14 February 2013

The widow Gonzalez means business

[The] trains that go to Paradise are always locals that get tied up in suffocating, damp stations along the way. The only express trains are those that go to Hell. It was one such train that Mario felt he had boarded when he saw Mrs Rosa Gonzalez walking towards the house with a stride as insistent as decisive as machine-gun fire. The poet [Pablo Neruda] thought it best that Mario disappear behind a curtain, and then, turning around on his heels and elegantly lifting his cap, he offered his visitor the most luxurious armchair in the house. The widow refused this invitation and stood with her feet firmly planted, her legs slightly apart. Puffing out her chest, she ruled out the possibility of further digressions.

"What I have to tell you is far too serious to say sitting down."

"What is it about, ma'am?"

"For the last few months, a certain Mario Jimenez has been hanging around my tavern. This young man has been insolent to my sixteen-year-old daughter."

"What has he said to her?"

"Metaphors," the widow spit between clenched teeth.

The poet swallowed hard. "And?"

"With these metaphors, Don Pablo, he's got my daughter as hot as a pistol!"

"But we are in the middle of winter, Mrs Gonzalez."

"My poor Beatriz is eating her heart out for this postman. And he doesn't have any capital other than the fungus that grows between his toes. And if his feet are teeming with microbes, his mouth is as fresh as a head of lettuce and his tongue more tangled than a pile of seaweed. And the most serious part of it all, Don Pablo, is that the metaphors he uses to seduce her have been shamelessly copied from your books."


"Yes! He began by innocently telling her that her smile was like a butterfly and now he's telling her that her chest is a fire burning with two flames!"

"And do you believe that the image he used was visual or tactile?" the bard asked.

"Tactile," the widow responded. "I have prohibited her leaving the house until this Mr Jimenez clears out. You might think it cruel of me to isolate her like that, but I caught her red-handed with this poem folded up in her bra."

"Her bra was red-hot?"

[There ensues a reading of the lovelorn poem from Mario. It contains four uses of the word 'naked' in four lines]

"I am asking you," the woman continued, "his confidant and the source of his inspiration, to order this Mario Jimenez, postman and plagiarist, to refrain from setting eyes upon my daughter from this day onward, for the rest of his life. And tell him that if he does persist, I will personally see to it that his eyes are yanked out of his head."

Even after the widow had left, invisible particles of her being seemed to hover, vibrating, in the air.

- Antonio Skarmeta, Il Postino (The Postman), 1985, Eng. trans. Katherine Silver, New York, 2008
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