M. Evelina Galang: Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery

The day my father disappeared he gave me one thousand pesos. “I’ll be home in three days,” Papang said, counting the money. “But just in case. Take care of your ináy, Angel.”

It’s been two weeks. My mother is out of her mind.

This morning, St. Magdalena’s school bus pulls up to our house. The roosters crow and traffic gathers beyond Mabini Street, everyone fighting for space. Drivers honk horns, long bellows sing from diesel trucks. An old vendor rolls his heavy cart up the hill and caws, “Mais! Mais!” The lamps along Mabini shut down one by one.

We climb aboard the empty bus – my grandmother Lola Ani, my little sister Lila and our ináy. I lift two plastic supot of chicken and rice and put them on an empty seat. The driver loads our maletas into the back of the bus. We’re not sure how long we’ll be gone. A day, a week, maybe a month. The bus is so big and white and we are tiny in its space, sitting seats away from one another, each gazing out a different window.

As the bus eases onto Mabini. Lola Ani makes the sign of the cross. We pray for safe travel. We pray for good health. We pray for Papang. We bless ourselves and our family and we bless the drivers who will be traveling on these roads. My family’s voice comes together. It is the only sound I hear beyond the chugging engine.

“Angel,” my mother says. “Text your papang again. Tell him we’re coming na.”

“But Ináy –”

“Don’t answer back. Just text him, ha?”

I look to Lola Ani. She turns away from me, arranging herself in her seat. “Opo,” I answer, pulling out my phone.

“Good girl,” Ináy says. “Tell him aalis na tayo.”

The bus idles at a stoplight like it’s waiting for me to text my father. My thumbs tap the keys, swift like drumsticks on a snare. All the while I stare at the back of Ináy’s head, the way it bobs like a blossom on a vine, gingerly holding on, as if the wind will blow her petals out the bus window. I feel the blood spinning in my belly, threatening to spoil my breakfast. Two thumbs hit send, a beep sounds. Ináy sighs. “That’s my good girl.”

When the light goes green, we shoot down narrow streets, weaving our way to the superhighway. Though it’s early, before long we’re stuck in traffic, idling behind a carabao driven cart. A mountain of hemp baskets, bags, hats and mats piled onto the cart obstruct our view. A vendor perched on top waves the heat away. His cart is surrounded by odd plated vehicles, by the smog of diesel fuel. Slowly, the sun tries to burn the vast Manila haze hovering over us.

If Papang were here we’d be riding in his van. He knows how to drive on seven thousand islands, knows all the long and short cuts. He goes ikot-ikot in the traffic like he and the car are dancing partners. He says even if it takes him longer to get there, it’s better to keep the car moving. It makes the customers think they’re getting somewhere rather than sitting still in traffic. His clients come from all over the world. Americans are loudest, he says. They talk nonstop about nothing. He pretends he can’t speak English sometimes, so they won’t talk to him. But then they just talk louder, like yelling will give meaning to their noise. Papang pretends to care how he nods his head and gets them places without a fuss, but really he’s just driving.

Driving is what Papang does for a living, but really he’s a musician. He plays rhythm and blues through the night, till the sun burns through smog.  He smokes cigarettes, drinks whiskey, and is known all over Makati as the Beat Man. “A heart that won’t quit,” she once said. “That’s what drew me to your father.”

When I was still too young for school, I’d sit in the front seat while Papang drove his clients from one end of Manila to another. He took them to business meetings and to restaurants in Makati. Sometimes he took them to resorts in the provinces. He’d drop them off and Papang and I would listen to the blues and he’d teach me how to hold his sticks and how to beat the drum. “The trick, Angel, is not to think. Just feel it. Listen to the way the tires roll, or the way the wind blows. Listen to the engine when it’s idling. You can hear the traffic breathing if you are very still. It has a heartbeat.” And then he’d thump his chest and chant, “Pintig. Toom-toom. Pintig. Toom-toom. Pintig.” I’d join him, eyes closed, hand on my heart, beating to the count, my whole body vibrating with each syllable – pintig, pintig, pintig.

*   *   *

I prop the window open and dust from the road drifts in along with traffic horns and motors rumbling. Beyond the glass the palengke sprawls with bright bushels of kang kong, green leafy spinach, and bok choy. I see mangoes and bundles of lychee, red as rubies. Before St. Magdalena’s, we used to walk through the palengke to get to class. Holding Lila’s hand, I’d guide her past the hot reds and greens of the vegetables and past the fish packed in ice. We knew everyone in the stands. Sometimes we’d get treats on our way to school. The year Papang made lots of money driving foreign clients around Manila, we stopped going to public school. We stopped sitting in crowded classrooms with boring teachers. We stopped working after school. We stopped walking all over Manila. Instead, we attended St. Magdalena’s School of Holy Angels, where the nuns take their girls to the Cordillera Mountains on field trips to get closer to God. Papang drove us to school. We ate our lunches in the courtyard gardens. Afterwards we’d stroll arm in arm with our batchmates, exchanging stories of aswangs, fairies, and other spirits.

The bus races down a boulevard, the sky lightens to gray. Behind the cityscape an orange red fights its way past the oppressive haze, colors the sky. At a stop light, a series of jeepneys with brilliant purple and orange banners rippling from the back of buses, zoom past, honking and chanting in one miraculous voice.

“Naku!” I shout.

“What is it?” Lila asks. “What’s the matter, Ate Angel?”

I say, “Didn’t you see that?” and when she says “What?” I tell her, “It was nothing.” Not a flash of white, not a van going so fast it blurred before you, not our Papang zipping through the streets of Manila, his silver blue van buried deep in the pack of jeepneys, heading off to some protest.

I see Papang’s van rushing through every stoplight, rushing past us even when traffic is still.

“Ano, Angel,” Ináy calls, “Wala pa bang sagot ang papang mo?”

Of course there is no answer. What does she think? I close my eyes, hold my breath, listen to the traffic’s beating heart. Were Papang here, he’d flip that radio on and the van would pulse with the bass of pop radio. He’d nod his head and drum the steering wheel with his fingers and reach out and tap Ináy like she was the snare on his drums. She’d roll her eyes, but secretly she’d love it and in the end the four of us would be stuck there in traffic, dancing in our seats, being our own rock band.

But not today. Today the ride is so quiet I can hear Ináy shiver when she sighs, I feel her sadness and think about ways I want to go to her, but I cannot. I look over at her, the way her body has wilted. She has thrown her legs on the back of the seat before her and her arms sprawl on either side of her, sighing like a teenager. I motion for Lila to sit with Ináy, but Lila says, “No Ate Angel, she wants you. You sit with her.”

I shift my way down the bus aisle, walking my hands across the railing overhead. Under my feet, the bus rumbles, hitting every stone and dip in the road. I fall into the seat behind her and I lay my head on her shoulder. “Ináy,” I say. “What if Papang was in that accident?”

 “Maybe he has no load. Maybe the battery has died.”

“But Ináy, it’s been two weeks.”

“Siguro,” she tells me, “those clients from Hollywood are working him too hard. Baka when he comes back he’ll have earned our passage to America.”

I shake my head and feel the tears rising, threatening to come out of me. “Pero Ináy, remember how two weeks ago, you said he was with us. You said he was there in your room. What did you mean?”

“That was a dream. But this is the truth, anak, you’ll see. He’s coming home and when he does, we’ll be that much closer to America.”

“But we’re not going to America. Papang is missing, Ináy.”

*   *   *

And that’s when she screams at me as if I am responsible for losing him. Her arms fly up, her face grows red and Lola Ani has to run to the back of the bus to hold onto her, to calm her. She fights my grandmother, pushes her and Lola Ani almost hits her head on the corner of a seat.

I pinch my arm. Wake up, I think, wake up. It’s as if I’ve gone to sleep and someone has kidnapped every single person in my family and replaced them with some stranger. Some alien being that looks like my relative, sounds like my relative, but is not my relative. My nails dig into my skin, but when I open my eyes, I am still there, sitting alone in the middle of the bus, my family scattered about like fallen fruit, my papang not among them. Wake up, I say out loud. Gumising ka na. Tama na ito.

Excerpt from Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery, forthcoming Coffee House Press, Fall 2013


Named one of the most influential Filipinas in the United States by Filipina Women’s Network, M. Evelina Galang is the author of the novel, One Tribe (New Issues Press), the story collection, Her Wild American Self (Coffee House Press) and the editor of the anthology Screaming Monkeys (Coffee House Press).  The recipient of numerous awards, including the 2004 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards Advancing Human Rights and the 2004 AWP Prize in the Novel, she has worked as an advocate of surviving Filipina “Comfort Women” of WWII since 1998. Galang directs the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Miami.  Her second novel, Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery, is forthcoming with Coffee House Press in the fall of 2013.

Preston Allen: The Keys to my Apartment

I open the door to the small apartment on the top floor of the ancient, but affordable apartment building.  It’s not in the worst area of Miami, but it’s not in the best either.  Considering my tight budget, I like to think that my place is a cozy, nicely decorated space. There’s the porcelain vase I fill daily with fresh yellow roses. I love roses in all colors, but yellow is my favorite. To add interest, there are my throw pillows placed about the living room in alternating red, white, and checked patterns.  There are some homey touches, too, with my hand-sewn curtains and self-upholstered couches.  I’m my mama’s girl. Like my mama, I am good with my hands.  But this is not going to be a good night because a light is on, and I never leave the lights on.

At the edge of the carpet near the door, are Tyrone’s shoes, the heavy work boots, too highly polished to really be work boots.  He never gave back his key. I never changed the lock. I had convinced myself that he’s not like that. That he’s many things, but not that. Yet here he is now, up in my place.

Stupid. Stupid. Bounce. Bounce.

I find him in the bedroom sitting on my bed. A basket brown man with wildman naps, a thick neck and lips, and wide-spaced, long-lashed, light brown eyes that never seem to get it. All of my drawers are open, my possessions thrown about. My filing cabinet’s open, too, and the folders dumped out. The room is a mess. Tyrone holds up two photographs to his face. One is of me and Jake in fishing gear showing off the marlin we had caught. In the other, I am kissing Jake on the mouth.

Before I can begin to explain a thing I have no need to explain because, one, Jake was before Tyrone, two, Jake had nothing to do with why me and Tyrone broke up, and three, those photographs are my private property—but before I can explain all this that I have no real obligation to explain, but will as a courtesy to set an ex’s heart and mind at ease, Tyrone has sprung from the bed and boxed me a hard one on the ear.  It sends me sprawling backwards and down. Physically and emotionally.

Tyrone comes and squats his bulk over me, pushing the photographs in my face, demanding, “Who dis?”

I hold back my tears.  My fear of the dark.  “Get out of here.  Gimme back my key.”

“Who dis?”  He pushes the Polaroids against my mouth. I clamp it closed.  He tries to pull it open.  I am resisting him.  He is strong.  He pulls my mouth open with his strong hands, strong fingers and pushes one of the Polaroids inside, hard, scraping up the inside of my gums real good. I’m fighting him, gagging, trying to bite his fingers. Tyrone’s laughing.  He puts the other Polaroid in his breast pocket and gets up from over me, tapping the pocket with the picture in it.  “I’m gonna find him.  Believe dat.”

I spit the photograph out of my mouth and fire: “Get out of my house.  Gimme back my key.”

“Who is he?”

“None of your damned business. Get out of my house!”

The walls are thin. Someone will hear. Someone always hears. I am shouting. He clamps a hand over my mouth and grabs my hair, which he had always loved because it falls to my shoulders easy in white girl waves.

“Don’t be yelling at me.  You forget who I am?”

He drags me up by my hair and walks me backwards with his face pressed against mine.  His face is sweaty. Clammy. He smells bad. Despite his wildman hair (carefully groomed wildman hair), he is really a neat freak and particular about hygiene. He has always been picky about smell. Something must have really set him off to be smelling like this.

“You’re gonna tell me who he is.”

He walks me backwards, to where I remember seeing the scissors. I fight against him, but not enough to make him change his mind or his direction. We are reflected in the full-length closet mirror. The way he is holding me, the way I am clawing him, it looks like some crazy, intense dance.

“You’re gonna tell me his name. You’re gonna tell me where he live at. You’re gonna tell me how good he fuck you.”

He walks me backwards until I can’t walk anymore because I’m pressed against the wall next to the high bureau. I reach without seeing to where the scissors had been.  My fingers curl around them. They are the sturdy kind, good for cutting stubborn burlap to make interesting curtains out of.

“—you’re gonna tell me about his dick, how big it was, how good it was—.”

I plunge the scissors into the flesh of his armpit because I have read that that is a very tender area.  He jumps back howling, clutching at the wound. I lunge at him again and catch him in the thigh.  Bright red spreads over his jeans. It looks like some new crazy sort of style. He staggers backwards. Flops down on the bed. Both hands clamped around the cut leg. Groaning. I retreat to the far wall to watch him bleed.

“You stabbed me,” he says.  “I’m gonna whup yo ass.”

I hold up the scissors in warning.

“Look whachu did my leg.”

“Gimme my key back.”

He’s bleeding all over the bedspread I sewed with my own hands. “Get me something to clean this up.  Ow.  Ow.  Help me clean dis.  Lookit dis mess.”

It is a mess.

“Then you gotta leave.  You gotta leave my house and give my key back.”

In the chaos on the floor, I rescue a beach towel and toss it to him.  I back into the bathroom, keeping an eye on him, and dig through the cabinet until I find the peroxide bottle, which I fling at him. Then I fling the alcohol bottle at him, too. He pulls off his shirt and splashes the alcohol on the sliced flesh under his arm. He looks up, and I am amazed.  There is a grin on his face.  “You gotta help me with dis.”  Wincing.  Grinning.  “Come here.”

“You’re gonna try to grab me.”

“Come here and help me.  I can’t do it by myself.”

“You hit me.”

“You used to love me.”  He’s getting up. Grinning.

“I swear to god, Tyrone, I’ll kill you—!”  I back up to the wall and hold the scissors out in front of me.  “Stay away from me!”

“Okay.  Okay.”  His eyes.  They don’t get it. He has no shirt on his hairless barrel chest.  He has a bloody towel wadded under his arm. His jeans have a scarlet leg. This is love?  Doesn’t he get it?  I go in the living room and open the door and kick his pretty boots out the door. Eventually, he limps out of the bedroom.  I give him a wide berth to pass through the open front door. Gone is the grin. But his eyes. He just doesn’t get it.  He shakes his head sadly as he passes.  Dragging himself through the door. I slam it shut after him.  Turn off the lights.  Sink down to the floor.  Release the tears.  About fifteen minutes later, there is a knock at the door.

“Cindique!”  One voice.

“Cindique!  Cindique!”  Another voice.

The walls are thin. Somebody has heard. Somebody always hears. Somebody always comes. Somebody always comes too late. It is the neighbors. The Puerto Rican lesbian who said she would help with the rent if I let her eat me.  Rose, Rosa, Rosita, Rosie? And her roommate, Nicole, Nikki, Nike, Nikita, who might not be gay because she has never hit on me. Plus, I think she has a baby. Then again, you never know.

“Cindique, you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

Through the door.  “We heard sounds.”

“I’m fine.  He’s gone.”

“We didn’t hear him leave.”

“He left quietly.”

“We could go get the landlord’s key and come in and check, you know?”

“He’s gone, I promise you.”

“You want us call somebody for you?  Your mom?”

“Hell no.”

“Ay pobrecita!  Cindique, we’re here for you.  We don’t see no lights on in there.  Is he holding you hostage?”

“Look down on the ground.  See the blood?  That’s his blood.”

“Oh snap.  Look at the blood,” one says.

“She got his ass good.”

“Oh snap.  Good for you, Cindique.  Good for you.”

“Yeah.  Go home.  I’m fine.”

Gossiping bitches.  Now they have something to gossip about.  She got his ass good. Yeah. And he still has my key. I sit in the dark with my back against the door and the scissors in my hand facing my handiwork. (My curtains look good framing a window full of stars.)  Now I have something else to add to tomorrow’s crowded itinerary, pay my late cable bill, get my oil changed, change the lock on my door, get my phone turned back on.



Preston L. Allen is a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship and a winner of the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Fiction for his collection of stories CHURCHBOYS AND OTHER SINNERS.  His work has been anthologized in Las Vegas Noir, Miami Noir, Brown Sugar, and numerous literary journals, including the Seattle Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Black Renaissance Noire.  His novels ALL OR NOTHING and JESUS BOY have received rave reviews from the New York Times, O, the Oprah Magazine, Kirkus, Library Journal, Feminist Review, AALBC, and Florida Book Review.

He teaches writing in South Florida.  You can find him on Facebook or on his blog, PrestonLaLLen.blogspot.com

Books by Preston L. Allen:
Jesus Boy
(Akashic 2010)
All or Nothing
(Akashic 2007)
Churchboys and Other Sinners
(Carolina Wren Press 2003)

Matthew Sharpe: Golf

For the last 20 years or so the artist Adam Simon and I have been having a wide-ranging conversation that has occasionally taken the form of collaborative art-and-writing projects. This is one of three stories I wrote last year in response to some of Adam’s recent paintings. This painting, Grey Babies, first appeared along with the story in BOMB magazine, summer 2009.  —M.S.

About the painting


They had kissed. Who does that anymore, at breakfast? He’d been seated at the table when she walked toward him from the counter with a coffee cup in each hand, about to ask him a question, or rather, her walking toward him with the sunlight behind her, elbows at her sides, coffee cups out toward him in almost a please-sir-may-I-have-some-more posture was the question, but Please, sir, may I have some more? was not the question, the question was “Don’t worry, mine’s decaf,” and someone who didn’t know them might have thought she was angry.

She sat, the sun in the window at her back, her hand inches from his on the table, sunlight in among the small hairs on her wrist. He, and not, as you would expect, she, seemed to be experiencing morning-time physiological anomalies, an outer-body experience, as someone had called it last night on TV, else how explain his ability to see each spec of dust in motion in the slanted column of light above the pile of her dark hair, each loose strand of hair, each freckle in the left eye, each deviation of the eyeliner from its nearly perfect path?

“Hello?” she said, to indicate he hadn’t heard a word she’d said, and then they were kissing.

Time passed between them, and whoever had made the numbers on the digital clock in their kitchen the same color as the blood in their arteries must have been striving for a correspondence that would make life seem more like a painting than it was. They rushed out the door. On the sidewalk he said, abruptly, “What will you do today?”

“Exchange the rubies in your mother’s safety deposit box for cocaine and spend the morning getting high in the park. You gonna be like this for the next seven and a half months?”

She kissed him, they parted, and late that night, he sat in the waiting area of the emergency room. That there was even an old and dog-eared golf magazine to flip through in a place like this was a modest consolation against the loud TV, tuned to one of those talk shows on which people yell at one another in thrilled indignation, a portal from the world of the sick to the world of the damned. Didn’t anyone with proper authority see that only golf tournaments should be broadcast here? He had no feel for golf itself but found the soft speech of the men and the color of the fairways and putting greens slowed his heart and narcotized his mind, which must have needed it, since he wasn’t ordinarily the type to want to strangle the yellers on TV, and not to strangle but to make feel ashamed the whining toddler to his left, whom he envied on behalf of someone he had never met and now would never meet.   


Matthew Sharpe is the author of the novels Jamestown, The Sleeping Father, and Nothing Is Terrible. He has taught writing and literature at Wesleyan and Columbia Universities and in the MFA program at Bard College. His novel You Were Wrong was published last fall by Bloomsbury.

John Dufresne: Escape Velocity

He’s thinking about the smoked salmon dinner with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus they’ll enjoy later at the lodge and the cold beer he’ll drink with the meal and about the long, cool shower and the nap when this hike is finally over. Four and a half miles down, four and a half back in this unbearable heat. How does the old man do it? The arch of his right foot aches and so does the muscle that runs down the outside of his calf. He trips on the exposed root of a scrubby pinyon pine. Twenty yards ahead on the trail, his father waits for him. His father yells, “Isn’t this breathtaking, Isaac?”

Isaac looks out at the canyon wall and sees two billion years into the past. He knows this because his father, the geologist, told him so, told him the story of the Grand Canyon from the Vishnu schist there at the bottom to the Kaibab limestone where he is standing now, or will be in, it looks like, another fifteen or twenty minutes. “Once upon a time there were mountains six miles high” the story began. What was it his father had called those rose-colored cliffs? Redstone? Redwall sandstone? Was that it? No, limestone. Redwall limestone. Created by a tropical sea 340 million years ago. Isaac sees a mountain goat and her kid stepping along a narrow ledge across the canyon.

Isaac’s father yells for Isaac to get a move on. Isaac points at his athletic shoes. “My feet, ” he says and he makes a pained expression. His father says, “I told you to wear boots.”

The hiking trip to the Canyon was his father’s idea, a last-minute escape, a final adventure before they head back to their universities, Isaac to finish his dissertation on “Time in a Language Without Tense: Aspectual Markers in Chinese” and his father to teach a seminar on Petroleum Resources and Environmental Problems.

Isaac’s foot slides over loose gravel, and he loses his balance. He falls to his back and slides toward the drop-off. He reaches for a black bush but can’t grab hold. This is absurd and embarrassing, he thinks. He has a second to stop his fall, to save his life, and, of course, he will because this is not a movie. He claws at the scree, jams his foot into the hardpan but gains no purchase. He yells to his father, “Dad, help me!”

His father turns. “Isaac, Isaac, where are you?” And then he sees his son drop and bounce off a ledge twenty feet below the trail, and tumble out into thin air with nothing beneath him for hundreds of feet.

All Isaac can do is hope for the miracle that will interrupt his acceleration into the past. And then, to his relief, he realizes what must have happened. He was knocked out when he struck the ledge, and this is a dream of what would have happened if he hadn’t been so lucky. When he comes to, when he opens his eyes, he’ll see his father and a ranger crouched beside him. This is the falling dream he’s been having all his life, and he always wakes up before he reaches the source of the gravity.

And then his shirt is ripped from his body, and he sees it rise above him and float. He screams to his father or maybe he just opens his mouth. Isaac doesn’t know how he manages it, but he turns to face the canyon floor and tries to flap his arms and kick his legs to slow himself. He can do this. He’s slowing down; he’s sure of it. Maybe he’s caught an updraft. If he can land on his feet, he’ll only break his legs. But his arms and legs don’t move and his writhing only starts him spinning and rolling, and he doesn’t know what’s up or what’s down.

Isaac’s father can’t see his son below, but he does see a man on the rim above. The man is looking at him through a coin-operated telescope. Isaac’s father waves at the man. The man smiles and waves back. The mountain goat watches the amazing flying boy and then bleats at her kid, and they step carefully along the ledge.


John Dufresne is the author of two story collections and four novels, most recently Requiem, Mass., and two books on writing fiction, The Lie That Tells a Truth and Is Life Like This? He teaches creative writing at Florida International University. His short story, “The Cross-Eyed Bear” will appear in Best American Mystery Stories 2010.