Literatura en México

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

The Daughter of the Rainman (English version)


Celso Santajuliana
Foto: Antonia Kerrigan Literary Agency

Celso Santajuliana

She had big, deer-like eyes, and since we were kids we passed along her house twice or thrice in the afternoon to see her at the high balcony, behind an iron fence, on a rocking chair with her grandmother and her mother first, then with her mother, and alone at the end. Always watching toward the Sea Gate, always with eyes wide open, as if waiting for the pirates.

Who knows what was the cause of such a commotion, why we maraud like dogs in heat to see her there, carrying a lemonade with her long, yellow dresses, chasing mosquitoes away with her childlike gestures. You¿re in love with her, said Eutimio, who was new at the school and new too in the afternoon forays around the Fort, that by then was dirty and grass-less, not as it is now, and the old men gave us a cigarette for each one so we would go away, to pass along the house of the daughter of the rainman first and then go to the sea that started around there as the coast road didn¿t exist.

It was Eutimio the first to talk to her, Come with us, Where to, To the see, What for, Nothing, just to watch it, I see it from here. And then her grandmother scolded her for talking to strangers, and chased us away with nasty words while the daughter of the rainman secretly waved us good bye, and we ran to play to the Sea Gate, sure that she was still looking at us while she asked her grandmother why we were all dressed in the same way, and then inquired what was that school thing, to ask later between sobs to be registered at school, You have no reason to go to school, the grand mother answered her, miles away you can see you will be a little hooker just like your mother and that you don¿t have to learn it, you are born with it.

She had the hours measured by the straw jars her mother could knit, or by the grandmother¿s gases that awakened her to discover her daughter in law and her granddaughter in accomplice sights, then the old woman cursed between dreams but words could not leave her mouth, and she chewed the air again the way cows do.

Before five o¿clock the grandmother waked up, her eyes chasing the sun and she made a sign with the fingers, a spearing movement awaited by the daughter in law to stop her labors, shake her skirt, kiss her baby girl and tie her hair in front of the mirror. The daughter of the rainman leaned out the balcony, the cheeks grasped by the iron gate, following her mother¿s pleasure to go far away.

Come with us, Eutimio insisted, Where to, To the Fort, what for, To play to the pirates. Then the shadow of the old big figure covered her by the back and we ran away without good-byes, down the streets, to where the mirror of the sea gets old and wrinkled with the first breezes that are always late. It¿s a bored sea, said Eutimio, who knew other seas, and we started to search hedgehogs between the rocks until someone mentioned the daughter of the rainman again, and we went back to her house to find the balconies with the doors locked. Then we would stay trying to hear something, a scolding from the grandmother, the sobbing of a reprimanded girl, or the mother announcing with a happy voice that dinner is ready, or the tedious gallop of a horse that comes back home with a lightened wagon. The rainman! someone shouted and we ran towards the Earth gate, scattered like fish that see some danger.

She had long fingers for pointing out the seagulls, and an asexual body except for breasts that were beginning to get swollen under the mourning dress, with which she was dying of heat before twelve, walking slowly behind the wagon of the rainman that instead of the immense orange barrel was carrying a sapodilla tree box, a coffin with no adornments that bound the grandmother¿s corpse. The procession was small, but nor the silence, neither the heat. Instead of going swimming, as every Saturday, we were there, barely some steps behind the daughter of the rainman; she turned every once in a while smiling under the complacency of her mother. It was during the ritual before the burial that Eutimio called her, You can choose one of us, he told her, Whoever you want, Choose him for what, So he will be your boyfriend. The daughter of the rainman cast us a quick glance and picked Alfredo, who blushed deeply, even more when she climbed to a tomb to reach to kiss him on the cheek.

Since then there were few evenings when we found mother and daughter seated by the rocking chairs. After the old lady died, the daughter in law wasn¿t often at home, she didn¿t wait till five to go out, she barely rested a little after lunch and went to the street, then we would stay close to the balcony, talking about anything until the day the daughter of the rainman asked Alfredo to get inside, the rest of us stayed by the gate, trying to hear something, impatient while the night came to us loaded with ghosts, but no one moved until we saw far away the rainman, coming down by the Earth Gate, punishing the horse so he wouldn¿t bolt, we then started to shout until Alfredo got out.

What did you do, Eutimio asked, Nothing, that was the only thing Alfredo would say, according to his timid moderation. 

Some days later Alfredo started to talk about the collectors, some enormous plate funnels that ended up in big hoses, he also told us that in one yard there were some buried tanks where they kept the rain water, so they would take it up to the cisterns with pedal bombs. There were also barrels where they kept the strangest rains, and in the house, by the corridor, there were kegs with five-year and leap year waters. That was all Alfredo said, and about the kisses we knew because the daughter of the rainman told Eutimio and to half-clear his doubts, she told him about the water uses; the water kept during the early mornings is used to fix skin problems, the one kept when the sun is already visible is useful for viscera problems, the one of the afternoon for the lungs and the one of four consecutive nights for bad loves damages. She told him too that Alfredo kissed her shaking and without opening the lips. The season water women use it to wash their hair, the one from May for what is urgent, the one from September to bless it and the one from the north to wash the death. Then Eutimio told her I do know how to kiss, and she replied, I already have a boyfriend.

She had albino-like skin for she never took sun, and over the very white shoulders stood out some even more white prickles. She looks like a salamander, Eutimio said trying to make her look uglier, because he was jealous, but the daughter of the rainman was beautiful or at least it seemed to us.

One afternoon we convinced her to go out, And if they discover me? Your mom never arrives before seven, And if we find her at the street? Let¿s go to the Fort, no one ever goes there. We went there and what a surprise we had that the old men were not offering cigarettes to stop us, and as we climbed the stones of the wall we heard some little noises, some moans of pain and euphoria silenced when they rebounded to the stones. All the old men were naked, waiting for their turn to throw themselves over the woman of the rainman.

She¿s a hooker, the old men said, A what? We gave her money and she let us fuck her.

The following day we all cooperated so Alfredo would go visit the daughter of the rainman with some coins, who, as he said, welcomed him all naked, he gave her the coins and allowed his instincts to do the rest, but there were no little screams or moans, just an Ouch, it hurt, followed by a small bleeding enough to fill Alfredo¿s night with nightmares. We should call the old men so they teach us, Eutimio suggested, and he asked his brother, under the condition to allow us to be there.

That brilliant idea was quite useless, there were in fact moans and little screams, but the daughter of the rainman never wanted to see us again, she became very popular among high school students and she never had the time again to talk about the sea or the pirates.

The water from the full moon days is useful to try to get pregnant, she told Eutimio two years later, when he finally convinced her to welcome him, The water of the new moon days to prevent the pregnancy and the one of the last quarter days to fix it. Eutimio was the only one of the group who actually could have her, by the days when the woman of the rainman was recently gone, they say she got a trip with some Americans, but no one never really knew, and the daughter of the rainman said nothing about it, she naturally took the obligation of look after her father, after their home. You¿re just like your mother, the rainman told her one night, while they had dinner, One gives you worthless money and you make miracles.

She had humid dreams, female fish-like, and sad words for she lived surrounded by water.

Régina, Saskátchewan, fall 1995

Translated by Gabriela Valenzuela Navarrete



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