the rice

the rice

Rice by Manuel E. Arguilla

Slowly, Pablo unhitched the carabao from the empty sled. He laid a horny palm on the back of the tired animal; the thick; coarse-haired skin was warm and dry like sun heated earth. The carabao by quietly, licking with its dark colored tongue and beads of moisture that hung on the stiff hairs around its nostrils. Dropping the yoke inside the sled, Pablo led the beast to a young tamarind tree almost as high as nipa hut beside it. A bundle of fresh green zacate lay under the tree and the carabao began to feed upon it hungrily. Pablo watched the animal a moment, half listening to its snuffling as it buried its mouth in the sweet-smelling zacate. A sudden weakness came upon him and black spots whirled before his eyes. He felt so hungry he could have gone down on his knees beside the carabao and chewed the grass.

"Eat," he said in a thin, wheezy voice. "You can have all the grass you want." He slapped the animal's smooth, fat rump, and turned to the house, his hand falling limpy to his side.

"Sebia," he called, raising his voice until it broke shrilly, "Sebia!"

No answering voice came from the hut. He bent low to pass under a length of hard bamboo used as a storm prop, muttering to himself how careless of his wife it was to leave the house with the door open. Toward the side where the prop slanted upward against the eaves, the hunt leaned sharply. The whole frailstructure in fact looked as though it might collapse at any moments. But this year it has weathered four heavy storms without any greater damage than the sharp inclined toward the west, and that has been taken care of by the prop. As he looked at the house, Pablo did not see how squalid it was. He saw the snapping nipa walls, the shutterless windows, the rotting floor of the shaky batalan, the roofless shed over the low ladder,but there were familiar sights that had

ceased to arouse his interest.

He wiped his muddy feet on the grass that grew knee deep in the...

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