The structure, built entirely of recycled wood and hand-me-down tin roofing, stood farther apart from its closest neighbors. The main reason to its location was unclear although there was talk among those with itchy tongues that the members of the household acted stranger than the rest of the populace.

It was a funny house but not a funny house, as many tried to portray it.

“What time is it?” he yelled as soon as he opened his eyes.

No one answered. But there was already activity outside his room, which he shared with four of his younger brothers. They were out of bed, he surmised, seeing the daily chaos inside.

Still wearing his working clothes, unchanged because his drunkenness the night before was uncontrollable: he dropped like a log and slept like dead.

Unsteadily he rose up, the dizzy spell still present, the throbbing in his head constant, the hangover complete. With his right arm, he wiped the saliva off that dried on the periphery of his mouth. He was not a handsome sight.

Staggering toward the door, he opened it. What he saw made him frown.

“What are you doing?” he roared, looking like a lion that was disturbed of its royal sleep. “Turn that thing off!”

Like a quartet of meek sheep, his brothers discontinued their mild bedlam of a dance. It did not look like practice but simply jumping around, trying to enjoy the video without even knowing what was it all about.

“Have you eaten?” he asked, himself famished. He recalled a while back that he vomited on the way home, the contents of his stomach purely acidic.

“Yes,” the youngest replied. “But there’s nothing left in the kitchen.”

Allen, alias Duling, stared at them with rage. Yet, the same stare brought laughter to anyone looking at him.

“What’s funny?” he asked, controlling his violent thoughts. “You ate everything up and now you are laughing at me?”

Instantly, their grins vanished. With bowed heads, they seemed apologetic for not reserving some food for their eldest brother who helped feed them.

“Work outside! Clean the house! Do anything except gallivanting! I want this place in order when I come back tonight! Is that clear?”

“Mother does not order us what to do,” reasoned the second to the youngest.

“Yeah,” the other three chorused.

“Father and mother joined the harvest group. I am third in command, understand?”

Allen could see a mutiny brewing but it was so easy to break up. He knew his brothers’ weaknesses too well.

“Do what I say and I will bring meat later.”

They jumped for joy, the thought of better food excited them always. They hated dried fish, which was their daily fare.

Allen lost his foul mood. Even though they were a bunch of stubborn and hardheaded characters, they were his brothers.

“Here’s fifty pesos,” he offered. “Buy something for lunch.”

In a flash, the money on the palm of his hand disappeared. So were his brothers.

“I hope there’s still food in the granary,” he mumbled, leaving the house with yesterday’s clothes clinging to his muscular body.

(to be continued)



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