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[The following piece is for a storytelling session, requiring 3 voices, creative sound effects and audience participation. Members of the audience are assigned sounds and must pay attention when the sound description is called out or when the stage manager points and cues their entrance]

The Boy Who Wished He Was Deaf

It's hard to get anyone to believe me. But I tell you I saw the boy with my own eyes. So I'm telling you what happened way back when.....

The boy's name was Pepé. Say it! Say "Pepé". It was short for José. A common nickname for a common boy. He was . . . uh, about this high. He had a wide forehead, edged by shocking black hair and the most striking thing about him were his smiling eyes. I remember when he talked he made a funny whistling sound because his front tooth was missing.

Now, Pepé lived with his mother and father but most times after school, and during vacation, he stayed with his grandmother. His grandmother was called Lola. Say "Lola". Good. Before this story is over you will have learned some Tagalog. That's the language Pepé spoke. "Tah-gah-log."

Now, where was I? Oh, yes ...

In Barrio San Pedro, no one had a street address. If you happened to be passing by the town and you asked where Pepé's family lived, anyone would be able to point to his home.

Pepé ran errands for Lola who lived in a hut not far from where his own family's hut stood in Barrio San Pedro. In Barrio San Pedro, no one had a street address. If you happened to be passing by the town and you asked where Pepé's family lived, anyone would be able to point to his home.

"Who? Pepé, the son of Mang Jose? Oh, yes . . . their house is not far from here . . . Just walk on this side of the road and make a left after the sari-sari store with a Pepsi Cola sign. You will see the house opposite the big Sampaloc tree."

Sampaloc. That's a tree with a million tiny leaves that grows twenty feet high. No, fifty feet ! Sampaloc means tamarind. The fruits of the tree look like index fingers torn off a hand. Knuckled and firm when it's still green. Gnarled and brown when it's ripe and sweet. Can you say it? Sahm-pah-lock! Perfect. You are almost Filipino!

One day, after school, Pepé ran over to his Lola's hut. She had a special errand for him.

"I'm here, Lola."

"Come over here, Nonong, and help me get to my baul."

Hurriedly, Pepé helped his Lola as she ambled slowly to her trunk where she kept her herbs and medicinal roots. Pepé knew that someone needed Lola's help to cure them. Lola was known in those parts as a Cure All Woman whom everyone turned to when they were sick or in pain.

"Now listen carefully." Lola said as she leaned on Pepé's shoulder. "Ramoning's mother over at Barrio San Isidro is complaining of a bad stomach ache. I promised Ramoning this bag of special ginger roots. If his mother drinks the water boiled with these roots, her stomach pains will be gone in 3 days."

"Opo, Lola. I will run over and bring it to her!"

"Listen, Child, you must return before the sun goes down. Do not tarry about the edge of the forest, but take the long route where the major roads are. Are you listening to me?"

"Opo Lola. I promise to get home before dark."

"And, Iho, whatever sounds you hear coming from the forest, do not pay attention to them. No matter what you hear. The Inkanto who lives in the forest can sing sweeter than a young girl's voice..."

"I promise I won't listen to any singing."

"When the Inkanto throws a thunder bolt, don't stop and look for shade. It is his way to distract you."

"I promise I won't stop even if I hear the patter of raindrops."

"The Inkanto of the Forest is counting on sounds of every kind to lure you into the forest. If you understand that, son, you will not fall into the trap."

"I understand, Lola!"

Lola then put her hands on Pepé's head and mumbled her blessings invoking the saints and the Holy Virgin to accompany her grandson on his errand.

Pepé had been walking and running on the dusty road towards Barrio San Isidro for nearly an hour. Every once in a while, his eye would spot a tutubi resting on a tall weed, but he stopped himself from stalking the dragonfly mindful of his errand. He even saw a train of ladybugs that would have been perfect to add to his collection, but he turned away and ran faster carrying the cloth-bag of ginger roots for Ramoning's mother. The sun was high up in the sky, but not for long.

Pepé had just entered the forest pathways and the sun was streaming down through a lace of leaves. If he stayed on the road, it would take him longer to reach the other side of the forest. By cutting his way through the shrubs and through the trees, he made better time. He reminded himself that returning home he would take the long way home and avoid the edge of the forest.

[SOUND: baby wailing]

Just then, he thought he heard a faraway sound. Like a cry. A baby's insistent crying. Pepé stopped walking and looked around. Nothing. He walked a little faster following the old well-trodden path.

[SOUND: baby wailing]

There it was again. Pepé stopped and looked around. Did someone leave their child while picking fruits in the forest? Relieved by this thought, Pepé walked on.

There it was again. Pepé stopped and looked around. Did someone leave their child while picking fruits in the forest? Relieved by this thought, Pepé walked on. If a baby was crying, someone had to be nearby. After all, who would abandon a baby in this place?

Pepé paid no attention to the swishing of vines against his body. The crying had stopped. He could see ahead of him that the main road was visible. Just a hundred yards more and he would be out of the forest and not far from Barrio San Isidro. Then suddenly, the whimpering was close by. [SOUND: short whimpering] Pepé looked around. The crying had stopped but the sound was that of happy gurgling and laughing. [SOUND: gurgling baby] It was so close by. He had to find it.

Pepé felt he could almost see the baby if he went off the path a short distance from where he was. Jumping up and down to see if he could see above the tall grass and shrubbery, he caught sight of a white bundle at the base of a kamagong tree. It was the baby! He could see its tiny hand reaching up. Then it began to cry again. [SOUND: loud cry] Pepé approached the tree but with each stride, the tree seemed to move farther away, as if Pepé was running in place. The...sun...was...slowly...setting.

[SOUND: twanging on a mouth harp]

Uhaaaa-uhaaa, uhaaaa! The baby's wailing grew stronger. Pepé reached the tree and snatched up the bundle. The crying stopped.

"I can't leave you here." Pepé cooed lovingly to the infant. The baby's eyes were crinkled in tears and when it looked up at Pepé, it stopped crying and reached up with its tiny curled fingers as if to give him a welcoming embrace.

Pepe watched the sun dip into the horizon spilling into a slow spread of fiery red. Dropping the bag of ginger on the ground, Pepé held the bundle carefully in the crook of his arm, and ran past the shrubs and to the main path in the woods. Only a hundred yards or so and he would be out of the forest.

[SOUND: upbeat tempo of mouth harp and slow drumming]

But many a fallen log barred his way, causing him to shorten his strides. The thorns from the bushes ahead were thicker so he had to circle the path and made the hundred yards multiply by half. The baby was getting heavier but its quiet breathing assured Pepé that it was fast asleep. He had covered the baby's face with the blanket to protect it from the swaying sprig of thorns and dead branches. But the baby kept getting heavier. The sight of the main road and the lamp posts lit up reassured him he was near. A matter of a few more yards.

[SOUNDS continue louder]

Pepé was panting out of breath. He wasn't even running. The path was clear and his footsteps on the twigs made crackling sounds, but he couldn't move any faster. The sun was about to set. Pepé felt as though he was carrying a basket of rocks pulling at his arm! But the baby was sleeping soundly. At one point, he thought he would collapse.

[SILENCE]

He looked down at the bundle illumined by the light of the lamp post and saw a dark spread of blood on his shirt and over the blanketed infant.

He had come to the edge of the forest and was about to jump over the shallow canal and on to the paved road when he felt a tear on his side! He looked down at the bundle illumined by the light of the lamp post and saw a dark spread of blood on his shirt and over the blanketed infant.

Pepé's knees gave way and he screamed and clutched his side throwing the bundle down! Half of his left chest was torn away and his hand was sticky with blood as he clutched himself. He looked at the bundle and before he fainted, he heard a loud cackling laughter. As his eyelids closed, he heard the satisfied smacking of wet lips and the sound of wings fluttering, flapping the blanket loose. He opened his eyes. In the blur, he saw THE CREATURE speeding away against the night sky.

[SOUND: loud cackling and wings fluttering]

Pepé is alive. But half of his chest is scarred so deep, his left arm exposes a space on his body no one wants to look at or even talk about. Hey, I know about this! Because I've seen him as he walks the dusty roads of Barrio San Pedro wishing he had been deaf to all the sounds in the world.

© QBd Ink

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