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Saturday, June 11, 2011

SUGGESTED READING





1. The nurse always came to him at two in the morning. Pohl Valerio knew because the nurse told him. "It's two o'clock," the nurse would always say, "time for your medicine."
Pohl's medicine was a big, bright, blue pill and a bowl of mashed meat, beef or pork he didn't know. The pill was bitter and the mashed meat was sour, but two years of cancer had taught Pohl that a bad taste in the mouth was better than the feeling of his bones breaking inside his flesh.
The nurse would spoon-feed him, like his mother did. After he finished the mashed meat, the nurse would hand him the pill and a glass of water.
Pohl might have thought that the nurse was a hallucination who always visited him when Pohl's mother couldn't sleep over at the hospital. But the nurse appeared in the daytime too, and talked to the doctor and the other nurses, and to Pohl's mother and sister or whoever was staying with him or visiting him. Still, it was a mystery to Pohl why the nurse never came when his mother did sleep over.
Most of the time Pohl couldn't speak, mainly because his throat hurt, but also because he didn't have anything to say. He had been confined in the hospital for two months now, and he didn't have the strength to read, or retain whatever thought the television stimulated in his brain. His mother and sister and his visitors, they talked for hours and hours, and didn't ask Pohl to talk back. But the nurse, the nurse was always asking him questions. Mostly inanities, like "How are you?" or "Feeling good today?" The nurse delivered these questions while feeding Pohl, smiling all the while, flashing his big choppers, his huge black eyes glinting.
The nurse was a bright light in Pohl's day, and after eating his meat and tossing the pill down his throat, Pohl always felt better. There were times when the pain in his bones was so bad Pohl prayed that his mother be given more work in school, so she wouldn't be able to sleep over, and the nurse could come with his medicine. These prayers were always answered.
Pohl wanted to talk to the nurse. He saved his strength, saved his voice. He eavesdropped on the nurse's conversation with the doctor and the other nurses and Pohl's mother and sister and whoever was visiting him that day, so he would know what topic of conversation the man was interested in. But they were always just exchanging pleasantries, talking about the weather, or traffic. And some goddam thing everybody was calling EDSA 3. Was it a new road? Was there an EDSA 2 already?
The cancer ate away at his memory, too, he knew, but what frustrated him no end was that he couldn't even catch the nurse's name. So finally Pohl decided to just introduce himself.
On the twenty-second day of the third month of his confinement, Pohl said to the nurse, as soon as the man arrived, before he could place the tray with the glass of water and the pill and the bowl of mashed meat on the table beside Pohl's bed, "My name is Pohl."
"It's two o'clock," the nurse said, "time for your medicine."
"That's p-o-h-l, not p-a-u-l."
"You feeling okay today?" the nurse asked, teeth and eyes bright, pulling a chair to sit beside the bed.
"I was named after the science fiction writer."
"Open wide," the nurse said, spooning a hill of mashed meat from the bowl.
"What is," Pohl said, "what is your name?"
"Let this one in," the nurse said, "and I'll tell you."
Pohl swooped down on the spoon. The sour meat made him salivate. He was feeling particularly strong that day and nodded, so the man would keep up his end of the bargain.
"My name is JR."
Pohl swallowed. "Because you're a Junior?"
"One more first." It was a mountain of meat this time.
Pohl did as he was told.
"Actually I was named after a fictional character. John Rambo. You know, Stallone, First Blood?"
Pohl shook his head. It had taken him more than two months to notice the nurse's dimples.
"It's just as well. Listen, you have to finish this quickly today." The bowl was still half full. "I have run into some problems."
Problems? What problems? "One last request. Please."
The man bit his lower lip. "Very well. What is it?"
"You," Pohl said, "you have to ask me a question."
The nurse nodded. "Interesting." He tapped the bowl with the spoon. "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Pohl stared at him. Was this a joke? Was the nurse mocking him? But he decided that all those days of feeding him were not the actions of a man of cruelty. He answered, repressing his anger, "I'm already grown up."
The nurse shook his head. "You're 17. You have years ahead of you." It was a bright face. The man had a bright face.
"I want to be a doctor. Like my father was." Pohl sighed. His father had died of lung cancer.
The nurse nodded. He raised the bowl of mashed meat. "Then a doctor you shall be." Eyes bright, he said, "Soon you will be in your rightful place."

2. Four years before his recovery, when he still had pretensions of wanting to be a novelist, four years before he moved from Journalism to Biology, his mother was always telling him to go to bars. "See people," she would say, "listen to them. Feel their rhythm, feel them vibrate in their natural habitat." Eight years after his recovery, twelve years after his awful first year in college, nine years after his one and only, and failed, attempt to go to a bar, here he was, a doctor, actually inside a bar.
Everybody smoked. A couple was kissing by a piano and the walls were dominated by a series of eye paintings. Dr. Valerio tugged on his shirt collar. He smelled vomit, hair spray, pineapple. Sometimes he hated having heightened senses.
He was on a date, with a woman he had gone out with during high school. They had shared dreams of literary awards and book launches. She had taken her undergraduate studies abroad and now had a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. They had reconnected a month ago, via Friendster. The website that just a few weeks ago announced it was shutting down. She taught at what she called the "University for the Rich and Stupid." She had asked him out.
She wore a Che shirt and a Mao hat, and her two front teeth were as wide apart as Madonna's. When she spoke she also whistled.
Her name was Peñafrancia Purificacion. Friends called her France.
They sat at a corner table for four, under a three-eye painting. "So," she shouted (the live band was playing "Bohemian Rhapsody"), "seen any good patients lately?"
Dr. Valerio smiled and gestured to a waitress. "Do you have a screw," he said, "a screwdriver?"
The waitress nodded.
"What'll you have?" he asked France.
"Order for me," she said, standing up. "I have to pee."
"She'll have a," he said to the waitress, "she'll have a vodka. A bottle of vodka."
"Sir?"
Dr. Valerio's smile faded. "Just a glass, please." She watched the waitress's behind wiggle away. At the counter, he saw what looked to be the bar manager grab her chest. He was a thin man, tall, with long hair, and a goatee that curled at the end.
Dr. Valerio shook his head and looked away. He reviewed the roads they had taken. They were at the Kamuning Road. All he had to do was go straight, then right at Anonas, then left into Aurora's traffic. Once through that it was another straight through Marcos Highway and then right to whatever street in Marikina her apartment was. He'd open the door for her, walk her to the gate, and go back to his car. The night had been a disaster since he’d picked her up at the University. He had seen her smoking with a student.
He hated smokers.
The waitress came back before France did. Dr. Valerio took a sip of his drink. It tasted like orange. He hated how it was his taste that hadn’t changed. He could detail the contents of a vomit by smell, see sixteen different shades of purple, listen to whispers shared by the couple by the piano, but he couldn’t tell the difference between oranges and lemons. His sense of touch was even worse. To him, everything felt rough.
He had never actually drunk a screwdriver before. He had learned of it in an episode of Frasier and had sworn that if ever someone asked him what he’d like to drink, it was what he would order. The only thing he’d ever drunk was red wine. He took another sip. It wasn't so bad. He tried to remember what twist of fate had brought him to this hellmouth. He recalled being excited when he saw her invitation to be a friend. And his heart had raced the first time they ymed. But he should have known through her Multiply page that she wasn't his type (and that he wasn't hers!). Her blog had been filled with photos of cats and video clips from French and Italian films, and her reviews were absolutely cruel. She made fun of local stars (Sarah Geronimo was a frequent target, especially her gloves), of other writers (the names of whom Dr. Valerio didn't recognize, he just knew they were Filipino because their works had been published by UST and, um, Ateneo), of politicians (another sore point, Dr. Valerio hated politics), and most of all of nurses.
But his mother was always asking him about his love life, always telling him that with his sister dead he was her only hope for a grandchild. So when France asked him out, he thought, why the hell not? It wasn’t like she was going to get him killed or anything, right? Right?
As soon as she sat down she downed her vodka. "Great place, yeah?" Her hair was a mess.
"Where is," he asked, "where's your cap?"
She touched her head. "What? Are you drunk?" She touched his arm. "Order me another drink, will you?"
He gestured to a waiter. His mind was made up. He was going to excuse himself, pretend to go to the comfort room and then head for the parking lot. The only thing to decide was how he was going to pay for the drinks. Dr. Valerio fished out his wallet.
When the waiter came she touched his arm. "Ma'am, Sir?"
He looked up from his wallet and saw his smile. His face was a searchlight in the fog of cigarette smoke. Seven years later and Dr. Valerio recognized the bright eyes and teeth. "She'll have a," he said, "she'll have another vodka. A bottle, please." Should he ask for lemon? Didn't vodka go with lemon? Or was that gin?
The waiter nodded. "Anything else, Sir?"
He didn't recognize him! No! "Do you have," Dr. Valerio said, "do you have any meat?"
The waiter just stared at him. Then, after a few seconds, raised his eyebrows and said, "Crispy pata, Sir?"
They served crispy pata at bars? Where the hell was he? "Yes, yes, that will do."
The waiter left. Dr. Valerio watched his behind wiggle across the bar. He turned to face France. "Excuse me," he said, standing up.
"Come back quick," she said, then added, whispering, "or not."
Dr. Valerio nodded. He headed for the comfort room.
He heard the mutter pierce through the band's shrieks of "Mama Mia." He kicked the comfort room's door open. And there was the waiter, the nurse with the smile, kneeling beside the bleeding body of the tall, thin man he thought was the bar's manager.
"Pohl!" JR said. "Don't just stand there. Be a good apprentice and help me carry the corpse!"

3. Dr. Valerio edged his Volkswagen into the parking garage. From the corner of his eye he saw JR, just sitting beside him, staring straight ahead, his face an ironed blanket. No, there wasn't a dead man in his trunk. They were in the basement of a motel, that was all. He wasn't an accessory to a murder. He wasn't a witness to a murder. There was no murder. The security guard was waving them in. They were going to fuck, that's all. There was no fucking body in his trunk.
At the lobby he sat on a corner couch while JR paid for their stay. He had been to this motel. Twice with a woman. Many times with a man. Once, alone. He found the personnel less annoying than the average member of the service sector. He jumped when JR gestured to him. He shoved JR aside and ran to the elevator.
At the room he lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling mirror. He didn't like his face. He was balding, and he had a big nose. Big nostrils, his mother said, an evolutionary advantage, to better fight against drowning, asthma, and assassins with pillows.
JR lay beside him. "How have you been, Pohl?"
Dr. Valerio sniffed. "I told you in the car, don't call me that."
JR's hand found his. "You really want to be called Doctor?"
"It's what I am."
"It's not who you are."
"Then call me Dr. Valerio." He slapped the hand away.
"Sure, but you have to call me Nurse Sagaray."
"You're not a nurse. And you're last name isn't Sagaray. It's Arturo. I know. I checked."
"Always a journalist. But if you knew my last name, why didn't you search for me? There's Google. Facebook."
"You don't have a Friendster account."
JR smiled. "I guess it's my fault then." He flipped to his right, his nose touched Dr. Valerio's ear. "You'll call me Nurse Arturo then?"
"You're not a nurse, at least not anymore. You're a murderer."
"I am so a nurse. And is being a murderer so bad if I only kill people like my sexual harasser of a boss?"
"If he committed a crime, he should have been sued. Not shot." He felt a tongue on his cheek.
"Doctor, Doctor. I keep forgetting, you were bed-ridden during the second and third EDSA. If justice doesn't work, you make it work, Doctor. And I didn’t shoot him, I stabbed him."
"So what are you, a vigilante?"
JR kissed him. "A superhero, more. You'll see."
"All I see is a murderer. And I'm not going to see much of him anymore. I'm taking you to the police." Dr. Valerio stood up. "Get your pants on, I'm sure they'll show you mercy if you surrender on your own."
"Mercy? The Philippine National Police? Didn't my meat cure you? I didn't know the cancer took your brains."
Dr. Valerio spat. "Your meat. All it did was mess with my ears. And my eyes. And my nose. It's taking so much fucking effort just to not smell your precum. How did it do this to me? What the hell was it, anyway?"
"It was a gift. That also messed up your taste. And now, you're going to eat--"
"It didn't."
JR had one leg out of his briefs. "What?"
"Just the ears, eyes, nose. My skin, my tongue, they weren't enhanced."
"No, no." JR put his briefs back on. He picked his pants off the floor. "We have to go to your car. You have to eat--"
"I won't eat any more of your meat!"
"Don't be a fool, I know you understand. The meat, it's the source of your… advantages."
"I don't want advantages."
"You don't understand. I didn't give you enough. You’re the next in line, you must live. But your cancer--it's still alive."

4. Dr. Valerio looked at his watch. It was time.
He walked through the corridors with his head bowed, his hands balancing the tray. With his behind he opened the door.
He shook the child's shoulders, gently.
She opened her eyes, blinked a few times. "Doctor?"
"It's three o'clock. Time for your medicine."

philippinesfreepress.com.ph
June 11, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Triple Double



"Dr. Heruela."
Ciracio didn't reply. He knew speaking would just encourage Dr. Gumeganal, and he didn't want to talk shop. Not right now. His favorite student had been thrown out of a black van in front of the College of Arts and Sciences this morning. Naked, covered with sperm--or so eyewitnesses claimed. He was at a class when Ciracio first heard. He was so angry he smashed the broken aircon with his chair. "It's too cold. Too cold," he told his students. Then he left the room, a full forty five minutes before dismissal.
Tyrone was one of the Academy's brightest students, Ciracio loved him like a son.
"Imagine, one of the most promising young men here at Plato's--violated. What is the world coming to?"
Ciracio just grunted. He and Dr. Gumeganal entered the elevator. "Ninth floor," he told the computer, "patient #1982, Decena, Tyrone Bede."
The elevator made a ding, and some fifty seconds later Ciracio was beside his star pupil's bed.
"Patient's status?" Dr. Gumeganal asked the computer.
"Patient suffered severe trauma to the anus and--"
"Cancel that!" Ciracio gripped the bed's leg. "Cancel it." He found a folding chair and sat, wishing he could smash it against his Department Head's head. "Bathala's bones, Angelo. You received the email, didn't you?"
Dr. Gumeganal shrugged. "I just wanted to see if his condition has changed." The man produced a comb and proceeded to groom his gray beard.
"Sit down, please."
Dr. Gumeganal sat.
Ciracio closed his eyes and breathed a prayer. Being older than one's superior had its benefits. Dr. Gumeganal usually followed his orders. Usually. He opened his eyes and glanced at Tyrone's face. He looked away. He couldn't stand to look at the bubble filled with sperm in the middle of the young man's forehead. The criminals had used complicated splicing techniques, the email said, and the computers have not found a way to free Tyrone's face without disfiguring it.
Ciracio rubbed his eyes, then massaged his ears. He turned to Dr. Gumeganal. "What did the police email you?"
"Oh, and we're on speaking terms again?"
"Just tell me what I want to know."
"What, no swearing this time?"
"Bathala's balls, Angelo!"
Dr. Gumeganal held his hands up, laughing. "If you were teaching for the Lazaruses, you'd be fired for your blasphemy."
"Fortunately I work for Plato's, so you will tell me what I want to know."
Comb continued caressing gray beard. "You probably know all of this, I do believe you receive hourly updates in you vidphone?"
"National level, no local. I never thought anything wrong would happen here in Laguna."
"Not surprising, you're a Lagunae, after all. Very well, listen: Tyrone was kidnapped around five in the afternoon last Friday. He was going home to his boarding house from a beercaine party.  He didn't have exams this week, it seems, and told friends he was catching a bullet train to Nueva Ecija. For some strange reason, he walked to his boarding house instead of hailing a--"
"What kind of beer?"
"Pascual's, if I hear right."
"And the cocaine?"
"Llanes." Dr. Gumeganal smacked his lips. "Only the best for the best, it seems."
Ciracio rubbed his eyes. "He was walking to the boarding house, then?"
"The van presumably swooped from on high. There were no witnesses. At least, none has been found yet. But there are suspects."
Swooped from on high! Not even legal and already causing so much trouble! Ciracio's eyes wandered towards Tyrone's face, then darted away. "Who?"
"Have your national news updates ever mentioned the group Daughters of Sodom?"
Ciracio gripped the bed's leg once more. He nodded. "Vigilantes. They claim to be part of the Feminist Army, but the Revolution's leaders have officially condemned their practices."
Dr. Gumeganal licked his lips. "Apparently, Tyrone and a suspected member were involved in an Internet bar altercation about a month ago. Threats were exchanged. This particular member--"
"Male?"
A nod. "This particular member accused Tyrone of sexual harassment, as well as rape. His sister. Or is it the brother of a fellow member?"
Ciracio wished he could smash Tyrone's bed against Dr. Gumeganal's face. "This is revenge?"
"I believe their word for it is justice."
Ciracio turned away from Dr. Gumeganal. He pulled his chair closer to the bed and stared at the bubble of sperm on Tyrone's forehead.

2. Forty two years an abortionist this coming April, Dr. Ciracio Heruela was recruited into the Feminist Army after only a decade of secret service. He was initiated by one of the Army's most promising Colonels, now a General, and in public was the Academy Rector: Candy Mabuti, aka Sister Sweet.
It was to Sister Sweet's house that Ciracio walked after he left Tyrone at the hospital, around six in the evening. He walked not just to eliminate his anxiety, but because he believed the walkators promoted sloth and did damage to the state of Philippine physical fitness. This belief he shared with Tyrone. The younger man’s mistrust of busses though…
Ciracio smelt of sweat when he reached the Rector's home, which sat on top of Golgo Hill, ten kilometers southeast of the Academy's center. "Candy," he said to the gate cameras, "it's Sir, we need to talk."
The gates opened.
It took Ciracio thirty more minutes to reach the door, which thankfully was open. He headed straight to the library. He found a cup of steaming coffee waiting for him, as well as cookies. He sat on the sofa and surveyed the room. Candy must have added a book shelf, because the library looked smaller. Ciracio felt hot. He took off his barong and took out a handkerchief, wiping his face.
He took a sip of the coffee. It scalded his tongue. He took a cookie and bit. A piece broke loose and stabbed his gums. He got up and tried to search for the brand new shelf.
He found it. It was full of books from Canada. There was a club in the Academy, the Organization of Mystics and Goddesses, who claimed that Nostradamus predicted Canada would disappear from the face of the earth in the next decade. Foolish kids. Holy Jesus triumphant, Tyrone, why couldn't you have just joined them? Better a freak than a...
Ciracio slid a shelf door open. He took a volume out, stroked its gold letterings.  Vulgar Marxism: Erotica from the Soviet Union. Canadians! They haven't been the same since Quebec achieved independence!
And the Philippines? When will it achieve independence? Independence from whom? Both sides were self-righteous, both murderous. The Feminist Army was 60,000 members strong, but leaders claimed the Revolution in the cities was still untenable. There was a steady supply of videos condemning the "dictator" Bonifacio, though. He cut the book in half and read the right page's first sentence out loud: "The colour of democracy--"
"Sir?"
Ciracio dropped the book. He turned around and saw Candy, spartan in her jogging pants and sando. "Candy, I need information."
"It's good that we're in a library, then." She gestured to the sofa and sat down.
Ciracio remained standing. "No jokes, Rector. A crime was committed today, against the Academy and against the Revolution."
"Hey, did you drink my coffee?"
"What? No! Stop changing the subject, Tyrone--"
"And you took one of the cookies! Really, Ciracio, those were for my grandson..."
Ciracio bent down, picked the book up and returned it to its place in the shelf. Then he sat beside Candy. "How is little Pedro?"
"A typical male, I'm afraid. Just like you."
"What?"
"A crime against the Revolution? It's not even a crime against the Academy. Do you know why your precious Tyrone was spliced?"
"He's a harasser, they claim. A rapist! It's preposterous! Lies! Lies!"
"No, it's the truth."
"What?"
"Listen. Do you know what your precious Tyrone's crimes are? He's been doing it since his second year. He takes a female, classmate, janitress, clerk, rather democratic with his choice of victims, to the deeper parts of the Romance Forest."
"I'm sure the sex was consensual!"
"Very much. The sex shared with him. But then after his orgasm, his partner in crime comes out of the bushes. She--"
"She?"
"She has a camera. She's going to post the video on the Internet if Tyrone's current victim doesn't have sex with her."
"That is just too wild to be true! And anyway, if he's been doing it for, let's see, for more than two years now, why hasn't anyone reported him?"
"Them. Them. He videos the females having sex too."
"And the Army authorized the Daughters of Sodom's vigilantism?"
"No. The Army has no official relations with the Sodomites. But, while in the past we have condemned their concept of justice, this time we have decided that silence will better serve the causes of the Revolution."
Ciracio stood up. "You sound like Bonifacio! This is evil! This is evil! And why was Tyrone the only one punished? This female accomplice of his, what has the Sodomites done to her?"
"Nothing. They have this strange belief that women shouldn't be punished, whatever the crime."
"What?"
"Fortunately, and unfortunately, for you, the Army believes otherwise."
"What? The Army's going to punish me? Do I look like Tyrone's female accomplice?"
Candy took a sip of the coffee, then spat in back. "Too cold, too cold." She tapped her lips, shook her head. "Tyrone's female accomplice is Prof. Karina Concepcion-Concepcion. Of the Biology department."
"Holy Jesus triumphant! The one who's always lecturing about how chips are going to be installed in our brains?"
"Yes."
"What are you going to do about her?"
"I'm not going to do anything about her."
"I thought the Army believed in punishing females?"
"The Army believes in punishing criminals, males or females."
"Then how come you're not going to do anything about her?"
"Because you're going to do something about her."
"What?"
Candy stood up and reached under the back of her jogging pants. She produced a pistol. "Justice. The Army has tasked you with the assassination of a rapist. Do you accept?" She pointed the pistol at him.
"A female rapist?"
"Do you accept?"
Dr. Ciracio Heruela took the walkator on his way back to the Academy's center. He left the Rector swimming in a pool of her own blood.

3. "Ciracio."
"Karina."
"Take off those infernal sunglasses. It's almost midnight. People are going to notice."
Ciracio took his sunglasses off.
"You've been crying."
"Are you a rapist?"
"You invited me to Bai for this? If you'll excuse me, I think I'll join," she pointed with her snout, "them."
"Sit down, Karina." Ciracio put his sunglasses back on. He knew the customers of Bai's Floating Sinigang Palace were too busy with their own loves and families to notice him. Plus, he hated it when others people saw his eyes in a less than pristine state. "Answer my question."
"No, Ciracio, I'm not rapist."
"Then you and I are leaving Laguna tonight. The Sodomites and the Army, or maybe just the Army, are looking to have you assassinated. They’re connecting you to the crimes of Tyrone Decena."
"Holy Jesus triumphant."
"I know." He took a sip of his sinigang. "I had to kill Candy Mabuti."
"Oh! Please! They probably know who we really are!" Karina produced sunglasses from her bag and put them on. "Why did you have to bring me to Bai? Let's get the hell out of here now! The government doesn't pay me enough for this crap!" She stood up.
"Wait, wait. We need to stay in Laguna for a few more hours."
"What?"
"You are no rapist, and neither is Tyrone. They framed him, so I would kill you. I managed to harvest Candy's brain before it shut down. I know who spliced Tyrone."
"This is no time for petty revenge Ciracio."
"I'm going to do this with or without you Karina."
She sat down. "Okay. All right. Holy, holy, holy, you are one strange double agent." She took a sip of her sinigang. "If we're going to do this, I need all the information you have."
Ciracio nodded. He produced a computer from his barong.

4. The lights came alive. Ciracio sat behind Dr. Gumeganal's desk. He smiled at the younger man's lift of an eyebrow. "Sit down, Angelo. In the name of Bathala, sit down."
"I can't."
"Don't be stupid."
"I can't sit. You're on my seat."
"Very well." He stood up, walking up to Dr. Gumeganal's book shelf.
"Bathala's beard! Who gave you permission to take my books?"
"What?"
"This!" He stroked the spine of Candy Mabuti's Vulgar Marxism. "You took it from my shelf! You have to ask for these things!"
Ciracio slid the shelf door open.  "That's not yours. That's mine." He took out Dr. Gumeganal's copy of Vulgar Marxism, waving it with his left hand. "See?"
"Praise be Bathala! Forgive my rudeness, Ciracio. I am protective of my books, as I'm sure you are too. I didn't mean to accuse you of thievery."
"Why do you have a copy of this thing anyway?''
"Well, I am the adviser of OMG, after all. Huge, yes?" He opened Candy's book, flipped through the first pages, then read: "'I am totally against prostitution. Sex should be free!'" He closed the book. "You can't beat the Canadian sense of humor!"
Ciracio threw the book in his left hand at Dr. Gumeganal, who caught it but dropped it. While his department head was under the desk, Ciracio walked over and took the book he stole from the Rector. He turned to the middle of Vulgar Marxism. When Dr. Gumeganal's head popped up again, Ciracio held Candy's pistol in his right hand.
"Dr. Heruela, is this some sort of a joke?"
Ciracio shot Dr. Gumeganal in the mouth. He put the pistol on his superior's table, Candy's book as well. He took off his barong and wiped the blood off his face. He checked his hair in the mirror beside the book shelf, combed his moustache with his fingers and left. Outside the Department Head's office was Dairy at her desk. She had a pin that said 'No to machine clerks' on her collar. Loony luddite.
"Going home now?"
"Bathala bless that man, Dairy, he's approved my leave. He's working on the papers right now, to forward to the Rector. He said give him some thirty minutes then go in with some coffee and cookies."
"Will do, will do. Goodbye then, and congratulations."
"Thanks." The department's doors slid open, and Ciracio walked to the elevator. "Ground floor," he told the computer. At the College of Art and Sciences' parking lot he found Karina waiting in a red Volkswagen. "I have to commend you for your subtlety."
She opened the door for him. "Shut up. I told you the government doesn't pay me enough. But when the floaters become legal next year, you know who's going to demand a raise."
"Let's go Professor Concepcion."
"That's Professor Concepcion-Concepcion to you."
Ciracio got in the car. He produced a Chicochoco bar from his pockets. "You allow food, right?"
"In the name of Bathala, just shut up. Holy Jesus triumphant, I hope they place me in a Lazarus school and I never get to see you again."
The Volkswagen was no floater, but it was fast. It took them just five minutes from Los Baños to Calamba, and only two minutes from Calamba to the South Luzon Expressway. A black cat crossed the road and Karina hit the brakes.
Ciracio banged his head on the dashboard and dropped his chocolate.
The Volkswagen sped on and he bent to pick the Chicochoco bar up.
Underneath his seat he found another copy of Vulgar Marxism. "How many people," he said, still bent, "could be interested in erotica from the Soviet Union?"
"Sit up, Dr. Heruela."
They were cruising straight now. Karina had turned the automatic driving controls on. Instead of the steering wheel she held a pistol in her hands.
Ciracio bit his upper lip. "Double agent too?"
"No. Just a government employee tired of all this crap."
"Why a pistol? Why not use laser? It’d me much a much cleaner kill."
"As you might have gathered from Candy’s speech, you old fool, I like doing things dirty."
Ciracio’s shoulders sagged. Tyrone! Tyrone you rapist! "Do me a favor? Please don't shoot me in the face?"
She shot him in the chest. Three times.

Philippines Free Press
January 15, 2011