Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Tabada: Tse


IMAGINE God as a viewfinder documenting the night of a typhoon.

The viewfinder takes an establishing shot of a village. Cars parked on the street. Darkened houses.

The viewfinder zooms in and under a parked car on the street. A dark shape under the still warm belly of the car engine.

Close-up: meet Tse, aspin (asong Pinoy) with a mongrel’s universal features: sheath of fur of undetermined color under the dirt; wiry build; and intelligence behind streetwise eyes.

Tse does not first mind when the rain falls and water seeps into the dry spot under the car.

It takes her mind off a growling gut. For dinner, she licked a few cans before the woman came out swatting with a broom.

Tse! Tse! In a wink, Tse jumped out of the trash bin, followed by rolling cans and cursing. She checked out the houses that placed scraps on the sidewalk, but in the steadily falling rain, no reused ice-cream containers were left out.

She avoided streets where dogs were leashed or caged near house entrances. For such well-fed lives, these mutts had the ugliest tempers, barking and straining to get at the interloper. Sometimes, Tse traded insults with the enraged dogs but tonight, she focused on looking for a dry place.

Tse could smell the chill in the air. It was going to be a long night of waiting for morning and the old woman who came to collect kitchen scraps from house to house. After emptying the leftovers in her canister, the old woman threw away the plastic bags for Tse and the other strays to fight over.

To beat the competition, Tse bolted down the bags without chewing. At first, she was terrified by the bag swinging from her anus but then learned to drag her bottom on the ground to remove it.

The first time she met a dog whose owner stopped for it to do its business on the street and then scooped the stools in a bag, Tse looked hard at the dog as if it had sprouted wings from its bum.

These ruminations abruptly ended when the water level on the street rose. Tse scampers from under the car. Rain and wind are companions on the street.

Floods are death.

A lifetime of stepping around traps directs Tse to run for higher ground in the streets plunged into chaos by the cutting of power. People shouting. Dogs still chained and caged, baying. And the waters rising.

Tse runs past her enemy, the huge black dog chained to the gate where she made the mistake once of peeing against. The dog’s helpless howling follows Tse when the flashflood tags and lifts the aspin, not gently at all.

Tse’s thought as the dark swirls: where are those wings when you need them?

(In memoriam: if we cannot evacuate with our animals, release and give them a fighting chance to survive.)


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