ï»¿The Small Key (Paz M. Latorena)
It was very warm. The sun, up above a sky that was blue and tremendous and beckoning to birds ever on the wing, shone bright as if determined to scorch everything under heaven, even the low, square nipa house that stood in an unashamed relief against the gray-green haze of grass and leaves.
It was lonely dwelling located far from its neighbors, which were huddled close to one another as if for mutual comfort. It was flanked on both sides by tall, slender bamboo tree which rustled plaintively under a gentle wind.
On the porch a woman past her early twenties stood regarding the scene before her with eyes made incurious by its familiarity. All around ...view middle of the document...
â€ From the pocket of his khaki coat he pulled a string of non descript red which held together a big shiny key and another small, rather rusty looking one.
With deliberate care he untied the knot and, detaching the big key, dropped the small one back into his pocket. She watched him fixedly as he did this. The smile left her face and a strange look came into her eyes as she took the big key from him without a word. Together they left the dining room.
Out of the porch he put an arm around her shoulders and peered into her shadowed face.
â€œYou look pale and tired,â€ he remarked softly. â€œWhat have you been doing all morning?â€
â€œNothing,â€ she said listlessly. â€œBut the heat gives me a headache.â€
â€œThen lie down and try to sleep while I am gone.â€ For a moment they looked deep into each otherâ€™s eyes.
â€œIt is really warm,â€ he continued. â€œI think I will take off my coat.â€
He removed the garment absent mindedly and handed it to her. The stairs creaked under his weight as he went down.
â€œCholeng,â€ he turned his head as he opened the gate, â€œI shall pass by Tia Mariaâ€™s house and tell her to come. I may not return before dark.â€
Soledad nodded. Her eyes followed her husband down the road, noting the fine set of his head and shoulders, the case of his stride. A strange ache rose in her throat.
She looked at the coat he had handed to her. It exuded a faint smell of his favorite cigars, one of which he invariably smoked, after the dayâ€™s work, on his way home from the fields. Mechanically, she began to fold the garment.
As she was doing so, s small object fell from the floor with a dull, metallic sound. Soledad stooped down to pick it up. It was the small key! She stared at it in her palm as if she had never seen it before. Her mouth was tightly drawn and for a while she looked almost old.
She passed into the small bedroom and tossed the coat carelessly on the back of a chair. She opened the window and the early afternoon sunshine flooded in. On a mat spread on the bamboo floor were some newly washed garments.
She began to fold them one by one in feverish haste, as if seeking in the task of the moment in refuge from painful thoughts. But her eyes moved restlessly around the room until they rested almost furtively on a small trunk that was half concealed by a rolled mat in a dark corner.
It was a small old trunk, without anything on the outside that might arouse oneâ€™s curiosity. But it held the things she had come to hate with unreasoning violence, the things that were causing her so much unnecessary anguish and pain and threatened to destroy all that was most beautiful between her and her husband!
Soledad came across a torn garment. She threaded a needle, but after a few uneven stitches she pricked her finger and a crimson drop stained the white garment. Then she saw she had been mending on the wrong side.
â€œWhat is the matter with me?â€ she asked herself aloud as she pulled...