Translated from the Spanish by Stacey Parker Aronson
He sets off at five o’clock on Saturday afternoon to look for meat, not where his mother usually shops, at the butcher shop where Chivo’s wife works, but at Benita’s, Antonio’s wife, with her gentle, lamblike face, it’s that the woman has the look of someone who didn’t get a good night’s sleep and peers at you through half-shut eyes, because she only wants to look at the edge of the world and nothing more.
That way he saves twenty cents, and with the change he buys himself chocolates from Chucho’s store.
And he follows the street toward the neighborhood surrounding the town square, he imagines that by the time he gets there, she’ll have the meat ready, she’ll have already slaughtered the cow, opened it up, cut the intestines, and all the scraps that he saw once with his mother, they knew each other, Benita was a friend who visited his mother’s house frequently.
And how often he used to see her, that woman with rough copper-colored skin, like the skin of cows.
And very happy, on Saturday afternoon he arrives where he should arrive to ask for the pound of meat for dinner, but the lady wasn’t there, her husband explained that she was late in returning from Riopamba because she was looking to find the perfect head, and that “she had just taken the cow to the slaughterhouse,” where she was going to cut the stomach, and the scraps that he could see up close, and with what an anguish his mother would be waiting, and with her the rest of the family, to prepare the dinner, and, without the meat he should have brought, they would eat the little meal: rice with beans and peanut sauce.
And Benita didn’t finish until 7:00 at night, and she said:
“Now, then, my little Gustavo, I am going to give you an extra portion for free. You see?”
And she gave him the coveted and hoped for pound of meat, he paid her just what he had in his pocket 4.80. His mother had given him just what he needed, 5 sucres.
No one at home knew why this child had been held up until nine o’clock, when everyone else had gone to bed early in order to attend the four o’clock morning mass.
She said to her husband:
“He’s home. And what are you going to do?”
“Leave the little shit alone. To hell with him. Let him go to bed hungry. But go, go see what his excuse is this time.”
His mother went to Gustavo’s room. Gustavo looked at her with frightened eyes, waiting to get chewed out, get a punishment like that he couldn’t go with them to Grandma’s at three on Sunday, like they always did: for the pork fries and Grandpa’s pineapple juice.
He felt as though he had done wrong, but not because it was his fault but because it was Benita’s and the cow’s, it’s just that:
“Mother, look, Chivo’s wife didn’t have any, so I went to the square, to your friend.”
And he continued explaining and dissuading her from whatever punishment she had in mind, and convincing her that the wait was worth it and it wasn’t completely his fault and her friend—he told her—was quite happy to know that Gustavo’s mother, her friend and namesake, also named Benita, had sent her own son to shop for a fresh quality pound of meat.
And his mother, returned to her husband, but not before stroking Gustavo’s hair, to get him to go to bed:
“We’ve got to go to mass tomorrow morning at 4 o’clock. Go and eat the little plate of food I saved for you.”
Posted: September 11, 2012 at 2:57 am