Day 2: Raiders
Just after having their Saturday breakfast, they quickly grabbed whatever wooden swords and sticks they had and went to work. Usually, they eat a breakfast of salted bread, margarine, peanut butter, hot chocolate and guava jam; when they’re lucky enough to have some money, they buy instant hot and spicy noodles called pancit canton and eat it with steamed rice.
Richie, Aries, and Luis carried two short sticks, allowing them to poke quickly. Meanwhile, Charles, Tom, and Berto used short swords, so that they can break through the carton shields that the Alley Boys were using. They donned cloths of various colors around their faces, though in the darkness of the alleys where the smell of soil, urine and feces mixed each other, the hues of their clothes didn’t matter at all.
The bystanders were still in the comfort of their homes, either listening to the radio or watching the early morning news, so no one was in the basketball court to witness their awkward attempts at stealth. Once Charles was certain that everything was on track, they waited in front of the alley that would lead them to the storage of their rivals in order to catch a breather.
Charles said in a low voice, “Bros, on my signal, we rush the armory. For those of you who don’t know, an armory is a place where people hide their weapons…”
“I don’t understand what you are saying. What is it? Is that where you sleep?” asked Richie.
Everyone laughed at Richie. Berto answered, “It’s like where you keep sticks, slingshots, stones and all the stuff you use to fight other youngsters.”
“Wow, that’s nice!”
Everyone nodded silently. They were nervous, beads of cold sweat going down their faces in that humid summer morning…If they were caught, getting punched to the ground would be the least of their problems.
With a quick hand signal, Charles and his friends rushed into the alley, knowing that they needed to walk for a bit before reaching their rivals’ storage place.
The alley was a maze of houses, corrugated iron and dilapidated plywood boards, punctuated by the occasional billiards table or karaoke machine.
No one saw them coming.
With lockstep precision that would make an elite military unit proud, they took the first turn, carefully watching their flanks for any hostile activity.
So far, so good, Charles thought.
Then they took a couple of turns in that maze-like network of alleys. Luckily for them, they knew every nook and corner of that neighborhood as they frequented the alleys whenever they sell pan de sal early in the morning.
They were happily talking about their past experience and adventures while guarding the door to the storage that day.
“You know, I am dating a pretty girl in school. What was her name? Jo? Mo?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know that already. Don’t you have something else to talk about? We are already tired of hearing the same thing.”
However, when they saw Charles and his friends, they simply couldn’t believe their eyes. Their faces were a mix of shock and genuine surprise; they stood there frozen as ice.
After a mocking cough, Charles shouted, “Hey Joseph and Joey, are you ready to have another interesting day?”
The storage was the size of a toilet and the width of the alley that they were guarding meant that did not have much room to maneuver in that narrow pathway. Regardless, their rivals were known for fighting back hard, so Charles and his friends were very careful.
“Here’s one for you, Joey! Guys, give Joseph a warm greeting!”
“Yes, Charles, we’re at it!” his friends replied in unison.
Without hesitation, Charles dropped his wooden sword and punched Joey squarely in the face, while his other friends took Joseph down with a barrage of kicks and blows.
“You – Charles -!” reacted Joey.
Richie retorted, “Yeah, yeah, we don’t need you to talk. Let’s get this over with. You’re better off being quiet.”
“You are going to pay for this.”
“Shut up if you don’t want to be smacked in the face,” warned Aries. Joseph knew better than to attract Aries’s wrath.
Within a few seconds, Tom and Berto held Joey and Joseph down, overpowering their two opponents and restraining them, while Charles and the rest took all the supplies that they wanted…at least, the ones that they could hold with their two hands.. Joey and Joseph were lying down in the alley, their bodies mixed up with mud and dirt and their clothes covered in stains.
As Charles’s group made their quick escape, the two brothers were helplessly crawling on the ground.
“Damn you, Charles!” shouted Joey.
“See you in the field, idiot!” bellowed Richie.
After half an hour of endless action, Charles and his friends were able to take a lot of weapons and shields, quickly leaving the place with big, radiating smiles on their faces.
Once they were back from their raid, they went on with their daily lives. They needed to help their parents at home. Otherwise, they won’t have food for lunch or supper.
Charles’s house was fenced off with a bamboo fence, with plants of all types surrounding the house. They even kept a couple of bonsai plants and orchids in their garden. However, none can beat the two crown jewels of his front yard – their family had a guava and soursop tree, locally known as guyabano.
While they lived in the same neighborhood, everyone else knew that Charles and his family did not exactly belong to that place – his father was a government official at the city’s logistics department. He and his family were just waiting for their house at the other side of town to be finished.
“Charles, where were you?” a short woman in her 50s called. She wore a white dress as she washed laundry by hand; washing machines were ridiculously expensive in those parts.
“Mom, I just played with my friends outside.”
“Okay, can you help me with washing our clothes?”
“Yes, Mom. Where’s Dad?”
“Oh, he had some errands to do outside. You know that it’s Friday, no?”
Charles went on with helping his mother, while his mind is picturing the fight that will happen later. It will be a big, bloody, nasty brawl, Charles concluded.
While he helped his mom, he suddenly asked a question about money. Even though Charles and his family were relatively well-off, they were still careful about their expenses.
“Mom, what does it take to become rich?”
“You need to work hard for it, Charles. Why did you ask?”
“Why is it some people are born rich and others are born poor?”
“We are not in control when it comes to those matters, my son. What’s important is that we are able to choose our path going forward.”
“How much should I save if I want to buy something or open a bank account?”
“You can start by saving ten pesos from your daily allowance. Yes, you can always buy food such as a banana cue and a plastic bag of pineapple juice with it, but of course you might want to think for the long term. Do it every single day, and you’ll see that you’ll have enough money to buy a lot of things.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Mom!”
“Now, you start hanging the clothes on the line while I finish rinsing them with water…”