Literatura en México

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Cinco Décadas de Cuento Mexicano. Antología. Perea, Pitman, Taylor, Tedeschi, Valenzuela

Satan in Tlatelolco (English version)

Josefina Estrada

Josefina Estrada

“I didn’t give myself to him but to his master and lord ―Satan. I’ve borne his child. I’ve made love with the devil. With his spells and enchantments, his charms and his divinations, he awakened this desire like a bitch in heat before getting me pregnant, and for three months afterwards. I can’t wait any longer. Tomorrow the whole building, the whole world, will know who Daniel Katz is. Daniel Katz the Jew.”

Rosario uncovers herself slowly. She bites her lips to control the pain in her numb breasts. She walks in a stooped fashion, holding on to the railing of the crib. She straightens up abruptly when she feels the milk running down onto her legs and covers her mouth to hold back a curse. She falls limply on the edge of the bed; “Like a cow! Just like a cow! “ she sobs, biting at a lock of hair and moving her head up and down.

Daniel gets up, touches her on the shoulder, and asks her, “Do you feel bad? Is something hurting you? Do you want me to bring you some water? What’s the matter? Shall I call the doctor?” He sits beside her and tries to clean her face with the corner of the sheet.

She responds with muffled voice and clenched teeth, “Leave me alone. Don’t touch me. And be quiet; I don’t want you to wake up the baby. Are you really so concerned about where I hurt now? When were you ever? Isn’t this how you wanted to see me?” She pulls back her nightgown and shows him her breasts, sarcastically. “Look at how the milk is just dripping out. Now you can say you’ve really seen the promised land. Except I don’t have any honey.”

“Cover yourself up now, come on and lie down; you’ll hurt yourself.” He bends over to pick up her feet. 

For a moment she seems to go along, but then she hits him hard in the face with her knee. “Let go! Don’t touch me! Did you forget I’m unclean? Get away, go on, run, go in the bathroom and get washed off. Don’t offend your God tomorrow morning at the temple showing yourself filthy with afterbirth. It would have been better if I had listened to your stupid idea about sleeping in separate beds.”

“If I’m bothering you, I can go out in the living room.”

“But that’s just where I want to be! I can’t stand this heat. Can’t be on my feet, can’t sit down. I just want to drink something; I’m dying of thirst, I’d swallow …

But Daniel reaches the door with a leap. “Don’t move. I’ll be right back, I’ll bring you some water.”

Rosario calls him back with her hand and begs him to sit down beside her. He obeys, and for some minutes they remain quietly. He is looking at the light slipping in from the venetian blinds, which gives a gilded look to Rosario’s black hair. She can’t hold back the laughter that is overwhelming her; he laughs too, a bit nervously at first, and then with relief and delight because she almost never laughs.

Rosario asks him roguishly, “Are cows kosher? Yes? Truly? They’re kosher.” She takes Daniel’s hand and nibbles at one of his fingers. “You eat. Go on. Who’d have thought it ―I’m kosher. Finally I’m kosher.’

“I don’t understand.”

“I know that. You don’t need to tell me. You never understand anything: well, I’m the cow.”

She grabs him by the back of the neck and thrusts a breast into his mouth. Daniel is upset and shuts his lips tight; she musses his hair and lets her head fall back. At first he simply kisses her, but then he begins to suck forcefully. Rosario takes his hand and carries it to her other breast. When he has drunk from both, she pushes him away abruptly.

He tries to go on, but she takes him by the beard, damp with milk, and asks him indignantly: “Were you saying something before you swallowed? Were you able to say anything? Of course; how could you not? Tell me: according to the Talmud, what is the proper blessing to say before drinking your wife’s milk?” She gets up and starts toward the bathroom, buttoning herself up and saying, “Don’t forget to tell your rabbi that you aren’t as religious as everyone thinks. That you’re nothing more than a poor sucker who when his wife says frog, he hops.”

She fills the basin with warm water. She puts her breasts into it and begins to massage them with soap and a sponge, but neither her rage nor the effort she puts into it manages to dissipate Daniel’s caresses. She dries off and sits down on the sofa, lighting a cigarette.

“It’s just useless, that’s all. It seems like he has nothing better to do. He blesses everything And for no reason. He says his prayers before eating and after eating. He blesses the existence of aromas, landscapes, new clothes; he even blessed the mixer when he bought it. Daniel thanks the Creator for everything, I mean for everything! It’s too much. Unbelievable! He even does it before going shit, because his intestines are working! Oh, God! Who else would think of something that idiotic! My stomach aches just to think he can’t even take a shit in comfort. It’s as if I were watching him: he cleans his sacred anus with water and toilet paper for fear something’ll stick there and he’ll commit the sin of saying the Holy Name with a filthy ass. To wash his hands he uses a two-handled jar. He wets each hand three times, right one first. Then he goes into the bedroom, up to the closet door, where he reads his blessing in Hebrew. He never says a single word while he’s doing his business.”

Rosario cannot keep from smiling as she recalls that a week ago, the very day she came back from the hospital, Daniel gave her a rose colored dress of Chinese silk with lace on the breast and cuffs.

“What blessing do I have to say?” she asked cheerfully, sitting up in bed among the pillows. Her intention was to repeat anything he wished her to say. But she became upset when he asked her, “Really, does this dress please you?”

“Please me? I don’t know what you mean, ‘please’ me. But I like it. It must have cost you a fortune.”

“I want you to wear it on the Sabbath.”

“The hell with you!” she responded and threw it back in his face. “If that’s the condition, you can return it for me.”

Daniel spread it out on the bed and began to fold it up while Rosario went on: “Put it on yourself. You’ll look cute lighting the candles on Saturday. Don’t forget your grandmother’s pearl necklace and your mother’s mantilla.” Daniel put the bundle in the closet and went out.

She bites her nails, accepting the fact that they are too long to do any cooking with. Chewing on the fragments, she tries to work up a little saliva. Her look brightens when she decides that tomorrow she will put on the dress before Daniel returns from the synagogue. She has to cover her mouth to stifle the giggles as she envisions herself dressed as a Jewish religious wife: showing neither her knees nor her breasts nor her elbows. No lipstick either. Daniel will notice that detail just as soon as she opens the door because she usually paints her mouth purple on Saturdays just to get under his skin.

She goes over to the table and serves herself some kosher wine, the sacred wine for saying Kiddush. She drinks three glasses, one after the other. She sees the two candelabras and the tray with the remains of the three candles, one for each time Daniel failed to arrive in time to light them. In memory of that failing, for the rest of his life he will add them to the two original ones.

She picks up the bottle and returns to the sofa. From there she seems to see him, newly dressed and wearing his best suit, welcoming the Sabbath. He stands in front of the table: erect, smiling. Above the candles, palms extended, he draws three circles in the air, covers his face, and prays with his eyes closed: “Barukh ata Adonai, eloheinu melekh haolam, asher kideshanu bemisvotav vetsivanu lehadlik ner shel Shabbat.” He raises the glass of wine and prays the Kiddush. He goes to the bathroom to wash his hands, returns to the table, and raises the braided bread rolls while saying another prayer. He cuts the bread, the challah, and fills it with salt.

Rosario always tries to keep from being present during the ritual. Whenever she does get to witness it, he invites her to partake of the challah and tries to give her a kiss in order to wish her Shabbat Shalom.

“Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Shalom.” For a moment the image of Daniel presents itself, clear and sharp: he looks at the floor, hands interlaced, black suit, placid smile within the ginger-colored beard, spotlessly white shirt, black hat, and beneath this appears his kipa, also black. His slightly humped back looms beneath his three-quarter length coat. The fringes of his tsitsit are kept in his pants pockets. Rosario is standing in the same posture as Daniel, exactly as he wishes her the Sabbath peace. “What ‘peace,’ for God’s sake, what ‘peace’! It’s the devil’s own day. Only a deluded mind could imagine such a thing. It’s like going back to the cave days. And it seems as though I hear him: ‘The seventh day reminds us that God is our father, that time is life, and that His spirit is our companion.’”

She imagines she is holding Daniel by the lapels and talking to him so close that it looks like her face is reflected in his glasses.

“For once I’m going to tell you’re right!. I’m not going to go on letting you waste my time and use up my life. I won’t let you. Really. Or I’m going to stop calling myself Rosario Cruz, you can bet on that. I’ve had it up to here with your sanctimoniousness. You smell like a goat. Of all your stupidities, the one I can least excuse is that dumb little phrase Shabbat Shalom.”

She jiggles her hair back and stops, thinking she hears noises in the bedroom.

“That’s all I needed, that the kid should start crying just now.” She drinks from the bottle. She is quiet for some time. She lights another cigarette and goes on with her recollections of Daniel’s custom on Friday evenings. “He starts singing in his stupid language while he walks around the table with his hands out like a witch possessed, just as if there were someone else from his disgusting race present. He doesn’t ask me to accompany him anymore; that’s not important. So, it gets to be ten o’clock with him singing and dancing and jumping about. In the morning, when I tell him that the whole supper I fixed for him is perfectly kosher, he’ll get down on his knees and vomit up prayers because God gave him life in order to witness the miracle of my conversion. Yes, my conversion! And if that weren’t enough, I’m going to take everything off the walls, every one of these pictures. I’ll bet he’ll even start crying … Bah! No matter how much he whines, he’ll never come close to the little scene he made when I put up those saints on the walls.”

Rosario wants to concentrate on the preparations for the following day, but she can’t help contemplating the holy images that surround her, which bring to her mind that afternoon when she had gone to the market in the Guerrero district with the intention of purchasing every saint that crossed her path. She ended up without a penny, not even enough for bus fare. The strength to walk the whole distance to Tlatelolco came to her from imagining Daniel’s face when he returned from the kollel and saw the image of the Lord of the Olives illuminated on its stand, that piece of wooden furniture that she had had to carry crosswise, hanging from the cord that bit into her shoulder from the counterweight of all those candlesticks rolled up in a plastic bag. At every step the stand would bang into her seven-months belly.

“Oh, how I was laughing, I even peed on myself. I couldn’t wait to get here. Peeing was the best way to celebrate, of setting free the pleasure that was suffocating me.”

It took three hours for Rosario to reach the apartment building, fifteen minutes to climb the stairs to the eleventh floor. There was no electricity. She needed two more hours to pull herself together as her blood pressure got down. She spent almost an hour on her knees over the toilet bowl, vomiting. Six aspirins couldn’t get rid of her headache. By ten o’clock in the evening she finished hanging the thirty pictures on the walls and lighting the twelve candles. She sat down to wait for Daniel and awoke five hours later.

Rosario clutches her waist and arches herself backward in an attempt to make the pain in her shoulder and neck go away. She can’t help but see the white cockroach caught between the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the glass in front of it. The roach seems to have lost a valuable object that it is desperately seeking around the Heart, which pours out its red Blood eternally, so intensely red, the color of garnet, almost purple. The very color with which Rosario sees the world when she becomes enraged, as she did this morning upon reminding herself of that other morning, when she woke Daniel up by jumping on top of him, shaking him, and screaming.

“Why didn’t you wake me up? I was asleep in the armchair, didn’t you see me? What’s the matter, don’t I matter to you? I’m all twisted up because I was lying on the couch for I don’t know how long, and you just lie here with the blankets over your head as though nothing were wrong. And I can go straight to hell, right? Where the hell were you?”

She turned on the lights and forced him to get up to go out and look for a drugstore for the pills to get rid of the pain that had been pounding away beneath her ribs since the afternoon before. As Daniel was tying his shoelaces, Rosario saw a tear fall on the toe of his shoe. Daniel tried to wipe it off but she held his arm back, in the air. Daniel asked her for the name of the medication and murmured an apology. Rosario took him by the beard and looked at his reddened, squinting eyes. In a tone that she meant to be sweet she asked him, “Don’t tell me you’re crying because of this business of the saints on the walls?”

Daniel stood up and put on his coat. Rosario came close and embraced him around the waist.

“Aw! Don’t tell me it’s out of happiness. That must be it, happiness because your little wife believes in God and fears Him. At last He has granted you the joy of having a wife who’s religious ! “

Daniel started into the bathroom to pick up the empty pillbox. Rosario stood in his path and said pointedly, “But you don’t look as happy as you should be. Who can ever understand you?” she added in a nasty tone, upset at her sugary, high-pitched voice. “All your worries have been because I’m an atheist. So I show you I’m a believer, and … nothing pleases you.” She gave a step backward and said to him, almost in a scream, “I am a C-h-r-i-s-t-i-a-n. You hear? Well, you knew that before we got married, didn’t you? I knew you were a Jew, did I or didn’t I? So to each his own.”

Daniel withdrew his kipa from his coat pocket and started toward the door. Rosario grabbed the keys and said to him, through teeth that were tightly pressed together, “Now, you wait … Listen to me now … Answer me: no asshole is going to leave me when I haven’t finished talking yet.” Feet apart, hands on her waist, she went on, “Look here. Get it clear in your mind once and for all. In this world there are two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of the Devil. There isn’t any other. You should know that better than I do, shouldn’t you? What did you want? Go on, tell me. I don’t know how to believe in something that is really nothing, you know that.” And without turning around, she pointed at the wall behind her. “They taught me that this is God. Do you expect me to believe in something I can’t see, that no one has ever seen? Plain and simple, I was taught that Jesus Christ is God. And He is the Messiah. And you come on with all that stuff about how God has no form, how He’s intangible, and how the messianic era has not arrived yet. Don’t you yourself say we were made in God’s image? So then He must be a man, right? Any way, you can’t argue about that. If we believe what our parents told us … So that’s all there is to it. I am a Christian.”

“No. No, you are not,” Daniel answered in a low voice and turned around. As he was going out, she hauled him by the coattails and made him come in again. He leaned over the doorway.

“I’m not? Then what am I, tell me, what am I? According to you? Go on, what a you waiting for? Why can’t I suddenly turn into a Christian? You decided to get pharisaical overnight.” And lowering her voice, she added almost calmly, “Of course, for that I’ll have to get up early to go to seven o’clock mass. I’ll teach the children the catechism and organize bazaars for the poor. Before going to bed I’ll say the Our Father, and I won’t forget the Myself the Sinner, either. I’ll do all that and more, and you’ll see if I am or not.”

“All right. Of course you are Christian. A good Christian. I haven’t the least doubt.”

“Oh, now the gentleman is getting sarcastic. Did you say I’m not one because I make you go out at dawn? Now you’re crying, and how many times do you think I’ve done that? What do you know of the nights I’ve spent just worrying what you’re going to come up with the next day? You can’t throw it in my face that it’s all my fault we’re the way we are. You know well enough I’ve tried to do every one of the stupidities you’ve asked me to do. But that doesn’t please you. What happened the time I made you the shrimp soup? What did you come up with? I had understood that it was OK to eat fish, so I go and choose you the best, the biggest of all the shrimps I could, and you hit me with ‘Shrimp is not kosher.’ I didn’t throw that dish at you because, well, God is great. And whose fault is it? Whose? Tell me. For me, fish and seafood are the same. If you had said to me, ‘The Torah prohibits seafood and all that drags itself along or nourishes itself in offal, like all the fish that have no fins or scales,’ I would have known. I’m not stupid, but you never explain anything to me clearly. I don’t know what the hell good it does you to be all day with your nose poked in a book if you don’t know how to explain anything, if you want everything to be guessed at. And then what happened that Sabbath I made rice for you? Didn’t you burst out with that blockheaded idea that ashkenazis don’t eat rice on Saturdays? To say nothing about the times you wouldn’t eat what I put on the table for you because I mixed the meat with some milk derivatives.” Now her tone is like that of the pupil asked to repeat the lesson for the nth time. “Although, of course, it is permitted to serve milk first, but not the other way around or else you have to wait for six hours to be able to eat milk products. When I finally learned not to mix meat with milk, you hit me with the idea that you can’t mix chicken with milk either. What you’re trying to do is to drive me crazy. And the Bible says it, very clearly, ‘You must not cook the meat of a kid in its mother’s milk.’ But as far as I know, chickens don’t suckle, or do they? I tell you, I don’t know. Maybe during Biblical times there were chicken mammals.”

“No, the Torah does not say that; our wise men did. They prohibited to mix chicken because it has a taste like meat, or maybe because it actually is a kind of meat. You know, to keep us from getting accustomed to it.”

“So between what the Bible says and the marijuana dreams of those rabbis, it turns out you can’t eat anything.”

“Not marijuana dreams: minhaqim, customs.”

“It’s all the same. OK, and what about the telephone? Did God order it to be disconnected on the Sabbath? It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Absolutely absurd. Going back to the cavemen, I would say. And what happened the time I came home so happy because I’d given some money to an Indian family. You know it puts me off that they go around with their children begging instead of finding a real job. But you wore yourself out telling me that it was a big mitzvah to give alms. So I gave them all I had. I was so happy when I remarked to you that, really, good things are born in the heart when you give alms and I was even about to tell you how grateful I was to you, but then you told me ―do you remember what you said to me? ‘It’s better to give charity than to give alms. Alms can only be fulfilled with money, and only the living require that. Charity can be given with a glance or a word, and even the dead can receive it.’ Since then, nothing; no money, no nothing. So what do you think?”

“What I meant to say is that according to the Talmud...”

“I don’t give a damn what the Talmud says! I’m up to here with your famous Talmud! For a year now, since all this began, according to you there is nothing the Talmud doesn’t say. The Talmud this, the Talmud that … Don’t tell me what’s written in the Talmud! You spent all your time talking to me about the Gemara or the Mishna … I married a man, not a rabbi!”

“But rabbis are men.”

“Don’t try to change the subject, you know what I’m talking about. You never speak for yourself. When will you ever understand that those famous phrases of yours don’t interest me, and anyway I know them all by heart. You only open your mouth to repeat the inanities they tell you in the kollel, in that little school for medievals, that gang of black hats of yours, your friends who always go around in black. It’s not for nothing they’re called Ravens. So what have you got to say, huh? What can I expect you to say? Well, if you’re not going to say anything, at least open up your big eyes and look what you have turned our life into. You’ve made our marriage into a pile of shit, but you’re not going to smear me with it. I swear, you’re not going to. I swear by this.” And three times she made the sign of the cross and kissed it. Daniel lowered his gaze. They were quiet.

The man raised his head several times, hoping to find Rosario calmed down a little, but every time he did so, she swore again, in a low voice, raising her fingers to her mouth, saying, “By this I swear, you bastard, you’re not going to smear any shit on me, I swear by this.”

In the middle of the room, Rosario bites her thumb, the cross. She casts a glance where she thinks Daniel’s face ought to be and flexes a leg, calculating that the blow from her knee should drive right into his sharp nose. She breathes with difficulty, hypnotized by the imagined blood. If she didn’t have to decide before daybreak whether the meat should be boiled or roasted, she would go into the bedroom to force him to confess why he has imprisoned that spirit against the glass, that soul which necessarily has to be good because it is white. Almost immediately she realizes it wouldn’t do any good, for he would just lower his head and reel off some phrase from the “Treatise on Principles,” especially the one he has so often given her in the way of an excuse: “Avoid stupid conversations with women, with yours, and most especially with your neighbor’s.”

She is unaware at what moment she began to cry. It happens to her whenever the oppression in her chest overwhelms her, like a beast frozen by its confinement, unable to recognize its surroundings. Like the wild beast, she weeps for her lost freedom. She weeps for those Saturdays when they would go to the supermarket in the morning. In the afternoon they would get together with their friends to watch a soccer game. For those Fridays when they used to go to the movies or to a party or simply go out to get some ice cream.

“Before it occurred to him to introduce the Sabbath, this wicked weekly ritual.”

Rosario is complaining because Daniel has never caressed her nor run his fingers over her as amorously as he has the pages of the Torah. Nor has he ever kissed her as tenderly as he always kisses the binding on the Scriptures when he is finished studying them. Nor has he ever hurried as quickly to help her up as he does when one of his sacred books manages to fall and he runs to clean it off and smother it with kisses. Not even in the best times of their marriage has he paid her as much attention in his conversations as he does the lengthy disquisitions developed by the rabbis in the Mishna. He has never thanked her as much for the care she lavishes on him as he does every moment with the Creator.

“He tricked me! He made me think he was a man who was no different from any others. But it was all a farce, just to get me over to his god.”

Her weeping returns, allowing her tears to flow down her face and neck to mix with her milk and sweat. She feels her tongue scalded by thirst. That sensation reminds her: “It is necessary to salt meat in order to remove its impurities. To make it kosher.” She smiles with the smile of one who is crying in an attempt to disguise the shame of her tears.

“He can’t complain that I haven’t learned the secrets of Jewish cooking just from watching him.”

She recalls once when Daniel beheaded a hen, the time they rented a cabin. He let the blood drip into the kitchen sink. From behind him she saw how the feet and wings were still moving even though not a drop of blood remained in them. Daniel caressed the hen’s chest and back while he murmured his prayers. Rosario thinks it was still palpitating, its flesh still warm, when he cut it into eight pieces. He placed them on a tray and covered them with salt in order to draw out any blood that might remain there.

“He’s just a big hypocrite. As if I didn’t know how enthralled he is by blood. But now he’s going to find out I’m not the imbecile he thinks I am. He doesn’t know I’ve discovered where he came from. Daniel Katz belongs to the tribe of Dan, one of the ten lost tribes. The others that belong to that rotten race asked him to get married to me, to a Christian. From the old days it is written: ‘A descendant of the tribe of Dan will be the father of the firstborn son who is to redeem us.’ But they’re mistaken. I won’t allow my son to get their revenge for them. We can’t escape. Before we’d get across the threshold, they would grab him from me. Their allies are out there somewhere, everywhere. I have to get ahead of them. I’m useless for them now. Ever since the baby was born, I’ve been expendable.”

Rosario goes to the kitchen and covers the sink with aluminum foil. From the cupboard she gets out a tray, some kitchen salt, a bottle of oil, and a brush. She checks the butcher knife for sharpness. She opens the refrigerator and verifies that all the necessary vegetables are there.

She returns to the bedroom and lies down. Rosario fixes her gaze on the clock. An hour later, Daniel dresses stealthily. She pretends to be asleep, her face covered by the sheet. Daniel leaves the house keys on the dresser. “Nothing can be carried on the Sabbath that is not what one wears,” Rosario thinks. He kisses the baby and goes out. The woman listens for the sound of the front door shutting and uncovers herself.

“That’s what I said. I’m no use to him any longer. He used to kiss me when he left. This is the first day since I came home from the hospital that he’s gone to the synagogue and not even … Well, what do I care anyway! “

She takes the baby from the crib and lays him on the bed. The baby half opens his eyes, smiles at her, and goes back to sleep. With great care she undresses him. Instinctively he stretches when he feels himself freed of the clothing, and then immediately curls up again. His feet take on a purplish tint. Rosario covers him with the towel and goes back to the kitchen. She pours oil into the bottom of the tray and leaves it on the burners of the stove. She places the tiny body on the counter, taking care to have the head near the sink. The baby begins to cry and move his hands and feet all at once. Rosario stands back. She never thought it was possible for him to have so much energy. She holds back, looking at him for a moment, and for a moment she hopes he will fall. She holds him down firmly with one hand on his abdomen while with the other hand she tries to take the butcher knife out of its sheath. The child stops crying when he catches Rosario’s thumb. She remains motionless with the sheath still in her mouth. She lets it fall when it seems to her that the child refuses to shut his eyes in spite of the light hurting them. She throws a dishcloth over his face, and as she begins to put on the pressure, the metal door to the washing yard opens, and Daniel is there, a half step away, smiling.

“Shabbat Shalom, “ he greets her, and the next moment he takes her firmly by the wrist and draws her away. He removes his coat and wraps the baby in it. 

She withdraws to a corner of the kitchen. With the butcher knife starts to throw down everything around. “I knew it. Your friends can do anything they want. They told you what I was about to do. No, it’s not necessary for anyone else to tell you anything. You read my dreams. You knew I wanted to make you eat your runt and have everyone believe you cooked him. You, who prefer veal because it’s closest to a baby’s flesh. For thousands of years your clan has sacrificed the newly born in order to cook them on the Sabbath, that cursed day when you let your instincts run free, give yourself to the pleasures of the flesh. I know it, the entire world knows it. No one would investigate who really cooked it. No one takes any interest in defending a Jew. But you and your accomplices didn’t want him simply for eating. No way to waste him so vulgarly! No, you wanted his blood. To drink a little blood from the son of a Christian and a Jew in order to go through with your Satanic rites. To provoke the arrival of the Antichrist and be able to establish a reign that would be indestructible, according to you. I know you’re going to poison the water supply to kill all of Tlatelolco and then the whole city. When your runt reaches the age of thirteen, you will crown him king. Isn’t that right, my beloved Daniel? But, as you can see, I can’t just go around out there saying all this. I had to have proof. I had to make them believe you had dined on your son. But I forgot the most important thing ―that the powers your master endowed you with are infinite and that you are able to read my mind.”

“You always speak at the top of your voice,” Daniel responds serenely. “Haven’t I told you that? Didn’t I have to call you down in class because you could never stop talking?”

“That’s not right; that’s what you want to make me believe. You always wanted to give me thoughts I never had. You always got around me somehow. Your words confused me. At the university I never did anything else but study your subject. So when you spoke to me, I couldn’t see or hear anything that was not you any longer … I don’t know what good all that is now … I only want to tell you that back then I thought I was happy. That you were a great man. Almost a god... I don’t know why I’m telling you this right now, it’s certainly going to make you laugh. You’ve always laughed at me. You only wanted to use my body, my … You’re the living picture of the devil. You’re his most faithful servant. But no matter how well Satan protects you, you won’t be able to get away from me.”

The woman grasps the butcher knife and starts to rush toward them, but she steps on a casserole dish. She kicks against the refrigerator in trying to free herself, knocking over the tray full of oil. The counter comes down on top of her, and the containers of flour, ground bread, sugar, and coffee burst open as they hit the floor. From the floor she sees Daniel with the phone off the hook.

She screams, “No, wait! What are you doing? Don’t profane the Sabbath! Don’t touch the telephone! Who are you calling? You should never use the phone on this holy day, you know that. Don’t commit a sin because of me.”

Slowly the man begins to dial. He sees Rosario lurch to her feet. As he turns his back and waits, Daniel Katz hears a curse followed by the sound of her sliding and skidding. After, there is a long, intense, agonized scream, ending in a final groan. When someone finally answers at the other end of the line, Daniel hangs up.*

Translated by Leland H. Chambers

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"Panegírico", short story from the book Narrativa hispanoamericana, 1816-1981, by Ángel Flores (Google Books)

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Fuente: * From the book Malagatos. México, Plaza y Valdés, 1990. Colección Platino.



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