Trois contes

Here is an account of the terrible fate that befell María San Nicolás de Montany’s brothers during the years 19— to 19—, retrieved from the parenthetical announcements of deaths in the unread pages of Correo andalús and La menina negra:

The oldest, Joaquín, was hang, drawn and quartered by two unknown men two days after Easter. There were only three witnesses to his death: Mgr Julio Fernández, then the cura of Santa Isabel, the drunkard Fermín who played the mandolin by Puente Corazón Frío in the sundays, and God. But as Fermín was the only one the police could talk to about the incident,1 (Mgr Julio died or was exiled to Corsica like his idol Napoléon, I don’t know for sure) the case remained a mystery and soon enough the police, first, and then the readers of Correo andalús lost interest in the matter. Fermín who was always drunk in the weekdays would only mumble that he saw Roberto and Santiago (two of the bulkier guards and the Jefe’s favourites) drag a sack through Calle Lupe from which peered the toothless head of Joaquín2 before throwing it to the river. But who would believe him? Everyone knew the Jefe was a good man.

And with Gustavo dead, who was to forgive her…

The death of the second brother, Gustavo, made María grieve the most. In the days leading to his unexpected death in September,3 they had a quarrel. María told Gustavo he hated him beyond everything for breaking her poor friend’s4 heart. It was the sort of quarrel that inevitably arises between a boy and a girl who also happened to be siblings. Gustavo wouldn’t have given it a second thought before shrugging it off as yet another of his sister’s youthful follies and resuming his meditations on the camisuelo of Isabel Roja, whose teeth she saw for the first time last Sunday as she surreptitiously smiled at her duenna. But María was for the rest of her life to be haunted by guilt for an offence she thought she had committed against his brother: and with Gustavo dead, who was to forgive her…

The youngest, Felipe, was a poet, and consequently his life (and death) was the least colourful of the three. He drowned in the same river where the pieces of his brother’s corpse was thrown some years before. No one tried to puzzle out what they signified; everyone was too occupied, what with the economy as it is. And it was only days later, when the Romanian widow—Lilia or Sofya or Nastasya— living in Calle Carlos Segundo complained of the ungodly smell that greet her every time she would open her window facing the river at night for a breath of fresh air, that his body was discovered. María San Nicolás de Montany was herself long dead by then.

  1. The police refused to call it a crime.
  2. Asked how he was able to recognise Joaquín in the dark, Fermín answered, teeth chattering from having been made to submerge in a tub of ice for three hours, that Joaquín, bless his soul, would always throw him some céntimos whenever he’d pass him by the river after mass.
  3. The blotter lists the death as caused by “exhaustion” though most everyone knows he was raped by Santiago (the same one who is the Jefe’s favourite, and another yet unknown man; and that, believing themselves extremely funny, Santiago and the unknown man, forced a two-inch metal pipe on Gustavo’s ass, piercing his innards, which act made Gustavo flinch in extreme pain, then die.
  4. The friend in question was one Dolores de Lágrimas Peña.
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