SHORT STORY | Black Snakes Are Innocent, the Gold Are Venomous

Ricardo had his quiffs upward to his left, swaying as it were in his cat-like belligerent walk to gate F-34. The brown leather jacket of his glistened under the luminescent, bright lights and his white shirt and black jeans were day and night sandwiched together with cosmic contrast, casting ultranova with each step his cream colored sneakers took on the sarong kebaya woven carpets of Changi Airport. He had his baggage firmly grasped with his right hand like holding the leash of his imaginary pet ocelot. Ricardo’s circular spectacles shoot intelligent glances, whether he turned to the left or to the right. 

He arrived to find Gate F-34 opening to accommodate passengers departing for the flight. With his cat-like belligerent walk, he slowed down to line up just behind a family of four.

“Please remove all electronic gadgets and metallic objects,” one of the airport ground staff said.

The imaginary pet ocelot’s leash he had firmly grasped on the way had to be lifted up and placed and put through the baggage X-ray with his face flushed with the slightest of red. The belt constricting around his waist had to be undone, his metallic watch detached from his slender wrist, and his jet-black smartphone removed from his pants’ right front pocket. His make-believe ocelot now had to bring the items from one end to the other, making it seem like a beast of the least burden than an exotic pet cat.

Ricardo’s tall, slender body had to pass through the full body scan. The Tamil Indian lady ground staff patted her way just below the chiseled jawline of his handsome pale face, to his firm, wide shoulders, and down to the pockets of the black jeans wrapping his waist of thirty-two inches.

“Am I clear?”

“Y-yes. You may proceed to boarding,” she blushed.

After collecting his valuables, he resumed his cat-like belligerent walk to the actual gate and handed out his boarding pass to the Singaporean lady ground staff with a hair bun. She fed it to a machine. It regurgitated the rectangular remains almost immediately. 

“Have a pleasant flight.”

“Thank you.”

He panthered through the gate, only to be stopped by a male flight attendant at the very mouth of the plane.

“Your boarding pass, please.”

He procured it. With a trained eye, the flight attendant read it and returned it swiftly.

“It’s a window seat, Mr. Progressio. Just turn right from here and go straight ahead. You’ll find the seat at the D rows.”

“Thanks.”

The plane was now swarming with passengers. Businessmen with their pressed suits, bums with their polo shirts of blooming flowers and straw hats, children with their small, shrill giggling, and the quiet ones, with their seats properly propped up, window shades raised, and their seat belts fastened over blankets, with magazines clasped in their hands.

Ricardo opened his baggage and pulled out a crimson hard-bound book of ornate design. He patted it before putting it inside the overhead compartment, making his own self as comfortable as the others as soon as the bin closed with a distinct click. 

A Caucasian man wearing a black trench coat and a light brown fedora hat sat on the aisle seat beside him.

The plane’s flight attendants began passing out hot towels, swaying their tongs like wands and chanting with every row, “Hot towel, sir?” 

He received a towel and opened it flat on his lap. Steam escaped into a thin vapor and he quickly let it rest on his face, relaxing it. This he considered a simple pleasure of life.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Singapore Airlines flight SQ 915 bound for Manila. We will now begin the take-off checks and procedures. Be sure to pay attention to the safety video which will now be shown. Cabin crew, to your take-off stations please,” the captain said.

For a minute, the in-seat T.V. screens blared with Asian hospitality. Each movement tirelessly made with smiles of sincerity – unquestionable dedication to work with warmth and cordiality only Asians are known for. Seatbelts, emergency procedures, and proper baggage stowage were shown. Yet, Ricardo’s line of sight remained to be on the static pages of his crimson book. His mind, obviously, already in the open, free skies.

“Anna Karenina?” the Caucasian man asked.

“Hmm?”

“Anna Karenina. Excellent choice. What part are you in?”

“She’s dead. Anna, I mean.”

“Dramatic, isn’t it?”

He pulled the thin bookmark and dug it deep into the seam of the book, closed it, and dropped it into the seat pocket in front of him.

“Not really. I hate her. She seems too sincere with her feelings that she acts on them without thinking.”

“Well, won’t you give her points for her sincerity?”

“I won’t. Anna discounted her own son, Seryozsha, for a wild romance. Who would give points for that?”

“Human nature. Human nature would give points for that.”

“Maybe. Maybe not?”

Both the Caucasian man and Ricardo chuckled.

“That’s too bad. Who did you love, then?”

“I’m a bit of a romantic myself. Kitty and Levin was the couple I rooted for from the start,” Ricardo replied.

“They’re nice, I agree. Slow at the start and much after Levin’s musings about the plight of the Russian peasants. They rekindle what was there all along.”

“I confess: it felt dragging when I read that, but it was all worth it when they saw each other once again. Writing on the chalkboard and all.”

“Ha, ha! I absolutely agree!”

Ricardo roared with him in laughter.

“You have good taste in literature. Are you Singaporean?”

“No, I’m Filipino.”

“Ah…”

The plane’s wingspan cast a huge shadow on the sides of the terminal while the noon day sun moved.

“Excuse me.” His face clearly showed grimace. 

The Caucasian man released the buckle of his seat belt and got to his feet.

“I’ll be right back.”

He disappeared into the succeeding aisle upfront.

The plane’s engines started to screech. This bird had to flap its wings, but did not. How he wished it was a noiseless, patient spider – firing filament after filament. But no, screeching continued until lift-off.

Soaring in silence, the plane still refused to flap its wings. The height levelled. The frozen fowl now followed the prepared straight path.

In came the trolley cart of goodies.

“Coffee or tea, sir?”

“Coffee. I think the person beside me would like tea, though.”

The flight attendant’s tarsier eyes widened. She flashed a smile, quite like a smirk.

“Oh, he requested a change in seats. Felt uncomfortable, I heard.”

“Oh, really. Thank you for the coffee.”

“My pleasure. Have a pleasant flight.”

In that instant, Ricardo remembered Karenin. He believed that his actions were properly motivated, despite what others think of him. Karenin’s loathing of Anna and Vronsky’s affair deserved the bitter end of a railroad suicide, he thought. 

He remembered his hatred and he remembers his acts of mercy with the birth of Anna and Vronsky’s child. Ha! What mercy and compassion!

“Pleasant,” he thought to himself, “Define pleasant, please.” He let himself be burnt at the center of his tongue as he dropped his feet on the front seat’s footrest and stared into the dusking sky.

Hezekiah Louie Zaraspe

Hezekiah Louie Zaraspe is finishing his M.A. in Creative Writing at UST on a grant by The Varsitarian, the university’s official student publication. His short stories, "Private Mirage" and "Nirvana", have been included in the recent volume of Bukad, the literary folio of Miriam College. He lives in Biñan, Laguna.

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