By Manuel Arguilla
She stepped down from the caretela of Ca Celin with a quick, delicate grace. She was lovely. She was tall. She looked up to my brother with a smile, and her forehead was on a level with his mouth. “You see. Baldo,” she said and placed her hand lightly on my shoulder. Her nails were long but they were not painted. She was fragrant like a morning when papayas are in bloom. And a small dimple appeared momentarily high up on her right cheek.
“And this is Labang of whom I have heard so much.” She held the wrist of one hand with the other and looked at Labang who never stopped chewing his cud. He swallowed and brought up to his mouth more cud and the sound of his insides ...view middle of the document...
She moved close to him and slipped her arm through his. And after a while she said quietly.
“You love Nagrebcan, don’t you, Noel.”
Ca Celin drove away hi-yi-ing to his horse loudly. At the bend of the camino real where the big duhat tree grew, he rattled the handle of his braided rattan whip against the spokes of the wheel.
We stood alone on the roadside.
The sun was in our eyes for it was dipping into the bright sea. The sky was wide and deep and very blue above us; along the saw-tooth rim of the Kayataghan hills to the southwest flamed huge masses of clouds. Before us the fields swam in a golden haze through which floated big purple and red and yellow bubbles when I looked at the sinking sun. Labang’s white coat which I had washed and brushed that morning with a coconut husk, glistened like beaten cotton under the lamplight and his horns appeared tipped with fire. He faced the sun and from his mouth came a call so loud and vibrant that the earth seemed to tremble underfoot. And far away in the middle of the fields a cow lowed softly in answer.
“Hitch him to the cart, Baldo,” my brother Leon said, laughing, and she laughed with him a bit uncertainly, and I saw that he had put his arm around her shoulders.
“Why does he make that sound?” she asked. “I have never heard the like of it.”
“There is not another like it,” my brother Leon said, “I have yet to hear another bull call like Labang. In all the world there is no other bull like him.”
She was smiling at him, and I stopped in the act of tying the sinta across Labang’s neck to the opposite end of the yoke, because her teeth were very white, her eyes were so full of laughter, and there was the small dimple high up on her right cheek.
“If you continue to talk about him like that, either I shall fall in love with him or become greatly jealous.”
My brother Leon laughed and she laughed and they looked at each other and it seemed to me there was a world of laughter between them and in them.
I climbed into the cart over the wheel and Labang would have bolted for he was always like that, but I kept a firm hold on his rope. He was restless and would not stand still, so that my brother Leon had to say “Labang” several times. When he was quiet again, my brother Leon lifted the trunks into the cart, placing the smaller on top.
She looked down once at her high-heeled shoes, then she gave her left hand to my brother Leon, placed a foot on the hub of the wheel, and in one breath she had swung up into the cart. Oh, the fragrance of her. But Labang was fairly dancing with impatience and it was all I could do to keep him from running away.
“Give me the rope Baldo,” my brother Leon said. “Maria, sit down on the hay and hold on to something.”
Then he put a left foot on the shaft and that instant Labang leaped forward. My brother Leon laughed as he drew himself up to the top of the side of the cart and made the slack of the rope hiss above the back of Labang. The wind...