Thursday, September 24, 2009


He lifted the kettle cover with a stick and the steam rose to the sooty grass thatch of his shack. It was a good sign for absence of evaporation. It means no rain.

The same place where he cooks his food is the same place where he sleeps although a little over here away a little from the fire pit. Simple and yet it was enough to be beautiful.

He held the kettle cover with a dead twig while his other hand pierced the yam to see if cooking is done. It was still a little bit hard in the middle but he calculated the remaining fire was enough to finish the cooking. He put the cover back softly clanging on contact.

He went out of his bamboo shack to tether his pig under a guava to grub for whatever bits of food in the soil. His goat had left ahead with only a short rope in the neck like they have the understanding that he doesn't wander far and come home on its own.

After a few minutes he was back inside his house with a banana leaf in his hand. He removed the kettle from the stone trivet and heated the banana leaf on the dying fire to debrittle it. He speared few pieces of the cooked yam and wrapped it with the leaf and put it in his basket. He reached for his harpoon and his working knife. He tied the scabbard cord round his waist like a belt.

He stepped out of his house and by habit looked up the sky for weather signs. And then he tried to locate his goat from the step of his door to worry whether he comes back after being away the whole day. He could not see his goat but nevertheless proceeded to head for his sea.

His sea is more than four kilometers from his home -- mountain home. After some few minutes of walk as he emerged from the banana trees that isn't his, lining beside the foot trail, his sea, still as water in a bucket, could already be seen. His sea is encouraging. It isn't foaming with waves that cannot wait to hit the shore. Sea streams of all sizes local people call anaw flow to all directions.

He leisurely shouldered his harpoon the way a soldier would to his rifle when leaving battle. His basket hangs by his back in the other end of his harpoon. As he got farther and farther he became more and more stranger to the people along the way.

He concealed his basket among the leaves of lambayong vines that grow on the sand. Nobody steals food like the kind that he have, not even the hungriest dog. Except pigs. Over his basket was his only shirt that tasted more perspiration than soap.

He walked to the sand where the waves kiss with breaking bubbles to end their long journey. He allowed one wave to have a taste of his ginger feet before he stepped on the water. His body hesitated immediate immersion but was not enough to deter the necessity of wasting no time. He began to wade. As soon as the water was waist-deep, he dipped his body down to his shoulder and slowly down to his nostril so as not to cut his body between the cold seawater and the chilling wind.

He began to swim now. A few more kicks of his feet deeper forward, he began to dive for fish.

Viewed from where he left his food, his head was just a flood debris, the silhouette of a freak kernel-less coconut aimlessly floating and drifting. Like an otter, he disappears for long seconds and back to being a flood debris again. He was at the right place, where the bottom rocks are and where the fishes shelter. But his dives had been unsuccessful. One fish got away when his harpoon hit a little below its dorsal fin. But most of the fishes were simply elusive.

His obstinacy was wearing and he suddenly became conscious of his hunger. He swam ashore. After a few kicks of his feet, his toes could touch the bottom sand. And then swim was not necessary anymore. He was wading. His sole stepped something hard he knew it wasn't a stone. He stopped wading. He lowered his body to squat position and his hand touched the object under one of his feet. It was a sardines can. He lifted the can to find out. Inside was an ugly baby stone fish with as ugly local name: bantol. He continued his walk, his hand holding the can opening to block the fish from wriggling out. His interest on the fish was limited to the fact that he has not caught any. It was more of a consolation to his failed stint among the bottom rocks than needing it as food.

He put it there. A rock weighted the can substituting the hand that is now busy with the yam. He walked to the water to flavor his yam with salt. Looking at the place in the sea where he dived, he took a bite of his yam. He dipped his yam again and took another bite as he walked back to his basket.

The longer his body was inactive the more he felt tiredness. At last he put on his shirt. He picked his harpoon and stood. He shouldered it hanging his basket by the other end in his back.

He picked up the sardines can, walked to the waves and threw the sardines can back in the water. Inside his mind he wanted a little torture, a little revenge. He's going home with his basket with the same content. The ugly stone fish got thrown out of the sardines can as it flew in the air landing separately back into the water. He looked long at the twin ripples created by the two objects as it overlapped each other until the ripples were gone. He wanted to linger a little bit more, to wonder if the ugly fish found its way back to the sardines can. But the sun is only a perlicue above the horizon now. He waded out of the water and began to walk for home

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