atan had arranged to meet his friend at the coffeeshop. This time it was Atan who slid a folded newspaper across the table to his friend. However, his friend noticed that his Atan looked troubled.
After a little prodding, Atan finally told his friend about the dream. Upon hearing this his friend immerdiately asked,
“Have you given thanks to the tree yet for your good fortune?”
“I told you that an offering of thanks had to be made within 7 days of you winning the lottery.”
In his combined elation and relief at scoring the winning numbers Atan had completely forgotten to do this.
That night he laid offerings of food and drink at the foot of the tree… a feast, in fact.
“Spirit of the tree… please accept these humble gifts in thanks for the good fortune you have given me.”
“The tree wants a mate, you know.”
Atan swung around and the toothless grin of an old man looked down at him.
“The tree is lonely.” The old man with a crazed look in his eyes cackled, “The tree wants a wife!”
Atan left there in a hurry. When he got home his wife informed him that Intan was running a fever. That night he had the dream again. This time the man in the blue turban appeared to be in his early 20’s. "I want to marry your daughter."
The next morning Atan waited impatiently for the bank to open. He made a withdrawal of the complete amount he had won in cash.
Back at the foot of the tree that evening he laid the cash out in a pile.
“Spirit of the tree. I return your gift. It’s all here! Please take this and … leave my daughter alone!!”
He then struck a match and put it to the pile of paper currency… but it refused to burn. He went home dejected and afraid but was greeted with good news. His wife informed him that Intan’s fever had broken and she was resting comfortably.
That night with a sense of relief, Atan went to sleep. Then he had a dream. The man in the blue turban was now a boy of about 15. The boy ran into his house and ran out hand in hand with his daughter. Atan woke up his wife and they rushed into the next room only to find the lifeless body of his daughter in bed.
That evening after the picnic in the jungle and after dropping my friends at their respective homes… I asked my father if the story he told us at the picnic was true. He looked at me and smiled. I noticed he had driven past the turnoff to our neighborhood.
“Where are we going, Dad?”
“A little detour.”
We came by a local high school and he slowed the car down.
“Look to the left…” he said.
Just outside the perimeter of the wire fence that defined the school field stood 2 trees side by side wrapped in sarongs - one blue, one red.
And what may you ask happened to the blowpipe? After the events of the day any thoughts of my much coverted blowpipe had completely slipped my mind.
NEXT SECTION WILL BE POSTED APRIL 7
CLICK FOR PART 3
Excerpt from "Lies My Father Told Me" copyright 2006 Marcel Nunis.
Permission to use any part of this excerpt can be aquired by e-mailing the playwright at firstname.lastname@example.org