“You look suspicious.”
At the commercial rice granary, owned and operated by a naturalized Chinese who was married to his Filipina wife, people milled around the premises. Farmers’ wives waited for the proprietor to arrive, seeking quick loans for their husbands’ farm operations and inputs. Talking business with the boss was easier than going to a bank: less hassles with paperwork although confronted with higher interests. Such a situation was the norm not to be changed easily.
Stevedores came and went. A small contingent, assigned to milling operation, was substituted by another group who just arrived an hour ago from hauling palay. Another bunch readied themselves to ride another empty truck toward another farm where the thresher operation was completed.
“What did you say?” Ed asked, looking up to the small screen, watching a rerun of the video collection their boss provided them as their entertainment while waiting for their next job.
“Aren’t you tired of watching that?” Danny asked instead.
Ed, his head covered with a cloth, more or less a rag that was an old T-shirt he once used as a casual wear, winced at the query. From a distance he looked like a beggar: he could be described only as misery incarnate.
“No,” he replied as a matter of fact. “I ask you again, what did you say before that?”
“You look suspicious,” Danny repeated, his tall and hulking figure looked bigger inside the small hut.
“Do I look a criminal to you?” Ed asked, aggrieved for the unsavory depiction.
“I mean, the manner you look,” Danny explained, laughing. “You seem to look suspicious all the time.”
It was a common observation because Ed’s unceremonious arrival in this world was a genuine tearjerker to say the least. Born in an orphanage from a mother who lost her wits after having been taken advantage by a stranger, Ed and his mother was rescued by an uncle who searched for them in the city for several months. Undernourished as a baby, his early growth was stunted.
“That’s how I look so take it or leave it,” he replied, giving Danny a slight jab on the chest.
“Look natural like me,” Danny advised, combing his hair with his fingers. “I may be illiterate but I look intelligent enough.”
“Hah! Intelligent, my ass!” Ed retorted. “You can’t even count your earnings.”
Danny retracted back to his seat, dejected for the scathing remark.
As an orphan, he literally grew up in the granary. First as an errand boy till he reached the age when he was old enough to lift and carry a 50-kg sack of rice, he could not be blamed for not stepping inside a classroom. No one ever told him that schooling was important.
“Allen does that for me,” he replied meekly.
“Yeah, he sees double,” Ed grinned mischievously.
Without them noticing his arrival, Allen still patted his stomach after a hasty meal in the kitchen. His morning problem at home was resolved: food was always at a ready in the granary.
“Are you two talking against me behind my back?” he smirked, the toothpick still protruding from his unwashed mouth.
(to be continued)