Peter Rose: Witness

The Girl With No Name: 1.) Aunt Athak

ATHAK

Idrie was always thrilled when aunt Athak came to visit. It was not just that she brought strange foods with her when she came. (When else might Idrie have had the chance to taste muzznuts, sharampsin, or grilled beta root?) Nor was it that Aunt Athak always managed to teach Idrie some new phrase, some saying she had learned while on one of her worldwide travels. (How many people knew what “Fatootst” meant? How many could spell “sparspamasher” in Hedrenic?) It was the stories, or rather the story, that she told that so captivated Idrie.

Aunt Athak had been telling Idrie a story for what had seemed like years. Nobody remembered when it had begun, but everybody knew that the heroine of the story had no name. They never figured out whether this was because you couldn’t pronounce her name or because nobody had ever given her one or because she had forgotten it or because she had misplaced it or because she had given it to somebody else. So they called her “the-girl-with-no-name” and this name stuck.


Aunt Athak was back and she was, no doubt, going to begin telling the story where she had left off.

Idrie tried to remember what she knew. The-girl-with-no-name could talk to animals, that much was sure; she had learned to tell the stories secretly illustrated by the stars; she possessed special crayons and when she drew pictures with these, the pictures would become real; and she seemed to have free passage into and out of what were called the Virtual World and the Invisible World. She had many friends in both worlds and they were eager to show her new things and to expose her to new ideas.

Aunt Athak sat in her favorite chair, put up her feet, took out an old corn cob pipe and got comfortable. The little scarves that she wore for earrings were red and this meant that she’d be telling a story about a meeting and that it would probably involve an animal. She was wearing her gray glasses, so they’d have to make tea midway through the story, and she was speaking with a slight French accent, so everybody knew they’d have to listen closely.

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