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Issue number seven




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A Selection from 'Botany of Chaos' by Ana María Shua

Day of Final Judgment

Intensely engrossed in his favorite show, he fails to notice that the rest of the world has vanished around him, that the trumpets have sounded and the four horsemen have spread their fury; he fails to notice that he has been judged once and for all, that having weighed his good and bad deeds, the faithful scale has tipped in his favor, that he remains now and forevermore, intensely engrossed in his favorite show, in Heaven.

Excesses of Passion

We loved each other with frenzy, fusing our bodies in one. Now only our papers prove that we were once two, and even so we have problems: the tax forms, the relatives, the uneasy feeling that we don't have as much in common as we had believed.

The Ancient God of Fire

The church was built with the stones of the ancient pagan temple dedicated to the god of fire.

Today the church is filled, especially with women and children. They have sought refuge there, and have closed the one and only enormous door with heavy bars to defend themselves from their enemies.

The Ancient God of Fire uses one of his flames to light his cigar. The faithful do not foresee the danger: they mistake the smoke that irritates their eyes for incense, and confuse the blaze of the embers with sunlight shining through the stained glass windows.

The God of Fire has seen a steady stream of Gods of Justice rise and fall at the hands of mankind. He knows that only terror and madness live on in the rituals of cultures throughout the centuries. He uses another one of his immense flames to illuminate the scene for his sleepy eyes. He is infinitely old and smokes in peace. He's not going to bother to burn the church just to satisfy the reader.

Man on the Rug

Luis sees a man on the floor, and says he thinks he's dead.

"He died."

"No," his mother says, "he's just sleeping."

"Nobody sleeps like that. It's uncomfortable," says Luis.

"He was very tired. Sometimes I would like to fall asleep just like that too!"

Luis and his mother ought to lower their voices because the man is not dead or asleep, but an illustration in a book, and hears perfectly well everything they're saying about him.

Bad Advice

Following the advice of the sorcerer, he carved a wooden figure in the exact image of his enemy, and burned it in the field at night under the moon. Attracted by the glow of the bonfire, his enemy found him and killed him with one thrust of his spear.

Beware of Women

That a woman has no roots (or pretends not to have them) is not enough proof. I would pay attention to what she eats, how she greets others (a certain flexibility in her curtsies); I would approach her to see if her sighs smell like the wind, if she has tangles like nests in her luxuriant hair. Clever, hybrid species that flitter between two kingdoms, these deceitful women disguise themselves, seduce, pretend to love, and reproduce at the slightest provocation.

Romance between Guard and Magnolia

Public square. Guard in love with magnolia (secretly, even to himself). City budget cuts. Guard transferred to office job. Magnolia languishes. Guard languishes. Pathetic nocturnal encounters. Within passing days, magnolia blossoms. Rumors in the neighborhood. One night, tragic premature birth: offspring buried discreetly. At the site, noticeable growth of a rebellious misfit sapling who refuses to remain tied to his roots, hates to study, and sits on the curb guzzling beer.

Founding Fathers on the Blackboard

Alicia Susana Estrada could draw the profiles of the founding fathers very well. But when they turned and faced us, it was obvious they all looked alike.

Time Travel

Time travel is not only possible, but also inescapable and never ending. Since I was born, I haven't done anything but sail toward a rotten destiny. What I'd like to do is stop, stay right here, which isn't too bad: throw out the anchor.

The Unsurpassable Art of Wang Fo

Wang Fo was a legendary Chinese painter whose imitation of the world was so perfect that he could transform it into reality with the final stroke of his brush. An Emperor demanded that he paint the ocean, and he and his entire court drowned in it.

To surpass the art of Wang Fo, the West invented photography, and later movies, where the dead survive repeating the same acts over and over again, as in any other hell.

Cultural Taboo

Due to some cultural taboo that we have yet to comprehend, the natives refuse to accept the collaboration of our scientists to determine why, time and time again, the harvest of humans goes to waste in those cultivated fields they call cemeteries. And it would be so easy to make them bear fruit!

(translated by Rhonda Dahl Buchanan)

Ana María Shua was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1951. She published her first book at the age of sixteen and has published thirty books to date, including four novels, three collections of short short stories, two collections of short stories for adults, and books of children's literature, as well as books of humor and anthologies of legends and folklore. Two of her books have been translated into English, The Book of Memories (University of New Mexico Press, 1998) and Patient (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1997). This translation of "A Selection from 'Botany of Chaos'" previously appeared as "Twelve Short-Short Stories" in Issue 44 of The American Voice; the original comprises part of her newest collection of short short stories, called Botánica del caos (Buenos Aires: Sudamericana: 2000). Another selection of short shorts by Ms. Shua appeared in Issue #6 of The Cafe Irreal.

Rhonda Dahl Buchanan is a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Louisville where she teaches Spanish language classes and undergraduate and graduate courses on Spanish American literature. She is the editor of a collection of essays on Shua's works, El río de los sueños: Aproximaciones críticas a la obra de Ana María Shua (Washington, D.C.: Interamer Collection, Organization of American States, 2001) and serves on the editorial board of several journals, including El Cuento en Red, a Mexican online journal dedicated to the short short story.

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story copyright by author 2002 all rights reserved
translation copyright by translator 2002 all rights reserved