Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fictionalizing My Dad's Tales: The Magical Pebble

I let some young people at church read my short stories. Like the Red Car, Flowers for Rachel and my Cebuano short story. They said they love the plot and the story as a whole but they all wished for a different ending.

Why? The sad endings affected them.

So I also let them read my Dad’s tales: Missing the Bus. They so liked the story that they felt sad for my dad's predicament (but happy that it ended well) and asked me whether the story was true or just fiction. “It’s true” was my reply.

Actually, I still have plenty of my Dad’s tales waiting to be put in writing. These are believe-it-or-not tales he narrated to us since we were small kids. Here is one of those tales:

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In a small barrio in Argao, 9 year old Boboy and four neighboring kids his age were surveying the creek near their place. It was unusually flooded with water that morning even though it did not rain for the past two days.

“It must be raining in the mountains” Boboy thought. Dark clouds still hovered over the hills. But they didn’t mind the danger of being swept by the rising water or flash floods. They splashed themselves, screamed and enjoyed the moment.

Then from afar Boboy saw an object carried by the water current. It seemed to float but did not touch the water beneath it. It was some sort of magical levitation, which the kid did not understand.

“This could be a magical stone” he thought. Out of curiosity, he ran after it and eventually got hold of it. It was smooth, white and looked unusual for a pebble. It could be mistaken as deformed pearl. Then he called out the other kids and boasted of the object to their amazement. Malyn, an older cousin, ran home and brought a basin of water. The group tried putting the pebble in the basin. It just levitated by itself. The kids’ eyes rolled in amazement. Someone even suggested that Boboy can now become a superhero by swallowing the object. Boboy smirked at the idea. But he put the pebble in his hand and felt something strange.

It was then that Insi Asay suddenly appeared at their back.

“What’s the commotion all about?” she inquired.

Insi Asay is Boboy’s aunt, a first cousin of her mother. She was a thin lady, about fifty, with a squeaking voice, graying hair and a wrinkled skin. She lived with Malyn, in a hut a few meters away from the creek.

Boboy was still clenching the stone when all the other kids were pointing at him. “It’s in his hands” Malyn said.

Insi Asay’s eyes widened as she saw the object. She grabbed it from Boboy’s hand and took a careful look at it. It glittered in the sun as she raised it higher. “This is no ordinary stone. It’s not good for you to play this kind of object.”

The kids were speechless and Boboy lowered his head. Insi Asay put her arms on his shoulder. “I’ll keep this for you, Boboy.”

Boboy did not complain, for he never knew what it was. But Insi Asay got an idea. She heard of stories before about fairies and their kingdom in Mt. Lantoy. This object might have come from them since the source of the creek is from that mountain.

The next day Insi Asay set out to travel alone to Mt. Lantoy bringing with her the mysterious pebble. Boboy silently watched her from a distance. She saw him but never bothered to acknowledge the boy. Boboy looked down and felt a strange heat on his body. He was nursing a fever.

When Insi Asay returned from Mt. Lantoy, she declared that she now has a new mission: to heal sick people. She never told anyone about the details of her trip. That weekend, people lined up in their small nipa hut. Insi Asay poured oil on their heads, uttered a chant, and spat on their faces. Plenty testified of the miraculous healing. They even brought her gifts but she refused them all.

This got the attention of Boboy’s mother. Since the kid had not recovered from the fever, she brought him to Insi Asay. It was already dark when their turn came. Malyn served as the assistant. Then she whispered something to her younger cousin, “It’s the pebble. Insi Asay secretly kept it in the jar. It could be the source of her healing powers”. Boboy was too weak to say anything.

Insi Asay got out of her room and touched the sick kid. She immediately withdrew her hand as if tshe had touched a live wire. “What has gotten into this kid’s body?” she complained. Boboy’s mother did not say anything but tears flowed down from her eyes. Then oil was poured into the child’s head. Insi Asay started her chants. She grimaced as if something terrible was about to happen. She could not even touch the boy. She finally ended the ritual by spitting on his face.

“Yuck!” Boboy complained. That was all he could muster to utter.

Insi Asay got up immediately and was hysterical. She was clearly offended by Boboy’s reaction. “I cannot heal this boy. Something within him prevented me from doing anything.”

“But why?” Boboy’s mother asked.

For lack of better reasons, Insi Asay shouted. “He lacked faith. Bring her home with you. Out, out, out”. Then she drove them away. Boboy’s mother cried again, this time even louder. She lost all hope that night.

Boboy heard everything Insi Asay said. He just closed his eyes and prayed to God. He asked for healing and dedicated his life to him. He imagined stars, angels and heaven. He felt his head is about to burst. Then he fell asleep.

The next morning, Boboy got up early. This surprised her mother, who tried to stop him from going out. But he insisted that he has recovered. He gathered again his neighbors, the same kids who saw the magical pebble. They were amazed at his recovery and asked if it was Insi Asay who healed him.

“No. It was not her. Even though she got my pebble and healed other people, she was not able to heal me. She even drove me and my mother away.”

“So who really healed you?” asked the persistent kids.

“I prayed to God directly last night. I thought I was already going to die. I dreamed He touched my hand. He’s the one who healed me. He’s far better than that magical stone”.

The kids were only a few meters away from Insi Asay’s hut. She overheard them all and shook her head in disbelief. She was so sure that the kid will die of the sickness because she was not able to heal him. But Boboy was well and alive that morning, even claiming that God healed him. She went inside her room and looked at the jar where she placed the pebble. This magical object would surely bring her fame. But she began to doubt the source of her healing power.

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