Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Surviving Manila: Risen Threat! Chapter Three Excerpt

Chapter three: Julie

Julie was only three years old when she first experienced the weight of having a gun in one’s hands.

Just like most young girls of her age, Julie was raised to love the color pink, to see beauty in lace and ribbons, to dream of being a Princess, to always look pretty and to kiss boys on the cheek. She was cheerful, playful and occasionally mischievous, and her father would often find her peering from corners or hiding behind doors whenever his friends would come to visit.

Julie understood that her father was a good man. She understood that her father was working for the President. She knew that her father’s job was to help people and to protect people, although at her age, she wasn’t certain what people needed protection from. The idea of there being bad people was still something Julie was having trouble understanding. After all, why would anyone want to be bad? Why would anyone want to hurt others?

So when Julie saw her father’s friends come visit one day, she hid behind the corner of the hallway leading to the bedrooms and tried to listen to what they were talking about. The words barely made sense to her then: Coup de’etat, martial law, rebels, assassination… they were puzzling strange words that Julie decided were part of the older person vocabulary. Like the words sex. Or babies. Or fuck.

Her father lived in a strange world. It was a world of loud, angry men. It was a world of telling her mother to shut up and stop asking questions. Her father had a uniform. It was a dark blue thing that her mother would wash carefully. Though Julie back then did not know it, the uniform would be starched each time it was laundered in order to maintain its formal and authoritarian image. All Julie knew was that when her mother returned it to her father’s cabinet, it would be firm like the cardboard folders she used in school.

It was during another one of those meetings with her father’s friends when Julie decided she wanted to show her father that she was proud of him. Her chubby legs were far from stealthy, but the laughter of four grown men concealed any sounds Julie inadvertently made. Her mother was busy in the kitchen, knife in hand and pot set to boil. Cold beer clinked between jokes. Laugher burst between insults.

Julie stole quietly into her parents’ room and pulled herself up the bed. She clambered over to the huge pillows, gathered them together, and knelt atop the pile to reach for the head rest. From there, it was a short crawl to the shelf left of the bed where her father kept the boxes of his golf balls, perfume bottles and other daddy things. Julie remembered how her father would come home each day, walk up to this shelf, then empty his pockets there. He would unclasp the black thing strapped around his chest, bring it over his shoulder, and then slide it up here where it would be safely out of reach. At least safely out of reach had Julie been standing on the floor. On the headrest, however, she was tall enough to be able to grab hold of it.

The black thing was heavy. Julie learned she needed both hands to pick it up from the shelf. Her nose itched when she brought it closer to her face. It smelled like the metal monkey bars in the playground. Like the see-saw handle. Like the slide.

All three chapter available at

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