“This Particular Kindness”
©Doug Evans Betanco 2008
(3672 words, in 5 Cuentos)
Cuento 1: “La Pichinga Dream” (881 words)
La Casa de Palomas
9:57pm [Typing]: My brother-in-law, Cesar Urrutia de Talavera, sits in my rocking chair, watching me, his face a sunrise of laughter, while I write. It’s past his bedtime, and Marta’s left the planet, already, I’d say, from her snores over the wall, or maybe that’s don Moncho, staying the night with doña Eva: I’m only beginning, an Internet deadline to meet en la mañana.
I’m writing columns this trip, while living with my bonded familyof campesinos at la casa de palomas, here in Northern Nicaragua. I’ve been having luck typing these stories from the presento, as they happen, in and out of me; since everything here is loco when seen from Arriba--up there in the States--I let Time, notoriously loco, be my planner, even if it brings “crazy” to my keyboard. I can always take it out, later, or make it crazier.
10:03pm [Typing]: In his lap rests my clean, 2-liter juice jug, mi pichinga, with, like all things Nicaraguan, a bittersweet historia. He reminds me with a smile so fond it must ache, una sonrisa, that, soon after my arrival in Teote, two months late because of necessary heart work, he’d caught a terrible sueño, a nightmare. In it, he sees me attacked at midnight in the front yard of palomas, jumped by a drunk with a machete.
Mysteriously, he hands me a pichinga instead of fighting my dream assailant, and smiles. The bolo, clearly befuddled, his knife no longer at my throat, turns instead and stumbles off into the dark. I hold the plastic pitcher tight to my chest, while mi hermano, Nicaraguan to the core, grabs my flashlight and, clicking his tongue, clapping his hand on my foco, leaps into a formal, solitary dance of honor, machísimo. My powerful beam, a sword of light, cuts the black skin de la noche.
“Lucky, that night of the pichinga,” he says to me now. “What a dream, gracias a Dios!”
10:09pm [Typing]: Esta sueño, he tells me, in between my typing, woke him up in fright. He remembered it. Early that morning, he told it eerily, eyes bugging, for we had just felt the shock of young Lito’s recent slashing, here in Teote, by a bolo, while escorting his girlfriend home from a teenage dance. I can now report, my nephew’s on the mend, can see, his fading scars, somehow, enhancing his looks. Lucky kid—por gracia de Diós.
But, back then, bolos had taken up permanent residencia in the whispers round my sister Marta’s kitchen mesa, along with a continuous and kindly concern for mi salud, so this dream was electric with synchronicity for us all.
Especially for me. Since Lito’s attack, my walks en las calles had been curtailed at my family’s insistence, unless Cesar-guarded, a stiletto tucked in his black leather bota. As he usually retires at 9 pm, I’d spent too many late nights this trip pacing in my locked-tight cuarto, mi noche haunted by a lurking paranoia, previously not much un parte de mi vida Nica. Probably, I’m too trusting or oblivious a soul, more concerned with the flash of ideas than of glinting machetes.
In this black fear, however, unlocking mi puerta, heading to el servicio in the backyard, even with my heavy foco, had become a perilous gauntlet. I’m not a machete-kind of guy, and feel protected, here, in any case, most of the time. Yet, I’d taken—Forgive me!—to peeing out mi puerta into the noisy dark of the dirt corte, rather than facing my fear of knives and blindness, every time I had to piddle.
En la mañana, however, shameful mud had greeted Marta’s broom, sweeping mi patio. If she minded, she didn’t say, but I felt this copious evidencia of my nocturnal panic, however justifiable, a fouling of her cave. On the night of Cesar’s dream, I’d even thought to do it in a plastic bolsa, but I feared it might burst. Clearly, a dilemma in amarillo.
Thus, when Cesar shared his dream that morning over café, I was amazed, and when he plonked a jug with campesino force on the kitchen table, astonished. When he said—of course, I translate—“Here’s your Pichinga, a jug for su cuarto, for urina en la noche,” I was once more grateful, both to him and to the U., nudging me towards seguridád in the simplest, most miraculous maneras. Filled with delighted relief, I thanked him. Then, of course, we all dissolved to sniggering, imagining mi noches en la futura, and I became, por un momento, the center of a Nicaraguan piss joke.
Urina is very big here, as well as caca, sexa and politicos pasados--most of whom end up in the outhouse having lunch with Somoza Segundo, their imaginary caca-eating parrot--for relief from the drudgery of living at survival. I love mi pichinga, my salvación from the honed blades of wildness, the loco-Jack-the-Rippers sneaking into my asylum, even here, in Nicaragua.