The Short Story Series were originally published on Through Frog Eyes as a collaborative effort between a guest photographer and my writing. I am relaunching the stories individually for all those who are new to the website and Marie Balustrade´s writing. The MG Series features guest photographer Manny Goloyugo from the Philippines for three stories. Click HERE for the full set.
Crispin leaned back on one of the wobbly posts that held his hut up. The rough texture of the wood against his back was anything but comfortable, and he would have given an arm and a leg to own a bed that moment, but he only had a few minutes to rest and eat before going back to work on his fishing net. It looked like rain again and that meant sleeping on wet floors, since the hut was open on two sides and the hammock was assigned to the children. The fishermen’s community he lived in consisted of assorted makeshift huts by the sea, all built out of coconut lumber and palm leaves. There was no such thing as permanence in that area given the temperamental weather conditions and volatile seas that determined who was going to survive that day or not. He had witnessed far too many friends capsize and never return home, ignoring their better judgment just for the sake of a few extra fish. The market prices were at an all-time low anyway, so it made no difference whether they brought in 50 or 70 fish, they would still be poor and deep in debt. At least he still managed to provide rice for his family, and either way, the sea always provided for them.
It was the end of a long day and the catch had been miserable, as it always was during Full Moon. Crispin was worried. This was the fourth day in a row that the contents of the net had been practically non-existent, which meant that his wife would not have much to put on the little stall along the road for sale. She normally set aside two or three pieces for the family and sold the rest, but on lean days she sold everything and they ate plain rice with salt. Sometimes the neighbor’s wife who worked in the local produce market would bring home some unsold vegetables and share them. Those were good days. Today, however, was not one of them and the only consolation he had to offer was the beauty and solace of the setting sun. This was something his father had taught him to appreciate and hoped to do the same with his own children. If he could not nourish the bodies, then at least the spirits would smile with the colours of the sky.
The next morning was a cloudless one, and the sun was full of promises. Crispin looked out to the water and said a thanksgiving prayer and pleaded for a good catch. It was time to turn things around. The boat needed fixing, the girls had outgrown all their clothes already, and the rice supply was almost depleted. His wife had briefly contemplated getting a job in the market as a fruit vendor, but the hours were long and there would be nobody left to take care of the two younger children. All the neighbours were busy with their own lives and it was too much of an imposition to ask any of them to take the children in on a daily basis, especially since it meant additional mouths to feed. At this point, all of them were barely scraping by.
Crispin smiled and said to his wife “We may be going through hard times but at least we still manage to eat two meals a day, unlike Manong Jose who has eight children and they all need to take turns with the meals.”
She turned to face him “Yes, one of them told me how it works. Whoever eats dinner has to skip breakfast the next day. We still manage, and I can start planting okra in plastic buckets again, so that even if we move we can take them along.”
Sailing back to port, Crispin looked towards the beach and paused to admire the new resort that was being built, knowing that he wasn’t supposed to linger there. The construction had provided a lot of jobs for the local people and many of the fishermen opted to set the boats aside for the meantime. The foreign owners were apparently of the generous sort, guaranteeing a daily wage, one warm meal a day, and monthly food rations per employee. It did not take long before several family members joined the bandwagon in order to multiply the food rations. It was too good to be true and yet Crispin held back. His superstitious nature firmly believed that turning his back on the sea would spell disaster one way or another. The sea had always been good to him and he felt compelled to remain loyal by tradition and a promise to his grandfather. Besides, less fishermen meant less competition and more fish for the remaining brave souls. The floating huts that were a great hit with the tourists bobbed up and down in the gentle evening breeze. How nice it would be to have one of those one day he thought to himself. Little did Crispin know that it would be the last thought he would have before the speedboat crashed into him.