From the Collection of Short Stories titled, Scream At Will (Copyright)
It was a heaven of a morning.
Noli sat outside and saw the sun’s rays finally penetrating the slowly dissipating clouds. Once in a while, he went inside via the kitchen door to check the casserole atop the firewood-fired stove.
The chicken tinola, a native delicacy with a colorless salty broth, slanted slices of immature papaya and young leaves of pepper plant, was almost ready. The delicious aroma permeated the air. Partnered with newly-cooked brown rice, the ensemble was the farmer’s breakfast.
Noli managed to check his hunger at bay. In a few more minutes, his stomach would be satiated. He had to make ready for a long hard day’s work.
While waiting, he surveyed the immediate surroundings. The backyard needed clearing: growth of tall grasses crept from the small creek ten feet away toward the hut’s bamboo-slats wall. During the past weeks, he wanted to cut them down but deferred every time. In a way, the grasses worked collectively as a natural protective barrier against thieves: no one in their right minds would enter from that side.
He was startled by the hard push of the front door. For sure, it was not a strong wind that blew it open. He ran around and investigated what the noise was about.
Reentering the kitchen, he was dismayed to discover the calamity before him.
The hulking figure of a manly beast, who notoriously possessed the worst manners in the village, owned the brute force that nearly wrecked the door. He was but menacing at all angles.
“That smells delicious,” Pato, whose alias was derived from the local word for duck, loudly mused, his greedy eyes were on the steaming dish. “I’m hungry!”
“I know,” Noli mumbled quietly.
There was no denying he loathed the invader from head to foot.
“Did you say something?” Pato’s tone was suspicious though he knew he was unwelcome. His aura of ferocity alienated him from almost everyone.
“I said I know you’re hungry because I saw you working early.” Noli did not want Pato angry: no one would ever try.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Pato beamed. If standing guard beside a grazing carabao could be called working, yes indeed, he was.
“Let’s eat,” Noli invited him halfheartedly, placing the plastic plates on the hardwood table.
He was on his way to wash his hands when he saw Pato grabbed the plate, took the serving spoon to scoop half the contents of the rice pot. The savage then handpicked the best meaty parts of the chicken into a deep bowl. With a tall glass in another hand, he dipped it into the casserole and filled it with steaming broth as if taking water from a deep well.
Noli could only watch the reckless behavior with horror. He entertained the idea that he could be better off being robbed by thieves than be visited daily by a famished duck.
Pato‘s dining antics were not unique at all though cannibals would look more civil compared to him.
Using both hands, which apparently he did not wash owing to the traces of dried mud visible on his wrists, his left held the meat while his right kept pushing rice to his mouth. Slurping the hot broth like a thirsty elephant, he was the perfect image of a glutton.
“Goodbye lunch,” Noli swore to himself, noting only several papaya slices swam with the chicken’s wings, head and feet.
No conversation was exchanged between them. Pato was too busy gorging his free meal without a tad of gratitude expressed toward the depressed cook.
Noli chewed his food like a boxer after a fight. Every action of his jaws was painful especially at the sight of the pig person in front of him. His hunger pangs left his system much earlier.
The ‘duck’ finished the ‘event’ with a long slurp of what was left of the broth in his bowl. Without leaving a word, he exited the hut, patting his pregnant stomach as if it would burst.
Noli could only follow him walking out with a murderous gaze.
– o –
(to be concluded)