Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lines to Remember 12 (The Devil's Own)

“The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God's children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the devil.”
H. L. Mencken

Ambo is an honest working man. He trudges to work everyday and ekes out a daily wage that just about covers all the expenses of the family for the day. Day after day he gathers his tools of trade and puts them in a roughly constructed box made of “palo china” wood salvaged from crates of automotive parts. Together with his tools, a packed lunch hurriedly put together by Lina, his wife, consisting of a half of dried fish; the side with the fish-bones. and a stewed red plump tomato was squeezed into the box. The boiled rice is packed separately in another clear plastic bag. With these in tow he would walk to the jobsite about a kilometer away from his house to earn another day’s wage. God seems to have designed a perfect routine for him that he uncomplainingly lives out for what seems to be an eternity of repetitions of the same livelong day.

His neighbors find him unenviable; instead, they admire the constancy by which he attends to his responsibility as the bread winner for his wife and Aurea, his daughter who just graduated from a med tech course. In her last semester she had to take on a job as a fast food crew to afford an expensive final term in school which included a lot of laboratory subjects and that she had to do an extra load to graduate within the semester. All these effort have paid off for her. She has just started working for a large pharmaceutical company as a med rep.

His neighbors knew that he was resigned to the penurious life he leads. Although he just has enough to get him through the day he remained cheerful and was grateful to whatever measly handouts a stingy Providence gave.
He was looked at as a friendly neighbor, someone who can extend his hand to a person or to the community when needed, however because he was poor, people did not bother him for assistance. In their neighborhood help will most of the time mean a financial dole out or borrowed money from a willing lender neither of which Ambo was capable of doing.

The people in the neighborhood consider him as God’s ward. Someone they can practice their charity on. And they felt good and self contented amongst themselves after having fulfilled such a praiseworthy Christian act. It was good to have a person like that. For as long as he remained wretched and innocuous he was a pitiful child of God needing their magnanimity.

The last few weeks have seen some palpable changes in Ambo’s life. Not big consequential ones but gradual and recognizable transformations. For the first time Ambo went to work wearing a collared shirt as compared to the white t-shirts with the names of hardware stores or other commercial establishments he wore everyday.

Aurea topped the monthly sales revenues of her division and was given a bonus, She bought her father the collared shirt which he wore that morning to work. Her mother was ecstatic upon seeing the nice yellow dress that she got for her and was happy to see the new curtains in the tiny room which served as bedroom and living room. The tattered old curtains hang conspicuously on the window sill in contrast to the bright and colorful newly draped ones. She was too distracted and agog to decide whether to throw them away or recycle them as rags.

For herself Aurea bought a new wardrobe set as any young lady would do upon having come into a minor windfall. She actually needed the new clothes. The pant suit that she wore to her product presentations was almost threadbare and was beginning to discolor and fade due to overuse.

The neighborhood was perplexed with what they were seeing. Ambo the other day in a brand new collared shirt, bright new curtains fluttering unabashedly in the breeze, Lina off to somewhere in a bright yellow dress and Aurea, looking so smart and lively in her colorful clothes. Even their clothesline which used to display the drabbest and the most ragged garments in the neighborhood now had put on a festive look, much like "banderitas" during a fiesta which waved proudly for all to see.

The busybodies and the wags in the tiny community had a field day of conjectures and speculations, the origins of which were dubious and in most part non-existent.

Was Ambo a member of the notorious gang of bank robbers who had a successful heist the other week in a bank two blocks away from their place? Lina must have scored a big one and was not caught in the buy bust operations launched by the narcotics agents last Saturday in the shabu “tiangge” beside the municipal hall. Aurea must have been having affairs with one or some of the prominent surgeons in the hospitals in her rota. How else could she afford all those new and pretty clothes.

The more “informed” of the group commented that they knew all along what Ambo and his family was up to but didn’t have concrete proof to denounce him. It has been more than two weeks now since the buzz started. It hasn’t died down yet and it seems that it will go on indefinitely. Each day a new tasty tidbit would be added to the mounting edifice of evidence and the talk will begin all over again with every rumor being recharged with new energy by the latest bit of scuttlebutt.

Most of them would recall the things that they have done for Ambo and now wished that they shouldn’t have been so gullible and charitable. They have no proof and yet they know it in their guts that Ambo and family have been miscreants all along.

“That Ambo, he is one son of a gun…” they would say.

No comments: