Which Comes First, the Chicken, or the Scruples?

Part 1 - The Plot, and How It Thickened

It was a time of ferment for us U.P. campus teen-agers. That is to say, it was a time when the boys of Area 2’s “Goodness and Fun Club” began to experiment with spirituality of the bottled kind. Although at that time we had moved to Area 1, all my buddies belonged to Area 2, where we used to live. That is why I hung out there most of the time.

There was curly-topped Boy Dalao, who in my mind was a dead-ringer for Sal Mineo; Nic Jorge, captain of the UP basketball team, the biggest guy among us; Gal Miñoza, tall, beguiling and full of Visayan charm; Danny Aguilar, aka Danny Purple, raw-boned, angular and full of pizazz; the brothers Bobot and Tony Gaffud – the former a walking, talking encyclopedia, and the latter a budding ladies’ man. There was Tony Fernandez, a Cebuano who boarded at Gal’s place: Spanish mestizo, the tallest and handsomest among us; Pepe Momongan, another Cebuano border at Gal’s who loved to describe himself as “tall, dark and that’s it.” And there was me, of course.

There was also Billy Balbastro, who just happened to be with us on this particular incident, which happened on a hot, humid summer night. Billy was then studying law and struggling to find his true gender. If you ask me, he was trying to decide whether he wanted to be a macho man in our company, or one of the girls whose virtues (or lack of) we were endlessly discussing. The last I heard, he got into journalism, writing about the more interesting aspects of the lives of movie stars. That’s about all I know about him.


There were two more guys, though I can’t for the life of me recall who they were. I am certain, however, that we were an even dozen, all of whom would shortly and irrevocably be jolted by the reality that what is mischief to some could be construed as a felony by others.

It was the early ‘60s then. I forget the exact year, but as I said, it was a hot, humid summer night. We were gathered at the Area 2 playground around 7:30 p.m., shooting the breeze and hitting a six-pack of what we called Marka Demonyo bilog. Each bottle had this paper label pasted on it depicting the fluffy-winged Archangel Michael wielding a kris over a fallen, bat-winged devil. If you imbibed too much of it, you get glassy-eyed and if you looked again at the label, hot damn, the devil would appear to be on top of the situation.

Our code of conduct was into a fair and square division of scarce material resources, such as alcohol and cigarettes. To ensure that each of us got an equal dose of smoke, we would light up a stick and pass it around, with a limit of one puff each. Of course, if you had bigger lungs, you could conceivable suck in more smoke than the rest. Danny Purple was particularly good at this. I guess it was in keeping with Pinoch Baizas’ philosophy that a woman is only a woman, but a cigarette is a good smoke.

Of gin, we took turns using a single glass, the content of which was measured by means of a matchbox. In the beginning the matchbox would be set flat on the table against the glass. As the session progressed, the matchbox would be set on its side. Ultimately, it would be set on its end. Thus, the state of our inebriation progressed at a geometric rate over time.

Notice that labels on bottled alcohol have printed thereon a number called “proof” expressed as a percent. This is in reference to Doyle’s law, which states that the pressure of any liquid is directly proportional to its alcoholic strength. But I digress from my tale with these bits of knowledge. Area Wanners who excel in math and physics may want to comment on this. 

Each bottle had this paper label pasted on it depicting the fluffy-winged Archangel Michael wielding a kris over a fallen, bat-winged devil. If you imbibed too much of it, you get glassy-eyed and if you looked again at the label, hot damn, the devil would appear to be on top of the situation.

I assure one and all, though, that the tale I recount is the truth and nothing but.

Some say that it is possible to slake hunger and thirst with a repast consisting merely of one solid and one liquid. But while gin (liquid) and ice (solid) mayhap slake thirst, it is only going to make one hungrier. So much so that at around 10 in the evening, Gal had an inspiration, a brilliancy given birth – along with some noxious gas – by the growling in his belly. The long and short of it was that he knew where and how to produce a plump chicken – real, honest-to-goodness pulutan. Gal would produce the meat, but first Danny Purple had to bring over a bamboo pole from the latter’s place. Danny used this to pick guavas from the tree in his neighbor’s yard. Boy Dalao and I were assigned to get hold of the necessary condiments. One of Gal’s borders was told to get the pot of rice at Gal’s house, while the other was to produce some banana leaves growing in Col. Castillo’s backyard upon which the feast would be served. Nic and the rest were asked to produce the requisite firewood.

As soon as Danny P. handed Gal the bamboo pole, the latter set off in the direction of Prof. Koller’s house. It appears that the good professor had a pet chicken, a white leghorn of no mean proportion owing to the professor’s tender, loving care. It appears further that Gal knew where said leghorn habitually roosted, having previously cased the joint, so to speak, with a bit of malice aforethought.

The rest of us scattered to do as bidden.

Boy Dalao and I took items intended to make the chicken taste good from the kitchen of Boy’s mom. I recollect we took some butter, salt, red and black peppers, and a bottle of catsup. Also, from under Boy’s bed, another bottle of gin, same brand as the bilogs, but larger and squarish in shape, hence the appellation “cuatro cantos.”

The pot of rice from Gal’s place was adequate for the dozen of us. We felt a momentary apprehension, as we were certain that Gal’s mom would be searching for it the next day to prepare sinangag for her borders. That it would be Gal’s problem massaged our guilt somewhat. On the other hand, two missing banana leaves would not be noticed by Col. Castillo. Field-grade officers are more strategist than tactician. They usually see the forest, not the trees or much less their reduced verdancy.

Firewood was no problem too, as there were enough wooden hurdles along the track and field oval at the back of Area 2. And so, everything meshed neatly; no commando unit could have done better, or worked with clockwork precision.

Gal returned about 20 minutes after he sallied forth, from out of the dark. He was whistling a tune – I think it was “Tonight” from “West Side Story.” He bore on his left shoulder the bamboo pole; and clutching its tip with dignity and aplomb and nary a squawk, was the plumpest hen I ever saw that side of Mrs. Navea’s poultry house.

We were all impressed by Gal’s achievement. How in the world could he have convinced the chicken to willingly perch on Danny Purple’s bamboo pole? Well, as Gal put it, there was nothing to it. Except for the nocturnal hunters, birds have no night vision because they have no need for it. Once perched in the relative safety of a tree branch, they simply fall asleep. If you nudge a sleeping bird out of balance by poking at it with a pole, it will grab at the nearest foothold to regain balance – which would be said pole in this instance – and hold on tightly. Its reflexive reaction is born out the need to balance itself in order to continue sleeping. Being night-blind, it senses no danger at all, hence not a peep out of it.

That was educational for us then, as it is now educational for you too, dear reader. I must admonish you however, to refrain from bird-napping your neighbor’s fowl to test if indeed Gal’s system works. Just take my word for it – it does. Just as the ‘butterfly effect” theory also works. It postulates that the flutter of a butterfly’s wings could trigger a future tempest in some part of the world. Which is another way of saying that every action has an opposite reaction, said reaction being conceivably far greater than expected – which is one up over Newton! 

Part 2 - The Fowl Deed: Caught in the act

Thus did we, 12 disciples of Bacchus, proceed – liberated as it were from our normal selves by ethylated spirits. We were taught in school that Bacchus was the promoter of civilization, a lawgiver, a lover of peace – as well as the patron deity of agriculture. Alas, we believed this with all our minds, with all our strength, and with all our hearts (I did, at least). Why then did he bring us, not to ecstasy, but to the madness we were about to inflict upon Professor Koller’s poor, plump chicken and thence to our own ruination? Yoda would have put it succinctly: “False god, he is. Bring us into temptation he did. Deliver us from evil, he did not.”

First, we silently located ourselves to the far end of the track and field oval, shielded by the trees surrounding the oval’s reviewing stand. And so did Professor Koller’s Chicken undergo the terrible fate that befalls most edible avians. Let me say at this point that we had become pretty skilled at dressing chickens, most of us having applied ourselves with much diligence while in high school to this particular subject matter in Mrs. Josefina Roque’s “Home and Family Life” class. May I comment that the more appropriate term should be “undressing” the chicken, seeing that it is stripped of most of its essentials, particularly its pursuit of life, liberty and whatever its happiness may be. Be that as it may, let it be known to all and sundry that the chicken died honorably, according to rituals prescribed by Mrs. Roque.

In less than half an hour we had the chicken’s carcass nicely marinated, with butter lovingly massaged into its flesh. We then set it to embrace firmly Danny Purple’s bamboo pole, which now was to serve as a roasting spit. A goodly fire had by then reduced the former track and field hurdles into glowing embers, and upon this hotbed did we commend the chicken. We kept our voices low, speaking in almost reverent tones about how we should be doing this more often; and one of us (I forget who) promised to take inventory of the stocks of poultry available on campus. All the time, we were clouded by our firm belief that the night and our stealth had covered us from prying eyes.

Alas, it was not so, for it so happened that a Mango Grove resident, Mr. Perez of the UP Registrar’s office, was deprived of his champion fighting cock the previous night by a person or persons unknown. On this particular night, his son David was on the prowl driven by a powerful belief that the criminal almost always returns to the scene of the crime. Talk about the strings and arrows of outrageous fortune!

And so, from his elevated vantage point behind and between Area 2 and Mango Grove, David espied the bonfire we had lit; knowing that no innocents could be possibly up and about at such an ungodly hour, he hied to the UP Police Headquarters to solicit assistance from the local constables, whereupon these stalwarts promptly responded. There had been very few and far-between incidents to interest them, and they desperately needed something – anything – to enliven their otherwise drab careers.

The coppers made their pinch just as we were drawing the chicken we had so carefully roasted from the spit. Having been surprised and surrounded, we couldn’t run away, so we collectively brazened it out. We argued that we were all residents of UP, and peaceable citizens at that, merely having a private celebration; that our actions lay well within the ambit of our right to congregate, not to mention the pursuit of happiness, etc., etc. We were hoping that the budding lawyer in Billy Balbastro was making points with them.

A goodly fire had by then reduced the former track and field hurdles into glowing embers, and upon this hotbed did we commend the chicken.

To no avail: The lead constable (1) told us to do our explaining at headquarters, (2) confiscated the chicken, saying that it was primary proof that a felony may been committed, and (3) instructed one of his men to search for the other supporting evidence. The underling forthwith found the feathers, feet, head and entrails of the chicken, which he gathered and placed in a plastic bag. We had been careless in the aspect of evidence disposal. However, we were lucky that he did not connect the embers now turning into ashes as formerly belonging to UP, the destruction of which would certainly add to the predicament posed by being in possession of a possibly stolen article.

At Headquarters, we had to each give our name, age, and address. No way could we pass ourselves off as somebody else – UP campus was such a small community, and everyone knew everyone else by name. Besides, we were by then too well known – suspected even – of the disappearance of certain beloved pets of the canine variety. As the usual procedure goes, we were “booked” – that is, who, what, where, why, and when relative to our forced visit to Headquarters were recorded in the official logs.

After a few more questions, we were greatly relieved to be put off the hook. David Perez, being his father’s surrogate as the main complainant, saw that the chicken’s former raiment’s were definitely not those of a champion fighting cock, but those of a white leghorn. The evidence not fitting the crime, we were let off with an admonition to go home and go to bed. At which point I became cocky, and asked that the roasted chicken be returned to us, being its rightful owners.

The chief constable said he could not do so, as it was still being held as the state’s evidence along with the feathers, etc. Gal and Nic whispered to me to cut it out and let them have it. In our hearts we all knew that they would have a go at the edible portions of said evidence as soon as we got out of there, and I was loath to have them benefit from the sweat of our labors. Forthwith did I grab the chicken and proceed to gobble it up as fast as I could. To add insult to injury, I taunted the cops, saying in the vernacular “You just lost your evidence.” (Note: Actually, I used far stronger and more colorful choice words, which made the cops red in the face.)

Notwithstanding my unexpected move, the cops could not hold us any longer; we were free to go. The story, however, does not end here. Further complications arose which made things worse for us, to say the least.

To this day, Nic insists that if I had let the cops have the chicken, things would have turned out differently. Had they eaten it, they could not possibly finger us as the culprit without admitting and implicating themselves as accessories to the crime by getting rid of the evidence. At the very least, Nic says, the cops would have no moral high ground to stand on.

That, in my opinion, is B.S. Cops are cops the world over: their customer is always wrong. They would have socked it to us whichever way it went. I must ask you, dear reader, to judge which of us was right. But you must first read to the end of this narrative. 

Hmmm... getting writer’s cramps.

Part 3 - Gal’s Wrong Move

And so did I differ from Nic and Gal’s opinion: In a flash of insight I saw that they were like, as George Eliot puts it, “The man who stole a goose and gave away the giblets for alms,” as if misplaced penance would wipe away the sin.

But we had been lucky so far. While the constables still held the non-edible parts of the chicken as evidence, I was sure that they would dispose of the stuff lest it reach an advanced state of decomposition. At any rate, I didn’t think they would go as far as refrigerate it in the hope that a complainant would ultimately show up. It was, after all, only a misdemeanor. In a couple of days, that evidence would begin decaying. So all we had to do was ride out the unsolicited discovery of our picnic on that hot and humid summer night.

As it happened, Gal had this sudden attack of conscience. And why not? One can steal a march on his rival for a lady’s hand; he can steal himself into the lady’s favor, then he can begin with a stolen kiss, continue with a stolen touch, and wind up with a stolen heart. But Gal? Hell, he stole his neighbor’s chicken. That’s a felony, and we all were in it just as thickly as he was.

I suppose that the events that transpired were too close a shave, stressing Gal more so because he was for all intents and purposes the mastermind. So that without a by-your-leave from us, his fellow conspirators, he put into motion a plan that, in retrospect, may have worked. And there, dear reader, lies the rub.

Around eight in the morning the next day, Gal ran around the oval a couple of time to produce a sweaty, earnest effect upon his visage. Then he boldly went to the Koller’s door and knocked. The conversation, to the best of my memory, went something like this:

Walking down the street was a painful experience. Everyone seemed to start flapping motions while clucking as we passed by. To cap it all, there was at that time a dance craze called “Chicken Scratch,” the choreography of which some of the bolder guys would start behind our backs.

“Mrs. Koller, is Prof. Koller in? Ma’am, I have something to tell you both.” So Mrs. Koller called her husband, and Gal engaged them in animated conversation, complete with requisite body English.

“It’s like this, po. Last night, around 10 p.m., I and some of my friends saw a group of laborers from AGRD steal your chicken. We tailed them to identify them and make them return what they took....” and then Gal forthwith described to a T what we did to the poor chicken, save that it was the fictional laborers that did it. Gal then embellished his tale, tall as it already was, saying, “While we were not in time to stop them from slaughtering the chicken, we accosted them and said we would report them to the police. That scared them, so they promised that if no one were the wiser about their deed, they would hand me a replacement for your chicken. They asked me to switch it on the sly in place of the one they took. I agreed to secrecy, but I am telling you about it because you might notice that your prized hen is gone and report its theft to the police. If you did that, the agreement would fall through, and they would deny what I have just told you. So if you would please keep it quiet and leave it to me, I’ll handle this for you.”

Prof. Koller fell for this whopper. He became quite profuse in praising Gal for going out of his way in defense of a neighbor’s interests. Gal was a good lad, brave and trustworthy and so forth and so on ad nauseam. The professor practically attached to Gal all the good qualities of a number of our national heroes, not to mention the virtues of an Eagle Scout. Which Gal, for all his perspiration, took in stride as if it were an everyday thing for him to play Galahad. Having achieved his objective, Gal once more pandered to the professor’s credulity by reminding them the keep it to themselves. And, having been assured in return of utmost secrecy, Gal then bade the Kollers adieu.

So, I swear to God without fear of violating the 2nd Commandment, that while all of us were guilty of having violated the 7th and 10th Commandments, Gal put one over us by violating the 8th as well, and within a stretch of 24 hours, at that. Go figure that (you may have to google to find out what in Catholic Moses I’m talking about).

The thing is, just when Gal was feeling that he had laid the issue to rest, the roof – the sky even – fell in. For within an hour of Gal’s visit, the good professor hastened over to the UP constabulary to tell them that which he promised to keep secret. It appears that the good professor was pissed off because of the impression that it had to take Gal and company to protect his property, whereas the minions of the law who were getting paid to do this job were nothing but a bunch of goof-off, Keystone cops. And that is putting it mildly.

The coppers naturally resented this provocation, which they deemed as an uncalled for slur upon their integrity and dedication. So that with vigor and forcefulness equal that of the good professor, they showed him the plastic bag containing the remaining evidence in their hands as well as the logbook containing references to suspected chicken thieves. Among which, of course was that of our erstwhile Galahad. As I heard it, the professor, realizing his gaffe and having discovered that he had been had, turned into 50 shades of gray, each reflecting the emotion boiling within him. They say he was pretty close to apoplexy.

Thus, was Gal trapped in the web that he had spun. As were the rest of us. We were all charged with theft and hauled before the City Prosecutor. We were all suspended from our scholastic pursuits. And worst of all, we were splashed all over the different papers. I was more fortunate than the others, because the cop who wrote my name on the logbook (which is today known as “the blotter” for heaven knows why) was misspelled as “Lachica.” Thus, of all those involved, I was the only one spared from the ignominy of being branded a thief – a chicken thief at that!

Incidentally, we stuck together; not one of us snitched or admitted the felony. That is, until Nic Jorge spilled the beans before the authorities. It was the first case of plea-bargaining I ever heard of; I understand Nic had to confess his part as well as finger the rest of us in exchange for not being booted out of the basketball team which he led. On the other hand, the authorities were averse to losing the best player available at that time. It was a neat compromise for both parties. But it sure made us feel the way poor old Damocles did, dangling sword overhead and all that.

Walking down the street was a painful experience. Everyone seemed to start flapping motions while clucking as we passed by. To cap it all, there was at that time a dance craze called “Chicken Scratch,” the choreography of which some of the bolder guys would start behind our backs. After a week or so of suffering this public opprobrium, Gal discovered a simple remedy, and that was to go after the heckler with a bolo (man, it was that sharp, as he kept honing it on the whetstone with his tears).

We lost honor, we lost dignity, and we lost face. Professor Koller got revenge seventy-times-seven fold, and that was only for the loss of his one chicken. As if it were not enough, he wanted us stuck in jail; he would not let go the case he brought before the bar. I suppose it was in revenge for being made to look foolish – a professor, mind you – before the less intellectual local constables.

It’s all past now, but please don’t ask me why I detest poultry.

Part 4 - The Defense Rests Its Case

Well now, having been suspended from classes, there was naught for us to do except hang around and put on a united front. As for myself, I found that reading was a good way as any to pass the time. And so after having exhausted my dad’s secret stash of Playboy magazines, in my boredom I chanced upon a tome on Ancient Greece and got acquainted with this guy Heraclitus of Ephesus a.k.a. “The Obscure” (it beats me why so). They say that he was one of the earliest dialectical philosophers, whatever that is. He provided the stuffing from which the other guys, Socrates, Plato and present-day philosophers got their props. Old Heraclitus, he claimed that the nature of everything is change itself; “All things are in motion and nothing remains still,” said he. Perhaps old Heraclitus passed his time observing mosquito wrigglers and teenagers in his time.


Be that as it may, he sure hit the spot when he put it another way: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” That’s really heavy stuff there, and it surely captured my imagination. I realized for the first time that Gal trying to replace Professor Koller’s chicken was definitely not the same Gal who took it in the first place. Besides, they were different chickens anyway. And somehow, the kindly neighbor that was Professor Koller had changed into an avenger with ants in his pants and bees in his bonnet. Changelings both, but which was Jekyll, and which was Hyde?

Old Heraclitus, he also said, “If it were not for injustice, men would not know justice.” Okay, philosophically, it’s like love and marriage – you can’t have one without the other. But in our case, the question was, who had done whom an injustice? On our behalf, Gal did try, in his quaint and inimitable way, to make amends for the stolen chicken. Had we done the professor an injustice then? On the other hand, the professor was being painstakingly upright and punctiliously exact (or scrupulous, according to Webster); in doing so he placed the chicken’s value several notches above that of the future of a dozen young men. Was he not doing us an injustice then? So I beg you, please: Which comes first, the chicken or the scruples? You be the judge. 

It was plain to most of the neighborhood that the professor had already put in his licks, but still wanted more. Our folks, naturally, tried to talk him out of extracting more than his pound of flesh from us. We were not bad boys, they said, “See, didn’t they try in their own way to replace your chicken?” ; “See, have they not been punished enough?” Their entreaties, however, fell on deaf ears. The professor had his legal knife, and he wanted it stuck into us; yea, and twist it as well. And he wanted the City Fiscal to do the deed for him.

Those of you who may think old Heraclitus was fantastic, you should have met Atty. Aguilar, Danny Purple’s uncle, who handled the case for our defense. I have forgotten his first name, but man, he wasn’t just damned good, he was outright brilliant! For openers, he had us boys purchase a white leghorn chicken. “It’s got to be the same size as the one you took boys,” says he. “And don’t forget to ask the storekeeper for an invoice – have it dated the day you guys got Koller’s chicken.” Pretty slick, we dumb doubters thought, but didn’t Gal try that ploy of replacing Professor Koller’s chicken already?

If you must know, that chicken cost us less than ₱10.00 FOB Sampaloc Market. Having done his bidding, we proceeded to his residence with the newly acquired hen. Finding the invoice of sale to his satisfaction, he pocketed it. Then he ordered his cook to transform the chicken into tinola. “And gather its feathers, feet, head and intestines into a plastic bag and hang the bag on a tree-branch outside where it will be safe from varmints.” And so the newly bought chicken went the same way as did Professor Koller’s chicken, save that it was boiled with herbs and spices to tender satisfaction, rather than spit-roasted on hurdle-coals. Indeed, it was a sumptuous merienda for us, but we kept wondering what Danny’s uncle had up his sleeve. He just smiled at us and said: “Boys, just leave everything to me.”

Atty. Aguilar had the hearings delayed for a bit more than a month, after which he deemed himself ready to meet the opposition. Unknown to us, in that period he had somehow convinced the UP Physical Education Department, which had previously convinced Nic Jorge into a plea-bargaining scheme, that it would be in the best interest of the UP Varsity Team if no more were said about Nic’s involvement. They had their team captain safely back in court, so what did they want to call further attention on him for? So, not a peep out of them regarding Nic’s confession. It were as if he didn’t confess at all! We have all heard about blackmailers. Well, this lawyer was a Maroon-mailer. A pretty good one too.

On the appointed day, we appeared at the City Fiscal’s Office, 2nd floor of Quezon City Hall – you know, where the Quezon City (or Central) Police Headquarters is now located, corner of Kamuning and EDSA? It was a rather tight fit in such a small room: On one hand there were 12 of us accused, each accompanied by anxious parents, Atty. Aguilar, who now was directing a ferocious scowl at the other side, which consisted of a couple of UP Constables, the Kollers, their private counsel, and of course, the Fiscal. The presence of accused and accuser having both been established, the Fiscal directed questions to the Kollers as to their complaint and accompanying evidences.

At which juncture the constables produced their police blotter and a plastic bag of badly deteriorated, foul-smelling remnants of a white leghorn chicken. They swore under oath that on or around 10 p.m. of given date, the 12 accused were found fortuitously in possession of a roasted chicken; that they had likewise discovered white feathers, chicken feet, and other offal in the general vicinity; that their suspicion was aroused regarding the ownership of said chicken, it being an ungodly hour for innocents to be about, and having received a complaint the day before about a missing chicken in the adjoining area; that under the circumstances they apprehended the accused and brought them to the precinct for questioning; that the events related to the incident were duly recorded in their blotter; that while the accused had never admitted to the theft of the chicken, Professor Koller had come forward the next day complaining about the loss of their pet white leghorn; and that they concluded that the said roasted chicken held by the accused was none other than the Koller’s missing pet.

In turn, the Kollers averred that they were owners of a white leghorn chicken which they dearly cared for, it being a pet of their children; they swore that Galileo Miñoza had told them an untruth, to cover up that he, acting in concert with 11 other persons all of whom had stolen and slaughtered their prized hen; and that aggrieved as they were, they were therefore filing charges against all the accused, with a prayer that the full force of law be imposed upon them.

Atty. Aguilar then unceremoniously questioned the constables (really, he was shouting at them): Could they be certain that the evidence they presented were indeed the remains of Professor Koller’s chicken? Did they actually catch the accused in the act of stealing, or at least see them in the act of slaughtering and dressing the chicken? Without forensic examination, by what logic did they conclude that it was a white leghorn that they had roasted anyway? “For all you know it could have been a crow,” he thundered. All the cops could do was gape at each other, dumbfounded by his reasoning made even more impressive by his intimidating drill-sergeant’s voice.

So it was, that he proved their evidence to be circumstantial at best, and garbage at worst. I am sure the Fiscal tended to agree that it was exactly that, for it surely looked and smelled godawful.

Then our attorney signaled to someone outside the room, the doors having been left open to let in some fresh air. And in comes our lawyer’s excellent cook, bearing a bag of equally smelly offal. It was time for Atty. Aguilar to present our evidence. Lordy Lord Almighty, he sure was good at chemical and germ warfare!

No one, but no one, could stand the stench; everybody wanted to get the hell out of there. But the Fiscal was held in thrall. Justice demanded that the accused be allowed to present their evidence, which was forthwith spread on a plastic sheet atop the fiscal’s table. Atty. Aguilar, aware that the timing was most appropriate, submitted our invoice proving that indeed we had purchased a white leghorn on said date; that we had dressed it ourselves, as evidenced by our set of chicken remains, and that we had done no one any wrong.

Then our good attorney turns to the Kollers and asks quietly: “Do you, sir, keep your pet chicken in a coop, or is it simply let loose around your domicile?” The Professor had to admit that his chicken was kept on the loose. “Then how do you conclude that your chicken is missing?” he roared. “Could it not be nesting somewhere perhaps? Or could it not have ran off in the company of other chickens similarly let out to fend for themselves? Or could not, as Mr. Miñoza said, the theft have been committed by what he claims to be a group of laborers?” At which the professor could only splutter. I say he was once again pretty close to apoplexy. The professor’s counsel could not do much. He was paralyzed by the forcefulness of our lawyer and the stupidity of the whole case. In retrospect, Forrest Gump was right: Stupid is as stupid does.

The Fiscal then asked if the Kollers had any other evidence or witnesses to present. There being none, he declared that there was no sufficient case against the twelve accused. Further, that the parties immediately remove their respective evidences and immediately vacate his office. End of case.

That night, we toasted our victory with a mixture of beer, gin and coke. The concoction, naturally was misnamed virgin coke. As it still is today. Awful stuff, boys, stay away from it. We toasted our good fortune in having Atty. Aguilar as our lawyer. In the short time I had known him, he had become my idol. God, how I wanted to be just like him. He prepared well, he was unflappable, and he had flair. He knew how to lay traps, and he could spring them with a vengeance. He was a master with words, quick-witted and rapier sharp at repartee. The force was with him. “That’s what I’d like to be someday,” says I to myself.

And then someone – it could have been me – spoiled it all by saying something stupid like “Hey, you know the Abads have a poultry behind their house in Area 1... ?”


But just as he thought his dinner was caught,
He found his hands had hold of naught.
Before he could mind, Tom slipped behind
And gave him to boot to larn him.
Warn him! Darn him!
A bump o’the boot on the seat Tom thought,
Would be the way to larn him.

 From “Flight to the Ford”
The Fellowship of the Ring
By J.R.R. Tolkien 

Daddy Cool

 I saw a crazy chick a-running down the street
I said, a-whoo pretty baby, why the rigged beat?
She said, wow, what a square, don't you dig the scene?
Daddy Cool's playing his piano machine
Daddy who? Daddy Cool!
Daddy who? Daddy Cool!

(F. Slay - B. Crewe)
THE RAYS (XYZ 102, 1957)


Albert Lesaca

Albert Lesaca

Perhaps this refrain from Frank Sinatra's song best describes who I am and what my life has been like:

"I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king

I've been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing:
each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race..."

While the song of my life is not exactly classical, nevertheless I hope that when it ends, it will be like the closing echoes of a hymn sung in a great cathedral.