Tuesday, April 20

‘Esbirros’, by Antonio Ortuño: The trail of the snow in your blood | Babelia


After win the V Ribera del Duero Award in 2017 with the book ‘The vague ambition‘, this April 7 reaches Spanish bookstores’Minions‘, the new book of stories by the Mexican writer Antonio Ortuño (Jalisco, 1976). A set of stories edited by Foam Pages that explore the double condition of victim and perpetrator that every individual carries within, through a series of characters who sometimes oppress and other times are oppressed.

We advance one of those stories in full, entitled ‘The trail of the snow in your blood’.

That jerk Caruso was late. I say this even though we hadn’t agreed to an appointment and we weren’t even in contact before that night. No: Caruso was late, actually, to prevent a relapse after eight years. An hour late, when the snow, the damn dust, had invaded my system.

I explain. During my youthful days I became fond of drinking snow and then, not without going through nights of sweating, howling and vomiting, I gave it up. Eight years I lasted clean, eight years like eight soles. I managed to separate myself from the crust of inept friendships that a consumer usually clings to, even at the cost of not having someone to date. I was able to tolerate the illness and death of my mother and the departure of my sister Clarita, who faded like a saint in the arms of her husband, without giving myself to the consolations of the snow. I stopped worrying the bosses in the advertising agency I worked for (those Pharisees still consumed, but they pointed their fingers at any employee with signs of living the night as they did) and I became an example of rehabilitation.

But inertia conspired against me. Out of respect for my condition of remiss, I stopped being summoned to office parties, I moved away from the bosses and ended up cornered, first, and later forgotten. They reminded me just in time to ask the guard one afternoon to walk me to the door and check that all the objects stacked in my cardboard box belonged to me. They kicked me out, yeah.

Fifteen months of exile ensued. I searched the web for friends and inundated them with provocative messages that they declined to respond. Set of resumes the emails of each executive of each agency in the city, typing even at random (Fito Caruso, for example, could have had the address fitocarusoarrobapublitechpuntocom or fcaruso or f.caruso or even fito.caruso, without ruling out the confident carusoarroba).

And one night, reconciled with the dubious friends of my consumer stage, I faltered. Hugo, in the heat of drinks and a few games of billiards, took me aside. I have something if you want. The gazes of everyone present fell on the back of my neck. There were gestures of disbelief as I bowed my head in acceptance. Hugo hastened to lead me to the old-time bodeguita, the usual one, rummaged in his pockets and, after fighting in the dark with himself and his clumsiness, offered a mound of snow in the corner of a credential. I breathed it in. A chorus of stunned faces greeted me on my way out. My spine was shaking.

An hour later, Paco Caruso appeared at the bar, elegant and wasteful. She had just moved into a new, bigger and more powerful agency and she walked over to my side without blinking. I need you to come with me, man. You do some simple tests Monday and Tuesday and on Wednesday you are working. You think?

An hour late, son of a bitch. An hour late.

***

I tasted doomed. I woke up with the spikes of guilt stuck in my stomach. He had survived on precarious savings and jobs freelance. And now Caruso was my salvation and my condemnation. If his agency asked future employees for blood tests, it was because his giants were well aware of the union’s fondness for sticking illegalities up their noses. And there was no way to pass that exam.

I incurred resignation. I prayed without faith prayers chosen from the darkness of memory (I began with the Lord’s Prayer and stopped at the Hail Mary and the guardian angel). My blood was drawn by a scientifically serious laboratory technician, bent behind endless glasses. I watched my blood flow into the syringe with a hint of pity. It was seven in the morning and he hadn’t had breakfast. The orange juice told me how the vinegar must have tasted to Jesus Christ, there on his cross.

On Tuesday I woke up two hours earlier than necessary. I walked to the agency offices. They were splendid, admirable. I wandered to the recruiting office where I had been instructed to report. I had card twelve and, pushing my way through sleepy applicants with the gestures of messengers and buskers, I settled into a chair. Immediately a young woman came through the door, called my name and ushered me in. I am Ana Chávez, she said with a bow. She was dark, slim, her hair pulled back in a flawless ponytail. He smiled with fairy delicacies. Caruso asked me to take care of you. I smiled without force. Eight years I cleaned and destroyed the Universe an hour before the sky opened for me. I committed suicide when dawn was breaking.

Eight years I cleaned and destroyed the Universe an hour before the sky opened for me. I committed suicide when dawn was breaking.

I handed over the folder with my documents, which the beautiful Ana examined. He licked his lips with a minimal cat tongue and I trembled. He asked some questions about experience and skills and without showing any reaction to my megalomaniacal rudeness (I was the one making the agency move, I said without blushing) he asked me to draw a man and a woman on a piece of paper. You would have to pose for me, I replied, my dignity lost. Ah, you can draw. No. But I’m an anthology photographer. He celebrated the term with another giggle. No one responds to an interview like this, he warned. I do. Well, I don’t think you’ll ask me again: there are very pretty girls upstairs. I’m not that easy, I pretended to be outraged. She smiled.

They knocked on the door. A messenger was carrying some laminated envelopes with the label of the laboratory. Your results, she said, and left the test pile next to the phone. My blood? Yours and five others. The laboratory sends the results and an interpretation if necessary. What a need. Eight years wasted, heaven itself wasted.

I closed the eyes. Maybe Hugo hadn’t given me powder but a placebo, aspirin, something that would allow him to laugh at me. Perhaps the amount of snow in my blood would be minimal, infinitesimal, compared to that of any other aspirant (essentially because of that, because everyone sucked). Perhaps Ana, out of curiosity at the forty-year-old who was flirting with her, would decide to hide the exam. Nobody had to know the result, deep down. The light stung my pupils as I raised my eyelids. My brain was wiggling. I love you, Ana, I said in a piped voice that didn’t sound like mine. You should take me a coffee. And sleep with me

There it was: the condemnation.

She wasn’t paying the slightest attention to me. The envelope, in my name, open in your hands. He stared at the white sheet without blinking. His eyes darted between the paper and my face. I was, how can I not infer, horrified. He put a hand to his mouth, covering it.

Maybe it’s the family tumor, the one that took my mother and poor Clarita, I told myself. Maybe there is still time to sleep with Ana.

It’s the snow, right? My voice was lost in sheer drooling.

She did not answer.

Minions

Antonio Ortuño
Foam Pages, 2021
112 pages, 14 euros

Look for it in your bookstore

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