The day finally came and with it the derby inspector who was wearing a black hoodie. Theo, Matt, Long, and Otto came along to present Pedro and his Kelso friend. There were no clouds just a sad wind that reeked death as the leaves blew. It was the reaping for Pedro and his kind. Soon they will no longer be special. No more special food, massage, house, and workout.
“So is this him, your champion?” asked Odai
“Yes that’s Pedro, Kelso, and Indigo. They are ready for Monday’s draw” said Long with a big smile.
“Let’s begin. I don’t have much time. Bring some that have been in the draw and survived and let’s see if your chosen ones charge.” said Odai.
Long made a sign for Matt to bring Pedro and Otto to choose one of the fallen. Pedro was still tied as Matt walked towards him and began to untie him.
“Oh my God this is it. I got this. Once I charge I will get into the draw and return home a winner. Goldie will be there waiting for me in the big house” Pedro thought to himself.
As Matt picked him up, he began to massage his back and pull his crown backwards covering with hands Pedro’s eyes.
“What’s going on? Why is it dark here? I don’t like people touching me. This is getting on my nerves” Pedro thought to himself.
Finally Matt set him on the ground and my oh my it was Doy the old nasty guy who charged at anything and anyone he saw. Unshaken by Doy’s unbeatable record he stood his ground waiting for Doy to make the first move.
“This is isn’t working. Your champion is still in the corner and not in the center. Long, tell your boys to bring them closer and make them face each other.” said Odai
Long gave the sign and Matt and Otto brought Pedro and Doy face to face. Taken by surprise and overwhelmed by looking into the eyes of Doy, Pedro’s guard was down. Immediately Doy bit his ear and held on to him for thirty seconds.
“Okay, this should do it. Now you two step back and let go of them” said Odai.
Within seconds Doy began to run towards Pedro in full speed giving him his first flying kick. Pedro fell back from the impact but realized that that’s the biggest Doy could muster so he jumped higher and used both legs to step on Doy kicking him in the eye.
“That’s enough, this one made it. Tie them back and lets see the next one.” said Odai.
More kids, women and other grown men were already huddling around the fence of the yard and inside. It felt very stressful and crowded. Long didn’t want Odai to feel uncomfortable by too many spectators. He was very thankful Odai accepted to see him in his yard not have him bring Pedro and the others to the office which was miles away.
“Okay everybody, this is going to be a long day. If you don’t have a bet to place or a champion to purchase then you have no business being here.” said Long.
The two boys Matt & Otto, ushered the people out. Only Theo and four other guys were left behind waiting for Long and Odai to finish their business. They were buyers and gamers.
Next up was Kelso who learned quite a little from Pedro’s encounter with Doy. He was feeling confident thinking Doy will be quite exhausted from his encounter with Pedro. Little did he know that he wasn’t going to face Doy.
“Who’s your next champion? Is it the one in white? Asked Odai
“Yes, that’s Kelso. He’s quite young but very aggressive and brave. Shall I bring him? Asked Long
“Yes bring him but you won’t be the one to handle him and what’s the name of the young man in blue?” asked Odai
“I’m Theo. I’m not with Long. I’ve come here to bet on Pedro. I’m not an expert but I’ve grown up around champions in my uncle’s real estate” said Theo
“No matter, just hold Kelso and Long bring an opponent with the same profile and strategy will you?” asked Odai.
“I have just the right one. Hang on please. This is Arturo. He is Peruvian and he has three winning derbies under his belt” said Long
“Let’s begin. Theo walk towards Long and Long do the same but at the same pace” said Odai
Pedro was in his cage as he watched Kelso being walked towards Arturo.
Realizing it was his moment, Kelso scratched Theo and hopped out of his clutch right unto Arturo who still in Long’s hand just in time for Arturo to get down. He managed to step on Arturo’s neck and continued to bite and kick him.
“I’ve seen enough. This guy is better than the first. He will be go first. This concludes it for today. Your champions are ready and thorough bred. I will see you in the derby next Monday.” said Odai.
Pleased with Odai’s findings, Long shook hands with him and thanked him for his time. Pedro, Kelso, and the others were put in separate narrow cages.
“I must remind you, the entry fee must be paid four days before the match at least. Have one of your boys pass by my office to pick up their tag numbers later in the afternoon.” said Odai as he climbed into his car.
“That went well. How much do I owe you for betting on Pedro next week?” asked Theo
“What, you suddenly have 10K to bet? You still owe me 550 for the groceries of last month. I want my money first”. Said Long
“Okay, I will give you that too but I will still be able to get things on my tab right?” asked Theo.
“Sure, just don’t be later than the first of every month. I don’t like refusing your wife in the shop and her tendency to make scenes”. Said Long
“No problem. Will you join me later with your boys? I have some fresh Tuba on the farm. We can play mahjong just like old times”. Said Theo
“Maybe I will drop by for some Tuba but can’t stay for the game. My wife is having her cousin over for dinner with the kids”. Said Long
Matt and Otto helped two guys select their champions while Long went on showing the other two champions he had for sale for next Monday’s Derby. Theo went home pleased that he will be making some money if luck smiles at him in the derby. He was determined to play with Long for the 500P he owed in the shop.
Shortly after, Theo arrived home and his wife was there setting the table for lunch. She had a sour look on her face and ready to fight.
“You’re late again. Where have you been? You know it’s Sunday and it’s family day. I thought you’d be back early. I made rice not maiz with chicken adobo. Did you pay the tab at Long’s as we agreed?” asked Elena
“Yes Dai, I did and he won’t refuse you again. He agreed to keep our tab open. This really smells good. What did you use? Whole chicken or chicken legs?” asked Leo who was trying to cover his worried tone.
“You bet again on his roosters didn’t you? You promised me Theo. You promised no more drinking or gambling. We could hardly eat. Tai needs money for his project and Mila needs medicine. Isn’t it enough I’m doing laundry to help put food on the table and pumping gas? You are a liar, an addict, irresponsible asshole! I hate you”. Elena screamed as she stormed out in tears.
The poor kids had just walked in with their grandma coming from Sunday service. They didn’t say anything or show any feelings because they knew tonight their father is going to be drunk again and break things. They just hugged their grandma who made a sign for them to go to their room and go collect their things. They knew the routine: dad is drunk means sleepover at grandma or get beat with their mom.
Nobody ate that afternoon. In fact nobody was home. The children, Elena and the grandma left the house all to Theo. As usual, Long came with his barcadas, had drinks with Theo who again lost money to Long only this time he lost 3000P.
Theo tried to call his wife on her cell to come home but she didn’t pick up. He texted her promising to treat her and the kids because he will be cashing big next week but Elena knew better. This was just like every other broken promise he’s given her since the day he made her pregnant.
“You promised me Elena, that if he does this again, you will leave him”. Said the grandma
“Yes ma. I am just waiting for him to go to work. Rose said she will text me as soon as Philip picks him up. They are going to do some work on a nearby island. I will go and pack our things. But mom if I stay here, he will come and wreck the place like last time and take it out on you”. Said Elena who was worried.
“No Dai. This time you are going to stay at your Aunt Zara’s place in Davao. She said, you can work part time and enroll in a nearby uni”. Said the grandma
“But mom, I can’t leave you here with the kids. He will come beat you and take back the kids. You know him he will take them but won’t feed them or send them to school. He could kill you ma.” said Elena
“My child, don’t worry. I’ve spoken to your uncle Thomas in Palawan. He is taking us to his place. He owes me a lot besides your uncle is comfortable and you know him. He loves kids but could never have them. Tessa has always been good to us. Let him come here and wreck the place. There’s nothing left for him to destroy anyway. By morning we will be gone. I let you do what you want Elena. You had a scholarship, a beauty pageant, and a good man willing to wait for you but you chose your highschool sweetheart. Look how that turned out. This time you do things my way or am disowning you”. Said the grandma.
“Looks like you are getting what you want this time mom. I’ve given him so many chances. This time, I am doing things for the kids. I’m going back to college to graduate. Thank you for taking me back”. Said Elena
The next morning Theo went to see his wife at her mother’s place. He rang her phone and could hear it ring indoors. Elena had left the phone inside. He banged and banged the door but no one answered. In the end, he got fed up and broke a glass window and got in. It was clear. Elena had ran and no one was there. The closets were open and the drawers on the floor were empty. Feeling betrayed he ran next door and began to bang on Rose’s door. For his luck, her husband Ray was there who pulled a gun on him and told him to never come back.
“Is this how it’s going to be Ray? We used to be friends. What happened to you? You know Elena and I fight but we love each other and its her mom who always tried to break our family apart. I need your help. Please let me talk to Rose. She knows where they went”. Pleaded Theo
“Here I will let you hear by yourself then you leave but if you come near my wife I will kill you” said Ray.
“Rose, Dai, come and talk to this idiot. Tell him what he needs to hear” said Ray
“Go home Theo. Get yourself cleaned up from Shabu and drinks. You need to get a stable job and stop gambling. I don’t know where Elena went because she only asked me to see when you leave with Philip. Elena deserves better and you know it. I won’t be talking to you again. Good luck and good bye.” said Rose who just came from Mrs Gonzales’ house
That didn’t stop Theo going and coming the whole week and falling drunk and passing out on the doorstep of his mother in-law’s house. Then Monday came and it was the big day he had hoped to make cash.
Pedro, Kelso and the others were groomed and their blades hooked to their feet. First up was Kelso who faced a Peruvian like him. He was a brave lad and fought very hard. He survived the match but had a cut in his wing. He was declared winner and Long was pleased. Next was Pedro who faced another rooster with a black face who was a lot smaller. Little did Pedro know, that this little guy was four times derby champion. Pedro stood no chance. He received cuts in his thighs n wings but each time his handler picked him up to face the black faced rooster he got up and got cut up even deeper. It was what he was taught, to stand up and fight even if you are dying. Pedro was in pain, bleeding all over but the match went on. In the end his strength faded and stayed down. Long was shouting for him to get up but Pedro was taking his final breaths. The world seemed hazy and cold. Everything was spinning amidst all the noise from voices of people screaming and cheering for the black-faced rooster.
Long picked up Pedro and looked him in the eye: “You stupid bird, all the training and money I’ve spent on you. You’ve ruined me. Now I can’t make a peace offering to Mr Huwai for Kelso. Good thing is I will have you for supper” and walked away.
Theo was still in shock from what had happened with Pedro and froze in his seat for a moment. Then he saw one of Roel’s boys in the nearby seats so he began to move fast out of the rows. He felt relieved that he was far away. He was so busy thinking about where to hide and how to pay back his debts; when Ivan caught him and said: “And where do you think you are going? Roel has unfinished business to discuss with you”. He pointed his gun from inside the pocket of his jacket at Theo and directed him to get into a van with him. He knew it was his end. Roel was his drug pusher and he owed him money for drugs before but this time he owed him big cash for gambling.
“He’s here boss” said Ivan
“I’ve never been happier to see you Theo. I have a job for you in Gensan. You do this for me and I will consider your debt settled”. Said Roel.
“You know me sir, I use but I don’t push. Kill me please. My wife left me and I have no job. I have nothing to live for” said Theo who was in tears.
“You make me laugh Theo. I know where your wife and kids are and I can bring her here to guarantee you do this job for me or would you like me Tai to distribute for me in school?” asked Roel
“No please I beg you. Leave my family out of this. I will do the job. I will pay you back I swear. Just leave my family out of this. They have done nothing wrong. Please sir” begged Theo.
“Ivan show him the bag and tell your guy in Gensan Theo will be making the drop” ordered Roel.
That day Theo went to visit his dad’s grave and cried asking for his forgiveness. He met Long at the graveyard too who was paying his respects to his mother. Both looked like they’ve seen the angel of death but didn’t exchange words and headed home.
Theo knew there was no way he can pay back his drug pusher. As for Long, Kelso did him a disfavor by winning against the Peruvian rooster. The rooster never made it and it belonged to a Chinese tycoon who was mad about the death of his pet.
With the break of dawn, Long’s farm was burned to the ground and his body was nowhere to be found. As for Theo, he was shot dead at a police check point while running from the police who were tipped about a drug deal he was running for his pusher to pay his debt. They say Elena is doing well in school and the kids too. No one speaks of Theo or Long but we all know the place rested from one drug user and gambling facilitator.
Drugs and vices were designed to put people through a cycle that has one purpose to kill as many people as possible over a long term we call lifetime. People will make promises, lies, pretend to change and even keep appearances but in the end the drugs and vices win. These two deem people beyond redemption. The only thing that ties these people to humanity is their biological composition otherwise they are forever monsters no matter how much they try to portray themselves as victims of circumstance, luck or upbringing. Vice is a choice and a mistake repeated is a decision.
This story was inspired by two scenes one of that where the author witnessed a family man buy half kilo of rice on tab worth 25P but seen purchase a 5000P rooster for gambling and the scene of the actual rooster Pedro being examined for the derby the very same morning. It serves to mirror a sad reality in the place of gambling, shabu, vices, and wrong priorities. There is no humanity in these people. They are willing to starve their families to fund their gambling and their drugs. The only ones who are victims are their families. The animals are raised, spent on by thousands while their families starve just to be killed in a match whose outcome can’t be foretold.
Catch more of Pasithea Chan with her previous posts here. You can also find her brand of poetry on Facebook.