Saturday, March 31, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 22)

June 14, 2010 (8pm)
                There were clusters of stars in the night sky, and gentle breezes were blowing on the bushes near their car. Chalano wondered if Kim got to see the fire. He brought out his mobile phone, but he suddenly put it back into his pocket when he heard someone knocking on the car.
                “Good evening, ma’am,” a man’s voice greeted in a polite tone. The stranger was wearing a policeman’s uniform. He was standing next to the window that was beside the driver’s seat.
                “Good evening, sir,” Chalano’s mother politely replied as she opened the window.
                Chalano moved to the left to get a better view of the stranger’s face. It was Callon. “The fire was put out at 7:15, ma’am. All residents are now allowed to go back to their houses.”
                “Oh, thank God. Who do you think was behind those fires, sir? They seem to have become a trend,” Chalano’s mother said.
                “The police is still investigating it, ma’am,” Callon replied. “I will just escort you back to your house.” He went to the police car, which was parked nearby.
                The police car moved ahead of them, and their car followed. It felt so cool to have police escort; Chalano just wished that people didn’t think that they were under arrest.

                Chalano unlocked the gate, and opened it. He waited for his mother to drive the car into their garage. He glimpsed Callon going out of the police car, which Callon had parked in front of their house. Chalano looked at him. Callon smiled, and asked, “Are you okay?”
                Chalano still could not forget the night when Callon spoke to him about Coal. Chalano didn’t feel like talking with Callon. Just to not ignore him, Chalano replied, “I’m okay.”
                His mother walked out of the driveway. “Bring the bags upstairs. I’ll lock the gate,” she quietly ordered Chalano.
                Chalano left the gate as his mother approached Callon. Chalano wished that Callon wouldn’t tell his mother about Coal. Chalano carried the bags upstairs.
                He put the bags on his bed, and collected the pens and pencils from the floor. He placed the pencil holder with its contents on his desk, and took his books from his bag. He put all of his belongings back to where they used to be. And then he looked out of the window to spy on his mother and Callon. Too late. The police car was already moving away, and his mother had just closed their gate. He sat down on his bed, wishing that his mother wouldn’t punish him for being a member of Coal.
                She walked into his bedroom. She sat down beside him, and hugged him. “I’m glad that we’re home,” she said.
                And I’m glad that Callon didn’t tell you the truth, Chalano thought to himself. She kissed him on the forehead.
“Good night,” she said as she stood up, and walked out of his bedroom with her shoulder bag.
                “Good night, Mother,” he said after her. He walked to the door, and closed it. Yeah, I’m glad that we’re home.

June 15, 2010 (11:59am)
                Chalano had finished copying another article from the blackboard, but most of his classmates were not yet finished. He waited. Something seemed wrong with everyone in his classroom that day. They had been strangely quiet. Too quiet. Even John was very quiet.
                Chalano had taken a different route to school to avoid Kim that morning. Later, though, he regretted it because Kim had always been the source of the latest news, rumors, etc. Chalano wanted to know what was going on.
                “Have you heard?”
                It was Benny and Benjie, the twin brothers who were at the back of Row 2. Benjie’s question was followed by Benny’s reply, “Yeah, Rella’s next.”
                The brothers became quiet again.
                Rella? Rella was the muse of their class. Even though John was not the Escort, she had always been paired with John. Chalano looked at Row 3 in search for her. Her seat was empty. Next? He was very puzzled with what he heard.
                12:00pm. The school bell began to ring. Chalano lost sight of Kim in the moving crowd of students. Kim seemed to have avoided Chalano in the same way that Chalano had avoided him that morning. Chalano walked through the crowd in search for his friend. Kim had been getting the habit of spending lunchtime at the school library, so Chalano hurried upstairs to the library. There he is!
                Chalano ran after him. “Hey, Kim! Wait!”
                Kim stopped walking. “Oh! Chalano, I was looking for you this morning. Sorry, though. These are the only minutes that I have to review my Algebra. I’ve been doing very badly in it. I’m not like you.”
                Kim turned away, and continued walking to the library. Chalano tried to keep up with him. “Yeah, I never had a problem with Math. It’s not that it’s easy, it’s just like all of the other subjects. Maybe you should just relax, and treat it like a common task.”
                “I can’t relax. I must totally focus on it,” Kim said as they got closer to the door of the library. “I must leave you here, because talking is not allowed inside. Just meet me this afternoon after class.”
                “Before you go, I just want to know about something. What happened to Rella?”
                “Rella? She’s dead.”
                The word “dead” seemed to shut out all of the daily noises around Chalano. It echoed in the shocked silence of his consciousness. Even though he had simply said it, it seemed to have the same effect on Kim. “Dead”; the classmate who they had attended class with everyday. “Dead”; the pretty girl who most of the female students looked up to. They were quiet for some seconds.
                Chalano broke the silence by asking, “Are you sure?”
                “Her house got burned. They said that she was the only one who was inside during that time. She was never seen again.”
                “Did she live in Citrus?”
                “Yeah. The fires had been in our town in the past days, but it moved to Citrus Town. She was the first victim.”
                Chalano swallowed hard. He walked to the balcony, and stared blankly at the students below him. Kim followed him.
                “There have been rumors that it’s a very strong type of fire. They say that it completely burns all of the bones in a human body. It’s just a rumor because no such type of flammable chemical had been officially known before,” Kim said. “There are also rumors that it was just made to look like arson because it was actually kidnapping, or something like that. There’s still no official statement from the authorities about this matter, but all of the rumors have been scaring the residents of the towns around us. I think that this whole thing only helps to strengthen the bad image of people from our town. I mean, to the ones who believe John.”
                “Well, the arsonist has moved to his town, so I hope that he will be next.”
                Wide-eyed, Kim suddenly turned to Chalano. “What did you say?”
                Chalano looked back at Kim innocently. And then both of them laughed. Kim slapped Chalano’s back before he continued walking to the library, saying, “That’s the spirit!”
                Suppressing his own laughter, Chalano turned to go back downstairs.
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