Love at the Cornhusk – Aida Rivera Ford
Tinang stopped before the Señora’s gate and adjusted the baby’s cap. The dogs that came to bark at the gate were strange dogs, big-mouthed animals with a sense of superiority. They stuck their heads through the hogfence, lolling their tongues and straining. Suddenly, from the gumamela row, a little black mongrel emerged and slithered through the fence with ease. It came to her, head down and body quivering. “Bantay. Ay, Bantay!” she exclaimed as the little dog laid its paws upon her shirt to sniff the baby on her arm. The baby was afraid and cried. The big animals barked with displeasure. Tito, the young master, had seen her and was calling to his mother. “Ma, it’s Tinang. Ma, Ma, it’s Tinang.” He came running down to open the gate. “Aba, you are so tall now, Tito.”
He smiled his girl’s smile as he stood by, warding the dogs off. Tinang passed quickly up the veranda stairs lined with ferns and many-colored bougainville. On landing, she paused to wipe her shoes carefully. About her, the Señora’s white and lavender butterfly orchids fluttered delicately in the sunshine. She noticed though that the purple waling-waling that had once been her task to shade from the hot sun with banana leaves and to water with mixture of charcoal and eggs and water was not in bloom. “Is no one covering the waling-waling now?” Tinang asked. “It will die.”
“Oh, the maid will come to cover the orchids later.”
The Señora called from inside. “Tinang, let me see your baby. Is it a boy?” “Yes, Ma,” Tito shouted from downstairs. “And the ears are huge!” “What do you expect,” replied his mother; “the father is a Bagobo. Even Tinang looks like a Bagobo now.” Tinang laughed and felt warmness for her former mistress and the boy Tito. She sat self-consciously on the black narra sofa, for the first time a visitor. Her eyes clouded. The sight of the Señora’s flaccidly plump figure, swathed in a loose waist-less housedress that came down to her ankles, and the faint scent of agua de colonia blended with kitchen spice, seemed to her the essence of the comfortable world, and she sighed thinking of the long walk home through the mud, the baby’s legs straddled to her waist, and Inggo, her husband, waiting for her, his body stinking of tuba and sweat, squatting on the floor, clad only in his foul undergarments. “Ano, Tinang, is it not a good thing to be married?” the Señora asked, pitying Tinang because her dress gave way at the placket and pressed at her swollen breasts. It was, as a matter of fact, a dress she had given Tinang a long time ago.
“It is hard, Señora, very hard. Better that I were working here again.”
“There!” the Señora said. “Didn’t I tell you what it would be like, huh? . . . that you would be a slave to your husband and that you would work a baby eternally strapped to you. Are you not pregnant again?” Tinang squirmed at the Señora’s directness but admitted she was. “Hala! You will have a dozen before long.” The Señora got up. “Come, I will give you some dresses and an old blanket that you can cut into things for the baby.” They went into a cluttered room which looked like a huge closet and as the Señora sorted out some clothes, Tinang asked, “How is Señor?” “Ay, he is always losing his temper over the tractor drivers. It is not the way it was when Amado was here. You remember what a good driver he was. The tractors were always kept in working condition. But now . . . I wonder why he left all of a sudden. He said he would be gone for only two days . . . .” “I don’t know,” Tinang said. The baby began to cry. Tinang shushed him with irritation. “Oy, Tinang, come to the kitchen; your Bagobito is hungry.” For the next hour, Tinang sat in the kitchen with an odd feeling; she watched the girl who was now in possession of the kitchen work around with a handkerchief clutched I one hand. She had lipstick on too, Tinang noted. the girl looked at her briefly but did not smile. She set down a can of...
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