Archive for the ‘Guardian Angels’ Category

Fabricio’s second death

January 19, 2009

Author: Sindo Pacheco

On September 15th, 1980, at 75 years of age, Fabricio Campoamores’s heart got bored from so much beating. After going through the famous tunnel, the one those who have returned from death talk so much about, Fabricio found himself in an open field facing a steep hill, whose slope, covered in a layer of very thin grass, had a marble staircase leading to the summit, where a stunning blond was descending the steps

She was the most beautiful young lady he had ever seen, the perfect example of a princess whom every man invents and reinvents for himself in his fervent deliberations. Golden curls surrounded her face, from which two perfectly symmetrical, semi-transparent eyes gazed at him with some sort of affection. Her straight nose went down, undefeated, to lips which were the most exact representation there could be of a kiss. She wore a red velvety suit, winter booties and in her right hand carried a long wooden pointer.

“This is the mountain of minor offenses. You have the right to remain silent if you so desire,” she said in a melodious voice, like a tinkle of jingle bells. Fabricio did not understand what he should keep silent about. He had been a fine, upstanding father, worker, disciplined man. During his forty years at the head of the roasted corn meal factory, he was the first to arrive every morning, to observe, standing tall in front of the door, each of his employees’ arrival. He was obsessed with punctuality, and if he had been a reading enthusiast, he would have taken Phineas Fogg, the one in Around the World in Eighty Days, as his idol.

Fabricio could not stop staring at the princess, who seem to be waiting for a gesture of attention on his part. He meant to ask a question, but before moving his lips, she gave him the answer.

“There are nine mountains for you. Number two corresponds to not-too-slight offenses, number three includes those of a deep nature, and so on. The young woman moved her pointer from side to side, as if she were opening the curtain on the landscape, and immediately, the hill disappeared, the funeral home in town appearing before their eyes. He saw his wife Lucrecia, his sons Fabricio and Rafael, and in attendance a reasonable number of other relatives, neighbors and ex fellow workers who were surely there at his wake. His first worry was being late to his funeral, which would be presumption in the extreme, even when he could not be grateful to anyone for their presence.

“Do you know what it is?” asked the young girl
“Me, I’m dead” said Fabricio, shrugging his shoulders

She removed her jacket, which she lay on the grass, uncovering a white sleeved blouse, snug around her torso. Fabricio had started to feel anxious, apparently someone was determined to make fun of him, to humiliate him. The young woman moved the pointer from east to west, tracing a circle in space, and a country landscape appeared, whose wooden house and thatched roof Fabricio thought he had seen somewhere before.

Around the house two children ran, petrified. All of a sudden, one of them took the other one by the ears and started to pull with all his might. When the second child started to scream, a young woman came out to the yard, ready to help him out.

Fabricio felt an indescribable tenderness upon staring at the image of his mother recovered from time and oblivion. Then he recognized his cousin Evaristo, two years younger than he, and he felt guilty for having hurt him. He remembered that he had been a restless, ear-pulling, arm-biting, belly-nipping child, and, in his heart, he repented about that far away event.

“Do you know who the aggressor is?” asked the young woman.
The word aggressor almost paralyzes Fabricio, but his answer was already on the tip of his tongue.
“It’s me, but if you will allow me…”

The young woman did not seem to listen to his arguments. She removed her blouse and her skirt. Her body was blinding inside that small bathing suit. Fabricio shut his eyes. Anyone in his place would have lost his senses before the most beautiful woman in the world, but he started to feel consumed by fear, an icy fear that he did not know how to explain. She moved the pointer and a street appeared, the one where Fabricio had grown up. He recognized it by the sugar cane juice machine belonging to Juan Vargas, who was offering cane juice to his customers, and by the billiard hall where men usually spent those nights of his childhood. Old man, Pancho Cruz, leaning on his cane, was trying to pick up a cigar stub when it leaped, fleeing from his hand. Pancho went forward one step and tried to capture the gift placed there by divine providence, but once again, the stub moved. The old man made a last effort and lost his balance, falling against the cement sidewalk. The cackle of the children could be heard, while one of them, Fabricio, pulled the string that converted the cigar into a slippery object.

Fabricio hardly remembered the incident, but now, when he knew what it was like to be old, and to think like an old man, and to feel like an old man, even more than old, he had a grief attack, but he tried to compose himself, to look for some kind of justification, children were innocent, incomplete creatures whose scarce knowledge of the world made their actions lacking in importance before the law, besides…

“Do you know what it’s about?” the girl interrupted his thoughts
“I used to like the cigar joke” he said, lowering his head.

When he looked up again, she was in her underwear, wrapped in a robe of red tulle, which the wind moved slightly as if it was dancing around her legs. She moved the pointer again and the house where Fabricio had grown up appeared, with the trees as they were back then and the same paint on its walls. An adolescent boy had come out of the kitchen door and was placing a handful of rice on the stone slab of the yard. Immediately, a band of sparrows flew down to eat the tender grain. Fabricio felt relief. At least good deeds were being taken into consideration in that unforeseen confrontation, and of those there were plenty in his life, dedicated to work, to society and to family. However, he hadn’t finished rounding up his conclusions when the boy took out a slingshot out of his back pocket, he inserted a stone on the band, he aimed at the target, and a bundle of feathers fell to the ground, with its little feet shaking in his death journey.

This time Fabricio did not wait for the question.

“I hated sparrows” he said, and took comfort in thinking that everyone had killed a bird during his lifetime, but the image of the little bird would not leave his conscience. Fabricio started to feel agitated. If that was the mountain of slight offenses, he did not want to find himself before the remaining eight. His slight sins were few, but he was no longer sure he had been an honorable man.  He tried to remember his bad deeds, his violations, cruel events of his distant youth, infidelities, selfish acts, double crossings, injustices carried out in his phase as an executive, against fifty or so subordinates on whom his indolence, his ire, or his ineptitude fell. He remembered his pleasures, Elena, his first secretary, and later Rosita and Isabel, this last one, married and with two kids, one of which he suspected was his. For the first time, he questioned having been a good son, a good father, a good husband. Here he could not resort to his patriotic speech and  blame his uncaring to his dedication to the common interest of the nation. His whole life was there, in a sort of video tape: the world under God’s hidden camera.

Fabricio was already horrified. If he had had any blood, it could be said that even his last red blood cell would have turned to ice. A primitive, unknown terror had installed itself in his conscience, and his body started to shake.  The young woman moved the pointer as one who reveals the appearance of the world, and there appeared a cemetery under the midday sun. People were lowering a body amid the sighs and laments of the relatives.  The coffin resounded at the bottom of the pit with a hollow sound, like the very shell of the dead man. Fabricio recognized his wife Lucrecia wiping her tears.

When he turned his gaze towards the young woman, she extended her arms.

“Come, love, wash your sins before you go on to the second mountain,” she said with an incredible shine in her gaze, but Fabricio was exasperated, as if he had seen evil in its most pure state. He gathered all his strenghth and before she could react, he jumped towards the grave, the coffin, and he went inside his body. When the first handfulls of dirt fell against the surface of the glass, he understood he had been stupid, but he felt assured, protected. He had arrived at his burial on time.

Nothing makes us different

December 28, 2008

The guardian angel of today is Abilio Estévez. Playwright, storyteller and poet, well-known and a winner of literary awards, this Cuban who lives in Barcelona has published mid-year the novel The Sleeping Navigator, the final part of a trilogy that examines three tragic moments of a family and a city. A family that tries, without success, to remain united.  A family that waits, with slow haste, in a city where time doesn’t move forward, or doesn’t move at all, maybe we are the ones trying to slip through a wall of time. The immobility has been our only mobility. A city which is loved or hated with equal need.

They’re hated, the grimy, unpainted walls, the stinking streets, where it’s been days since the garbage was collected and where there is a dull light of lethargy and a shadow of despair.  A city where one feels there is nothing to do is hated. The constant need to escape is hated.  However, those same walls and those same streets, with a strength that forces you to repudiate it, are loved. And most surprisingly: when you’re away, you want to return, to go on hating it and to go on loving it with equal fervor, with the same need. You want to be rid of it and you don’t want to be rid of it.  It’s fatal, like your own body, like your own family.  A city is a destiny.

It happened in the early nineties. The Berlin Wall had already fallen, in Moscow thousands of people were lining up in front of McDonald’s and in Havana dozens of uniformed cops out of uniform were lining up in front of the movie theater to see “Alice in Wondertown.”  Trying out my twenty-two years of age for the first time, I was going through life with that sensation of omnipotence, the result of hormones, lack of worries and not being well-read. Hemingway used to say that every man always has one drink too few. In my own version of the phrase, I substituted book for drink. So, one of my favorite occupations on arriving in any town or city, was to look for the bookstore, to browse through it without haste and—like a devotee visiting the temple—to make an offering of a little money in exchange for a certain quantity of printed paper. It was on one of these explorations that I found it.

It was a little notebook, small and brief. It fit in the palm of my hand and its scant sixty pages took up a space about the same as that between the thumb and forefinger when we demonstrate the size of a little bit. The cover, delicate and discrete, told about the title: Handbook of Temptations, the author’s name, and specified—as if it were necessary—that the contents were poetry. I remember that while I was looking at it, I thought it peculiar that Abilio did not seem like the name of a poet, but like that of a hick. It could be, perhaps, about a book of décimas—ten line poems. I opened it at random and what I read made me forget my speculations about names and décimas:

One afternoon some man will go past your door.  By chance, you will look out over the street. You will look at each other. Your eyes will meet for a second.  Only one second.  And then nothing will be the same.  Never again will you ever see him, nor will he again ever see you. But both he and you will know that everything in the past and in the future was contained in that instant, and the two of you will believe that to live is to prepare yourself for one glance in which everything is said.

My debts to this discrete gem that Abilio wrote for us are several. To verify one more time that poetry is more a question of essence than of form. To discover two indispensable names among many others: Lezama and Virgil.  To enjoy a sober and profound style which—I confess shamelessly—I try to imitate and capture ravenously. Understand that the temptations, large and small, are inseparable from our existence and that without them there is no happy ending to the journey.

My gratitude to the angel is twofold today, for his beautiful writings and for allowing them to be published here, for the enjoyment of visitors.  Gracias, Abilio.

CHOICES
To choose one door is to leave doors unopened.  A pleasure presupposes that many pleasures will not be lived, as each sorrow deals out so many sorrows.  The lover you take into your bed is one among all possible lovers.  The chosen word prevents the use of an indefinite number of words.  You visit a place so that other places will be left waiting for you.  Only the day that dawns for your death is any old day, a coincidence.

SO NEAR THE 21ST CENTURY
As it has happened since forever, we also must await the night and the ceremony of dream and silence.  We must hide -so that they won’t see us, so they won’t hear us–even though we are at the end of the 20th century and the next century threatens to transform us into the most advanced society of those who inhabit the universe.  This is one night of all times.  I enter your house, unseen, and descend to the bedroom.  I have accomplished this like any lover of Cnosos.  The prejudices have been left out on the street, and as I mingle myself with you, I feel clean and outside of time.  You are there and I wake up.  So near to the 21st century your loveliness moves me and I embrace you and am afraid.  The silence of your house is a civilization that peeks at the window.  Nothing is different in our kiss: it’s the same, simple and lasting, from the first man who could discover your lips.  We undress and are in Alexandria or in Havana.  I caress your chest, explore your thighs with my mouth, and reach the same pleasure as the young men from Umbria.  Nothing makes us different: when we join together it’s possible to prove that time has not passed.  Now I know the delight of the artist on having chiseled the torso, pelvis and arms of Hermes.  You are the pleasure and so am I, we belong to all time, and if you caress me it is the present, but also the past and the future and there can be nothing shameful. One in another, one on another on the whitest sheet, we become the couple rescued from death.  Eternity also has also descended to this damp and dark cellar.

From the book: Manual de Tentaciones, Letras Cubanas, (Handbook of Temptations, Cuban Letters), 1989.

XVI
There once was on Earth an island-most-island-of-the-islands. All around it, the horizon was not an imaginary line, but the place where the sky and the sea were truly united.

XVII
Perhaps the story he narrated is not true. What story cannot be told from the opposite side? The lie is my only truth.  I lie the same way I flee and my biggest lie is the return.

XVIII
I was not king, however, I could neither drink the river water nor eat the fruit.  I wandered around the island and the beauty withdrew from me.  I wanted to touch a body and the glare of its violent youth stopped my hand.  There was never a body I could touch.  At the banquets I was alone, without touching a bite.  No one looked at me, no one wanted to look at me, as if serpents were growing from my head.  I was alone for years in my house by the sea.  I wasn’t born to live but to recount that I lived.

XXII
Heaven is in hell and both are on the Island.  I slept with the anguish that wine brings, or hashish.  So much escaping left me without legs.  So much saying goodbye left me without arms.  So much hiding they granted me invisibility.  Everything and nothing, I slept in the sweet-serene-horror of the island.  Pursued.  My biography is the book of persecution.  I slept without monsters: the most atrocious and inoffensive ones had fled from a land where intoxication leads to fright.  There were no monsters, I had to make myself into a monster.  I invented the being-awake-in-being-asleep.  Thus I could defend myself and build another world in places where the world began to disappear.  I slept awake, feigning drunkenness, now the fat giant using word-enigmas, now the basilisk of furies.  I possessed the codes to the island.  They didn’t see me, I was sleeping, and while sleeping, I fled to injure and blaspheme; I wept for an impossible love, the only possible way to be in love; I recounted the unmovable garden; I returned to seed, I changed a woman into a blackish rabbit, born with the Peace of Basilea, I went out to see on a three mast boat, I was in jail, I lived in Jesus del Monte Road, I was a murderer, an aristocrat, a laborer, a pornographer, a tuberculosis sufferer, gallant poet and ambassador.  I was persecuted, condemned.  My biography is the book of condemnation.  I was locked up in rooms, trunks, barrels, hand tied, gagged, writing on walls while I slept.  I would write autumn and the ground of the island would be covered in leaves.  I lived, exiled, in Persia and China, in the moors of Yorkshire. I always lived here.  They cremated me in Paris and New York, and at the end, my ashes ended up here.

XXII
I never abandoned the island in spite so many ships and fake seas.  They wanted to make me crazy and I made them crazy.  Transforming myself, with each death, being everybody and nobody, returning asleep in appearance, with an unexpected name, my radically changed name, my disguise, made of contradictory disguises and yet strangely the same.  Dazzling changing to confuse, deep down, the unique man, apparently asleep, writing raindrops on the walls so that the water would heal the bodies.  I got to be the first multiple man on the island and I don’t regret it.  I would have liked a different destiny, potter, thief, for example, villain, dancer. Gladly, I would have given my hands to wake in others the spark of desire.  I would have given myself with pleasure to the inactivity of the hammock and tasted the nectar of the medlar.  But I was born for insomnia and simulation.  Happiness is the only word that remains inert on the wall.  If others receive its strength, I do not.  Nevertheless, Can I speak of bad luck? I am here and that’s enough.  Pilgrims come to my grave on a daily basis.  They bring flowers, basil leaves, then they take honey and praises to the place where I am to be born.  I die and I am reborn on the island.  I hate it only because they taught me how to love by hating.

From the book: “Death and Transfiguration,” Holguin Editions, 2002.

THE END

To Sindo that which is Sindo’s

October 17, 2008

Several readers have erroneously attributed to me the authorship of Sindo Pacheco’s story.  Others, in their praise, have mentioned the two greats of Cuban literature, Alego Carpentier and Onelio Jorge Cardoso.  I think were he living in Cuba, Sindo’s life would be at risk.  From the first time I read his story, a couple of years ago, I liked it so much that I wanted to steal it.  Now, my ego inflated by so many nice compliments, I’ve spent some early candlelit mornings, hatching dark machinations to commit, with total premeditation, plagiarism—literary—and assassinations—not literary.

Joking aside, the truth is that it has been the quality of his story that has generated so many good reviews.  And that is the product of Sindo Pacheco’s undeniable talent and narrator’s craft.  So that you can know him a little more, I copy here a brief overview of his literary successes and close by reiterating a short commercial. As I said in his presentation in the Blog, Sindo has works ready for publication, a volume of stories and two novels.  Any help in finding an publisher would be welcome.

(To the commentators, know that I have noted your names and IP addresses.  When you publish something of mine, if you don’t celebrate it with the same or more fervor, I am going to banish your blog.)

Sindo Pacheco was born in Cabaiguán, Cuba in 1956.  He has published Oficio de Hormigas (stories, 1990), winner of the April Prize for best works devoted to young people, and the novels Esos Muchachos and María Virginia está de Vacaciones.  The latter was awarded the Latin America Prize from Casa de las Américas, the annual White Rose prize awarded by the Cuban Writers and Artists Union for the best works devoted to children and youth, and the Critics’ Award for the best works published in Cuba during 1994.

In 1995, he received the Buster Viejo Award, from Madrid, Spain, for his story Legalidad Post Mortem. His stories have appeared in Cuba in various magazines such as Bohemia, Letras Cubanas, Casa de las Américas.  Some of his stories have been published in Mexico, Russia, Venezuela and Spain.  In 1998 the publisher Norma, Colombia, published his young adult novel María Virginia, Mi Amor; and in 2001, his novel Las Raíces del Tamarindo was a finalist for the EDEBÉ Prize, and published by said publisher in Barcelona.  In 2003 the publisher Plaza Mayor, Puerto Rico reissued his novel María Virginia está de Vacaciones.

He currently resides in Miami, USA.

The story of the hole

August 1, 2008

By Sindo Pacheco

Berto Meciar was rocking in his armchair, as he had been doing every night for the last twenty years, when he saw the drunkard who turned in front of his house, lurching from one side to the other.  Only then did he remember the hole.  That piece of the rarely traveled road had had a hole for some time.  The drain cover had disappeared in the last flood, leaving its gaping mouth lying in wait for its prey, camouflaged by poor lighting.

Initially Berto wanted to warn him of the danger, but then he started to think about the fall of the man, the desired outcome, with that special aversion one feels for drunkards, until he saw him disappear, swallowed by the earth.

Berto waited a while, thinking to seem him rise from the blackness, spouting oaths and curses; but a reasonable time passed and the man showed no signs of life.

So he took to his room, asked his wife for a pill for the stress, and lay on the bed while listening to the violins on some Sunday program.  Although he didn’t care for the television either.  He had lived surrounded by silence, almost regardless of electronics, and the television seemed too boisterous.  He only saw Reading and Writing, whose content for the first time had introduced him to a vast and unknown world of innumerable geographies and famous people, or some musical consigned to oblivion which would surprise him on the screen.  The man who had just fallen down the hole was one of the few things that had happened to him in a long time.

He had been married at thirty-five to his only girlfriend and in twenty years of marriage they hadn’t managed to conceive any descendants.  At first, this absence wasn’t noticed much: the house was full of nephews and nieces who came to check out everything, poke their heads in the bedrooms, and commit all the atrocities in their aunt and uncle’s house that were forbidden to them in their own, abusing those childless and tolerant parents; but over time the nieces and nephews moved away and married in other towns, generating more nieces and nephews, forgetful of the past, and the house turned into a kind of sanitarium where nothing happened outside their own memory.

Berto took his pill with half a glass of water, and slept deeply without waking through the night.

He got up at five in the morning to sell milk in the shop, had coffee, dressed, and then having gone a fair way, he had to return in search of his keys.

When he was leaving again he looked in the direction of the hole and made out the head of the drunk, darker in the early morning shadows.  This time he didn’t even feel the impulse to help him and entrusted that disagreeable task to the future.  He was in a terrible mood which he blamed on Monday.  Mondays always put him in a bad mood until the day got underway and the town began to come to life.  Tranquility was for the house, in the shop he preferred physical activity and hustle and bustle.  But while he was selling the milk he broke two liters; then he took care of the paperwork, sold some flour, and at eleven, when he closed to return home, he was still in a bad mood.

Julia, his wife, had lunch ready and seeing him, she set the table.

“Are you ill?”  She was surprised to see him go straight to bed.

He always helped her.  He was an exemplary husband, sharing in the cooking and housework, and really gave her no cause for complaint.  Berto was faithful to her even though she could never give him a child.  They lived in a comfortable house, got along well, and each secretly felt solidarity with the other’s childless state.

“I think I’m coming down with the flu.”

She squeezed two lemons into a glass of water and reached for an aspirin.

“Lunch is ready.”

“I’m not hungry.”

Berto tried to take a nap to see if it would knock him out of his depression, but he couldn’t get to sleep.   He was sure that when he came home his wife would tell him about the drunk who fell in the hole, that same hole that he had worked so hard to cover; but before opening the door, he thought he saw the man’s head poking up just above the level of the street.  In fact there was almost no traffic in the area.  On one side of the road there was a tobacco factory, and on the other a ditch that ran parallel to the street.  The hole the drunk had fallen into opened onto the ditch.  He knew that the kids liked to float paper boats there on rainy days.  During the rest of the year it was rare to see someone in the lane, but still, it seemed unreal and absurd that the guy would stay in the hole.

The entire afternoon he felt dizzy and weak.  He spent the day in the clouds, wandering among the beans and sacks of rice, and tripping over his colleagues.

When he returned home at seven, he took a look and couldn’t see anything.  He stopped, cleaned his glasses and looked again, and felt that a great weight had lifted.  He entered the house cheerfully, shoulders back, convinced that this time Julia would tell the story with all the detail and embellishments it deserved, but she offered no such consolation.  What in the devil had gotten into this woman, that a drunk, right in front of their noses, could spend an entire day stuck in a hole and she didn’t see or hear anything…  A thing so unusual in such a quiet neighborhood, almost a scandal, and she didn’t even notice it…  Although it could be, also, that the man had just sneaked away, in silence, out of shame, or perhaps someone had rescued him without his wife noticing, if she’d been busy with something, sweeping the patio, preparing the meal, she was a housewife, a good woman and not someone who gossiped or aired dirty laundry.

His bath was a little more peaceful and the food seemed better seasoned. Then he returned to his post in the armchair.  Everything was in order.  It was clear the nightmare was over; but who had gotten the drunk out of the hole, without falling in deeper, under his own weight.  Maybe he didn’t have any strength and had bent his knees.  And what if he’d died?  What if he were in agony and he hadn’t gone to his aid…?  Could he be prosecuted: denial of aid, off to jail for the death of a poor man, father of a family, totally helpless and inebriated.   Because this was now the question: a poor man in a state of inebriation…

Desperate, he began to sway while looking for a way out.  Almost his whole life behind a counter, depending on the oscillation of a balance, he’d developed a conservative attitude, meditating every step and weighing each decision.  But now there wasn’t much to meditate.  He heard Julia working at the sewing machine and calculated that this was the opportune moment.  He got up and left in the direction of the hole.  He needed to verify, to make sure, to be convinced that the drunk was gone once and for all, to escape from his uncertainty.  He approached the opening that offered its dark square mouth and didn’t see anything.  It was clear he had disappeared.  However he bent down and extended his hand into the darkness, and an intense chill, an electric shock, ran through his whole body.  He’d felt a human head, cold and rigid, and his eyes, adapting to the darkness, distinguished a half-crooked face, with its eyes open and a stupid vacant look.  He wanted to retreat but he was nailed to the ground.  His legs did not obey him.  His body was a chaotic mass and he felt his chest tighten and convulse.  Finally he managed to slowly pull himself together and he started walking, dragging his legs like a sick person, like an bull fatally stabbed, and made it back to collapse into his chair.   He didn’t know how long he sat there, his mind blank, but it must have been a fairly long time because Julia saw him through the door, surprised that he hadn’t yet gone to bed.

“Berto… it’s almost twelve!”

Berto didn’t reply.  He felt the need to confess, to share the secret.  It had all happened without thinking, he would say, without realizing it, without imagining things could get to this point, he would swear.  He was a good person, honest, sacrificing, a man who served others… But if Julia didn’t understand, how was it possible, how had he been capable of abandoning the poor man, and to lie there and snore quietly, how had she lived so many years at the side of someone so apathetic that he didn’t feel compassion for the life of his fellow…

So he said nothing.  He took a pill and went to bed, but he didn’t sleep a wink all night.  That cold impassive face appeared before him, with its unfocused unseeing eyes.  He got up several times trying not to wake Julia, he took two Valium and a Librium and sat on the edge of the bed leafing through publications from the forties, illustrated with beautiful blondes and sudsy soaps and olive oils, but he couldn’t banish that image.  He thought the night might be measured in years, decades, he felt like it was an eternity.  Now another element began to torture him: his footprints were next to the hole, the trail led up to his house.  Sooner or later they would find them.  They would come to investigate, the police, the dogs: and everything would point to his house, him, to Berto Martín Gallego, however quiet people had thought him to be he had killed, he had taken the drunk and pushed him into the hole.  He’d always had an obsession with this hole, the Director would say.  He’s a maniac, a criminal, an agent of the CIA.  Up against the wall.  Council of War.  The Military Court asking for the wall, the firing squad.  The prosecutor asking for the wall… But he was innocent, he didn’t understand why.  He was very confused and all of a sudden he said yes, he was guilty, a murderer, they killed him, hung him, shot at him, he disappeared.

In the morning Berto went to the shop without coffee.  He had no concentration.  He started to decant oil and the liquid spilled everywhere; he tried with rice and the same thing occurred; at noon he didn’t have lunch and spent the afternoon organizing the warehouse, gathering and packing jute sacks and cases of soft drinks.  But he worked in the dark, vacant, with his body in the shop and his mind up against the wall with the firing squad.  Never before had he conceived of his end in this way.  He’d never thought about it.  Death used to be a item in the news, an accident that could happen to others.  When he finally admitted that he, too, was eligible, he imagined himself in his room, surrounded by his nieces and nephews and the solidarity of the doctors and nurses, with Julia at his bedside; but he’d never thought of death like this, among thick walls, up against a grey wall splattered with blood, before half a dozen soldiers pointing their rifles at him, who would open his skin and his flesh and then go drink and party without the slightest remorse.

Berto arrived home like a shadow.  He bathed and jumped into bed, leaving the food untouched on the table.  Julia wanted to take him to the doctor but he flatly refused and she didn’t insist.  She knew it was useless.  She knew something was changing the direction of things and for the first time she stopped seeing the garden her husband would plant in his retirement.  She no longer saw herself with a watering can, overseeing a paradise of green tomatoes and lettuce stretching to the horizon…

At midnight it started to rain, announcing an abundant and generous spring.  At six it was still raining cats and dogs.  Berto put on his old coat and walked out into the road.  He hadn’t yet noticed what the blessed rain meant.  How had he not thought of it before… The rain would carry the man from the ditch, and then continue up the creek, to the river, at least as far as the coast, floating like a drifting log.  He would be drowned, one among many, and no one would suspect that the tragedy had begun with the hole.

The entire morning he was more lively, though clearly he was getting worse.  In the afternoon he fainted for the first time.  It was a slight dizziness, blurry vision, and he felt like the world was abandoning him.

He missed work the next day and continued to deteriorate.  As he didn’t dare go near the hole, he roamed around the whole town picking up newspapers and magazines and other publications in search of any indication, any information about a missing person who left his house one day, wearing certain clothes, presumably in a state of inebriation; or of an unidentified drowned person in the Caribbean, chewed by freshwater fish and all fish, with algae in his hair and tilapia eggs in his outer ear.  But little by little he was letting go of his hopes before the imperturbable press that only talked about recycling and sugarcane cutters who cut millions and billions of…

He died on Defense Sunday, along with the sound of the air raid sirens and the first explosions.  It was if he was alive, with the same look as ever, but it was enough for Julia to see that her husband was still in bed at half past seven in the morning to know that he was dead.

During the wake at her house, someone found the body of the drunk, tackled in the hole, spouting threats in his indecipherable language.  He was taken to the hospital and after several days was roaming around again, with a bottle in hand, shadow dancing an old tango by Gardel.  The neighbors, for their part, didn’t take much time to get used to the absence of Berto, demonstrating the power of recovery.  Only the widow cursed her fate, swearing that only a week before the deceased was strong and healthy… As for the hole, finally…

Sindo Pacheco: his own soul

July 30, 2008

With Sindo Pacheco the Guardian Angels section takes on new dimensions.  Sindo lives and writes—and I hope for a long time.  He lives, works and writes in the city of Miami, USA.  He has work ready for publication, a volume of stories and two novels.  He has kindly agreed that we can publish his story, and for that I thank him once more.

Since he is alive I have to tread carefully, I cannot speak ill of him on pain of receiving a peasant challenge and ending up tangled up in blows, or worse, with machetes.  That’s why I will cite two colleagues and friends of his, so it stays in the family.

Amir Valle has written, “His stories were characterized by a different take on humor, used not as a method of transmitting ideas, but rather the frame itself in which he developed his characters, intimately linked to the rural environment.”

Manual Sosa: “He’s one of those goldsmiths who save the profession, narrating without complexes, without wondering if he belongs in the rear or the vanguard… Since I’ve known him I have seen him help himself through that which nobody confesses: his own soul.”

If William Faulkner had his fictional county of Yoknapatawpha and Gabo his Macondo, Sindo has his Cabaiguán, that though not real is still marvelous, like a bench for resting and from where to receive sources  for new dreams.  I suspect that though now he may not walk down Valle Street, Sindo takes Cabaiguán to that unspeakable place as Manuel says: into his own soul.