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Perhaps Today; Perhaps Tomorrow

The sea begins to churn away. Here the children come out to play. They stay by the shore in their once clean clothes; picking through the sand and looking for something to bring home. In their small island, there isn’t much to do. The boats bringing necessities that dock at the harbor are rare. The long trips are too difficult, too unpredictable—leaving the villagers alone for the most part of the year. Every man and woman is busy with all the things that need to be done. They fish for the most part, with small boats they set out to the sea. Those who get sick stay in the island. Some tend to their gardens; others take time to make and mend clothes. Some search for fresh water; others pave out new roads. There are so many things to care for and so many things left undone.

Their houses are built on the high cliffs that overlook the sea, the storms have always been harsh and their attempts to create a village near the beach have been unsuccessful. There are times when parents think about rebuilding the village near the docks. There will be no wasted time if they do, but they always remember the aftermath of unexpected storms. Store fronts that are struck down. Houses that are washed away. They remind themselves to keep the family safe, the extra work becomes comforting.

They run up the side of the hill over and over again. Fishermen carry their haul to their homes. Wives carry meals to their husbands and sons. Messengers go back and forth taking note of the things that are needed or things that are being sent. With all the activity going on, the children are often left to entertain themselves.

They grow restless in their homes. When they lie in their beds, a gentle breeze carries the scent of wet grass and salt. When they look outside their window, the sea’s gleaming waves call. When they walk around the house with their bare feet, they can feel pieces of the sand that their parents tracked in from the night before. The grains remind them of the beach, a vast unknown with so many treasures left undiscovered.

They would meet up in groups of fours or fives and sift through the sands, looking for things from the mainland. They have heard nothing of this place, other than that their small island was once a part of it, but slowly drifted away. Surely the Mainland is big. Surely the Mainland has more people—people who are far more interesting and who have much more to say.

The children dream of it—a place that is rumored to be the center of the world and the beginning of civilization. They once found a small cookie tin; the lid had a painting of children smiling brightly. There were words in a foreign language etched around the painting. They found other similar containers, each one more beautiful than the last. How rich the Mainland must have been to paint metal and consider it common!

They silently wish amongst themselves that the Mainland would come back, and that their tiny island would stop drifting. They count the days the ships come and go and find that gaps in between trips have grown longer and longer—with that, the Mainland is farther and farther. They run around under the sun, with the hats that their mothers made. They satisfy their curiosity looking for trinkets that are washed on shore: a bottle here and there, a pair-less shoe, a rusted can, and a plaid shirt sleeve make a fantastic find.

Each treasure is carefully brought home—a song for a coin and a story for a comb. During dinner while their parents struggle to stay awake, the children narrate the story about their find. With every “perhaps,” the worn faces wear soft smiles. Perhaps the ships will come soon. Perhaps their small island will find the mainland. Perhaps the strong voices of these bright-eyed children will pull their small strings and bring back the pieces that have drifted away.

The parents then urge the children to sleep. The children always fuss and the parents always insist. As the sun sets, the children are put to bed. They listen to the sea churn away, the sounds drifting farther and farther as their dreams draw closer and closer.

Their parents slip out of their houses and they all huddle in the townhouse. The lights are low, but their voices are not. A big man animatedly talks about his daughter’s find—a broken mirror—and retells the tale. A person dutifully writes it down. Every night in that small building, they gather to have the stories written down. There was a fairy in a bottle, a one-legged pirate, and a mermaid with long hair. Yesterday there was an Arabian genie, a dancing shoe, and the arms of the world’s thinnest man. The parents talk and laugh amongst themselves. Oh! The things they’ve heard.

Soon, the night is over and they walk to a nearby cliff. They throw the objects one by one, laughing at the poor father who tripped and didn’t throw a thin notebook far enough to be caught by the waves, the papers flapping and flailing in the wind. Another person, however, threw a shoe too far, overestimating its weight. They all comfort each other on their way home, saying that eventually these things will wash up on shore—perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow.

Katherine Ang
Katherine Ang is a III BFA Creative Writing (Fiction) student at Ateneo de Manila University. She had her story, Sam Saves Worlds, selected for the Height’s Kwentong Pambata grant for 2016. When she was a child, she created worlds to play pretend (like all other children). She hopes that she didn’t lose her touch. (She tries, she really tries.)

Perhaps Today; Perhaps Tomorrow