Sunday, October 2, 2011

Crab Mentality (Part 13)

June 8, 2010 (4pm)
   The weather was as good as it was on Monday.
   Kim guided Chalano out of the school, and into their usual route to their houses. There was a low, small platform beside the basketball court, and Kim let Chalano sit down on it to allow him to rest for a while. Kim demanded, “Now, tell me what happened to you.”
   Chalano blinked hard to remove his dizziness. He felt too weak to speak clearly. “I went to the back of the auditorium to speak to John.”
   “You shouldn’t have done that! You should’ve spoken to him at the cafeteria instead.”
   “He came with three of his friends, and he went to his car. I approached him to clarify what really happened at the canteen yesterday. He got offended, and said something that meant that I wanted to make him look bad to everyone. Then he reached into his car, and took a small pillow. He called me to the shade behind the auditorium, and accused me of planning a rebellion against him….”  
   "And then?" 
  “He put the pillow on me, and started beating me up,” Chalano leaned to hide his face from Kim, because he was actually beginning to cry. He tried to control his voice. “I tried to resist …. to escape …. but his friends pinned me against the wall …. They covered my mouth …. After beating me up, John forced me into a deal that I will never fight back, talk back, nor disagree with him again.”
   “Damn,” Kim growled, and suddenly kicked a stone from the ground. The stone flew to the wall of a nearby house, and broke into smaller stones. Kim was red with anger. “He had no reason to disturb us at the canteen yesterday. It was just that his inflated ego wouldn’t let go of the chance to power-trip. After messing up with us, covering up what he did, and attacking another student, no one should disagree with him? What the ----! What does he think of himself, a god?! What sort of a Student Council is it?! Oh, yeah, man, and all of us should bow down to him, and worship his pretty, little curls,” Kim sarcastically snapped his fingers. “What’s the future of youth with an example like him?! This only means rebellion!"
A group of girls were passing by. They were students of another school. They were already too near when Chalano saw them. He didn’t manage to tell Kim that other people were around.
Kim finally saw them. They gave him weird glances as they passed by. To them, Kim looked so crazy angrily making hand gestures, shouting, and being mad at someone who wasn’t even there. Kim suddenly became quiet, and avoided their glances. His posture became bent in embarrassment, but Chalano could see that he was breathing really deeply to control his anger. Then Chalano noticed a strange smell. His dizziness was gone, and he stood up to look around in an attempt to save Kim from the situation. Chalano asked, “What’s that smell?”
                Still red-faced, Kim looked at Chalano. His look said, Stupid you, you shouldn’t say something like that when girls are around, as if you want to insult them? His look expressed disagreement, but he said something else, “Huh?”
                “I smell something,” Chalano tried to adlib, ignoring Kim’s eyes. He really did smell something. It was an ugly smell. Chalano couldn’t decide exactly what it was. He turned toward the other side of Betsy Street, which was the extension of 10th Street. The houses there looked different. Something that used to be there wasn’t there anymore. Two houses were gone. Only the blackish firewall of one of them was left behind. The only word that he came up with was, “Burns.”
                “Oh, the fires,” he heard Kim say behind him in a calm voice. “Those houses got burned down last night. The fire began on number 42, and it moved to number 44. They were almost completely gone by the time that the fire trucks arrived. No bodies were found. The occupants were not home when the fires took place, but their relatives from Citrus Town said that they couldn’t find them. The residents of the two houses were proclaimed missing this morning. It was all over the news. There were lots of cars from the rescue and the media here last night.”
                Chalano remembered the noisy TV news when he woke up that morning, and how his mother was in such a bad mood. He turned to ask Kim, “You went out here last night?”
                “No. Mom said that it might be not safe. We just watched all the people from my bedroom window,” Kim answered.  “Wanna have a closer look? Let’s go.”
                They walked across Betsy Street, and approached the scene. There was no one around except them. The smell was so bad, that Chalano couldn’t keep from covering his nose. He didn’t wake up last night because he felt absolutely exhausted after his nightmare. It wasn’t just a smell of smoke, it was something else. The smell was more to the mind than to the nose. It was tragedy, death ….
The houses were almost completely gone. In his mind picture, Chalano imagined the fire being like the one in his nightmare last night. Only the lower parts of the cemented walls were left standing. Everything else in the properties were ash, even the bathrooms. The air still had some smoke in it. There was a police line around each of the property. He got an eerie feeling about how he dreamt of fire exactly before a nearby place went on fire. I need to know more about this. He wanted to look for something, but he didn’t know what he was looking for. He pulled the police line upward to pass under it so that he may get nearer to the ashes. “Chalano! Don’t do that! Somebody’s watching us,” Kim said in a hushed voice. Chalano suddenly let go of the police line, and looked around them. Frightened. A man in a black jacket was standing at Betsy Street. Maybe he just got disturbed by the noise that Kim had created at the basketball court, but Chalano had the feeling that the man had another reason for looking at them. Standing with his feet apart, he was tall and broad-shouldered, and he had a neat haircut. He had a high forehead, and his jaw was a bit square. His hands were in the pockets of his grey pants, and he wore grey loafers. His eyes were hidden in the deep shadows below his forehead, and Chalano couldn’t see them. His face had no expression at all. Chalano didn’t just feel guilty about being caught trying to slip under the police line, there was also something about the man’s gaze that sent chills crawling down Chalano’s spine. “Let’s go,” Kim said, sounding like he was also getting scared of the man.
 The two boys left, and walked toward the south. They were going to take a different route to their homes just to avoid the strange man. As they walked, Chalano tried to keep his head from turning to check if the man was still looking at them. He was certain that he was still watching the two of them. He wondered who the man was, and why he was looking at them like that. He also wondered why Kim was so quiet.
                It wasn’t normal for Kim to be so quiet. Chalano glanced at him, and noticed that he still looked very angry. Kim was still going red. Chalano realized that the noisy Kim that he went to school with every day was always happy, because he was actually eerily quiet when he was angry.
                10th Street led to another part of Lincoln Street. Chalano and Kim turned left at the intersection of 10th Street and Lincoln Street. Chalano’s house was just a few steps away. Seeing its tall, huge figure, Chalano suddenly didn’t want to go on. His mother would be waiting inside.  “Let’s go to your house first. I’ll leave you there, and then I’ll go on my own.”
                The two boys walked on. They were on the other side of the street from Chalano’s house as they passed by. Kim suddenly looked at Chalano, “Why?”
                Chalano couldn’t answer. They walked through the curve of Lincoln Street. Kim asked, “You have a problem at home?”
                Chalano abruptly stopped in front of an empty lot. He looked to the ground, and tried not to look at Kim. “I don’t know how to say this to you, but I plan to run away ….”
                “What?! What sort of thing did your mother do to you for you to run away?”                                          
                “I’m scared of her. She was mad at me this morning, and I just managed to go to school ‘cause I escaped from her.”
                “She was keeping you from going to school?”
                “No, she was just mad at me for making a bad remark about breakfast. I know that she isn’t finished with me yet. She might not forgive me for my remark, and she might not forgive me for leaving while she was talking. I’m just scared of her ….”
                “Don’t leave her. She’s all that is left of your family. Without her, what have you got? You may be a boy, but you’re still a kid,” Kim lectured. “Who would take care of you? What would John do once he learned that you’re no longer with your mother? Even if you were already a man, nothing in this world can replace a mother. You’d say that you can live on your own, that you can do your laundry, and you can earn income to survive. But no other person in your life will understand you for who you are, and look after you without asking for so much in return. One day, she will die, and she will be gone forever. She isn’t like an ink cartridge that you can replace. There is only one mother in your life. When she goes away, she cannot be replaced. So my advice is that you become her good son while she’s here. My family is quite huge. I have my sister, and I have Daddy, but all of us try to be good to Mommy.” Kim put his hands together, as if praying, “Tell her, ‘I’m very sorry, Mommy, for being rude this morning. I promise to do extra chores in exchange for my bad behavior.’ She will definitely forgive you. Do it.”
                Chalano didn’t want to hear more lectures, so he said, “Okay. I’ll go back home.”
                They walked to Kim’s house. Before Kim went to their garage, he walked to Chalano and whispered, “Inform me when John has done something bad to you again, okay? I ain’t done with him yet.”
                It sounded more like a scary threat than teenage bravado. Kim walked through the driveway, walked through the garage, and opened their door. He waved Chalano goodbye, and Chalano waved back. Chalano turned to the east, and breathed deeply. I will tell her that I’m sorry. I will set the table, or even clean the bathroom just to make her forgive me.
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