1 cloudy-eyed black spaniel
1 bowlegged white cat, orange ears
1 black and white kitten, rowdy
Uncounted: neons and guppies in the fishtank
In the old times, in the islands, we did it this way.
In the entrance way, before the main door of the house, an alcove holds an earthenware porron, a flat jar with a neck on one side and a spout on the other. Evaporation cools the water, ready for any guests who come out of the intense sun to the shaded doorway. Sometimes the alcove also holds a destiladora above a pitcher. The destiladora is a plant in a hanging basket. Its dense mat of roots filters the water that is poured over it. The water is most likely rainwater caught in a cistern. We pour the water that drips into the pitcher into the porron.
But perhaps I remember all of this wrong, or it happened to someone else, or in a story, or never.
In the old times, on a washstand in the patio: a pitcher and a bowl and a towel.
Pour the water from the pitcher into the bowl. Gather the water in the smaller bowl of your two hands held together and lift it to your face. Blow into the water as it rises to meet your face. Feel your breath splashing the water outwards as you mold it to your face. Apply soap. Scrub. Again, lift the water and blow it outwards. Find the towel. Dry your face.
This is how my father taught me, but perhaps it was someone else’s father who taught him, or I heard about this in a story, or invented it to fill an idle moment.
Because our town was too small to have a baker, we built an oven in the orchard wall and baked our own bread.
The Fascist dictator who governed this country for forty years had the best interests of the country at heart. The history book my niece is studying for her university qualifying exams says so. And if your family history and your own sense of historical bullshit says it was otherwise, that a Fascist dictator has never had the best interests of any country at heart? That’s fine, it’s a free country—but unless you want to flunk the course, keep your version of history to yourself. Was there ever a country whose official history was something other than a fiction crafted to conceal the true nature of its ruling class?
To get into the bank, you pass through an electronic portal, one person at a time. Each individual moves through a cylindrical space with transparent sliding doors fore and aft, just large enough to hold one body. The outer door slides open and you step in. The outer door sighs shut. Perhaps a disembodied voice tells you to deposit metallic objects in the small lockers in the entrance of the bank. Then the inner door slides open and you step through into the bank.
You find there are various queues in the bank: one that ends at a row of ATM machines, another that arrives at human tellers seated behind a counter, and another for people who need to meet with bank officers seated behind desks. “Who’s the last person?” people ask as they come in and find the queue they want.
The bank is busy. It’s the end of the month: there are paychecks to cash and bills to pay. The lines move slowly. People wait patiently, but there is a buzz of commiseration and outrage. These are hard times. Bankers are bankers first and human beings second, people say. There’s talk of the recent cases of fraud on the northwest coast, of hustlers who persuaded pensioners to invest their life savings in bogus real estate schemes. The law is pursuing the crooks—yes, but how different are those crooks from the ones who created the current crisis in the first place, with fast-money schemes and insider investements? Some the law pursues, others it protects: where’s the justice in that?
To get out of the bank, you pass through an electronic portal, one person at a time. Each individual enters a cylindrical space with transparent, bullet-proof sliding doors fore and aft, just large enough to hold one body. The inner door opens and you step through. The inner door closes. Then the outer door opens and you step out into the world.
El Albero, El Romo, Vallecarril, Pelacogotes: every corner of land around this farming town has its particular name. Sometimes the name marks off ownership, sometimes a natural landmark, sometimes an experience: Pelacogotes is the place where the wind strips the hair off the back of your head. Who remembers the names? The last generation to work the land remembers them. Their children remember them, too, from the stories their parents tell about growing up in the time before most everyone here moved to the cities to find work. Who remembers the precise locations each name records? The sons and daughters can no longer find the exact places, even if they remember the names.
On the television, the young woman who is the protagonist of a weekly drama has a special gift. She can talk with ghosts. Ghosts are the spirits of the dead. What a gift it would be to talk with the spirits of the living!
Sitting on a stone by the river where it runs through the town, I might have been drunk. People passing by would ask me, “Juan Teodosio, why are you sitting here?” and I would answer, “Look here, I’m sitting and waiting for my house to come by. All these houses are passing by me, one after another, and so far, not one of them is mine.”
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