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Chapter 5

The Wilcox House

Brian slept like a baby after Angela left.  He called her to make sure she had arrived home safely. She was also getting ready to go to sleep, exhausted from their weekend romance, but happy.

He went to work the next morning but was not quite up to his usual standard. His boss noticed and asked him if he was in love or something. “You are walking around like in a daze.”

“Well,” said Brian, “I did meet this girl, a wonderful person and I fell in love with her, so you are probably correct.  Sorry boss, I will get on with my job.”

After work, he began thinking about Angela and himself, wondering what the future would bring for the two of them.  Should he buy an engagement ring and ask her to marry him next weekend.  The idea appealed to him, but then again, he had not mentioned Angela to his parents yet.  No, that idea was too premature.  He did not want to rush marriage with Angela.  They needed much more time together to get to know each other, and he did not feel it would be fair to ask her this early in their relationship. Jeepers, they had only had two dates, and even though it was love at first sight, his common sense told him to bide his time and wait.

He called Jim at night and asked him how things went in Brighton, and if he met up with Lora again.

“ I sure did, and I put on my best act.  I asked Lora if I could have another date with her, and she said yes, she liked me.  I need not go into details as to how the rest of the night went, but it was super good. She said she would like to see me again, so I guess Brighton will be my weekend home for now.”

“Well,” said Brian.  “It looks like you may be hitching up with her. I had the most marvelous time here with Angela, and I’m going to Brighton next weekend to be staying at her house, rather than the motel.  I’m looking forward to that.”

“You are falling headlong into love with Angela, aren’t you?

“I guess I am, Jim.  I have never felt that way about a girl before.  She is just marvelous and so unpretentious about her good looks.”

“I’m happy for you Brian.  I hope your relationship will develop in the best possible way.” I’ll see you Friday night at Corner’s, and I guess we will both be in Brighton this weekend.”

“OK Jim, see you Friday night and have a good week at work.”

“Thanks, Brian.”

Thursday night after work, Brian went to see his parents.  He had not seen them for a while, and he wanted to tell them a little about Angela,  just saying he had met a girl and like her a lot.

“That’s good news,” said, Edna.  We have been hoping for a long time that you would meet someone.  Your dad and I are not getting any younger, and we hope to see a grandchild before we pass away.”

“His father Bruce asked if they were going to meet this girl and when?”

“Give it some time, Dad. We need to get to know each other better, but if all goes well, you will meet her soon, and you will love her, I’m sure.

 “I can’t wait for that,“ said Edna. “You have had a few girlfriends since you graduated from college, and some before that, but you never talked seriously about any of them.  This girl you met, what’s her name? I can tell that you are serious about her.  A mother’s instinct, you know.”

Her name is Angela, and she is from Brighton, which, by the way,  is quite a lovely town.

“Oh. So that’s where you have spent your weekends.”

“Well, kind of, mom, but Jim and I also spent a weekend in Banfield and had a great time there.” Jim loves chasing girls, and he has a great time doing so wherever we go for a weekend. You know that we meet every Friday night at Corners bar, and have a few beers together.”

“Is she a working girl and how old is she?”

“Yes, she is a financial adviser, 24 years old. You ask too many questions, mom. I’ll tell you more about her if I keep seeing her, and  get to know her better.”

“Well, I hope you will.  You know we will be going to Florida for a month or so in January. That’s a few months ahead, so maybe you have decided if you want to keep seeing Angela by then.”

“I’m sure I will by then, if not before,” said Brian.  “I’ll be running along now, so you both have a nice evening.  I’ll see you again next week.” He hugged his father, kissed his mother and said goodbye.

Back at the apartment, Brian began to think about a possible future with Angela as his wife, but there were just too many gaps he couldn’t fill.  First, there was his own future as a self-employed electrical contractor.  Should he try and take the risk, using his savings, or should he wait until he has saved some more money?  There was no doubt in his mind that between Angele’s salary and his own, they would have no financial problems.  The problem as he saw it was where they were going to live. Torrington was bigger than Brighton, but Angela owned her house outright, and if they lived there, there would be some savings since he did not have to pay the rent on his apartment. Then there was Angelas desire to be transferred to the BOA bank’s main branch in Torrington.  If she was offered a position there, and she took it, they would have to live here.

He would have to discuss that with Angela over the weekend, but then hell, if he did, she would assume he wanted to marry her.  No, it was better to wait until there was more light on the horizon. He didn’t want to rush her.  Best to keep the romance going and enjoy the passion that they had together at night during the weekends. He knew she shared his feelings and that she loved him.

Friday night he went to Corners Bar, and Jim was there already.

“Hey, buddy! How are things going? You know I may be seeing you over the weekend in Brighton.  Perhaps we could have lunch or dinner together there.  Angela knows Lora,  She has met her at some parties, but she is not her personal friend.”

“Sure,” said Jim. “I’ll ask her, and we can arrange things over the phone after we are there.  I’ll be staying at the motel as usual.”

“OK,” said Brian, “we’ll see you in Brighton.  Call me when you get there after you have contacted Lora. This could become a real nice weekend for all of us.”

Brian left at 9:30 in the morning, expecting to arrive in Brighton at about ten am.  He found her house with the GPS system in his car and honked the horn.  Angela came out and greeted him with a big hug and a kiss. She was wearing a mini-skirt and a lovely red blouse.

“Come on in,” she said and get settled in for the weekend.

Brian was very impressed by the size of the house and the lot it was sitting on.  There was nothing small about anything.  Inside, the rooms very spacious and exquisitely furnished.  There was three bathrooms, including two in suits, a huge living room, separate dining room, a library that also served as an office and a huge kitchen with every conceivable appliance and plenty of counter space.  He now understood what Angela meant when she said that the house was too big for her alone.

“Well, what do you think of this place?”

“I could never afford to buy a place like this.  It’s a fabulous house.  How do you manage to pay for the upkeep of it and the property taxes?”

“Oh, I manage OK.  There is little in the way of maintenance since it is a stone house and the garden I love to look after myself, although I have contracted out lawn moving.”

“Well, you are sure doing a great job on the garden, It looks lovely.”

“I would like to make a lunch for you a bit later.  What would you want to eat?”

“Whatever you make will be fine with me.  I’m not too hungry for food, but I could eat you alive.”

“Don’t put ideas in my mind, Brian. I may just ask you to do that right now.”

“Down boy, down,” said Brian it’s not time yet.

Anglea laughed out loud and walked into the kitchen with Brian following her.

“How about a Spanish omelet or huevos rancheros?

“The latter sounds great. I make it once in a while, using Chipotle peppers, which are hotter than hell, plus red onions and tomatoes. Perhaps you make it differently, but that’s fine with me. There is more than one way to skin a cat like they say.”

Brian sat down at the kitchen table, and Angela gave him a beer.  They chit-chatted about a whole lot of things and enjoyed each others company.

“By God, Brian, I wish you were living with me here all the time, but I guess that isn’t possible as things are now. You have your job in Torrington, and I have mine here in Brighton. Perhaps the future will have a solution to this conundrum.  I love you so much it hurts, Brian.  I never thought I could love anyone as much as I love you.”

“Sweetheart, I love you as much as you love me.  I hope we can keep these feelings and enjoy our lives in the way we do right now. Let’s see what the future has in store for us. I told my parent’s about you and mom just got super excited,  figuring you were going to be her daughter in law.  I had not suggested that, but she said something about a mother’s instinct.  It must be the way I had described you.  She had also wondered where I was going on weekends.”

They had lunch together and continued talking about their past lives.

Brian’s phone rang. It was Jim calling.

“Hi Brian, how are things? I’m with Lora right now, having lunch and I suggested that we perhaps could have dinner together tonight.  What do you think?”

Brian turned to Angela and told her what he had said.

“That sounds great to me, but I have an alternative idea. Why don’t we all spend the afternoon here at the pool?  We can order something to eat later, and I have lots of beer and booze on hand.”

Brian related what Angela had said, and both Jim and Lora thought the idea was great. “Don’t forget to bring your swimwear,” he said ending the conversation.

“Angla, you didn’t show me the swimming pool.  Where is it?”

“It’s out in the back garden. Come, I’ll take you there.”

Angela showed him what must have been close to an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an elegant deck surrounding, a part of which was furnished with patio furniture.

I’ll go get my swimwear. I keep it in the trunk of my car since I go swimming on weekends sometimes.” said Brian. “This will be a nice way to spend the afternoon.”

Lora and Jim showed up about half an hour later.  The first thing Jim said when he entered was “Oh my God, this is some house,” and Lora liked it too.  They all went out to the pool area after they had changed into their bathing suits. Lora wore a mini-bikini so tiny that it left nothing to the imagination.  Angela’s bikini was more of a standard type, flaming red and fashionable, and she looked great in it, very sexy and attractive.

Angela had arranged several bottles of beer in a bucket of ice, and there were a variety of bottles of liquor on a table, together with glasses and ice.

“Let’s hit the pool,” said Jim, and they all jumped in, swimming, frolicking, laughing, and splashing at each other like kids. Kisses and touching made it sexy and intimate at times.

After a while, they went over to the tables and dipped into some drinks and beer. “Boy,” said Jim, “this is the life. I could tolerate this permanently.”

Angela and Lora sat down next to each other and began talking. I know we have only met at some parties before, and I don’t really know you well, Lora.  Do you have sister or brothers?”

“No, I’m an only child. My father owns the golf and country club, and it keeps him very busy. We have a nice house, but not as beautiful as yours.  My mother also stays active with the country club, organizing events and parties, so I spent a lot of time alone or with my girlfriends.  I graduated from high school here and went to a secretarial school afterward, but never took a job after I graduated.  I work for my father now and then, but otherwise, remain a girl, probably quite spoiled, but I’m no push-over, and I don’t hang out with guys who do drugs or other stupid things. Jim is the first guy I have seriously fallen for, and I hope our relationship will continue. He seems such a decent, uncomplicated guy.”

“I don’t know Jim that well, other than what Brian has told me about him.  The two of them have been friends since they were school kids. I look at both of them as being “the salt of the earth, unpretentious, honest, hardworking and highly likable.  They are the kind of persons I like to be with.”

“Well, what about you and Brian. I can tell you are in love with him and he with you.  Do I hear wedding bells in the future?”

“Brian has not asked me to marry him, but given time, I think and hope he will. I’m head over heels in love with him.”

“Hey!” Shouted Angela, what would you all like to eat? Home delivery, so choices are limited to Chinese, Italien or from a Canadian Restaurant called “Best food” who also delivers? You can get their menu on their website.”

“Let’s check out their menu on the website,” said Lora and Jim agreed. They all ordered different meals from it, and the food was delivered within an hour.

Angela had turned the stereo on and chosen some nice dance music. The atmosphere grew more romantic, as darkness slowly fell upon the scene. They danced, drank, ate, kissed, fooled around, and just thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

It was early night when Jim said it was time for Lora and him to leave, but Angela objected, saying that we have all been drinking and shouldn’t drive. If you like, you can sleep in one of the bedrooms here.

Jim looked over at Lora and asked what she thought of that. She nodded and said that would be perfectly OK.

 “We should go inside and change, and then perhaps have some coffee and a nightcap before we retire for the night,” said Angela.

They all agreed.  Angela showed Jim and Lora the bedroom they would be sleeping in and then walked to the master bedroom where she and Brian would be sleeping.  They both got into their clothes, and Brian noted that Angela was wearing her mini-skirt again. His imagination run wild when he thought about how to undress her later, for he planned on doing that.

Downstairs, Angela made coffee and asked if anyone wanted a drink to help themselves at the bar. They cuddled up on the couch and the armchairs and chatted about their lives and what ambitions they had. Lora looked cute in her shorts and tight blouse, and Jim sat very close to her with his arm around her. There could be no doubt as to what they would be doing later in their bedroom, but then Brian and Angela had similar plans.

The night had drifted toward eleven o’clock, and they all retired to their Bedrooms.

Brian kissed Angela passionately, then lifted her up and threw her on the bed. She gasped, but Brian was on top of her and unbuttoned her blouse, exposing her bra.  He took the straps and pulled them over her shoulders, turned her around and undid the bra, then turned her again and began fondling and kissing her breasts.  Angela moaned and writhed with pleasure as Brian kissed his way down to her belly.

He pulled her miniskirt up and tore her panties off.

“Oh my God! you shaved all your pubic hairs off.”

Yes, I did.  I haven’t looked like this since I was ten years old, but I’m no longer an unknowing, innocent little girl.

Brian pulled her miniskirt off, and she now lay naked in front of him.  He began fondling her naked pudendum, using his hand, his fingers, and tongue. Angela moaned in ecstasy, shuddering with pleasure.  “Brian, I love you, I love you.”

Brian was as hard as he could be and plunged into her.  She screamed in frenzy and arched her back toward him, urging him toward greater pleasure with each stroke he made. Suddenly he stopped, pulled out and went down on her, kissing and fondling her smooth shaven pussy again. She moaned. “Brian, you are driving me crazy.  Oh God, how I love you.”

He turned her over, spread her legs and entered her dogie style  Brian just groaned with pleasure and climaxed just as he could feel Angela was reaching an orgasm.  They both fell into a  state of euphoric trance, laying hugging each other tightly and savoring the moments.

They both slept till near noon the next day, showered together and then went down to make some brunch.

“Brian, I’m starved. How about you?”

“Me too; I can eat a ton of something with bacon and eggs.

“How about some stir-fried vegetables with scrambled eggs and bacon?”

“That sounds great, but how about Jim and Lora? I don’t know if they are awake yet.”

“Call Jim on his cell and find out.”

“They are finished showering and will be down in a few minutes,” said Brian.

“I’ll make coffee in the meantime and prepare some vegetables. Brian, can you beat a bunch of eggs to scramble? About eight or so. Also, there is some bacon in the fridge.  I guess we can each eat two or three slices.”

“Also, Brian, the way you made love to me last night was rapturous, incredibly exciting.  I can’t describe how much I love you and it calls for a repeat again, hopefully very soon.”

“You won’t have any trouble persuading me on that score, and Angela, it was just as exciting for me.  I was going wild and couldn’t get enough of you. You being shaved down there was a huge surprise, and I don’t mind if you keep it that way.”

“I promise you I will if you promise me to treat it the way you did last night.”

Jim and Lora came down the stairs and greeted us with a cheerful Good Morning.

Hey! How are you guys?  Did you have a good sleep?

“What do you mean ‘sleep,’?” said Lora.  I can’t sleep as long as I have Jim next to me in bed.  We had a beautiful night, and I have no hesitation to say that I love him. We have decided to get together in Torrington next weekend.”

Let’s have some breakfast guys, it’s ready.”

Everyone sat down at the table and tore into the prepared food.  Jim said it was great, as did Lora.

You will be leaving soon, Jim and Brian will too. I’ll be sorry to see you go.  It was great having you, and I hope we can repeat this weekend another time.

“Angela, I would like to become one of your personal friends.  You are such pleasant person,” said Lora.

“By all means, Lora.  We must get together during the week sometime.  Call me when you want to go for lunch.”

“Will do,” she said. I look forward to it.”

It was two PM, and Jim asked Lora if he could drive her home before he headed south to Torrington, to which she agreed.

Brian said he would leave later in the afternoon, as he wanted to talk to Angela about some things.

“OK,” said Jim, we’ll be off then and thanks for your hospitality, Angela, perhaps we can have a repeat sometime.”

“There is no reason why we couldn’t.”

Jim and Lora took off in his car.

Angela and Brian sat down at the pool and talked about their deepening relationship and how to keep it going the way it was in the last few weeks and about the potential future. They both agreed to keep it going for several months before they decided on what to do.

Brian packed his bag and passionately hugged and kissed Angela before heading for Torrington.

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Mario Benedetti (in full: Mario Orlando Hamlet Hardy Brenno Benedetti Farrugia) (September 14, 1920 – May 17, 2009)[  was an Uruguayan journalist, novelist, and poet. He was not well known in the English-speaking world, but in the Spanish-speaking world he was considered one of Latin America’s most important 20th-century writers.

Quoted from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Benedetti where much more information is available.

Mario Benedetti was influenced by life in the urban world and his short stories reflect this.  His story”La noche de los feos” is a moving “cuento” about two people, both scarred and far from being attractive, who meets and end up making love after realizing that life, regardless of the odds, has possibilities; that what seems impossible or improbable can be achieved.

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THE NIGHT OF THE UGLY

BY

Mario Benedetti

 Both were ugly, even commonly ugly. She has had a sunken cheekbone since the age of eight, when she had the operation. The disgusting mark next to my mouth comes from a ferocious burn, which occurred at the beginning of my adolescence. Nor can we say we have soft eyes,- that sort of justifiable luck that freaks sometimes get when they come close to beauty. No, in no way.  Both her eyes and mine are eyes filled with resentment, which reflect little or no acceptance of the misfortune we face. Maybe that’s what has united us. Maybe united is not the most appropriate word, considering the Implacable hatred that each of us have for our own face.

We met at the entrance of the cinema, queuing up to watch to two beautiful ‘whatever.’ That’s where we first looked at each other, without sympathy, but with dark solidarity and noticed, at first glance, our respective solitudes. In the queue everyone were in pairs, but there were also genuine couples: husbands, boyfriends, lovers, grandparents, God knows. Everyone was holding hands or arms or had someone. Only she and I had our hands by our sides, loose and clenched.

We looked at our respective ugliness carefully, with audacity, but without curiosity. I looked at the cut in her cheek with smug self-confidence that made my cheek pucker.  She didn’t blush.

I appreciated it was difficult, her returning my inspection with a meticulous glimpse at the smooth, shining beardless area of my old burn.

Finally we went inside. We sat in different, but contiguous rows. She could not look at me, but I, even in the darkness, could make out the blond hair down her neck, her shapely young ear. It was the ear on her normal side.

For an hour and forty minutes we admired the rugged beauty of the hero and smooth softness of the  heroine . At least I’ve always been able to admire beauty.  I reserve my animosity for my face and sometimes for God and also for other ugly faces of other scarecrows. Maybe I should feel pity, but I can’t. The truth is they are like mirrors. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to the Narcissus (1) myth if he had had a sunken cheekbone, or if acid had burned his cheek, or he was missing half of his nose, or had stitches on his forehead.

I waited for her at the exit, and then walked a short distance over to her and I spoke. When she stopped and looked at me, I felt she hesitated. I invited her to chat together for a while in a café or a confectionery. She accepted immediately.

The confectionery was full, but right then a table was vacated. As we passed among the people, behind us were the signs and gestures of astonishment. My antennas are particularly tuned to capture such perverse curiosity, the unconscious sadism of those with miraculously symmetrical faces. But this time it was not even necessary to use my trained perception, since I could clearly hear the murmurs, the snickering and pretentious clearing of the throat. A horrible single face, by itself,  is obviously a curiosity; but two ugly faces together constitute in themselves a greater spectacle, a little less so than if organized; but something that should be viewed together with him (or her) and those who are handsome and worth sharing with the world

We sat down and ordered two ice creams. She had the courage (I admired that) to take out a small mirror from her purse and fixed her hair. Her pretty hair.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked.

She hung on to the mirror and smiled. The hollow in her cheeks changed shape.

“A common place, such as it is,” she said

We talked at length. An hour and a half went by and we had to order two coffees to justify the long stay. Suddenly I realized that she and I were talking with frankness so upsetting that it threatened to change the sincerity and almost turn into the equivalent of hypocrisy. I decided to get to the bottom of it.

“You feel excluded from the world, isn’t that so?”

“Yes”, she said, still looking at me.

“You admire the beautiful, those that are normal. You want to have a face as pretty as the girl sitting over to your right, even though you are smart, and she, judging by her laughter, is hopelessly stupid.”

“Yes.”

For the first time I couldn’t hold my gaze.

“I also like that. But there is a possibility, you know, you and I can get something.”

“Something like what?”

“Like lovers, dammit. Or just getting along. Call it whatever, but there is a possibility.”

She frowned. “I did not want to get any hopes.”

“Promise me you will not take me for a crackpot.”

“The possibility is wandering into the night. Through the whole night- in total darkness. Do you understand?”

“No.”

She blushed, and the cleft in her cheek suddenly turned scarlet.

“I live alone in an apartment, close to here.”

He raised his head and looked at her; wondering about her yes, trying desperately to reach a conclusion.

“Come,” he said.

Not only did I shut off the light but I also pulled the double curtain. She was breathing next to me;  but not an excited sort of breathing. She did not want him to help her undress.

I saw nothing, nothing. But I realized then that she was motionless, waiting. I moved my hand cautiously, until i found herbreasts. My touch gave me an exhilarating, powerful erection. Then I saw her belly, her sex. Her hands also touched me.

In this moment I understood that I had to retract or begin to retract the lie that I had made, or tried to make. It was like a Flash of lightning. . We were not that. We were not that.

I had to use all my reserves of courage, but I did. My hand rose slowly to her face, found the disfiguring scar, and began slowly caressing it, persuasive and believable. Actually my fingers (a little shaky at first, then gradually calming down) passed over her tears many times.

Then, when I least expected it, her hand also touched my face, and went and felt the scar and smooth skin, this island without any beard.

We cried until dawn; both unhappy and, happy. Then I got up and drew back the double curtain.

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_(mythology)

Translated by Kenny Beechmount, Oct, 2012

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Ricardo Jaimes Freyre was born in Tanca, Peru, in1868 and died in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1933) Poet, essayist and Bolivian playwright he was the primary representative of modernism in the literature of his country. His constant political and cultural activity is by and large reflected in the variety of approaches that can be seen in all his work. The son of a diplomat from Potosi, Bolivia, he also served as ambassador and diplomat, in the United States and Brazil and later as his country’s representative to the League of Nations in Geneva , in addition to being foreign minister.  He is well known for his poetry and has written a number of short stories, of which the following is a good example.  The story reflects, to some extent, the exploitation that the Altoplano indians were exposed to, and perhaps one shouldn’t say “were”, but that’s outside the aim of this discussion.  Ricardo’s description of the two “tourists” who attempted to steal land from the Indians is a blend of romanticism with respect to describing the atmosphere and natural surroundings, perhaps a reflection of the poet within him, and  a chilling rendition of the events leading to the murder of the two travelers.  His use of the Spanish language is  colourful, poetic and a joy to experience.

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IN THE MOUNTAINS

by

Ricardo Jaimes Freyre

 

The two travelers drank the last glass of wine, standing next to the bonfire. The cold breeze of the morning was quivering the brims of their wide felt hats lightly. The fire was already fading under the wavering and pallid light of dawn; vaguely illuminating the ends of the wide courtyard, and painted over the shadows at the base of the heavy clay columns that supported the straw thatched roof.

Tied to an iron ring, fixed to one of the columns, two fully harnessed horses were waiting with their heads down and, with difficulty, chewing on some long blades of grass.   Beside the wall, a young Indian was squatting with a bag full of corn in one hand and with the other flicking the yellow kernels into his mouth.

When the travelers were preparing to leave, another two Indians arrived at the large, rustic door. They raised one of the thick beams attached to the walls that was blocking the way and walked into the vast courtyard. Their appearance were humble and miserable, and even more miserable and humble because of their open jackets, their coarse shirts opened to their chest, the leather strings, full of knots, on their sandals, and by the shapeless caps, covering their ears, the ends joining under the chin these weird caps of gray wool. They slowly approached the travelers who already were mounted on their horses, while the Indian guide attached a bag of corn to his waist and firmly tied his sandal laces to his legs.

The travelers were young, the tall one, very white, cold and hard looking; the other, small, dark, with a cheerful appearance. – Sir muttered one of the Indians. The white traveler turned to him. – “Hello; How are you Thomas”  “Sir, can I have my horse?” “Say again, imbecile! Do you want me to travel on foot”? I have given you mine instead, that’s enough. But your horse is dead.

“Without a doubt, it is dead; but that’s because I’ve ridden it 15 hours at a time. It was a great horse! Yours is worthless;” look at it moving the ribs and its legs. Do you believe it will support you very many hours?”

“I sold my lamas to buy this horse for the holiday of Saint John… Also, gentleman, you have burned my hut.”

“True, because you came to bother me with your sniveling. I threw an ember at your head to make you leave, but you turned you face away and the ember fell into a heap of straw. I don’t feel guilty. You should have accepted my ember with respect. And you, what do you want, Pedro? He asked speaking to another Indian.”

“I am begging you, Sir, do not take my land. It is mine. I’ve planted it.”

“This is your business, Cordova, said the gentleman, speaking to his companion.

No, certainly; this is not my business. I have done what they entrusted me with. You, Pedro Quispe, are not the owner of these lands.

“Where are your titles, that is, where are your papers?”

“I have no papers Sir. My father also did not have papers, and the father of my father we didn’t know. And no one wanted to take away our land. You want to give it to someone else. I haven’t done you any harm.

“Do you have hidden somewhere a bagful of coins? Give me the money and you can keep the land.”

“I don’t have any coins, nor could I raise so much money”

“Well then we don’t have any more to talk about”

“Leave me in peace!”

“Then give me what you owe me!”

“But we are never going to bring this to a close: You believe I’m stupid enough to pay to you for a sheep and some hens that you have given me?” Did you imagine we were going to die of hunger?

The white traveler who was beginning to become impatient exclaimed:”If we keep listening to these two morons we’ll stay here forever”

The top of the mountain, on the flank of which the broad and rustic hostel was located, was affronted by the first rays of the sun. The narrow hollow was illuminated slowly and the desolate dryness of the scenery, limited by the nearby dark mountains, was standing out under the blue sky, cut into ribbons by the fleeing, leaden clouds.

Cordoba made a sign to the guide that headed toward the gate. Behind him came the two gentlemen.

Pedro Quispe rushed towards them and grabbed the reins of one of the horses.  A lash in the face made him step back.

Then the Indians came out of the yard, and quickly ran toward the nearest hill, climbing it with the speed and agility of the vicunas and, arriving at the Summit, they scanned the area surrounding them.

In the ravines and Gorges the freshly cut grass was yellowing; on the banks of the streams, grasses and the cuts limited the channels with a capricious and undulating wall; ; some herds of goats and llamas ran for the hills or disappeared in the crevices of the mountains, and here and there a cloud of smoke announced the proximity of a hut or a camp of Indian travelers.

Peter Quispe put his lips to the horn, which was hanging on his back, and blew some powerful and prolonged notes. He waited a moment and then continued with strident and quick notes. .The travelers began to climb up the flank of the mountain; the guide with firm steps was indifferent, devouring the corn kernels. When the sound of the horn reverberated, the Indian stopped, looked alarmed at two gentlemen, and then made a fast exit down an open path in the hills.  Moments later he disappeared in the distance. Cordoba, speaking to his partner, exclaimed: “the Guide… why do we need him?” He became tenser. Alvarez stopped his horse and looked around, with concern, in all directions.

The Horn was still resonating and at the top of the Hill the figure of Pedro Quispe was silhouetted against the blue background, on the reddish nakedness of the peaks. By the edges and the crossroads, a spell was taking place.  Behind the large overcrowded fields of grass, between the gleanings, wild grasses and bitter weeds, under the wide awnings of the nomadic camps, at the doors of the huts and at the summits of the distant mountains, could be seen the rapid coming and going of human beings.  They stopped for a moment and looked toward the hill on which Pedro Quispe was blowing incessantly on his horn and later began hiking up the hills, climbing cautiously.

Alvarez and Córdoba continued climbing up the mountain; their horses panting on the rocky roughness of the razor-thin path, and the two gentlemen, deeply concerned, carried on silently. Suddenly, a huge rock broke away from the top of the mountains, passed near them, with a mighty roar; then another… another– Alvarez galloped his horse to escape, forcing it to outflank the mountain. Cordoba imitated it immediately, but the boulders were chasing him.  It seemed that the mountain was crumbling.  The horses, startled by the disturbance, jumped on the rocks, miraculously supported by their hoofs on the projecting ledges, and dithered in the space provided by the enormous height.

Briefly the mountains towered over the Indians. The gentlemen then rushed towards the narrow path that was twisting along their feet, along which a sweet, thin and crystal clear stream trickled.

They filled the valleys with strange harmonies; the rough and disagreeable sound of the horns was flowing from all parts and including the end of the ravine; in the radiant clarity that was opening two mountains, a group of men suddenly stood up.

At that moment, a huge stone crashed into Alvarez’s horse; he was seen hesitating a moment and then fell and rolled down the slopes of the mountain.  Cordova jumped to ground and began crawling towards the point where he could see the dusty form of the horse and the gentleman.

The Indians began to descend from the heights and left the cracks and the bends, one by one, advancing carefully, stopping all the time, with an sharp-eyed look to the bottom of the gorge. When they came to the edge of the creek, they spotted the two travelers.  Álvarez lay motionless, stretched out on the ground. Next to him his partner, standing with his crossed arms,  desperate and feeling powerless, following intently the slow descent of the frightened Indians.

In a small undulating plain formed by the depressions of the mountains, bounded on its four corners by four wide ridges, waited together the old ones and the women for the result of the manhunt.

The Indian women with their short round skirts of coarse fabrics, their cloaks on their chest, their cloth caps shining, coarse tresses falling on their shoulders, their feet bare, their sordid looks, clustered at one end, quiet, and looking between their fingers at the whirling dance of their spindles and the winders.

When the pursuers arrived, they brought the travelers. tied on the horses

They moved to the center of the square, and threw them on the ground, like two bundles. The women approached and looked at them curiously, still spinning, talking quietly.

The Indians deliberated for a moment, then a group of them rushed to the foot of the mountain and returned with two huge jugs and two thick beams. While some were digging the earth to set the beams, the other filled little clay jugs with liquor.They drank until the sun began to set on the horizon, and the only sound heard was muffled conversations of women and the noise of the sloshing liquid inside the jugs ,when they lifted them. Peter and Thomas took the bodies of the gentlemen and tied them to the poles. Alvarez, who had broken his spine, let out a big groan. The two Indians stripped them of all their clothes and threw them away, piece by piece..  The women looked admiringly at the white bodies.

Then the ordeal began. Pedro Quispe  cut out his tongue and Cordoba burned his eyes.

Thomas punctured Alvarez’s body with small knife wounds. Then came the other Indians who tore off his hair, and banged stones and chips into the wounds.
A young Indian laughingly poured a big mug of beer over the head of Alvarez.

They died that afternoon. The two travelers had long ago given their soul to the Great Righteous, and the Indians tired, jaded and indifferent, were chopping and lacerating the bodies.

It then became necessary to take the oath of silence. Pedro Quispe drew a cross on the ground and the men and women came and kissed the cross. After that, he took his rosary off his neck, something he normally never did and made  the Indians swear on it, spit on the ground,  and walk on the moist earth.
When the bloody evidence  was removed and they had deleted the last traces of the scene that had developed in  the roughness of the Altiplano plateau, an immense silence fell over the solitude of the mountains.

Translated by Kenny Beechmount

October, 2012

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Ciro Alegria was born in Peru in Sartimbamba in 1909 and died in 1967.  One of the best-known Spanish-American novelists of the 1940s and 1950s.  While Manuel Rojas wrote about the common man on the street and the poor, Alegria wrote about the lives of the Peruvian Indians and exposed the problems of the Peruvian Indians while learning about their way of life. For more information about his life, there are a number biographies published on the internet, of which the following is only one.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/13703/Ciro-Alegria

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The Siren of the Forrest

 

(La sirena del bosque)

by

Ciro Alegría

 

 

The tree called lupuna (1), one of the most originally beautiful in the Amazon jungle, “it has a mother.” The Indians in the Jungle say they believe this tree is possessed by a spirit or inhabited by a living being.   These beautiful and rare trees enjoy some privileges. . The lupuna is one of the tallest trees in the Amazon forest; it has graceful branches and its trunk, of leaden gray color, has triangular fins at its base. . The lupuna is attractive at first sight and generally, after looking at it for a while, produces a sensation of strange beauty. Since “it has mother”, the Indians do not cut the lupuna. Their axes and machetes are used for chopping, knocking down parts of the forest to build villages, or to clear fields for planting yucca and bananas, or to open paths. . The lupuna will stay dominating. Anyway, since they are not cut, they stand out in the forest because of their height and particular shape. They are very visible.

For the Cocamas Indians, the “mother” in the lupuna, is a white, blonde and singularly beautiful woman. On moonlit nights, she rises through the heart of the tree to the crown and comes out to be illuminated by the glowing light and then sings. In this Vegetable ocean, forming the tops of the trees, the beautiful woman resonates her clear, high, and singularly melodious voice, filling the solemn grandeur of the jungle. The people and the animals, who listen to it, become bewitched. The forest may calm down its branches to hear it.

The old Cocamas prevents the young men from falling under the spell of the voice. Whoever listens should not approach the singing woman, because they will never return.  Some say that they died waiting to reach the beautiful and others that she turns them into tree. Anyone who thought her out, any young Cocamas that followed the fascinating voice, dreaming of winning the beautiful, never returned. This is the woman, who comes out of the lupuna, the siren of the forest. The best thing you can do, on some moonlit night, is to listen to, and remember her beautiful singing, nearby and far away.

1)      The following links provides some background on this tree, including legends and superstitions

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hgcharing/4138391176/

http://www.singingtotheplants.com/2007/12/pucalupuna/ 

http://meta-religion.com/World_Religions/Ancient_religions/South_america/myths_peru_amazon.htm

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 Manuel Rojas was born on January 8, 1896, in Buenos Aires, Argentina and died on March 11,       1973, in his adopted homeland, Chile. He probably  settled permanently in Chile in 1924.

 In 1927, he published his first collection of short stories, Hombres del Sur, which included the story “El vaso de leche” (“The Glass of Milk”). This story is both moving and realistic, especially given the poverty that existed in many parts of South America at the time.  Rojas wrote primarily about the common man, the poor and the downtrodden.  He became a member of a an anarchist political movement and wrote articles for the newspapers, La Batalla in Chile and La Protesta, Argentina. For those interested in more detailed information about the author , go to:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Rojas_(author)#Tales

The Glass of Milk

 (El vaso de leche)
By Manuel Rojas

Fact: in the starboard railing, a sailor seemed to be waiting for someone. In his left hand he had  a white paper wrapping, with grease spots on it here and there. In the other hand, he held his pipe.

 From between a couple of wagons, a thin young man appeared: he stopped a moment, looked out over the sea and then advanced, walking along the edge of the dock with his hands in the pockets, distracted or thinking.

He was hungry. He had gone three days, three long days without eating.  It was more out of shyness and embarrassment than pride that he refused to stop in front of the steamer at meal times, waiting for the generosity of the sailors to give them a package containing remains of stews and pieces of meat. He couldn’t do that, -he could never do that; and when, as in a recent case, one offered him some leftovers, he heroically rejected them, feeling that refusing it, increased his hunger.

A young man who moments before passed by, stopped a short distance away, and looked over the area. When he passed in front of the ship, the sailor shouted in English:

 -“I say; look here” (¡Oiga, mire!)

– The young man raised his head, and, without stopping, and spotting the package that the sailor had in his hands, hastily replied in the same language:

 -“Yes, sir, I am very much hungry!” (¡Si, señor, tengo harta hambre!)

The sailor smiled. The package flew through the air and fell between the avaricious hands of the hungry fellow. Without even thanking, he opened the still warm package, and sat down on the ground, happily rubbing his hands together, contemplating its content. A drifter from a port may not speak English, but it is unforgivable not knowing enough to ask for food from one that speaks this language.

It was six days ago that he began roaming the streets and docks in the port.

He had been left there by an English steamer that came from the port of Punta Arenas where he had deserted from a steamer in which he had served as a captain’s boy. He was there for one month, helping as a hand on an Austrian spider-crab fishing boat, but on the first ship that headed towards the north he secretly boarded as stowaway

They discovered him the next day and send him to work in the boiler room. In the first large port the steamer arrived at, they put him ashore, and there he was, like bundle without return address or recipient, without knowing anyone, without a penny in his pockets and not having an occupation he could work in.

While the steamer was there, he was able to eat, but after … The huge city, which stood beyond the narrow streets full of sleazy taverns and inns, to which he was not attracted; they looked like places of slavery, without air, dark, lacking the great, wide expanse of the sea, and between the high walls and straight streets, people lived and died, stunned by the stressful traffic.

He was possessed by the obsession he had of the sea, which makes lives more even and defined as a strong arm, a thin rod. Although he was very young, he had made several voyages along the coasts of South America, on various vessels, performing different jobs and stations, tasks and jobs that had almost no application on Earth.

. After the steamer left, he walked and walked, waiting for chance to do something that would allow him to make a living in some way while in familiar surroundings; but it found nothing.;

There was little traffic in the port and in the scarce steamers that arrived, he was not accepted to hire on.

An infinite number of beggars by profession were ambulating around the area; sailors without contract, like him, defectors from ships or escaped criminals;

Good for nothing left on their own, supported by unknown means, begging or stealing, passing days like the beads on a greasy rosary, waiting for who knows what strange events, or not waiting for anything, individuals of races and peoples more exotic and strange, even among those whose way of life they don’t believe ever having seen a living example of.

The next day he was convinced that he couldn’t endure much more, and decided to resort to any means to obtain food.

Walking, he went in front of a steamer that had arrived the previous night and that loading wheat. . A column of men walked with heavy sacks on their back and shoulders, going back and forth from the wagons, crossing a landing stage, up to the hatch in the hold, where the stevedores were receiving the load.

He stood looking on for a bit, until he dared to speak to the Captain, offering himself for work. He was accepted and exited joined the long line of porters.

During the first part of the day, he worked well; but later he began feeling weary and dizzy spells came over him.  Hesitating in the landing stage when he was going with a load on his shoulder, he saw at his feet, the opening formed between the steamer and the wall of the dock, at the bottom of which the sea was stained with oil, and full of discarded debris and garbage.

At lunch time, there was a short break and while some of them went to eat in the nearby cheap eating-houses and others ate what they had brought along, while he preference was to rest on the ground, hiding his hunger.

     He finished the day completely exhausted, covered in sweat, reduced to the limit. While the workers retired, he sat on a sack, keeping an eye on the foreman, and when the last one was gone, he approached him, confused and hesitant, but without telling him what was going on, asked if he could pay him immediately or whether it was possible to get an advance on what he had earned.

     The foreman replied that it was customary to pay when the job was completed and that it would still be necessary to work the next day to complete loading steamer. One more day! There was no way they would give him an advance – not a dime.

But, he said, I can lend you forty cents, – that’s all I have.

He thanked him for the offer with a distressed smile (but didn’t take the money) and an acute desperation overtook him then.

He was hungry,-hungry,-hungry.

A hunger that gave him a shooting pain; he saw everything through a blue haze and walking, he stumbled as a drunken man. However, he couldn’t really complain or cry, because his suffering was gloomy and arduous; It was not pain, but dull disquieting end; it felt like he was being crushed by a large weight.

 He suddenly felt a burning sensation in his bowels, and stopped,

He doubled over, leaning, bending forcibly as an iron bar, and thought that he was going to fall.

At that moment, as if a window had opened before him, saw his house, the landscape that could be seen from it, the face of his mother and his sisters, everything he wanted and loved appeared and disappeared before his eyes closed by fatigue. Then, little by little, the dizziness faded and he began straightening up, while the burning sensation slowly cooled. Finally he stood up, breathing deeply. One more hour and he would have fallen to the ground…. It hastened the passage- fleeing from a new dizziness, and while walking, he resolved to eat anywhere, without paying, willing to become embarrassed, be beaten or sent to jail; of all this, the most important was to eat, eat, eat; a hundred times he repeated the word mentally, eat-eat-eat, until it lost its meaning, leaving an impression of an empty, hot feeling in the head.

Not thinking of escaping; he would say to the owner:”Mister, I’m hungry, hungry hungry and I have no money to pay with.—do as you wish”

He reached the first streets in the town and in one of those, he found a dairy. It was a little business very clean and bright, filled with small marble tables. Behind a counter stood a blond lady wearing a very white apron. He chose that business.  There was little traffic in the street. He might have eaten in one of the cheap eating-houses that found along the wharf, but they were full of the people who were playing and drinking.

In the dairy, there was only one customer It was an old geezer wearing glasses, that, with his nose stuck between the leaves of a newspaper, reading, remained motionless, as if glued to the chair. On the table, there was a glass of milk. Half consumed.

He was waiting for him to leave, walking down the sidewalk, feeling little by little the fire relighting in the stomach that had burning earlier and waited five, ten, even fifteen minutes.

He became tired and stood to one side of the door, from where he threw the old man a few stony looks.

Why the heck was he reading with such concentration!? He began to imagine that he was an enemy, who, knowing his intentions could hinder them. He felt like going back and saying something strong that would force him to leave, rudeness or an expression that will tell him he didn’t have the right to remain an hour sitting and reading, with such a small expenditure.

Finally the customer finished, or at least interrupted his reading. He took a sip of the milk that was left in the glass, stood up calmly, paid and headed to the door. He left; he was an old geezer, hunched over, and smelling faintly like a Carpenter or painter.

As soon as he was in the street, he set his glasses, and again put his nose between the pages of the newspaper and went away, walking slowly and stopping every ten steps to read with more meticulousness.

He waited for him to leave and then entered. For a while he stood at the entrance, indecisive, not knowing where to sit; He finally chose a table and headed toward it; but halfway to it, regretted, fell and stumbled into a Chair, then settled in a corner.

The lady approached the table, wiped the tabletop with a rag and in a soft voice that hinted slightly of a Spanish accent, she asked.

What would you like?

Without looking, he answered:

“A glass of milk”

“Large?”

“Yes, large”

“Just that?”

“Do you have biscuits?”

“No, vanilla cookies”

“OK, vanilla cookies then”

When the lady turned around, he rubbed the hands on the knees, delighted, as one who is cold is about to drink something warm.

The lady returned and put in front of him a large glass of milk and a plate filled with vanilla cookies, after which she returned to her place behind the counter.

His first impulse was to drink the milk all at once and then eat the vanilla cookies, but he immediately regretted; sensing that the woman looked at him with curiosity. He dared not look at her; it seemed to him that, in doing so, she would figure out his state of mind and shameful purpose and he would have to get up and leave, without tasting what he had ordered.

Intermittently he took a vanilla cookie, dipped it in the milk and took a bite; drank a sip of milk and felt that the fire, which still burned in his stomach, was being put out and extinguished. But immediately, the reality of his desperate situation appeared before him and something hard and hot rose up his throat to his heart; and he realized he was going to sob, to sob and cry and even though he knew that the lady was watching him, He could not end or undo the burning knot that tightened more and more. He resisted, and while still resisting, ate hurriedly, frightened, and fearing that crying would prevent him from eating. After he finished with the milk and the cookies, his eyes clouded over and something warm run down his nose, falling into the glass. A terrible sob shook him to his shoes.

He put his head in his hands and for a long time cried, cried with shame and anger, wanting to cry like he had never cried before.

He was leaning forward and crying, when he sensed a hand caressing his tired head and a woman’s voice with a sweet Spanish accent said:

“Cry son, Cry!”

A new wave of tears swept over his eyes and he cried as hard as the first time, although this time not so agonizingly, but with happiness, sensing that a new serenity penetrating him, extinguishing the fiery heat that had choked his throat. While he cried, he felt that his life and sentiments being cleaned like a glass under a stream of water, recovering the lucidity and steadfastness of other days

When the worst of his crying had passed, he wiped his eyes and face with his handkerchief, again calmed down.  He lifted his head and looked at the lady, but she was not looking at him, she was looking toward the street, at a distant point and her face was sad.

On the little table in front of him, there was another glass filled with milk and another plateful of vanilla cookies. He ate slowly, without thinking about anything, ate as if nothing had happened, as if he was in his house and his mother was this woman behind the counter.

When he finished, darkness had arrived and the store was illuminated with a light bulb.

He remained seated a short while, thinking about what he would say to the lady, when leaving, without anything coming to mind.

Finally he stood up and simply said:

“Thank you very much lady: goodbye”

“Goodbye, son, she answered”

He left.  The wind coming from the ocean cooled his head, still hot from crying.  He walked for a while in no particular direction, and then took a street that headed down toward the docks.  The night was extremely beautiful and huge stars appeared in the summer sky.

He thought about the blond lady and how generous she had been, and intended to pay her, to compensate her in a dignified manner, when he had some money; but these thought of gratitude waned along with the burning sensation in his face, until they had disappeared and the recent event slowly went away and became lost in his past, twisted life.

Suddenly he surprised himself by singing something softly. He straightened up and walked cheerfully, treading firmly and decisively.

He arrived at the shore and walked from one side to another, bouncing, feeling like recreating his previous strengths, before they disappeared,- to have them come together and merge firmly.

Tired from work, a slow tingling sensation crept up through his legs and he sat down on a pile of sacks.

 He looked at the sea. Lights from the pier and ships were reflected by the water in a reddish and golden, gently shimmering trail. He laid down on his back and looked at the sky for a long time. He didn’t feel like thinking, nor singing or talking.  He felt as if he didn’t want to live anymore.

Until he fell asleep with his face turned towards the sea.

Translated by K. Beechmount

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El Leve Pedro

by
Enrique Anderson Imbert

Translated to English by Kenny Beechmount

FOREWORD:

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

By
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.

“Perhaps”

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.

He landed.

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.

 

 

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Foreword:

Vicente Riva Palacio was born in Mexico City in 1832, studied law and became a lawyer in 1854. He became interested in politics, but joined the army, from which he retired as a general in 1865, two years after the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862.  He dedicated most of the rest of his life to writing and published several novels about the colonial era in Mexico, including the influence that the Spanish inquisition had.

He also wrote a number of short stories and anecdotes, and these are perhaps his greatest contribution to the literature of the time. He died in 1896 at the age of 64.

The Donation (La limosna)

By 

Vicente Riva Palacio

 

Perhaps there are many who are not interested in what I’m going to say; but it touched me deeply, and nothing in this world will make me shorten the story and I have to publish it, whatever happens to it in the long run and at the peril of experiencing the intricacy that some call excessive sensitivity to sentimentality.

But the facts are like musical chords: some of us listen to them without emotions and there are others, who have unexplained resonance in the most delicate cells in the heart or the brain, and of whom we say, or think without saying: these notes belong to me.

Julian lived in in one of the towns in the northern part of the Republic of Mexico. I don’t know his surname, because Julian didn’t know, but he was a happy man. .A blacksmith, honest and hard working; a big strapping, healthy fellow, who in his work earned more that he needed to support his family. Of course he was not rich, or as one would say- wealthy. He had a little house in the suburbs of the town.  There, like in a pidgin’s nest, lived his mother, his wife and his son, Julian. There everyone got up before sunrise; there they worked, sang and ate their daily bread of  joy and honesty.

Julian returned each Saturday bringing the earnings from his weekly work; he gave it all to his wife, and she knew how to allocate it successfully and with such good economy, that the money seemed to multiply in her hands. It was the unvarying miracle of the five loaves repeated without interruption, and she never forgot cigars for Julian or a glass of brandy for her mother-in-law before the meal.

The boy was called Juanito: fresh, clean, happy and with his two years acting as if he was eighty, excitedly running after the hens in the pen or pulling up the flowers in the little garden by the House. But he was so loving and so adorable, that each one of these mischief’s were rewarded with a Rosary of kisses from the father, the mother or the grandmother, whom he was laughing out loud at, showing his uneven and still growing baby teeth.

One afternoon, Julian was waiting at the workshop for his weekly pay check. Suddenly he heard the parish fire alarm, and felt his heart jump. There was no cause for alarm. The parish was a large rural community, and, however, he felt that it was not his house that was burning. He ran hastily, but it was true: the flames were devouring his house that just a few hours before had been his blessed home.

All efforts had been futile: nobody was able to escape the fire. Julian did not ask for details; in one hour he had lost everything he owned. It was pointless. A loving family took him in, and for more than six months he was not heard from.

Four years passed by and Julian, always sad, went to work at the shop with his usual punctuality. He took from his salary only what he strictly needed for his own upkeep, and distributed the rest to the poor of his parish.  Saturdays, however, he had a strange habit. . He went out in the streets with a guitar; entered houses and sang, with a very sweet voice, quite unknown songs, so melancholy, that the men shivered and the women cried; and afterwards, when one of them, filled with emotions, solicited around to give him some money him, he said with a deeply sad accent;” No, Madam, I don’t want money; you have already paid me, because I only came to beg for alms of tears. “

Translated by Kenny Beechmount

October 2012

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