Thursday, May 08, 2008


Another old story from Carmen’s café, this time during the Holy Week in Andalucia, when penitents in hooded suits fill the streets, carrying images of saints, incense burners and tapers.

As every year, during the processions, Little Tartesus seemed to lose control of his nerves. His fellow penitents in the cofradia, or brotherhood, used to think he had too many glasses of cheap wine over only a meager ration of conchas finas. But that year things were not so easy.

Big Balboa made up that Tartesus was high on something more sinful than just bad wine. Of course nobody believed him, and also everybody knew that Big Balboa had a particular hatred for Little Tartesus since his sister Esmeraldita, also known as La Torre, humiliated Balboa in public one Friday night in Plaza de la Merced, which thing in itself is not astonishing, due to the terrible reputation of La Torre, but that left Big Balboa prisoner of a long-living rage. This year Big Balboa took the trouble of whispering to Little Tartesus that he knew his secret, in the beginning of the procession, thus increasing the nervousness of the man, already afflicted by the fear of losing control as usual.

What Little Tartesus would confess to nobody, not even to the priest, was that he actually hallucinated in such occasions.
Images of the procession would melt inside his hood with sounds and scents from another place and time, and Tartesus would feel he was digging for silver. He dug, and dug, and dug, his hands and feet filled with earth under his broken nails. He would also be very conscious of the smell of the wax. He could not afford wax for himself, even if he dug his entire life. He would get dizzy from the effort and the heat.
The strangest thing would be that Balboa, or someone looking very much like him, was also there, not whispering into his ear unpleasant threats, but watching from a distance, his hands on his hips, the arms full of silver. A mixture of the smell of the dried sweat and the earth of the digging days, and the wax of the burning tapers, would impregnate the cloth over his head and make him feel tired but strong, made him move both with and without his body, both on and above the ground.

When Carmen told me that Big Balboa was found away from the procession in Arco de la Cabeza, seated on the floor, yellow as wax and shrunk inside his gown, the look fixed in a place only him could see, I thought immediately of Little Tartesus, his fear of Balboa and his hallucinated walk.
But people kept all the time an eye on Tartesus, and it was impossible not to notice him walking as if he was floating inside his robes. Only Balboa disappeared from the procession, nobody knows when.
“It was as if he was dropped there by a demon or an angel,” Carmen told me, “or a helicopter.”
I told Carmen the story I was imagining about Little Tartesus. I was curious how my theory would fit in the rumors about a terrible sin, a malediction, and things of the sort, where the name of La Torre was whispered frequently. She shook her head slowly.
“There’s nothing wrong with Tartesus, I’ve been telling it to everybody. He’s just allergic to wax.”


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