The day before I married his daughter, the man who became my father-in-law and I stood in the kitchen of the reception hall, a beachfront property owned by one of those great Southern women’s organizations whose litmus test is a proper birth certificate, and we watched the caterer massage a whole pig, tail to snout, working in a marinade, preparing to bury it under a wheelbarrow load of smoldering coal and hickory.
The caterer had a peculiar name beginning with the letter X. And according to pater-to-be, so did the caterer’s village, a small town in the Philippines barely the size of a family reunion. Naming signifies loyalty. The village’s name begins with X so will yours. The caterer’s family, neighbors, friends, enemies – everyone named with an X.
But here’s the kicker, friends: The village, the citizens, even the caterer, used to spell their names with an F instead. The X followed the caterer home one night in his youth. Impulsive or stupid, the caterer whose name began with F at the time committed some crime in the big city. No one knows exactly what, but certainly something befitting the impulsive or stupid.
The X followed him to the village, as did two of the big city cops. And when the cops arrived, they went straight – in a place so small, there’s no other way but straight, really – to the caterer’s house, dragging him out in his yard and forcing him to his knees. The caterer’s parents ran screaming after them, explaining to the authorities they had the wrong man, the wrong village even. The police were looking for the boy from the village beginning with the letter F. This village and this boy had names beginning with X.
Enraged, the police went to the next home, the caterer in tow, asking each villager, who had seen the spectacle in the yard, “What is this village’s name?” and “Who is this boy?” At each home, the name of the village, person by person, changed from beginning with the letter F to the letter X.
Eventually the head man of the village asked the police into his home. They railed at him, explaining how they’d followed the caterer, whose name now began with X, from the city and how they’d followed him to this village, whose name apparently also now began with X. The head man simply told them they’d made a common mistake. They had found the wrong village with a similar name.
But to prove their case, the police referred to an official government map, clearly illustrating the town’s name beginning with the letter F. The head man, smiling, said, “See? I told you it was a common mistake. Even the map is wrong.”
No one likes a rat.