23 October 2020
He walked on at his elder brother’s beckoning. It was not even 5 am yet crimson embers of solar rays were already piercing the night sky. Wisps of funneled air consistently thrashed violently against their bodies as Atilius crumpled his face and tilted his head away from the tear-jerking winds. He caught up with Paulus at the edge of the unnatural crater. There was no need for words or explanation. As the celestial furnace in the sky rose, the extent of the environmental destruction was slowly revealed to them. Paulus handed Atilius a container of bottled water.
“I preferred the natural spring waters”, the younger of the Boupang brothers scoffed as he reluctantly accepted it.
“How could you let it get this bad?!”
Paulus continued describing the negotiations that had been had with the company but Atilius had mentally receded still trying to come to emotional terms with the sight that was presenting itself to him. The only time his elder brother ever used his middle name was when he was going to discuss something serious like informing him of a death in the family. Atilius had left their island province after their father died five years ago to start his practice on the mainland. When their mother passed away last week Paulus called his office to break the sad news to him.
“Hello, Boupang Consultants and Associates. How can I help you?”
“Oh hi Paulus. I’ll put you through to him”, replied the secretary.
There was a long pause. Atilius recognized his elder brother’s voice and sensed the grave tone of the message Paulus had for him. Their mother had been sick for some time. The silence was only broken by Paulus’ crying on the other end of the line.
The clunking of a dinosaur-sized truck descending into the growing hole-in-the-earth less than half a kilometer away along the fringe from where they were standing brought Atilius back to the present moment. Paulus was still talking, describing how their pleas to the company was falling on deaf ears.
“So where did you move the old man then?” Atilius interrupted.
“Come, I’ll take you to your namesakes’ new gravesite. We have completed his cement and headstone as you wanted. That’s where we’ll bury mother too”, replied Paulus.
As they approached their father’s burial plot, Atilius began twitching from a wrenching sensation in his heart then started weeping because he felt like his father had died twice, having been dug up and buried again elsewhere. And now their mother would be joining him soon on the distant patch of land.
*Boupang is a contraction for Bougainville and Papua New Guinea and is used here metonymically to represent the close relationship between the two even though they have had to make some tough decisions in the past.