I. Pet rock

At 7 in the morning, that ridiculous submarine of an automobile was waiting outside my apartment building. From my second-story window, the sedan looked more like an upside-down metal cookie cutter than a submarine. You could make a gigantic cookie that would take three hundred kids two weeks to eat. She and I sat on the windowsill looking down at the car.

Yes, Z and I will be off to the Davao -- a city down south of the third land mass in the Philippine archipelago, Mindanao.

The sky was appallingly clear. A sky from a prewar expressionist movie. Utterly cloudless, like a monumental eye with its eyelid cut off. A helicopter flying high off in the distance looked minuscule.

I locked all the windows, switched off the refrigerator, and checked the gas cock. The laundry brought in, bed covered with spread, and an absurd number of medicinal items put in proper order by the washbasin. The rent paid two months in advance, I looked back from the
doorway into the lifeless 40 sqm. fifties-living room converted to an apartment. For a moment, I thought about the two months of reviewing spent there, thought about the things I learned and the things I never had.

The green gate made a creaking sound , and she called to me. I shut the screen door.
Ray Ban, a good friend, offered to drive us to the airport. The guy's really hooked with cars. He was intently polishing the windshield with a dry cloth as he waited for us. The car, not one single mark anywhere, gleamed in the sun to a burning, unearthly brilliance. The slightest touch of the hand and you’d get burned.

“Good morning,” said Ray Ban.
“Good morning,” said I.
“Good morning,” said Z.
She held our pet rock. I carried the rock food and bag of sand.

“Fabulous weather, isn’t it?” said Ray Ban, looking up at the sky. “It’s—how can I put it?—crystal clear.”
I nodded.
“When it gets this clear, God’s messages must have no trouble getting through at all,” I offered.
“Nothing of the kind,” said ray Ban with a grin. “There are messages already in all things. In the flowers, in the rocks, in the clouds …”
“And cars?”
“In cars too.”
“But cars are made by factories.” Typical me.
“Whosoever makes it, God’s will is worked into it.”
“As in ear lice?” Her contribution.
“As in the very air,” corrected Ray ban.
“Well then, I suppose that cars made in Saudi Arabia have Allah in them.”
“They don’t produce cars in Saudi Arabia.”
“Really?” Again me.
“Then what about cars produced in America for export to Saudi Arabia? What god’s in them?” queried Z.
A difficult question.

“Say now, we have to tell him about the rock,” I launched a lifeboat.
“Cute rock, eh?” said Ray Ban, our chauffeur, also relieved.
"Isn't it?" darted Z.

To give you an idea of what it looks like.

By "he" or "it", i mean, the rock.

The rock was anything but cute. Rather, he weighed in at the opposite end of the scale, its surface was rough like an old, overused sandpaper, it smelled of the sea, its color a bit yellowed, a chunk of seaweeds run through its upper extrimities like the hair of Bob Marley or a Jamaican reggae star. We drew eyes on it using a marker before so that by now it could see, eventhough not so much. I was doubtful that it could distinguish between a tennis shoe and a potato. Technically it's been with us for a year, and farted approximately a hundred and eight times.

He’d been a fine young stone the day I found him being washed away in the beaches of Zambales, brought him home, but in the last few months he’d rapidly gone downhill. Like a rock rolling toward the gutter, literally. Also, he didn’t have a name. I had no idea whether not having a name reduced or contributed to the rock's tragedy.

Z always insist that it's so cute she's gonna die.

To be continued.

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