Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Look What Time It Is" by Juan Cueto-Roig

Ten bombs had exploded in various parts of the city. But this was long after Mario left his house. He didn’t hear about it because he was at the movies. At eleven that night, now in the street, he sensed something strange. The few passers-by, more serious and aloof than usual, moved quickly. At the bus stop, someone commented on what happened. Mario thought of his mother. He was her only son, and she became very nervous when these things happened. Now she would be worried.

“You know the dangers that youths face these days,” she always said, in vain, to dissuade him every time he went out at night.

He stopped the first bus that he saw coming. It wasn’t the one that passed by his house, but he decided he would transfer closer to his neighborhood.

He arrived at the place where he had to get off in order to change buses.

“Be careful, kid, it’s dangerous walking alone out on a night like this,” murmured the driver in a paternal tone.

The street was deserted. For the first time he felt fear. He was the only person on that corner. Suddenly, from the shadows, as if created by the night itself for the sole purpose of changing his fate, a cop approached him, slapped him in the face, and accused him of being one of the revolutionaries that had planted the bombs.

“You’re mistaken, sir, I was at the mall … at a movie.”
“In what theater? Bombs were also planted in theaters.”
“Not in the one I was in.”

The boy’s response infuriated the man.

Mario searched in his pocket for his ticket stub, not finding it.

“You live around here? What are you doing on this corner at this time?”
“Waiting for the bus … Look, here’s my transfer.” And he waved it in his hand like a flag of salvation.

The policeman snatched it from him and threw it on the ground. Then he beat him. While he bled profusely from the nose and an eye, the cop made him walk several blocks while he pointed his pistol at his back. A patrol car passed and the thug signaled to it. They threw Mario into the back seat and continued beating him.
His mother never slept until her son returned. That night he was later than usual. She looked at the clock. It was already 2:00 in the morning. And as if someone could hear her and respond with a reason that would calm her, she said, “Look what time it is and Mario still hasn’t returned.”

And several times a day, until the end of her life, in a voice that was almost a wail, she kept repeating, “Look what time it is and Mario still hasn’t returned.”

- Translated by Charles Iaconangelo

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