Fisherboy (2 of 11)
2Rivers February 16-22
A Story by Jonathan Aquino (2 of 11)
"My golly, you're so young!"
"I'll be sixteen in January!"
"It's only March so that's next year!"
"But I really need a job, ma'am," the boy implored. "Please, even for just a couple of days!"
"Hmmm." Maxima liked the boy. But for all she knew about him, he could have come from outer space. "Do you have an NBI Clearance?" she asked. "Biodata?"
"Don't worry, ma'am," Jay assured her. "You will hold the cashbox--"
"I like the sound of that!" Maxima said merrily. "Some people call this a portable plastic toilet!"
"I'll do everything!" promised Jay. "I'll carry the deliveries, I'll call the customers, clean the store, everything! You won't have to do anything except sit down and take the payments!"
"I'm now the Doña!" Maxima beamed. "It's me!"
She turned to Jay. "Alright, I'll take you - but! Only for one week, okay?"
"Gosh, thank you Aling Max!" the boy whooped happily.
I'm very lucky to be working for Aling Max, wrote Jay in his diary three days later. "She is super kind. She doesn't snoop about my personal life. But she always give me advice. She treats like a son than a houseboy.
"Jay," said Maxima the next night. "It's nearly 9 o'clock. We can close the store now."
"Shall I get more carrots tomorrow, Aling Max?" said Jay, starting to put up the plywood boards. "There's still a lot left."
"Not yet," replied Maxima. "My kumpare delivers to me every Sunday. He's from Bukidnoon, goes to Manila once a week.
"I don't have to get vegetables tomorrow?"
"We still have enough," said Maxima.
"Wait, Baguio beans, onions, yup! We'll just get them from my kumpare."
"Okay," said the boy. "Oh, by the way, Aling Max? I heard you talking with your niece on the phone earlier."
"Ah, yeah," said Maxima. "Iya will be arriving this Tuesday. She was asking what I want her to bring. I told her she doesn't have to bring me anything, just as long as she doesn't give me aggravation! Hehehe!
Jay laughed but still felt anxious. "Uh..."
"Oh, son, I know what you're thinking," consoled Maxima. "Actually, I've been asking around if anybody knows somebody who needs a houseboy or a stay-in helper. Don't worry," she promised. "I won't let you go back to the streets!"
That Sunday, Maxima was pleasantly surprised when one of her regular customers dropped by. "Oy, Mang Prudy!" she exclaimed."Long time no see!"
"Hello, Maxima!" smiled Prudy, who looks like Dolphy. "Well, you know my work, always back and forth from Manila to Bicol. Trip can be tiring!"
"Not only that!" declared Maxima. "I bet you're growing gills from all that fish you're delivering!"
"Perfect timing!" said Maxima proudly. "All the vegetables in front of you are all fresh! They just arrived today! What are you planning to eat? Pork sinigang? Beef nilaga? Chicken afritada?"
"Oh, dear, my doctor has ordered me to cut down on meat," said Prudy in a wistful tone. "Just give me all I need to make chopsuey! By the way," he added, "looks like you have a new assistant!"
"Oh, this is Jay!" smiled Maxima. "He's helping me until my niece arrives day after tomorrow!"
"From our province, Aparri."
"No, I meant Jay!"
"Ah! Well, Marikina! You don't happen to need an assistant delivery boy, do you, Mang Prudy?" Maxima asked hopefully.
"Well," said Prudy. "Matter of fact, I do!"
That's when I met Mang Pruding," Jay wrote in his diary that night. He's like Aling Max, fun to be with and not pretentious, even if they are already successful in life. They are very different from most people I've met. Thank you Father God!
Tuesday came along with Maxima's niece, Iya. It was time for Jay to leave, and Prudy was there to take him away to a new life.
"Jay, you be good, okay?" said a sniffling Maxima. "Don't let me down!"
"Promise, I won't!"
"You won't be good?!"
"Oh, Aling Max!"
"First time I saw Jay," Prudy told Maxima, "I already knew he's a good person. I'm very sharp in discerning character."
"You know, Mang Prudy," said Maxima, "I do believe that this boy will go a long way!"
"Farther than Bicol," Prudy deadpanned. "Well, Jay, ready to go?"
"I'm ready, Mang Prudy," he replied. He turned to the woman. "Aling Max..."
"Oy, oy, oy, don't you dare cry!" she warned jokingly. "I might cry too, and that will ruin my make-up!"
"Thank you," said Jay softly, laughing while holding back the tears. "Thank you..."
"Don't worry, Jay," Prudy assured him. "We'll always drop by here when we deliver fish."
"Oh, look, you made me cry!" wailed Maxima.
"Can't blame you, Maxima," said Pruding. "I feel it's very easy to love Jay."
"I don't understand it, Mang Pruding," said the crying Maxima. "Jay has been with me for only a few days but I've grown to love this little rascal! Come here boy, give me a hug! Okay, that's enough, I hate melodramas! Next time you visit, bring me some talakitok, okay? We'll cook it in coconut milk!"
Jay and Prudy rode a jeepney and got down in another part of the city.
"Let's eat at my friend's restaurant," said Pruding.
"What's this place, Mang Prudy," asked Jay, looking up at the elevated railway.
"This is Santa Cruz," replied Pruding, settling down at a table in one of the open air restaurants. "Those stairs lead up to LRT, Carriedo station."
"I've never rode the LRT," said the boy.
"I'll take you around the city one of these days."
"Just do everything I say."
"Everything, sir!" the boy promised. "Just say the word!"
"I'll remember that," Prudy said cryptically. "Hi, Wilson!"
" Prudy " greeted Wilson cheerfully. "Long time!" He looks like Tony Mabesa in Ploning.
"Wilson and I have been friends for a long time, Jay," Prudy told the boy.
"Good afternoon, sir!"
"Oh, polite!" Wilson exclaimed pleasantly, as if used to barbarians. "Not like the one you brought last time," he told Prudy.
"Wilson!" said Pruding in a tone that means, "Zip your trap!"
"Hi Jay," said Wilson pleasantly. "How old are you?"
"Ah," Wilson said triumphantly. "Well, anyway! Yeah, Prudy and I go a long way back. We were classmates at Sineng Kayumanggi in Mehan Garden!"
"What's that, sir?" Jay asked. "A school?"
"Oh, long story," said Prudy, changing the topic nonchalantly. "What do you want to eat, what's your favorite ulam?"
"I eat anything, sir," said Jay. "Oh!" a thought struck him. "Except ampalaya!"
"Taste my chopsuey, Jay," Wilson recommended. "And by the way, Mehan Garden is not a school!"
To Be Continued Next Saturday Night On The 2Rivers Saturday Evening Posts
(Photos courtesy of voodoochilli.net, entertainment.inquirer.net, fanpix.net)