The Girl In The Gutter

She was a small creature, no taller than a grown woman’s waist and with her limbs as thin and frail as bread sticks and her body almost nothing more than skin stretched over bone. Dressed in a grimy and filthy potato sack that’s supposed to pass for clothes, she walked on the hot pavement of the street on her bare feet. Her face, which might be beautiful if she were healthier, is skull-like with her eyes sunk deep in her bony face and her hair was tangled in greasy clumps. Barely a ghost among the bustling masses of people going to and fro, she pushed an old and rickety wooden cart filled with her find for the day: a dozen or so empty cans and bottles and a couple of wads of plastic bags.

street_childrenHer father had been a great hero. At least that’s what her mother often told her. Unfortunately, she was very young when her father died and she remembered very little about him. He died in a war far away from the city many years ago and it seemed only her mother ever really remembered him. No one in the city knew or cared about one man fighting and dying in a place that was far away after all. Of course, sometimes people talk about it, but no one really cared as long as the troubles never really affected them.

The girl’s mother too had died just less than two years ago when a great storm came howling into the city. Their ramshackle home of cheap plywood and metal sheets could do little against the winds that could uproot trees. Her mother had protected her by covering her with her own body but lost her life in the process. In the end, the little girl had no one left and was forced to fend for herself in a cruel and unforgiving city.

After a few hours of looking through various garbage cans and rubbish piles, she failed to find anything of value. While her cart was filled with various items, it probably wasn’t enough to buy her a snack, let alone a decent meal. She continued her search, hoping that there may still be enough refuse out there for her to pick through and at least allow her to buy a loaf of bread at least. Unfortunately, this wasn’t her lucky day. Apparently other people, the destitute and the homeless, had beaten her to it and there was very little left that she could make use of.

So on she went, her stomach rumbling. It’s been almost three weeks since she ate a full meal. Perhaps if she did more searching, she would find something, anything that could at least get her some food.

After a long while of searching, she soon found a church where a wedding was taking place. There was much merry-making and happiness around it and people she only heard about were there as well. There they danced and laughed. The tables were filled with food whose smell deeply intoxicated by the girl.

Before she could approach however, she was immediately stopped by a guard.

“This wedding is by invitation only,” said the guard. “And I doubt the couple would invite someone like you.”

The girl had no real intention of getting in, she tried to tell the guard. She was just wondering if she could have just a little bit of the food. Not much, but maybe just enough to fill a bag.

“This wedding was paid for by the families of the bride and groom and their sponsors,” said the guard. “And no, I don’t think you’re one of them.”

The girl pointed to a tall cake she could see in the distance at the table where the bride and groom sat. The girl reasoned with the guard that there was too much food at the party already, surely a plate or so wasn’t much.

“Out of the question!” said the guard and pushed her away. “The food you see here is for guests only!”

Her stomach continuing to rumble, the girl walked on, pushing her cart along.

She was passing near a market when a policeman suddenly grabbed her.

“There!” a woman shrieked. “She must be one of them!”

The girl asked what was going on.

“Stop playing innocent you thief!” the woman slapped her hard. “You’re one of them, aren’t you?”

“Are you sure, lady?” the policeman asked. “I don’t see this girl here very often. I doubt she was the one who snatched your necklace.”

“For all you know she could be one of their new recruits,” said the woman. “Besides, my husband knows your boss. He might have some things to say if you skip out on your ‘duty’.”

“Ma’am, if you want me to arrest this girl, I can’t do that,” the policeman shook his head.

Then the girl ran off, leaving her cart behind. While the policeman seemed nice, she knew that not all policemen were good  and that some would probably beat her and worse, so she ran as far and as fast as she could. Unfortunately, she failed to see an oncoming bus that was running in her direction.

A hard and sickening thud resounded when the bus impacted the girl’s frail body. There was the ever disturbing sound of wet cracking as the bus plowed her over. It was over in minutes.

The girl’s broken and bleeding body was quickly covered with newspapers as flies from the market began to hover around her. She was dead and gone and no one bothered to even remember her.

No one cared about the girl in the gutter. To everyone else, she was just an unlucky victim of circumstance. She had so much potential, but her life ended in one of the most worthless ways possible. Her glazed eyes stared into nothingness from her emaciated face. In the end, there was no one there for her. Not the cops, not the market-goers, the guests at the wedding or even her relatives.

In the end she died alone in the gutter…

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21 Comments on “The Girl In The Gutter”

  1. In Felipenas (that’s my spelling for even the blind can see where that name came from), we no longer care each other for we are prisoners. Juan (Spanish trademarked person) Tamad became one when he became and been loving his new foreign-made identity called Felipeno.

    1. what were these islands called before the spanish conquest and rebranding as the philippines? what is the true name of the philippines?

  2. The Philippines. One of the many failed states that dot the world. Each of them carrying their own tragic tales and equally depressing plight for their people.

    Is it any wonder where the writers get their materials for fiction such as Warhammer 40k or even One Piece? (A reader once asked if people actually lived on garbage piles, to which Oda replied that there are, they are Filipinos living on Smokey Mountain)

    Unfortunately, apathy is a learned trait. Something not exclusive to third-world countries. Look up Kitty Genovese.

    1. I can’t believe U mention Kitty Genovese. In the mid 90’s I attended a 90 minute lecture at UCLA concerning her murder and societal indifference and lack of empathy to the plight of murder victims by eye-witness’s.Curiously enough in the early 2000’s I learned the entire story of Ms. Genovese murder from an old Man that lived across the street from where and when Ms.Genovese murder actually took place(in the narrow alley facing Mowbray Dr./82nd Rd., NOT the courtyard that faces the LIRR train station on Austin St.). THAT case is generally considered by Western Psychology a defining moment in ‘Social Psychology’.For me, why certain facts were misconstrued is difficult for me to ascertain after studying the case in school and then speaking to a resident of the neighborhood that remembered the exact night it happened. Does it matter that the guy convicted of that murder is still in the infamous ATTICA state prison(scene of the infamous ATTICA STATE RIOTS in 1971)in upstate NY and makes the NY Daily news every time his parole is denied? At least the POS is never gettin out.

      The sad tale of the little girl in this essay is practically tear jerking and the guard at the wedding? what does that guy deserve,UGH! POS.

  3. so what happened to the bus driver who ran the girl over? i want to hear what the consequences for him were. did he even notice he ran over somebody? did he stop? did he go to jail?

    1. This is just an allegorical story of what’s happening in the Philippines Mowgli. The girl is pretty much the representation of the destitute Filipino youths and the kind of odds that are piled against them.

      I wish I could’ve given her a better ending but…

      If anyone’s going to give her something better, it has to be ALL of us man, not just the rich, the poor, the middle class, the politicians and the celebrities. It has to be all of us.

      1. yeah i get the allegory part but seriously if a jeepney driver hit somebody what would happen? anything? would he keep on going?

        1. tye driver would back up and make sure the victim is dead, then keep going as if nothing had happened.Its cheaper to bury someone than pay their medical bills IF IF IF the driver is apprehended.

  4. It’s like this. It’s not like you don’t want to help. Everybody is capable of helping other people. But there’s this kind of need that needed ones help throughout. Like in the case of a street child, giving her a meal can never be enough. It would help her live for a day but it will still keep her that way, it’s like prolonging her agony. That’s why we have Anti-Mendicancy Program and we have DSWD whose job is dedicated to saving these kids. We also have NGOs dedicated for such cause because not only do these kids need food or money but as our law stated, they should be provided with everything necessary for their well being. That said, there shouldn’t be any kids begging for money or food in the street. It’s the State’s responsibility to keep them protected and well-provided. And there are not only street kids out there but homeless people, old, crippled or sick. If only we are all following the law and order, you’ll be surprised how many lives can be saved.

    1. Believe me, some of these children have parents while some if you tried to take them to DSWD will run away (some children would escape from DSWD, others pinabayaang umalis ng nasabing ahensya otherwise you won’t find them again in the street just a few days after you turn them in). The effective way to get these kids out of the mess would be to work side by side with NGOs or LGU and, yes, DSWD.

      1. For those kids who run away, I think a corrective institute or more secure juvenile center (kid jail) should happen. Short of euthanizing them, you really have to make a complete makeover of their behaviour to undo the damage done from their lack of upbringing. It’s tough, but it can be done.

        All these require money which we already know the government is unwilling to spend.

        1. That’s what’s funny about the Philippine laws. Like, here you have paid lawmakers creating or amending laws, say, for juvenile delinquents where 16-18 year-olds should go to youth detention homes while those 15 and below should go to youth orphan care (and there should be one for every city) but the government don’t have full plans on establishing needed facilities and workers indicated in those laws. Yet they would set aside a certain amount from the BUDGET for the program. And those who authorized those laws think problema na ng mga institusyon na dapat magpapatupad n’yan mayroon na ulet akong pag-aaralan o ipapasang panibagong batas. They don’t even make sure that every passage is being followed. I would welcome a politician who would scream to my face, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! Hands on ako sa batas at proyektong pinasa ko, sinusundan ko ang bawat development, I make sure that it’s being adopted!”

  5. Damnit Grimwald……. I didn’t need to cry….. Sadly, his story, while fiction, is a good reflection of life and what happens to many children there I imagine…. some grow up..like the Horribly disfigured transgender who does her little dance in Malate for coins.Her legs are burned off at the knees..I had to stop and talk to her .It was just before Christmas a few years back. I asked her point bLank what happened to her ..she told me a candle had fallen into her crib when she was a baby and her legs had caught fire as the crib burned…. her Mom was still alive and she helped support her family by begging for change …. I opened my wallet and gave her 1000 peso and told her “Merry Christmas” and she started to cry and told me “Thank You Sir, now I can go to the bus and go home” and she made me cry. At least she is alive .At least her mother still loves her and didn’t abandon her. It’s a damn hard country to live in…I probably never would have gone back to the Philippines but I met the love of my life last year … we are expecting our first child, my first child. My GF had never been off her Island, never been to Manila. When I had to go there for surgery she went with me …she told me she never wants to go there again…and I have to agree with her, the cities in the Philippines are no place to live……

  6. It is a sad story; but that is happening in Real Life in the Philippines. The Gap between the Rich and the Poor is widening and widening everyday. Poverty, homelessness, and hunger are widespread.

    There is nothing that Politicians are doing to address this issue of poverty, homelessness and hunger…Politicians continue to blame each other; play political games…

    People who are homeless and hungry are invisible to their eyes. The Political leaders refuse to see these people…

  7. The piece is a classic fodder for soaps and telenovelas. Exactly what the masses needed to see for a feel good effect. Over and over again. And I don’t mean the D or E masses but the F or G one (if such existed). Allegory it is indeed and more but I still rank it below the usual tearjerkers we get daily in our boob tubes.

    For one, the settings is convoluted. I could be wrong but a church wedding with tables filled with food? Could be a millionaire renting the church for the day. If so, I doubt the little girl could even come close a mile. Even Marian and Dingdong were not able to have their reception in the church where they wed.

    Secondly, the dialogue, especially between the little girl and the guard in the church, is terrible, unreal to the max. The guard was made to be numbed and dumb to what he’s seeing and in saying those sarcastic words to the small child. I bet you, in real life, no one here will say and do what that guard did and said to that little girl. No one. Unless an atheist, no Filipino, in all their faults and frailties will ever do what that guard did to that girl.

    Thirdly, the policeman that doubts the guilt of the little girl to suddenly grab “her limbs as thin and frail as bread sticks and her body almost nothing more than skin stretched over bone” simply doesn’t make sense. Worse was the line of the woman accusing the little girl of snatching. She said the little girl “must be one of them” and then slapped the girl. The scene is really revolting and the exaggeration to the IMAX.

    The fable has all the ingredients of what a successful romanticism-cum-tragedy should be. But to make the little girl the representation of the IPad crazy and cellphone carrying Filipino youth of today is just simply Disneyland.

    Finally, the little girl did not really die alone. The script made her alone from the get go for emotional ad dramatical impact. There was nothing in the story that put her with the company of others to suggest that she was with them or she belongs. She and her rickety wooden cart from the start up to the end.

    It’s really solid overkill at every turn the only thing missing was it was not done in 3D. 🙂

    1. I can see that. Anyway, I wanted to lend a dream-like feel to the whole thing so it isn’t exactly meant to be realistic. Nonetheless, I thank you for criticism, I think I do need to work on the exchanges between the characters in this piece.
      3D? I don’t think so, that would be too costly. I’d make it an anime instead.

      There are a few things I will disagree with what you said though. Even an atheist can do something better than what that guard did. Also, I really do believe there are monsters among us who could do a lot worse. Real world examples? Amon Goeth, Josef Mengele and Elizabeth Bathory, just to name a few. And Filipinos don’t have equivalents? Give me a break. I think we have them, we either just don’t notice them or we just don’t care.

        1. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind criticisms or reviews as long as they are thought out.

          C.S. Lewis mentioned something about it’s better to be a smart atheist than a dumb overreligious and superstitious person. A smart atheist can think rationally and can still do good for others but the latter, despite what they perceive as faith, may lead to more harm than good.

  8. In the Failippines, it’s a disease. Nobody thinks or feels or cares any more; nobody gets excited or believes in anything except their own comfortable little God damn mediocrity.

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