Translated from the Spanish by Harry Morales
“Graciela,” said the girl, with a cup in her hand, “do you want some lemonade?”
She’s dressed in a white blouse, jeans and sandals. Her hair is long and black, although not too long, and is tied at the back of her neck with a yellow ribbon. Her skin is very white and she’s nine years old, maybe ten.
“I’ve already told you not to call me Graciela.”
“Why? Isn’t that your name?”
“Sure it’s my name. But I prefer that you call me mommy.”
“Alright, but I don’t understand. You don’t call me daughter, but Beatriz.”
“Well, do you want some lemonade?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Graciela looks like she’s thirty-two or thirty-five years old, and perhaps she is. She’s wearing a red blouse and a gray skirt. She has chestnut-colored hair, big expressive eyes, and her lips are warm and almost colorless. She had removed her glasses while talking to her daughter, but now puts them back on again to continue reading.
Beatriz places the glass of lemonade on top of a small table containing two ashtrays, and leaves the room. She returns five minutes later.
“I had a fight with Lucila in class yesterday.”
“Aren’t you interested?”
“You always fight with Lucila. It must be a way you two have of loving each other. Because you’re friends, aren’t you?”
“At other times our fights have almost been like a game, but yesterday it was serious.”
“Oh, I see.”
“She talked about daddy.”
Graciela takes off her glasses again. Now she expresses interest and takes a drink from the glass of lemonade, emptying it completely.
“She said that if daddy is in jail, he must be a criminal.”
“And what did you say?”
“I told her no, he’s a political prisoner. But then I realized I didn’t know what that was. I always hear those words, but I’m not too sure about what they mean.”
“And that’s why you had a fight with her?”
“Yes, and also because she said that in her house her father says that the political exiles come to this country to take jobs away from the people.”
“And what did you say?”
“I didn’t know what to say, and then I hit her.”
“So now, her father can say that the children of exiles discipline his daughter.”
“It wasn’t even really a blow, it was a little tap. But she acted as if I had hurt her.”
Graciela bends down to adjust one of her socks and perhaps also to pause or reflect for a moment.
“It’s wrong that you hit her.”
“I guess so. But what was I going to do?”
“It’s also true that her father shouldn’t say those things. Especially him, he should understand us better.”
“Why him especially?”
“Because he’s a man with political culture.”
“Aren’t you a woman with political culture?”
Graciela laughs, relaxes a bit and strokes the girl’s hair.
“A little, yes. But I’m quite lacking.”
“The means to be like your father, for example.”
“Is he in prison because of his political culture?”
“Not exactly because of that, but rather for political acts.”
“Do you mean that he killed someone?”
“No, Beatriz, he didn’t kill anyone. There are other political acts.”
Beatriz restrains herself. She seems to be on the verge of crying, but is nevertheless smiling.
“Go on, bring me some more lemonade.”
Translator Harry Morales is also the author of The Suit and Skirt Farm (Xlibris, 2002), a novel. He was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, in 1962, and was raised in New York City. He has studied literary translation under Gregory Rabassa and translated stories by the Uruguayan poet and novelist, Mario Benedetti, from various collections including Montevideanos: Cuentos, La Muerte y Otra Sorpresas: Cuentos, Esta Mañana: Cuentos, and Con y Sin Nostalgia: Cuentos, among others. He has translated the poetry of the late Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, and the work of Eugenio María de Hostos, Emir Rodríguez Monegal, Juan Rulfo, Cristina Peri Rossi, Julia de Burgos, and Ilan Stavans, among many other Latin American poets and writers.
MARIO BENEDETTI was born on September 14, 1920 in Uruguay. He published his first book in 1945. Although a trained accountant, he went on to publish Peripecia y Novela (Literary Criticism) in 1948, and a year later, Esta Mañana, his first book of stories. In 1953, he published his first novel, Quien de Nosotros, but it was with the 1959 publication of Montevideanos: Cuentos (Stories) that the urban concept of his narrative style took shape. With the publication of La Tregua in 1960, Benedetti acquired international preeminence. While in Cuba, he founded the world famous Centro de Investigaciones Literarias at Casa de las Americas, which he directed from 1969 to 1971. Returning to Uruguay in 1971, he opposed increasing government repression through his writing and participation in the leftist coalition known as the Frente Amplio, which he helped organize. Following the coup of June 1973, his work was banned by the Uruguayan military. Between 1973 and the return of the civilian government in 1985, he lived in exile in Argentina, Peru, Cuba, and Spain. Writing for an international audience, he denounced the tragic events occurring in Uruguay at the time. From 1985 on, he lived in Montevideo, where he devoted his full time to writing. He passed away on May 17, 2009. Translator HARRY MORALES is also the author of the novel The Suit and Skirt Farm (Xlibris, 2002). He was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico in 1962, and was raised in New York City. He has studied literary translation under Gregory Rabassa and translated stories by the novelist Mario Bendetti from various collections including Montevideanos: Cuentos, La Muerte y Otra Sorpresas: Cuentos, Esta Ma ñana: Cuentos, and Con y Sin Nostalgia: Cuentos among others. He has also translated the work of the late Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas as well as the works of Eugenio Maria de Hostos, Emir Rodriguez Monegal, Juan Rulfo, Cristina Peri Rossi, Julia de Burgos, Alberto Ruy-Sanchez, and Ilan Stavans, among many other Latin American writers.