What the Children of Muerta Caxerex Say
by Mia Tijam
“This is our Vegas.” That’s what Father Bobby says.
He has just arrived from their hometown Muerta Caxerex — birth mother to prostitutes, rapists, and more priests — to send off his own exiled mother to the airport to fly back to Liberty the next night.
In Muerta Caxerex, his mother is known as the Lady of Lake Buhi, where the smallest fish have grown to janitor monsters. The lake has lost its mother and is now flooding all the rotting towns. The Lady was driven away decades ago by an animal of a husband whom she has tried to kill several times. She has said in seething sighs that mestizo Tikbalangs make bad husbands, that it’s the horse in them mixed with man directly descended from the Patriarchs of the Hounds of Faith.
I caught Ma this time trying to smother Pa with a pillow, Son’...” Father Bobby says to Sonny, and the latter laughs. Sonny always laughs at unfunny things like the Lady’s almost killing his adoptive father who is now reduced to his man-form because of a stroke, this attempted murder of a vegetable.
“Where is Mary, son?”
* * *
“Mary is now a whore in our Vegas, mehn.” That’s what Sonny does not say.
Sonny has been called Sonny Da Dumbass ever since they were ten-year old schoolmates and had run around as an informant, then as a soldier in the Triangulo Gang Wars. The Triangulo Gangs were all human in the daylight. At night they fought each other in their Blood-forms to be the Flesh Lords of prostitution, the Dice Lords of gambling, and the Crystal Lords of narcotics. Every sin was committed in that triangle for space and ownership of the Bloods, acts they all would confess to the priests and pray to Nuestra Señora to forgive.
Sonny never made or took a hit though, because Father Bobby was always there, back when the latter was not yet the priest but the reluctant punk with the raging alpha blood who inherited one side of that triangle of territories from his exiled murdering brothers. Everything was personal, and everything was business; it has always been so with Father Bobby ever since.
And Sonny was the dumbass who had made Mary cry then when he told her that he was going to ride her like a horse. Young Bobby, who had always been mercilessly teasing her, had beaten Sonny’s face bloody to What... Kind... Of... Thing... Is... That... To... Say...To... A... Nice... Girl... Of... The... Faith... Dumb... Ass...
Mary, who had religiously ignored Bobby, finally looked at him and kissed his bloodied fists, then smiled at Sonny and cleaned up his face, and the three have been best friends ever since.
* * *
“Our Vegas, baby.” That’s what Mary says.
Always to the Blood who comes to her but more so to Sonny. He has never touched her — Sonny Da Dumbass is not that dumb — for he knows Father Bobby would kill him. Sonny is supposed to protect her here, and he says to Father Bobby again and again, “I don’t mess up in this, mehn.”
Mary has been ignoring the vibrating phone, its insistent Where are you a burning, until her 6th for the day had left — this half-woman and half-elemental that needed the nourishment from her breasts — picks up the call and hears Sonny say, “He’s here, wants to see you.”
Sonny mutters, “Then why wouldn’t you answer—”
Mary laughs. “You expect me to answer him while I’m working?”
Sonny says, “Oh. Right.”
Mary sighs and asks where and what time, then says goodbye and braces herself with a smile — This is for you, Mother — as her seventh for the day comes into the room that smells of sanitized sex and begins worshipping her against the wall.
Their Blood calls for her flesh, which she gives up for them.
When Father Bobby calls for her, she always comes.
* * *
“Welcome back to our Vegas, mehn.” That’s what Sonny says.
He slouches through another bucket of red beer for horses, the only thing his kind can take. Too much of a mongrel, Sonny is, half Tikbalang and half Kapre, and both sides denying each other and disowning this runt. His existence he owes to Father Bobby, the freedom to walk without fear in Muerta Caxerex, safe from the Dice Lords and Flesh Lords who would take mix-breed children like him to be slaughtered and their blood and bones used to make bridges and buildings indestructible.
Father Bobby had saved him from his Kapre Blood’s vice, too, that smoke from pipes that was the legacy of his genetics spurred by the Crystal Lords of the Triangulo Gang Wars. His future in Muerta Caxerex has been destroyed by a death-tag on his head. Now he drifts through the buildings of the Sunshine Consortium, jacked into a headset and becoming a robotic vampire every night by the demands of economics and Liberty, lying to his Sups about his dead grandmother and dying to be free to meet Father Bobby yet again.
Sonny has kept Father Bobby from turning feral in the Wars and after, always reminding him of Mary.
“Do they still shake, son?”
Sonny laughs. “Not when I’m holding paints and brush, mehn. Or some chick’s tits and ass.”
“Di puta, son, I can test you.”
Sonny protests, “Swear, mehn!”
“You promised Mary, son.”
Sonny smiles. “Anything for Mary, always, mehn.”
The first time Sonny painted was when he was sixteen and he was already dying from the pipe. It was a painting of the Sagrada Familia, and he did it for Mary.
* * *
“Leave our Vegas, please.” That’s what Father Bobby wants to say.
He feels Mary before he sees her — sees Sonny’s form straighten — looks as she barrels into Sonny’s waiting hug. Sonny lifts her up and twirls her around as she giggles, and Father Bobby snaps, “You’ll break her bones! Put her down, son!”
Sonny says sorry as Mary receives Father Bobby’s exhaling hug and two pats on her head. Then she draws back and marvels. “I always forget how you two are so tall.” She surveys their 6’ and 6’1” red-brown-skin frames.
Father Bobby says, “And you’re too thin, ’Baba.”
Mary ignores Father Bobby and says to Sonny, “Now what is it this time, baby?”
Sonny smiles. “There’s this girl... She has a kid...I want her...”
Father Bobby says, “You didn’t tell me this—”
Mary interrupts, “Are you in love, baby?”
Sonny laughs. “I dunno... I watch her volleyball games.”
Father Bobby snorts, “What are you? In high school?!”
Sonny wags his eyebrows. “She’s someone’s mistress.”
Mary frowns. “Whose?”
Sonny laughs again. “A troll of Guadalupe, mehn...”
Father Bobby says, “You want to get it on with a cop’s mistress?! Dumbass. You’re going to end up dead. Dios mío, son, they are crocodiles and will eat you alive.”
Mary asks, “Is she of our Blood, baby?”
Sonny says, “No.”
Mary sighs. “Then you can’t take her. We are not allowed to be with those who are not of our Blood, you know that. You hear me, baby?”
Sonny sighs. “Yes, Mary.”
Mary looks at Father Bobby. “No harm will happen to him, Father, whatever he does, wherever.”
Father Bobby flinches, says, as once the surviving victor of the Triangulo Gang Wars, “Of course.”
And he finally says, “Nuestra Señora is still waiting for you.”
* * *
“Salvation in our Vegas, Father.” That’s what Mary always says.
Her mother was once a young girl, the chosen daughter of Muerta Caxerex, and its Blood and future were in her flesh. A long time ago her mother had been raped by the Patriarch, and the Hounds of Faith had bound her in matrimony with the Faith, the land’s wild soul entrapped in her image cast in blood gold, the urn of her pregnant body which had been butchered for threatening to call the Blood to rebellion.
The Faith had men who pledged to protect her, the Voyadores, and they took her image around Muerta Caxerex via its river to bless the towns and keep the Blood in the Faith, upheld always by these men who had forgotten through time that they were there in the beginning to keep her from drowning herself in the river.
Her mother is Nuestra Señora, and she is Muerta Caxerex’s Matriarch.
They sing their prayers to her mother, and this all began 300 years ago. Since then her mother has always moved around to bless Muerta Caxerex, which still remains as is — poor and corrupted, with hushed gunshots outside billiard halls and homosexuals beheaded and burned.
All will be well when the orphan born — the child who could call all of Muerte Caxerex’s Blood to its knees — Nuestra Señora’s reincarnated flesh returns. This covenant of forgiveness for the sin against Muerte Caxerex began a long time ago.
Mary says, “Mother has lost runaways here, and they can’t come home.”
These men and women who come to see her, all of Muerta Caxerex’s Blood exiles, seeking what her mother’s womb was bound to give and which Mary ran away from in Muerta Caxerex.
This blessing to be the creatures that they are.
* * *
“Forgive me in our Vegas, Baba.” That’s what Father Bobby always says.
The priest who is the future Patriarch of Muerta Caxerex has loved Mary ever since they were ten. But he is the youngest son and the Lady’s sacrifice for the salvation of all her sons and husband’s souls. And the sons of Muerta Caxerex always obey their mothers.
But Father Bobby is also his father’s son and his blood is sili — hot — and his blood has always called for Mary’s, she whom he cannot have for she is Nuestra Señora’s chosen daughter.
The union would have been perfect for Muerta Caxerex, but what happened 300 years ago cannot happen again. So Father Bobby finds substitutes — like penitent bodies or hours of this red beer for horses — to dull his aching.
Mary asks, “What do you want forgiven this time?”
Father Bobby confesses, “I have become my father.”
Mary asks, “Another one? What is this now? The fourth?”
Father Bobby nods. “And another son.”
Mary says, “Enough already. Siring another will kill my heart.”
Father Bobby bows his head and nods once again.
Mary closes her eyes and does not say what they already know.
* * *
“Only in our Vegas, mehn.” That’s what Sonny says.
He watches as Father Bobby lays his forehead on Mary’s womb, inhaling, trembling from his blood’s desiring.
Mary’s right hand hovers, then she gently places it on his head and strokes him. She looks at all the lights that hide the dark streets where the children of Muerta Caxerex are, and she says, “Even you. More so you. But never you.”
Father Bobby exhales, the trembling ceases. He stands up and leaves.
Sonny asks, “Do I stay or go, Mary?”
Mary answers, “Go with him, baby.”
Sonny shakes his head. “You two... You know he will come back again.”
Mary smiles. “Always only here.”
[Author’s note] The story touches on a characteristic of the Catholic system in the Bicol region in the Philippines, i.e. priests having mistresses and children. Muerta Caxerex is a pun on Nueva Caceres, the old name of my hometown and the archdiocese of Bicol. It’s a remaking of the 300-year history of Our Lady of Peñafrancia a.k.a. Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, the patroness of the Bicol Region.
Copyright © 2014 by Mia Tijam