Father of the Sword

10 Feb

philippine cockatoo


Joy had the day off. She came in the morning. Took him to the beach where her canoe was waiting. Do you know how to drive one, she said. It is traditional Philippines boat. PVC pipe bolted to the sides on struts to make a catamaran. Black nylon fishing net heaped in the aluminum hull.

It was high tide. White sand stretched out into swaying weeds under calm water. Out on a pier a Chinese family studied distant ships with binoculars. The only other tourists. Tall storm clouds pulled sluggishly at the horizon. The night before he’d taken the scooter into Puerto Princesa to find sunscreen. A hundred kinds but only one that didn’t bleach your skin, for tourists. In a separate area of the pharmacy. On the boulevard by a harbor full of shipwrecks kids dancing in school uniforms stopped him for pictures, laughing. He woke up early. Spent long minutes smearing sunscreen on. Toweling it off. He didn’t want his nose red but didn’t want to be shiny either. Appraised his gut in the mirror. Sitting down like it would be in the boat.

She sat in front, golden like a part of the sunshine. He waded out up to his knees pushing the boat out. Lost a flip flop in the sand and she laughed. We are going south, she said. My father is not far from here.

He did know how to drive it. He’d gone canoeing on a family vacation, at fourteen. Kept his boat next to his cousin’s; she was sixteen with big pink sunburn tits wet in a white one piece and he thought about them seven miles downriver. Little hard on in his trunks keeping his belly warm. She was a grandmother now. He paddled south past the resorts to where the mangroves began. Families waded chest high in the salt flats gathering clams in their basketball shirts. They grinned and waved. Fish with zebra stripes chased one another in the sunlight. Are you sure he’ll like me, he said.

Yes! Don’t be afraid, sir. He likes Westerners. He has worked on ships, traveled many places. He is a scholarly man.


Before this, where did you go in Philippines, sir.


Anywhere else?

… Pampanga.

You mean Angeles? All the men are going there. For the girls.

I was visiting a friend, he said. He told me there are vampires there. Aswang.

Yes sir, here too. Some people say at night they hear them flying. But I have not seen it personally.

Up the shore the green wall of the mangroves broke into a lagoon. Steer there, she said. Inside a pool shaded by leaves. Children playing tag in the water. Girls on boys’ shoulders splashing. When they saw him they went nuts. Tom Cruise! they screamed, pointing. Donald Trump!

Rodrigo Duterte! he said pointing back, and they laughed. To the right the mangroves formed a channel. Older kids stalked the tall arches in the roots. Pulled out crabs in nets, their claws frantic in the air. It is not far sir, she said. Around a bend, a cave made from the hissing trees. Huts and houses on the muddy shore. Three little canoes like theirs pulled up on the sand. One long mean-looking speedboat, four engines askance on the back, props in the water. TABAK painted on the side with a crude cutlass in a bronze fist.

Men on the shore, mending fish nets, hacking at bamboo shafts with machetes. Women weaving hut walls out of palm leaves. A screaming rooster tied to a tree with twine and a water buffalo with clay covered skin, a neck like a dinosaur. But no dogs. Welcome to my home, she said. A wiry man chopping at a bamboo pole looked up, put his machete down and ran into the big house. He finds my father.


When the door clicked closed behind him he saw the guns. Battered AKs leaning on dirty wallpaper. He heard his heart suddenly. Knew he would die. Relax, said the old man. You are a guest.

A concrete house. Palawan didn’t get typhoons but it was the only way they knew to build. In the entry a big table, mismatched office chairs, papers. A laptop. Paintings of old boxers, like everywhere here. Outside the chicken burbled, worried. The old man had kind eyes. Maybe five foot two. As he approached the boat to help Joy out to shore he’d cast an appraising eye. Made a muscle pose. You brought me Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’d said. Too many consonants for his tongue.

Inside he gestured to sit. Murmured something to Joy in dialect. Telling her go somewhere for tea. She obeyed.

You are afraid of our guns, he said. They are necessary here. For many years, trouble.

Are you–

Am I ISIS? I am a Muslim, sir. But all people are my brothers and sisters. We are in your country too. The states.

Yes sir. California.

And you are here for tourism.

That’s right

Where have you seen.

Manila… Pampanga

For the women.

I was visiting a friend.

A man wants a woman. It is a part of nature.

It’s not why I’m here.

For what then.

He paused. The girls were near the airport that took you to the island with the rare Philippine cockatoo. He still hadn’t seen it. Nature, he said.

My daughter says you don’t like your work.

Why are you asking me this? Can you just tell me what you want– I’ll cooperate–

I have told you, you are a guest. I will not kill you. I want to know what you want from this place.

I wanted to retire, he said. Maybe here.

Not America.

No, it’s not– it’s not a good place.

Why? You told her you earn five million peso–

Yes but it’s not worth anything. They just take it from you. You make more and the rent just goes up. You work hard and you do what they fucking tell you and the women look at you like a worm. I have to work to pay to work to get a woman’s attention so she can reject me. Love is impossible. A house, a wife– a second date, impossible. Normal things. I’ll never hold my first child. Those things just ended. Yes, I hate my work. And I’m afraid of losing it. They get angry if you’re not thankful for it. That’s a bad attitude. You have to lie every day, every minute, and say you love the thing that’s killing you. It’s Satanic. What do we have, better toilets? The men are all liars. The women are barely people anymore. I’m barely a person anymore. I’m starting to like it. I’m starting to feel proud when I close a deal. To sell branded entertainment. To sell Verizon to fucking moms— it’s all like this. Everything exists just to sell you shit and you have to sell shit too just to live and they make you fucking smile about it. I’ll get old like this. Alone. Nothing but my career– I wish you would kill me. Please– is that what I’m here for? To cut my head off? Trust me, no one gives a shit–

The old man laughed. And you sell information, he said. For this job.


I know your firm. I have seen your Linkedin profile. He spoke the words like binding a demon.


We are at work on something here, he said. A project. When we are finished, perhaps things will be better.


But first we need information.

I can’t–

You think I am a terrorist. But I speak to the Westerners here. Like you. Some will not tell the truth. But they know it. When the sun is covered in darkness, when the stars fall, scattering; when the mountains are annihilated and what you possessed is in flames, when the beasts draw together in their hordes– your soul will know then. What you made with your life. They know. That is terror. You know.

He did know.

When you go back, you can speak with Joy. Via Skype. We will only need a little from you. And when you are finished you can come back for her.

He waited to say yes. It took a second to sink in, that the old man hadn’t asked. Hadn’t had to.

He stayed three more days. Kissing Joy under the waterfalls. Her eyes full of love, like his dream. High in the trees the birds cried, mostly out of sight. Just flashes of white feathers. Red streaks like their guts were slashed. Then it was time to go. Back to work.

9 Responses to “Father of the Sword”

  1. Anonymous February 10, 2018 at 7:06 pm #

    I don’t get it. So is the guy ISIS or what?

    • Anonymous Kiwi February 10, 2018 at 7:37 pm #

      It’s part of his post-apocalyptic thing mate, wait and see.

      I really like this stuff and I really loved the way the imagery changed at “mean-looking” in this one.

  2. bowler hat February 10, 2018 at 8:42 pm #

    this is developing into a hell of a book, DT. Well done, you must be proud

    • delicioustacos February 10, 2018 at 9:47 pm #

      Thank you.

    • pdwalker February 11, 2018 at 6:34 am #

      Seconded. It’s really drawing me in.

    • dickycone February 11, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

      Thirded. I particularly liked “golden like a part of the sunshine.”

      • Anonymous February 13, 2018 at 9:39 am #

        When I think of golden part of the sunshine, I think of pissing on a hot, slutty blonde cokewhore’s face.

  3. J.A.F.O. February 24, 2018 at 11:41 pm #

    On behalf of all the Grill Knaves™ out there,
    I wished you a (belated) happy 42 as I tossed a Bitcoin into the fountain.
    Keep going, dude.


  1. Sticky: Finally, Some Good News | delicioustacos - February 10, 2018

    […] Father of the Sword […]

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