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A Night in the Hills by Paz Marquez Benitez

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A Night in the Hills by Paz Marquez Benitez

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  • August 2010
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HOW Gerardo Luna came by his dream no one could have told, not even he. He was a salesman in a jewelry store on Rosario street and had been little else. His job he had inherited from his father, one might say; for his father before him had leaned behind the self-same counter, also solicitous, also short-sighted and thin of hair.

After office hours, if he was tired, he took the street car to his home in Intramuros. If he was feeling well, he walked; not frequent­ly, however, for he was frail of constitution and not unduly thrifty. The stairs of his house were narrow and dark and rank with charac­teristic odors from a Chinese sari-sari store which occupied part of the ground floor.

He would sit down to a supper which savored strongly of Chinese cooking. He was a fastidious eater. He liked to have the courses spread out where he could survey them all. He would sample each and daintily pick out his favorite portions—the wing tips, the liver, the brains from the chicken course, the tail-end from the fish. He ate appreciatively, but rarely with much appetite. After supper he spent quite a time picking his teeth meditatively, thinking of this and that. On the verge of dozing he would perhaps think of the forest.

For his dream concerned the forest. He wanted to go to the forest. He had wanted to go ever since he could remember. The forest was beautiful. Straight-growing trees. Clear streams. A mountain brook which he might follow back to its source up among the clouds. Perhaps the thought that most charmed and enslaved him was of seeing the image of the forest in the water. He would see the infinitely far blue of the sky in the clear stream, as in his childhood, when playing in his father’s azotea, he saw in the water-jars an image of the sky and of the pomelo tree that bent over the railing, also to look at the sky in the jars.

Only once did he speak of this dream of his. One day, Ambo the gatherer of orchids came up from the provinces to buy some cheap...