SELECTED WRITINGSCONSTANTINO T. QUIBOLOYSta. Catalina, Lubao, PampangaJune 25, 1967
CONTENTS:Short StoriesThe ClockThe SowingSixteenCarabao MeatThe Chicken God SentThe Lost CoinDark NightMariaShe Is Coming BackA Christmas RememberedFeature ArticlesDeath In A QuagmireThe President And IThe Invisible HandHalf An Hour With The LeaderPoemsPostludesThis Fever That RisesLove - - - What LoveLove Is What Makes MeHymn To The WindWater LiliesStars On The WaterManila At Dawn
A U T H O R‘S N O T E SI have always wanted to have certain of my workscollected, and it would not make any difference to me inwhat form they were to be bound together. The importantthing was to have them put together. This, I did with thetypewriter, and I am pleased. I have no pretensions toliterary recognition and I do not intend to commercialize mywritings – say, in book form. Fact is, the effort wasmotivated by reason purely sentimental. It just feels goodfor the impulse remaining that way.“Selected” should not be taken for “best”. I have nobest work. The word merely designates, or it is used here todesignate, those of my writings that I would like to bepresented together. They are the ones very close to myheart; which is about the whole truth about the venture. Ialso intend the works read only by people close to me,particularly those who feel they have the flair for writing butwho somehow have no workable way of making good use oftheir literary persuasions.Ten stories, six feature articles, and eight littlepoems make up the collection. All have been published,excepting the short story, “The Soldier, The Boy, And ThePlanes” and the true experience, “A ChristmasRemembered”, which until now I have kept to myself inreverent remembrance of my mother. One way or the other,each work has some special attachment to a specific periodor moment in my life. The poems particularly, thoughwritten in my literary nonage and therefore are by no means“mature” from the literary point of view, are here includedfor the images they evoke that are reminiscent of myyouthful dreams, frustrations, and temperament.
Once, at a time when I was suffering from a literaryslump, Manila Times Editor Jose Luna Castro advised,“Write pot-boilers then, just to keep on writing”. I did, and“Death In A Quagmire”, “The Invisible Hand”, and “ThePresident And I” cashed in and make up for that lag on shortstory writing. I wrote the pieces following the principle ofthe short story and succeeded. That did me some good,naturally, because the articles turned out no less literary thanjournalistic in their handling.But it is my short stories I should really like to passa word about.“She Is Coming Back” was originally published inthe defunct Manila Daily News magazine – as fiction.Which it is, insofar the elements of the short story isconcerned. Technically a short story, I would, however, liketo pass it this time as non-fiction, the fact that it is actuallythe true experience of a friend. The unpublished, “TheSoldier, The Boy And the Planes”, wanting as it iscraftsmanship and purpose, is a hold-over from my exercisesin short story writing. It is here included for the oppressingmemory of the Japanese Occupation, of those ruthlessnessthe Japanese soldiers were not all willing tools. There wereamong them who had genuine human compassion, like theprincipal character in the story.Editorial comments on certain of my stories werealmost unanimous on one point. They have endings, asTeodoro M. Locsin of the Philippine Free Press said, “quitedepressing.” Examples: “The Lost Coin” and “CarabaoMeat”. But Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil and Luis Mauricio,perhaps more perceptive of the sensibilities about the
emotional and social implications of the stories, accepted thepieces without a qualm and published them in theirrespective magazines. For one who himself has beenexposed to fear and want most of his life could do no lessthan to identify himself in the characters of his stories – thelittle men they are, who he is. I suppose that when one hasdone his best and done it sincerely, when one as come asclose as he can to saying exactly what he wants to sayaccording to the truth of his experience, it is nonsense towish he had written otherwise, just to conform with thesmiling standards of certain editors.Significantly, “The Sowing” and “Carabao Meat”are quite studied reflections of the social truth about thepeasantry in Central Luzon. Exploitive tenancy, abetted bythe post-war erosion of moral values, has gone so far as tocontinue impoverishing the peasant class. And this,ironically, despite the land reform code and such othermovements aimed at lifting the little man of the soil from thethroes of poverty and ignorance. No wonder dissent anddiscontent among our dispossessed become ever moreengrained.For these stories alone, I find myself compensatedlymoored to some spiritual satisfaction, knowing I have donemy bit, however little, in projecting the truth about the plightof the Central Luzon peasant.And now to the friend who desired to write forpublication:I believe the writer – any writer – should write as hepleases, as long as he tries his best in reflecting the truth of
his individual experiences. But he must write as he knowsbest – if he is to succeed.There is no short cut to writing. The only way towrite is to write – extensively, intensively. Except for thegifted – and there are a few of them – apprenticeship inwriting is a long and painful process. It takes years – manyyears, in fact –before one “arrives”, if at all. Many havegone abroad just to learned the trade, and they have comedisillusioned.Technical books and writing courses are helpful, butonly at the beginning. From there on one must learn to be onhis own, to gain perspective, style, and effectiveness as awriter. That’s just how I have tried to do.Finally, I am dedicating this collection to DIONISIOM. QUIBOLOY, a little man who knew well enough of hiskind, and whose son I am.C. T. QUIBOLOY
THE CLOCKAS USUAL Mr. Jeremias Pascual was busy preparing hislesson plans in his makeshift study that Saturday morning.In his chair he looked smaller, and his flat-chested frameaccentuated by his thin, graying hair and shrunken face toldof the strain that long years of school work had brought.Now and then he coughed, and it was dry and laboriouscoughing. He never despaired about his health, though, norseemed to notice how irritable he had become. Yet, even inhis moments of unreason, his heart remained big for thepeople of Pulu with whom he had lived in the past twentyone years.While he was writing, holding an Arithmetic book ashe wrote, Vicenta, his only child, showed at his door andsaid, "Kang Mento is asking for you, Father."Mento?" His high-pitched voice carried a tone ofunbelief. "What does he want?"“I dont know," the girl said. "He just asks for you."For a moment Mr. Pascual remained in his chair,wondering what the neighbor had come to see him for. Hecould not quite know why the man Mento, who had beenelusive for weeks would have the temerity to see him now.So he went out the sala, from where he saw the manstill before the tiny porch, rubbing his bare feet on a jute rugrather unnecessarily. "Good morning, Mr. Pascual!" the mansaid, smiling nervously.
The old teacher received the man warmly, led himinto the sala, to the old rattan chairs by the side window, andhad him seated. He had the reputation of being especiallyfond of people who had been his pupils.“What is it, son?"“I hope,” the man said, biding his time, "I hope Ivenot made you wait too long for the money I borrowed." Heknew no better way to start off his mission.Mr. Pascual was quick. He said, "Ive forgotten it.Is that what you have come for?"The other was tongue-tied, as if everything else hecould say had lost importance. When he finally spoke hiswords were broken. "No, sir -er, I mean my child is sickand---"“Is he again, the youngest?““Yes, sir. Ive been around but couldnt find a clockwith which to time the doctors prescription."“I see," Mr. Pascual said. He rubbed his chin andbegan passing his finger tips over his two-day beard, his eyeson the rafters for nothing at all. "I see," he said again.He remembered how once, the year before, themans wife borrowed a thermometer, which her childrenbroke. Now he had grown sentimental about the familythings since most of their belongings had been looted in thefirst evacuation. He realized, more than ever before, how
hard it was to replace what had been lost, now that his salarywas hardly enough for even their daily marketing.“But this clock here," he said, turning to the ancientWestclox on the bookcase. "This clock stops oftentimes. Itmust be full of rust inside. I never have time to clean it."That was not true. He had a special attachment tothe clock, which had been given to him on Christmas beforethe war by a cousin in the U.S. Navy. If he could help it, hewould not lend it to anyone, anyway.When finally he gave in to a force more powerfulthan his sentiment, he asked his former pupil just to keep theclock away from his children. "Theres no clock to buyaround here this time, Mamerto," he said, "even if you hadthe money. Not for several months more, at the earliest."The mans face brightened, even as he made a politeacknowledgement of this. Secretly he was grateful asthough Mr. Pascual had given him a verdict of acquittal for awrong thing done. And when he rose to go, the old teacherreminded him: "The matter with you Mamerto is you thinkof the doctor only when things have passed from bad toworse."In the afternoon Mr. Pascual was squatting in hisvegetable garden when he heard the clock ring. Intuitivelyhe sat upright, pausing from his work, rather annoyed by theringing at this time of the day. But soon he had caught upwith his sense of direction and was reminded that the ringingwas not coming from his house but from the third houseacross the road. He could hear then the muffled happy
voices of children mingled in the ringing of the clock. Andhe thought of the sick child, his time to take medicine.Once the clock had stop ringing, it started to ringagain ---and again and again at irregular intervals. At lengthMr. Pascual, his face sharp with suspicion, stood up with ataut back that hurt from long squatting. The glare of theafternoon sun was strong and only by putting his hands overhis eyes could he see clearly across the road. He could hearthen the muffled happy voices of children mingled in theringing of the clock. They must be playing with it, hethought, and hurried out of the garden.The house became suddenly silent as Mr. Pascualshouted “Mamerto” again and again from the road. By andby the head of the mans elder daughter bobbed up thewindow sill and looked down at him on the road withinnocent curiosity as she worked at the tip of a sour-lookinggreen mango.“Where is your father?" Mr. Pascual demanded.“I dont know," the girl said carelessly betweenswallows. "My mother has gone to wash.“ And shecontinued to eat her mango.“You keep quiet for your sick brother and put thatclock back on the aparador. "Cant you see he is cryingnow?"“Yes," said the girl, and she smiled and broke into agiggle as she receded from the window. But Mr. Pascual didnot leave until he was sure the child had done what she wastold.
Back in the garden Mr. Pascuals annoyance grewinto rage as he reached a hen cackling comfortably in acavity it had made in the loose corner of a pechay plot wheretwo plants had been. He picked up a big hard clod andsurreptitiously aimed it at the bird. When the missile hadbeen released he saw one more plant destroyed ---thoroughlycrushed--- as the hen flew over the fence noisily but unhurt."Psuh!” Mr. Pascual spat disgustedly and cursed whoeverowned the hen.Mr. Pascual had developed the habit of thinking,planning for the years ahead which, at his age, he knew therecould not be many of. He had thought of retiring, longbefore he began to cough, or seeking transfer to his nativeplace. But now, busy at work, he had no time of anything butrace with the fast lowering sun. There were many bugs onthe plants and it was all he could do to pick them off andcrush them on the ground with a stick. Now and then hewould stretch his back and fill his lungs with theinvigorating air of the afternoon coming from the fieldsbeyond the line of bamboos. He had found tending plants ahealthful diversion and, year after year, after the rains, hehad dug up the earth and planted a new crop.Before long his occupation was interrupted by thelong shadow of Old Asiang. The old woman had beenmending by her window facing the teachers garden and allalong had been aware of what was happening in the houseacross the road. But she was reluctant to call Mr. Pascualsattention, lest the children whose parents were not onspeaking terms with her, should hear. Finally, unable to holdher tongue any longer, she had come down through thebackyard to tell Mr. Pascual in a whisper: "Maybe, thats
your clock Mentos child is playing with, Mang Jeremias.You better hurry before she destroys it."Mr. Pascual received the words like one frightened.“What? The clock again? I just told them not toplay it."He stood up quickly without an apparent difficultyand looked intently--tensely- -toward Mentos house. Hecould see then the mans younger daughter running aroundthe house, playing cart with the clock. He could hear theclock rasping and clanging on the rough ground. Beholdingthe outrage, he held his breath and bit his lips as if hehimself was being tortured. "This good-for-nothing child ofMamertos," he roared. “I could kill her."When the little girl saw him he was too near for herto escape. All she could do was cry out in fright and claspedher buttocks protectingly. The old man grabbed both herhands, twisted them up, and began to spank her soundly."Youll never be any good, like your father," he keptrepeating as he vainly tried to catch the little girl fully on thebuttocks while she was tilted away from him every time hishand came down. "Youll never learn to care. Who told youto play with the clock, ha?Mr. Pascual was soon exhausted, and as he stoppedbeating the child he began to cough intermittently. He hadnever before felt so tired and weak. Between coughs hecalled to the other girl to explain.“Ha, you!" he shouted, raising an accusing handtoward the house. "What have you been doing all this time?"
The girl in the house did not come down but stayedsecurely in the corner where she had been listening. In atroubled voice she said, "I was sleeping, sir."“Thats it. You were sleeping. But from now on, youwont have any of my things. Tell that to your father. Tellhim not to borrow anything from me, do you hear?"He picked up the clock and looked long at it beforehe severed the strip of dry banana stalk tied to it. He wipedits dusty face with his palm. There seemed nothing thematter with it, except that its protruding parts which hadrubbed against sand and rock had been cleaned of rust andbecome white and rough. Otherwise it was all right, tickingregularly. “My goodness,” Mr. Pascual sighed. Even then healready felt relieved.Before leaving he gave the little girl, who had rununder the house, a contemptuous look. He did not mean tobe cruel; just the same he wanted the children to learn andremember. “Tell your father to get the clock from me whenhe comes. I cant leave it with you anymore."As Mr. Pascual had expected Mento came for theclock that evening. The man pulled himself awkwardly upthe steps as one heavily burdened with shame. He did notannounce his presence-- he just did not have the nerve to--but decided to stay in the porch anyway. Here, he thought,he would wait until he was discovered and asked to come in.He would not need to talk; the old teacher should know whathe was there for. He did not know that the other had seenhim even before he set foot on the stairs, had been thinking
of him all evening and had become hardened with feelinghelpless.Seeing him remain in the porch, in a patch ofmoonlight from an opening in the lanes, the old teacherremained quiet in his chair by the window, as if nobody wasinside. For once he felt amused at being able to be cruel.Yes, the thought, it should be this way with the man until hewould have enough of it, until repentance overcame him andhe would knock at the door of his own volition. By that timeMr. Pascual should have stood up to receive him, to speakhis mind more frankly, authoritatively; while the other,shamefacedly enough, would listen in meek submission.Afterwards he would give the clock back gladly, whilehoping his words had sunk into the mans conscienceforever.But as Mr. Pascual waited, as the man Mento lookedabout, waiting, the sudden hysterical crying of a womanpierced through the silence, breaking the train of thought ofthe two silent men. The crying was soon followed by the noless aggrieved voices of children. As one electrified, theman in the porch involuntarily drew back his hand that wasraised towards the door and forthwith flew down, taking twosteps at a time. He had gone out of sight before the old maninside had time to do anything.Alone now and greatly shaken, he remainedimmobile in his chair, pondering uncertainly whether theevent had not come to Mento to teach him to be wide awake,making him a responsible family man.The next instant he was thinking differently. Sopowerful and compelling was it that crept into his mind that
it lifted him from his chair. "Dead!" he exclaimed under hisbreath. "Dead!"And as he hobbled toward his bed, he suddenlybecame inexplicably sad.
THE SOWINGBALDO WAS THINKING again when the open six-by-sixthat was parked on his side of the road, before the big house,loomed suddenly before his eyes. He pulled his rope hardand the wheels of the bullcart spewed a cloud of dust.Slowly, he came down. With his free hand he tookoff his well-worn buri hat and began slapping the dirt of hisfaded denims. Then he was tugging at the rope again, nowgently, to make the carabao back out away. The spacebefore the iron gate, he knew, should remain unobstructed.He tied the rope around a shrub he found at the base of thestone fence. Then he approached the gate.The ancient house stood deep in the big yard, andbefore the gate immersed in the sharp summer light. Baldostrained his eyes through the wide open door of the familiarbasement. It was there where Mang Pepe lived and worked,looking after the house and the grain stored in it. It was darkthere inside, too dark for him to see through. Yet, like hisfather before him, he would not enter; not on his own. Hecould only wish someone came out, from whom he couldinquire about the overseer, though he knew the man wasthere all day. It felt easy for him getting in that way.At length he sought a hump of ground by theparched road ditch, and there sat to wait, waving the trucknow heavy with palay. He was divining the content of thesacks when a shadow shot past him, and he was shaken fromdreaming. He saw two more sacks of palay straddled acrossthe shoulder of a half-jogging man whose back, sculpted fan-like by long years of hard work, shone in the sun and dripped
with sweat. He stood up and waited for the man to unloadand then climb down the short ladder on the side of thetruck.“Vicente," he said, meeting the man halfway."Whatever makes you work on a Sunday?"Vicente mopped his forehead with his hand and blewa loose ball of buyo out of a corner of his mouth before hespoke. “Mang Pepe says Don Ramon needs money. We aretaking the palay to the mill right away.“Is Mang Pepe in?" Baldo had no other purpose inasking that except for the other to have the incentive to leadhim in.The truck driver was coming out as the two enteredthe basement. He slapped the mill-hand on the back toremind him to hurry up with his last load. Once alone,Baldo stood by a big basket of grain near the door andwaited till his eyes could see in the damp half-dark. Theoverseer was seated at a table lighted only through a square,iron-barred opening in the side stonewall. In a while Baldostepped quietly forward and greeted the man.Sit down," Mang Pepe demanded, without lookingup. "Sit down a moment, will you?"The lone chair in front was at right angle with thetable and Baldo sat, not knowing where to rest his hands.Finally they settled down between his thighs. The overseerkept on working. Baldo waited, fanning himself with hishat. Then he heard the man cursing as he crumpled the piece
of paper he had been writing on. He threw his great bulkbackward; his swivel chair creaked.“What made you come at this time of the day,Baldo?" he said, staring at the tenant through thick glassesthat made him all the more fierce-looking.Baldo tried hard to face the man across with a smilethat really was not there. "Ive just passed the fields," hesaid, rubbing his palms together. "You might like to see howtall and robust the stalks of my crop are." And trying hard toconvince the overseer, he added: "Id say I will have a muchbigger harvest this time."“Good for you," said the other. "Is that all you havecome to say?"“I mean, sir, since Ill have more than I need-- andwe can live on twenty-four cavans between the seasons, Ithink perhaps you can give me some cash in advance. Say,one hundred pesos. Thats much less than Ill have in excess,Im almost sure."Mang Pepe shoved himself forward. He looked asthough he had heard something he barely understood.“I said, sir," Baldo said again, "I said, I need onehundred pesos that I know you can give me now."“I see. But we dont give that much money to a newtenant. As a matter of fact, I cant give an old hand anysmall amount now. Don Ramon needs all the cash there is.Hes building another house in the city, you know."
Baldo felt immobilized. All he had had in mind, theclear details of his mission he had seen himself do manytimes on the way, were suddenly dull and irrelevant. Nowhe doubted whether after all he could convince Mang Pepeof the necessity of his coming. Once more the thought of hischild crept in to his mind.The night before, long after the oil lamp had beenput out, and Baldo and his wife were on the common matabout to sleep, the child, without warning, became restlessand started crying long and hard. In her effort to pacify herchild, the mother gave her breast; but the infant would notfeed. Alarmed, Baldo’s mother-in-law on another mat withher husband in the far corner of the one-room house, lightedthe lamp and crawled toward the child.The old woman took the infant and as she beganrocking it in her arms, she said: "I told you already--yourchild must be baptized if you want it to get well fast. Thetrouble with you is you never seem to want to do anythingabout it. Thats why."Baldo felt guilty, hearing those words; but, too, heknew the rice in the jar was all about they had. He had gonearound, earlier in the day, but everyone he turned to was asmuch in need as he. And so he said: "But what could I do,Nay?"Baldo!" the womans voice was high and broken."Nobody was born clothed. Besides you did not talk likethat when you were courting Desta."The old man in the corner, sitting up on his haunches, buttedin: "You dont have to be harsh, Selma. You cant get things
done that way." Then to the young father: "Baldo, it is onlyyour mother talking. Do not mind her. But you may go tothe big house tomorrow. Have faith in the good Lord; Hewill find you a way out of this yet. Think of your child,anak."Desta had pulled a pillow to her face to sob in. Thatwas enough for Baldo; he decided to see Mang Pepe thefollowing morning.But now that he had come, and had heard the mansay that he could not lend him any amount, he was lost.What could he do? What should he do? He could not returnhome only to see his wife suffer more; he loved her so.But I need money," he was saying at last. "My childwas sick three weeks, and last night, only last night, it wasrestless again.The overseer took a book out of a drawer, opened it,leaf after leaf. Then he placed a forefinger on a page.“Here," he said. "It says here you shared thirty-seven cavansin the last harvest. That was in January, and April has justbegun. Do you mean to say you have spent the rest of yourshare for your child?"“No, sir. Of course, not. I have seven cavans morethat Justo and Dimas borrowed. Besides, Destas parents hadto be with us to help her look after the child."“So you want your cross heavier, indeed?“ Theoverseer nodded repeatedly as he talked, and his smile wasloaded with sarcasm. "And now you want me to advance foryou?"
‘But Ill pay you back. I can pay you back. Youhave to see my crop to believe me."I believe you. I also believe Dimas and that good-for-nothing Justo can return your palay--after doomsday, Imean," Mang Pepe let go a big laugh that sounded like adam. "Why?" he went on, "they are neck-deep in debt withus."“Desta is thrifty, and we can live on very little. Justas I told you."“Thats what they all said when they started. Surely,you dont see what you are up to in the end. Look at Kulas.Look at Pasiong Kabag--Basilio, and the rest of them.Where are they now? Their carabaos and houses have beenconfiscated and their fields turned over to new tenants.Because they had to clear up with the house." Mang Pepepaused, then added: "This is only your second season with usand I might as well warn you."‘I know these people. They deserve it, of course.But my child, it must be baptized. It has to get well. Andthis morning Desta did not eat. Cant you see? For God’ssake, please…”“But your child can well be christened with?--say,five pesos. I can give you that much now, and forgetreturning it."“You dont understand, sir," Baldo said, his mouthnow was twitching at the corners. "You really dontunderstand. You dont know how it is with Desta. I told you
she did not eat this morning. She said to me, “Baldo, it ismy first child, and it is sick. If it has to be baptized at all, allI want is for the event to be real--even if I have to enslavemyself in the big house for it! She was crying then.”And this morning, before I left, her mother had gone to Puluto look for a pig and to inform Mang Calixto, the capitan, ofour decision to have his son Mamerto, the maestro, and hisdaughter, Lucila, the one who runs a dress shop in town, tostand as sponsors at the baptism. I would want that yourdaughter be the female sponsor instead, but she is away, andDesta thought it would give you much trouble to have hercome from the city. Besides, she is a colegiala, and we arebut poor country folk."Once more the overseer smiled, this time for beingamused with the farmers rustic sentiment. He had lighted acigar and was blowing the smoke upward as he swayed inhis chair, thinking. The other waited as one for his sentence.“I pity you, of course," Mang Pepe said. "But theresno money for you."“It is all set, cant you see?"“You can explain to those people why you have topostpone it till the coming harvest, cant you? Now you maygo home and call a doctor and have everything on me."“Tell me," Baldo said boldly. "Tell me, do youknow someone else who has money? I will mortgage mycarabaos."
“Son of a devil," shouted Mang Pepe, throwing hiscigar hard onto the concrete floor and crushing it with thesole of his shoe. "Do you realize how much your carabaosmean to you? Would you have the nerve to come here if youhad no carabaos? Think!"“But, sir---my child is sick…We tried the doctor andit would not get well. God is what it needs. I know…Iknow…”Mang Pepe fell low in his chair, breathing deeply.He ran his fingers on his thinning hair. After sometime hestraightened up; seriously, compassionately, he regarded thetenant, who then had his head bowed down. "All right," hesaid, almost in a whisper. "All right." Then his voice oncemore was big and rising: "Since you ask for it, Ill give it toyou. But do you know much this house deals on moneyborrowed?"“Yes, sir."“How?"“Two pesos less than the current price per cavan."“Good. And what is ‘current price?"“The market price at the time the palay is sold."“You are wrong there. With this house, the currentprice remains at nine pesos. Unless of course, the priceoutside shoots down to less. In which case the price outsidebecomes the price of the house. Do you get that?"
“Yes, sir."“Now I wont give you one-hundred pesos. Itseither ninety-eight or a hundred and five. Which?"“Hundred and five."“That means fourteen cavans for you to return afterthis harvest. "No," the overseer corrected himself, againbringing down his pencil. "Its fifteen. That is if the priceoutside keeps up with our price. And if you fail to pay backthis coming harvest, the fifteen cavans will have amountedto nineteen and a half, by the January harvest next year. Canyou figure it out?"‘That’s how it is, I suppose.”Based on the nine-pesos per-cavan, yes. But wefigure the price wil1.rise to thirteen, fourteen pesos this time,because of the drought. If so, how much will you lose, doyou know? Five pesos. Thats what you are going to loseper cavan. It should be seven, based on the two-pesos-per-cavan. But five pesos is the most we can have you lose, see?Now, are you willing to take on this arrangement?“Yes , sir.”“Then come back tomorrow and get out of herequick."“Thank you, sir. Thank you very much."Baldo stood up to go. His face was bright with animmense happiness.
S I X T E E NTHE GIRL DOTTY had never bothered to think about it. Itwas nothing, simply nothing. But now, faced with the realityof home, having to stay home again, she was afraid.Before the familiar bamboo ladder she hesitated.Something ran through the length of her, cold andportentuous as the lull before a storm. She decided to stepaside.“No, you go up first," the woman from behind hercommanded making good use of a hand.She was an enormous woman. In the half-light ofearly evening she cut a grotesque, disproportionate figureagainst the dark outline of the one-room nipa house thatstood lonely and alone on a hump of ground just off the endof the barrio road. The girl remained still, holding her smallbundle tight to her breast. From somewhere in the yard, aprowling dog whimpered away. In a little while a lampcame out the window.“It is I, Tomasa," the big woman said.The girls mother was unable to say a word, buthastened to the doorway, the tin kerosene lamp in heranxious hand.She led the big woman to the only fixture in thehouse, an old wooden bench that lay indistinct by the frontwindow. Dotty sought refuge in a place beside the middle
bamboo post, and she faced the thatch wall. The mother laidthe lamp on the creaky floor, against the protestation of twolittle boys who were before the stoves that sat buddha-like inthe rear corner. The boys were partaking of their eveningmeal from a common plate.“You better give the lamp to your children and havethem finish first," the big woman said, holding her palmbefore her eyes. "It hurts my eyes."The woman Tomasa instead placed the lamp on theimprovised altar that hung suspended by abaca twine on thewall. She leaned her back on the window sill as she turnedan oily, bony face to the woman on the bench. "Whatevermade you come, Mrs. Santos?" she said, as if she had notsensed anything yet.Mrs. Santos lifted her poppy eyes at the mother in aregret sort of way--perhaps piteously--now shifting her gazedown, slowly and almost fiercely, at the girl slumped by thepost, staying there a while, then back to the mother: asthough by then she had found the words, the precise words,and given the other woman sufficient time to catch on thesituation and made her prepared for it.“Your daughter should stay where she wants to,"the big woman said, a bit guarded in her manners. "Isuppose she does not like me any more."“Why---Of course, she likes you, Mrs. Santos," thelittle woman atoned quickly. "She always says you treat herlike your own daughter.“
“Thats it. Thats my mistake, indeed. Now I resenthaving been so kind. If Ive acted right, Id not be abused."The big matron paused, then added: "And I dont want to seethat good-for-nothing daughter of Lucia come to my houseagain. Bah! I dont pay your daughter just to waste her timewith that young gossip."The mother grew apprenhensive. "Has Dotty withCarmen again? Ive warned her many times not to associatewith that girl. But if it is the last thing youd believe me say,Mrs. Santos, that wont happen again. I swear. And Dotty isgoing to stay right in the house and do things as usual at yourcommand."“Its too late, Tomasa. Ive come to return yourdaughter. I suppose Ill still do without her."If there was determination in the big womans words,the mother did not take heed of it. Necessity could beunreasonable; she just could not give up without a struggle."Dotty," she said,”is old enough to understand, Mrs. Santos.Surely, she will take a lesson from this."The growing impatience of the big woman produceda grin over her fat face that stretched involuntarily inward,receding into a pout, finally exploding in utterance that thelittle woman least expected.“I told you theres no use," the big woman was firm.“She should have learned in time. “Now...? But I canttolerate losing things any longer."The mother recoiled perceptively, unable tocomprehend the strange words. How could the big woman
lie? She could not reconcile herself with the accusationwithout first condemning the accuser for taking advantage ofher littleness.“Tell me whatever you please," she said, "but I cantfor the life of me believe my daughter is capable of stealing."The big woman stood up, perturbed. "I dont have tolie to get rid of your daughter, Tomasa," she said, her faceshining alive in the lamplight with a cynical smile. "If youmust know, I just had to pull out of her bundle a lipsticktucked in two of Mr. Santos‘ handkerchiefs before we leftfor here.” She waited, expecting to put an end to the othersinsistence. "Ask her."This time the woman Tomasa, used though she wasto humiliating defeat, could hold no more as the shockingviolence of the other womans disclosure fell upon her asbricks, weighing her down. A contemptuous revolt surgedwithin her that, however, demanded control; for it was notcontempt really but the nervous workings of a desperateattempt at self-pity. For then, as the mist of bewildermentgradually cleared away, as the hard facts of existence beganto unreel intensely before her minds eye, it was not herdaughter - not the present, surely - that mattered but the daysthat lay ahead.Six months before Tomasa had lost her husband,after a long illness, and in the end had incurred a bill at thetown drug store that was to take her daughter at least a yearto work for as a housemaid. She had taken five pesos fromher childs pay every month and tried to stretch the amountby buying things that she sold at however little a profit.Today it would be fish, tomorrow vegetables and fruit, or
milk; and occasionally discarded bottles that an old strangerwho came periodically collected and bought.When the big woman had left, the mother felt free torelease a mad desire to castigate her daughter; yes, to poundon her till she would have had enough, for her to realize andlong remember what she had done. She grabbed the girl bythe shoulder and forced her to turn to her. “What will youdo now?" the mother shouted at the girl. "Answer me...What will you do?”But she was talking as though to a dead log. Dottywould not answer; she kept her head down, upon a knee.How could she? All along she had been an unwillingparticipant of an uninteresting show of the external world, atemporary disturbance that, in the natural process of herpowerful mind, was overcome just as naturally - like abullcart was on level ground again, gliding smoothly again,because the bull by instinct, had pulled and kept going.“What will you do, I say," again the motherdemanded. "Speak up. Do you hear?"The girls stubborn silence netted her several blowswith a tingting broom that landed indiscriminately. ButDotty would not be conquered. She remained unmoving,immune to pain.“All right," the mother cried at last, her voice nowtired and hysterical. “All right. From now on chew yourfingers. Thats what you deserve.” And as she backed away,standing up, she cursed under her breath, "Would that youhave not been born at all."
AS SHE SAT BEFORE the basin the following day, Dottyrealized she never had as much to do before--even in the bighouse. Already she had done a round of chores in the housesince sunup, still there was this washing, then the rice yet toclean and cook before noon when her mother would becoming from Guagua. But that was exactly how the motherwanted her daughter to realize--for staying home. For only inthis way might the mother have brought forth her pointunprotested and been justified in seeing Bee Chuan who, sheknew, was willing to take the girl any day in the comingmonth.“All you have to do is to help him in his store," themother had said before she left early that morning. "Easy andyet you are to have the twenty pesos every end of the monthand a new dress, besides not every girl is that luckynowadays."Dotty had not spoken, but allowed herself to ponderover the proposition once her mother had gone. The prospectwas one she needed to have the things she yearned for, thevery things that somehow would raise her to the level of anygirl in Pulu, more especially her former classmates who nowwere in high school.But no sooner had she imagined herself with theprecious things she needed and would have than the thingssuddenly lost their beauty and meaning. Something held herback from dreaming. Suppose he would not approve of hergoing? Or might not distance blot away all that she helddearly for him?By now the sun was well up above the line ofbamboos along the road and had began licking that part of
the yard where she sat at her wash. It was too warm for Mayand the young green in the trees looked withered. Shepaused in her squat position, her soapy tired hands clutchedlimply on a boys pants in the basin. Once more sheregarded the heap of clothes beside her. An hour more,perhaps, she thought. An hour more....With both hands she dragged her work into the coolshadow of the house, near the upturned mortar by the ladder.There she could work for hours without having to bedisturbed. She grabbed another piece. This time it was herdress, her cream dress with the flower patchwork. Hernumber one. She would be careful with it. Was it not thesame dress she had on that night of their graduation from theelementary school when first he said he loved her? How herfriend Carmen wished she had a dress like it!As she thought, something unbidden flashed in hermind and at once she was enjoying the pleasure ofdiscovery. Why had not she thought of her friend earlier!She stood up quickly and ran down the low groundto the field feeling and acting for some reason, like the redpullet in the big house that ran ticklishly away everytime thegallant of a big cock made a pass over it. She skiddedlightly down toward the camanchile by the dry brook that cutthe field in the rear in two. There her little bothers werebusy picking the fruit of the tree with a long bamboo pole.Midway she stopped abruptly.“Dad-o-o-o...Come here, quick. Ill give you fivecentavos."
The boy hearing the promise of so much moneyimpelled him to renounce the stick. He rushed to his sister;the clods he ran on were no longer big and hard and hurting.Aggrieved of his sudden aloneness the little boy left behinddropped himself stiff onto the grass. He began crying andkicking, even holding the fruit stuffed in his faded T-shirt.The older boy slackened his pace and looked back.“No," Dotty cried. “Come here. Ill take care ofhim." She extended her eager hand to reach at herbrother as he came nearer. There was no time to waste.“Run to Carmen and tell her to see me right away." Sheshoved the boy off as she thrust a five-centavo coin in hispalm. "Quick now," she said. "Right away, do you hear?"The little boy left under the tree continued to cryand kick in desperation. When he saw his sister coming forhim, he threw the fruit away. She picked them up, held themin one hand and, with the other, she gathered the boy andlifted him astride her hip. She ran to the house.At last the boy had spent himself and the staccatosobs that follow intense crying had grown fainter. Dottypatted him gently at the side to hasten sleep. By and by thefamiliar voice of her friend rang clear from without.‘Dot......! Here I am."She got up fast, giddy with excitement. She met herfriend at the base of the ladder and led Carmen where theycould not waken her brother. The two friends got topinching each other, joyous of their meeting in anatmosphere of absolute freedom. They sat on the second
rung, their feet propped on the first, like they did in the towncockpit, which was a moviehouse by night.“Im no longer with the big house," Dotty announcedproudly. "I dont like it there."“I know, I know," her friend said, very pleased. “Butwhat have sent me for, ha? At this time of work, ha?“Have you bought it yet?“What would you want me do that I wouldnt? Ivejust given it to him."“My student!" Dotty felt thoroughly possessive."And does he invite?" She said that for no reason other thanto entertain herself some more.“Yes, of course," Carmen assured her friend. "As amatter of fact, he said he would be greatly disappointed if weshould not be with him then."“What will you wear?"“What will you wear yourself?"“Come, help me with the wash.“WHEN THEY FINALLY got there, the literary-musicalprogram was already on, and the brightly-lighted basketballcourt across the barrio church looked too small for so manypeople. Dotty realized how late they were, but that wasbecause she had stayed too long before the mirror atCarmens. They decided to stay at a place on the elevated
road between the church and the playground , away from thefew others there, from where anyone could easily be drawnto the cream dress and the white dress.There on the elevated road, for some time, Dottysheart waited--- expecting him all the glorious anticipationsof the past few days a fulfillment. Her eyes swept at allheads about the vendors‘ tables bright with carbide lampsthat lined the outer fringes of the basketball court, that shemight chance upon him. But he was nowhere. Could it bethat he had been all around, earlier, and now had gonethrough inside the crowd searching, still searching?“Where do you think he is?" she said, as she tookher friends hand and led her down the slight decline, downto the thick of the crowd. "Where do you think he is?" shesaid again.“I really dont know."“Has he gotten bored waiting, do you think?"“I really dont know," her friend said. Carmen couldhave said, "Sure," but that might have taken some risk.Soon they were worming their way through, as theireyes covered all directions. Once Carmen paused to point atsomeone in a white shirt a few feet from them, but beforethey could call him an elderly face turned to give them abaffled smile. They hid their disappointment in laughter.Now there was no more place to go and they hungon to rest behind the enclosure immediately in front of thestage. Here they had a good look at the handful of honored
barrio graduates who sat on batibot chairs in their specialplace, proudly absorbed in the impassioned exhortations ofthe be-spectacled chairman of the affair. They werecounting the honorees, by name, when a voice from behindcame nearer, to whisper: "Dont tell me you are enjoying thenight alone."It was George, Berts engineering-student cousinwho was on vacation. He was with his sisters, who smiled atthe two friends understandingly.“Where is Bert?" Carmen spoke for Dotty.“Ill be dumb if he doesnt see you from where heis”, George said quite teasingly. He then waved his thumb inthe direction of the displaced basketball goal over to the leftside of the stage. "This way youll find him," he said,shaking with mischief.Dottys relief was great. But it was her friend wholed this time. It was the proper thing. Hurriedly, like ropewalkers performing sideways, they extricated themselves outof the throng. They detoured alongside the barbed-wirefence further to the right of the court. Once straight withtheir objective, they swerved inward and, surreptitiously,posted themselves beside the goal. Before the goal theyfound several school desks on which stood young people,their heads floating well above the level of the stages floor.From her vantage place, Dotty surveyed the rows of headswith care.And then her eyes caught him. In a fleeting instantshe felt the reassuring reward of her search, only to be blownto bits before the whirlwind of further discovery. Flanked by
two pretty girls in the blue and white uniform of the localhigh school, the bigger one with a familiar manshandkerchief on her head, Bert stood on the front desk. Itwas something Dotty would never have wanted to see, noreven think of. The sensation was a sharp, tugging ache ather heart.“Lets get out of here," her friend said, divining thefrigid silence of Dotty.Dotty tried hard to keep her pride. She said, "If onlyI like, my uncle Berong in Sta. Catalina would send me tohigh school. But what is the use? You only learn not towork."On the stage the curtain had been lifted and thecrowd greeted a folk-dance team with a thunderous applause.Instinctively, the two girls joined in and clapped louder. Asthe noise subsided, a singular laughter, like a stray note,burst and permeated the air. Her timing was perfect. Alleyes turned toward the two friends.“Oh you, Dot!" Bert feigned in happy surprise.“Carmen! Come here, you two."Dotty pulled down at her friend’s side. "No!" shewhispered defiantly. “No....!"They stood still, eyes away, as though they had notheard.The young man climbed down and edged towardthem.
The two girls in uniform brought their headstogether, looked down, then giggled and laughed.“Lets go from here," Dotty said aloud.“Dot!" Bert called. "Dot….!Somehow she felt good that now she had to go andhe after her and people knowing he was following – unwanted. But as she moved away with her friend, further andfurther from him, gently she was pressing peso bills in theball of her hand, wishing even then it had not gotten intothis, really like this.
CARABAO MEATBALDO FELT ALMOST ready to play. He had just arrivedhome, after being out the whole day, bringing a piece ofcarabao meat. Before the crude bamboo ladder of hismakeshift house he lingered, visibly pleased for not knowingwhat to do. Finally, he called, "Desta," his voice was a song.“Baldo. Have you come? You might as well havecome at twilight. Or stayed there in Akli overnight. Whocares?" The voice from inside had a tone of impatience anddependence.The man did not need to talk back. He understood.In reckless abandon he flew up the flight of rickety steps,made a long step forward, and posted his bronzen bulkbefore the doorway. "See what Ive got," he announcedhappily, as he raised his hand before him, for the woman onthe mat to behold what hung on it.To Desta fresh meat was something hardly possible.As a matter of fact, she had had no soup when she needed itmost. That was a week ago, the tenth day after the first childcame, when the hilot gave her the first warm bath. Shelooked at the big slice of meat suspended in the air, unbeliefin her eyes. By and by she smiled and, looking at herhusband, asked: “Where did you get it Baldo?"He felt even better with the inquiry. He hadexpected it and hoped to tell much else, but now his pleasurewas such as to outgrow the importance of what he had tosay. Eagerly he hung his precious load on a nail in the
corner post and stooped down , on his knees, to get at hiswife. He kissed her affectionately, then bent lower andsoftly brushed with the tip of his nose the temple of theinfant that was then busy at its mothers breast. For thesecond time he sang the tender word in her ears: "Desta."Life could always have been like this with them, asperhaps with the rest of their kind, but the peace and ordersituation had worsened and people were forced to leave theirpeaceful rustic surroundings, like herds disorganized anddriven from the sustaining grass. For they had come fromPulu, a secluded woody sitio some twelve kilometers inland,which had been the scene of a savage battle betweengoverment forces and dissidents a year before. The placehad become a favorite hide-out since the Japanese.Homeless and fearful, the people of Pulu---or whatremained of them--- had come and built their one-roomshacks along the railroad tracks at the edge of the townproper where the poblacion led off to the open fields. Here,in their now hostile environment, they had to learn newtrades to eke out a living.But now, when the countryside seemed all quietagain, many, like Baldo, began to feel the urge of going backto the farm to clean the fields that had grown thick withgrasses. They had starved long enough in the alien place, sothat they yearned to grow green things again and be in peacewith the soil once more.Baldo stood up at length, full with understanding.The last shafts of crimson rays already filtered horizontallythrough the slits in the loosed thatched walls. He knew bythen the night was not long in coming. He got his bolo that
was inserted in the thatches and began working at the meat,right before the doorway, which part was also the kitchen.“If you cook it all," the wife admonished, "be sureto have half of it left for tomorrow."DUSK EELL TOO SOON over the squat shacks thathuddled carelessly like dishevelled beggars at prayer on thelow strip of ground along the railway. Soon, too, theevening meal was over. For an hour the place was alive withvoices, and the lamplights flickered through slits andwindows like giant red fireflies defying the darkness ofnight. After a time, they begun to disappear one by one. Byeight oclock the place, like any other evacuation place, wasas silent and still as a cemetery.“Did you put the lid on the pot?" The wife wantedto make sure, as Baldo blew out the tin kerosene lamp andgroped for his place on the mat.“Sure," he said. "Sure."In the silence that followed the woman had time tothink of what lay before them. She remembered what sheought to have learned from her husband upon his return fromAkli in the afternoon. The place was the barrio between thepoblacion and Pulu, where Mang Julio, the landlord lived.Could he have back the parcel he used to till, after a year?Could he begin cleaning the fields? But then she could notask what she had in mind without pitying the man who,though without much luck, had tried to be worthy as aprovider. On similar occasions in the past, much though shewanted to talk with him, always she had given allowancefor his feelings, especially when he was tired like tonight.
Instead, therefore, she repeated: "Who gave you the meat,Baldo?"“Pare Mundo had his remaining carabao butchered.”He could have said that several khaki-clad youngmen got around having the animal for a target on their wayback from a patrol routine in Pulu that morning; that theyrained lead on it until it fell flat on the mud by the roadside.But Baldo knew what was good for his wife. She hadhad a weak heart since the trouble in Pulu. The doctor hadadvised her not to worry much or get excited.“Why?"“He has no need for it, anymore."“Not anymore? Why?"“Pare Mundo is going to Manila. To work. Hisbrother, Pare Kasio has come to fetch him and his family.Pare Kasio said his brother should not have waited so longwithout any paddy to till. He said there in the city one doesnot have to wait a year for a job. One may create his ownwork and still make more than enough. He himself sendstwo boys in high school besides having saved enough for alot in a place he calls Grace Park. Imagine that." He waited,then added: “What, Pare Kasio said, am I waiting for? Itstime I got thoughtful, too, he said."“You mean you just stayed there at Pare Kasios anddid not see----”There was a crackling sound from the direction of
the stoves. Baldo thundered and rose up to investigate. Hefelt the place with both hands. The pot of meat had tippedover and the lid broken.“Struck be he whoever owns that bitch," he cursed.“Has all of it spilled?" Desta asked, as she thoughtof breakfast in the morrow.“No. Just a portion. Very little, in fact," the mansaid in an effort to dissuade his wife from giving too muchthought to the incident.“You never did anything about that doorway."Baldos shame held him back somehow; and he saidnothing. Instead he felt for his bolo in the thatches and slidback to his pillow.The child had begun to cry. Desta made a clippingsound with her lips as she shoved her beast and reached forthe infants head, to tilt it gently toward her. Even thenthings persisted in her mind, things she could not dismiss.Their querulous nature disturbed her and she could almostblame the man for the torture. In fact, she became moreinclined to talk.“Did you see Mang Julio?"The man lay erect, his right arm astride his pillow,within easy reach of the bolo that was beyond his head. “Ofcourse I did, Desta. But he was not at home. His wife saidhe had gone with the mayor and some policemen. She couldnot be sure where."
“What are you going to do now?"Baldo hoped it would not be amiss for him now togive a hint of his change of mind. After all, he thought, shewould know---sooner or later. He said: "If I were to earnfive pesos a day, could you keep two of it?" He propoundedhis practical, if strange arithmetic with calculated reason,anticipating an affirmative answer.“What do you mean?" she said, as if she had notcaught on.Baldo was silent for a long moment. Then he wastalking seriously. "Look at the thing straight, Desta. Lookeven at the others. Is there a man from Pulu who has risenabove a tenant? From grandfather to father....to son? Myown father lived to be seventy. He was with a carabao asearly as he could remember. But what has he left us?Nothing. I can barely write my name."Desta spoke with her simple heart. "Faith is allthat matters, Baldo. Anywhere in the world. Anywhere youand I may be."“Cant I at least try for some luck? Here we haveeaten our share long before the rice is mellow. Always. Whydont we do something?"‘How could you be so easily persuaded andstubborn?"“But it is not we anymore, Desta. I think of thechild and the others yet to come."
“And you are determined?"“Does it matter to you?"In her, something stuck fast, was rooted in the soilof her heart and somehow---anyhow---could not pull loose.She had been born in the country and had grown up with thesmell of field and grain. No. Here, she thought, I must live.Here I die. And when she could no longer hold back hersentiment, she broke into sobbing.Baldo felt torn between love and reason, hearing thewife cry. But before he could say anything, he sensed aprowling sound sneak into the open doorway. He lay tenseand made ready. Here it is again---the devil, he thought.And when he was sure it was inside enough, he rose with thecautiousness and agility of a sniper.He struck once but hard. The thing toppled downonto the ground below with a long agonizing cry.“There," he cursed in a heavy, vengeful tone."There you are."Back on the mat he thought---long and impatiently,undecided whether to get angry with his wife, or cajole herin her sobbing. He could not reproach her. He loved herstill in spite of herself. But neither was there any need forhim to salve her feelings. That would enbolden her moreunreasonably, and things might yet come to worse. So,finally, he closed his eyes and decided not to think abouther---about anything at all.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING BALDO was up whilewhile yet the lines of his palms could hardly be discerned.He remembered he had to see Mang Julio before his wifewoke up, or at least before she could again have a chance totalk and cry as she had done the previous night. No longercould he afford to have such a thing repeated.In his large denim clothes and weather-beaten burihat he looked small and old. He hoped that this time MangJulio on whom everything of the future seemed to depend,would give him three or five more paddies, since the oldmans former hands had scattered to faraway places andmight not come back anymore. Five more paddies would beabout enough for him to have both ends meet. Somehow hefeared he had lost his work. He could not be sure; he onlyknew things had an unprecedented way of happeningnowadays.He took to what was the common backyard of theevacuation shacks. To get back early, he had decided not totake the railway that detoured along the periphery of thepoblacion but walked through the empty parched fields,straight to the barrio church of Akli, a dull white speck thatprotruded out to a green line of bamboos from across thewide span of fields before him. From where he was, hecould perceive Mang Julios house, an old brick affair ofSpanish design, in front of the church to the west.Before the fields, a high ground stretched along thelength of the low ground whereon the shacks stood. The lowand the high grounds were separated by a barbed-wire fencethat clung tenaciously on the trunks of newly prunedkakawate trees, which were the posts. He stopped before the
fence, looking where to get through. To his right he saw anopening between the fence and a lone clamp of bamboos.Over the place, under the fence, was a narrow, hallowedpiece of ground, unmistakably a passageway of stray animalsto and from the fields. He walked toward it.As he bent down to crawl into the fields, through thepassageway, his eyes fell upon the thing. It was lying undera bushy plant that was beside the bamboo clamp.Instinctively, he pulled himself up, then began to back outcautiously, as one before a mortal enemy. Not once did hecast his eyes off it. He felt widely amused that now he hadan opportunity to settle a score with it.For a moment he looked resolutely both sides ofhim, then back of him, after something he could use. Hefound a kakawate branch in the fence, that tightened a partthat used to be loose. With both hands he pulled it upward.Its the size of his wrist. He waved the branch in the air totest its strength. Yes, he thought, this will do.Surreptitiously, he lunged forward step by step.Once near enough, he stopped to survey the situation. It waswell under the plant, his head lazily pillowed upon his paws,facing the opposite direction. He surmised an effective blowmust come straight from above, but now he had to strike atan angle to avoid hitting the leafy branches of the plant.Just as he aimed, the dog, with great difficulty, madean effort to face toward him. It was then that he had anunobstracted view of it. He discovered that it was disabled;an ugly, deep gush showed and widened as it moved itshead. It was a sick looking skeleton with coarse, spotted-brown hair and wide spiritless eyes. It showed no pugnacity
nor fear whatsoever. And when it looked at him, it was as ifit was still alone.Baldo looked rather long at the animal, his handsslowly lowering, as though getting out of control. Apowerful force had begun to take place in him, and hetrembled. As his concerned deepened, everything becamegradually familiar and life-long. In his benumbed mind hesaw himself---vaguely, indefinitely, in an unimpressiveworld he alone knew.Maybe I should have not done it at all, he thoughtafterward, when he had recovered from the stupor.By this time the sun was already on the heads ofbamboos and the carabaos were in the fields for the scarsesummer grass. The children, too, were already there withtheir tin cans for frogs and moles. Above the shacks, on theelevated railway, a freight train was crawling toward theeast, heavy with its load of rice.Baldo looked once more at the animal. His face,still, was long and rigid, his frame loose and shaky. Then heturned to go back toward the shacks that his eyes nowrefused to see. As he hobbled on, in his mind he called toGod - the first in long time.
THE CHICKEN GOD SENTTHE LOW, OUTLYING FARMLAND of barrio Pululooked distorted. For once, like a rustic dalaga with hairdishevelled and dress smeared with splotches of mire hereand there, it had lost its beauty. It was the morning after thebig September flood. The first sunshine in almost two weekswas on the drooping heads of trees and on the housetops thatwere still dark and moist with rain. Breakfast was still overthe stoves, but already many people were about the road,eager with their stories of the recent inundation.Over at Yengs, the store of the puppy-eyedChinaman in front of the church where most of the villagegossip originates, a small group had began to gather aroundMang Tonio, the barrio head, and Diro, the farmer. The twohad come to the store, apparently with a business of theirown. They were conversing in rather subdued tones.“I‘d not mind it so much, capitan,” the farmer said,“but you see, I have lost nearly everything I had.“ Even ashe spoke, he kept scraping with a twig the sticky clay thatclung in between his wide-set toes.The barrio sage regarded Diro with interest, butwould not comment.By and by all eyes were drawn southward from thedirection of small houses huddled by the narrow foot-bridge.Apung Selma came hobbling up the road. She was aided bya crude bamboo cane. Behind her was her great grandson,tugging stubbornly at her faded red skirt.
Apung Selma, she would tell you, was the lastoriginal settler of Pulu, and was as old as the moss-eatenbrick walls of the church itself. Until her hands and kneesbegan to fail her--until progress caught up with her--she haddominated in the village’s social wants. As a hilot, she hadhad no rival, and mothers sought her to name their children.She arranged marriage contracts, led in the prayers at wakes,told young as well as the old she counseled, with thedevotion and zeal of a mother.“What, Antonio?" she said, as she held a creakyand lifted her ancient bulk onto the elevated concretefloor in front of the store. "What is it you have sent anold woman for, with this kind of weather, ha? Ha?" Herempty mouth worked hard to formulate her protest.The capitan held his bald head, suddenly forgettingwhat he had to say. He offered the old woman the lowbench the Chinese had given him and Diro. He sat on anupturned kerosene box, facing the hilot. "Really, theresnothing much about it, lola ," he began rather politely. "Ijust want to know whether you raise chicken."“Chicken! Por Dios, por santo! Did I come hereand catch rheumatism again just to answer your sillyquestions? What if I raise chickens, hijo? What if dont?Does it matter to you?" Then as in retrospection, the oldwoman added: "Yes. Yes, all our chickens died in the lastanimal pestilence. The good chickens they were, though.They died that we would be saved from the scourge."“Thats it," Mang Tonio said. "You have nochickens any more. But I wonder how come that you have
this in your backyard? He turned about and reached for whatDiro, who was standing behind, held that was wrapped inbanana leaf.He opened the bundle before the old hilot. "Whatcan you say, lola?"The crowd began to get noisy with curiosity.The old woman stoop laboriously down. For amoment she could not make anything out of the feathers,until she touched them and brought up a handful to one eye,then to the other. Dropping the feathers, she pulled back herantique trunk and, forthwith, her dull eyes jerked up undersoft-hanging lids to fasten a suspicious gaze at the farmeracross. She shook her white head, unbelief in her eyes."No," she exclaimed firmly. "No. This was my hen. Why doyou show the feathers of my hen to me for?"Mang Tonio faced the people like the clairvoyantwho had just convinced his audience with his mystic power.Then he returned to the old woman and said, "Lola, you havejust said all your chickens died in the last pestilence. Thatwas in May last year, I remember. And now you tell me thiswas your hen. Hows that?The people held their hands to their mouths; all thesame, their amusement gave way to spontaneous laughter.Apung Selma recoiled perceptively. She pinneddown the capitan with a reprimanding look, as though he hadcommitted a sacrilege. " For heavens sake, Antonio, dontask me that. You will only repent for what you are doing tome now." To the crowd she threw a sharp, sweeping glance,
shifting her eyes from one to another, saying...."how peoplethese days have grown---" completing the sentence toherself. "Yes, since the Americano. You, too will repent forlaughing at an old woman."In the long silence that followed, Mang Tonio hadtime to reflect on the issue at hand. Numberless times hehad mediated in barrio disputes and no one had everquestioned his wisdom. He wondered why, before the oldhilot, he was reluctant to discharge his duty as on authority.But then he could not shirk, and though the old womanmight well have been his own mother, he had to arrive at aconclusion.“Lola," he said at length. Lola, I‘m here to helpyou. But here is Diro, claiming the hen was his. It was alsoyours, as you say. How I want to know between the two ofyou who really owned the fowl."The farmer who had been silent all the while, edgedslowly forward. He pushed back an unruly hair with a pawand, with unsteady hands, face pale and tense, he scooped upthe feathers lying on the concrete floor between the box andthe bench. Somehow he could not control the rasp sound inhis throat. "I swear to you, capitan," he stuttered, "this wasmy hen. Never have I seen a hen around with similar blackspots and such color of scales. Besides---" He ran abronzed hand through the feathers and produce a chickenleg.“Look at this, capitan.” he demanded. "This hindclaw. Is it not clipped? I always clip the hind claws of mychicks the day they are hatched." He then turning to thegrowing crowd and singled out a half-naked man whose
baby girl was astride his broad shoulders and playing withhis hair. "Dont I Kulas? Dont I mark them like that?”The man named Kulas smiled wryly and his eyesblinked uncertainly. He looked at the old woman but wouldnot say anything.The farmer denied of strength and support, shrieked:“As sure as my mother gave birth to me, it was my hen."The barrio head fondled his unshaven chin with eyeshalf-closed, his head furrowing in concentration. "You talkedof clipping the hind claws of your chickens, Diro, but dontyou think some other may have been doing the same thingwith his? Dont you think it possible some other hen looksexactly like yours?“Maybe so, capitan, but I cant, for the life of me,see why my hen is no longer around, and the feathers andclaws that were my hens I found in the backyard of ApungSelma who, as she herself said a moment ago, is not raisingchicken any more.”The face of the old woman shone alive with anumberless swarming wrinkles, incongruous in the earlymorning sun. You speak unkindly, hijo," she said to thefarmer. "Nor should you get at things with your practice.Things behind your experience have happened, son. Thingsmore strange and wonderful.”“Why, in my youth there was distinction betweenthe old and the young. I would not raise a voice before myparents-- if I had to mention them without a prayer. In thosedays there were no troubles such as we have now.
Everybody went to church. Why, today your own brothermay be as distant as a stranger. Look at what you do to menow....."The capitan wrung his fingers. He had not expectedthings to develop into this, nor intended the old hilot long.He moved closer to her ears and admonished: "Lola, just onething and you may go home. Supposed you just tell me howthose feathers happened to be in your backyard?"“I threw the feathers there, just there, from thebatalan. You remember how big the flood had grown? Icould not go down to the bridge."“I see. But where did you get the feathers?"“You talk like a child, Antonio, I told you it wasmy hen."“And where did you get the hen, lola? Had someonegiven it to you?"Apung Selmas mouth twitched uncontrollably, asher eyes blinked hard to suppress what was choking her.Then, as though revealing a sacred thing, she confided: "Godsent it to me. For Nardo, here." A slow, fossil hand soughtthe boys hair and stroked it tenderly, as she feared her greatgrandson to prod him to talk. "Did He not, son? Did notProvidence send the hen to you?"The boy beside her nodded, accentuating hisunconcern with his feet that dangled from the bench andwhich continued to sway like two alternating pendulum.
“God is merciful, Antonio," the old womancontinued, “if only you call to Him. I always call to Him inmy helplessness. Like when my husband Isiong---blessed behis soul---when I were just married. Isiong was long beenwanted by the Castila for being a revolucionario. One darknight they broke into the house and, without a word, beganthrusting their scimitars into every nook and corner.Frightful men those bemoustached soldados were. I pleadedto them but they would not listen. What could I do? So Iturned to God, “0 Lord,” I said, ”have mercy on my Isiong.Take care of him, save him from the Castila.”“And He heard, and my husband was saved." Theold woman held her breath. "How blind indeed the Castilahad become. For Isiong had been there all the time, rightthere in the rolled-up mat in the silid."Sebia, the barrio gossip, confirmed the story of theold hilot. Her voice flung above the noise of the crowd."My father who was still a boy in those days used to tell usof such happenings. He would say...."The barrio head interrupted the gossip and askedher to reserve her own stories. He faced the old womanonce more, saying: "But the hen, lola. How was it sent toyou? How?“What was I saying before...? Apung Selma tried torecall. "Ah, the hen. Yes, that hen. You remember howSeptember set in---cool and dark. By the thick low-hangingclouds from the southwest I know how wet it was going tobe. Sure enough, it happened, the rains came even beforethe animals could even get ready. I said to the mother of thisboy, Macaria, our rice is nearly gone. If you get that corn at
all you better be gone this morning. The rains will be longand hard, I can see!”“And so Macaria hurried to Pamalatan with somebagoong for her cousin Lucia who had promised the corn.But I never thought this pilyo of a son of hers would betrailing behind her, all the way, in the hard rain. He wasalready at Sapang Bayu when her mother discovered himand have him get back with a long stick.”There was a twinkle in old womans eyes as sheturned her back to the boy and faced the crowd, to saysecretly, "He is afraid of Nano, you know."“Naturally, he came home all wet and shivering, thisboy. And that night, the night the flood came--that wasTuesday, wasnt it?--he lay down early, wrapped himself upin my woolen Army blanket. He refused to eat, even just alittle. I knew then the cold had seeped into him. He had nospirit whatever. I said to him, You are pilyo. Why dontyou go out now and get in the rain?"“By the first cockcrow that night, I rose up to findthe boy restless with high fever. He was talking in hisdelirium. I know a piece of cloth soaked in strong vinegarand applied on his forehead would somehow alleviate thefever and the headache; but not a single drop of vinegar wasin the house. I called to Desta in the next house, but she wastoo sound asleep perhaps, or the noise of the rain and thewind and the flood below drowned my call.”“The child continued to toss his head about, talkingever in his affliction. Hungry, son? I asked him. Butwould not eat. I had given the left-over rice to the cat,
knowing it would have spoiled by morning.“Then by midnight he clamored for soup.“Soup,1ola. I want soup.”“Yes, son, I said. I knew hot soup would shake thefever off once he perspired. But what could I do at suchtime of and nothing to make soup with?“All through the night I kept awake, calling toGod. I could hardly bear watching the child suffer. Whatif he get worse in the night? What could I do without Maca-ria?”“Somehow I felt relieved as light came at last. Iwent to the kitchen. Before the stove I sat, thinking ofanything I could cook for the child. Porridge, I thought,might do him good. I remembered there was still littlerice in the bakiong in the corner behind the stove.“So I stood up and reached for the bakiong. Just asI lifted it, grains began to spill off a hole I had altogetherforgotten. But it was the Lords will, I realized afterwards.The good Lord willed it so. For what do you think wouldflap down from nowhere and begin pecking at the fallengrains but a hen all drenched and shivering!”“God is merciful! Hes wonderful!" the old womanchanted, looking not yet at the people around her but towardthem all the same. And her lips moved long after she hadspoken, making no sound. She fingered the thin cross thathung before her breast, her head shaking a little. Shewas crying then, and she reached down for the for the tailof her skirt and brought it up to her eyes.
There was profound silence.“This hen," she went on, "it came to me as would achild step into her mothers arms. I held it up and then tookinside for Nardo to see. You should have seen the childas I held the hen before him.”“This boy-- yes, you would think he had not eatenfor a week the way he gulped three bowlfuls of hot chickensoup that morning. But it was all the better for him, becausein a little while he began to perspire.”“I laid him down afterwards and covered him wellwith my blanket. He slept the rest of the morning. By noonhe was well, this child...."The capitan smiled. It was the smile you would tryanyhow to conceal, there was nothing more you could do butyou were left disturbed just the same.“Diro," the barrio head finally said. “Diro, howmuch would that hen of yours fetch?"“Do you mean the hen given to Nardo?" ApungSelma eyed Tonio cynically.“No. Of course not, lola."“From another hen of the same brood I sold to Yengthe other week," the farmer said, "he gave me five smallcans of sardines and two carabana bottles of kerosene."“How much is that in cash, Diro?"
The chinaman who had finished arranging thingsinside his store, butted in. He elucidated his businessarithmetic with the help of his fingers.“One carabana of kerosene," he said, "I sell foronly thirty centavos. Until last week, a can of sardinescost forty centavos. Now I cant sell it for as much anymore. Five cans of sardines and two carabana bottles ofkerosene---thats two-sixty. No more."The capitan pulled himself from the box. By nowthe bright sun was well above the trees and houses and hadbegan licking the damp patch in front of the store. Thecrowd, too, was fast thinning out.At last the barrio head, stooping a little and reverent-ly before Apung Selma, said: "Lola, I want you to excuse mefor having disturbed you. I really hope Macaria will becoming from Pamalatan this morning." He then reached forthe shoulder of the farmer and, face glowing, led him towardhome.
THE LOST COINTHE BOY PULLED himself up at last and sat on hishaunches rubbing his salty eyes back and forth with thelength of his forefingers. Then he shook his head of itsheaviness and looked across the common buri mat. Hismother lay prostrate, one of her outstetched arms restingcomfortably on the mouth of his snoring father. His littlesister on the far end had just emitted the long-drawn yawnbetween sleep and waking up.It was the morning after the barrio fiesta. TheNovember sun had long risen and was now well up abovethe line of bamboos. The boy looked once more at thefigures on the mat. They have overslept, he thought, andwas rather resentful. As he stood up, the long arm ofsunlight that pierced through a hole in the thatch-wall everymorning caught him full in the face. Now the arm of lightretrieved itself, now it shot through, very long inside thehouse, as the cool northwest blew a head of bamboo outside,to and fro. But he was in no mood to play with the lightnow. He went to the kitchen instead, as usual expecting tosmell something good there, but found the stove lying squat,stubbornly cold and indifferent, without smoke.For sometime he stood by the kitchen door, confusedas to what to do, or what to want. He slid down the ladderwithout purpose, and as purposelessly, went under the house,to the big ancient basket where his father used to keep greenbananas for ripening. He knew there were no bananas there,but no matter. He regarded the basket as though it held somepromise. Tenderly he felt its bulging side, then tried to
embrace it with his little bony arms.There was a creaking sound coming up the road andthe creaking became more and more interesting as it becamelouder. The boy galloped out from under the house and onto the road. At the middle of the road he stood, hands heldup high and clasp against the nape of his neck, as he waitedthe on coming carretela to pass by.The rickety vehicle came on clumsily and zigzaggedeverytime the driver raise his whip and the horse spurtedahead. As it drew nearer, the boy moved to the side. Therewas a beto-beto table tied upside down on top of the rig, andthe two people inside had their heads drooping looselyforward, their hands knotted tight on their bellies. Theboy began to laugh, laughed louder as the driver thumpedhis feet repeatedly on the floorboard to get the littlehorse go faster.“Hai-iii..." shouted the boy, trying to help the manwith his animal. “Hai-iii!.." He wanted to catch theattention of the man, but the other was too much in a hurryand too sleepy to acknowledge the help of the boy.The boy was walking back toward the house whensomething came up in his mind and prodded him to instantaction. Quickly, he retraced his steps, then broke into a run.For the moment nothing was so important but his running atfull speed. He thought he was not moving fast enough. Foronce he thought: why couldnt he fly?Midway between home and the barrio church a shrilllittle voice called out for him to wait. He kept on running.The third time the voice called out, it carried a tone of
impatient protest, as though it was going to break intocrying. But as the boy turned his head back to look at hissister, he tripped over a stone and fell. "Struck be you bylightning," he shouted to his sister. "You."He picked himself up and started running again. Thebasketball court was in front of the barrio church, across theroad. Once by the church he swerved to the right andswooped down the grassy incline in the reckless abandon ofa child coasting on thick hay at harvest-time.“This is it," he said aloud, as he stopped before thesouthwestern corner of the court. "This is the place,certainly." For he remembered the clamp of bamboosnearby and the approximate distance from where he hadfallen the night before.It was difficult turning up every piece of rubbishwith his toes. The rain in the night had made things stickto the ground. So he stooped low and worked with hisfingers instead, all the while expecting to chance upon hislost coin.“I dont think it is there," said his sister, whohad followed him.“Get out of here!" growled the boy. "Who told youto come around?"“I tell you it did not drop there," the other repeated.“You 11 see."“Get out of here before I lay hands on you. Goaway.” One, two…”
Not until the little girl had backed away did theboy resume his work. He wanted to be alone--to work alone---and was so irritable and possessive as a hen sitting.On the same spot during the zarsuela the previousnight the boy had asked to be taken home to sleep. Hisprotest did not make his mother budge an inch from the stoolon which she stood. She had not seen the play for a longtime and that night was her chance to verify whether she orher Kumare Sencia was correct about the key to the problemin the play. The two women had been debating about it fordays before the fiesta and neither would yield to the other.Could not the boy wait until the particular scene came up?She had told him.But at last the lad could no longer hold from fallingasleep and he began to tug at his mothers skirt. The constantpulling irritated the woman so much that she climbed downfrom her stool and pinched him on the sides repeatedly. Hecried suddenly and loudly and the people about looked to seewhat was taking place. Because she felt very ashamed of hisbehavior, his mother fell upon him. It was then that theboys five centavo piece fell out of his hand.There had been many unusual and beautiful things tobuy in the last two days , but not once had the boy beentempted to part with his wealth. It had comforted him justfeeling it secure in his trousers pocket. Above all, it hadraised him to a level with any child in the barrio. Butnow it was gone for nothing, and he felt a terrible sense ofloss.“I told you it did not fall there," his sister repeated.
“Maybe, youve found it. Let me see your hands."The little girl obliged and opened up her hands tohim. "See?" she said mockingly.The boy searched over the place once more. Apeppermint wrapper interested him and he picked it up. Heheld it to his nose and inhaled the aroma hungrily. It werebetter had I spent it for a peppermint, he thought. Hecrumpled the aromatic paper into a ball and threw it to hissister. The girl caught it and smelled it. She dropped theball and stamp on it with the sole of a foot.“I think it did not drop here," the boy said, at lastgiving up hope.“I told you so," the little girl said, triumph in hervoice.“Where do you think it is?"“Where do you think you lost it?"“Come, help me."The boy turned from the corner of the court andbegan to walk the length and width of the playground inmeasured steps. The little girl trailed behind. "Somewherewithin this court my money lies," he kept repeating.“Ill give you a centavo if you find it," he saidwithout looking back.
“Two," the girl bargained.“All right, two, keep on looking."The boy was completely absorbed in his searchwhen the little girl cried out her brothers name. The boylooked back quickly to see what was the matter. The girlhad drawn away and was now running toward the enteblado,trying to catch a little bird. Immediately, the boy detoured ina wide arc, passing the girl and the bird. Fairly ahead hestopped, turned about and got ready. The two childrenfacing each other, began to walk slowly, carefully. Butbefore they could get close enough, the little bird hopped,skipped and flew out of their reach. It scampered away asfast as it could, screeching in fright. When it reached thebottom strand of the wire-fence, it crawled under and intothe yard of the barrio school teacher.‘Ill catch it yet," the boy said jubilantly. "Seeif I dont.”He climbed on one of the fence supports andstealthily jumped into the yard of the teacher. Inside, hestood a while and watched the little thing take refuge behindthe base of a big fallen mango tree. There it stopped andheld its brown little head high, looking about restlessly. Theboy ran and took cover among the branches and thick foliageof the tree. As the birdie hopped onto an upturned root, theboy knelt down the great trunk to the opposite side.Noiselessly, he worked with his elbows and knees throughthe opening between the trunk and the ground at the base.Head out, he waited a moment to catch his breath and thenlifted his head cautiously to see and make sure. The birdwas well within range. It was perched cozily on the root,
picking its downy sides, oblivious of the world about. Thelad held his breath, and in a second shot his hand outwardand caught the bird before it could escape.“Here I have it, Menang," he cried, dancing wildly.He held up his captive for the little girl to see. "Did notI tell you?"“Tie it," his sister said, clapping her hands indelight.“No need," he said. He looked down at the bird."You cant escape me now even if I let you loose. Go on andfly, Ill catch you still. Much bigger ones couldnt get awayfrom my sling shot."No sooner had he relaxed his grip then the birdiemade a desperate kick for freedom. But he had been readyfor this, and he dove after it and caught it before it could getfar.He held his prisoner tighter, "Rascal," he said.“You think youre smart, dont you?"“P----p, peep p-e-e-p." cried the little bird. Itpeeked the thumb of his captor repeatedly and rapidly. Butthe boy only laughed and urged his prey to go on peckinghim as hard as it could.“You think you can fool me? Ha, ha..! I tell youyoure much too little . Or are you a Huk? Ha, ha..! Im notafraid of a Huk."
The use of the word Huk gave way to a thought,through some strange association. In the mind of the boy,his coin had turned into a bird.He remembered his fathers story about a strange redbird that flew about the neighborhood in his grandfatherstime. There were few houses then. The bird would come attwilight and descend upon the road and walk about singingits dirge of song. People would encircle it, and when theythought they had caught it, it turned into a fish. Or into astone, deadwood, butterfly or even a boy. Misfortune befellthose who were cruel to it. But to those who let it free toroam about, it brought abundant rice harvest.The boy stroke the little bird with kind fingers,expecting to see it change any moment into a coin. But itwould not.“You are not my coin," he said impatiently,disgustedly. “You cant even be my pet. You are false."He held the bird tight, tighter. The bird cried inpain. "Why do you cry?" he said. "Ive not held you tightenough. Not yet."His mouth became a savage twist as he looked at thelittle thing in his hand. And then---and then his handsclosed. "Now."“Wait!" the girl cried.She ran and picked up the unmoving thing. It wasstill warm. She cupped it in her palm affectionately and
blew long and repeatedly inside. But the bird moved nomore.“Come on," the boy said.The little girl laid the bird on the same spot it hadfallen and crudely heaped some dry bamboo leaves upon it.“Come....He led her away.“Would you give five centavos for a bird?" he said.The little girl thought but did not answer.“Id not give two centavos for that one," he said.“It could not sing," she said.As one, the boy and the girl crawled out of the yardand headed once more to the basketball court.
DARK NIGHTSELANG TOOK HOLD of her basket and steppedtoward the stairs, Apung Juana, having told her regret,remained standing, her large figure filling the half-opened porch door. For a time neither of them spokeuntil Selang, finally giving up hope, started to go.“Yes,” Apung Juana said. "Your Apo Tiagomay be coming now from San Nicolas. If he bringssome rice Ill lend you what you need, why not?"Apung Juana was the last person Selang knewshe could turn to. She had gone around the barrio earlyin the day and found every one as much in need of riceas she. Here, she had thought, at Apung Juanas, shemight yet succeed. She had seen the old couplepounding a cavan of palay only the other day. Howcould the old woman lie to her now?Selang nodded as if believing.“Go now," the old woman said, ratherthoughtfully, before the rain overtakes you. It looks asif these rains will be longer than last years. Dont youthink so, Selang?"Looking up at the sky, the old woman lookedeven older than her years, deep furrows punctuating
her forehead. "Go now," she repeated, closing thedoor. "Ill let you know for sure."Selang could have reproached the old womanfor being so mean, but she controlled herself. Sheshuffled heavily down the stairs; not once did she lookback. At the gate she hesitated, as though somethingwas holding her back.But her pride was strong. She held the gateroughly, and, as roughly, pushed it shut after her.Why should people be so cruel, she thought.Why would not they understand?The rain began to fall as she got on the road. Itwas only four in the afternoon, but already it was darkall around. Instinctively, she looked up at the sky andfelt the rain with her palms. The rain was falling in bigdrops. She placed her basket on her head and lookedahead. Now she detested having to trudge again thethick clayey sediment left on the road by the flood twodays before.All the way home she thought of many thingsand became ever apprehensive. She knew thatcontinual rain meant either delay for the rice to ripen ,or rot; moreover, the rain had caused the sea water tobecome brown with mud from the land, and brownwater was not good for fishing.
And she thought of her husband at sea, of herchildren---of everything, until she could not bear tothink of it anymore.Her youngest child had wakened when Selangreached home. The boy cried complainingly to hismother as he saw her bob up the ladder. And thewoman, seeing the stamp of want and disappointmentin the face of her child, felt a sense of guilt.“Hush, child," she said. “You will only wakenyour sisters. Wait till your father comes. Hes bringingcrabs for you. Fat and big crabs."But the child would not be fooled by promisesany more. He had been promised many things that didnot come about. He had taken a half-bowlful of ricecrust with his sisters three hours ago and now he washungry again. He felt hungrier now that his mother hadreturned.He tugged at his mothers shirt and followed herabout the house, all the while demanding food. Hiscrying mingled with the sound of the rain, and to thetired Selang it sounded monotonous and annoying.“Dont be so hard-headed, child," Selang said."If I could get you something, wouldnt I bring it?Hale, tear my shirt, and see what you get."
The boy did not care what the mother had tosay. He continued to be ungovernable. At lengthSelang, growing impatient, snapped his hold from herrather briskly, shoving the child as she threatened tobeat him with her palm. He backed away but lookedbelligerently at her. By her threat, that to him wasunreasonable, the boy felt shamefully hurt; so thatbefore long he began to cry louder and louder. Then hedropped himself onto the bamboo floor and kickingprotestingly.“She said she would buy me something," hesaid, “and now theres nothing. Ill break the pot, eh! Illbreak the bowl eh!"“Child……"“Ha, Ill break everything."“Sigue. Break eveything. Break even yourneck, stubborn."Before Selang could lay hands on the child, hehad run to the kitchen where the drinking jar was andsmashed the only glass against the jar.“There!" he said challengingly. There! I saidId break it."Selang stood perplexed, unable to account forwhat had happened, because her mind refused to
believe that such thing was possible.All too suddenly, a wild lush to punish tookpossession of her. She grabbed the child by the handand dragged him to a corner where a buri broom hung.She snatched the broom and began beating the child.“Youll never understand," she said, trying tosubdue the child. "Youll never be good."The head of the broom left large welts on thearms and buttocks of the child. But not until he couldno longer writhe and cry in pain, not until the cryingended in difficult intakes of breath, did the mother putthe broom off her hand.She remained bent before the boy, waving ahand menacingly, even as she was cursing him soundly.There was nothing more she could do, and she sat downagainst the middle post---exhausted and nervous. Eventhen she continued to eye the boy angrily.But then she was weeping, weeping bitterly. Inan instant she was full of remorse. She gathered herchild to her lap and, as if to atone for everything,tenderly kissed him again and again.SELANG DID NOT care how long she had towait that night. All evening she had been awake---thinking. She imagined her husband coming pastmidnight with an empty stomach, bringing a poor
catch, if at all. The wind and the rain had been quitestrong.In the dark she stretched her hand to feel oncemore her children in sleep, only to be reminded againand again of Apung Juana. How she could almostblame her for everything.She finally rose up from the mat with resolvethat defied her conscience. She lit the oil lamp andpassed it over to her children to see that no one was outof the common blanket. She had succeeded in pattingthe boy to sleep but now he was wriggling again. Shetried but could not hold her eyes from welling tearsagain. At length she blew the lamp out and crawledtoward the ladder.Outside, she stood a while to look at the houseshuddled along the road bend. The rain had let up. Nowand then a sharp flash cut across the sky, piercing theblackness in one swift moment of light. Looking thus,she could perceive the house under the clumps ofbamboo dead still in the night. The darknessstimulated her resolve, and she felt relieved andreassured.It was difficult going on the muddy path that ledto the road. She slipped several times and each timefelt her joints crack under the impact. A few days agoshe could have run on so slippery a path without much