Saturday, August 6, 2011

Crab Mentality (Part 8)

June 7, 2010 3pm
   The weather was fair for the first day of school, because this time in the past years had always been rainy. The street of their school, 10th Street, intersected with Betsy Street and went on to the south. Chalano and Kim walked into Betsy Street.
   Betsy Street was short. A building in the middle of it divided it into two, narrow streets. This building was shared by a police station and a basketball court. The basketball court was on the western side, and the police station was on the eastern side. The structure was called Youth Council Hall. It was the place where Youth Council members like Chalano and Kim met to discuss topics about the welfare of the youth in their town, 2nd Project Town. John was also a Youth Council member, but he belonged to Citrus Town, which was the town of their school (the boundary between the two towns was on 10th Street). There were no people inside the basketball court, because it was a weekday; all of the kids were in school and the adults were in their offices. It was very quiet.
   As Betsy Street led to the east, it intersected with Lincoln Street. It was the main street. There was a waiting shed on the sidewalk on the right corner of the intersection. Chalano and Kim passed the police station, and walked into the waiting shed.  They had been quiet. "Well," Kim broke the silence. "You can still speak with Emma tomorrow."
   What a topic. "Maybe," Chalano said, gently scratching the back of his head in frustration, and feeling very uncomfortable with the thought of speaking to such a beautiful girl.
   They crossed to the other side of Lincoln Street. There was a line of identical apartments in front of the waiting shed. Kim lived in apartment A. It had two floors, a balcony, and a garage. One had to pass through the garage to enter the house because the garage was right in front of the house. The apartment wasn't huge, nor was it small. Kim's mother was the landlady.
   "Maybe there's some food in the fridge," Kim said as he walked to the gate of the garage. Then he paused, turned around, and asked, "Have you heard the rumors?"
   Then he grinned to himself, saying, "Oh. Here we go again with rumors."
   Standing near the driveway, Chalano asked, "What rumors?"
   "We heard a girl screaming at the back of our house at around 3am on Thursday the other week," Kim explained. "Our tenants said that they saw a fire. Mom ran outside to check, but she didn't see anything. I thought that I saw a flash, but I was so sleepy at the time; I'm not sure anymore. I looked out my window, but I didn't see anything. There was no fire. Everything seemed normal. Mom told me to stay inside. You know, she has good instincts. I don't know what it was that made her a bit scared. And the neighbors had been coming up with all sorts of stories about it."
   That was before I saw the "apparition" of a fire in my room at the beach. Chalano wanted to make sure. "You didn't see anything?"
   "We didn't see anyone, and we saw no fire. We saw some ashes later at dawn. They were on one spot on the ground a few meters away from our Tamarind trees. Mum saw them. It looked like a group of cardboard boxes had been burned on that spot."
   Chalano shrugged his shoulders to brush away the scary feeling that was beginning to creep in. He just had to conceal his fear. "Alright. Mother must be waiting for me. Got to go."
   Kim smiled. "Okay, bye."
   Chalano turned and walked toward Lincoln Street as Kim turned to walk into the garage. Chalano's house was just within walking distance along the same street to the south. Lincoln Street made a turn to the right ahead of him, and his house was on the right corner.
   It was a tall, two-storey house with a huge front yard. There was a wide garage to the right. An outdoor staircase led from the garage to the balcony on the second floor. There were lots of trees and plants around the house. Chalano stood beside a fortune tree as he knocked on the small, maroon gate.
   The huge front door of the house opened, and his mother peered out. She came out and opened the gate. "Finally. So how was school?"
   "John fought with Kim." Those were the first words that came out of his mouth. "He criticized Kim's race."
   "What? I thought that Kim and John were friends," his mother said, surprised.
   She was listening to him for a change, so he went on. "No, they were never close friends. This was the first time that they had a quarrel."
   They entered the front door, which was four meters away from the gate.
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