The Life Of Alonso Quijano,
To Rise/To Fall
by Emilio Martinez
The Life Of Alonso Quijano
To the imaginary memory
of Pierre Menard
Evenings are always longer seen from the castle, full of old armor and pendulum clocks. And always, from behind the fog ascending from his pipe, the gentleman examines the horizon, awaiting the giants. Our nobleman is getting on fifty years of age; he has a harsh complexion, his flesh is withered, his face gaunt. He is a great early-riser and somewhat deformed, judging by his elongated cranium and his bulging left eye...
The giants usually appear from where he least expects them. That is to say, between the fibers of tobacco in his pipe, or scurrying out from under the carpets, or jumping down through the chimney. No possible defense exists against them, except the sword or fire, water or ink, goose feathers or uncontrolled shouting.
Something has changed in the castle this morning.
A large contingent of movers brings in boxes without end, while Sancho walks among pipes, levers, and pistons. A sign on the door explains: "Don Quijote de la Mancha's Chimera Factory."
The principal clients have ended up being the children of the village, who enter the castle sad and downcast, only to leave after a while with smiling faces and boxes in their hands. The poor children imagine that their chimeras must be inside; they could be big or small, blue and round or in the form of a bird. But always, upon arriving home they open the box and find only emptiness. On the lid, a ticket reads: "Don Quijote's Chimeras, existence not guaranteed."
"Existence not guaranteed," murmurs the gentleman, while observing in the mirror his almost transparent arms, his already colorless beard, and his grey armor. When the smoke from his pipe is dispersed by currents of air, the gentleman himself dissipates completely and in the solitude of the room all that can be heard are the rhythmic snores of Sancho...
"I cost 100," says our nobleman, and extends his arm for Dona Dulcinea to inject the sedative.
Afterward, he remains alone in the room with padded walls, while Dulcinea (a fat and sweaty nurse) walks away down the corridor of the insane asylum, built on the ruins of an old castle.
Postscript--The Tricks of Giants
.... And that is how giants play jokes on heroes and make the people believe their defenders are crazy: by disguising themselves as windmills.
To Rise/To Fall
Vasdodhana was born a god in the fourth heaven, in a palace whose rooms could house the universe ten thousand times over. But, betrayed by his reflection in the currents of time, he died in order to be reborn as a man.
He was known for his ferocity, and after a rather short life, that characteristic caused him to be reincarnated as a wolf. He was a failure as a hunter and had to die far from his pack, feeding himself with grasses and roots like an ignoble beast. He returned to earth in the form of a clover on the side of a mountain. He died again, not knowing to seek out the sun for his vegetal alchemy. He finally ended up as a polished stone in the garden of some fabric merchants. This is how the soul of Vasdodhana was evolving toward attaining Nirvana.
Horrible, they come in the night with their toothless mouths and leathery skin. They arrive at our doors uttering high-pitched shrieks, like harpies claiming their kingdom. We put on our coats of mail, shields and helmets, and valiantly depart for battle. The monsters don't even last until dawn.
Fathers, grandfathers, uncles, they lie red on the Field of Mars (useless ancients, rebelling against their exile on the arid mountaintops).
One day we, too, will be the monsters, and our sons the radiant heroes.
(translated by Josh Hockensmith)
Emilio Martinez was born in Uruguay, but has been living and writing in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, since 1996. He writes in many genres, including poetry, short fiction, journalism, theater, and for television. His first book of short fiction, Noticias de Burgundia, (Editorial Nuevo Milenio) was published in 1999, and his play "El Banquete" won the Bolivian national prize for theater in 2003. His latest book, Cartografias, will be published in August 2005. His work has appeared in Issue #8 and Issue #11 of The Cafe Irreal. The stories here are from Macabria y otros cuentos, published by Nuevo Milenio in 2002.
Josh Hockensmith is a writer, translator and book artist living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He writes for Oyster Boy Review and South by Southeast, which he edited from 1998-2000. His short story, "Three -- possibly four -- houses on Main Street," appeared in Issue #10 of The Cafe Irreal. His translations of Emilio Martinez have been anthologized in Narrative from Tropical Bolivia (La Hoguera, 2004), and published in the PEN Bolivia annuals for 2003 and 2004, the Bolivian Studies Journal, and The Cafe Irreal.
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story copyright by author 2005 all rights reserved
translation copyright by translator 2005 all rights reserved