En Español: Get in the trunk

Illustration by Austin Smoldt-Saenz

Pueblo chico

El piloto había parado sin entusiasmo al verme hacerle señas desde un lugar de la carretera donde solo podría encontrarse un fugitivo o un fantasma. Kilómetros de desierto alrededor.

Su trajinado Ford llevaba los muelles traseros elevados para que los vigilantes no detectaran la sobrecarga, y esa mañana candente la sobrecarga tocaba ser yo. Tras devorar una hogaza de pan, dar dos tragos de agua y negociar mi salvación, me vi instalado en la maletera. Un feto añejo y cuarteado por el sol.

Mi destino era el de todos los que ya no cabíamos en ese pueblo del carajo llamado Coronel Azcurra. Papeles falsos que nos hizo el Chino Guzmán. Vender lo vendible y zarpar como se pudiera.

Hubo quien prefirió quedarse y aguantarla. Adaptarse, decían, a los nuevos tiempos. Eso no es pa mí. Yo me escurrí y no me lo impidió el dejar a Angelita con los dos mostritos. Ya algún día nos reencontraremos y si quieren, me perdonarán.

Ese auto seguro había contrabandeado gasolina antes de gente. La maletera tenía un olor intenso. No me molestó, es un rico olor. Me adormecí durante las horas que nos tomó llegar a Santa Isabel, donde al emerger de nuevo al mundo como animal de madriguera, vi que merodeaba gente venida de todos lados. Me había puesto los billetes en una cartuchera dentro del calzoncillo. De ahí saqué uno y caminé al puesto de una vendedora de papas rellenas. Su acento era del norte, le pregunté que si había pasado mucha gente de Azcurra. Ella negó con la cabeza. Me zampé la comida con ansiedad.

En el centro de un terreno cuadrado, entre plaza y estacionamiento, un hombre mal disfrazado de militar y que más parecía un borracho amargo, gritaba por un megáfono. El aparato, no sé si por barato o por viejo, distorsionaba su voz y daba a sus arengas un aire penoso. Logré entender que era constitucionalista, desplazado y furioso.

Algo en él me hizo recordar a mi padre, quizás sus ojos ardientes o simplemente su barba blanca. Me le acerqué. Lo llamé papá, que era como uno se dirigía a otro hombre en esa parte del país. Paró su perorata y me miró sorprendido. Le ofrecí una cerveza. En seguida comenzó a caminar y lo seguí. Nos sentamos en un restaurante abarrotado que ofrecía menús con entrada, segundo, postre y refresco. Le dije a la mesera que solo queríamos una chela grande y helada. El hombre agregó que también quería yucas fritas. Ya les traigo, dijo la mujer y desapareció esquivando las espaldas de dos comensales corpulentos.

Señor, le dije, soy músico, comulgo con sus ideales y aprecio su valor. No pretendo quedarme acá. Sucede que acá me dejaron. ¿Existe una manera de?, ¿cómo decirlo?, ¿pasar al otro lado?

El viejo se rio sin verme, sus manos, posadas sobre la mesa, empezaron a emular a las de un pianista. ¿Qué tocas?, preguntó.

Toco el violín, respondí, y sé algo de composición. Era maestro, antes de todo.

Yo he escrito un himno, me dijo él, pero necesita música. Si tú se la pones y queda bonito yo te hago llegar allá.

Small Town

Translated by Allana C. Noyes

The driver reluctantly slowed when he saw me standing there, sticking my thumb out on the strip of highway that’s only ever inhabited by ghosts or fugitives, nothing but kilometers of desert spreading out in all directions.

His weathered Ford was lifted in back so he wouldn’t get pulled over for hauling overweight loads, and on this particular white-hot morning, I was destined to be the extra load. After scarfing down a loaf of bread, taking two long gulps of water and negotiating my salvation with the driver, I found myself nestled in the trunk, curled-up like a fetus, aged and cracked by the sun.

My fate was no different than anyone else who’d managed to get out of Coronel Azcurra, that damned town. I bought new papers from Chino Guzmán, sold what was left to sell and disappeared as best I could.

Not everyone leaves. There are those who choose to stay and put up with it, adapt, as they say, to these strange new times. Not me, though. I got the hell out and not even Angelita or our two little terrors were going to stop me. Maybe we’ll meet again some day and if they choose to do so, maybe they’ll find it in their hearts to forgive me.

The car was definitely in the gasoline-smuggling business before the human-smuggling business. The trunk had a strong smell, but I didn’t mind, it was almost sweet. I even nodded off during the few hours it took us to get to Santa Isabel, where I crawled from the trunk out into the world like a wild animal emerging from its dark burrow. There were people everywhere, prowling about. I’d stashed a pouch with a few bills into my underwear and I pulled one out as I walked up to a street-vendor selling stuffed potatoes. She had a northern accent, and when I asked if a lot of people from Azcurra had come through town, she shook her head no. I anxiously wolfed down my meal.

In the middle of an empty square, between the main plaza and parking lot, there was a guy dressed like a two-bit soldier, more bitter drunk than military man, shouting through a megaphone, which, either because it was cheap or because it was old, distorted his voice and gave a shrill tone to his lonely rally. I was able to make out that he was a constitutionalist, displaced and furious.

Something about him reminded me of my father, maybe his fiery gaze or white beard. I walked up to him and called him pop, not an entirely unusual way to address men in this part of the country. He stopped mid-screed and looked at me, surprised. I offered to buy him a beer and then followed him as he started to walk away. We sat down in a crowded restaurant with specials that included an appetizer, main, dessert and a soda. I told the waitress that all we were after were a few big, ice-cold beers. The man added that he’d like some fried yucca. Right away, said the woman, slipping out of sight between two corpulent customers.

Sir, I said, I’m a musician, I sympathize with your ideals and appreciate your courage. I’m not planning to stay here long. I just happened to get dropped off here. Do you know if there’s a way, how do I put it, to pass to the other side?

The old man laughed without looking at me. His hands, which had been resting on the table, began to imitate a piano player’s and then he asked, what do you play?

I play the violin, I replied, and I do some composing. I’ve mostly been a teacher.

I wrote a hymn, he said, but it needs a tune. If you can come up with one that works, I’ll help you get to where you’re going.

Sebastián Lores is from Lima, Peru. He’s currently at the University of Iowa’s Creative Writing in Spanish MFA.

Allana C. Noyes is a translator from Reno, Nevada. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 270, and is a work of creative fiction.

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