Saturday, May 26, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 29)

June 29, 2010 (2pm)
                Chalano walked through the forest. The sky was darker than it had been a few hours ago, and cold, strong breezes blew on the grasses. Chalalno mumbled, “Where are you?”
                Kim had not gone home yet, and everyone was away. Chalano had sneaked into the woods. A blue particle appeared in front of him. It kept growing, and it kept becoming brighter until it turned yellow. It grew into a huge ball fire. Master silently floated before Chalano.
                Chalano’s face bore no expression. The boy was still in a bit of shock. He stared at Master, and mumbled, “Why did it not work?”
                “Because you ate tuna. Tuna is seafood. Seafood belongs with water. The water element does not listen to anyone who eats seafood.”
                Chalano grimaced in frustration. He asked, “Why didn’t you tell me about this before today?”
                “Today is the first day that you ate tuna at noon. You never ate tuna in school before. You always ate tuna at home, and just before you slept, which took away its effect.”
                “I thought that you knew everything! Why didn’t you predict that I would eat tuna at school today? Why didn’t you warn me?”
                “I know, but I don’t predict.”
                “Yes, you KNOW! Why didn’t you tell me that you were making me fight my old friend and former leader, Cole? You knew that it was him, Master. I asked you knew who the arsonist was. You knew that it was him, but you didn’t tell me. WHY?!”
                “Because you’re scared of him. If you knew from the beginning that the arsonist was Cole, you could’ve locked yourself up in your home, refused to go to school, and refused to talk to anyone. Many people have capabilities that they never discover only because of their fears.”
                “Stop this crap,” Chalano angrily yelled. “My friend was murdered, all of my schoolmates almost got burned, and Cole is at large, but you’re still being philosophical about the whole thing! You are the only smart thing that I know who’s a LOSER!”
                Chalano angrily walked out of the woods. He wanted to keep cursing at Master because he was very mad, and he was very mad because he knew that Master was right.

                Chalano sat down on his favorite chair. His mother was in the kitchen, cooking. The day had started just like any other day, but it ended like no other. He just couldn’t figure out the order in which things had happened. The scenes in his memory were like scattered photographs, all messed up and confusing.
                After Cole had escaped, and all of the students and faculty members had ran to safety, Callon and other policemen rushed into the campus. Callon had taken Chalano to an empty classroom, and left him there. Some moments later, Callon had come back with another policeman. The policeman had asked Chalano lots of questions. Callon had warned Chalano that the media would ask Chalano more questions once he got out of the classroom. Callon had told him NEVER to reveal to the press that he was connected to the arsonist. Chalano had obeyed Callon, and he told the reporters only the things that he was allowed to say. After that, Chalano had walked home, and dropped by the woods in search for Master.
                Amidst all of those scenes, the sight of John kept flashing across his mind picture. Burning, dying … Chalano held his head, with his hands pressing on his temples. The flames faded, and left John’s ashes on the ground. Chalano’s eyes filled with tears. He squeezed his eyes shut. He just couldn’t get the sight of it out of his head.
                His thoughts were brought back to the present when he heard an unfamiliar sound in the kitchen. His mother was gone. Starting to panic, Chalano rushed to the kitchen. It was a narrow kitchen with counters and closets. The sound was coming from inside a huge pot on the stove. It was as if a living creature with many legs was crawling inside it. He picked up a pot holder, and reached for the pot. He lifted the lid. Crabs! His mother had been cooking crabs for dinner. They crawled about with their many legs in the water at the bottom of the pot. They began to panic as the water began to boil. Their eyes peered out of their shells as if staring up at him. Pleading for help. Pleading for their lives. They kept struggling to crawl out of the pot, but, every time one of them got near the top, the others pulled their companion back down.
                “Hey, Charlie,” his mother said as she walked into the kitchen from the back of their house. “We’re having crabs for dinner. Put the lid back down, please, because they might escape. They might cut your finger if they escaped.”
                “I’d like to ask something,” Chalano said as he kept looking at the panicking crabs. “Why do they keep pulling each other back to the boiling water?”
                “That’s the way crabs are. Other people have noticed that also. It’s the reason why somebody came up with the term, ‘crab mentality.’ The term was inspired by the behavior of crabs in a pot, but refers to humans in a society. Crab mentality is when members of a society keep their fellow members from becoming better than the rest. They ruin a scholar’s books, they make a pretty girl ugly, and they just keep pulling each other back down instead of helping each other out, just like the dying crabs.”
                Chalano put the lid back down. Just like the dying crabs, he thought. He and his mother sat at the dining table for a while. The crabs stopped making noise, and they were cooked. Later, as Chalano and his mother ate in silence, Chalano kept thinking about it. Just like the dying crabs.
                His mother had heard the news about what happened at his school. She didn’t force her son to talk about it because she could imagine how horrible it was for him. It was the reason why she had cooked something special that night. She wanted to cheer him up.
                Chalano broke the silence by asking, “Why did you cook them alive?”
                She carefully answered, “That’s how crabs are cooked. There’s no other way to cook them. I can’t kill them as if they’re fishes, because their shells are too hard.”
                The next question on Chalano’s mind was, Why did you buy them? But he kept his mouth shut because he could get the feeling that she was getting upset.
                She was alarmed by her son’s question. She realized that she had made a bad idea for dinner. Why did I cook them alive? He was right.
                Mother and son ate in silence again. Neither of them felt that the food was special as both of them thought of the creatures’ bad fate. After everything that had happened that day, Chalano was feeling numb. Also, watching his food die was so unappetizing. But he ate the crabs because his mother cooked them for him. He kept himself quiet so that she wouldn’t get mad at him again. She kept herself quiet so that he wouldn’t leave her again.
                That night, she brought the plates to the sink to wash them as Chalano walked upstairs to figure out if he could still manage to sleep. He used to dream that there was no school in June. Due to what happened at school, their classes had been cancelled. Happy? No.
                He walked into his dark bedroom, and sat down on his bed. He stared at the stars that were twinkling in the evening sky outside his window. Just like the dying crabs. He thought about it again. He was a bit relieved to know that somebody else had come up with the term, “crab mentality.” It made him feel like he wasn’t the only one. He had wanted to just forget about the gang. He had been trying so hard to get back up from crime. He had actually made it as far as fourth year. He had thought that he could move on. He had thought that he could change. But he was wrong. Cole was coming back in his life, pulling him down, pulling him down.
                He had lost a friend. Boys didn’t cry, but boys were humans. Humans cried. He kept staring at the stars as tears rolled down his cheeks. He couldn’t shake off the very bad feeling that Cole had left behind. He didn’t feel like writing about the arson anymore. He didn’t feel like joining the writing contest. He was just human. He was weak. The lonely boy quietly cried in the shadows of his room, where no one could see.
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