Had it been another day, at seven o’clock Nofrito would have climbed up the tall, lovely Araucaria tree in the backyard. He would have waited among the branches and leaves, with expectation, with impatience—for the rumble of his father’s motorcycle. At any moment his father would have come into view from around the corner, all his body strong, formed so naturally around the frame of the motorcycle that you would have thought they were one thing.

Concha would have been in the kitchen, her arms sticky with sweat and steam, her nose taking in the smell of the food before her as it cooked.

But it did not happen like that. Instead, at seven o’clock everybody sat inside, waiting—Tía Pati, too—in the front room, on couch and chairs, shoes tapping against the cement floor. Worry lingered in that room like a stench, and fear became like a screeching noise. Even Anita—who had by now woken up from her sleep—seemed to understand the gravity of things. She made no fuss; she was no burden to anyone. She sat next to her mother in the chair, hardly making a sound, only humming to herself in her way, though lowly, making a world come to life with her hands and fingers. By now, the truth had settled in to Nelson, who sat stiffly, vacantly, pale. He leaned his head against the couch cushion, eyes staring at the ceiling. Tía Pati, between Nelson and Nofrito, leaned forward, picking up her glass of beer, then back again to take a drink; as she rocked back and forth, Nofrito watched her face, trying to look without being noticed—for there was no part in him whose fascination with that purple splotch had diminished. His repulsion for her, and his love—these came in equal doses. One followed the other around in circles.

The motorcycle was heard, its rumble entering all their ears. The key turned off the engine, and soon the footsteps of Sr. Moreno could be heard. Nofrito was saved now, he was safe—thanks to his tía—but he nonetheless felt himself tremble when outside he heard his father let out a cough, clearing his throat. Tía Pati set down her empty glass of beer. She leaned back, watching for the doorknob to turn.

Hurriedly, Concha ordered Anita and the boys to follow her into the boys’ bedroom, upstairs. Come with me, come right now, she said. She escorted them up the stairs. Wait here until you are called, she said, leaving them inside, closing the door behind her, as though that were that. Sitting on his bed, Nofrito heard her footsteps move away, her feet sliding away along the dust of the cement floor.

Two minutes had not passed before the brothers, ignoring their sister, leaving her behind, humming to herself, were out the window and halfway down the house. Brick by brick they followed their usual pattern down, until they landed on the high glass-covered wall. They made their way over the shards, managing the short distance until they arrived over the patch of grass—where they could jump down safely. The ducks in the yard next door made some low noises, and some loud noises, but nobody noticed—since it was long before anybody would have gone to sleep.

Together the boys landed safely on the ground, as usual. Nofrito, drawn naturally to watch what forbidden event his mother would not let him see, walked quietly, secretly, slowly, to the front window of the house. He crouched, not to be seen, now listening, now watching. Nelson, however—also quietly, but quickly, and perhaps wisely—ran away, probably to hide among the trees of El Callejón, or maybe to see his lady over on La Diez y Ocho. He went without a word, not looking back, safe now at least for a few hours more.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Full Text


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