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My Father Goes to Court in the cool water of the river that flowed from the

(Carlos Bulusan) mountains into the sea. Sometimes we wrestled with

When I was four, I lived with my mother and one another in the house before we went to play.
brothers and sisters in a small town on the island of We were always in the best of spirits and our
Luzon. Father’s farm had been destroyed in 1918 by laughter was contagious. Other neighbors who
one of our sudden Philippine floods, so several passed by our house often stopped in our yard and
years afterwards we all lived in the town though he joined us in laughter.
preferred living in the country. We had as a next-
door neighbor a very rich man, whose sons and As time went on, the rich man’s children became
daughters seldom came out of the house. While we thin and anemic, while we grew even more robust
boys and girls played and sang in the sun, his and full of life. Our faces were bright and rosy, but
children stayed inside and kept the windows closed. theirs were pale and sad. The rich man started to
His house was so tall that his children could look in cough at night; then he coughed day and night. His
the window of our house and watched us played, or wife began coughing too. Then the children started
slept, or ate, when there was any food in the house to cough, one after the other. At night their
to eat. coughing sounded like the barking of a herd of
seals. We hung outside their windows and listened
Now, this rich man’s servants were always frying to them. We wondered what happened. We knew
and cooking something good, and the aroma of the that they were not sick from the lack of nourishment
food was wafted down to us form the windows of because they were still always frying something
the big house. We hung about and took all the delicious to eat.
wonderful smells of the food into our beings.
Sometimes, in the morning, our whole family stood One day the rich man appeared at a window and
outside the windows of the rich man’s house and stood there a long time. He looked at my sisters,
listened to the musical sizzling of thick strips of who had grown fat in laughing, then at my brothers,
bacon or ham. I can remember one afternoon when whose arms and legs were like the molave, which is
our neighbor’s servants roasted three chickens. The the sturdiest tree in the Philippines. He banged
chickens were young and tender and the fat that down the window and ran through his house,
dripped into the burning coals gave off an shutting all the windows.
enchanting odor. We watched the servants turn the
beautiful birds and inhaled the heavenly spirit that From that day on, the windows of our neighbor’s
drifted out to us. house were always closed. The children did not
come out anymore. We could still hear the servants
Some days the rich man appeared at a window and cooking in the kitchen, and no matter how tight the
glowered down at us. He looked at us one by one, windows were shut, the aroma of the food came to
as though he were condemning us. We were all us in the wind and drifted gratuitously into our
healthy because we went out in the sun and bathed house.
One morning a policeman from the presidencia “I do not!” Father said.
came to our house with a sealed paper. The rich
man had filed a complaint against us. Father took “Do you or do you not agree that while the
me with him when he went to the town clerk and complaint’s servants cooked and fried fat legs of
asked him what it was about. He told Father the lamb or young chicken breast you and your family
man claimed that for years we had been stealing the hung outside his windows and inhaled the heavenly
spirit of his wealth and food. spirit of the food?”

When the day came for us to appear in court, father “I agree.” Father said.
brushed his old Army uniform and borrowed a pair
of shoes from one of my brothers. We were the first “Do you or do you not agree that while the
to arrive. Father sat on a chair in the center of the complaint and his children grew sickly and
courtroom. Mother occupied a chair by the door. tubercular you and your family became strong of
We children sat on a long bench by the wall. Father limb and fair in complexion?”
kept jumping up from his chair and stabbing the air
with his arms, as though we were defending himself “I agree.” Father said.
before an imaginary jury.
“How do you account for that?”
The rich man arrived. He had grown old and feeble;
his face was scarred with deep lines. With him was Father got up and paced around, scratching his head
his young lawyer. Spectators came in and almost thoughtfully. Then he said, “I would like to see the
filled the chairs. The judge entered the room and sat children of complaint, Judge.”
on a high chair. We stood in a hurry and then sat
down again. “Bring in the children of the complaint.”

After the courtroom preliminaries, the judge looked They came in shyly. The spectators covered their
at the Father. “Do you have a lawyer?” he asked. mouths with their hands, they were so amazed to
see the children so thin and pale. The children
“I don’t need any lawyer, Judge,” he said. walked silently to a bench and sat down without
looking up. They stared at the floor and moved their
“Proceed,” said the judge. hands uneasily.

The rich man’s lawyer jumped up and pointed his Father could not say anything at first. He just stood
finger at Father. “Do you or you do not agree that by his chair and looked at them. Finally, he said, “I
you have been stealing the spirit of the complaint’s should like to cross – examine the complaint.”
wealth and food?”
“Proceed.” toward the sound with wonder. Father came back
and stood before the complaint.
“Do you claim that we stole the spirit of your
wealth and became a laughing family while yours “Did you hear it?” he asked.
became morose and sad?” Father said.
“Hear what?” the man asked.
“The spirit of the money when I shook this hat?” he
“Do you claim that we stole the spirit of your food asked.
by hanging outside your windows when your
servants cooked it?” Father said. “Yes.”

“Yes.” “Then you are paid,” Father said.

“Then we are going to pay you right now,” Father The rich man opened his mouth to speak and fell to
said. He walked over to where we children were the floor without a sound. The lawyer rushed to his
sitting on the bench and took my straw hat off my aid. The judge pounded his gravel.
lap and began filling it up with centavo pieces that
he took out of his pockets. He went to Mother, who “Case dismissed.” He said.
added a fistful of silver coins. My brothers threw in
their small change. Father strutted around the courtroom the judge even
came down from his high chair to shake hands with
“May I walk to the room across the hall and stay him. “By the way,” he whispered, “I had an uncle
there for a few minutes, Judge?” Father said. who died laughing.”

“As you wish.” “You like to hear my family laugh, Judge?” Father
“Thank you,” father said. He strode into the other
room with the hat in his hands. It was almost full of “Why not?”
coins. The doors of both rooms were wide open.
“Did you hear that children?” father said.
“Are you ready?” Father called.
My sisters started it. The rest of us followed them
“Proceed.” The judge said. soon the spectators were laughing with us, holding
their bellies and bending over the chairs. And the
The sweet tinkle of the coins carried beautifully in laughter of the judge was the loudest of all.
the courtroom. The spectators turned their faces
My Father Goes to Court
                One morning, a police man knocked on
(Carlos Bulusan)
the door of the narrator’s house. The rich man had a

complaint to them, because they were accused by

stealing the spirit of the wealth and food.
                This story was narrated by a four-year old

kid whose family lived in a small town on Luzon.                 When the trial came, the narrator’s family
The farm of his father was destroyed by a Natural came first. After a few minutes, the rich man’s
Calamity, which is flood. That is the reason why family came with a lawyer, their body was so thin
they preferred to live in a new place. They had a and they look sick. The narrator’s father didn’t had
rich man neighbor; his children rarely go outside.  any lawyer, he fight on his own. The trial starts, the
Their house so tall, where their family can watch lawyer questioned the narrator’s father. In the first
the kid’s (narrator) house. The rich man’s servants question, the father didn’t agree that they stole the
were always cooking some delicious food, like fried spirit of the wealth and the food. The father agreed
chicken, ham, and bacon. The kid’s family inhaling in the second question, where he state that their
the heavenly spirit of those foods. family hung outside the rich man’s house and inhale

the food. He also agreed that when the rich man’s

                The narrator’s family always bond outside
family became sick, their family became strong and
the Sun and bathing in the river. They always had a
good time and a contagious laugh, and some people

join their bonding, while the rich man only watch                 The rich man’s children went in shyly.
them. As day past on, the rich man’s family had a They are really thin and look like sick. When it is
problem. The children became thin, the wife had a time for the rich man, the narrator’s father was the
cough like the rich man. There was an opposite one who question him. The rich man agreed that
effect in the narrator’s family, they became bright while their family having fun, the rich man’s family
and healthy. Their sickness was not in the food, became worse and sad and they also stole the spirit
because their servants always frying something of their wealth. He also agreed that the narrator’s
delicious to eat. After that, their house was always family stole the spirit of their food by hanging
close, but the aroma of the food was still drifted by outside their windows while their servants cooking
the wind. the food. The narrator’s father commits to pay the

rich man, he took the straw hat and collect some

centavo and silver coins around the courtroom.

When the father is ready, he went to the rich man

and shook the hat in front of the rich man. He asked

the man if he heard the spirit of money, and the rich

man agreed. In that case, the father told to the man

that he had already paid. After that, the case was


                The judge told to the narrator’s father the

story where his uncle died because of laughing. The

judge like to hear narrator’s family laughing. The

kid’s sisters started to laugh, and all of the people in

the courtroom laughed and the judge’s laugh was

the loudest of all.