Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Defiance" by Ketty Margarita Blanco


Ketty Margarita Blanco (Camagüey, 1984) is a poet and narrator. She is a member of the Saíz Brothers Association and a 2005 graduate of the Onelio Jorge Cardoso literary workshop, and has won or received mentions in numerous poetry and short story contests in Cuba and in Spain. Her work has been anthologized in Antología del Certamen Internacional de Cuentos Cortos ART NALÓN LETRAS 2006 and Jornada laboral y otros minicuentos, among others.

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Pablo opened his eyes with a smile that disappeared immediately. He had been dreaming again. He stood up; his briefs with the old elastic slipped down, leaving uncovered his white buttocks. With distaste he pulled up his briefs and scratched his head. In front of the pots he found a bit of fried rice in the beginning stages of decomposition. He made his way to the pants hung on the side of the bed and shook out his pockets: six pesos.


The urge to smoke was killing him, a drink would help him start the day, his intestines rumbled in his stomach. On his way out he bought a few cigarettes at the corner café; he got two croquette sandwiches and still managed to talk his way into a drink from the barman.


Optimism overcame him: this time he hadn’t had to do the Cucarachita Martina. He picked out a bench to sit down on. Business was going bad, and looking like that no tourist would approach him.

He gazed at the end of the street. Toward the sea.

He walked up to the malecón and lay down on the wall.

Watching the horizon, waiting for a sign.

Mass of water, with its old defiance.

Twice he had tried to cross it with feeble rafts: the coast guard captured him the first time a few miles from the island; the following attempt, he ran into an American patrol boat (it brought him back).

Close to the coast, that play of lights, edges of what was called paradise.

No one was left for him on the island; he lived with more than one woman, he had no children.

Federico, his best friend, had emigrated four years ago. His letters, and some money he sent, managed to get him out of tight spots in the beginning. But Federico crashed his car on the highway. Since then, each message received was a blow to Pablo, escape seeming more and more remote.


The urge to smoke returned, he turned his head, he approached a passing foreigner. “Could you give me a cigarette?” “Sure…do you speak English?” “Yes, sir…can I help you?”

The foreigner asked about the city, Pablo showed himself helpful and even suggested places to frequent. The tourist gifted him, before departing, a box of cigarettes and ten dollars. Pablo ate lunch in a diner, he could have eaten his fill, but he was a practical man and didn’t let himself be carried away by the temporary abundance.

A girl stopped at his side to buy a soda. At the point of flirting with her, he lowered his eyes and considered himself instead. Pursing his lips, he told himself it wouldn’t work out.

He wandered all afternoon.

That night he retraced his steps back to the Wall of Yearning: he liked calling it that. Always with the sea’s dull grumbling.

He lay down to contemplate the stars, remembered the girl from that afternoon, molded her shape. When he saw her clearly, he lured her toward him, masturbated until he came and, with the air heavy with peace and the noise of the waves, he fell asleep.

At daybreak, he woke up on the malecón wall with a smile on his lips.

It disappears immediately.


- Translated by David Iaconangelo

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