Posts Tagged ‘clowns

19
Jul
09

Cándido and Adeníd (Short Story)

Cándido and Adeníd
( published in the 2009 edition of Revisions, the Loyola University New Orleans Literature Journal) 

The morning the caravan was set to leave town, Román heard barefoot footsteps surrounding the tents. At first, his instincts told him to ignore them, but when, after some time, he still heard them, he lifted his head. Through the curtains he saw the figure of a boy. He instantly recognized who it was. He woke up Rosalía and told her.

“Let her,” she said, closing her eyes.

Under the pink morning sun, the butterflies began to flutter, predicting rain.

Wary of each of his steps, with his feet red from having stepped on so much soil throughout his short life, Lope looked for the tent where the girl slept, knowing it was the smallest tent, and that it was, like her eyes, blue. Hearing then the flaps of the butterfly wings above him, he hurried his feet and urged his eyes to find her among all the pastel colored tents.

The moment he heard a faint whistle, his body started palpitating. He didn’t fear the punishment he’d receive if he got caught. He feared not seeing her.

“Lope, it’s me!” she shouted in whispers, and his sweat melted upon seeing the pink, sun-burned face, the brunette cascades of hair and the blue eyes that emanated from her, peeking out of the only blue tent. She made a gesture to him and he approached her as stealthily as he had walked the whole camp. He stepped in, and the blue curtain closed.

She scolded him,  saying all the dangers he would have faced had he gotten caught, not only with the clowns, but also, most importantly, with the townspeople, with his parents. He ignored her and told her to calm down, because he wasn’t afraid of that, and urged her to go with him to the Cascabel Mountain, where she could taste the best coffee in the world. Puzzled, and quite ingenuously, she answered:

“But I don’t like coffee.”

He got impatient. But the patience he didn’t exercise with others, he put to practice with her. He looked in the air for something to say.

“It’s not really coffee.”

“But you just told me it was the best in the world.”

“Yeah, but it’s not. It’s just that it wakes you up, but it’s not coffee.”

She gave him an apprehensive look, and he lowered his head.
“I want you to taste it.”

At that age, she couldn’t name what made her agree to his offer, nor could he name that which woke him up that morning, and made him set out to look for her. But years later, in separate beds, they would give it the same name.

Following the narrow dirt pathways between the crops, they walked side-to-side and silent. The dim butterfly cloud was a marvel for her sight. It was then that she remembered that the caravan was set to leave that afternoon. She also remembered the dream she had that night, whose salty taste still ran in her mind.

“Some days, there are many, and other days, there are less” Lope said, “Either way, it means it’s going to rain.”

“What?”

“The butterflies…” And then he added, giving her security: “But don’t worry, we’ll get there on time.”

She nodded, and wanted to raise her arms and embrace them all.

There were no paved roads on the mountain, untrod as it was, and so it is that they stepped out of the dirt road and were left only to pathways delineated in Lope’s mind. But she trusted him, and held his hand. She remembered when they met.

Immersed in the deep rainforests of the Cascabel Mountain, they walked through ancient trees, blue and purple branches, and moist soil. Raindrops crept through the canopy. When they reached their destination, they had red mud up to their knees. There was a sign.

It read, in orange words: “ADENÍD AND CÁNDIDO.” Behind it there was what seemed to be a green wall of leaves, branches, wood and other flora.

With a swift gesture of the arm, as if that wall was of mere dust, Lope moved the branches aside and gestured to Elena to enter. Before them, there was a clearing. It seemed to be outside the world.

Upon entering, she was embraced by the morning sun. Small purple birds were eating bread crumbs on the grass. The heat and humidity of the forest was replaced by an aura of day and flowers. As she looked around, she saw that the trunks of the surrounding trees weren’t brown but of rainbow colors, purple, yellow, every single color ever seen. So overwhelming was the presence of colors, she covered her eyes.

Lope laughed.

“It’s the butterflies… they’re sleeping,” he said.

She opened her eyes and saw Lope, leaning towards the grass, eating the breadcrumbs. It was then she saw the wooden cabin, further on. Lope stood up and put a breadcrumb in her hand. She ate it, and it didn’t taste like bread. But she liked it. And then they just stood for a few moments, looking at the rays of the sun penetrate through the spaces between the leaves. Holding hands.

The cabin door opened. A small man with big ears and stark black hair appeared. His face was grey, and it fixed its eyes upon the two children.

“Is Adeníd home?” Lope asked.

The man stood there, looking at them as if they were doing something wrong. He had horrible black rings under his eyes, as if he hadn’t slept in years. Lope’s hand, wrapped in Elena’s, sweated.

“I’m Lopito.”

He clenched her hand further, and the man looked inside the cabin, speaking to someone. Lope took a few steps towards the house, and despite her fear, she followed. He was trying to see whom the man was talking to.

  The man closed the door.

The two children stood. Elena wanted to cross her arms, but she preferred to hold the boy’s hand.

The door opened again, and this time they saw a tall, thin man with a round face, dressed in black, with a black hat. He had the smile of a saint.

“Cándido!” Lope shouted, smiling and running to embrace the man. They hugged like two friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long time. She felt something strange then, like nostalgia.

When they let go of each other, Cándido put his index finger over Lope’s nose.

“Yes,” Lope said, “Little kisses from God, I know.” Even though she was far away, she knew he was referring to his freckles.

“I came to introduce you to my friend, Elena. She’s very good. She came with the clowns, and I want her to drink Adeníd’s coffee.”

Cándido smiled at her as if he knew her. It was then she noticed he had no tongue.

Inside, they sat down, and Lope told Elena the story of Cándido and Adeníd. The grey man only sat in a corner, identifying himself merely as “a friend of Cándido.” Lope couldn’t tell if he looked at them with indifference or suspicion. He didn’t really like that small, elusive man very much, and it seemed strange that Cándido could have a friend like that. But nevertheless he kept speaking to Cándido, telling him about things that have happened in the town, while Elena sat in her corner, practicing her particular timidity.

When Adeníd entered, she dropped the firewood she was carrying to the floor.

“Lope?”

He rushed to her, as he had done with Cándido. When Elena turned to see her, she saw the most beautiful woman in the world. She was even more beautiful than Rosalía. She thought then of the caravan, and how long it had been since she left her tent without any of the clowns’ permissions, and if they’ve found out that she’s not there.

Adeníd ran her hands through Lope’s face, feeling each one of his features. She was blind.

“And where’s your friend?” Adeníd asked, and Lope pointed to her.

“Her name’s Elena, and she’s as beautiful as you.”

Adeníd gave a modest smile, and Elena blushed.

The woman opened her arms, saying, Come, and Elena walked towards her. Adeníd put her hands around her, and she felt loved. Her hands were from the world of dreams. They felt different.

As her face was being touched as if it was an artifact, as Adeníd paid attention to each of her features, she got the desire to hide under the table, to hide and never be seen again, but she also got an even deeper, more intimate desire just then. She wanted to share her dream with them. Then Adeníd’s mouth approached Elena’s ear, and whispered to her something that only she heard. Then she let go of Elena, and tousled her hair.

“Good, then. You have come for the coffee, is that so?” she said.

Elena looked at Lope, smiling, and nodded.

“Well, you’re lucky. The one I made this morning is still ripe.”

She got it from the table and poured it into a round cup made of forest leaves.

“Here you go,”

The coffee was even more delightful and more undecipherable as a taste than the bread.

“Lope said this isn’t coffee.” Elena said.

Adeníd smiled.

“It isn’t.”

The butterflies began to wake from the trees, and flutter around as the morning sun became noon, and Elena remembered her dream, as clearly as one remembers a childhood memory when encountering a memento, or a letter.

“I want to tell you the dream I had last night,” she said.

They had been for a while talking about many particular things as Elena finished her coffee. The grey man stood in the corner, listening. Cándido was smiling. And Adeníd seemed wise and beautiful and everything that was good. But Elena’s announcement caused everyone to stir, even the grey man, who, to everyone’s surprise, said, “Do tell.”

“My recurrent dream is always like this. I am swimming in this very big and endless ocean.”

Adeníd looked at Cándido. The grey man raised his head.

“Since when have you had this dream?” he asked.

“Well… since little before Rosalía… since…”

She stopped, and looked at everyone. She felt anxious, afraid. Cándido saw that a dolorous past ran through Elena’s eyes.

“…Since the moment that I left my home to go with the caravan, with Rosalía. What always happens in the dream is that I swim and I swim and then I get tired of swimming, and then I just stop swimming and I start sinking, and I start drowning… and when I feel that I die, I wake up, sweating. But this morning, when I was dreaming, when I was swimming, when… when I finally gave up, I saw a fishhook come down from the sky. And it fished me. It saved me from drowning. And then I opened my eyes…

“And I was hanging on the fishhook, reeling upwards towards the clouds. But I felt as if I was awake… I felt aware of everything, of dreaming, only that I wasn’t dreaming… It was all real, the night, the purple, blue night and its stars, and I felt like I was going to cry. Then the fishhook broke and I fell. And then I woke up, and I was crying. I remembered Lucio, my brother, who’s still back at home.”

She sighed, and looked how some butterflies were fluttering in the house, creeping through the windows. She let her eyesight latch onto a yellow one that flew right by Cándido’s shadow on the wall. His shadow had two giant wings. An involuntary teardrop formed in her eye, and she closed it to release it to her cheeks. When she opened them, the wings were no longer on the shadow. But Cándido winked at her.

“As I was drying my tears, I felt Lope’s footsteps. And he took me here.”

The grey man was breathing deeply. He slid from the wall to the floor. Adeníd turned towards the window, and it seemed she was looking at the sky. But she wasn’t looking anywhere.

“I also had that dream,” Lope said.

Adeníd smiled, and the grey man got up. Everybody looked at the two children, with a look that they couldn’t quite understand, the same way that they couldn’t understand their feelings, or their dreams. The cup of leaves was empty.

Elena spent the rest of the visit giving breadcrumbs to the birds with Adeníd, talking about a great many deal of things, in particular her own life. Eventually, Adeníd said,

“You have to go soon. Rosalía and Román wait for you.”

Elena flinched.

“I never told you Roman’s name. How do you know it?”

Adeníd smiled.

“Just send Rosalía a great, big hug. I miss her.”

Before saying their farewells, Adeníd told the two children, “Remember, the next time you have that dream, hold on to the hook as if it was your life.”

On their way down, Elena and Lope spoke to each other about their dream, trying to think of explanations. It seemed to them that Adeníd and Cándido, and even the grey man, knew something, but hid it from them. In the end, they couldn’t find any explanation, so they just changed to other commonplace subjects that children often talk about. Along the way, they stopped to look at a dead bug, the size of a hand. And at a bird that had fallen from its nest. Lope put it back up. They climbed the giant trees and almost, in many occasions, fell to their deaths.

They did many things to stall the irremediable goodbye that lay ahead, past the rainforest and into real life.

But when the rain poured down like buckets, just as the butterflies had prognosticated, they had to hurry down.

Having packed all the equipment, the linked coaches ready for ongoing travel, the clowns were celebrating the final farewell acts. Román, protected under an umbrella held by Rosalía, played the guitar while she sang before the town’s crowd that, for the past week, had attended the caravan’s performances.

The two children stood on the sidelines, ignoring the rain and the songs, holding hands, silent.

 When the song was over, and the clowns started getting in the coaches, waving goodbye to the people, Román went up to the children and took Elena away from Lope’s hand. He demanded an explanation, even though he knew it. She didn’t say anything. She wasn’t alarmed. Nor was Lope, who would be dragged into his house by the ear.

Holding her by the arm, Román guided Elena to his and Rosalía’s coach, who opened the curtain when she heard them approach. The muddy girl entered the dark chamber, illuminated by a candlelit lamp. She sat in a corner while Rosalía looked at her. Outside, Román was taking roll of the clowns, shouting “Oy!” and hearing “Oy!” in return from them.

Rosalía put her arm around Elena.

“Just by looking at you I can tell she touched you.”

Elena raised her head.

“Her hands are angelic. They’re not a woman’s hands.”

“I know,” Elena said. “She’s the most beautiful woman in the world… how do you know her?”

Rosalía ran her hand through Elena’s hair.

“I’ll tell you when the time comes.”

Elena nodded and put her head to rest on Rosalías lap. She felt tired. Every single part of her body felt exhausted and found haven in Rosalías maternal embrace.

Román opened the curtains to enter, but Rosalía made a gesture at him.

“Sorry, love. Girls only for now.”

He understood, most of all because he understands women, and left.

Elena’s hair felt different now, Rosalía thought as she touched it and felt it. The texture was different now, rather leaf-like. She looked at Elena’s head closely now, and uncovered it, finding: two butterfly wings, growing out of the girl’s scalp.

Rosalía began singing the child an elemental nana, but Elena was already swimming, swimming in that giant sea, already turning into nostalgia her encounter with something divine in the Cascabel Mountain, the rain, the butterflies, and what Adeníd whispered into her ear, swimming, and tears dropped from her eyes, and she swam, saw the fishhook, and latched on to it as if it was her very heart, her very life, and she wouldn’t let it go, as she reeled up towards the sky, she would not let go of it, not this time.

– © 2008, Rolando A. López. 




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