It was about three in the afternoon. The broiler chickens squawked hunger and distress where they were bunched by the dozens in large nipa coops waiting for their second serving of fresh food and water. The day was hot and humid, the skies blue and puffing giant white clouds over the tropical mountains. In the distance roosters crowed, lumberers cut down coconut trees and church bells occasionally rang the new hour. Just a lazy, beautiful day at home with the broiler meat business operating as usual in our backyard, and I was the caretaker for the day.
It was after I had refilled the food trays and was starting to pour fresh water for the broilers when a raspy Filipino voice called out to me from the side of our house. A balding, lean man with skin like a beef jerky stick came toward me with an uncoordinated stride. He beamed a yellowing grin and regarded me with a jovial yet unfocused gaze.
“Nining,” he expressed in a voice of self-pity. “My barkada and I have no polutan for our drinking, we are becoming so lasing. Please give me one chicken to kill and I will owe you payment. Here is my social security card. This is important to me so you know I will have to come back and when I do I will pay you.”
He gave me his card and I scrutinized it. It bore his picture and all the boring details of a government-issued card. Being kind and naive, I agreed to his proposal and proceeded to pick up a chicken from one of the coops. The one I chose was drinking fresh water with contented happy clucks. I gave it to him and he went on his way with many thanks, the poor chicken crying and flapping as it hung by its feet in his hands.
I never saw this man again. I was left with my parents admonishing my foolishness, the guilt-ridden memory of the chicken happily drinking water then being grabbed by my hands…and his useless card, still stored somewhere back home.
Nining — used to address a young girl
Barkada — group/friends
Polutan — food for alcohol drinking
Lasing — drunk