A Simple Mouse Can Get You

A Christmas Story
Translated by
Roey Ahram, via Flickr/creative commons

To describe the lashes that fell on Jesus Larrea’s back, from a thick chain whip at the hands of a youngster, dons a great amount of responsibility to whomever tries to write it, particularly if one considers that between the two (victim and victimizer) a nonverbal dialogue had been underway for quite some time.

A single lash from a hard chain whip across the back, when unexpected, calls into being an immediate bending, a search for the affected area, a turning back in order to locate its provenance.  Simultaneous movements, within fragments of seconds, which no word could manage to reproduce as it should.  

The lash from that hard chain also induces a cry, Hey!, Fuck!, uttered in the victim’s maternal tongue, with words not understood by the aggressor, nor by the four others accompanying the latter, but enough so as to inform of the mismatch.  They were more numerous, he just one and attacked by surprise.

To smile, despite such a lash from the chain whip, perplexed the aggressor and his accomplices for a few seconds; at first, it was an unexpected funny face, a response as contradictory as the very attack, something like, And what’s this, boys?, on the frightened face of Jesus Larrea, who reached for his pain on his back with his hand, while five youngsters at a bar’s entrance, even more frightened than their victim, without having it very clear which action was to proceed, contemplate him smiling after the lash from the chain whip.

But the puzzling thing about a story like that, for whoever chooses to tell it, should not be the unexpected attack on Jesus Larrea; rather, that this person, as a creature of habit, used to go to that bar every time he left work.  

Each afternoon he would leave behind the multitude of the metro, climb up the stairs of his station whispering some old tune, walked a few steps until he reached the bar, and if these youngsters, as almost always, were fucking around on the entrance, he would demand an unequivocal excuse me with a deep voice so as to make them move quickly, somewhat scared at the surprise, and allow him to continue with all the calm of a man who has lived through things and is not playing games.  

Each afternoon Jesus Larrea would come in with the intention of sitting on the same bar stool, would enjoy being there as the bartender served him a double Vodka accompanied with a friendly verbal gesture, watched football on the television arranged up high, solemnly placed the cell phone over the counter, meditated a little bit with a lost glance towards the glass, or on the phone, and his mind would travel far, really far, to a place without bars or counters such as this one, nor bored youngsters, full of with tattoos, swastikas brimming with hate.

That twenty-fifth of December was a holiday, birth of baby Jesus, Christmas, and no one or almost no one had gone to work.  A nearly excessive amount of decorations on the streets, sales announced on store windows that, due to the crisis, did not have the same effect as times past, and so businesses complemented them with reinforcements of religious figures, and images of Jesus of Nazareth in various sizes.  Jesus Larrea had purchased one of these images before demanding an excuse me from the youngsters and entering inside the bar as if returning from work.

He had also purchased a bottle of Vodka and a beautiful box of chocolates with the Christmas gift, to give to his friend’s wife, an old construction worker about to retire, that had invited him to come to the house for dinner just the night before.  Jesus Larrea was walking with his nylon bags when he felt the voices of the youngsters far away and, as an evident creature of habit, wished to sit down at the same bar stool, in front of a bartender and a double Vodka, with a lost glance in the direction of the cell phone, or the drinking glass.  

Vivienne Gucwa via flickr

At the police station, the chubbiest of the group, the one with the freckles, rejected the accusations at first, with implacable shamelessness, Shit, he cried cantankerous hand squeezing the metal bars, a bit later, as time passed, he heard festive murmurings outside, added to those of the police officers, and the fear of an adolescent in trouble soon won out, blossomed into full blown panic, to the point that he could not stand it any longer and confessed to the officers that he used the chain whip.  No one told him to yell at us, he said, so as to have it written on the deposition, but omitted the only thing that had taken him out of a general routine that afternoon.  He never told the officers that he had been noticing his father quite sad for some time, without much to put under the family’s small Christmas tree, and then that foreigner exited the bar with his bags, as if he had stolen them from his father, and then he could not stand it anymore.  
That Christmas afternoon, from the bar, as if he had a bad premonition, Jesus Larrea looked for a long number in the agenda within the cell phone.  He dialed fully aware that he was about to incur a notable expense, but it did not matter, he felt the need to connect with things beyond the distance.  Several minutes later he heard words in his native language.  Yes, they had received the envelope with the money as expected; on the other side, they gave them passionate expressions of gratitude and congratulated him, from this side he returned the warmth and congratulated in return, from the other side they asked him to take care of himself a lot and from this side he asked that they took care of themselves, they sent him kisses and he would return these gestures their way.  When he finished speaking he placed the cell phone on the counter, the bartender smiled as if saying, Ah, family, and he felt an ounce of sadness when done with his drink.
The night before he waited for the twenty-fifth of December at the home of his friend, the old construction worker about to retire, who was thinking about making him heir of the tools that had once belonged to his own father, because he appreciated him as a son, and it was time to put these things on good hands.  And so babbled the old man while nibbling on cheese, and so repeated on the front door when it was time to say goodbye, that’s how Jesus Larrea remembered it as he put on his coat, grabbed his purchases and opened that door of the bar.  But he remembered it, too, hours before dying, on the hospital bed, the emergency room where he’d been taken.
An intense burst of cold air hurt Jesus Larrea that Christmas afternoon, as he opened the door, said Excuse me with a deep voice, not imagining that the chubbiest of the group, the one with the freckles, would alter his plans with a lash of chain whip.  Hence the inexplicable smile, after a cry of pain in his native tongue, Ow!, Fuck!, noticing the chain whip in the hands of the chubby one, feeling the mechanical tack of a blade just-opened in the hands of another, eyeing knuckles, a bayonet knife, danger, adrenaline, lynching.  

Jesus Larrea threatened with his nylon bags, dodged the second lash of the chain whip, but luck was not on his side, there wasn’t much to do, five difficult creatures needed him broken, submitted, lynched, as if the culmination of a nonverbal dialogue that both parties (victims and victimizers) had been having for some time.

Jesus Larrea died the day Jesus of Nazareth was born, atop the cold surface of a hospital bed, but before that, his aggressors saw him risk his life on a handful of instances.  First, as he ran across a street full of cars, and the second, while throwing himself from the fourth floor of a building under construction.  

More than one driver stopped cold in front of the fear of the man who managed to reach the sidewalk and ran as much as possible with a winter coat, drenched in sweat, as if on one of the beaches of his far away homeland and not on the verge of being murdered by postmodern ranchers, running right behind him, until he managed to enter the building, get to the stairway.  

At the hospital Jesus Larrea recalled his friend, the old construction worker, but not at his home, rather at work, when they discovered a dead rat among the rubble and then another in the food area.  He remembered that the old man refused to eat, chose to smoke instead, slowly, talk about the fatality of tasting something pissed on by these creatures, a simple mouse can get you, poison you, he said, while Jesus Larrea wolfed down a suspect sandwich with soda, and the old construction worker, so as to change topic, invited him to dinner on the twenty-fourth of December.

Jesus Larrea cursed in pain, but did not stop thinking about the old man, A simple rat can get you, he repeated in his native tongue, and the female nurse, before injecting him, brought an ear close to his mouth so as to try to find coherence in his delirium.

If the act of describing the lash of the chain whip that landed on Jesus Larrea, at the hands of a youngster, dons great responsibility to whoever tries to write it, to make the effort to be faithful to the events that transpired on the fourth floor of a building under construction, would require a fruitless exercise in writing.  I think it preferable to leave it to the imagination of the readers and simply consider that Jesus Larrea found himself nearly encircled, without any other option but to throw himself into the void; note, additionally, that his body landed on the roof of a feeble glasshouse where an old man was seasoning a turkey, happy to have the entire family together, for the first time, for Christmas.  

--Translated by Mauricio J. Almonte



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