Jukebox: A Short Novel By Jonathan Aquino (Part 4 of 7)
Dominga has singlehandedly raised Leandro since her husband and the boy's parents died on the same year. The interisland ferry they were riding in capsized during a freak storm when Leandro was fourteen. So Dominga, who looked like Anita Linda in Lola, was nearly out of her mind with worry as her beloved grandson hurriedly stuffed some clothes into a bag.
"Leandro!" she wailed. "Why do you have to go away? If you're the father, then you have to face your obligation to the child!"
"Grandma, I love Pinay!" Leandro said, his thoughts scattering into hundreds of directions. "As God is my witness, I want to marry her! But I'm afraid of what Juancho might do!"
"But he's like a brother to you!" Dominga reasoned. "You two have been inseparable since you were both children."
Leandro was almost crying. "I don't know what to do, Grandma!"
Dominga heard screams from outside. She went to the large windows to see people parting to give way to Juancho--who was carrying a sharp bolo.
"Leandro, you snake!" Juancho was shouting. "Come out here!"
An agitated crowd had formed, all buzzing like worker bees, keeping a safe distance from the menacing blade.
Dominga quicky turned to her grandson, who stood rooted in the middle of the room. "Go now, Leandro!" she told him. "Go out the back! Hurry!"
The young man was crying. "But what about you, Grandma?"
"Don't worry about me!" cried Dominga, almost pushing him away. "Save yourself, Leandro!"
There was no time for embraces, no time to say goodbyes. Only regrets and the pain of separation.
"I love you, Grandma!" said Leandro, tears running down his face as he picked the bag and slung it on his shoulders.
"I love you too, Grandson!" the old woman cried. "Go now! Quickly!"
Jo was devastated when she heard that Leandro had left. She lay in bed, inconsolable.
"Stop crying, Pinay," said a distraught Rosal, feeling her daugher's anguish but unable to reach out. "Forget about him!"
"But, Mother!" Jo cried. "I love Leandro!"
"He's worthless!" Rosal said vehemently even as she tenderly held Jo. "He's not for you!"
"He was a coward to have run away!"
The door banged open and Juanito entered, enveloped in wrath. "You slut!" he spat the words out.
"Juanito!" Rosal said indignantly, holding Jo to protect her.
Juanito jabbed his finger at her. "Don't you try defending that whore daughter yours, Rosal!"
"Father..." Jo tried to plead, but all she can do is cry.
"Do you know much shame you have brought into this family?!" Juanito shouted accusingly.
Jo kept crying, defeated, flinching at her father's every word.
"Tomorrow," declared Juanito. "you will marry Andong!"
The women were stunned.
"Andong, the son of Bebang?" said Rosal incredulously. "He's a no-good lazy drunk!"
"No, Father!" Jo was getting hysterical. "Please!"
"I will not let a bastard into my house!" Juanito shouted.
"Shut up!" Juanito shouted. "I've already decided!"
A lizard was crawling across the ceiling. The silence was broken by the sounds of struggling outside. The lizard scurried away as the door burst open.
"I told you to come inside!" Juanito shouted as he dragged Juancho into the house.
"Don't push me, Father!" the young man protested.
"Why, are you going to fight back?!" Juanito shouted, holding his son by the collar, nearly choking him. "Have you lost respect even for me?!"
"Let go of me, Father!" Juancho was crying. "I won't fight you!"
Rosal entered, panicking. "Stop it, Juanito!" she cried.
"I did not raise you just to go brawling on the street!" Juanito shouted as he pushed Juancho.
The young man fell on the floor, crying, furious but unable to fight back.
Rosal fell on her knees beside her son, cradling him. "Juanito," she pleaded, looking up at her husband.
"Do you know what that son of yours has been doing??" Juanito shouted at her. "Out there, brawling like a common street thug!"
"But they're the ones who started it, Father!" protested Juancho, crying."They're saying a lot of things about Pinay!"
Juanito let out a stream of profanity, kicking the table and the chairs. "I knew this would happen!" he shouted, picking up one of the rattan chairs and smashing it againts the wall. "Curse this wretched life!"
His wife and son can only cower in fear.
Night has fallen. Rosal was alone in the house, kneeling in front of the altar. An antique iron cross with an intricate figure of the crucified Christ stood beside a figure of a Santo Niño inside a large conch shell. Sampaguita garlands are draped on both of them, with improvised kerosene lamps from mayonnaise jars on both sides. A framed image of the Mother of Perpetual Help hangs on the wall above. The only sound was the madrigal of crickets. Rosal stood up quicky as she heard footsteps, making the sign of the cross mechanically. She hurried to the door. Juanito entered. Exhaustion has creased his face and drained his strength.
"Juanito!" Rosal demanded urgently. "Have you found Pinay?"
"We've searched the woods, the fields," Juanito sighed, sinking into a chair. "We've been to all her friends' houses." He shook his head, heavy with fatigue. "She's nowhere to be found!"
Rosal slowly sank to her knees, hugging her husband. "Oh, Juanito, where's our baby...?" she cried, her entire body shaking with anguish.
The door was nearly torn apart by Juancho.
"Father, Mother!" he shouted, breathless. "We found Pinay!" Suddenly he was crying. "I think she jumped off the cliff!"
(To Be Continued Next Week)
From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear
November 1, 2012. I had this dream. I was visiting a childhood friend, Greg, who was my best friend in high school and I even stayed at their house before moving to Northgate in Alabang, where I'm staying as I write this. In the dream, knew I was talking to him, then suddenly he was Fr. Jerry Orbos and we're discussing poetry and books by John Grisham. Instead of Greg's house in Moonwalk, Las Pinas, I was in the house of my Aunt Fe, one of the pillars in the parish community of Antipolo. Visitors came: my grandmother's cousins who are dead now in real ("real"?) life. I was talking to Lolo Pitoy (for Perfecto), who ran for Governor of Bicol in the 50s; suddenly, he was Ben Mercado, a veteran actor in radio dramas who played parts in some of my scripts for DZRH
Back to the waking world: In early 2012, I mustered up the courage to call and introduce myself to Salvador Royales, a living legend in radio scriptwriting whose Kapag Langit Ang Humatol became a movie and was revived recently as a TV soap series. I gave him sample scripts and that's how I started, doing Sa Kanyang Panahon, a one-episode half-hour weekday inspirational drama. I was under two directors: Bobby Cruz and Jun Martin Legaspi. Just last October, I've been assigned to Mr. Romantico, where an episode runs for a week, meaning: higher talent fee! I also met the great movie actress Luz Valdez, who was so pleasant in person, despite the vengeful bitches she brought to life on the screen. That's showbiz: don't believe everything you see and hear!
Photos courtesy of Abstract.DesktopNexus.com and BeyondHollywood.com