This is my response to this week’s Weekly Challenge, a very short story, to stretch out of writing comfort zones and then talk about the experience.
The rooster crowed at dawn as it had every morning of her life, yet today felt entirely different. She rolled over her mat on the floor with her sisters and brothers near enough that she could feel their breath. They stirred but would not wake for another few minutes, or until she forced them up and to their duties. This day was different for Kannika, she would leave home for the first time.
She had met a man six months before and had fallen in love. He is American and she loves him but he also represents freedom to her. Kannika always planned to leave her home of Nakhon Sawan in Thailand, she just never knew when or how. The “why?” was always a foggy vision but it was clear enough to give her direction.
Her family lived on meager wages from the government as her father would clear land for roads in the jungle, risking his life daily for his family. Their farm produced what they needed to survive with food for themselves and a bit left over to sell. The mango trees, roaming chickens, and their daily rice provided sustenance and they had land to work.
Life had been hard but it had been good. With six younger brothers and sisters to watch over, Kannika, filled her day with chores and child-rearing. She would wake and heat the fire to boil rice. Then she would dress and walk outside where the sun rose and she would trek three miles to the bus to a neighboring province where she worked a couple of jobs. Along the way, she would climb a tree for a mango to eat for breakfast. They were so delicious, she had to remind herself each time she climbed a tree to restrain herself as she remembered many times as a young child when she made herself sick from eating too many.
Each day was the same though and Kannika dreamed of more, though she knew little of what her options were and given her meager circumstances, “more” seemed almost impossible to achieve. Her brothers and sisters were content in their life and settled into daily work. Her yearning started as a young girl when Kannika would spend time that she was supposed to be cleaning or cooking, playing with her dolls and pretending they were in faraway places living fantastic lives. She had never seen anything other than what she lived and while her siblings spent more time climbing trees and playing chase, she spent time in her imagination dreaming up new lives.
As a young adult, Kannika worked cleaning homes and cutting hair at a local barber shop. Young men in the American military would come in from time to time for a buzz cut. Many men came in during the time she worked and they always commented on her beauty. But Kannika was no pushover and was very cautious. She was not easily persuaded even as she smiled coyly feeling flattered. One day a man came in to the shop. He was quiet, shy and seemed sincere. After months of slowly getting to know one another despite the language difficulties, they fell in love. The love she felt for Henry filled her with a longing to be with him in a future beyond what was already planned for her at home.
The day before Henry was to return to the United States, he asked Kannika to come with him. She had anticipated this happening as she felt their love blossom and she so desperately wanted to leave her home. She had begun packing her few personal belongings weeks before and saving as much money as she could for herself while still giving her family what they needed. She told her mother and father that she was leaving for the United States but that she would come back one day and would send any monetary help she could manage. She had no idea what would happen in her future in the new land but she still felt it was her only direction. Little did she know then, she would return in only three months with a child growing in her belly and questions and confusion muddling her way.
I have been wanting to write short stories and “break out” of my comfort zone, stretching my writing envelope. It is good to feel uncomfortable because it means you are challenging yourself and I always love a challenge.
I have this ongoing story in my head and am not exactly sure the direction I want it to go. It is inspired by my mother in law who has lived a fascinating though challenging life.
Writing this was in some ways more difficult than I expected because I don’t have the story completely mapped out in my head and I haven’t written short stories before, so there is a lot of starting, stopping, deleting, and re-writing going on. On the other hand, it was easier in ways because the words just flowed and it was fun writing something other than my own life lessons. I’ll definitely try pushing this envelope more often.