The White Lady

by Matthew Hamilton

E. J. disappeared 4 years ago. He was last seen walking through the rice fields, going home after work. It was forbidden to walk through the rice fields at night, but E. J. would always shrug off the stories of ghosts and witches lurking in the darkness and searching for unwary souls. “Don’t talk nonsense,” he would tell his friends and parents. “I’ve been walking through the rice fields at night for the past three months and I haven’t seen a thing. I’ll be fine. Besides, cutting through the fields cuts my trip in half.

There was only one person in the small town of Gonzaga who agreed with E. J. and that was Sir Erning, a local restaurant and resort owner. Even E. J.’s parents believed in ghosts and when E. J. was a child, they often told him stories about the white lady that lived near the mouth of the river and that every night she would visit the rice fields and collect snails and snakes to supplement her dish of disobedient children.

E. J. helped Sir Erning out every day after school, busing tables, sweeping floors, and whatever else Sir Erning needed him to do. The money he earned would help support his father who was crippled due to a boating accident. Doctors said he would never walk again. And in a town like Gonzaga, where fishing was a main source of livelihood, it put E.J.’s mother, who worked as an elementary school teacher, in a difficult situation, her salary being only 4,000 pesos per month.

E. J.’s younger brother and sister, John, 5 and Joan, 7, were too young to work. Relatives in town helped out some, but they had families of their own and could only provide some food—rice and a few vegetables mostly. Life in Gonzaga was hard on everyone.

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