by José Marín Cañas
Translated by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert
Nobody had any idea, until that night, what made Don Pedro drink. Don Pedro was a very picturesque gentleman who affected extravagant airs. He sported oversized collars and cravats in the absurdest of colors. But the truth about this grandiose fop was that he drank and, at times, in a manner immoderate and obstreperous.
Don Pedro’s flaw was an infantile and harmless conceit. The poor old sot had an atrociously fecund musical bent, and he composed waltzes, minuets, rigadoons, fox trots, marches, one steps, and other various popular pieces and, what is more, penned poetry in a calligraphic style reminiscent of Crispulo Elizondo: he delighted in exorbitantly cursive script, and he dashed off lyrical petitionary missives as accompaniments to his waltzes, polkas and other trifles – all dedicated to Senora de Fernandez, de Benitez, or de Oconitrillo, and delivered right under the noses of their husbands who stood there alongside them in their yellow shoes and ugly cashmere sweaters like big, dumb schoolboys dressed by their mothers.
That was how Don Pedro lived.
"I enrich the art of music," was all he would say in a fierce tone, when he overheard the wisecracks of some loudmouthed know-it-all, in an attempt to deflect further gibes and snipes. "There will come a day," said Don Pedro, "when my name will resound throughout the four corners of the globe along with those of Verdi, Wagner, Donizetti, and Cavallini." (Don Pedro had a queer mania for believing that Cavallini was the name of a composer, and no one pointed out to the poor man that this name belonged to a watchmaker.)
Then someone asked, "Why do you drink?"
"I am not a weakling like you," he retorted. "I drink because I want to. Yes, gentlemen. Are you listening? Because I want to. I hope my answer doesn’t disappoint you, but there are no sad stories to tell. I’m not shameless like you, you sorry riffraff! Any of you who thinks otherwise is scum! You hear me? That's why I drink. Yes, Perez! Because it cleans my kidneys. Have you got that, you assholes? Would you like me to tell why your girlfriend left you, or why your wife went with somebody else, or what kind of books they pollute themselves with? Assholes! I drink because I want to!"
In the face of such flaming oratory, no one dared interrupt.
"Alright, alright, Don Pedro, don’t get worked up."
The poor old man sat down and cooled off, thanks to the ministrations of one of the more compassionate regulars. Then, after awhile, he thrust his hand into his satchel and removed some sheets of music. Amongst all the other muck he dredged up from the unfathomable depths of his pockets, was a little photograph smudged and blotted by filth and age.
"Eh, Don Pedro, who is that?"
"My little boy, my son," he said quickly and guardedly.
"Eh, Don Pedro," Perez spouted, "This son of yours, where is he, anyway? How come we never heard about him before? Do we look like we just rode in on camels? This is a gag, right?"
"Where is he? Where is he, you imbecile? He's over there." And he pointed, ferociously, forbiddingly, his arm stiff, his eyes fixed.
* * *
Don Pedro's inexorable finger was outstretched towards the gloomy silhouette of the distant graveyard.
I took this from A Journey Round My Skull. An amazing blog. Check it out.