Exile -720 words - Margaret

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Exile -720 words - Margaret

Post by Margaret on Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:21 am

Exile 726 words

The boat stopped. I saw sand flats and the river bank. I clasped the children tightly and Min, my son, cried. “It’s all right,” I whispered and balancing him on my hip I held my daughter, Thiri’s, hand and clambered ashore. Would they remember this long journey, the home we’d left?
We were led to a village of small raised wooden houses and a temple surrounded by bamboo groves. I recalled our temple, the last day at home. The autumn Light Festival celebrates the end of Lent and illuminates the path of Buddha’s return to earth. We went in the evening to the Shwedagon. After the rainy season, days and nights became less oppressive. Candles and lamps flickered bestowing enchantment and mystery. Barefoot on the marble floor we circled the great golden dagoba. Flower garlands at shrines shone jewel-like their fugitive scent following us.
Families knelt, prayed and picnicked; the children played. I was not born here yet had absorbed its religion and traditions. I knew I must at last wake up to the present reality. How much longer could we live peacefully here.

After my parents died, I travelled and worked in Asia. I met Khin in Hong Kong. When we came to Burma, I was welcomed with a warmth that surprised and delighted me. I believed I would stay here forever. My British passport expired; I didn’t renew it. This was home with my lawyer husband and our children.
Changes came slowly and insidiously. I was too engrossed in my family to notice.

Thiri and Min knelt beside their grandmother who, holding her beads in praying hands, recited a sutra. Khin was beside me, “Now listen very carefully – don’t interrupt. This is the hardest thing we have to do. Tonight, you will leave with Thiri and Min.”
I protested - it was too soon but he put a hand over my mouth and whispered urgently. For several years he had warned me of problems and that there might be a day when we would have to leave. I took little heed. Neither politicians nor protesters, we lived quietly. Surely Khin’s law practice was not contentious. Yes, there had been student demonstrations. Last year the generals had closed the schools and universities, but my children were still young and I could teach them at home. Everything would be fine in a year or two. But now I felt ashamed; I had ignored the tragedies around me.
We left and descended the east stairs. At the foot beside the fierce statues we retrieved our shoes. Khin handed me a cloth bundle, “This is all you can take – any more would be conspicuous. I’ve put in what you need, papers, money and your jewellery.”
There was no more time.
“This is the safest way. Go now. I’ll follow with mother soon.”
We crossed the dusty ill-lit road to a yellow scooter taxi, “He’ll drive you to the truck that will take you across the rivers to the banks of the Salween. There friends will meet you.”
The.re was no time left, my words were lame, “I’m so sorry. I’ve been stupid and thoughtless. We should have talked more, prepared better.”
He smiled, “No, you’ve given us security and happiness - you’ll continue to do this. Be careful don’t speak to strangers - your accent will raise suspicions.”
I could not embrace him; to do so in public would invite attention. Khin hugged his children, patted my shoulder and wiped a tear from my cheek, “It won’t be long.”

The tropical night is never silent. There is the buzz of a thousand insects, the tik tak of the gecko, the stirring of lush leaves. I whispered to the children that we were going on a special adventure and must be very, very quiet. The motion of the truck lulled them to sleep as we travelled through that night and all the hard nights that followed.

Now, in this village in another country, we’ve reached a small compound. The children are carried upstairs. A gentle voice reassures and guides me to a big room where mattresses are laid on the floor. I recognise May, Khin’s cousin, there is so much I want to ask. She shakes her head and hands me a steel beaker of sweet, milky tea. “You must sleep now – we’ll talk in the morning.


I've cute it down by almost half - I'm actually enjoying this drastic editing - but not sure it becomes too obscure.




Margaret

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Re: Exile -720 words - Margaret

Post by Graham on Mon Jun 11, 2018 12:03 pm

Hi Margaret, congratulations on your first post.

Not all obscure. It is marvellously evocative, especially the opening passage. I confess to misreading it first time through, totally my error, and thought the little boy was reassuring his mother by saying ‘It’s all right.’ It made it even more poignant, but it is more natural as you wrote it. This next bit is a beautiful pocket description: ‘The tropical night is never silent. There is the buzz of a thousand insects, the tik tak of the gecko, the stirring of lush leaves.’ What do you think of making it all one sentence ‘... never silent, the buzz of ...’

Editing affords us the luxury of second thoughts, often improvements, but it becomes harder to read it with fresh eyes. A recommended practice is to put it aside after the first flush of editing and come back to it a week or two later. It is a good idea, though, never to jettison our first thoughts entirely. Sometimes I keep them all in, the alternatives to be decided on later and I almost always make each draft a separate word document. It also depends on the purpose of the piece – stand-alone flash-fiction, opening chapter of a novel, or a short story, memoir, travelogue. ‘The autumn Light Festival’ explanation may not be necessary in a piece of fiction, just as you let the word ‘dagoba’ pass without elaboration.

If there is more to come please do post it. I will enjoy reading it.

Graham
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