‘Police Blues’ from Abdon Balde Jr.’s 100 Kislap: A Formalist reading

(Something I wrote in college for I forgot which class)

The Kislap is a sub-category of Filipino flash fiction that the Palanca Awardee Abdon Balde Jr. invented, and exemplified in his book 100 Kislap. The defining characteristics of this type of flash fiction are the maximum of 150 words and the use of the Filipino language (making it the first manifestation of strictly Flash Fiction in Filipino literature).  In the book’s preface, Balde explains that what made the Kislap unique was that the word limit did not define the writing process, but the other way around: if the story happened to be less than or equal to 150 words then it happens to be a Kislap.

With just 74 words, “Police Blues” is among the 100 Kislap in the collection. The story, whose text is written in the silhouette of a police badge, begins with a sentence that describes the time (hatinggabi), the antecedent action (pagkatapos naming magtalik), the action that starts the conflict (narining… ang ingay) and the setting (“ibaba” hints that they are on an upper floor). The first paragraph ends with a speculation of the sound being caused by a burglar.

The second paragraph simply reveals how the narrator asks the unnamed partner to remain. Then, in the next paragraph begins its sentences with the actions “bumangon” and “hinugot,” and also mentions the .45 and its holster, hinting the character might be a policeman, or at least someone licensed to hold a gun.

The following paragraph, just one sentence, subconsciously confirms our speculation that the narrator is a man when it mentions “briefs.”

When the narrator mentions that Supt. Nicodemus Ferriols is pointing a gun at him, the climax comes.  But somehow, the reader might feel suspicious of something when he addresses the superintendent as “Nicco,” which sounds like a nickname of endearment.

The last paragraph’s first word (taksil) explains everything. To add to this, the words “lalaking yan,” referring to the partner (whom the reader had assumed was a woman) confirm the homosexuality. The ending is humorous because it completely ignores this unexpected fact and continues its theme of policemen.

The main thrust of the twist in the story lies in its skaz. The narrator treats homosexuality as a completely mundane thing, failing to even mention it or hint of it until the end. To the reader who does not have that point of view, it completely defamiliarizes it. The same is done to sex. The narrator casually mentions having sex, and again, to the virgin reader, it cannot help but come as a shock.

The story also has some metonyms in it. The mention of the .45 strengthens the hint that the narrator is a policeman (a notion established by the title and by his initiative to come down). The briefs, at first humorously and defamilarizingly but later on glaringly, establish his being a man.  To the reader equipped with only an AI level of reading comprehension, these metonyms would not have such meanings.

There are two instances of using free motifs to cause defamiliarization. The first, the slow descent, features (as mentioned) the briefs, which later on proves to be a Chekov’s gun.  The second is when Nicodemus Ferriols is introduced, the time when the narrator decides to reveal the setting of the instance (the sofa in the salas). It is evident that this rather out of place exposition is meant to prolong anticipation.

But perhaps the most interesting fact about the story is its brevity. It ends right when that realization by the reader is slightly mocked, leaving the reader feeling somewhat tantalized. He (the reader) has already modified his expectations as to the text, but his modification is now left unfulfilled. The prolonging of achieving pleasure (which the formalists emphasize and which the poststructuralist Lacan would later call jouissance) is very much present in this story.

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