Where i want to go



The Snake Charmer (excerpt)

“The snake moved towards the bench that supported the fallen man. It came close enough, but stopped at a certain point — as if deterred by a shielding spell that could not be easily penetrated. The viper followed the healer’s arm as it remained pointed at the man lying on the bench. This time the viper spiraled up one of the wooden legs unimpeded, and came close to where the wound festered. Only then did the split tongue dart out from underneath the pointed snout.
Do something about this. Humans don’t go out of their way to hunt you. They fear your kind.

For the first time the snake met the healer’s eyes — finally. It returned to the ground after having understood what was being asked.

Go. Find the cure for the dying man.

The viper seemed contrite enough. It left uneventfully.

Mang Pilo returned to gauging the extent of the damage done to the young man.

Up to that time no one had said a thing.

The healer looked worried but still hopeful. He turned to glance uneasily at Manolo. It was a learning experience for Fidel to behold the tanned face that could be so misleading in its intent, as well as enchanting in its reaction to things in general. Fidel’s attention was glued to every movement or minute gesture that came from the old man. Not one dared to look him in the eye. As if doing so would have been a sign of disrespect — misplaced curiosity — like sneaking a peek at something holy and mysterious — at a time when someone’s life was on the line.

“You all have done well. Let’s pray the culprit was sorry enough.” To the few that followed his word to the letter, they did begin praying.

The minutes dragged on and still very few dared to start a conversation. Manolo’s state did not look very promising. As the afternoon passed like any, the barriofolk began expressing their hopes and optimism in very disjointed ways. Ka Tintoy continued to stroke his imaginary goatee, while Aling Zenia held a rosary tightly in her left hand. Fidel continued looking elsewhere for unexpected visitors. Asuncion mouthed a prayer. Others simply looked at the direction of the sun and noted how low it had gotten since the arrival of Mang Pilo. Still, they did everything in silence.

It was close to late afternoon when the viper returned. The men and women had relaxed a bit from the waiting. At which point, the healer had turned towards the dirt road, raised his right hand slightly to silence the group and then made way for the viper to cross the threshold.

The viper also carried a twig with leaves — a very small twig with unidentifiable purple markings on the green leaves.

Everyone remained still. The only motion came from Mang Pilo as he brought his palms to his waist. Arms akimbo, he maintained a vigilant attitude while the snake went to work.

The viper went up the same wooden leg it had used before to reach Manolo’s leg. The wound looked a little worse since he and his brother had arrived earlier that afternoon. The viper withdrew the twig from its mouth, set it aside and then picked at the leaves individually. It bit into the leaf as if it were injecting venom into it. Then it gnawed at the same leaf, mulching the green and purple fibers into some form of dark, oily medicine. The substance in its mouth went from a dark, purple green oil into a milky, light green-colored paste in minutes. The viper coated the wound with the milky green, herbal pap. The wound seemed to miraculously absorb the concoction quickly enough that the viper had to repeat the process with another leaf. At that moment in time, the leaves seemed to be the most precious thing in the world.”

Published in The Asian Pacific American Journal, Volume 7, No. 1 pp. 50-70, 1998