My kid started off the mat-covered ground we were sleeping on. It was two in the morning. It felt like the ground air was freezing. The kid peeled the blanket he had wrapped himself with, then, proceeded stoking remnants of last night’s bonfire with an armful of cogon sheaves. Wispy tendrils rose off the ashes; embers bloomed; fiery petals resembling a chrysanthemum’s swayed and swung at the chill.
“Ganito pala dito, Papa. Lumalamig na todo,” he muttered, rubbing his hands together.
“Oo. Parang ginaw sa Benguet ‘pag madaling araw. Kaya pala meron din ditong rono.”
“Talahib-Cordillera. Narito rin sa Sierra Madre. Ginagamit sa La Trinidad na pantulos sa kamatis, sa sitsaro. Pati sa chrysanthemum.”
“Ibig sabihin: puwede dito tumubo ang chrysanthemum?” the kid yawned.
“May taniman nga ng Benguet pine si Chito Bertol sa kabilang bundok. Hindi kasi maselan ang pine tree. Kumakasa sa cogon. Tutubo kahit baog na’ng lupa. Pero bago tayo makapagpatubo ng chrysanthemum dito, dapat na katkat pati ugat ng mga cogon at talahib. ‘Yung ubos talaga. Puksa lahat. Extirpation.Tapos, aaregluhin natin ang biochemistry ng lupa...”
My kid yawned, then yawned some more. He did an awkward oblation stretch-- a full yawn. That was contagious. I yawned, too.
“Say, a square meter of topsoil is a mere 10 kilograms of barren earth. We say barren since neither food nor ornamental crops can thrive there. We’ll do a Victor Frankenstein act with such earth. Remember Frankenstein?” I droned, stifling another yawn.
“The chap from that Mary Shelley work -- we have three versions in our library; one’s the classic, the other’s a brooding teleplay, the third’s a comic-book version. Frankenstein reassembled body parts from corpses. Then, he did a Nicola Tesla test – gave the assemblage a thorough jolt of lightning to rouse it to life. The assemblage came to life. That’s his idea taking on a life of its own. But he missed the point of his own fantastic idea,” I argued, punctuating each statement with a stab in the air with a knife hand.
“Naging monster ‘yung ginawa ni Frankenstein kasi pinandirihan niya?”he smacked his lips.
“Frankenstein fancied himself a god. That creature was his idea, his brain child. Say, the god Zeus produced his own brainchild, too. Zeus’s idea grew out of his own head. Sprang up as Athena. He took her as his wife. Athena wasn’t exactly well-stacked like a centerfold but Zeus had a likeable attitude to his idea. Frankenstein didn’t grasp the beauty of his idea that he had clothed in corpses’ flesh. I guess he thought that as a creator god, he ought to have fashioned a creature in his own likeness. Nonsense. He worked with putrid flesh, he ought to be ecstatic that such flesh wasn’t reduced to ashes when he made it as a conduit for lightning. The creature’s appearance revolted Frankenstein,” so I gushed.
Stumped, the kid could only mutter: “Frankenstein’s idea was beautiful. The creature was his idea.”
“Creative ideas are beautiful. And the creature was beautiful. So, we’ll do a Frankenstein. Give life to this hideous corpse-like earth, hah!”I intoned in a voice quivering in mock reverence.
“The earth will come alive? Magiging monster din?” the kid riposted, eyes gleaming with impish delight.
“Maybe. We’ll pump life into the soil. Dump microorganisms into it. Say, for every nine kilograms of dead earth, we’ll mix in a kilogram of organic matter-- dung, corruption and rotted matter, spread piss on earth. Corruption is contagious. Spreads like disease. Guess what earth would turn out to be after we work on it,” I said chewing at each delicious word.
“Magiging monster ang lupa?” the kid insisted, tugged at my arm for confirmation.
“If that’s how you put it, this dead earth will gain life. We’ll have something straight from that Frankenstein yarn,” I conceded, uh, agreed.
“We grow monsters?”
“Monsters like chrysanthemums. Very deadly. Dutch agro firms churn out pesticides from chrysanthemum extracts. Ninjas extract quick-acting poisons from their pistils. Yeah, we’ll raise monsters like ‘em-- sampaguita, ilang-ilang, dahlia, citronella,” I yawned.
“Yes! We’ll grow monsters!”
Overpowered by a quaint feeling that the earth was tugging at us, we crept back to the mat-covered ground, wrapped ourselves in blankets. The ground throbbed. Crickets and critters chorused, hummed hymns. Sleep caught up with us. Then, we dreamt of monsters hugging, smothering us with a quaint sweet scent of the soil.