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They were gathered in a field, six boys, playing a game he didn’t know.

Manolo went up to them and asked if they knew of any work. Manolo was fifteen. The boys, who were around his age, ignored him and looked down. The one closest to Manolo picked up the wood arrow on the grass and tossed it into the air. They all watched it spin and fall. It landed within the circle they formed, this time pointing at someone else. The boy who got chosen clapped his hands and said to Manolo, “Try the city.” Then the boy walked across to the nearest shanty and vanished behind an old striped curtain that was being used as a door.

Manolo had already tried the city. He had gone from the markets to the docks to the hotels. He spent a day at a cigar factory, helping to load a truck with cigars, peering through the window at the rollers and the lady reading a part of a novel through a loudspeaker to keep the workers company. He didn’t have time to figure out if the story was near the beginning, the middle, or the end. He made enough money to buy some milk. He headed into an alley and sat with the strays in the shade and shared the milk, doing his best in the frenzy of fur and snouts to make sure they all got the same amount. A man on a bicycle wheeled past; a ship’s horn blew. Manolo got up and began walking south into the country.



It was September 1926, and Manolo was in the Matanzas province of Cuba, an area he had not passed through since he was a child. He had spent the past years staying in the west, moving around the vicinity of Havana or farther into the valley in Viñales where the other coreanos let him stay on occasion because they had known his parents.

They had all come from Mexico, where they had worked in henequen plantations, thinking their lives might be better here in Cuba, only for them to switch from henequen to sugar plantations before the sugar industry collapsed and there was no work at all. Manolo had been four and remembered only bits of this, the way moments appeared in him like a thing emerging from water and then vanishing: the rats that paused on his stomach in the cabins where they stayed; the thick old smell of those cabins; cracks in the wall to catch sunlight or his mother’s eye, if she was feeling mischievous; sometimes, the music at nights if a worker brought an instrument; the voice of a plantation owner who startled them more than the barking of dogs.

Manolo’s mother died of dehydration during the first year. No one was aware until the evening, or pretended not to be aware, lest they be punished for stopping, that she had collapsed in the field.

Manolo’s father died violently a few years later because his father owed money to people and couldn’t pay.

Two of the men who came looking for the money pinned Manolo down on his knees and told him to watch. This was under a dock just outside of Havana, near a hotel that was having its grand opening. Manolo was eight. His father, in front of him, just beyond reach, said, “Manolo,” and then something in Korean for the first time. Manolo didn’t understand, had forgotten much of that language. His father didn’t say anything else. All the party lights glittered on the water as the tide came up toward them. And then Manolo shut his eyes. 



The boy who had told him to try the city didn’t take long to reappear from the shanty with the curtain for a door. The boy wiped the sweat from his brow with his forearm and rejoined the circle, picked up the arrow, and tossed it. It flew up, spun, then landed, pointing at Manolo who had joined them. The boys clapped. One of them whispered, “Has she ever been with a coreano?” and another said, “How do you know he’s a coreano?”

Manolo didn’t move. He was thirsty and hungry and tired. There was no sky, only sun. He craved water. It was like he was in the spell of it, wanting nothing else. He thought if he did what they told him to, maybe they would take him to a well or a bucket somewhere in the shade with a cold ladle he could press to his lips.

The boys stared. Manolo said, “Okay,” and headed over to the shanty, pushed aside the curtain, was met with the rank smell of body odor and urine. Slivers of sunlight entered through gaps in the wall. If Manolo reached out, he could touch those walls and also the cracked ceiling. The girl was sitting on the floor on some blankets. She was Chinese, a little older, and if she seemed surprised to see the stranger, she didn’t acknowledge it. Without a word, she took off her shirt, revealing her tiny, saggy breasts that reminded Manolo of a pair of mackerel left to dry on the city docks. He flushed and stared up at the ceiling.

“Well?” the Chinese girl said in Spanish. “Hurry up.”

“Do you know of any work?” Manolo said.

“Do you want me to work you?” the girl said.

Manolo, still staring up at the ceiling, shook his head.

The girl sighed. “This is work. Want to trade places?”

He glanced back around the curtain at the boys still in the field. Then he reached down to pick up her shirt and tossed it to her.

“I just want some water. Do you have any water?”

“What is wrong with you?” she said. “Fucking coreanos.

“Water,” Manolo said.

The girl snickered. “Someone cut your dick off,coreano? You actually a girl?”

Manolo knelt and slapped her. Her mouth gaped open, but she remained silent and motionless. A moment later, she began to laugh very hard and shouted, “Where is your dick?” and Manolo punched her. He felt his fist slip off her face from her sweat and his own. He punched her again and her head slapped back against the wall, the force of it causing the roof to shake and knocking her out. He covered her in the shirt and stepped outside.

“She got sick,” Manolo said.

The boys groaned and dispersed, leaving the arrow where it lay in the field, pointing west.



No one told him he couldn’t stay, so that night, Manolo slept against the wall of a shanty farther in. He convinced one of the boys for water and some stale bread that he dunked into the water to soften it. He thought maybe he should check on the girl, but ended up in a position outside where he could see her shanty, the curtain billowing every time the welcome wind came.

He fell asleep before he could catch her leaving. He dreamed of her. When she lifted her breasts to him, they transformed into fish, and he leaned forward and ate them. Then his mother called for him and he turned to find himself in a room, aiming an arrow up at a bright chandelier.

Dreams were strange: When had he ever been in a room with a chandelier? When was the last time he had even seen one? Why could he never remember what his mother was saying? Or her face? He thought that some deep part of him would be able to construct her face, but he never could.

All this week he had wandered this province, wondering if something familiar would come to him—a road they had traveled together, a town or a farm where they had worked, his father his one companion as they kept moving from one side of the island to the other after she died.

Manolo liked best this moment before he fully awoke, before he opened his eyes. He floated. He wasn’t hungry or thirsty or hot. Everything was all right. He heard panting. A dog came up to him and licked his nose, its breath hot and steamy, and then bit the brim of his hat, pulled, and took off.


Manolo stumbled and then found his footing and ran after the dog. There were days when shade was more important than food and money. He ran past the clusters of shanties, past the one that belonged to the girl, whom he forgot about, into the field where the arrow still was. He picked it up and threw it like it was a spear, hard, but by then the dog was too far away. He watched as it leapt over the dirt road and headed into the forested hills.

A man on a horse came up. He was leading a pony that seemed bored.

Manolo heard the boys groan behind him. He didn’t realize they had followed him to watch the spectacle. They teased him about the top of his brow where he had a tan line that was so old he couldn’t remember when he got it. He wondered why they had groaned.

“Who wants to make some money?” the man on the horse said.

He was obese, in a loose-fitting shirt, and was smoking a cigar. The horse tried to pull down to graze but the man held the reins tight.

“I can’t go today, so I need someone else to.”

The boys groaned again. The man nodded toward Manolo who hadn’t said a word or uttered a noise.

“I wouldn’t,” said the boy who had gone into the shanty yesterday before Manolo.

The man jingled some coins. It was more than enough to buy a new hat and some food.

“She’s a demon,” the boy said. “The whole house.”

Manolo glanced back and considered the boy who was entirely serious.

The man chewed on his cigar and pretended not to hear. He said, “Do you know how to ride?”

Suddenly, Manolo remembered the girl. He asked the boy how she was.

“Stay and find out,” the boy said.

Manolo thought about it. The sun was already low and everywhere he felt it on his hatless head. He caught the glint of the arrow in the grass ahead of him and wondered uselessly where it was now pointing. He went up to the man who threw him the coins.

“I know how to ride,” Manolo said, and mounted the pony.

Together, he and the man returned to the road.



They headed farther south. The forest of palms and oaks thickened. A pair of fat vultures hopped over to the carcass of a boar that lay on the side of the road. Small lizards scurried away from the sound of the hoofs, leaving miniscule clouds of dust.

Manolo hated the smell of cigars. The smoke seemed to follow him as the pony trotted behind the fat man and his horse. They passed a field with cows at rest and then an intersection where there was a wooden sign pointing toward a town, which was a small row of shops, it turned out, nothing more. There was a butcher and a farm stand. It made Manolo salivate. The man said to use half the coins to buy meat, milk, eggs, bread, and some lettuces. Afterward, he should take the groceries back to the intersection where he would ride down the other road and keep going until he hit the plantation. 

“You can’t miss it,” the man said, and began to ride away, but paused. He turned and shouted that Manolo would be paid again on delivery of the groceries. Then the man was gone.

Manolo did as he was told. He did it all without getting off the pony, the townspeople supposedly knowing what he was there for and bringing everything out for him and taking the coins. He asked a woman if he could have some water and she brought out a full ladle. He pressed the ladle against his lips. Out of some kindness, she tossed him an apple and he luxuriated in it, the juices dripping down his chin and his neck as he returned to the intersection. The pony seemed to know where it was going. He let the animal lead. He rode an hour before he saw anything other than hills.

He had entered an avenue lined with tall, ancient palms. To his right was a hill and to his left were what must have been the sugarcane fields. There was nothing there now, nothing living, it seemed. There was only, a moment later, a row of cabins without doors, the rooftops collapsed. Up ahead were the ruins of a mill and at the end of the avenue stood the main house, two stories with balconies in front of the high windows.

He tried to recall if this was where his parents had worked, but the truth was all plantations looked the same to him.

All of a sudden, the pony stopped. It was standing beside a makeshift fence of some kind with a trough, and Manolo understood it was where the pony lived. It was now well into the afternoon. Manolo dismounted, threw the lead over the post, and, carrying the food in the sack, walked up toward the main house.



The enormous front doors were wide open. He didn’t step in immediately at first. He announced himself, said hello, and listened. He could hear a woman talking. She didn’t seem to hear him. He tried calling again and stepped into the foyer where he noticed a dusty chandelier with an abandoned bird’s nest near its center. There were small lizards everywhere: on the chandelier, on the banister, on the peeling wallpaper, on the furniture.

He would not notice until later that there no mirrors whatsoever anywhere in the house. He followed the voice, moving down a hallway with still-life paintings of fruit and water jugs, past a library of leather-bound books until he turned into a dining room.

An old woman, in her eighties, perhaps, or older, was sitting at the end of the table wearing a pale dress, her chair turned all the way so that she was facing a wooden buffet against a wall, pointing a rifle at it, leisurely, and talking.

“It could have been my son,” she said. “But it was you.”

And then a moment later, she added, “Oh shut up, Cecilio.”

Manolo stayed where he was, his feet frozen on the rug that was as thin as paper. He realized he was holding his breath. He inhaled. When he exhaled, the woman turned. It was then he saw the makeup all over her face, done haphazardly and in many, many layers. The lipstick smeared, her skin as chalky white as the members of a troupe he saw once performing a play on an outdoor stage in Havana. It occurred to him suddenly that she was an actor and that she was rehearsing a part. Was there a theater nearby?

“Are you real?” the woman said to him.

Manolo didn’t know how to answer that.

“I brought your food,” Manolo said. He mentioned the fat man on his horse and the pony outside.

“Ah,” the woman said, her chair making a horrible noise in the large room as she walked over to him, carrying the rifle.

His attention veered from the weapon to the insanity of her face: It was like a child or a monkey had gone berserk on her while she slept. Now that she was closer, she reeked of something he couldn’t identity, something deep in the earth. He wasn’t sure if he was frightened of all this or well beyond that feeling, the way he felt on some nights when he hid from men who beat him for no reason other than that he had asked for work or said no when they asked if he would touch them—when he had found a place so quiet in the woods or by the sea that he was convinced everyone in the world had vanished, leaving him behind, and how wonderful that would be.

To his surprise, the woman handed the rifle to him so that she could take the sack of food. She hungrily rooted through the sack and, to his greater surprise, pulled out a slab of beef and began to chew on it.

“Señora?” Manolo said.

He tried to tell her she was eating raw meat like a stray, but she interrupted him.

“Shit,” she said. “Yes.” She went back to the buffet and said, “Move your butt, Cecilio,” and then pulled from a drawer some more coins. She faced the wall. “Don’t be ridiculous, I don’t know this boy at all…you mean the coreanos?”

Manolo felt a tingle on the back of his neck. It moved into him. He had heard that word more times today than in a month on the road, but she had said it differently. Or he had heard it differently. He gripped the rifle, which was longer and lighter than he’d thought it would be. 

He was about to ask her something, but in that moment she followed something—a fly?—as it flew out of the room. All at once, panic entered her. “Where are you going?” she shouted. She waved the meat in the air like a handkerchief and rushed past Manolo and up the stairs. He stayed where he was on the rug, holding the rifle, listening to her footsteps stop in a room directly above him.



Everything in his body told him he should leave right away. The food was on the table. The pony stood outside. What good fortune! He could take it all. The rifle too. Find every man who had touched him and shove the barrel down their throats. Rob a casino. Save a prostitute from the hell of her Havana brothel. All these thoughts excited him. He took the sack and ran. He accidentally stepped on a lizard as he headed back to the foyer, its body flattening under his sole as he stared at the bright, sun-filled, open doors.

He was just there, within reach of the outside, when he stopped. Not because of the lizard, but because whatever feeling that had flowed into him earlier began to grow quickly, like a demented balloon.

He was standing under the chandelier and the empty nest, though that wasn’t what had caught his attention. It was the silence. It suddenly seemed larger than the house. The size of the whole island. Slowly, Manolo put down the sack of food and headed up the stairs, one step after another, past water stains and more paintings and more lizards, until he was on the second floor. All the doors of the rooms were closed except the one at the end of the hall, the room directly above the dining room.

It was a child’s room. There was a wide, cushioned bench by the window, and a chair in the corner where the old woman sat, staring at the bench.

“Come sit,” the woman said.

He wasn’t sure if she was talking to him until she gestured for him. If she was aware he was carrying the rifle, she didn’t say anything. It seemed a room whose windows hadn’t been opened in years. He walked through the floating dust and sat on the edge of the bench with the rifle between his legs like a walking stick.

“This used to be my son’s room,” the old woman said.

There was an abrupt clarity to her; or perhaps it was because she was speaking quietly. A little bit of red-meat blood had stained the makeup on her chin and her neck. It was difficult to look at her: all that white paint, the lipstick, the blood of the steak.

She went on: “He entered a forest in France during that wretched war he had no business being in and never came back. He tripped and fell on a steel spike meant to injure horses. They were hidden everywhere. Can you imagine the barbarism? Eighteen years old. How old are you, boy? Probably only a few years younger. I ask Cecilio why my son is not the one here with me and guess what Cecilio says. He says, ‘Because there’s no face for him to come back with.’ I never liked my husband.”

Manolo, holding his breath again, tried to look around the room discreetly, wondering if the man she had been speaking to was somewhere here.

“Cecilio says I know you. He says you are one of those coreanos. Are you one of them who used to cut sugarcanes for us?”

The feeling again: Whatever was in him was pulsing now like a sudden illness. He was trying to remember the house, the fields. If this was where his mother had died. He shut his eyes and tried to remember. All he saw was the chandelier, but he couldn’t remember now whether it was the same one as in his dream.

“We treated you so kindly,” the woman said. “But it was never good enough. Always complaining. Always running away. You are a dirty, lazy, corrupt people who came with nothing. You just appeared one day with no invitation. We took you in. We gave you money. Food. And you know what? All you did was complain in whatever strange language you were speaking in. Pretend to fall down or get sick. Cry all the time. You cowards. Look at you. Ugly like a dog. You make me sick.”

Manolo began to shake. Or the room did. It was like someone had thrown him against the wall as the woman stood abruptly. She leaned down so their noses almost touched, her breath loamy and sour, the sweat gliding down her makeup as she wrapped her hands around his neck and screamed, “What did you do with Cecilio!? Why can’t I see him anymore? Where is he!?”

Manolo forgot his finger was over the trigger. As she strangled him, screaming hysterically, he squeezed, and the rifle went off.



It went all over his face and his neck and his lap and the ceiling and the wall behind her body: the old woman’s head. It burst like a melon. For a while, he sat there, unsure if anything had happened at all, shutting his eyes, ignoring the wet dripping down the side of his nose, waiting for the ringing in his ears to quieten. He counted to one hundred. And then he started again but stopped. He opened his eyes. Her headless body was sitting on the chair, quite comfortably, it seemed. He didn’t let go of the rifle. He could smell that deep-earth smell again.

There were bits stuck to his eyelashes and so he got up, left the room, closing the door behind him, and looked for a washroom. He found a ceramic bowl filled with rainwater under a hole in the ceiling and he cleaned his face as well as he could. His hands shook. He gripped them together and waited and then he took off his clothes, bundled them together, opened the child’s bedroom door again and threw them in there.

Naked, he spent the rest of the day boiling water, carrying it upstairs to the bath, and then slipping into the water, scrubbing, the rifle always nearby on the floor. His body still in shock, he fell asleep there. When he opened his eyes, the old woman was sitting on a chair beside the tub, her head back together again, looking at him without feeling, or indifference, he wasn’t sure. He wanted to scream but nothing came out. When he blinked, her expression changed to curiosity as though she was wondering who he was and how she had come here.

She didn’t speak. He kept staring at her until his heart slowed. He wasn’t sure if he was the one to speak or whether he could read her mind. He stood up, the water dripping down, and he grew shy in his nakedness in front of her, whatever she was, and he hurried down and opened the door to a random room. Or perhaps it wasn’t random at all, what did he know anymore. He was shivering. He couldn’t remember the last time he had shivered. He turned around but she hadn’t followed him. He opened a dresser. He found only dresses. He moved to another room, and then another, but there were no other clothes. He returned to the first one and quickly slipped on a dress, passing what had been a vanity, although it had no mirror, only makeup strewn about.

It had grown dark. He looked out the window. He could see only the pony who had, it seemed, learned to undo the rope, and was grazing in a dead field, slipping in and out of the moonlight. The old woman was sitting now at the edge of the tub, one hand in the water he had been in. He refused to look at her. He stared at the pony outside until he was aware of his hunger. He was ravenous. Barefoot, he paused by the corner room, the child’s bedroom with the door still shut, and listened. Nothing. He headed downstairs, found the sack of food, and ate what he could.

In the foyer again, he found a straw hat on a hook, and he put that on too. He paced. Now the old woman was following him. He ignored her and kept walking past the paintings and the lizards. He admitted to himself that the swaying of the skirt he was wearing was pleasant. He shut the front doors and headed to the dining room. He stayed in the dark, clutching his hands, the moonlight spilling in, that long silence, and looked out the window again.



He thought eventually someone would come. Someone to check on her. Maybe the fat man with his cigar. Someone else. He stayed where he was in the dining room for two days, chewing on his fingernails or eating whatever was in the sack that wasn’t the meat, which he had put in the icebox in the kitchen. He leaned back and stared up at where he assumed the old woman’s body was still sitting on the chair in the room above. Every time he did that, he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he turned to find the old woman sitting on the buffet, swinging her legs like a young girl, staring at him.

“Do I speak to you?” he said.

The old woman didn’t respond. He considered where he was. The house. The food. The water. He picked up the rifle, aimed it at her, and fired. The bullet entered the wall behind her, shredding a still-life painting. This made him laugh. She laughed too, silently. He considered the situation and then laughed some more.

That first week, he drank so much water he had a stomachache and threw it all up. He built a small fire in the kitchen oven and cooked the meat. He couldn’t recall the last time he had eaten meat. He roamed the other rooms, eating. He changed dresses. This one had lace on the sleeves and the collar. He took out books from the library and flipped through the pages. He didn’t know how to read, not at all, but he pretended to, speaking out loud to the old woman who was always beside him or behind him as he invented a story about a sailor and a storm and creatures.

That was the first time she spoke. She said, “That’s not the story.”

He shot her again, the bullet this time breaking a piece of the ceiling, the dust falling all over him. He went upstairs to change, avoiding the corner room, the child’s room, where a different smell was now emanating. A fly escaped from under the door and vanished down the steps. He put on another dress. Feeling the ceiling dust still on his face, he went to the vanity table and played with some of the makeup, putting on lipstick. He didn’t have a mirror, so the old woman showed him how, and Manolo mimicked her hands and her puckered lips.

The second time she spoke, days later, she said, “You should go to the door.”

He did. The fat man approached on his horse. Manolo was holding the rifle. But the fat man only went as far as the pony. He called to Manolo, “Do you want me to get you anything, Señora?” Manolo, in a dress, the straw hat, and wearing lipstick, didn’t look at him, hiding his face under the brim. Manolo shook his head and gestured for the fat man to go away.

Then, in his best impersonation of the old woman, he shouted, “Don’t come back.”

If the fat man heard, he didn’t show it. But as more days passed, and then weeks, the fat man never came back.



At first, Manolo kept only to the house. He took out more books from the library and pretended to read them out loud, inventing stories about gangsters and casinos and shipwrecks and stray dogs and islands, his voice booming in the empty rooms like the woman reading for the workers at the factory. He changed dresses as often as he wanted, washed the ones he had already worn, and he built fires and counted the coins he kept finding in drawers. He avoided the corner room where the smell eventually went away, replaced by a thin drip of liquid seeping through the ceiling down to the dining table. But that did not last very long; he cleaned it up.

On beautiful days, he kept the windows open to let the air in and shut them when it rained. He caught lizards but didn’t kill them. It became a game. He brought out more bowls to catch the rain as the roof continued to disintegrate. He ate what fruit he could find on the trees beside the house and cooked whatever he could make with the flour and the oil until he ran out of those things too.

There was the puzzle of food. One morning, he put on more makeup and his straw hat and rode the pony down the avenue. An hour later, at the intersection, he crossed paths with a boy walking toward the town. Immediately, the boy approached, asking for work, but Manolo gestured for him to keep his distance. He threw the boy a bag of coins. He listed what he needed and gave the boy instructions to the house and told the boy that he could do this for as long as he wanted every other week. The boy nodded and hurried away.

Manolo returned to the farm. He didn’t immediately go inside. He tied up the pony and wandered the ruins of the mill, touching the belt and the shredder where there were remnants of ancient cane husks that were like the broken parts of a shipwrecked ship. The skirt of his dress caught a piece of metal and tore, but he kept walking, the fabric unfurling behind him. He wandered over to the decrepit cabins. In one, a small cross was nailed to the wall; in another, he found a pair of shoelaces coiled in a corner like the skins of snakes. He got on his knees and looked through a crack at the field and did this again in another cabin.

Later, the boy came, dropped the food near the pony, picked up some more coins that Manolo had placed beside the post, and left without turning to see if someone was coming out of the house.

And even later, the noise of a wagon came across the hills. It was full of sugarcane cutters and they were singing. Manolo, with the old woman behind him, listened from the front doors as the noise grew louder and faded as they headed deeper into the country.



He stopped dreaming. He lost track of time. He didn’t know if a week had passed or more. He didn’t bathe but kept putting on makeup. He tried to practice some phrases the coreanos in Viñales had taught him in his parents’ language, but it was like a kite that kept slipping farther away. How frustrating that was. He asked the old woman why this was happening, why he was forgetting things, things like words and time, his mother’s face, the sound of the words his father had said to him underneath that dock, what his father was wearing, what kind of cigar his father liked, why Manolo himself was even here, why she herself was, whether this was all part of the plan, and to his surprise she said, “What plan?”

This enraged him. He threw the rifle at her and then threw plates across the room and stomped around and shouted and tried to grab the old woman’s throat only to find his own hands clutching themselves. Her grin didn’t break. He pulled down a still-life painting and ripped it out of its frame. He ran to the kitchen, took out a knife, stabbed the canvas and then tried to stab her and ended up stabbing his own wrist. He went blind from the pain and collapsed and almost immediately stood, grabbed a cloth, and tied it around as tightly as he could.

He sat on the dining-room floor in pain, dizzy, thinking he was shouting only to realize in a brief moment of clarity that he had not spoken out loud in two days.

“Oh, let’s not do that again,” the old woman said, and sat beside him.

When he turned to look at her, he noticed she was without her makeup. He had never seen her before like this. Her skin was flawless, her eyes kind. She wasn’t old at all. He asked if she missed her son and she said, “All the time.”

He asked if he really was as ugly as a dog.

“I love dogs,” she said.

And then for the first time, he asked if this was where his mother had died.

“Correct,” the woman said.

“Show me,” Manolo said.

She shrugged. She tapped the wound on his wrist and walked out and he followed her past the pony and the ruins of the mill, past the cabins into the great field. The sugarcanes had long ago all died. It was a landscape of weeds now, bordered by distant palms. He was gripping his wrist and his dress was stained in mysterious colors with pieces of glass on his chest and the makeup was dripping down his neck. The woman was far ahead now, moving farther, it seemed. His legs dragged. He counted to one hundred.

When he thought he couldn’t go on anymore, she turned around coquettishly and waved to him.

A wind came, blowing through her thick hair, and through his.

They kept going.



Near the end of Manolo’s time at the plantation, a person who was not one of the boys who delivered his food appeared one evening on the avenue. He knew it wasn’t one of them because it was a woman and she was much older than they were. She was running as quickly as she could but stumbling and limping—putting as little weight on her right ankle as possible.

All the rooms of the main house were dark. Manolo watched from the dining room and then said, “I suppose I should go to the door.” He picked up the rifle and headed out toward the foyer where the doors were already open. The pony paused by the fence as the stranger came up, looked around, considered the house and the animal, chose the animal, and tried to mount it. The pony whinnied and stepped to the side and reared.

Manolo stepped out. He walked down the avenue, entering the moonlight, and when the stranger heard, she spun around, seeing Manolo and the state he was in, and she screamed. In that moment, as she scrambled up the hill, fleeing him, he recognized her. But he wasn’t certain if she was fleeing because she had recognized him too, or because he was the way he was.

He shouldered the rifle and looked around and back at the house. Curiously, the old woman was nowhere in sight. He patted the pony to calm it and then headed up the hill, following the figure of the stranger as she stumbled a few times more, limping, but kept climbing. Her determination impressed him. His eyes had long grown accustomed to the dark so that she was clearly visible up ahead as he bridged the distance between them.

She almost reached the ridge. If she had, he wondered whether she would have gotten away. Her body gave up and she collapsed, breathing so hard he could see her chest shake and shudder. He should have brought some water. He tapped his head with his palm, scolding himself, and he approached. In the moonlight, her eyes were like a dying animal’s, and he lifted his skirt a little and crouched beside her.

Her face was badly bruised. He reached for her ankle and she tried to run again, but he held out his hand in the air to assure her he meant no harm. He tried again, feeling the bloat. She had twisted it badly. It was clear to him that someone had tried to attack her, but he didn’t know if they had chosen to chase her or to give up. He listened, but there was only a breeze in the distance, the soft clatter of palm leaves.

“Are they following you?” Manolo said. He spoke to her in Spanish.

When she didn’t respond, he said, “Are you hurt anywhere else?” and she shook her head.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I should have brought water.”

She kept looking at him.

“Do you have a mirror by any chance?”

She shook her head again, the rest of her frozen, unable to not look at him.

He lay the rifle down in the grass and held his hands to his face as though he was about to take a drink from a river.

“I want to know what has happened to me,” he said.

She was thinking of what to say. He said, “Can you still speak your language? Your parents’ language?”

She nodded.

“Can I hear some of it? Talk to me. Tell me about the years. Tell me: What do I look like to you?”

The woman hesitated, uncertain of where to direct her gaze. As he waited, she began to speak quietly, and Manolo listened. It was beautiful. It was like a song he had heard once but whose melody he hadn’t remembered until now. Even though he didn’t understand a word, he thought he could hear it forever. It was then Manolo understood what was going to happen and moved the rifle so that it was closer to her hands.

“What is your name?” Manolo said.

“Ana,” she said.

“Ana,” Manolo said. “You don’t remember me.”

The woman, still lying down on the hill, stared at him.

“I visited you,” Manolo said. “In that place. The shanty. With those boys and their arrow. I visited you. A long time ago, yes? You’re older now. That must have been a long time ago, yes it was, wasn’t it, Ana.”

Manolo stood. He breathed. He looked down at himself and then up: The sky was endless and grand. He wanted to dive into it. Pluck a star and be pulled somewhere impossible. He was thinking this when, to his astonishment and wonderment, a noise came from the ruins of the mill. The machine had come alive, and Manolo watched as all at once the old woman appeared from the house, patted the old pony, and jumped onto the belt and vanished into the rumbling shredder.

“Did you see that?” Manolo asked.

He didn’t turn around for Ana’s answer. He didn’t pick up the rifle either. The machine went quiet, and Manolo said, “There is food and water in the house. Stay as long as you want,” and began walking down the hill. He didn’t stop when he heard movement behind him. Maybe it was just the wind. But the pony, who had untied the rope from the fence, aware that there was about to be another beginning of some kind, crossed the avenue, and waited. 


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