“Look!” Agnes pointed at the mountain of rusty tin cans and containers. “We hit the jackpot.”
Their eyes sparkled, overjoyed at the trove. As they carefully loaded their valuable items in their cart, they discovered a big backpack lying underneath.
“Who do you think the owner might be?” Carla asked. She never had a bag before, and she longed to have it.
“I don’t know,” said Agnes. “Maybe someone just left it here and forgot where it was. I think he misplaced the bag. I hope he can find it.”
“But if we will leave it here, someone might get it or steal it,” said Carla. “It’s better if we keep it. Or we could give it to the police. They might find its owner.”
“Wait a minute,” said Agnes. “Maybe the owner didn’t misplace it, I think, he threw it! Why did he put this bag under the pile of these old aluminum cans in the first place?”
“I don’t know,” Carla said.
“Oh come on Carla,” Agnes said walking close to the bag. “I know that you need a bag. School days are coming closer.”
“You know what, Agnes?”
“You’re the best friend I ever had.”
They both grinned and agreed to keep the bag.
Carla extended her left hand to hold the handle of the bag. When she pulled it from the pile, she was surprised.
“The bag’s heavy,” said Carla. She struggled as she put the bag into their cart. “There’s something in it!”
“Let’s see what’s inside it.”
They were both curious of what might it contained. When Agnes opened the zipper of the bag, they heard Dodong’s voice around the corner.
“My brother’s coming,” Agnes said. She closed the zipper as fast as she could and pushed the cart swiftly while Carla pulled at the other end. “I don’t want to get in a fight with him again. I promised Mama.”
Agnes’s mother last word to her before she died was not to quarrel with her brother Dodong.
As they were rounding up the other end of the building, Carla turned around. Dodong was talking to a group of men.
* * *
Before Carla went home, she went to Agnes’s house to leave the cart. Agnes’s home was a shanty located in the alleyway where Carla’s cousin was stabbed to death by gangsters. Carla stopped meters away from the inner shanties, her thoughts flashing back to the horrible sight of his helpless cousin, lying cold and dead.
“We’ll see each other later after lunch okay?” said Agnes as she waved goodbye.
“Where?” Carla asked.
“On the vacant lot, at the back of the chapel.”
“Okay,” Carla nodded. “Don’t forget to bring the bag!”
When she reached home, Picasso was barking. Picasso was their old, black, skinny, little dog with a big scalding down his back. He wagged his tail as she petted him.
“Carla, is that you?” his father asked from inside their home. “Come over here and eat.”
She walked inside the small house. On their wooden dining table, two dried fish and a fried egg plant for her and her father to share.
“Pa, is there a chance for me to enroll this school year?” Carla asked she sat down on her chair.
“Child, I can’t tell as of the moment,” her father said. “We’re still struggling to buy my medicines so that I can get well and recover from tuberculosis. I have six more months to complete my medication.”
There was no more talk after that. Silence enveloped their house for a long time until they finished eating their lunch.
Carla was disappointed. Deep inside, she was angry and fed up with her life. She wanted to study and achieve something. To calm herself from the heartbreaking news, she washed the dishes as she sang “Lupang Hinirang” like her mother did.
As she was washed the dishes, her father spoke with their crippled neighbor named Tomas.
“Can I borrow your newspaper?” her father said. “Has anyone been caught over that robbery?”
“None at all,” said Tomas. “It seems like it was a perfect crime”.
Carla finished washing, walked out of the house and interrupted the older men’s conversation. She asked permission to go with Agnes to their hang-out place.
“Okay but be sure to go home before the sun sets,” her father warned her. “You know the vultures are out at night so you should be very careful.”
* * *
Agnes was waiting when Carla arrived at the empty lot behind the chapel, . She was anxious to see what was inside the bag.
“Hurry Carla! Hurry!” Agnes cried. “I didn’t touch it. Kuya Dodong was home for lunch. He seemed angry.”
Carla grabbed the zipper of the bag. She quickly opened it almost tearing the back of the bag from to excitement.
There their eyes bulged at the sight of the glittering jewelry.
“Do you think these are genuine?” asked Carla.
“I think they’re probably fake,” Agnes said as put some of them on her fingers. “Probably like the ones at the carnival near the pier last Christmas. How come the owner threw them away?”
Carla watched Agnes. Agnes put on jewelry on her hands and neck, scrutinizing them one by one. Carla thought Agnes was the most beautiful princess that ever lived.
“Try those on Carla! Let’s play! Let’s pretend we’re princesses.”
Carla wore the other pieces choosing the ones with her favorite colors: pink, red and purple. While scattering the contents of the bag, she came upon woolen black masks, bonnets and black gloves.
“What are these for?” Carla asked. “Are these not for motorcycle drivers?”
“Maybe,” Replied Agnes as she put the mask over her head. “These are for Indian five-six collectors as well!”
Agnes joked around encouraging Carla to do the same. The two girls laughed as they pointed their clasped hands shaped like guns to each other while they shouted in unison, “Hold up!”
* * *
They were shocked.
Mirroring the girls’ game intuition, two men arrived, pointing guns at them.
“Run!” shouted Carla running to the opposite direction.
Carla ran. One of the robbers fired the gun at her but missed. Carla ran as fast as she could, wearing the black bonnet, gloves and mask, and the colorful, glittering objects.
Carla meant to pull Agnes by the hand but Agnes just stood there. Behind the two men, another man was running toward them, also carrying a gun. It was Dodong.
Carla was shouting for Agnes. But Agnes remained standing. Dodong was also shouting, pointing the gun. Even through the black mask over Agnes’s head, Carla could see her eyes widen.
Carla ran faster. Tears raced down her cheeks. Then she heard a gunshot.
Carla then heard a soft thud on the ground. She wanted to stop and go back to Agnes. But she knew it was too late.
* * *
The robber that chased after Carla fell down the footbridge and into the large sewage canal.
Carla arrived at their house panting. She shouted at the top of her voice, “Papa! Papa!”
Her father and Tomas were surprised to see her in a robber’s attire with jewelry hanging on her neck, hands and fingers.
“What happened to you? Why are you running?”
“My friend Agnes was shot by robbers who run after us.” She explained to them. Many people rushed to their shanty and listened to her.
After hearing the story, they went to the police and accompanied them to the scene of the crime. The whole baranggay was already there.
There, they saw Dodong, holding the robber’s mask, while crying over the dead body of her sister who was still wearing the jewelry.
Emmaree Jane Lozada is a fifteen-year-old, fourth year high school student at St. Patrick Math-Sci School. She did this story for a writing exercise in their English class.