In a family of six where anything went as long as nobody got hurt, Timothy — or just Tim to his friends — voluntarily chose to live by a set of rules. It was a mystery to his parents, and even more so to his siblings whose lives, being teenagers, were the epitome of indifference to rules. (Who needed them, anyway?)
Despite having the same upbringing, Tim had a different viewpoint. Ever since his late grandfather had gifted him the rule book on his twelfth birthday, he had taken to bringing it everywhere with him. That was two years ago. Now, he had it memorized by heart. Rule fifteen, for example, says to own a great stereo system. Unfortunately for Tim, it was his sister older Sadie who managed to satisfy that rule. Avril Lavigne was blasting through the wall their rooms shared.
And Avril Lavigne annoyed him.
“Ate*!” Tim shouted, throwing a school textbook at the wall. It resounded with a loud thud. “Keep that down, will you!”
“I can’t hear you, Timmy!” Sadie shouted back. It was all Tim could do to rein his temper in – after all, rule forty eight specifically said to do that, even if the recipient completely deserved it. Besides, he was due for rule number one hundred and four: take a brisk thirty-minute walk every day.
The rules organized Tim’s life. They were the reason why he flosses his teeth every morning (number twenty-three), why he always remembers to put the cap back on the toothpaste (number fifty), and why he was tackling The Easy Guide to Guitar Playing despite the instrument’s obvious distaste of him, courtesy of rule number ten.
Tim pulled on his rubber shoes, carefully looking away from his polished school shoes – that would be rule twenty-two’s doing. When he was ready, he rushed out of his room, slid down the stairs banister and grabbed his iPod from the table by the door as he sped out. It was an everyday routine, and all members of his family knew well enough to never remove his iPod from its designated position on the desk. Even Vince, the family’s youngest, knew better.
With one of the modern songs pulsating hypnotically into his eardrum, Tim began his daily walk. The walk served three purposes. One was to follow the rules. Two was to get out of the house and to get as far away as possible from Sadie, and three – well, three was just coming round the corner.
April Summers. She was an entire year older than him and only lived a street over. The only thing that discouraged him from talking to her was her brawny older brother. He was supposed to be away at college, but had decided to “take a year off to consider his choices.” That was the official reason, anyway. Everyone knew that he was taking remedial high school courses.
Tim sighed to himself and shook his head, grudgingly tearing his eyes away from April. To admire from afar was all he was able to do, not that it mattered. He was only fourteen and had a lot of things to do before he felt like doing anything beyond admiring from afar. Rule number thirty-one, for instance. Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards.
“Hello there.” Tim greeted a group of kids selling ice candy on the street. They were perched directly in front of their house, in perfect view whenever any anxious mothers would peep out through the windows. “What are you little guys selling, huh?”
One of the kids rolled their eyes at Tim’s baby voice, while another beamed happily at the prospect of having a customer. “Ice candy,po*!” she said eagerly. “Four pesos lang* for one bar, or ten for three!”
Tim laughed and paid for eight bars, one for each member of his family and two each for him and Vince. After all, there was no sense in walking all the way home, carrying bars of ice candies without eating one on the way. What’s more, that candy bar will be one more he’d have eaten than Sadie. She would be furious.
It was with a cheeky smile that Tim walked through the front gates of his house.
- Ate is a Tagalog term for “older sister”, though it can also be used as a polite way to address any female — it can be a cousin or even a new acquaintance — who is older than the speaker. The boy version is kuya.
- Po is just what you say to be respectful, such as when talking to a person of authority (a parent, teacher).
- Lang, short for the Tagalog word lamang, can either mean ‘only’ or ‘just’ or ‘simply’.