Damp paper bag (Short Story)


“You and I can create history,”

“or You and I can become history,” whispered Ben repeatedly.


The coal-smoke is making me blurry, Sir. I have been standing on the station platform for two hours now. Today, I can create history otherwise I become history.


“Do I look like a Sir to you!” An old woman wearing navy trousers regards him, titled her head to the side, like a wise robin. She leans forward, takes her suitcase in her free hand, and tiptoes to speak to him.


“I heard you repeat yourself like you are losing out of words or either recalling something so deep on a mission.”


I look around prudently and wish I could tell her everything. But…


“Say something young chap, the train will not arrive soon. There was an announcement that there is a protest going on, so these nitwits are taking it out on us. We are not the government,” said the wise robin.


“That is terrible. I did not think it would reach this far. I have to be somewhere before it is too late,” I speak hurriedly and try to squeeze myself forward.


There are hardly any options at this point in time. The train is the only way to get to the city. A dog barks suddenly and as I turn the white ball of fur lifts its head to send a reproachful bark after its owner. I notice that the old woman has made her way behind me. I think I made the mistake of thinking she could be a wise robin.


“Hey, young chap.”


“Yes, are you following me?”


“No! I see your torn bag and papers halfway out”


“WHAT!”


Frowning and getting so worried, I remove the bag resting on my shoulders. The bag has become useless to me and my papers are so important. Looks like somebody was trying to steal something from me. I have all these notions in my mind and lookup.


The old woman’s very deep grey, almost violet eyes look at me intently. Never saw anything like that before. There is something about her. She keeps showing up.


She shrugs, “I do not feel too well. The body odor of these sardines, are making me feel nausea.”


“Sardines? You can have some kind of humor at this point in time. It is not helping. I don’t think I can make it to the city. And these are the only valuable assets I have right now.”


“What is your name?”


“Ben.”


She removes her produce and offers me a damp paper bag.


“What is your name?”


“Call me, Butter Olivia,”


“You’re joking. I get it, women do not want to give out their real names.”


“Ben, this is the truth. For all who knows when the train will arrive. A backstory for you. My grandfather grew olives, so when I was born that day he watched his olive groves intently, he said Olivia is her name. A few years later, I loved eating a lot of butter. Clearing his throat, he added Butter Olivia will be her name. I am not sure what he was thinking. And everyone in the family had to respect his demand.”


“Well, Butter – Olivia is a unique name. I shall take your offer on the damp paper bag. Thank you.”


“Shall I help you, Ben?”


No, no, umm, I will manage. To distract her (mind) I say, “How have you handled people over the years when they get astonished with your name?”


“Ben, I don’t think it is too astonishing. It can be clownish for some, melancholy for some, and for many, it is a smooth sail to live. Over the years companies have actually named the butter ‘Olivia.’ What about you? You seem stressed and your brown eyes are hiding something.”


“Not sure, what you talking about. Perhaps, waiting for the train too long, you are becoming a storyteller.”


This woman makes me nervous, I thought. But she is right. How can I tell her, I have escaped death and now I am desperate to go to the city and my name is as peculiar and clownish. Wonder will the train ever get here.


I check my pocket and relieved I still have the name card. This job is so important to me.


“Ben, you are so silent.”


Just then there is an announcement that the train is arriving soon. Everyone at the station rejoices. The wise robin begins to laugh and I laugh with her.


“Thank you for the damp paper bag. Be safe Butter Olivia.” Then I make a way forward without waiting for any second longer.


The train arrives and pushes through to get a seat. Before anyone sits next to me, I quickly scan through the documents. They are intact and have gotten creased, at least they are safe.


While going through the papers, I flip the letter for the job interview, keep the stolen cheque carefully for the bank, and continue to see some papers not safe to be around the public. The stolen cheque reminds me of the fight during the protest on my way to the train station.


There was a stranger who was shot for throwing glass bottles at women during a human rights movement. Whilst I was part of another protest for a labor union nearby. The situation got messy that I ran towards the station and clashed with this stranger. He was shot. There was a paper halfway out of his shirt pocket. When I had to choose the cheque or protest, I chose the cheque. Who would know fate darted in the right way.


I removed the cheque and headed to the station fighting my way through the chaos.


The stranger himself, repeated, “You and I can create history, “or You and I can become history.” I can comprehend his repetitive articulation. He became history and I shall very well make use of this cheque.


Before I keep the papers back inside the bag, I see my birth certificate and wonder what may happen when I reach the city.


As odd this can be, I am ‘Benedryl Robitussine.’


“You and I can create history,”

“or You and I can become history,” whispered Ben repeatedly.