“We interrupt this programming to bring you this breaking news!”
Mang Jun continued eating his late lunch, composed mainly of a small plate of cold rice, boiled eggs and a bowl of vegetable stew he bought a few minutes ago from the corner micro restaurant. To save on cooking, most in the neighborhood like him relied on ready-to-eat food.
On the rectangular table, an old transistor radio, at a low volume, joined a pitcher of water, a tall tumbler and a host of bottled condiments. A porcelain plate, facing down, was at its usual place at the other end.
Once in a while, he glanced at the empty plate, his mind tracing memories of the person who used to sit with him during meals.
The radio intermittently disturbed his reminiscence.
“Initial reports revealed that a group of local tourists are feared lost in the stormy sea. Their scheduled arrival was four hours ago, according to port officials, and there was no sign of their exact condition and whereabouts.
Coast guard sources revealed in a hasty press conference that they’re on their way to the probable site where the boat encountered difficulties. The names of the passengers are being withheld pending communication with their respective families.
Stay tuned in because we will broadcast an hour update about this tragic incident.”
Mang Jun reached for the volume control and turned the radio off. Good news were small drops in the bucket of bad tidings,
After washing the dishes, he decided to take a nap, a short one before an hour of watching Animal Planet on television. After that, he normally concluded his day without supper, a meal which was once his favorite during the early days but recently a non-essential to his diet.
Before he could lie down in the mattress-free bed, his cellular phone rang. Disinterested, he let it sounded till it stopped. His annoyance started when the ringing was repeated several times.
The idea of the nap dissipated: his attention was turned to the television. The program showed beaching whales dying on coastlines. The mammoth aquatic animals decided to end their lives that puzzled human understanding.
The ringing tone restarted again which reignited his irritation, this time merging with the program’s solemn background music. The entwined sound mimicked a funeral hymn.
On the fourth time, Mang Jun decided to answer. He wanted his quiet watching uninterrupted.
“Is this Harry’s father? This is the school principal. Hello?”
Mang Jun held the phone without responding. His calm breathing did not change,
“I am sorry to inform you that your son along with his companions are missing. Please come to the school as soon as possible so we could talk. Other families are already here, waiting for news of their loved one’s condition.”
Without hesitation, Mang Jun pressed the disconnect button.
All bad news, he thought bitterly.
– o –
The boat was at the mercy of the elements, its wooden structure was tested to the limits.
“I hope my father does not hear about this,” Harry shouted through the din.
“He’s worried like our families.” Tom assured him.
“No, you’re wrong!” Harry’s voice was emphatic. “He does not care!”
(to be continued)