Liliana HekerArgentinaWriting1997
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Una Vez de la Vida

Beginning of a short story written at Civitella


  For the last six years, the man who sleeps in this house in Adrogue, has found three comforts in life. His Renault 4 is one of them, every evening, on his way back to his apartment, when horns, roaring engines, and the wrath of the drivers will drown any other sound. That’s when the man rolls up his window and screams. His second comfort is less factual. It consists in imagining the pear method of torture. He can’t remember in what book he read it, maybe in “Le Bossu” or in “The Count of Monte Cristo”. It involves stuffing a pear, broad end first, into the victim’s mouth. Each time his wife Olivia starts talking, possibly about his refusal to attend a parents’ meeting at his daughter’s preschool, or possibly about his delay in painting the kitchen ceiling, or his habit of lying down to listen to music instead of doing something useful, he will imagine himself stuffing the pear into her mouth, and this calms him down. On occasion, he also thinks of killing her.


Right now, he’s dreaming about her. He dreams about arriving with the girl at the house in Adrogue, at nine o’clock in the morning, on schedule, as befits someone who is obsessively punctual. And although the prior evening he had resolved that this time he would bring himself to tell her about getting separated, he is speechless, frozen in his fright. He fears, in his dream, that Olivia might stage a scene like the one she staged a week earlier, after dinner (as a precaution, he had waited until the girl was sound asleep), when he told her: “The Basque is going to Europe and he’s leaving me his house for six months." The success of a separation (such were his thoughts since the Basque had given him the good news) depends in large measure on taking care of the money issue. The lack of cash to take on two homes and the search for a place where he could bear to live, endured under the gaze of a woman he hated, could be so painful that a man might perhaps end up staying with the woman he hates, as long as he doesn’t have to face them. He had felt so fortunate about the way in which that problem had been resolved (he would have a home and time - six months is a long time to bring a final resolution to his separation) that he even found himself telling Olivia: "The Basque is going away and he's leaving me the house for six months". He did not stop to consider the fact that his happiness was somewhat premature.


Olivia folded her arms over her chest and leaned back on the chair, one eye closed, her head tilted back as someone who is looking for a good position to stare at some oddity. She held that pose for a few seconds and finally said: “You mean, he is leaving us the house.”

 

 

Translated from the Spanish by Eduardo Aparico