The Writer at 16

Self has been slowly but methodically arranging her piles and piles of books, magazines, and saved scraps —  invitations, greeting cards, reminders, son’s report cards, anything and everything that’s been accumulating in the backs of her closets for years and years, becoming the cause — no doubt — of all those mishaps, all those “poisoned arrows” that result when one fails to adhere to the most basic precepts of feng shui (For example, all those rejections piling in, the most recent of which just arrived a few hours ago, a form rejection from Southwest Review!)

She’s going through a pile of papers next to a bookshelf when she encounters a sheaf of stapled, typewritten pages.  There is a cover page:


by Marianne Villanueva

Though self is well aware that she doesn’t know French, she would just like to say:  Quelle magnifique!

She begins to read her own story.  It begins:

The army transport ship had dumped its cargo of fifty-odd girls on the rock-strewn beach and was now slicing cleanly away into deeper water.  Most of the girls had shrugged off their army jackets and were draped across the stones in their undershirts, damp hair slicked impatiently off their tired faces, eyes surveying the sere, brown landscape with scarcely a glimmer of anticipation or excitement.

The sergeant in charge spoke horrendous English and his awareness of this defect caused him to stammer uncontrollably.  He was pretending to be resting but every now and then, his eyes would drift anxiously in the direction of his uncooperative charges, and his leg muscles would twitch restlessly, as though he were having a hard time controlling his impatience.

Many were daughters of big-shots.  Two had fathers who were high-ranking generals in the AFP.  He felt his teeth chatter every time they fastened their limpid, I-see-through-you eyes on him.

Now it all comes back to her:

  • Senior year of high school
  • ROTC field trip to “the Rock” (Corregidor)
  • Parade Rest with Fake (Wooden) Rifles
  • Brushing her teeth in the surf —  the strong wind blew the foamy toothpaste right back in her face, bleeeah!
  • Midnight skinny-dipping on a secluded stretch of beach

Self!  Did you just write skinny-dipping?

Indeed she did!

She doesn’t recall whether the army sergeant who was playing chaperone was hiding somewhere behind the rocks at one end of the beach.  Calm down, dear blog readers:  self was not one of the brave ones who were prancing around Corregidor in the buff.  She was one of a handful who kept their ROTC uniforms on, at all times (though surely she must have toted along pajamas or a nightie to slip into at bedtime!)

Back to the short story.

Her high school English teacher had signed off on the story —  that’s her signature on the upper right of the cover page —  but there was no grade.  What?  How awful!

Only a year later, she’d be at the Ateneo, studying with Doreen Fernandez.  The stories she wrote for Doreen always got A’s.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

1 Comment

  1. Helene U said,

    March 27, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Am left hanging!!

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