Reading for the Day: Self’s “Don Alfredo and Jose Rizal” (an excerpt)

Self will now commence to share with dear blog readers the first few paragraphs of the story that appeared in Sou’wester this spring. It’s one of her favorite stories, she’s not sure why. It came to her in a dream, oh so many years and years ago. She scribbled on a piece of paper — chicken scratch markings. She joined a writing group, was hard pressed to come up with anything. Had a “nirvana” moment: slapped her forehead with open palm and said, “I’ve got it!” Hurried to her desk drawer, retrieved crumpled pages filled with scribbles, began to transcribe words written in longhand — words which seemed to make no sense, until a miracle occurred: that is, a story did indeed begin to take shape, though self didn’t know where the story was going because it was just so weird.

So, before she lost her nerve entirely, self chose to end it. Just like that. And the story turned out to be this thing that’s in between a story and a short-short, so that she could never send it out to one of those short-short story contests that are proliferating these days on all the web-mags (Word Limit: 500 – 1,000 words), and so completed story languished in her computer for another year, and finally self’s devoted brother in the Philippines asked for a story, and she sent him that, and story found its way to Story Philippines, and they liked it, and then Valerie Vogrin e-mailed self from Sou’wester, and one thing followed another, and here it is, dear blog reader, for your reading enjoyment this Labor Day Weekend :

* * * * *

Don Alfredo and Jose Rizal

She hands me a story and says, You must read it, it is something about our great-grandfather.

I look at my cousin’s earnest face, the planes of her cheeks, smooth and round as my mother’s. My mother! Reigning beauty of her day, gone these many years, but when I look at my cousin I see her again. I see her tall Castilian nose, the dark fringe of lashes around her large brown eyes. “How like Teresita she is!” everyone used to say, of my cousin. I would bow my head, as if in simple obeisance to this beauty.

I open her manuscript and read the words:

Jose Rizal’s Oil Lamp

And, since self has such an expertly developed sense of just when to stop quoting (a sense honed to perfection after teasing out excerpts from Haruki Murakami’s two-page “Year of Spaghetti” story, for almost a year), self will quit while she is ahead and while reader is still (hopefully) salivating for more.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

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