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Five Hearts Chapter 1, Security

Updated on November 24, 2014
grand old lady profile image

Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

Jeepney, a Philippine form of public transportation
Jeepney, a Philippine form of public transportation | Source

Chapter One: Security

A million disparate thoughts raced through Jabez Waldo’s head. He felt his body tense up as he stepped off the jeepney (Philippine public transportation reminiscent of WW2 US army vehicles) and walked toward No. 8, Bamba Pera street.

His heart pounded loudly and rapidly. To calm down, he repeatedly said the name of Jesus in his head. Not that he believed in Jesus, in fact, he hated church. But the mantra usually worked. Who knows, he figured, it might even keep him from hell. Everything around him overwhelmingly reeked of hell.

Jabez had his suitcase in one hand and wore his backpack, the strap of which he held with his other hand. He tired easily. He blamed it on his stressful job at a call center, where he took the midnight shift. But the sudden pangs of fear at the prospect of any new situation left him overtaken. A million disparate thoughts filled his brain. He paused from his walk, sat under a tree and took 10 minutes more to repeat his mantra. Jesus, Jesus.

When he calmed down, Jabez stood up and grabbed his things. The cacophony in his mind silenced, and he could manage a confident demeanor. Jabez was good looking – fair skinned with a well framed body. He never exercised and actually was not physically strong, but he had this gift for eating anything and everything without gaining weight. He knew that looking good helped him appear to fit in with a world where even the slightest, innocuous thing could leave him feeling face-punched.

Kit

Finally, Jabez reached house No. 8 on Bamba Pera street. The house was surrounded by a 10 ft. tall, concrete wall, and topped with another four ft. of barbed wire. He noticed a CCTV camera at the black metal gate, which was actually a garage door with a smaller door for pedestrians to enter through. The gate and the door were robotically welded. There was no opening he could peer into to see what lay within.

He learned of the place through Vilma, an officemate at TimeCore, the call center where they worked. Vilma said there was a lot of gossip about the landlord’s ways, and tenants never stayed long, so lodging was a sure thing.

Some people said the landlord was crazy and blamed it on his eyes, which resembled those of a tarsier (Philippine primate). They said he was teased and bullied as a child and ended up living a strange, solitary life.

Others noted his extraordinarily elongated fingers, which, according to a former maid (who was now working for a new boss two houses down the road) insisted became webbed at night. The same maid said he played an invisible piano and real music emerged from it. The new boss of the maid, however, had doubts about the maid’s state of mind.

Still others said that they were very sure that the landlord kept live insects in jars like pets. They claimed that he had accumulated 85 jars so far. But they didn’t know what he fed the insects.

Jabez didn’t care about rumors. All he knew was that the place had a private, air-conditioned room with a bathroom, and that it was dirt cheap. Most important of all, it was available.

Jabez stood in front of the gate of the dwelling and rang the bell several times. No one came to the gate. Then, he noticed a slot opening on the door, revealing a solitary eye peering at him. “I’m Jabez Waldo. I called earlier,” he said to the eye. The eye behind the peephole stared at Jabez for an uncomfortably long time.

“I’m here about the room,” Jabez said. The peephole slot shut and there was only silence, and a distinct feeling of the passage of time. It was hot. Jabez looked around.

Curious neighbors behind him pretended to be busy, but they seemed to be stealing peeks at him. An old woman with a unibrow was running a sari-sari store. Her store — a common, ramshackle Filipino “street corner” store in the Philippines — sold basic needs -- shampoo, detergent, soap, and toothpaste in small affordable packets; canned food, cookies, candies, cigarettes sold by the stick, beer, soda poured into a plastic bag with a straw, load for mobile phones and anything else that the people in the area need or wanted. The unibrow lady did a very good impression of feigned disinterest but was watching him from the corner of her eye.

Jabez heard a loud sound of metal upon metal. Finally, the small door on the gate opened, and the man told Jabez to come in. “I’m Kit Kultihim,” the man said, shaking Jabez’s hand.

Tarsier, Philippine primate

Philippine Tarsier
Philippine Tarsier | Source

Sari Sari store

Sari Sari store
Sari Sari store | Source

Security Code

Kit wore round glasses, a loose white T-shirt and shorts. “Come with me.” The neighborhood was not great, but Kit had a fine piece of land. The grass was green and the yard was large, with a solitary acacia tree near the side of the garden.

Jabez walked towards the house. It was built like an old Spanish dwelling and seemed to have seen better days. As he approached the house Kit said, “Not there. Never there.” Jabez noted a curious stench, similar to a blend of raw sewage and rotting cantaloupe, that seemed to emanate from the dwelling. Kit waved his hand, as if to say, “follow me.”

Jabez was led to a smaller place at the farthest corner of the garden, east of the Acacia tree. “Your place is here,” Kit said. It looked newer than the big house and, when opened, it appeared unused. It was exactly as Vilma had described — a bed, an air conditioner and a bathroom.

“I don’t let people into the big house,” Kit said. “If you have questions or if you need me, you have my cell phone number. If you need to heat up any food, I suggest you buy a microwave, or you can build a ground oven. If the Maori in New Zealand do it, so can you. There are lots of teaching videos on YouTube.”

“Yeah,” Jabez said, “No worries.”

“Do you have a smartphone?” Kit asked. Jabez replied, “Yeah.” “Okay,” Kit said, “because my house is electronically coded and it can only work with a smartphone.” Kit pulled out his phone and sent a text message to Jabez.

“This is the code for the gate. It locks and unlocks electronically. You have to memorize it immediately and then delete the message. I change the code every week, but I’ll let you know the new code when it’s changed.”

Jabez put his bags on the bed, pulled out his phone, and got the coded message. Kit looked at him, waiting. Jabez looked up at Kit, then he looked down at the coded message. “I got it,” Jabez said.

Kit stared at him. Jabez read the code to him out loud. “JQ1134LMX242Y”.

Kit nodded, saying nothing, still staring at Jabez. Jabez uneasily looked at the code several times, trying to memorize it. “JQH” Jabez began. “Wrong!” Kit said in an unmistakably authoritative voice. “Again.”

Jabez looked at Kit and saw the intensity of his eyes, like two flashlights, behind the round lenses. He looked down at the code. “Oh right, it’s 11. So it’s JQ...”

“You’re looking,” Kit said. “No cheating.”

Jabez looked Kit up and down. The man was thin, dark - skinned, with semi-bulging eyeballs beneath the round eyeglasses. Jabez wondered whether Kit really needed those eyeglasses or if he was just sensitive about his eyes.

Kit said, “Well?”

“Oh yeah,” Jabez said. He looked at the code. He tried dividing the code in groups and making sentences with the first letters, then connecting the number groups to familiar things –dates, ages, anything. Then he started whispering it to himself over and over again, trying to get it right before reciting it to Kit.

“When memorizing, just a friendly tip,” Kit said. “Don’t move your lips. You’ll never know if there are lip readers around you.”

Jabez looked up, surprised, and saw that the man was serious. “OK,” he said. He memorized the code, careful not to move his lips. Then he looked at Kit and said, “JQ1134LMX242Y.”

There was a look of semi-approval in Kit’s eyes, but he was still waiting. “Did I forget anything?” Jabez asked. Kit looked at Jabez’ phone, his face hanging in exasperation.

“Oh, sorry,” Jabez said as he pretended to delete the message. Kit grabbed the phone from Jabez and checked it. Kit was leaning on the doorjamb of the room. He tapped the phone on his head, thinking deeply. Then, unconsciously, he began tapping the phone on the doorjamb. Tap, tap, tap. Like Morse code. The tapping grew louder and louder.

Old Filipino Spanish house

This is the Quema ancestral house. Most old Spanish houses are built this way.
This is the Quema ancestral house. Most old Spanish houses are built this way. | Source

Fly

Jabez grabbed the phone. “Uh, this is expensive,” he said, trying to hide his irritation. He looked at Kit and smiled. He knew from experience that people softened easily when he smiled. That and his good looks were imminent to survival in a strange and alienating world.

Kit stared blankly back at Jabez. Jabez recited the code three more times without looking, then he deleted the code. Kit looked at the phone, pressed a few tabs to make sure it wasn’t hidden anywhere, then gave Jabez back his phone.

“Look,” Jabez said, “I like my privacy. You don’t have to check all my other messages on the phone.” Kit said, “My safety is in your hands and yours is in mine. If we stick to the rules of the code, we’ll get along just fine.”

There was something about what Kit said, the way he said it, the rhythm behind the phrase, that rang a bell with Jabez. The feeling left him uncomfortable and fear ran through his heart. But Jabez repeated his mental mantra, Jesus, Jesus, to stop his thoughts from running deep.

Jabez looked at Kit’s hands and noticed that, true to the rumor, the fingers were extraordinarily long. He imagined them webbed and thought they would make great fly swatters. Jabez felt like a fly.

The two men stood looking at one another. Kit was feeling perfectly comfortable in his zone, and Jabez was wondering what he should do next. He pulled out his wallet and paid Kit the two months’ advance security deposit.

“Thanks,” Kit said, putting the money in his pocket. “Well, feel at home,” Kit said, still leaning on the doorjamb.

“Well, I guess I’ll unpack,” Jabez said, hoping Kit would get the message and leave.

“I have to watch you unpack. I have to make sure that you don’t bring any harmful chemicals or illegal drugs into the property,” Kit said.

Jabez said, “I smoke and I drink. That okay with you?”

“Yeah,” Kit said. “So do I.” He did not budge from the doorjamb.

Jabez unpacked. He knew he was at this man’s mercy. Jabez put his pants and shirts in the cabinet. Kit checked the pockets of some of Jabez’s clothes as he pulled them out to be sure they were empty.

Jabez said, “Maybe I should have brought a police clearance with me.”

Kit said, “Nah. In the Philippines, documents can easily be forged. But what can you do? Even in this world of electronics, no matter how much you hate them, you can’t live without documents. So I minimize my dependence on them.”

Jabez set his towels in the bathroom. He pulled out his bedsheets and pillows, socks, shoes, briefs. Everything was in place, and the bags were empty.

When Kit was certain that he checked everything he walked away, saying, “I don’t need to check your wallet. I believe that people deserve their private space.”

Jabez closed the door and locked it. He had to sleep because he was going to cover the graveyard shift at TimeCore. He grabbed an Ambien from his wallet and crashed on the bed.

Fly

Fly
Fly | Source

Note

Thank you for having read this far. This is a work in progress, and I would be deeply grateful for your comments, particularly criticisms and pointers for improvement. Namaste.

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    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Nell Rose:). Frankly, I'm stuck on the second chapter, but with encouragement like yours, I feel more confident that it can be done.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Great start to the story! grabbed my attention and I will be back for more, nice one!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Mel Carriere, no I feel more challenged to live up to your comments and that of the others. If this becomes a book, it will be because of all of you:)

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Your writing style has life pumping through it. You have your own unique voice and a superb imagination.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Mel Carriere, I wish I had more of your easy reading, writing flow style, though. I think my fiction has yet to have its ear on the ground. It was very nice of you to stop by and to comment, and your words are most encouraging:).

      Thank you DDE, I know fiction isn't always the first choice in reading, so your taking time to go through this is so very much appreciated. Thank you for your encouragement.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      You have definitely made me want to read more. Tour characters are complex, original, and carefully constructed. You have the gift, which can only be divine-given, not learned, of storytelling. When do we get more?

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A very interesting and informative read here. The story certainly got my attention. You are trying different avenues in writing and doing well at it.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you ologsinquito. I never thought that this would make the Philippines more interesting. And thank you so much for reading.:)

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

      Life in the Philippines sounds so fascinating to someone who lives in the United States. It's making me want to take a trip there.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Billybuc, thank you so much for your comments. I know you are too gracious to point out errors, but by pointing out strengths, I am guided by what I should continue doing. Thank you very much for taking time to read this.

      Ms. Dora, now I feel insecure because as you said, the conversation between Kit and Jabez sets one up for peculiar interaction. Thank you for pointing out the challenge I will have to deal with in this work in progress. I hope I can make a continuing relationship with the two characters that will meet your standards:).

      Eiddwen, Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing my hub. Let's raise our glasses of wine and toast to many more hubs in the future that we can share. For extravagant occasions, it will be champagne:).

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You started out with a bang, instantly grabbing our attention. The story flowed well and the dialogue added to the story and helped it to move...well done.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I like the name of your main character, Jabez. Now your introduction of Kit and the conversation between the two about the security code sets us up for some real peculiar interaction between the two, so I'm looking forward to that. Good so far.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      A great read and one for me to vote up and share for sure. Here's to so many more hubs for us both to share on here and wishing you a great day.

      Eddy.