Thursday, March 31, 2011

Harold Kremer / Papa's Prisoner

Jenny Seville

By Harold Kremer

Translated from Spanish by Jennifer Gabrielle Edwards


I heard the pounding of the shovel on the ground and I reached over and poked Yaira in the arm. Then I propped myself up on my elbows and through the darkness I saw the heap in the other bed that was mamma and Titina. It was still night and the pounding of the shovel continued in the patio. I moved Yaira’s hand over a little and I went back to bed. The moonlight entered through the cracks in the wall forming lines along the dirt floor and the beds. The shovel went chak, chak, chak. I also heard the breathing of the man who was digging. I could tell by the noise that it was coming from the side of the hole where Yaira and me played hide-and-seek. I remembered the little box hidden in the wall.
         I sat up and I looked over at mamma again. I went up to her and saw that papa wasn’t there. Then I crawled up to the wall and watched the men on the patio: one was smoking and the other was digging. I couldn’t see them very well, but I knew right away that they were papa and Caliche. Caliche was making the hole bigger. It was very late at night and I was sleepy. In the little box we kept the five hundred peso coin we took from the prisoner. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was just getting light outside. I washed my face, spit out the taste of dirt from my mouth, and went to look through the hole in the wall. Papa was putting stones and pieces of plastic and wood over some crossbeams on top of the hole. Caliche indicated with his hand and papa covered the hole. They finished when the sun was already up. Caliche walked away along the canal and papa went to wash his face and hands. At breakfast time he was sleeping and snoring in the bed.        
         Mamma often said about papa: “He works late.” He came home drunk and mamma would let him climb on top of her. Papa breathed hard and it seemed like the bed was going to fall down. Then mamma would get up and look through his pant’s pockets and hide the money in the hole in the bamboo pillar in the kitchen. When he didn’t come home, mamma didn’t speak, or prepare meals, or take care of the baby. She sat in a corner of the kitchen with her eyes red, and a belt in her hand, and whenever we got close she tried to hit us with it. I felt sorry for Titina because she beat her with the belt. Once I heard mamma talking with Miss Carmen. Next time she’d kill her, she said, and she didn’t care if they put her in jail for it. Mamma said that when papa didn’t come home it was because he slept over there, at her house. Miss Carmen wore tight dresses and was always laughing. Mamma said that that was how women dressed and laughed in order to seduce men. Yaira and me would go through people’s patios and along the canal to go and see her. Once we saw her sitting on papa’s lap. She had lipstick on and her blouse was unbuttoned. Papa put his face in her blouse and Miss Carmen laughed. She laughed because papa was tickling her. Yaira unbuttoned her blouse, showed me her little tits, and said:
         “Chuwhen chui chugrow chuup chui’m chugon-chuna chube chulike chuher.”
         Late in the morning Yaira and me went to the hole. Papa and Caliche had filled it. Yaira went looking for the dolls that he brought her from the dump and I looked in the creek to see if I could find the box cars Aunt Leonelia gave me. When we remembered the money, we got some pieces of pottery and we scraped at the ground. But the ground was hard because they had pounded it so much with the shovel. Yaira sat down and cried because she loved her dolls. All of a sudden she stopped and said:
         “Chuwhat chuhap-chupened chuto chuthe chupris-chuon-chuer?”
         I reminded her that they had come for him and that they were going to give papa a big reward. Being such an idiot, as always she didn’t get it and she started to cry again over her dolls and the five hundred pesos.
         Papa told us that he had found the boy in a park and since no one showed up to claim him he had brought him home. He was going to keep him until his parents showed up and gave him a fat reward. What we didn’t understand was why he had him tied up with a chain. He was the same size as us and papa gave him a medicine for the disease he had. That way he slept and didn’t feel any pain. When he woke up we would play war and say to him that that was a jail and that he was papa’s prisoner.
          At midday when papa got out of bed, he said that he had handed over the prisoner and that they were going to give him a big reward.
         That night he didn’t come back. Mamma went out looking for him and when we woke up the next morning she was sitting in the kitchen chair with the belt. Titina’s crying had woken me up. I poked Yaira and we went out to the patio. Titina crawled behind us.
         The night papa came home with the prisoner he took him out from between the cartons and boxes in the cart. He brought him to the patio and he put him in the hole. He explained to mamma and us what happened and said that we should keep our mouths shut: if someone found out they would go and tell about the boy and they wouldn’t give us the reward. He also said that he was going to buy a doll for Yaira as big as her and for me a collection of box cars as big as the cart. Then he went to smoke rock with mamma.
         When Yaira and me looked in the hole the prisoner was sleeping. We lit a candle and looked through his pockets. We found the five hundred pesos when I took off his shoes. The coin fell under a plank. Yaira grabbed it, looked at me and said:
         “Chui chuget chuhalf.”
         At that moment the prisoner started to move and I grabbed a plank and hit him on the head with it. Then we ran alongside the canal and we sat and waited. I put the shoes on and walked around to try them out. Yaira kept saying that half was hers. I said that the coin was both of ours and that it was going in the box we hid in the wall in the hole.
         The next day Caliche showed us how to cover his mouth. He told us to keep a look out so that no one else came along wanting to claim the reward. He woke up in the afternoon and we untied the rag so he would tell us what his name was, but he started to squeal just like when Tubby from the butcher’s kills the pigs. I started to hit him with a stick and he squealed and squealed. Then mamma came and whacked him in the head and made him take his medicine. Then she beat us with the belt for taking the rag out of his mouth.
         That night papa also beat us with the belt and told us to never go back to the hole. We went back the next day but we didn’t untie the rag. Whenever he woke up we would go running to tell mamma and she would make him take his medicine. Papa told us that it was better that we didn’t know his name.
         When we got bored of looking after him we got the idea of playing the prisoner game. We got some sticks and we said that they were the guard’s machine guns. When he woke up, before he could start squealing, we told him that this was a jail and that he was papa’s prisoner. Sometimes Yaira unbuttoned her blouse and rubbed her little tits in his face to see if he would laugh.
         Two days ago his eyes started to roll around and white drool started to come out of a corner of the rag. Mamma said that it was because he was hungry, that he slept so much that he never ate: she prepared a soup and made him sip it. But the prisoner choked and the soup came out along with the drool. Then he got stiff and then he went limp. Mamma said that he had fallen asleep and it was best to leave him alone. When papa came home, he and Caliche went to see him and a little while later they said that he was okay now and that that night his parents were coming for him. They made us go to bed and they went to smoke rock.
         That night I heard the pounding of the shovel on the ground. The next day papa said that he was going for the money, that hopefully they would give it to him so that he could buy those big presents he had promised us.
         In the afternoon, when mamma saw us scraping the ground she told us to stop, that that hole was dangerous for Titina and it was better to keep it covered. She told Yaira to stop crying, to stop being such an idiot as always, and that lots of dolls and five hundred peso coins would be coming soon enough.
         Now we’re sitting beside the canal. Mamma is still sitting in the kitchen with her eyes red. Titina fell asleep by a pile of newspapers from crying so much. I thought of the five hundred pesos because we were so hungry our stomachs had begun to growl. But I shouldn’t say anything to Yaira because she finally stopped crying a little while ago. With the five hundred pesos we could buy a coca-cola and a pastry. I tell her that papa is going to bring her a doll as big as her, but she still won’t pay any attention to me.
         Yaira gets up and finds two branches, she ties them together with a piece of wire until she’s made a cross and she sticks them in the flattened ground.
         Then we sit down to wait and see if papa comes back with the money and mamma, beside herself with joy, sends us to Tubby’s to buy meat.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Truman Capote / Quotes

Truman Capote
Photography by Richard Avedon
By Truman Capote

A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That's why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.

All literature is gossip.

Even an attorney of moderate talent can postpone doomsday year after year, for the system of appeals that pervades American jurisprudence amounts to a legalistic wheel of fortune, a game of chance, somewhat fixed in the favor of the criminal, that the participants play interminably.

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.

Fame is only good for one thing - they will cash your check in a small town.

Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.

Friendship is a pretty full-time occupation if you really are friendly with somebody. You can't have too many friends because then you're just not really friends.

Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there."

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.

I can see every monster as they come in.

I got this idea of doing a really serious big work-it would be precisely like a novel, with a single difference: Every word of it would be true from beginning to end.

I was eleven, then I was sixteen. Though no honors came my way, those were the lovely years.

Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.

Love is a chain of love as nature is a chain of life.

Most contemporary novelists, especially the American and the French, are too subjective, mesmerized by private demons; they're enraptured by their navels and confined by a view that ends with their own toes.

She is pure Alice in Wonderland, and her appearance and demeanor are a nicely judged mix of the Red Queen and a flamingo.

That's not writing, that's typing.

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make.

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.

Well, I'm about as tall as a shotgun, and just as noisy.

When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely.

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.

Writing stopped being fun when I discovered the difference between good writing and bad and, even more terrifying, the difference between it and true art. And after that, the whip came down.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hemingway / Hills Like White Elephants

By Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway / Colinas como elefantes blancos (De otros mundos)

The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid.
'What should we drink?' the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.
'It's pretty hot,' the man said.
'Let's drink beer.'
'Dos cervezas,' the man said into the curtain.
'Big ones?' a woman asked from the doorway.
'Yes. Two big ones.'
The woman brought two glasses of beer and two felt pads. She put the felt pads and the beer glass on the table and looked at the man and the girl. The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.
'They look like white elephants,' she said.
'I've never seen one,' the man drank his beer.
'No, you wouldn't have.'
'I might have,' the man said. 'Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything.'
The girl looked at the bead curtain. 'They've painted something on it,' she said. 'What does it say?'
'Anis del Toro. It's a drink.'
'Could we try it?'
The man called 'Listen' through the curtain. The woman came out from the bar.
'Four reales.'
'We want two Anis del Toro.'
'With water?'
'Do you want it with water?'
'I don't know,' the girl said. 'Is it good with water?'
'It's all right.'
'You want them with water?' asked the woman.
'Yes, with water.'
'It tastes like liquorice,' the girl said and put the glass down.
'That's the way with everything.'
'Yes,' said the girl. 'Everything tastes of liquorice. Especially all the things you've waited so long for, like absinthe.'
'Oh, cut it out.'
'You started it,' the girl said. 'I was being amused. I was having a fine time.'
'Well, let's try and have a fine time.'
'All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn't that bright?'
'That was bright.'
'I wanted to try this new drink. That's all we do, isn't it - look at things and try new drinks?'
'I guess so.'
The girl looked across at the hills.
'They're lovely hills,' she said. 'They don't really look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees.'
'Should we have another drink?'
'All right.'
The warm wind blew the bead curtain against the table.
'The beer's nice and cool,' the man said.
'It's lovely,' the girl said.
'It's really an awfully simple operation, Jig,' the man said. 'It's not really an operation at all.'
The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on.
'I know you wouldn't mind it, Jig. It's really not anything. It's just to let the air in.'
The girl did not say anything.
'I'll go with you and I'll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it's all perfectly natural.'
'Then what will we do afterwards?'
'We'll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before.'
'What makes you think so?'
'That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy.'
The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of two of the strings of beads.
'And you think then we'll be all right and be happy.'
'I know we will. Yon don't have to be afraid. I've known lots of people that have done it.'
'So have I,' said the girl. 'And afterwards they were all so happy.'
'Well,' the man said, 'if you don't want to you don't have to. I wouldn't have you do it if you didn't want to. But I know it's perfectly simple.'
'And you really want to?'
'I think it's the best thing to do. But I don't want you to do it if you don't really want to.'
'And if I do it you'll be happy and things will be like they were and you'll love me?'
'I love you now. You know I love you.'
'I know. But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you'll like it?'
'I'll love it. I love it now but I just can't think about it. You know how I get when I worry.'
'If I do it you won't ever worry?'
'I won't worry about that because it's perfectly simple.'
'Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me.'
'What do you mean?'
'I don't care about me.'
'Well, I care about you.'
'Oh, yes. But I don't care about me. And I'll do it and then everything will be fine.'
'I don't want you to do it if you feel that way.'
The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.
'And we could have all this,' she said. 'And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.'
'What did you say?'
'I said we could have everything.'
'We can have everything.'
'No, we can't.'
'We can have the whole world.'
'No, we can't.'
'We can go everywhere.'
'No, we can't. It isn't ours any more.'
'It's ours.'
'No, it isn't. And once they take it away, you never get it back.'
'But they haven't taken it away.'
'We'll wait and see.'
'Come on back in the shade,' he said. 'You mustn't feel that way.'
'I don't feel any way,' the girl said. 'I just know things.'
'I don't want you to do anything that you don't want to do —'
'Nor that isn't good for me,' she said. 'I know. Could we have another beer?
'All right. But you've got to realize — '
'I realize,' the girl said. 'Can't we maybe stop talking?'
They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table.
'You've got to realize,' he said, ' that I don't want you to do it if you don't want to. I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you.'
'Doesn't it mean anything to you? We could get along.'
'Of course it does. But I don't want anybody but you. I don't want anyone else. And I know it's perfectly simple.'
'Yes, you know it's perfectly simple.'
'It's all right for you to say that, but I do know it.'
'Would you do something for me now?'
'I'd do anything for you.'
'Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?'
He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.
'But I don't want you to,' he said, 'I don't care anything about it.'
'I'll scream,' the girl said.
The woman came out through the curtains with two glasses of beer and put them down on the damp felt pads. 'The train comes in five minutes,' she said.
'What did she say?' asked the girl.
'That the train is coming in five minutes.'
The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her.
'I'd better take the bags over to the other side of the station,' the man said. She smiled at him.
'All right. Then come back and we'll finish the beer.'
He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks. He looked up the tracks but could not see the train. Coming back, he walked through the bar-room, where people waiting for the train were drinking. He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people. They were all waiting reasonably for the train. He went out through the bead curtain. She was sitting at the table and smiled at him.
'Do you feel better?' he asked.
'I feel fine,' she said. 'There's nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.'

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hemingway / A Very Short Story

El joven Hemingway
Italy, 1918

By Ernest Hemingway
One hot evening in Padua they carried him up onto the roof and he could look out over the top of the town. There were chimney swifts in the sky. After a while it got dark and the searchlights came out. The others went down and took the bottles with them. He and Luz could hear them below on the balcony. Luz sat on the bed. She was cool and fresh in the hot night.
Luz stayed on night duty for three months. They were glad to let her. When they operated on him she prepared him for the operating table; and they had a joke about friend or enema. He went under the anæsthetic holding tight on to himself so he would not blab about anything during the silly, talky time. After he got on crutches he used to take the temperatures so Luz would not have to get up from the bed. There were only a few patients, and they all knew about it. They all liked Luz. As he walked back along the halls he thought of Luz in his bed.
Before he went back to the front they went into the Duomo and prayed. It was dim and quiet, and there were other people praying. They wanted to get married, but there was not enough time for the banns, and neither of them had birth certificates. They felt as though they were married, but they wanted everyone to know about it, and to make it so they could not lose it.
Luz wrote him many letters that he never got until after the armistice. Fifteen came in a bunch to the front and he sorted them by the dates and read them all straight through. They were all about the hospital, and how much she loved him and how it was impossible to get along without him and how terrible it was missing him at night.
After the armistice they agreed he should go home to get a job so they might be married. Luz would not come home until he had a good job and could come to New York to meet her. It was understood he would not drink, and he did not want to see his friends or anyone in the States. Only to get a job and be married. On the train from Padua to Milan they quarreled about her not being willing to come home at once. When they had to say good-bye, in the station at Milan, they kissed good-bye, but were not finished with the quarrel. He felt sick about saying good-bye like that.
He went to America on a boat from Genoa. Luz went back to Pordonone to open a hospital. It was lonely and rainy there, and there was a battalion of arditi quartered in the town. Living in the muddy, rainy town in the winter, the major of the battalion made love to Luz, and she had never known Italians before, and finally wrote to the States that theirs had only been a boy and girl affair. She was sorry, and she knew he would probably not be able to understand, but might some day forgive her, and be grateful to her, and she expected, absolutely unexpectedly, to be married in the spring. She loved him as always, but she realized now it was only a boy and girl love. She hoped he would have a great career, and believed in him absolutely. She knew it was for the best.
The major did not marry her in the spring, or any other time. Luz never got an answer to the letter to Chicago about it. A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hemingway / A Day's Wait

El niño enfermo, 1921
Salvador Dalí
By Ernest Hemingway

He came into the room to shut the windows while we were still in bed and I saw he looked ill. He was shivering, his face was white, and he walked slowly as though it ached to move.
"What's the matter, Schatz?"
"I've got a headache."
"You better go back to bed."
"No. I'm all right."
"You go to bed. I'll see you when I'm dressed."
But when I came downstairs he was dressed, sitting by the fire, looking a very sick and miserable boy of nine years. When I put my hand on his forehead I knew he had a fever.
"You go up to bed," I said, "you're sick."
"I'm all right," he said.
When the doctor came he took the boy's temperature.
"What is it?" I asked him.
"One hundred and two."
Downstairs, the doctor left three different medicines in different colored capsules with instructions for giving them. One was to bring down the fever, another a purgative, the third to overcome an acid condition. The germs of influenza can only exist in an acid condition, he explained. He seemed to know all about influenza and said there was nothing to worry about if the fever did not go above one hundred and four degrees. This was a light epidemic of flu and there was no danger if you avoided pneumonia.
Back in the room I wrote the boy's temperature down and made a note of the time to give the various capsules.
"Do you want me to read to you?"
"All right. If you want to," said the boy. His face was very white and there were dark areas under his eyes. He lay still in the bed and seemed very detached from what was going on.
I read aloud from Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates; but I could see he was not following what I was reading.
"How do you feel, Schatz?" I asked him.
"Just the same, so far," he said.
I sat at the foot of the bed and read to myself while I waited for it to be time to give another capsule. It would have been natural for him to go to sleep, but when I looked up he was looking at the foot of the bed, looking very strangely.
"Why don't you try to go to sleep? I'll wake you up for the medicine."
"I'd rather stay awake."
After a while he said to me, "You don't have to stay in here with me, Papa, if it bothers you."
"It doesn't bother me."
"No, I mean you don't have to stay if it's going to bother you."
I thought perhaps he was a little lightheaded and after giving him the prescribed capsules at eleven o'clock I went out for a while.
It was a bright, cold day, the ground covered with a sleet that had frozen so that it seemed as if all the bare trees, the bushes, the cut brush and all the grass and the bare ground had been varnished with ice. I took the young Irish setter for a little walk up the road and along a frozen creek, but it was difficult to stand or walk on the glassy surface and the red dog slipped and slithered and I fell twice, hard, once dropping my gun and having it slide away over the ice.
We flushed a covey of quail under a high clay bank with overhanging brush and I killed two as they went out of sight over the top of the bank. Some of the covey lit in trees, but most of them scattered into brush piles and it was necessary to jump on the ice-coated mounds of brush several times before they would flush. Coming out while you were poised unsteadily on the icy, springy brush they made difficult shooting and I killed two, missed five, and started back pleased to have found a covey close to the house and happy there were so many left to find on another day.
At the house they said the boy had refused to let any one come into the room.
"You can't come in," he said. "You mustn't get what I have."
I went up to him and found him in exactly the position I had left him, white-faced, but with the tops of his cheeks flushed by the fever, staring still, as he had stared, at the foot of the bed.
I took his temperature.
"What is it?"
"Something like a hundred," I said. It was one hundred and two and four tenths.
"It was a hundred and two," he said.
"Who said so?"
"The doctor."
"Your temperature is all right," I said. "It's nothing to worry about."
"I don't worry," he said, "but I can't keep from thinking."
"Don't think," I said. "Just take it easy."
"I'm taking it easy," he said and looked straight-ahead. He was evidently holding tight onto himself about something.
"Take this with water."
"Do you think it will do any good?"
"Of course it will."
I sat down and opened the Pirate book and commenced to read, but I could see he was not following, so I stopped.
"About what time do you think I'm going to die?" he asked.
"About how long will it be before I die?"
"You aren't going to die. What's the matter with you?"
"Oh, yes, I am. I heard him say a hundred and two."
"People don't die with a fever of one hundred and two. That's a silly way to talk."
"I know they do. At school in France the boys told me you can't live with forty-four degrees. I've got a hundred and two."
He had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine o'clock in the morning.
"You poor Schatz," I said. "Poor old Schatz. It's like miles and kilometres. You aren't going to die. That's a different thermometer. On that thermometer thirty-seven is normal. On this kind it's ninety-eight."
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely," I said. "It's like miles and kilometers. You know, like how many kilometers we make when we do seventy miles in the car?"
"Oh," he said.
But his gaze at the foot of the bed relaxed slowly. The hold over himself relaxed too, finally, and the next day it was very slack and he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance.