Short Fiction

The Sky Scribbler

By Abmi Handayani

In advanced pre-school, Bu Ida taught me to write: "THIS IS BUDI'S MOTHER." Too late. My mother had already taught me. I filled up my paper and handed it in, the first one to do so in my class, just so I could see Bu Ida's smile. I was right. She beamed beautifully at her pupil who had cleverly finished so fast, and despite the fact the writing strayed off the lines. At home, I continued writing copiously so I could hand in my work to Bu Ida the next day.

      I alternated "BUDI'S MOTHER" with "THE DEVIL'S MOTHER" and "AN ANGEL'S MOTHER" to avoid monotony.

      My own mother came to check on me and asked, "What does the mother of a devil look like, sweetie?"

      "Well, Ma," I answered matter-of-factly, "She has curly hair. Her lips are red like blood. Instead of talc, she puts chalk on her face, and her skin is white from bleach. Her eyebrows are but a thin line, painted on using a small pen."

      My mother hurried to her trusted mirror to check her reflection -- she didn't realize I was talking about my kindergarten teacher.

      My mother returned, "What about the mother of an angel, what does she look like?"

      So I told her, "She has hair like ocean waves. Her lips are pink. Her bosoms are so big that babies drool over them. Her stomach is flat, unlike the devil's mother, whose tummy has rolls of fat. Her hips thrust sexily, and her skin is a deep tan. One ni--."

      "You and your imagination," my mother said as she tucked me into bed while once again gazing at her reflection in the mirror. She must be looking for some kind of resemblance to that just described.


      I said no more.

* * * 

  One night she shall visit me in my sleep. The lids of my eyes shall be kissed by those pink lips. As soon as my eyes fly open, I shall hug her tightly, and I won't let her out of my sight again.

Bu Ida was pleased with my book on the three kinds of mothers. I was rewarded with a score of 90 percent. But that was to be my last entry in the story.

      "You mention the words "devil" and "mother" in one sentence, Dayu. It's not nice," she said sweetly, touching my chin.


      A few months later I found myself in primary school. I became better at writing and reading. Far better than my classmates, who were struck by homesickness the moment their parents had passed from the view of the class window. Bu Ida talked to the school head and I was allowed to skip a year. In the next grade my teacher was Bu Sri. She also taught me how to write -- to write prose, write in paragraphs and the art of word arrangement.

      In her nasal voice, Bu Sri called out: "Arranging words is similar to arranging flowers. Beautiful work, isn't it?

      A few of my classmates stared blankly. Idiots! I don't think they even knew how to read yet.

      Bu Sri handed us a few notebooks. They each had exactly three lines, and she told us to write in cursive. She would go on by giving a demonstration on every book, all the while watching the reactions on our faces.

      In my book, Bu Sri wrote: "Dayu likes to style her hair. But the one who likes to style my hair is mother; how am I able to tightly braid my own hair this neatly?" Our homework then would be to copy her writing.

      On the bed, I inspected Bu Sri's handwriting. Latin, beautiful, conjoined together. There were thin lines among the thick curves.

      Her letters were elegantly curved in unison with her *t's. It was her capital *D's that made me fall in love. The letter *D', which is so proportional with my body. But, of course, Bu Sri was far smarter than Bu Ida. I worked on my first homework assignment whole-heartedly:

      Dayu likes to style her hair. Dayu likes to eat squids. Dayu likes to drink orange juice with ice. Dayu likes angels. Dayu hates the devil. Dayu likes the color red. Dayu likes guavas. Dayu likes chicken. Dayu is beautiful. Dayu is cute. Dayu wants to be a writer. Dayu wants to fly in the sky. Dayu wants to slap the stars. Dayu wants to eat pancakes. Dayu wants to cut up the sun. Dayu wants to patch up the clouds. Dayu wants to play Monopoly with God!

      It was Bu Sri's turn to stare at what was written in my three-lined book. I was given 100 marks! Bu Sri was far less stingy compared to Bu Ida.


      Bu Sri approached me during lunch break. "Dayu wants to be a writer, is that true?"

      "Muh-humh," I nodded, my mouth full of omelet.

      "Why do you want to be a writer?"

      "Because Dayu likes to scribble-scribble-scribble."

      "What would Dayu scribble, dear?"

      "I'd scribble the sky," was my nonchalant reply.

      Bu Sri must've been thinking, no way could one scribble the sky.

      Way! I'll prove that I can scribble the sky. I'll make Bu Sri stare even more.

* * *

What a terrible poem!

      I turned another page of new sky. I prefer ordering for a white sky. The darkness hurts my pretty eyes sometimes. I've been writing love poems for an angel. Where is she? I have been waiting so long, yet she has not come? Did my poems not reach her side? Are my writings not big or beautiful enough for her to read?

      Listen to me my angel wherever you are

      This world is the dusts love, baby

      You and I, those dusts are we

      We fly away only to eventually meet

      To slowly unite after a heartfelt greet

      Crik, crik. Crik, crik. Crik, crik.

      "Dayu, it's already seven now. Don't you have school to go too?" Mother's face was a blur. Droplets of water she had splashed were still hanging upon my lashes.

      "College, Mother. Dayu goes to college now, not school anymore." And hasn't she ever learned the correct and nice methods for waking people up?

      If only Bu Sri were still alive, I'd show her how I can now scribble the sky! The morning sky was fairly clear and bright, but I'd soon make it dark. I picked up a dark gray crayon and made a few doodles by the clouds' margins. See, I've made it overcast in a matter of minutes. Right on, not long until it was starting to rain -- drizzle that eventually turned into a downpour. To pretty it up, I added:

      They call me rain

      From the clouds' party overflowing with beer

      The result? This morning they all rush to pee!

      My lecturer placed his marker down and rushed outside to see my artwork. I saw him scratch his head while reading what I had written. Cool eh, sir? Do you know of other students who can write rain like I do?

      While waiting for my break time to end, I lay under the cashew tree. My favorite pastime was playing around with a light-green-tinted pen. It matched beautifully with the blue up there. The Sun always waited for my poetry. Such as today, he hopped happily in place at the sight of my recumbent figure under the cashew tree.

      "Still for the angel today?" he asked.

      "Yop!" I winked.

      The Sun knew his responsibility. He became a commando, telling the clouds to make way for a second. Dayu wanted to scribble the sky.

      When one by one the stars shine

      Their twinkles reflect my longing

      When with the moon they do align

      They whisper, "Two angels have love that they're braiding."

      And the Sun shrilly shrieked, deafening fellow friends enjoying their lunches. I snickered and escaped to the toilet hurriedly before the campus security got a chance to scold me for scribbling the sky. Ha-ha-ha-ha! Buhbye!

      We met again in the afternoon after I woke up from my siesta. Before being sunk by time, the Sun would usher away the clouds, providing me with an acre of sky to write upon. With an orange toned background, my writing seemed serene.

      "Give me your most beautiful, Dayu," ordered the Sun.

      "Aye, aye. Okay, Boss." I always tried to write most beautifully for the sky.

      "Let me finish my empek-empek first." I find that my ideas flow smoother if I am eating.

      Mother told me to hurry with my food; the sky would be dark in a moment. I grabbed my blue pen from the study, and quickly began to write. This time all in capitals, and in big, bold letters. My best of the best for the sun:


      I roared as the Sun frowned quizzically. He couldn't stop herself from scratching her head, even as she sank wholly into the horizon. Then slowly crept the Moon, showing her face. She grinned widely at me. I replied with one of my own that was no less wide. I knew what she wanted. The Moon could not take losing to the Sun. And according to the stars, my writings looked better at night.

      In a proud tone they claimed, "Your writings look better because of our shine, Dayu."

      I wrote a story, with the Man who Guards the Nights as my witness between sips of his coffee. From afar I caught a glimpse of his smile as he read my prose in white ink, word by word. Of a woman who prayed for the love and life she staked on the betting table of life. Her opponent was God. After much thought, she placed her every possession. Her wealth, her breath, and a letter that guaranteed her suicide if her love proved to be a mistake.

      As a reply to her challenge, God would only need to provide her with rain plus wind but minus lightning the next day.

      Yesterday evening saw parades of gray clouds marching toward my housing estate. There were no signs of upcoming lightning. God was true to his word. Heavy rain followed by soft winds caressed my afternoon nap. I felt the lids of my eyes kissed, waking me up. I knew it! I knew she would finally come! The Angel sat by my bedside. Staying true to a vow I made years ago, I embraced her tightly. Even if her bones should break, then let it be.

      I told her firmly, "You can't leave, okay!"

      Instead, she asked me, "Why do you like to scribble the sky?"

      "You read all my poems? They were for you."

      "But of course. Tell me, why the sky?"

      "Because only the sky and I tha--."

      Ah! I hate it when my sentences get interrupted!

      But, but, her lips crushed mine until my heart melted like caramel! Oh, such heavenly taste! Forget the other word fragments, this kiss is too exquisite. You can make up the rest.

      Freely, as you wish.

      And, do remember to tell it to the sky. She's waiting.

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The Sky Scribbler was published on 8th October, 2009.

About the Author

Abmi Handayani Biography »