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When the Wind Brings Rain

Ussiri Thamachote

The S.E.A. Write Award 1981

Collection : Khunthong, You Will Return at Dawn

Translated: Chamnongsri Rutnin

จาก เรื่อง เมื่อลมฝนผ่านมา ในรวมเรื่องสั้นชุด ขุนทองเจ้าจะกลับเมื่อฟ้าสาง

ผลงานรางวัลวรรณกรรมสร้างสรรค์ยอดเยี่ยมแห่งอาเซียน ปี 2524 ของ อัศศิริ ธรรมโชติ





Our cart is crossing over a stream. I know from the whispering of the water. It is soft and dreamy like my mother's song when she sings me to sleep. I hear it now ... drifting, drifting from ... I wonder where....


When the wind brings rain

the wood's fragrance

sweetens the streams

where bright flowers dream

along with leaves

of dark, deep green....


"Are you singing, Mother?'' My eyelids are so heavy that I have to force them open to ask my mother.


Mother shakes her head and holds me even closer in her arms. The eyelids close with a will of their own. Tired....I have no strength...it is like being in a dream. With my eyes closed, I can see my village shining in the big valley --my village with the meadows and the irrigation canals... with the whirlwheels of the wooden water pumps moving in the wind.


whirlwheels whirling

round and round

when wind brings rain

the scent of wet grass

and fragrance

of steaming earth

perfume the land

-- our home.


I know this song. I know it by heart. I am thinking of my teacher and my friends at school. There... I am standing with them in front of the flagpole, singing the National Anthem. Our voices mix and swell...echoing, spreading over the paddy fields. We fix our eyes on the faded flag that is flapping and billowing in the high wind.


But somehow my eyes are now on a whirlwheel turning in the middle of a patch of tall green grass. It turns slowly, then faster... and faster still, until it looks like a circle.. ...now it isn't one circle, but many and many of them.

Ten, twenty, thirty whirling circles make my head spin. My eyes are blurred. I am going to fall..and fall.


''Teacher, Teacher, where are you?'' I call.

''Here, I am. Beside you. Here.''


I force my eyes open once again and see Teacher's face bending close. It looks pale and sad.


The loud mooing of the ox, the tinkling of the ox bell, and the creaking of the cartwheels break the silence of the sleeping woods. I feel a gust of strong wind sweeping past. Noisy rustling of shaken leaves follows loud and long in its wake.


'The wind!'' Mother's voice says softly.

"The clouds look mighty thick,'' Teacher's voice growls.


I can hear Father's voice shouting at the ox and the sound of his impatient whip against the ox's back. The cart shakes and rolls on the rough, uneven road.


''Where are we going?'' I ask my mother.

''To the doctor," Teacher's voice replies.

"The doctor in the white dress who used to bring us medicine, the kind doctor at the district clinic. She will make you well again, and the pain will go away."


With the word 'pain', the agony comes flooding back... the hot fierce pain racing ward from my ankle, rushing up to my brain. I am so cold, as cold as if I have been soaking for hours in the rain in the winter. And hot, now it is like being trapped in a forest fire. Cruel…so cruel. I writhe and scream in my mother's arms. I can hear my mother trying to comfort me amidst the creaking of the stumbling cart and the frenzy of my agony.


My heart grows weightless. It floats up and up, randomly. Now it sinks right down into the depths. And, in those depths in which I have no control, the doctor is standing up there wearing a gown so white and beautiful. She looks like an angel in the sky above the far horizon. I run on the muddy uneven ground trying to reach her, falling, getting up and falling again. Nature is desolate and cruel. I call to her -- she laughs and comes closer.


Now she stops above me and looks down with exquisite kindness.

''Here I am,'' she says, and I fling myself, weeping, into her arms.

"Come, don't cry,'' she soothes me. ''Look, it's very beautiful."


I look down from the sky at the school, the water pumps with the whirlwheels, the wildflowers with their bright colours and sweet perfumes.


''How pure nature is here,'' she says.

''You live with so much beauty around you. You are much luckier than I am."


When I stop crying, the angel in white sets me on the ground, rises up into the sky and floats out of sight.


Now I am conscious again. The cart is still stumbling onward. Far ahead, I can see the mountain range. Dark grey clouds hang against it like curtains. The sky is brooding. Teacher and Mother are silent, their faces sadder than the sky.


My mind is clear and I can think back. I was bitten by something...a snake, I think. It bit me on the ankle while I was with Teacher, netting fish.


''Teacher, let me come with you," I called when I saw him striding along in his loin cloth holding a dip net pole.

"No, I'm going home," he shouted back, stopping me in my tracks. But as I watched him, he turned and beckoned.

''There's school tomorrow. Don't blame me if you get sick," he said, giving my shoulder a kindly push.


It was when Teacher lifted the net on which several muddy fish were jumping in final fights for their lives, that I felt a sudden stab of pain on my ankle and shouted without exactly knowing what had bitten me.


"Snake.... It bit me...''


Teacher flung the net away and lifted me in his arms.

My ankle hurt. The pain tightened like an iron ring around my heart. My breaths were disjointed. My mouth was full of water, but my throat was like dust. From the pond to the house, from the house to the ox cart and to this moment in my mother's arms, I have felt terrible pain, emptiness and peace in a seemingly endless cycle.


When the wind brings rain

the wood's fragrance.....


Here it comes again...drifting from I don't know where.


The wind is really bringing rain. I can hear the sky echoing with cracks of thunder mixed with the loud mooing of the terrified ox. The cart swings and stumbles on in the midst of the noise of the wind with its heavy drops of rain. The raindrops are as cold as dew in the winter. I shiver with coldness and fright. I am afraid of the

moans of the woods which was lashed by the ruthless wind and stinging rain. They are like the wails of the ghouls that are gathering in a hideous circle around my heart and my body.


''Rainstorm,'' Teacher moans. He is crying.


Father is shouting curses at the wind and the rain. I can hear the blows of the whip on the ox's back and the cries of the beast. Mother covers me with the blanket, her arms around me are tight and warm. She is murmuring close to my ears.


She is probably praying to the sky, to the spirits of the woods, or anything else that she can think of. She is praying for the rain to stop just like she used to pray for the rain to come during the drought last year.


A lightening bolt falls -- loud and bright.


"Better stop awhile. The ox won't go,'' Teacher says to Father


Mother wails and weeps because the wind and the rain show no signs of stopping. Their fury only grows and grows. The blanket around me is soaking. My face is wet with rain and stings with the beating wind.


A ring of heat begins to flame around my heart. I am gagging over my own breath which stops, comes, and stops again. I am drowning in the mixture of saliva and rain that seem to fill my mouth.....


I don't know how long it took me to pass from agonies of pain to peace. I know that the commotion of my cries, the storm, the woods, the excited voices of Father, Mother and Teacher faded slowly from my consciousness.


The rain has stopped, the sky is clear and the wind quiet. There is no more pain. A fresh life of an intangibility that glows with freedom dawns in a new phase of time, full of stillness and peace.

The landscape stretches vast and clear. In the tumult of wind and rain I have seen the fury of Nature, destructive and cruel. That has passed, now I see Nature in tranquility, and marvel at the richness of beauty and serenity that follows the storm.


White clouds sail above the mountains like weightless balls of cotton. The woods smell of warm, wet earth. Wildflowers dot the greenness of weeds and grass with their bright colours.


Where is my angel in white? I cannot see her. I would like her to share all this wealth of beauty with me as she once did in my dream.


But I only see my weeping mother. She is holding my still body in her arms on the oxcart under the shelter of the spreading tree by the wayside.


A narrow path winds an uneven, meandering way over streams, through woods and fields before tapering away into the valley from which I had come -- the valley of my village where nature is pure and beautiful...like it is in my mother's song...

.

...when wind brings rain

the scent of wet grass

and fragrance

of steaming earth

perfume the land

-- our home.


Where is my angel in white? I would like to ask her if Nature is angry and cruel or is it grand and beautiful when the monsoon wind blows -- when the wind brings rain?


I can see the oxcart turning back and retracing its way, It takes away with it my body and the sorrowful sounds of the people on it. Slowly it moves further and further into the distance.


 


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