Checkers stepped into the kitchen. "The great Checkers Rosario," Gaz said.
Checkers stared at Gaz with bloodshot eyes. "Used to be," he said, then sat down.
Gaz explained himself: he was in Manila visiting an ex-girlfriend, a make-up artist for CocoLoco. He toured the studio, went through their vaults, and found copies of Checkers' movies. "I watched them all, and I thought, jackpot-eureka! This is the real deal. They said if I wanted to use them, I should find you." He pulled four canisters of film from his canvas bag and stacked them on the table. "And now you're found."
Checkers took the reels from the canisters. I could hear him whisper their titles like the names of women he once loved and still did - The Creature in the Cane, Cathedral of Dread, DraculaDracula, The House on Dead Filipino Road. "Use them," he said. "What for?"
"Three words," Gaz said. "Motion. Picture. History." He got up, circled the table as he explained his movie: en route to earth from a distant star system, the crew of The Valedictorian crash lands on a hostile planet inhabited by bat-winged pygmies, lobster-clawed cannibals, two-headed vampires. "That's where your stuff comes in. I'm going to splice your movies with mine." He went on about the mixing-up of genres, chop-suey cinema, bringing together east and west. "We'd be the ambassadors of international film!"
"What's your thinking on this?" Checkers asked me in Tagalog. "Is this man serious? Is he just an American fool?" "Ask how much he'll pay," I said, "get twenty percent more, give him the movies and show him to the door."
"All our hard work for a few pesos?" Checkers said. "That's their worth to you?" He asked if I'd forgotten the ten-star reviews, the long lines on opening night, but I didn't want to hear about our life back then, so I started about our life now - the hours he wasted while I worked hard, the constant mess of our apartment, his never-ending reminiscing of our CocoLoco days.
"I come in peace!" Gaz said. "Don't fight because of me."
I switched back to English. "We are discussing, not fighting. We don't have lawyers or agents to counsel us over these matters. There is corruption and dishonesty in the movie business here in Manila. It's not like in Hollywood."
"But I'm one of the good guys," Gaz said, and to prove it, he made an offer: "Come to America. Just for a week. You can see a rough cut, visit the set, meet the cast. Plenty of room at my pad. I'll even take the couch. And if you don't like what you see, I'll reimburse you the airfare and you won't ever hear from me again."
Then Checkers said, "Reva will come too."
I shook my head. "This is your business." I spoke in English, so that Gaz would understand me too. "The two of you. Not the three of us."
"But I need you," Checkers said. He came to me, put his hands on my shoulders. "You must be with me."
"Awww. You're just an old softie, aren't you Chex?" Gaz winked at me. "How can you say no to that?"
I put my hands on Checkers' face. He looked neater than he had in a long time, but he was still a mess: his shirt was misbuttoned at the top, there were patches of stubble he missed when he shaved, and his Elvis-style pompadour showed more gray than I'd realized was there.
"I can't," I told Gaz.
"Someone in America is dead." This was the lie I told my boss when I asked for a week off from work. "Someone close to me." It was easy to say - I told him over the phone - but part of me hoped he would deny my request. That way, I would have to stay, and maybe Checkers would stay behind too. But my boss let me go, and he gave me fatherly advice: "Take all the time you need for final good-byes with dead loved ones." I promised I would.
Excerpted from Monstress
by Lysley Tenorio. Copyright © 2012 by Lysley Tenorio.
Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.