Name: Paulina Anika F. Coronacion
HOW MY BROTHER LEON BROUGHT HOME A WIFE
My brother Leon was returning to Nagrebcan from far away Manila, bringing home his young bride who had been born and had grown up in the big city. Father would not accept her for a daughter-in-law unless he taught her worthy to live in Nagrebcan. Father devised an ingenious way to find out, and waited for the result. She stepped down from the carretela of Ca Celin with a quick, delicate grace. She was lovely. She was tall. She looked up to my brother with a smile, and her forehead was on a level with his mouth “You are Baldo.” She said and placed her hand lightly on my shoulder. Her nails were long, but they were not painted. She was fragrant like a morning when papayas are in bloom. And a small dimple appeared momentarily high up on her cheek. “And this is Labang, of whom I have heard so much.” She held the wrist of one hand with the other and looked at Labang, and Labang never stopped chewing his cud. He swallowed and brought up to his mouth more cud, and the sound of his inside was like a drum. I laid a hand on Labang’s massive neck and said to her: “You may scratch his forehead now. “She hesitated and I saw that her eyes were on the long curving horns. But she came and touched Labang’s forehead with her long fingers, and Labang never stopped chewing his cud except that his big eyes were half closed. And by and by, she was scratching his forehead very daintly. My brother Leon put down the two trunks on the grassy side of the road. He paid Ca Celin twice the usual fare from the station to the edge of Nagrebcan. Then he was standing beside us, and she turned to him eagerly. I watched Ca Celin, where he stood in front of his horse, and he ran his fingers through its forelock and could not keep his eyes away from her. “Maria—“ my brother Leon said.He did not say Maring. He did not say Mayang.I knew then that he had always called her Maria; and in my mind I said, “Maria,” and it was a beautiful name.”Yes,Noel” Now where did she get that name? I pondered the matter quietly to myself, thinking Father might not like it. But it was only the name of my brother Leon said backwards, and it sounded much better that way. “There is Nagrebcan, Maria” my brother said gesturing widely toward the west. She moved close to him. And after a while she said quietly: You love Nagrebcan, don’t you, Noel? Ca Celin drove away hi-yi-ing to his horse loudly. At the bend of the camino real where the big duhat tree grew, he rattled the handle of his braided rattan whip against the spokes of the wheel. We stood alone on the roadside. The sun was in our eyes, for it was dipping into the bright sea. The sky was wide deep and very blue above us; but along the saw-tooth rim of the Katayaghan hills to the southwest flamed huge masses of clouds. Before us the fields swam in a golden haze through which floated big purple and red and yellow bubbles when I looked at the sinking sun. Labang’s white coat, which I had washed and brushed that morning with coconut husk, glistened like beaten cotton under the lamplight and his horns appeared tipped with fire. He faced the sun and from his mouth came a call so loud and vibrant that the earth seemed to tremble underfoot. And far way in the middle of the fields a cow lowed soflty in answer. “Hitch him to the cart, Baldo,” my brother Leon said, laughing and she laughed with him a bit uncertainly, and I saw he had put his arms around her shoulders. “Why does he make that sound?” she asked. “I have never heard the like of it.” “There is not another like it,” my brother Leon said. “I have yet to hear another bull call like Labang. In all the world there is no other bull like him.” She was smiling at him, and I stopped in the act of tying the vinca across Labang’s neck to the opposite end of the yoke, because her teeth was very white, her eyes were so full of laughter, and there was a small dimple high up on her right cheek....
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