Translated to English by Kenny Beechmount
Enrique Anderson Imbert (1910–2000) was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1910 and studied at Universiy in Buenos Aires, where he graduated and received his doctorate in philosophy and arts and where he later taught at several universities. He was a brilliant contemporary critic of Hispanic-American literature and became known for his short-stories, essays, novels and collections of parables, many of which were published under the title The Other Side of the Mirror. He became Professor of Hispanic-American Literature at Harvard University.
The story about Peter, who through a mysterious illness lost most of his body weight and eventually became so light tha he was unable to stay on the ground , is a classic Imbert short story, dealing with the mysterious and surreal. His story “El Fantasmo” (available on this blog) is similarly surreal in it scope.
—————————————————————————————- Weightless Peter
Enrique Anderson Imbert
For two month, he appeared near death. The doctor grumbled that the disease was new and there was no way to treat it and he didn’t know what to do… fortunately the patient, was recovering on his own. He had not lost his good humor, his complete and easy calmness. Too thin, and that was all, but when he got up after several weeks of convalescence, he felt very light.
“Listen”, he said to his wife, “I feel fine but-I don’t know- my body seems absent, as if my flesh was stripped off, leaving my soul naked”
“Wilting”, his wife responded.
He continued recovering. Already he walked around the House, feeding the hens and pigs, put a coat of green paint on the bustling Aviary and even dared to chop firewood and haul it to the shed on a wheelbarrow.
As the days passed, Peter lost more weight. Something very rare was removing, reducing -emptying his body. He felt as if he was weightless. It was the weightlessness of a spark, a bubble or a balloon. It was effortless for him to jump over the gate, or climb the stairs five steps at a time, or jump to catch an apple high up in the tree.
You’ve improved so much observed his wife – you’re like a child acrobat.
One morning Pedro got scared. Until then his agility had preoccupied him, but everything happened as God intended.
It was extraordinary that, inadvertently, he became the leader of a triumphant human career in the air above the country house. It was extraordinary but not miraculous. The miraculous appeared that morning.
Early that morning, he went to the pasture. He walked with hesitant steps because he already knew that as soon as stamped his feet, he would bounce by the corral. He rolled up his shirt sleeves, put up a log, grabbed the axe and struck the first blow.
Then, still Impacted by the blow of the axe, he was briefly suspended, levitating at the height of the roofs; and then slowly fell, like a soft, feathery seed of a thistle.
His wife came when Peter had already fallen, and with a deathly pallor, shivering and holding on to a stout log.
“Hebe (Evelyn?) I nearly fell into heaven.”
“Nonsense! You can’t fall into heaven. Nobody falls to heaven. What has happened to you?”
Peter explained the situation to his wife and she, without astonishment, declared:
This happens to you when you want to act like an acrobat. I have already warned you. One the day, when you least expect it, you are going to break your neck.
“No, No” insisted Peter. This time is different. I stumbled. The sky is an abyss.
Peter let go of the log which held him down, but took a strong hold of his wife. Thus embraced, they returned to the house.
-“Man!” -said Hebe, who felt the body of her husband stuck to hers like a strange, wild young animal, longing to escape. “Man, stop straining yourself, you are dragging me! You are taking such great strides as if you wanted to fly.”
“-Did you see, did you see? Something horrible is threatening me, Hebe. A twist and I will begin to ascend.”
That afternoon Peter was sitting on the patio, lazy, reading small stories in the newspaper. He laughed convulsively and with that cheerful motion, rose as a devil, , as a diver without his flippers. The laughter turned into terror and Hebe again, on hearing her husband’s voice, reached up and managed to grasp his pants and brought him back down again. Now there was no doubt. Hebe filled his pockets with large nuts, pieces of lead pipe and stones.
The most difficult was to take his clothes off. When Hebe removed the lead and iron, Peter began hovering over the sheets, but interlaced with the bars of the headboard of the bed, thus avoiding it.
“Careful Hebe, let’s do this slowly, because I don’t want to sleep in the ceiling.”
“Tomorrow, let’s call the doctor.”
As long as I remained still, nothing happened. Only when I moved, did I become airborne.
With a thousand precautions, he could go to bed and he felt secure.
“Do you want to get up?”
“No, I’m fine.”
He bade her goodnight, and Hebe shut off the light.
One day, when Hebe opened her eyes, she saw Pedro sleeping like a blessed saint with his head stuck in the ceiling.
He looked like a balloon that had escaped from the hands of a child.
“Peter, Peter!” she yelled terrorized.
Finally Peter awoke, sore after having been squeezed up in the ceiling for several hours.
How horrible. He tried to jump in the opposite direction, to fall down from above, and to rise from below. But the ceiling pulled at him, as the floor pulled at Hebe.
-You will have to tie my leg and rope me to the closet until you call the doctor and we’ll see what happens.
Hebe got a rope and ladder, tied it to her husband’s foot and began to pull with all her might. The body stuck to the roof, came down slowly, like dirigible.
A gust of air came through the door and the air current lifted the slight corporeity of Peter and, like a feather, he drifted through the open window. It happened in a second.
Hebe cried out and the rope disappeared. He rose up on the early morning air, like a swaying, colorful balloon, lost on a day of celebration, lost forever, in a journey to the infinite. At first, he was a small point in the sky, and then nothing.