Friday, July 11, 2008

In Keeping with the HAPPY theme

Here's the first part of a novella I'm writing about --- you guessed it ---- a girl who knew she was going to die. It's not gonna be so dreary promise!

Once upon a time, a little way off from the land made of asphalt streets and concrete palaces, lived a girl named Skylar. She dwells in a house at the foot of a small hill surrounded by trees and bugs. Shelves and shelves of books surround the walls of her home. Day and night, she pours over them carefully, making notes, and memorizing facts. She gathers knowledge like rose petals, like june bugs --- the more the lovelier. She believes she knows almost everything, and she is almost right. She knows so much that she knows even the event of her impending death. She knows it is soon, and she does not have a lot of time.

Skylar knew affairs had to be in order --- wills should be written, people properly said goodbye to, and places seen before she does pass on. It was quite a task and she knew she needed help setting it all up. This is why she looked for a conscript --- someone she can absolutely rely on. Her sister, Marisa, had a life. It’s quite a good one—work, boyfriend, parties--- and she did not want to bother her at all. Besides, she knows Marisa will flip her top if she tells her she’s about to conk out. She’ll insist on hospitals and daily medicines and, God knows, maybe even herbal whatnots. Skylar has tried to explain what she knows to Marisa before, and she only ended up convincing the latter that she was possibly insane. If she tells her she’s dying, she’ll laugh first, then fret afterwards. She wouldn’t understand that Skylar does not know what she’ll die of yet. No, it was better to look for someone else, she decided. Someone not so easy to upset, perhaps someone not so addicted to herbal pills.

Bastian seemed perfect for the job. Her next-door neighbor had a list of attributes: a) he’s not nosy, b) he’s got a car, and c) he keeps his lawn mowed. Skylar knew he saw her once flitting around her garden trying to catch insects but he did not give her the stink eye. He even gave her an empty jar of mayonnaise the next day, for the fireflies, he said. She’s not so sure how fast he’d understand her predicament, had no idea if he was smart or what, but she’s sure she can be clever enough for both of them.

Yes, Skylar was sure, Bastian was the right man to help her die. That is why she didn’t take very long setting out to ask him to join her cause.

“You’re what?” Bastian said. He was cutting the grass on his lawn when Skylar walked over to him the next morning. She was wearing a bathrobe over her pajamas and her pair of floppy bunny slippers. She had a cup of cocoa in her hand, a newspaper tucked under an arm and a yellow ribbon around her pigtails when she casually announced she was dying.

“I’m dying, I said.” she replied. She could have been commenting on the weather, for all Bastian knew. “I was just getting the newspaper and saw you there and I figured it’s a good time to tell you as any other.”

“It is?” He had no idea what made a good time to tell people you were dying, but announcements made while wearing a Winnie-the-Pooh bathrobe never came up in his imagination. His face grew solemn though, and he dropped the scissors. “I am so sorry to hear that. I never knew you were… I… I… if there’s anything you need…”

She widened her eyes and grinned at him. “Funny you should say that. I was actually thinking of asking you a favor. You see, I need some help setting my stuff in order. Documents, people, places, you know, stuff.”

“You need a lawyer? I know of some good ones.” He offered.

“Oh no, no, I have my own lawyer friends. I meant I need an assistant. Help me find people, schedule trips, drive me around…”

Bastian raised his eyebrows in surprise. “And you’re asking me to do all that? Because...?”

“Because you’re perfect for the job. And you don’t look awfully busy. You do lawn your mown every other day, I noticed.”

“I find lawn mowing therapeutic, as it happens.” He couldn’t help but defend himself, just a little. “And how do you know I am not some very important person who controls small countries from the convenience of the phone and the internet?”

“Really? I’ve always supposed you were a musician. Or a writer. I mean, to work at home like you do.” She tilted her head to see behind Bastian into the open window of his house. “Is that an electric guitar I see?”

He sighed in defeat. “Yes.”

“So you are a musician. Not a writer.” She sounded disappointed. “I mean, that’s nice.”

“Actually, I’m a musician and a writer. I write songs --- commercial songs. You know, for commercials.”

“You mean jingles!” she put down her cup on the flat top of his gate post and rubbed her hands. “What have you done so far? Have I heard them?”

“Well, I wrote…”

“No!” she screamed, hand flying to cover his mouth.


“Don’t tell me the product. Sing me the song and I’ll guess.” She beamed at him.“Okay?”

He nodded. “K. No cud yo tek of ye hnnds me muf?”

“Oh, sorry.” She released him and took up her cup again. “Game, I’m game.”

She was looking at him so expectantly, Bastian found it hard to start. “I don’t have a good singing voice, you know. I just write the songs, I don’t sing them.” The red tinge was creeping from his ears down to his cheeks and his tongue started to feel a little thick. “A-nd some of them aren’t so famous, you might not have heard of…”

“Just sing, boy.”

Bastian knew he wouldn’t win the argument. So he just took a deep breath and dove into the songs.

“Every woman dreams of pots and pans, glinting as clean as it possibly can. That’s why in every woman’s hands -- Indispensable, irreplaceable…”

“Teehan’s! Dishwashing! You did that?”

He smiled and blushed. “Want one more?” he asked, to which Skylar nodded appreciatively.

“We do it like you want it, and you want the way we do it, it’s the perfect, ideal, top of the crop, swimmingly dreamy, incredibly yummy…”

“Harbour’s Ice Cream!” she finished for him. “Amazing, Bastian. I never knew. So what are you working on right now?”

“Uhm, I’m in between projects, currently.”

“Perfect! SO I am right. You can be my assistant.” Skylar looked so pleased with herself at that moment. “Everything’s falling into place. You will be remunerated, of course. We can discuss details tomorrow. But for now, maybe you should gas up your Honda. I was planning to go the city tomorrow, drop by my lawyer friends and draft a will. Do you see anything you want in my house? I can give you something, I think.”

Bastian scratched his head, blown away. “Did I say yes already?”

Skylar just stared at him, eyes wide and confused. “But, Bastian, I’m dying.”

And it was that moment he saw her for the innocent that she was. She actually believed he wanted to help her. She probably never imagined he’d even say no. And truth is, he can’t imagine it either. The girl’s kicking the bucket, he reminded himself. She’s got nobody else to run to. What the hell --- “Okay. Gas up Honda and go to city tomorrow. Got it, Miss.”

She grinned again, lopsidedly, and charmingly at him. “You are a brick.” She grabbed his hand and shook it. “Thank you.” And she turned back to her house.

“Bricks are good, right?” he called after her.

She whipped her head around, sending her pigtails flying too. “Solid.” And then she was at her porch and then inside the house with the door shutting close with a creak.

“Solid.” Bastian muttered and shook his head. He picked up the scissors, scanned the front yard and continued with his therapeutic lawn mowing.



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