Introduction: Nooses of Grass is a novel I started in 2015, or perhaps slightly earlier, when I thought to write about the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines during World War II. I got diverted from it by my husband's (scholar Leonard Casper’s) diagnosis of Alzheimer. I don’t know if I’ll ever write this novel since I’ll be 89 in September (2020).
The sound of sirens brings us out to the street, Mother holding me by the hand. From the accesorias, the big houses with iron fences and gates, from the direction of the railroad station and the church, people come running to stand at the intersection of Camarines and Felix Huertas; everyone staring up at the sky.
It is too far to see the planes’ marking but as the planes spread out, one man shouts, Look. Red dots. Japanese.
From the crowd a man says, American planes from Clark Field will chase these away; and everyone turns to the north toward the American planes’ coming.
Dark bursts of clouds appear in the lower sky to the East, far below the planes droning over Manila. They make the sounds of large firecrackers. Then explosions. Louder and many come from the city.
Smoke rises to another part of the sky. That’s over Port Area, someone says. It would be heavier darker smoke if they hit the oil tanks in Pandacan.
A plane breaks away from the others. I lean back against my mother’s knees and when it continues coming, I pluck it out of the sky between my fingers.
Look, the man who spotted the red dots points to me, laughing. The little boy is trying to catch the airplane as if it’s a dragonfly. Go ahead, Boy, get all the tutubi before they blow up Manila, the man smiles at me.
Mother’s hand tightens around mine.
Another plane without marking appears, so small it appears like a shadow, flies right into the cluster of planes. Atin yun! Atin! Ours. People overcome their silence as they notice the absence of a red dot on the plane. This will be over before Christmas.
My mother leads me back to the house. I wish your father did not go to work this morning.
I try to look back, as we walk away, at smoke trailing one of the planes. The one without marks heads into planes with red dots.
Mother does not stop to let me watch. The shouting is too much for her. Inside the accesoria, she closes the window and we sit against the wall, silent, waiting for something I do not know.
For a long time. Mother’s eyes are closed, as though a fierce sun is burning the sky outside.
Born as Belinda Ty in Malabon, Philippines in 1931, Linda Ty-Casper spent the World War II years with her grandmother while her father worked in the Philippine National Railways, and her mother in the Bureau of Public Schools. Her grandmother told her innumerable stories about the Filipino's struggle for independence, that later became the topics of her novels. Linda Ty Casper graduated valedictorian in the University of the Philippines, and later earned her Master's degree in Harvard University for International Law. In 1956, she married Leonard Casper, a professor emeritus of Boston College who is also a critic of Philippine Literature. They have two daughters and reside in Massachusetts.
Her works include the historical novel DreamEden and the political novels Awaiting Trespass, Wings of Stone, A Small Party in a Garden, and Fortress in the Plaza. She has also published three collections of short stories which present a cross-section of Filipino society.
In 1992, Tides and Near Occasions of Love won the Philippine PEN short story prize; another at the UNESCO International Writers' Day, London; and the SEAWrite Award in Bangkok. "Triptych for a Ruined Altar" was in the Roll of Honor of The Best American Short Stories, 1977.
Her novel Awaiting Trespass which is about the politically sensitive theme of torture by the Marcos regime was published by Readers International of London. This work gained her major critical attention in the United States for the first time, and in Britain the novel was chosen as one of the five best works of fiction by a woman writer published in 1985–86.