5 de diciembre de 2005


Once someone dropped dead at the front door of my home. My mother thought the woman had fainted and hurried there with a bottle of cold water and threw it all into her face, while my older sister slapped her old face over and over, saying she was a doctor and that she had everything under control. Obviously, there was no reaction. Mr. Marshal, who used to sit all day on a bench opposite our front door said: “She’s with God now, or with the devil: she had the tongue of a snake”. And he went back to his “sleep”. This man was like a lizard. He spent the whole day there, toasting his cancerous skin, waiting to drop dead in that street too.

“Hope when I’m dead you don’t treat me with such disrespect. The youth today...” he groaned.

“Haven’t you got anything better to do than go complaining about every fucking thing we do?”, my sister yelled.

He made a scornful face and looked somewhere else. I was pretty curious about this woman with a round red face and greasy gray hair, all covered with water and mud. My mother told me to get out of there and get some help, but this was the first dead person I had seen in my entire life (and that was 12 whole years), and this would make an amazing story to tell at school.

I remember that the priest of the village had once told us in religion class that, in case we ever saw someone dead we should immediately tell him. I went to his house, but he wasn’t there, as his mother told me. She was a little skinny woman thought to be a witch (by the children) and a usurer (by the ex children). I told her what happened, and she told me her son wasn’t there at the moment, but that she had a sacred soul and she would come help. She took a virgin-shaped bottle (I think it was Eau de Lourdes – my mother kept one like that at home), and we hurried back to my street, where a little crowd was already forming around the fat dead woman.

By my front door, Dr. Erlenmeyer, the doctor of the village (a bearded man with little glasses) was explaining how she could have suffered a sudden stroke and might have temporarily lost consciousness, banging her head fatally against the ground and breaking some vital part of her brain – or that’s what we understood.

Mr. Marshall opened his mouth and said that Erlenmeyer was a charlatan who was a doctor only because his father had known the right people during the war, and that he didn’t even know how to cure a headache.

Erlenmeyer was getting redder by the second, and my sister tried to defend him (he was going to retire soon and my sister wanted him to appoint her for his position, tough, she is only a nurse). Obviously, my sister has never been the brightest bulb.

On the left, sitting by Mr. Marshall, three or four women who claimed to have known this woman were already weeping and moaning and saying she had been their best friend in life, which was a complete lie because I had heard them days before gossiping about how she had neglected her children and how her husband was an alcoholic.

That made me think that maybe her husband would be interested in knowing that his wife had dropped dead in the middle of my street and, as things were getting rough at our front door, I decided to go look for him – the doctor was proposing an autopsy, the priest’s mother was calling him Satan and was spraying him with holy water, and Mr. Marshall had raised his cane and was threatening to break three or four heads.

I had heard that her husband was an alcoholic and as there were only two taverns in our village and they were in the same street, I went running and telling the news to everybody I came across on my way.

No one was in the first tavern, but I told the owner anyway. He said he was phoning the police, which seemed quite logical in this case, though nobody had thought of it until this moment. I had more luck in the second tavern, where I found the husband who was having a drink with the priest. I told them the news and both men jumped off of their seats and said “Don’t touch her”. Both of them were so drunk that they almost fell (it was only 11 a.m.) and they ran in opposite directions.

I went back to the crime scene to announce that I had completed my mission, but I found quite a commotion there. One of the women from the bench was slapping my sister with a trout she had just bought in the market, the priest’s mother was trying to take off the doctor’s trousers in order to show everyone that he had a tail like Satan, and the policemen had arrived, but a wall of crazy old women was preventing them from seeing the corpse, shouting that they wouldn’t allow them to take their best friend (lie) without a proper wake. It was then when on each side of the street a man appeared, each armed with two different weapons, but both equally drunk: on the left, the husband, with a shotgun and a bottle of wine, shouting that he wanted his wife back and that if all those motherfuckers didn’t get their asses out of there he would kill them all; on the right, the priest, with an enormous cross (at first I thought he was Christ himself) and an enormous Bible, shouting that, for God’s sake, everyone should get out of there so that he could give that good woman the extreme unction for her to be in the arms of the Almighty.

The policemen (2) didn’t know what to do at this point, so they started to try to get everyone to calm down, but one of them was hit in the head by Mr. Marshall’s cane, and the other was lost in a crowd of fat fighting old women (I couldn’t understand why they were fighting, but indeed they were).

After someone was wounded or something like that they calmed down and decided to take her to the hospital. I must say that all this happened back in 1960, and there was only one car in the whole village, which was the exclusive property of the landholder. So, with no car at all, everyone wanted to carry her. We had a procession in which twenty people were carrying a dead fat woman all across the village, into the road and then one kilometer down the hill to the hospital (it was the hospital for 5 villages and it was in the middle of the area, in case you are wondering).

The problems came when we got to a steep slope, and the path was in terrible condition. Everyone thought they were holding her securely when we dropped her. She fell and rolled and rolled and rolled down they hill. And she kept rolling until she hit the door of the hospital. Two doctors and three nurses went to see what was going on, and they saw a fat dead woman, swollen, scraped and bruised, with her clothes all torn and, as they looked up the hill, they found a crowd running down behind her as fast as they could (policemen, gun, cross, priest’s mother and bottle of wine included).

Everyone tried to explain his version, but the doctors didn’t want to listen to anyone (they were young people from the capital, who wanted nothing to do with the villagers). They told us that they would be doing an autopsy and would communicate the cause of the death to the village doctor as soon as possible. So, we went back home walking up the hill, except for the priest’s mother who spent all day there shouting that they were the sons of Satan and that the human body was holy and so on. It is said that one of the nurses went out and injected her with some morphine, which made her silent for a while.

One week later we received the results. Dr. Erlenmeyer organized a meeting to which the whole village was invited. Nervously, he opened the letter he had received and read it aloud with his hard and serious voice. What it said made more than one mouth fall open; in this or that way, we had all been her killers: she was not 100% dead until we dropped her and let her roll down 500 meters of a hill studded with sharp rocks and thistles.