| It Has Been A Rough Year |
I am adding this additional chapter to my introduction, because after I initially wrote the introduction, it was very difficult to come back to it and try to make sense of all that I have experienced through the various stages of my life and the trials that I have endured or overcome. I wish ...
| The Birth of Charles Leonard Wiggins |
The story has already been written for awhile on my blog "From the heart of Praise, Prayer and Perseverance. 0; Here is a link to that posting, Below are the pictures of the blessed event.
http://fromthehea rt-dotwigg.blogsp ot.com/2008/03/an other-2-prayer-re quest-answered.ht ml
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Emeniano 's Story > Categories > Short Story
| Date Range: 1980 To 1991 ||
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|| Views: 20,741 |
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| | By any standard, ours was the poorest. We lived in a small hut built in the middle of a coconut grove. We also had a small outhouse and a woodshed where we kept our sow, chickens, and the big gecko with red eyes. I never got the chance to see the last but I knew it really lived there.
There were times when I would sneak away from siestas just to see it but most often mother would catch me halfway down the squeaky bamboo stairs. When she did, she would bring me back to my sleeping spot and lie down next to me, and so began her stories.
My mother was a seamstress. She said she learned the craft by herself. Nobody had formally taught her, she discovered it when she was barely sixteen while working as a maid in the household of a mayor's relative. But I said I guessed her knowledge in sewing was only an extension to, or professionalization of, her childhood pastime which was handbag weaving. But no, she said, she inherited it from her mother.
Saturday afternoons were always spent this way. First, mother would roll out our buri-palm mat on the bamboo floor. Then I would skewer for a way out. Among the strings of excuses I felt I had masterfully contrived was making a pass in the outhouse. Unguarded, mother would find herself acquiescing to it.
I did not have to go straight to the outhouse, of course. If I was lucky, I could catch the gecko sleeping in its lair, or just lazing somewhere in the woodshed, I thought excitedly as I took one last sweeping look for any signs of mother behind. A yellow-breasted songbird fluttered by. It darted swiftly into the woodshed.
The sow grunted. The hens cackled. The goat bleated. The woodshed was astir.
Birds could be such squeals. They could be sources of untold troubles. And I blamed them, particularly the yellow-breasteds. I saw no gecko, and in a moment mother was behind me with a deleafed twig for a whip.
Then I figured out the reason why I hated birds. My slingshot and mouth-missile could attest to this. And the yellow-breasteds were my favorite targets.
I guessed the yellow-breasteds were Jason's favorite targets too. I knew it when he told me one day he had six or seven slingshots in different colors. I envied him. He had a green slingshot for kingfishers, red for wrens, blue for orioles, two yellows for yellow-breasteds, and the last was for Mr. B, the rumored outlaw who lived in the uplands.
I always beamed with pride when we walked together. He with his seven slingshots leied about his neck; I with just one and a mouth-missile. He said he really did not go for mouth-missiles because they were only for uplanders. I said I only used mine when I had no smooth pebbles in my pocket.
We were always trekking out for yellow-breasteds. Our favorite hunting ground was the forest three mountains and one river away from our houses.
On the way, Jeric, Jason's asthmatic cousin, who lived between the uplands and the lowlands, would join us. He had five mouth missiles of varied lengths and sizes. Jason jeezed.
Jason always jeezed when he did not like what he saw or felt or anything. He was always jeezing anyhow. He jeezed when he saw birds. He jeezed when he saw mouth-missiles. And he jeezed when he realized we were already on the summit of the last mountain in our trek to the forest. Jeric had to sit down on a jutting rock. He was gasping for air. Jason jeezed.
We were stepping on our shadows when we reached the river. The water was shimmering blindingly under the noon sun. That and the susurration of the river made Jason jeez. In a flash I saw his naked bony frame splash into the greenest part of the water. I followed. Jeric stayed behind. He was gasping in the shade of a giant arum.
"Say, buddy, we go to Mr. B's. Heard he's got a swell variety of birds in his place."
"You sure about that?" I saw him kick off into the bottomless end of the river. In a short while he bobbed up into the surface squirting water from his mouth. It arched beautifully like his winning piss.
"Yes. We could gang up on him, too, and then maybe we could turn him in to the police. Then we'd have plenty of money for more slingshots." The reflection of the water glinted in his eyes.
"I'm not sure with Jeric though. Ask him." We both turned our heads to Jeric direction.
"Where is he?" I saw a yellow-breasted perch on the rock where we last saw Jeric. Jason was on the bank already fixing himself. I heard him jeezing a hundred times. I frantically headed for the bank myself. Mother would not be too happy with this, I thought to myself.
The excuse I gave mother that Sunday morning was firewood. I told her we were running out of firewood, maybe she could have an errand for Jason and me. When she said yes, I could not remember clearly hearing anything from her except for the words "slingshots", "Mr. B", and "swimming". I was too excited to stich up her thoughts. I guessed the last word was "drowning".
"Where could the bastard be?" Jason was really jeezing this time as he put his slingshots one by one on his neck. He did not have his pants on yet. I was busy putting on mine.
"Here. Take his goddamn mouth-missiles. Let's track him down. I told you he's not really swell company." He was pissing on a rock as he handed the mouth-missiles to me. There were four.
"Do we have to track him down really? We could just go home now and tell his parents, you know?"
He looked at me and for the first time I did not hear him jeezing. Some kind of helpless wonder swept past him.
I motioned the pedicab driver to stop in front of Manang Nating's small general store. As soon as the grating noise of the rickety vehicle conked out, familiar sounds swooshed into my ears. I adjusted the straps of my backpack then let out a deep breath before stepping out of the vehicle. I had to strain to steady my foothold.
I reached for the fare. Now and then I threw quick glances at the assembly of tuba guzzlers on the porch of the store. But the midday conviviality had drifted away into sunken stares already. I saw a hush sweeping slowly over them. The clinking glasses and barritone buzzings had altogether subsided.
Quickly I tore myself from the scene.
The path looked strangely narrow. I stopped at the crossroads. The boulder was still there except that tendrils of wild vines had inched their way over it. Back in the city, I had heard news about its leveling. I had felt a momentary urge to protest then but I held back.
I smiled as I approached the knoll. I thought I saw Jason on the summit with arms akimbo.
When I was about to call out, his figure vanished with my wink.
I shook my head then sped up my pace. I would be home past an ample stretch of ricefield. From the knoll, the field verdured with riceshoots was a soothing carpet of green.
A bevy of ducks was preening at the stream before the coconut grove. The tide was low today. I had always longed to wade barefoot in the water. I frantically unfastened my sandals.
At the other side of the stream was a bamboo grove. In its shade was a brooding buffalo. I felt the weight of my pack now.
It was Manang Nating who recognized me first at her store while my hands busily frisked the pockets of my ragged jeans.
I raised my eyes flashed a weak smile at the old woman. Strange. I felt a sudden tic on my face.
I even tried crushing a cigarette butt with my sandal but my foothold was weak.
"Of course it's you. My. Heaven's alive. It's you."
"Oh, yes it's him alright." Manang Garya, rumored paramour of Mr. B, now an aged termagant, looked over her shoulder before guzzling the cocowine to the dregs.
"I always knew he'd be back. At least one of them would."
A pained silence followed. Before it closed in on me, I tore myself away.
Stubs of ancient coconut trees were the only reminders that once by any standard ours was the poorest. There was no woodshed, no outhouse anymore.
I tried to look for fragments, some artifacts of a past that had founded my clueless present.
I headed straight to Jason's place. I found him mending a fishnet in their backyard. For a moment I thought the overtanned and uncouth figure was not Jason. We looked at each other for a long time. Then he jeezed. I knew it was him.
"Say, buddy, can you come with me?" I asked him as I tried to ruffle the hair of his replica shying behind him. The small boy was wearing a yellow slingshot around his neck.
"Sally, look after your boy. I am going out for a short walk with this slicker here." When I saw Sally, I remembered Renee. The first sweet girl I ever got close to.
"You are wicked, man. I always knew you had an eye on my girl then." I told him. Sally gnawed at him with her piercing bovine eyes.
We were trekking out to nowhere. I was hoping I could find clues to a jigsaw left incomplete throughout the lost summers of my youth.
Jason was a significant piece. But some kind of helpless wonder swept past him. ---
"There is no need for that at the moment. Buddy, if there is no news about Jeric in three days, no, one week, then we go up, you and I, and inform his parents."
I stopped behind him. I saw a man in the woods. He was wearing a torn buri-palm hat and tattered whitish shirt. I was convinced it was Mr. B.
Jason jeezed. He quickly traced his steps back and tugged me at the shoulder.
"Besides, nobody saw us with him, though. Come on. What do you think eh?"
"I am thinking of the firewood I promised mother. She won't be happy about this."
"Then let's you and I get you some firewood. Here. Give me your bolo."
We gathered the firewood fast. But my mind was still on Jeric and the man I saw deep in the woods. Jason was unusually silent.
The sun was already hazel when we reached home. Mother was waiting worried at our porch. I heard Jason bid my mother good-afternoon. He did not stay long. He just helped me haul the firewood into the woodshed.
The following day I was eager to hear news about Jeric. But, the rumor-traders of the barrio, particularly Manang Garya's congregation, sadly exchanged nothing about Jeric.
What I intercepted instead was the news about Jason's trip to Cebu City for some factory work with his older brother. I squirmed inside.
The squirming did not stop until one day, a boy was found by shell-gatherers aflot on the estuary. I wept. I wanted to go up and inform Jeric's parents but I found myself blaming Jason in my wretched silence.
The weeks turned into months, into years, and each passing hour scared me like a stretched slingshot. I was a silent walking criminal. I was convinced of that.
The big gecko grew into a monstrous gila in my nightmares; the yellow-breasteds had metamorphosed into gargantuan pterodactyls. I was a boy in the shade of a giant arum.
I never saw Jason again. The last I heard of him was his early marriage while I labored as a student in Manila. There too was the news about the leveling of the boulder to give way to an infrastructure development. I remembered feeling a momentary urge to protest but I figured it was to my favor. All traces of Jason and Jeric had to be extirpated.
Back in college, I was a recluse as a student. I found refuge in fiction paperbacks and movies. But I could not bring myself to finish Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye", Knowles' "A Separate Peace", or take DiCaprio in "This Boy's Life".
My awakening to romance was uninspiring. For the hearts I touched which touched me in return, they found me too distant or smug.
The day before I packed myself home, I found Rayn's note in my organizer. She was right when she said I had no room for anything. She said everyday I was sealing off each moment of my being with these impenetrable bricks of silence; even as I talked these unmistakable barriers had kept me away from anything, from her.
The skies gave in after a headcrashing thunder. The rain pelted on the roof like a million marbles on a wooden floor.
I closed the windows. I saw the rain drop solidly on the ground then instantly melt away with the mud.
The room had darkened. I heard Rayn heaving a deep sigh. I turned the lamp on.
I returned to my study table. At the corner of my eye, she was staring at our picture frame. She had those strange glumly wistful stares that grew more and more ominous with our every meet.
I rose from my chair and drew close to her. I tried looking through her eyes. But she was nowhere in my wakeful realm; not in the recesses of my illogical subconscious.
I got up and headed for a shower. I wanted to reach out to her but something was pulling me back. I looked at her. She was crying.
I turned the shower high and for the first time I was conscious of the angry water. I raised my head and in the privacy of self-damnation, I said a prayer. I prayed for the water raging against my skin to soften the bricks of my impenetrable sanctum and to drain me out of all my silent sufferings.
But Rayn was gone.
Rayn was gone.
"...Ruel, go on home. Go back. Make peace with the yellow-breasteds..."