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The Moneymaker Nita H.

Umali When you are very young you have your fears and your loyalties. Read this selection to find out what the little girl feared so much and how her fears and loyalties prevented her from realizing who the real moneymaker was . Karia, our maid, had told me the story. She said the men who carried the big jute sacks slung on their backs and who walked by our yard at sunset were moneymakers. Children were inside those sacks. The men carried them to a bridge made of bones and there cut off their hands, then squeezed the blood out of their bodies. That was what they made money out of, children's blood. Karia had shown me a bright new coin, and I had been greatly impressed by its reddish gold color. I asked her why they did not take older people, too, and she said that was because when you got old you were no longer innocent and your blood would not make good shiny coins. I still clearly remember that before she told me the story, I had spent my afternoons waiting for the sun to set. There were guava trees growing in our yard, and I'd sit on the top branch of one of them and enjoy myself watching the orange sun take back all the light it had been giving away to the farm all day. It started about five o'clock every afternoon, when all over the fields the yellow heat changed to the cool colors of honeysuckle. Then the gray dusk would come in, and all the happy pink and orange and lavender tints gathered away from the earth to the sky, on the borders of clouds and behind mountains, till finally they all melted into the sun. When all was gray except for a few gold-hemmed clouds that were close to it, the sun, like a bright coin, would slip away into a slot at the slope of a green mountain. But after Karia told me about the moneymakers, I was too scared to stay outside at that hour. I kept to my room all afternoon and waited for them to pass by. At least one of them always did, with his sack and his long curved knife, his face always hidden by a wide floppy hat. As soon as he was in sight, I'd run to the door and lock it. If I was all alone in the room I'd crawl to the corner where the crack was and, pressing myself as tightly to the wall as I could, I'd watch. I never asked Grandma about it because Grandma did not like questions. Papa answered my questions, but when he was around I forgot most of the things I wanted to ask, for there were so many other things I had to say. He came every Sunday and stayed only a few hours and then went back to his work in the city. There had been only Karia to ask about things and it was from her that I tried to find out what the moneymakers did with all the money they made. Why, they buy food and clothes and they have many wives and houses. Karia, do they kill their own children? Sometimes they do, but not often. There are many other children they can kill instead. One afternoon I saw at a distance two of the moneymakers walking together, but one of them did not have a hat on. That meant I would see his face. He would have red eyes for sure, and I knew what his mouth and nose and his whole face would be like, I had once heard the preacher talk about "the gaping caverns of hell." and knew that was what moneymakers would look like With him walking a distance away from the house, there was such a great fear in me that I could hardly move and breathe, but when he turned away from the road and, jumping over a small ditch, took the path that passed right by the walls of our house, I actually started to tremble, sweat, and feel cold. But still I waited for the face. I was disappointed. It should not be, but there it was, his face, looking just like other people's. Black hair, dark eyes, just enough nose, just enough mouth, just enough ears. Of course money-makers could probably change their appearance the way witches could, but still his eyes should have been red, because the color of the eyes, I knew, could never change. I was so absorbed with staring at his young ordinary face that I did not see Karia at once. But here she was in her red silk dress with the silver buttons going all the way down the back, which meant that there was something big happening, because she never wore that dress except when she went to town with us. She was standing on one side of the house, also watching the hatless moneymaker. I tried to get a good look at her face to see if she was afraid. I was not too surprised when I saw her smiling, because anyway she was too old for him to kill. He came and stood beside her and I could see their lips moving, though hard as I tried, I could not hear them. Once he looked up in the direction of my room and I tremble until he looked away. He and Karia talked some more and then he left. She remained standing there, just staring at his back while I had to bend over and hold my stomach to keep back the effect of my excited impatience. I could not stand it any longer and through the crack called out to her in a low whisper. She did not hear me so I opened the window a tiny bit and called again. When she looked up I stretched out one arm and waved for her to come up. I pulled her with me to the bathroom. "Did he have children? Did he?"

"Children?" "Yes, to make money out of." "Oh, that," she smiled. "No, he is not a moneymaker. He is Tino." "What did he have in his sack then, if he is not a moneymaker?" "He's been out harvesting rice." She was still smiling. "That's why he has no hat on, like the others?" "Yes, that's right." "Karia, do you think moneymakers have red eyes?" She looked at me as if she were not listening very well. "Why should they?" she said. "I don't know...because they kill people. Karia, why do you have that red dress on? Are you going anywhere?" "No, where would I be going?" "Then it is for Tino.'' "Of course not," but she was smiling. "I have to go and get supper ready." Tino stopped by the house every afternoon about the same time the moneymakers passed. But one day he came earlier than usual. Although I was not very sure that I was not afraid of him, even if Karia did say he was not a moneymaker, yet I would never find out what he really was unless I joined them in the yard. My curiosity overcame my fear and I joined them after I made Karia swear to me by all the elves in the mounds that nothing would happen to me. Most of the time he and Karia were just laughing, and I was too busy looking at him and trying to make out what was inside the sack he had with him to care whether they talked to me or not. He must have noticed me, though, because before he left he said: "Do you want to see what's inside this sack?" I shook my head, though I really wanted to. "Oh, come now." he smiled. " You don't really think I am a moneymaker, do you?" And when I looked at Karia he added, "She has told me what you thought. But look inside this sack and you'll see." Karia nodded and I remembered her oath that nothing would happen to me, so I looked in. It really was rice. "Is it yours?" I asked him. Karia gave him a funny look at my question and all of a sudden neither of them was smiling any more. "Yes," he answered as if he were angry, so I asked him. "Are you mad at her or at me?" They laughed at that and he said he was not mad at all. Grandma always woke up earlier than I did. She'd read in her room or walk out to the fields, but I cannot remember any time in which she did not wait for me to have breakfast with, unless she was sick. Except that one morning. I came down and found her almost through with eating. She said she had to go to the granary to give to the harvesters their share of the season's crop. I had never been to the granary before, and because I'd heard so many stories from my friends in town of all the money that we had in there, I asked Grandma if I could go with her. She said she had to hurry away, but added that I could ask Karia to take me there after she was through washing the dishes. I could see Grandma through the window as she walked away. She had with her Grandpa's cane which Karia said he never used when he was alive but kept hidden in his closet instead. It was the dried tail of a pagi, a creature to the sea, though now it looked like an old brown piece of wood with knobs and knots throughout its length. Karia said that anyone hit by that cane, even playfully, would wither and dry up and get thinner and thinner and die. That was why Grandpa never used it. But Grandma was so frail and small that she needed some kind of protection when she went out by herself, so it was right for her to take it along. Of course, everyone was afraid of Grandma really, even Karia, though when I once asked her if she was, she said, "No, of course not." As soon as Karia was through with the dishes, we went. We walked through the rice paddies because that way was shorter. The granary stood a few hundred yards away from the rice fields under the coconut trees. Karia knew the way so I walked behind her on the narrow trail. There were a lot of young coconuts, just the size of eggs, that the wind had blown down to the ground, and I stopped to pick them up. On one end they had hard, petal-like growths which I played with as I did with rose petals. Only, this was more fun because the growths broke off with a crack, and when they were all removed there was uncovered the white smooth surface of the fruit with a faint pink ring crowning it. Karia asked me rather impatiently to hurry, so I caught up with her and walked by her side. I had thought of some questions I wanted to ask her but she looked so serious that I thought I'd better tease her first into good humor. Ibegan on another nut and sang out as I tore each hard petal away, You love him, you love him not, you love him." She glanced down at me but made no comment. "You love Tino, you love him not, you love Tino...." That time she smiled. Aha, you love Tino, you love Tino, you love Tino..." It was the last petal. I threw the nut away, then turned to her. "Karia, why do they become moneymakers?" "Who?" "The moneymakers." "Oh, you're still thinking of them?" She was smiling. "Of course. I still watch for them every afternoon from my room."

We had reached the granary. There was dust billowing around the mounds of gold, and on one mound Tino stood. Of course it was only rice that he was knee-deep in, but it did look like gold from afar. Karia caught his eye as soon as she entered, but he did not even smile. Once in a while he passed his hand over his brow and then fiercely shook the sweat. There were three men working, measuring the rice with big cans. Grandma hardly took her eyes away from them except in moments when she would hurriedly write down some numbers in her notebook. I soon got tired of watching and Grandma would not let me touch anything. Grandma was like that, always forbidding me to do the things she forced other people to do. I walked out of the granary and played under the trees. When they finally got through, it was past midday and the shadows of the coconut trees had bent away from the left to the right, and my own shadow had come up from behind and now walked directly in front of me. As we crossed the rice fields, Tino came hurrying behind us. I thought he wanted to talk to Karia but I was mistaken. It was Grandma. He walked beside her, but as I was a few paces ahead of them, I could hear only bits of their conversation. Once Grandma said, "I cannot help it. It's all your fault. You should not have borrowed money from me last year. Besides you should learn to live on your own share of the harvest and not spend so much," She said it loudly and angrily. Tino answered in about the same tone. I looked back. His face was red and he was saying, "You can't say that. You have never tried to live on that amount yourself." I could not hear Grandma's answer to that, but after we had gone some more yards, their voices grew louder. Grandma said, "Well, you're not getting any more money or rice from me with which to marry her. And if you think I will condone her parents' debts to me and let her go without serving her time, you are mistaken." She said this in a very decided and angry voice. Karia paused awhile and I thought she was going to turn around but she did not. I looked back again and saw Tino walking from Grandma. He took a short cut across the paddy, his bare feet sinking into the thick piles of dried rice stalks. His face scared me, it had a very angry look as he kept it turned in Grandma's direction, and shouted: "You old leech, you've killed others this way, but you'll see. You'll see! you thieving old usurer!" I shook all over, I waited for Grandma to say that she had never killed anyone, but all she screamed at him was "You imbecile, get off my land!" and she brandished her cane in the air threateningly. She looked very proud and brave standing there, her small white hands holding Grandpa's cane high. Though she was so tiny, she appeared taller than Tino, who stood at the center of the sunken paddy, his dark face shining sweatily in the noonday sun. That night it did not take much persuasion from Karina to make me go to bed early. I was so tired from the day's walk I did not even note when she blew out the candle and left my room. Next morning, I woke up before dawn. The day had started just like other days on the farm. The cocks were just beginning to crow. From my bed I could see the mountain, with the giant cotton clouds about its peak, still a solid dark-green. I reversed my position and with my chin in a pillow waited for the yellow-pink light of morning to wake up the mountain and wash its face so that its purple and pale yellow and fresh green hues would come out. From downstairs there came the quiet hum of voices. But since every morning the farm hands dropped in at the house and stayed a few minutes before they went on their way to work, I did not pay much attention to the steady sound of talk. Nor did I particularly notice then the hush of the morning stillness. Lavender was spreading on one side of the mountain and I had been following its progress when a new but familiar voice came from downstairs. I jumped out of bed. It was not a Sunday, yet I was sure it was Papa. I ran to the window. His car was there. I almost tripped on my long flannel nightgown as I ran down the stairs and out into the hall. Quite a few of our laborers were there, some sitting on benches, some squatting on the floor. Only the overseer and Berto talked in the corner, but so softly that I could not have heard them even if I had been interested. "Good morning." I beamed at everyone happily although only a few took enough notice of me to smile. "Where's Papa?" I asked, turning around, hoping that now someone would say something nice, Berto pointed to Grandma's room. It was all so strange, the way everyone was acting. "Papa," I called but even before I entered the room, He was at the door instantly. "Shhh-shh..." he put a finger to his mouth. Grandma could not be asleep at that hour, but I was too glad to see him to ask him at once what the matter was. Instead I jumped so he would pick me up and kiss me. With my arms around his neck I looked into Grandma's room.... A nurse was in the room, bending over the bed, so I could not see anything of Grandma except her face, which was very white and wrinkled. When she slept everything about her face was small, and now it had shrunk even more. Her eyes were closed into tight slits, her nose was so tiny, and though she had a mouth there were no lips on it. But it was not Grandma...it was my tub which Papa had given me long ago and which I used to fill with water and float celluloid ducks and chickens and men and women in. it was my tub, and it was filled with blood, red and thick and messy with soaked cotton and gauze, and there were brown

tricklings on its sides, and there were stains on the floor. I shivered and felt I should hold my stomach in and my head straight. "Hell be all right soon." The voice came from behind me and I jumped around. Our family doctor had just entered the room. "The blows she gave him were surprisingly strong, but they're nothing serious." I wondered whom he could be talking about. Grandma was the one who looked sick, but he wa not referring to her. "Did he say why he did it?" Papa asked "No. He seems to be more disturbed by the fact that he has received blows from the cane. I don't think the state of your mother-in-law worries him as much as that." Papa had nothing to say. "Are you sending him off to prison?" the doctor asked. I thought of Tino and how Grandma waved her cane at him and of all the things he said. He must have come while we were sleeping and must have tried to kill Grandma. Of course he did not know what a light sleeper Grandma was. Also, Tino did not know that Grandma slept with Grandpa's cane right beside her. Papa had now answered the doctor's question. I pulled at his coat. Papa, it's Tino, isn't it? I know it is, because he called her names yesterday, he called her a usurer. What does that mean, Papa?" He looked down at me, though I could not tell whether he was listening or not, "He also called her a leech and said she had killed other people. That's not true, is it?" He still said nothing. "You should have seen Grandma. She shouted at him so loudly and waved her cane and told him to get out." My voice rose a little and Papa put his fingers to my lips. He glanced at the doctor, who had walked to the window, his back turned to us. "Papa, did Grandma ever kill people?" I whispered. "No, of course not." I was going to ask him something else, but Grandma groaned and looked as if she was trying to open her eyes. Papa went near her bed but motioned to me to stay away, so I just stood there by the door. It was so confusing and yet it was not. Tino had wanted money, I knew. And Grandma had not wanted to give it to him. Tino had tried to kill Grandma. I looked at my white tub again. And then it all came to me all of it, so very clearly, and I knew. Papa, I called softly, but he waved me away. I had to tell someone. When I went out into the hall, some of the laborers were still there. I looked around to see if there was anyone to whom I could tell what I knew, but all their faces were so closed. Then I thought of Karia! Why had I not thought of her earlier, when she was the one? I bunched my white nightgown at the waist so it would not gather dirt at the hem, and ran out to the kitchen. I'd tell her I knew. She had lied to me. They had fooled me, both she and Tino had. There were some women in the kitchen, all busy rolling cigarettes and weaving socks. Only Karia was idle. She was sitting by the door, blowing her nose on the hem of her skirt. I stood in front of her, letting go of my nightgown because the air coming in from the slits of the bamboo floor was cold. "Karia, you're a big liar." She looked up at me and then away, staring out of the window into nothing but a square of morning blue sky. "You and Tino are both big liars. You said he was not a money-maker , and you said moneymakers made money only out of children. But he was going to make money out of Grandma. He was, I know." Her face twitched as if she were going to cry. I went on. "Tino is a moneymaker, but he won't be able to make money out of Grandma now." "Stop that!" It was Papa's voice and when I turned around I saw he was addressing me. But of course he did not know what I knew. Karia's shoulders had started to shake, but her head was bent so low we could not see her face. Papa touched her head and said, "He'll get well Karia, and then we'll see what we can do for him." But her shoulders shook even more though she tried to stop. "The cane, she beat him with it. The cane..." She went on, bending down lower to her nose. Tino would get thinner and thinner and die, and it was very hard to choose between being made money out of and withering away.

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