Happiest Boy in the World by NVM Gonzalez

Julio , who had come from Tablas to settle in Barok, was writing a letter, of all people, Ka Ponso, his landlord, one warm June night. It was about hiks son, Jose, who wanted to go to school in Mansalay that year. Jose was in fifth grade when Julio and his family had left Tablas the year before and migrated to Mindoro; because the father had some difficulty in getting some land of his own to farm, the boy had to stop schooling for a year. As it was, Julio thought himself lucky enough to have Ka Ponso take him on as tetant. Later, when Julio's wife Fidela gave birth to a baby, Ka Ponso, whi happened to be visiting his property then, offered to become its godfather. Afetr that they began to call each other compadre.
"Dear Compadre," Julio started to write in Tagalog, bending earnestly over a piece of paper which he had torn out of Jose's school notebook. It was many months ago, when, just as now, he had sat down with a writing implement in his hand. That was when he had gone to the municipio in Mansalay to file a homestead application, and he had used a pen, and to his great surprise, filled in the blank forms neatly. Nothing came of the application, although Ka Ponso had assured him he had looked into the matter and talked with the officials concerned. Now, with a pencil instead of a pen to write with, Julio was sure that he could make his letter legible enough for Ka Ponso.
"It's about my boy, Jose." he wrote on. "I want him to study this June in Mansalay. He's in the sixth grade now, and since he's quite a poor hand at looking after your carabaos, I thought it would be best that he go to school in the town."
...The kerosene lamp's yellow flame flickered ceaselessly. The drank smell of food , fish broth, particularly, that had been spilled from many a bowl and had dried on the form, now seemed to rise from the very texture of the wood itself. The stark truth about their poverty...
""This boy, Jose, compadre," he went on, "is quite an industrious lad. If you can only let him stay in your big house, compadre, you can make him do anything you wish--any work. He can cook rice, and I'm sure he'll wash the dishes."
..."I hope you will not think of this as a great bother," Julio continued, trying his best to phrase his thoughts. he had a vague fear that Ka Ponso might not favorably regard his letter. But he wrote on, slowly and steadily, stopping only to read what he had put down. "We shall repay you for whatever you can do for us, compadre. It's true we a;ready owe you for many things, but your comadre and I will do all we can indeed to repay you."
...Suddenly he began wondering hoe Jose would move about in Ka Ponso's household, being unaccustomed to so many things there. The boy might even stumble over a chair and break some dishes...He feared for the boy.
...Julio felt he had nothing more to say, and that he had written the longest letter in his life... He sat back again and smiled to himself. About six o'clock the following morning, a boy of twelve was riding a carabao along the river-bed road to town. He was very puny load on carabao's broad back.
Walking close behind the carabao, the father did not cross the stream but only stood there by the bank. "Mind to look after the letter," he called out from where he was. "Do you have it there, in your shirt pocket?"
The boy fumbled for it. When he had found it, he said, "No, Tatay, I won't lose it."
...Then Julio started to walk back to his house, thinking of the worl that awaited him in his clearing that day...
...Jose grew suddenly curious about the letter he carried in his shirt pocket. He stopped his carabao under a shady tree by the roadside.
A bird sang in a bush nearby. Jose could hear it even as he read the letter, jumping from word to word, for him the dialect was quite difficult. But as the meaning of each sentence became clear to him, he experienced a curious exultation. It was as though he were the happiest boy in the world and that the bird was singing for him. He heard the rumbling of the stream faraway. There he and his father had parted. The world seemed full of bird song and music from the stream.


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