Issue #54

Spring 2015

The Neighbor and The Swing

by Agustín Cadena
(Translated by Patricia Dubrava)

The Neighbor

A girl about eleven years old lives on the fourth floor of an antiquated building facing our apartment. I suppose she has a family, but I have only seen the girl. Her dormer window is exactly opposite our living room window. Often, when it's getting dark and lights are coming on, I have observed her. She's blond and always wears a vintage white nightgown.

My wife hasn't seen her, no matter how much I have spoken about this girl, trying to arouse her curiosity. She says that she doesn't think anyone lives in that apartment. It's just that there's been no encounter: when my wife's home, the girl doesn't come near the window; nor even turn on the light. I imagine she doesn't sleep there; that room must be her playroom, a study or something like that. I can't see the furniture; the window, like all attic windows, is very small.

The fact is, I'm the only one who has seen her. I'm also the only one who hears her, the only one who has heard her in those dawns when she has started coming to our apartment. She sits on our bed with her legs extended, like an antique doll, and starts humming songs only I hear.

The Swing

For a while now I've been hearing the squeak of a swing moving back and forth. But there are no swings here. One could, however, imagine it. Simply close your eyes and focus your attention on the sound that comes and goes: over here, over there, criiick, riiick, criiick, riiick… There's no regular time for the swinging; sometimes it happens in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes both morning and afternoon. It happens even in the winter, when, if it exists, the swing would be covered in ice. Criiick, riiick, criiick, riiick... it's a sound to lull you, help you nod off. Shame that they don't like to swing at night, when so much silence gives me insomnia.

If that yard were mine, I'd buy a swing. But here there's no yard.

Author and Translator Bios

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Agustín Cadena was born in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, México. He taught at UNAM; at Austin College, Texas; and currently teaches at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. Essayist, fiction writer, poet and translator, Cadena has won numerous national prizes, including those for short fiction in 2004 and 2005, and published twenty-five books, among them collections of short fiction, essays and poetry, three novels, and four young adult novels, most recently Fieras Adentro, 2015. His work has been translated into English, Italian and Hungarian. His story, "The Man With His Back Turned," appeared in Issue #47 of The Cafe Irreal, and "Train Variations" appeared in Issue #52. Cadena blogs at

Patricia Dubrava chaired the creative writing program at Denver School of the Arts, where she also taught Spanish. She has two books of poems and one of stories translated from the Spanish. Recent translation publications include stories by Agustín Cadena in Aldus, Winter 2013, and Café Irreal, August 2013 and August 2014. One of her translations of a Cadena story is in New Border Voices: An Anthology, 2014. Dubrava blogs at