Excerpt: Arabella Raut The Eighth

(Excerpt from my story ‘Arabella Raut the Eighth,’ which came out in Ateneo de Manila’s Kritika Kultura)

 

To keep myself going, I recounted the history of Arabella Raut. But this time, trying to see how I would pass on these miseries to the next holder of the name, how I would initiate her into it, and to the whole point of it.

Auntie Arabella the Sixth did it chronologically, from the starvation to her own impaling, and the second and fourth holders had no choice on their sequence. But yes, my first misery was easier, and it served as a good introduction. The next holder can then proceed chronologically from there.

‘Listen then, ‘day, and do as I say.’ No, it’s too coercive – how important it was to pass it on with the right wording. This shouldn’t ever be imposed:my successor must take it up on her own. How did auntie Arabella say it? ‘Listen, ‘day… this is what I do, because like you I do not forget…’ Yes, that was how she got me into it.

Then my first misery:

‘This is what you do, ‘day… Wander around, from town to town, and do this. You take flat stones of varying sizes and carefully stack them one on top of another, the biggest one at the bottom and with decreasing size as you go up. Carefully adjust the inclination of each stone so that every surface is perfectly flat before you add the next layer. Use little pebbles in between gaps to prevent it from tilting. Build this structure in a place where many people pass by, along a road perhaps, or in parks. When you complete it, feel the sense of accomplishment as you look at it – it will be eye catching, and yet because it will be made of stones, how perfectly well it will blend with its environment. This will be the result and manifestation of your creative impulse –my Ate Ginamae’s creative impulse, who like you felt the flatness of the stones in her fingers and realized too that something could be made from them. For yes, it will be her memorial – every one of these stacks you build will be a loving memorial to her and to all those who heard the call to build but who were destroyed, all those who have suffered, all those who have died.

‘And it will be for all those we have given and from whom we inherit the name and burden of Arabella Raut.

‘You will love them all, and you will build these stacks for them.And you will inherit their one hundred and ten years of suffering, and you will inherit this world that robbed them of the chance to live – after you finish these stacks, stand back. Watch as passing children or drunkards throw stones or piss at them.’

 

(Read the full story in Kritika Kultura now!)

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