Mention of Honor, storytellers contest organized by the Cultural Institute of Peru, Embassy of Miami, July 2005. Published in the book "Poets and writers of the 2005”
That morning she
woke with strong sensation that time was running out for her. She felt depressed and sad. It seemed that her life had become a tunnel which was sealed at one end, and that she had no choice now but to follow the dictates of her heart. She needed to find a
solution that would allow her to find her way out of the labyrinth in which she was trapped.
Her husband, as every day for several months now, just simply said "see you later" and walked off to work, without even looking at her.
although still living in the house, completely ignored her. Their studies, friends and parties were their world, and their mother was simply a person who had the food ready, the clothes clean and neat, and who cleaned up the mess which they carelessly left
all over the house.
She decided that a very cold shower would take away the sadness, and anguish that invaded her. She opened the shower tap and let the water run down her body for a while, but then feelings of anger overtook her, and she rubbed herself
very hard with the sponge, as if to erase in this way her sadness and loneliness. She felt like crying, and she did mourn gently at first, but then with sobs that came from the depths of her being. Her sobbing increased in intensity until the sobs became
piercing screams, hoping that that this would let her distress and suffering out of her soul, and she could find relief from her pain.
She felt much better, and as the water in the shower, and her tears bathed her, she repeatedly ran her hands
through her shining hair and over her face. Then she slid her hands down her breast and belly, and then very slowly down to her private parts and thighs. For long minutes she enjoyed the pleasure of being caressed, and had the strange feeling that by
touching her body, her hands were talking to her.
"You are an attractive woman who is only forty-eight years old and you have the whole world ahead. I know you are afraid. You are a married woman with children, and you worry about what people might
say. For that reason, you are afraid of breaking the patterns that have ruled your life so far.
Haven’t you noticed that your husband stopped loving you several years ago? Watch his behavior with you, which is cool and detached, as
if you did not really exist. It is true that he is still meeting his obligations to you and your children, and you are not missing anything, but tell me, "how long has it been since you heard a tender word from him? How long has it been since he cherished
you? How long has it been since you have had the pleasure of making love?
I know that you remember those days when you were everything to him. Yes, yes, he filled you with love and made you extremely happy. But tell me, was not he the one who moved
away from your life? Suddenly there was business travel, conventions, one week out of town, his arrival late at night, the smell of alcohol. And, without any justification, despite the immense love that you gave to him, came the change. That terrible
silence, that way of not answering your questions, that way of ignoring you, that way of not touching you as he did before. The longing desire you felt of wanting to be possessed by the man you loved; only to see him turn away, ignoring you as if you did not
exist, as if you were a stranger.
Come on! Wake up! Do you want to end up like a ship stranded on a distant shore, letting time and the rough weather destroy you?
No, no woman! It’s time to make a decision about your life. Fear not,
you still have many years ahead of you, because there is a complete new world out there, a world of love and happiness. Do not let it go! "
She came out of the shower and still naked looked herself in the mirror. She was beautiful!She knew she had always
been so, beginning from childhood and into puberty, because she was always the most admired flower of the garden. She had behaved with dignity, never allowing the leering men, who stripped her on the street with their looks, vulgar compliments, open, or veiled
innuendo and seduction attempts, to alter her decision to be a woman of integrity. She would save herself for the person her heart chose, for her husband. And when she was ready to take that decision, she would devote her whole life to cherish, adore and respect
But all that is going to hell now!!
Four years ago she knew him. He came home, invited by her own husband as a guest to dinner. From that moment on she felt a sort of attraction to the unknown. The beating of her heart heart told
her that there was a new life, and a future that, could mitigate the loneliness and barrenness of her present existence. He was immensely appealing, daring, good talker, honest, yet sweet and loving.
He was blunt when he told her that he loved her,
and that he would wait for her all his life, and, although he knew that things were not going well in their marriage, he would never take advantage of these circumstances to cause a break. He was patient because he knew that the day she felt that her life
was wrecked; he would be ready to rescue her. It was very simple; all she had to do was to have the courage to make a phone call.
She dressed, and after taking a last look at herself in the mirror, she went to the kitchen and made a strong cup of coffee.
Sitting down in a comfortable chair in the living room, she thought what the next step should be. After a few minutes, she walked decisively to the study, and picking up the phone, dialed a number, and when answered, said:
“Charles, I want
to see you tonight at eight o’clock. I have something very important to say”.
When he arrived at the office, he told his secretary, “I do not want phone calls or visits
for the next two hours, as I need to be alone”. He sat in his chair in the elegant office of the general manager of the company. His face showed the fatigue of long sleepless nights. He knew it was time to make a decision.
There was no logical
explanation for the changes that had occurred in his life, since he had that wonderful experience that would forever change his way of perceiving the feelings of a new love.
He felt remorse because he knew his behavior was causing extreme pain and anguish
for his wife. She was the ideal woman, beautiful, intimate sensual, affectionate, loving and in everyday life, loyal, faithful, dutiful, dignified and sensible. Never a reproach, never a scandal. She was always devoted entirely to him and the children.
But, what happened happened, and not knowing how, he was seduced by an intoxicating and unknown love. A love that filled and changed his life in a gradual way, until it asphyxiated him and took possession of his will, in a way that he was unable to
reject, or take back. An absorbing love that demanded unequivocally, all or nothing!
And so, he invented travels, conventions and meetings, in order to enjoy this secret love. He was ashamed to return home after each rendezvous, and he was afraid of
touching his wife, for fear, she would notice the scent of another love on his body. For that reason, he decided to become an iceberg, cold, aloof, dismissive, because this new passion imposed conditions that no reason could understand, or explain.
Now it was time to make a decision that could affect so many lives. It would be a mortal blow to his wife, children and family. Who would have thought that a man of fifty-two years, and married for twenty-eight of those, would break up a marriage that was
seen by everybody as a model.
The scandal could be of such proportions that it would force him to resign as general manager of the company, that he had run so successfully, and go into exile, in a far and distant land. That would be the only possible
way to start a new life, next to this wonderful person who would make him immensely happy forever.
Resolutely he took the phone, dialed a number and when answered, said:
“Charles, I want to see you tonight at eight o’clock. I have
something very important to say”.
Mention of Honour, Storytellers contest organized by the Institute of Culture of Peru Embassy of Miami, July 2010. Published in the book "Poets and storytellers of 2010" edition of the Institute of Peruvian Culture.
the day her parents died in a tragic car accident, Miss Marie retired from her music studies, dressed up in deep mourning clothing and never came back down to visit the town. She was the sole heiress of the vast family fortune, that through several generations,
worked the land creating an immense coffee plantation and with great pride, the best cattle hacienda in the region. She never had financial worries or land management problems, because Don Pedro Marin, a very serious and gentle man who had the absolute trust
of her parents, agreed to continue to manage her properties effectively and honestly.
Thus, she spent her days reading books from the extensive library created by her grandfather and her father for many years and tirelessly practicing the piano,
becoming a virtuoso with an exquisite and extensive repertoire for a concert that the world would never hear. Marcia was her sole company and also the person attending all the house chores during the day, at sun set she retired to her room at the little house
that she had been given, about two hundred meters from the main house.
Two or three times a week, she rode around the hacienda or walked along for the well maintain gardens taking the time to talk to the gardener, the old Gregory who
had been working for the family for many years, even before she was born, telling her the stories and peccadilloes of her ancestors. With each passing day, she got more attached to the old gardener, who had become his friend and adviser, and the only person
with whom she conversed, sometimes even telling him about the intimacies and dreams of a young lady.
So the years passed by, until one day Gregory, defeated by aging and arthritis came with his grandson Robert, a muscular and attractive young
man in the prime of youth, announcing her that, as of that day, he would replace him in the gardening tasks. Miss Marie which by then had become a grim and lonely woman felt a deep sorrow of losing his good friend and apprehension and nervousness of a young
man who was coming to her home. For a couple of weeks she stopped walking around the gardens.
One hot summer day, when she was in the library, She saw the gardener through the window, who was shirtless, working in her favorite part of
the garden, the roses. Taking an old brass telescope that probably belonged to an ancestor with dreams of becoming a sailor; she gazed for a long time to the young gardener, and felt that something new and disturbing wake up inside her. It was a strange feeling
she could not explain. Despite being an attractive woman, she never had suitors when she was young and much less now that she had no contact with anyone and remain isolated from the world since she locked herself in the farm. She remembered that her mother
when she was alive used to say that she was a young woman of "rare beauty". Now on her forty’s the presence of this young man in her dominions began to arouse passions that she have never had in her life.
That night, Miss Marie could
not sleep well. Every now and then she woke up, tormented by erotic dreams that she had never experienced before. Finally, she could only sleep well when, in an almost unconscious manner let her hands go around caressing her body and for the first time in
her life and almost by accident, she felt the indelible delight of the solitary pleasures.
The next day, after looking for a very long time to Robert from her bedroom window, she dared to go down to the garden. Standing about four meters
she was careful not to disturb him, who was focused on pruning the rose bushes, she looked at the young gardener for a few minutes, then moving closer, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath absorbing the odors emanating from his body. He had the perfume
of the earth. A combination of sweat, moss, herbs, flowers and rose wood. Quietly she returned home and spent the rest of the day playing the romantic and passionate melodies of the great masters. As time passed by, Miss Marie added to her routine of reading
the classics of literature and practicing the piano, the contemplation of the young gardener from the window of her bedroom.
Until one night, a few months later, at about two o'clock on the morning, she heard the distant barking of dogs
at the entrance of the estate. Minutes later, she heard noises inside the house. She sat on the bed and paid close attention and again she felt faint noises in the lounge room. As a mild electrical current running through her body, the fear invaded her paralyzing
her body. She tried to scream in vain. The voice would not come out of her throat, she was shaking and a cold sweat flowed copiously from her pores. Breathing deeply, after a few agonizing seconds she managed to recover her courage, rose from the bed and walking
gingerly opened the bedroom door heading for the lounge room quietly. Aided by the dim light coming through the windows from the full moon, Marie could see someone moving, taking objects and placing them in a bag. Very distraught, she stepped back, bumping
into a table and knocking over a vase.
The person who was there, feeling discovered, looked at her and walked slowly towards her. Suddenly she recognized the smell of sweat, moss, herbs, and flowers and rose wood, and removing the shoulder
strips holding her nightgown, dropped it to the ground, standing completely naked. Then extending her hand and reaching down to the thief said quietly: "I've been waiting for you many days Robert, come with me." That night Marie realized that paradise was
on earth and filled with happiness she decided it was time to send the mourning dresses of twenty years to the rubbish bin.
Two days later Don Peter Griffith received a short letter from Miss Marie, in which she said that there had been an attempted
robbery at the farm and that from that date on Robert's salary was to be tripled because he would live on the farm performing the functions of gardener and security guard.
Kariong, Junio 2010
Third Prize, International Competition of Poetry and Short Stories “Alberto (Pocho) Domínguez”, Sydney September 2005.
Grandma Lucia arrived in town at the dawn of the century, as
the star trapeze artist of the Razore Circus. At that time Santa Rosa consisted of the main park, one church, the school and seven streets with one hundred and seventy-five houses, eight hundred and ninety three inhabitants, three hundred and twenty-five head
of cattle, two hundred and thirty-two horses, one hundred and thirteen dogs and forty-five cats, plus chickens, ducks and other bits and pieces.
At seventeen she was the most beautiful woman ever to have set foot in the town. With her
golden dress covered with sequins, her statuesque body gyrating in the heights, she awakened the passions of all the young men who walked around with eyes closed, dreaming that she would one day become the woman of their lives. More than one swore to follow
the circus around the world with the sole purpose of savouring the lasting joy of seeing her defying death every night, with her risky manoeuvres in the air, and an angelical smile on her face.
But the circus was doomed to tragedy.
First it was the elephant. When trying to lift his front legs to greet the public, he lost his balance and fell backwards on top of Geronimo, his tamer, crushing him to death. On top of all the confusion and horror caused by this incident, there was the difficulty
of removing him, as he was squashed to the circus ring like a stamp, the thickness of a banana skin, and several people were needed to carefully lift his remains with the aid of shovels. He was then placed on a bed sheet, which someone had found, and rolled
up like a rug, to make it easier to place him in a coffin.
On a clear and starry night, two weeks later, out of the blue, a bolt of lightning struck the circus starting a fire the like of which had never been seen before, and reduced it
to ashes. Only Lucia and the two animal carers escaped and managed to move the cages to a safe place.
Some old folks said it was God’s will in order to force Grandma Lucia stay in town, and make it prosper.
following day, after they had rescued the few belongings left, Lucia divided equally between the three survivors the coffer, which contained proceeds from the ticket sales. She then went to talk to the animals to soothe them, a skill she
had learnt from Geronimo the tamer, during the fifteen years that he had played the role of father and mother to her after the death of her parents in a trapeze accident, in a far away land.
Lucia told her two friends that she had had
enough of circuses, and planned to remain in the town forever. They decided to stay with her and became her helpers, and servants, for the rest of their lives. They were two brothers, and were named Second and Third. They told Lucia that their eldest sibling
had been called First, but he had died. They settled down in a rented house on the outskirts of town, furnished it with the best furniture they could buy in the area, and after creating a common fund with the money, they realised that they could live free
of care for two or three years.
Worried about the welfare of the animals, Lucia talked to the Mayor and obtained in perpetuity the forestlands south of town. She bought wire fences and worked day and night with her two helpers, until they
built an ideal refuge for them to live in peace and harmony.
News of the refuge spread around, from mouth to mouth amongst the animals, and in two months, something happened that went beyond the limits of fantasy. Like things that only
happen in fairy tales, tigers, lions, panthers, wolves, monkeys, rhinoceros, hippopotamus and gorillas began to arrive, and the refuge became a zoo as big as nothing ever before seen since the times of Noah’s Ark! Even more, the intimacy and love
among them was such, that shortly after, new species started to be born, startling the more reputed scientists of the world. Lucia was declared universal benefactor of all animal species!
With no tutoring, she learnt all the
business ropes. She placed two ticket windows by the zoo door, which were disguised as hippopotamus heads, and very soon, thousands of tourists from all over the country and abroad started to come to visit the town, bringing with them prosperity for Lucia,
Second and Third. This prosperity extended to all the inhabitants of the town, who started to open up restaurants, hotels and amusements centres to satisfy demand. With her own money, Lucia had the road surfaced, installed electricity and built a hospital,
where, free of charge, townspeople and tourists were attended.
In two years time she had built modern developments and hotels, and Santa Rosa became a cosmopolitan city known the world over for its famous zoo, where tourists were able
to stroll amongst wild animals without fear. This was because Grandma Lucia, with her talent for talking to the animals in a language which had no vowels, and they understood, had convinced them that human flesh not only tasted badly, but also was not at all
good for their health!
It was rumoured that a gringo tourist by the name of Disney, fascinated with the zoo, offered millions of dollars to take it to the United States, but Grandma Lucia flatly refused. Upset with the denial, he returned
to his country and, as he could not stop thinking about the marvels he had seen, created something similar several decades later. As he was unable to have wild animals and humans mixing harmoniously together, he was forced to build a zoo and amusement park
out of cardboard, fibreglass and plastic.
One day a handsome man with a languorous, romantic gaze and reddish-gold hair came to town. His name was Nicanor Buenaventura. While walking around the zoo he met Lucia and without any need for
words, they realised that this was the beginning of a love affair that was to last fifty years, seven months and fourteen days. They were discreetly married in a private ceremony. They were a couple that had the divine gift of adoring each other, and while
she continued her routine of turning everything she touched into gold, he worked at spending the fortune in the extravagant whims of the nouveau rich.
Grandpa Nicanor built a mansion on a hill overlooking the town. It had twenty-five rooms,
each with a private bath, and four pavilions, which he filled with Capo di Monte porcelains, art reproductions, and whatever unusual nick-knacks he found in his wanderings. They had three children in rapid succession. Uncle Vinicio, Auntie Eunice and
Custodio, my father. They were educated in the best schools, and later on joined the business, increasing the family fortune.
I was born in 1938 in a golden crib. By then Grandpa Nicanor had a fleet of seven cars all in different colours,
one for each day of the week. Dressed in a white linen suit and a Panama hat, he used to walk around town, picking up stray, attractive young girls who he met on his way. He did this not because he didn’t love grandma, but for the sheer pleasure of spreading
the family wealth to every corner of town. The minute one announced they were pregnant; they were assigned a monthly allowance. This way he parented thirty-six bastard children, who years later were acknowledged before a Public Notary Officer, granting them
the same rights as his legitimate children.
In 1948, after the murder of the Great Leader, the political violence started. Criminals in battle uniform raided the town under the leadership of a young illiterate peasant, famous for placing
the bullet where he put his eye. Threatening letters were received at the mansion, demanding monthly payments in order to avoid more drastic steps such as kidnapping, or murder. For the first time, the Buenaventura family was forced to arm themselves and engage
an army of bodyguards for protection.
In the night of 15 March 1952, the inhabitants heard the hammering of machine-guns and heavy artillery on the outskirts of the town. The few, who dared look out the window, saw with terror the explosions
that lit the darkness with lightning bolts, and flashes. Then there was silence, and at dawn, amid the consternation and horror of the town's people and tourists, all the zoo animals were found dead.
This unjustified massacre marked the
beginning of the end of the Buenaventura family. Grandma Lucia thoroughly devastated by the tragedy, lost her zest for living and entered into a state of unconsciousness, dying on 21st March at 10:15 am, which was exactly the same day, and time,
she arrived in this world sixty-nine years before.
The entire family were present at that solemn moment when she expired, and closed her eyes forever in a state of sanctity. A bluish vapour emanated from her body, passing through
the windowpane and rising up through the clouds, disappearing in the distance, towards the sky.
“She was a real saint,” declared Auntie Eunice. “We will always remember her with love and veneration because she created
our family empire, which has now started to vanish”.
The entire town’s people attended Grandma Lucia’s funeral. Archbishop Gomez Perdomo came all the way from the capital city to celebrate mass, and then led the funeral
procession to the cemetery. The solemnity and elegance of the burial was remembered for many years, as were the speeches delivered by the Mayor, the political leaders, and the heartfelt eulogy of Mario Salazar, the town poet.
At the moment
of lowering the coffin one of the ropes snapped, and the coffin started to slide down until it noisily fell to the bottom of the grave. “Louts!” yelled Uncle Vinicio. How dare you! You have killed her!” Drawing out his revolver
he aimed at the assistants in charge of lowering the coffin. Luckily the Archbishop and the Mayor, prevented tragedy from marring the funeral of such a saint, holding my uncle, and taking him away to calm down from the fit of rage caused at the sight of seeing
his mother so ill-treated.
Two years later Grandpa Nicanor died. He died in his own manner and in a rented bed. In a hotel of ill repute, he suffered a sudden and devastating heart attack, lying on top of a scrawny fourteen-year-old girl
with legs akimbo like a little frog.
After grandpa’s funeral, time started running backwards in the town, returning gradually to the past. Santa Rosa entered an irreversible process of decadence, and little by little returned to
the way it had been at the beginning of the century, becoming an insignificant little dot on the maps of the country. A series of litigations and lawsuits amongst siblings, and half brothers and sisters, squandered the small remaining fortune and belongings
of the Buenaventura family. Our family, as well as the inhabitants, abandoned the town until it was reduced to minimum proportions.
* * * * *
Twenty-five years have passed since I went back to the town. As I approach it, I walk through what used to be the zoo. The forest of my childhood has disappeared becoming a desert. Only skeletons of trees, with twisted branches and dearth
of leaves, are shaken by the wind, while in the sandy soil, whitish bones have entered a state of fossilisation.
From a window of what used to be the Buenaventura family mansion I study the town. The wind, the sun, and the rain have discoloured
it, and the weeds and creepers have gradually covered it to such an extent that scatterbrained archaeologists have mistaken it for indigenous ruins, worthy of being rescued for posterity. Hot whirlwinds raise a reddish dust that covers everything. From
the hill I discern in the distance two centenarians, who with bowed heads and dragging feet, cross the park as if they are ghosts. They are the only inhabitants of the town. Their names are Second and Third.
Kariong, November 2004
Second prize, international competition organized by the group ""Palabras " of Sydney. March 21. 2009.
Since he started working for "Computers SA”, Avelino Madrigal was the perfect employee. He was the first
to arrive at work and the last to leave. Always efficient, never gave cause for complaint, never asked for a salary raise or, complained about working conditions, and more importantly, never became sick or took a day off. When he took annual leave it was because
the company forced him to, and even so he still visited his office three or four times a day. He worked with twenty-four other employees in the office, which was divided into individual cubicles. He was a very quiet and solitary man,
never had what one could call friends at work, and who barely said "good morning" or "good night", when arriving or leaving.
The pace of work in the office was frantic; phone calls, messengers bringing or carrying loads of documents,
computer technicians doing their best to avoid bringing the company to a standstill, and secretaries taking messages for everyone. Although they had two breaks a day for coffee and a cigarette, Avelino never participated in such times; therefore, none of the
employees knew that he was a good man, a practicing Catholic, who had an indifferent and unfaithful wife, plus two rebellious and immature teenagers, who despised him. Every day he took the bus in the morning at a quarter past six, in order to arrive early,
and did not care which bus he took at night, because he always returned home late from work.
Avelino thus, spent fifteen years of his life isolated from the world, entirely devoted to processing tons of information that came through the Internet
daily. He spent the time looking at his computer screen and typing on his processor. He thought it was his duty to do a perfect job, and his greatest satisfaction was to receive a pat on the back from the manager, and hear the usual "Good job Avelino, we do
not know what we would do without you!"
One Friday afternoon, the secretary of the department received a telephone call from the wife of Don Avelino, saying that she had just realized that he had not been home since Wednesday.
She had called his phone in the office, but he did not answer. She then requested the secretary to go to his cubicle and ask him to come home immediately, because they urgently needed money for shopping. Standing up and looking toward the cubicles,
the girl told her not to worry, he was at his post, and she was more than happy to pass the message on to him.
The girl, who was very attractive and sexy, crossed the corridor separating the cubicles with a catlike grace. With a seductive smile on her face she received a bath of compliments, and sexy suggestions from the employees, while
she slowly made her way to the office of Don Avelino, which was the farthest away. She walked in, and began to give him the message, but he did not reply to her, or move. She stepped closer and gave his shoulder a gentle shake, then looking
more closely, gave a scream of terror, which paralyzed "Computers S. A ".
Forensic doctors, who treated the case, diagnosed that Avelino Madrigal had died of a heart attack on Wednesday, at about nine o'clock in the morning.
The following Monday a new employee took possession of the office of Don Avelino, and the frantic routine of work continued. The world kept on spinning as usual, nobody remembered Avelino, and apparently no one missed him. It was like he had
Kariong. September 2008.