Vještičje sijelo

nedjelja, 25.02.2018.

"Going To A Town"

I'm going to a town that has already been burned down
I'm going to a place that is already been disgraced
I'm gonna see some folks who have already been let down
I'm so tired of America

I'm gonna make it up for all of the Sunday Times
I'm gonna make it up for all of the nursery rhymes
They never really seem to want to tell the truth
I'm so tired of you, America

Making my own way home
Ain't gonna be alone
I got a life to lead, America
I got a life to lead

Tell me, do you really think you go to hell for having loved?
Tell me, and not for thinking every thing that you've done is good
I really need to know, after soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood
I'm so tired of America, I really need to know

I may just never see you again or might as well
You took advantage of a world that loved you well
I'm going to a town that has already been burned down
I'm so tired of you, America

Making my own way home
Ain't gonna be alone
I got a life to lead, America

I got a life to lead
I got a soul to feed
I got a dream to heed
And that's all I need

Making my own way home
Ain't gonna be alone
I'm going to a town
That has already been burned down

- 10:14 - Komentari (6) - Isprintaj - #

srijeda, 07.02.2018.

Francesco De Gregori - La donna cannone

Buttero questo mio enorme cuore tra le stelle un giorno
Giuro che lo faro
E oltre l'azzurro della tenda nell'azzurro io volero
Quando la donna cannone
D'oro e d'argento diventera
Senza passare dalla stazione
L'ultimo treno prendera

E in faccia ai maligni e ai superbi il mio nome scintillera
Dalle porte della notte il giorno si blocchera
Un applauso del pubblico pagante lo sottolineera
E dalla bocca del cannone una canzone suonera

E con le mani amore, per le mani ti prendero
E senza dire parole nel mio cuore ti portero
E non avro paura se non saro bella come dici tu
Ma voleremo in cielo in carne ed ossa
Non torneremo piů
Na na na na na na

E senza fame e senza sete
E senza ali e senza rete voleremo via

Cosě la donna cannone
Quell'enorme mistero volo
Tutta sola verso un cielo nero nero s'incammino
Tutti chiusero gli occhi nell'attimo esatto in cui sparě
Altri giurarono e spergiurarono che non erano stati lě

E con le mani amore, con le mani ti prendero
E senza dire parole nel mio cuore ti portero
E non avro paura se non sarň bella come vuoi tu
Ma voleremo in cielo in carne ed ossa
Non torneremo piů
Na na na na na na

E senza fame e senza sete
E senza ali e senza rete voleremo via
- 12:58 - Komentari (8) - Isprintaj - #

nedjelja, 04.02.2018.

Florinda Donner
“Being in Dreaming: An Initiation into the Sorcerers' World”
Chapter 2

It was around eight o'clock in the morning when we arrived at the healer's house in the outskirts of Ciudad Obregon.

It was a massive old house with whitewashed walls and a tile roof, gray with age. It had wrought-iron windows and an arched doorway.

The heavy door to the street was wide open.

With the confidence of someone familiar with her surroundings, Delia Flores led me across the dark hall, down a long corridor, toward the back, to a sparsely furnished room with a narrow bed, a table, and several chairs.

What was most unusual about the room was that it had a door in each of the four walls: They were all closed.

"Wait here," Delia ordered me, and pointing with her chin toward the bed she said, "Take a little nap while I get the healer. It might take me some time," she added, closing the door behind her.

I waited for her footsteps to fade down the corridor before I inspected the most unlikely healing room I had ever seen.

The whitewashed walls were bare. The light brown tiles of the floor shone like a mirror.

There was no altar, no images or figurines of saints, the Virgin, or Jesus, which I had always assumed were customary in healing rooms.

I poked my head through all four doors. Two opened into dark corridors. The other two led to a yard enclosed by a high fence.

As I was tiptoeing down a dark corridor, toward another room, I heard a low, menacing snarl behind me.

Slowly, I turned around.

Barely two feet away there stood an enormous, ferocious-looking black dog.

It didn't attack me but stood its ground growling, showing its fangs.

Without directly meeting the animal's eyes, yet not letting it out of my sight, I walked backward to the healing room.

The dog followed me all the way to the door.

I closed the door softly, right on the beast's nose, and leaned against the wall until my heartbeat was back to normal.

Then I lay down on the bed, and after a few moments- without the slightest intention of doing so- I fell into a deep sleep.

I was roused by a soft touch on my shoulder.

I opened my eyes and looked up into an old woman's wrinkled pink face.

"You're dreaming," she said. "And I'm part of your dream."

Automatically, I nodded in agreement. However, I wasn't convinced that I was dreaming.

The woman was extraordinarily small. She wasn't a midget or a dwarf: Rather, she was the size of a child, with skinny arms and narrow, fragile-looking shoulders.

"Are you the healer?" I asked.

"I'm Esperanza," she said. "I'm the one who brings dreams."

Her voice was smooth and unusually low. It had a curious, exotic quality, as though Spanish- which she spoke fluently- was a language to which the muscles of her upper lip were not accustomed.

Gradually, the sound of her voice rose until it became a disembodied force filling the room. The sound made me think of running water in the depths of a cave.

"She's not a woman," I mumbled to myself. "She's the sound of darkness."

"I'll remove the cause of your nightmares now," she said, fixing me with an imperious gaze as her fingers closed lightly around my neck:

"I'll get them out, one by one," she promised.

Her hands moved across my chest like a soft wave.

She smiled triumphantly, then motioned me to examine her opened palms. "See? They came out so easily."

She was gazing at me with an expression of such accomplishment and wonder, I couldn't bring myself to tell her that I didn't see anything in her hands.

Certain that the healing session was over, I thanked her and sat up.

She shook her head in a gesture of reproach and gently pushed me back on the bed. "You're asleep," she reminded me. "I'm the one who brings dreams, remember?"

I would have loved to insist that I was wide awake, but all I managed to do was to grin foolishly as sleep pulled me into a comforting slumber.

Laughter and whispers crowded around me like shadows.

I fought to wake myself. It took a great effort to open my eyes and sit up, and look at the people gathered around the table.

The peculiar dimness in the room made it difficult to see them clearly. Delia was among them.

I was about to call out her name when an insistent scratching sound behind me made me turn around.

A man, precariously squatting on a high stool, was noisily shelling peanuts.

At first sight he seemed to be a young man, but somehow I knew him to be old. He was slight of body, with a smooth, beardless face. His smile was a mixture of cunning and innocence.

"Want some?" he asked.

Before I could so much as nod, my mouth dropped open.

All I could do was stare at him as he shifted his weight to one hand and effortlessly lifted his small, wiry body into a handstand.

From that position he threw a peanut at me, and it went straight into my gaping mouth.

I choked on it.

A sharp tap between my shoulder blades immediately restored my breathing.

Grateful, I turned, wondering who among the people, who were all standing by me now, had reacted so swiftly.

"I'm Mariano Aureliano," said the man who had tapped my back.

He shook my hand.

His gentle tone and the charming formality of his gesture mitigated the fierce expression in his eyes and the severity of his aquiline features: The upward slant of his dark brows made him look like a bird of prey.

His white hair and his weathered, copperish face bespoke age, but his muscular body exuded the vitality of youth.

There were six women in the group, including Delia.

All of them shook my hand in that same eloquent formality.

They didn't tell me their names: They simply said that they were glad to meet me.

Physically, they didn't resemble each other, and yet there was a striking alikeness about them; a contradictory blend of youth and age, a blend of strength and delicacy that was most baffling to me, accustomed as I was to the roughness and directness of my male-oriented, patriarchal, German family.

Just as with Mariano Aureliano and the acrobat on the stool, I could not tell the women's ages. They could have been as much in their forties as in their sixties.

I experienced a fleeting anxiety as the women kept staring at me.

I had the distinct impression they could see inside me and were reflecting on what they saw.

The amused, contemplative smiles on their faces did little to reassure me.

Anxious to break that disturbing silence in any way I could, I turned away from them and faced the man on the stool. I asked him if he was an acrobat.

"I'm Mr. Flores," he said. He did a back flip from the stool and landed in a cross-legged position on the floor.

"I'm not an acrobat," he pronounced. "I'm a wizard."

There was a smile of unmistakable glee on his face as he reached into his pocket and pulled out my silk scarf; the one I had tied around the donkey's neck.

"I know who you are. You're her husband!" I eed, pointing an accusing finger at Delia. "You two sure played a clever trick on me."

Mr. Flores didn't say a word. He simply gazed at me in polite silence. "I'm nobody's husband," he finally pronounced, then cartwheeled out of the room through one of the doors that led to the yard.

On an impulse, I jumped off the bed and went after him.

Blinded momentarily by the brightness outside, I stood for a few seconds dazed by the glare, then crossed the yard and ran down the side of a dirt road into a recently ploughed field partitioned off by tall eucalyptus trees.

It was hot. The sun bore down like flames. The furrows shimmered in the heat like effervescent giant snakes.

"Mr. Flores," I called out. There was no answer. Certain that he was hiding behind one of the trees, I crossed the field in a run.

"Watch those bare feet!" warned a voice coming from above me.

Startled, I looked up, straight into Mr. Flores' upside-down face. He was hanging from a branch, dangling from his legs.

"It's dangerous and utterly foolish to run about without shoes," he admonished sternly, swinging back and forth like a trapeze artist:

"This place is infested with rattlesnakes. You'd better join me up here. It's safe and cool."

Knowing that the branches were far too high to reach, I nonetheless held up my arms with childish trust.

Before I realized what he intended to do, Mr. Flores had grabbed my wrists and whisked me up into the tree with no more effort than if I had been a rag doll.

Dazzled, I sat beside him staring at the rustling leaves: They glimmered in the sunlight like slivers of gold.

"Do you hear what the wind is telling you?" Mr. Flores asked after a long silence.

He moved his head this way and that so I could fully appreciate the astounding manner in which he wiggled his ears.

"Zamurito!" I eed in a whisper as memories flooded my mind.

'Zamurito', little buzzard, was the nickname of a childhood friend from Venezuela. Mr. Flores had the same delicate, birdlike features, jet-black hair, and mustard-colored eyes. And most astounding, he, like Zamurito, could wiggle his ears one at a time or both together.

I told Mr. Flores about my friend, whom I had known since kindergarten.

In the second grade, we had shared a desk.

During the long midday recess, instead of eating our lunch at the school grounds, we used to sneak outside and climb to the top of a nearby hill to eat in the shade of what we believed was the largest mango tree in the world.

Its lowest branches touched the ground: Its highest swept the clouds. In the fruit season, we used to gorge ourselves on mangoes.

The hilltop was our favorite place until the day we found the body of the school janitor hanging from a high branch.

We didn't dare to move or to cry: Neither of us wanted to lose face in front of the other.

We didn't climb up the branches that day but tried to eat our lunch on the ground, practically under the dead man, wondering which of us would break down first.

It was I who did.

Zamurito had asked me in a whisper, "Have you ever thought of dying?"

I had looked up at the hanged man. At that same instant the wind had rustled through the branches with an unfamiliar insistence.

In the rustle I had distinctly heard the dead man whispering to me that death was soothing.

It was so uncanny that I got up and ran away screaming, indifferent to what Zamurito might have thought of me.

"The wind made those branches and leaves speak to you," Mr. Flores said as I finished my story.

His voice was soft and low. His golden eyes shone with a feverish light as he went on to explain that at the moment of his death, in one instantaneous flash, the old janitor's memories, feelings, and emotions were released and absorbed by the mango tree.

"The wind made those branches and leaves speak to you," Mr. Flores repeated. "For the wind is yours by right."

Dreamily, he glanced through the leaves, his eyes searching beyond the field stretching away in the sun.

"Being a woman enables you to command the wind," he went on. "Women don't know it, but they can have a dialogue with the wind any time."

I shook my head uncomprehendingly. "I really don't know what you're talking about," I said, my tone betraying my mounting unease:

"This is like a dream. If it wouldn't be that it goes on and on, I'd swear it was one of my nightmares."

His prolonged silence annoyed me.

I could feel my face flush with irritation. What am I doing here, sitting in a tree with a crazy old man? I pondered.

And at the same time I was apprehensive that I may have offended him.

I opted for apologizing for my bluntness.

"I realize that my words don't make much sense to you," he admitted. "That's because there is too much crust on you. It prevents you from hearing what the wind has to say."

"Too much crust?" I asked, puzzled and suspicious. "Do you mean that I'm dirty?"

"That, too," he said, and made me blush.

He smiled and repeated that I was enveloped by too thick a crust and that this crust couldn't be washed away with soap and water, regardless of how many baths I took.

"You are filled with judgments," he explained. "They prevent you from understanding what I'm telling you and that the wind is yours to command."

He regarded me with narrowed, critical eyes.

"Well?" he demanded impatiently. Before I knew what was happening he had taken hold of my hands and in one swift, fluid motion had swung me around and gently dropped me to the ground.

I thought I saw his arms and legs stretch like rubber bands. It was a fleeting image, which I immediately explained to myself as a perceptual distortion caused by the heat.

I didn't dwell upon it, for at that precise moment I was distracted by the sight of Delia Flores and her friends spreading a large canvas cloth under the next tree.

"When did you get here?" I asked Delia, baffled that I had failed to see or hear the group approach.

"We are going to have a picnic in your honor," she said.

"Because you joined us today," one of the women added.

"How did I join you?" I asked, ill at ease.

I had failed to see who had spoken. I gazed from one to the other, expecting one of them to explain the statement.

Indifferent to my growing unease, the women busied themselves with the canvas cloth, making sure it was spread out smoothly.

The longer I watched them, the more concerned I became. It was all so strange to me.

I could easily explain why I had accepted Delia's invitation to see a healer, but I couldn't understand at all my subsequent actions.

It was as if someone else had taken over my rational faculties and was making me stay there and react and say things I didn't mean to.

And now they were going to have a celebration in my honor. It was disconcerting to say the least.

No matter how hard I thought about it, I couldn't figure out what I was doing there.

"I certainly haven't merited any of this," I mumbled, my Germanic upbringing getting the better of me. "People don't just do things for others for the hell of it."

Only upon hearing Mariano Aureliano's exuberant laughter did I realize that all of them were staring at me.

"There's no reason to ponder so heavily what's happening to you today," he said, tapping me softly on the shoulder. "We're having a picnic because we like to do things on the spur of the moment.

"And since you have been healed by Esperanza today, my friends here like to say the picnic is in your honor."

He spoke casually, almost indifferently, as if he were talking of some trifling matter.

But his eyes said something else: They were hard and serious as though it were vital I listen to him carefully.

"It's a joy for my friends to say that the picnic is in your honor," he continued. "Accept it, just as they say it, in simplicity and without premeditation."

His eyes became soft as he gazed at the women, then he turned to me and added, "The picnic is not in your honor at all, I assure you.

"And yet," he mused, "it is in your honor.

"It's a contradiction that will take you quite some time to understand."

"I didn't ask anyone to do anything for me," I said sullenly. I had become inordinately ponderous, the way I always have been when threatened:

"Delia brought me here, and I am thankful." I felt then compelled to add, "And I would like to pay for any services rendered to me."

I was certain I had offended them, and I knew that any minute now I would be asked to leave. Other than hurting my ego, it wouldn't have bothered me much. I was frightened, and I had had enough of them.

To my surprise and annoyance, they didn't take me seriously.

They laughed at me, and the angrier I became, the greater their mirth.

Their shiny, laughing eyes were fixed on me, as if I were an unknown organism.

Wrath made me forget my fear. I lashed out at them, accusing them of taking me for a fool.

I charged that Delia and her husband- I didn't know why I insisted on pairing them together- had played a disgusting joke on me.

"You brought me here," I said, turning to Delia, "so you and your friends can use me as your clown."

The more I ranted, the more they laughed.

I was about to weep with self-pity, anger, and frustration when Mariano Aureliano came to stand beside me.

He began to talk to me as if I were a child.

I wanted to tell him that I could take care of myself, that I didn't need his sympathy, and that I was going home, when something in his tone and in his eyes appeased me so thoroughly that I was certain he had hypnotized me. And yet, I knew he hadn't.

What was so unknown and disturbing to me was the suddenness and completeness of my change.

What would have ordinarily taken days had happened in an instant: All my life I had indulged in brooding over every indignity or affront- real or imagined- I had suffered. With systematic thoroughness, I would mull them over until every detail was explained to my satisfaction.

As I looked at Mariano Aureliano, I felt like laughing at my earlier outburst.

I could hardly remember what it was that had infuriated me to the point of tears.

Delia pulled me by the arm and asked me to help the other women unpack the china plates, crystal goblets, and ornate silverware from the various baskets they had brought.

The women didn't talk to me or to each other.

Only little sighs of pleasure escaped their lips as Mariano Aureliano opened the serving dishes: There were tamales, enchiladas, a hot chili stew, and hand-made tortillas- not flour tortillas as was customary in northern Mexico and which I didn't much care for, but corn tortillas.

Delia handed me a plate with a little bit of everything on it.

I ate so greedily I was finished before anyone else. "This is the most delicious food I've ever tasted," I gushed, hoping for seconds.

No one offered them. To hide my disappointment, I commented on the beauty of the antique lace trim around the canvas cloth we were sitting on.

"I did that," the woman sitting on Mariano Aureliano's left said.

She was old-looking, with disheveled gray hair that hid her face. In spite of the heat, she wore a long skirt, a blouse, and a sweater.

"It's authentic Belgian lace," she explained to me in a gentle, dreamy voice. Her long slender hands, glinting with exquisite jeweled rings, lingered lovingly on the broad trim.

In great detail, she told me about her handiwork, showing me the kinds of stitches and threads she had used to sew on the trim.

Occasionally, I caught a fleeting glimpse of her face through all that mass of hair, but I couldn't tell what she looked like.

"It's authentic Belgian lace," she repeated. "It's part of my trousseau."

She picked up a crystal goblet, took a sip of water and added, "These, too, are part of my trousseau: They're Baccarat."

I didn't doubt that they were.

The lovely plates- each one was different- were of the finest porcelain.

I was wondering whether a discreet peek under mine would pass unnoticed, when the woman sitting to Mariano Aureliano's right encouraged me to do so:

"Don't be shy. Take a look," she urged me. "You're among friends."

Grinning, she lifted her own plate. "Limoges," she pronounced, then lifted mine briefly and noted that it was a Rosenthal.

The woman had childlike, delicate features. She was small, with round, thickly lashed black eyes. Her hair was black, except for the crown of her head, which had turned white, and was combed back into a tight little chignon.

There was a force, an edge to her that was quite chilling as she besieged me with direct, personal questions.

I didn't mind her inquisitor's tone. I was accustomed to being bombarded with questions by my father and brothers when I went on a date or embarked on any kind of activity on my own.

I had resented it, but it was the normal interaction at home: Thus, I never learned how to converse. Conversation for me was parrying verbal attacks, and defending myself at any cost.

I was surprised when this woman's coercive interrogation didn't immediately make me feel like defending myself.

"Are you married?" the woman asked.

"No," I said softly but firmly, wishing that she would change the subject.

"Do you have a man?" she insisted.

"No. I don't," I retorted, beginning to feel the stirring of my old defensive self.

"Is there a type of man you're partial to?" she went on. "Are there any personality traits you prefer in a man?"

For an instant I wondered whether she was making fun of me, but she seemed to be genuinely interested, as did her companions. Their curious, anticipating faces put me at ease.

Forgetting my belligerent nature and that these women might be old enough to be my grandmothers, I spoke to them as if they were friends my age and we were discussing men.

"He has to be tall and handsome," I began. "He has to have a sense of humor. He has to be sensitive without being wishy-washy. He has to be intelligent without being an intellectual."

I lowered my voice and in a confidential tone added, "My father used to say that intellectual men are weak to the core, and traitors- all of them. I think I agree with my father."

"That's all you want in a man?" the woman inquired.

"No," I hastened to say. "Above all, the man of my dreams has to be athletic."

"Like your father," one of the women interjected.

"Naturally," I said defensively. "My father was a great athlete; a fabulous skier and swimmer."

"Do you get along with him?" she asked.

"Marvelously," I enthused. "I adore him. Just the thought of him brings tears to my eyes."

"Why aren't you with him?"

"I'm too much like him," I explained. "There is something in me that I can't quite understand or control that pulls me away."

"What about your mother?"

"My mother." I sighed and paused for a moment to find the best words to describe her:

"She's very strong. She's the sober part in me. The part that is silent and doesn't need reinforcement."

"Are you very close to your parents?"

"In spirit, I am," I said softly. "In practice, I am a loner. I don't have many attachments."

Then, as if something inside me was pushing to come out, I revealed a personality flaw that not even in my most introspective moments would I have admitted to myself:

"I use people rather than nourish or cherish them," I said; then immediately made amends saying, "But I'm quite capable of feeling affection."

I gazed from one to the other with a mixture of relief and disappointment: None of them seemed to attach any importance to my confession.

The women went on to ask if I would describe myself as a courageous being or as a coward.

"I'm a confirmed coward," I stated. "But unfortunately my cowardice never stops me."

"Stops you from what?" the woman who had been questioning me inquired. Her black eyes were serious, and the wide span of her brows, like a line drawn with a piece of charcoal, was concentrated in a frown.

"From doing dangerous things," I said.

Pleased to notice that they seemed to be hanging on my every word, I explained that another one of my serious flaws was my great facility to get into trouble.

"What trouble have you gotten into that you can tell us about?" she asked. Her face, which had been grave all this time, broke into a brilliant, almost malicious smile.

"How about the trouble I'm in now?" I said half in jest, yet fearing that they might take my comment the wrong way.

To my surprise and relief they all laughed and yelled the way rural people are wont to do when something strikes them as daring or funny.

"How did you end up in the United States?" the woman asked when they had all calmed down.

I shred, not really knowing what to say. "I wanted to go to school," I finally mumbled. "I was in England first, but I didn't do much except have a good time.

"I really don't know what I want to study. I think I'm in search of something, although I don't know exactly what."

"That brings us back to my first question," the woman said.

Her thin, pert face and her dark eyes were animated and peering like an animal's. "Are you in search of a man?"

"I suppose I am," I admitted, then added impatiently, "What woman isn't?

"And why do you ask me so insistently about it? Do you have someone in mind? Is this some kind of a test?"

"We do have someone in mind," Delia Flores interjected. "But he's not a man." She and the others laughed and shrieked with such abandon I could not help but giggle, too.

"This is definitely a test," the inquisitive woman assured me as soon as everyone was quiet.

She was silent for a moment, her eyes watchful and considering. "From what you told me, I can conclude that you are thoroughly middle class," she went on.

She flung her arms wide in a gesture of forced acceptance. "But then, what else can a German woman, born in the New World, be?"

She saw the anger in my face and, with a barely suppressed grin on her lips, added, "Middle-class people have middle-class dreams."

Seeing that I was about to explode, Mariano Aureliano explained that she was asking all these questions because they were simply curious about me. Only seldom did they have visitors and hardly ever any young ones.

"That doesn't mean that I have to be insulted," I complained.

As though I hadn't said anything, Mariano Aureliano continued to make excuses for the women.

His gentle tone and his reassuring pat on my back melted my anger, just as it had before.

His smile was so touchingly angelic I didn't for a moment doubt his sincerity when be began to flatter me: He said that I was one of the most extraordinary, one of the most remarkable persons they had ever met.

I was so moved that I encouraged him to ask anything he wanted to know about me.

"Do you feel important?" he inquired.

I nodded. "All of us are very important to ourselves," I stated. "Yes, I think I am important, not in a general sense, but specifically, just to myself."

At great length I talked about a positive self-image, self-worth, and how vital it was to reinforce our importance in order to be psychically healthy individuals.

"And what do you think about women?" he asked. "Do you think they are more or less important than men?"

"It's quite obvious that men are more important," I said. "Women don't have a choice. They have to be less important in order for family life to roll on smooth wheels, so to speak."

"But is it right?" Mariano Aureliano insisted.

"Well, of course, it's right," I declared. "Men are inherently superior. That's why they run the world.

"I've been brought up by an authoritarian father, who, although he raised me as freely as my brothers, nevertheless let me know that certain things are not so important for a woman.

"That's why I don't know what I'm doing in school or what I want in life." I looked at Mariano Aureliano, then in a helpless, defeated tone added, "I suppose I'm looking for a man who is as sure of himself as my father."

"She's a simpleton!" one of the women interjected.

"No, no, she isn't," Mariano Aureliano assured everyone. "She's just confused, and as opinionated as her father."

"Her German father," Mr. Flores corrected him emphatically, stressing the word German: He had descended from the tree like a leaf, softly and without a sound. He served himself an immoderate amount of food.

"How right you are," Mariano Aureliano agreed and grinned. "Being as opinionated as her German father, she's simply repeating what she has heard all her life."

My anger, which rose and fell like some mysterious fever, was not only due to what they were saying about me, but also because they were talking about me as if I were not present.

"She's unredeemable," another woman said.

"She's fine for the purpose at hand," Mariano Aureliano defended me with conviction.

Mr. Flores backed Mariano Aureliano. And the only woman who had not spoken so far said in a deep, husky voice that she agreed with the men; that I was fine for the purposes at hand.

She was tall and slender. Her pale-complexioned face, gaunt and severe, was crowned by braided white hair and highlighted by large, luminous eyes.

In spite of her worn, drab clothes, there was something innately elegant about her.

"What are you all doing to me?" I shouted, unable to contain myself any longer. "Don't you realize how horrible it is for me to hear you talk about me as if I were not here?"

Mariano Aureliano fixed his fierce eyes on me. "You are not here," he said in a tone that was devoid of all feeling. "At least not yet.

"And most important, you don't count. Not now or ever."

I almost fainted with wrath. No one had ever spoken to me so harshly and with such indifference to my feelings. "I puke and piss and shit on all of you, goddamned, cocksucking farts!" I yelled.

"My God! A German hick!" Mariano Aureliano eed, and they all laughed.

I was about to jump up and stomp away when Mariano Aureliano tapped me repeatedly on my back.

"There, there," he murmured as if burping a baby.

And as before, instead of resenting being treated like a child, my anger vanished. I felt light and happy.

Shaking my head uncomprehendingly, I looked at them and giggled. "I learned to speak Spanish," I said, "in the streets of Caracas with the riffraff. I can cuss horribly."

"Didn't you just love the sweet tamales?" Delia asked, closing her eyes in delicate appreciation.

Her question seemed to be a password: The interrogation ended.

"Of course she did!" Mr. Flores responded for me. "She only wishes she had been served more. She has an insatiable appetite."

He came to sit beside me. "Mariano Aureliano outdid himself and cooked a delight."

"You mean he cooked the food?" I asked in disbelief. "He has all these women, and he cooks?"

Mortified by how my words might be interpreted, I hastened to apologize. I explained that it surprised me to no end that a Mexican male would cook at home when there were women.

Their laughter made me realize that I hadn't meant to say that either.

"Especially if the women are his women. Isn't that what you meant?" Mr. Flores asked, his words interspersed by everybody's laughter.

"You're quite right," he continued. "They are Mariano's women: Or to be more precise, Mariano belongs to them."

He slapped his knee gleefully, then turned to the tallest of the women- the one who had only spoken once- and said, "Why don't you tell her about us."

"Obviously, Mr. Aureliano doesn't have that many wives," I began, still mortified by my gaffe.

"Why not?" the woman retorted, and everyone laughed again. It was a joyful, youthful laughter, yet it didn't put me at ease.

"All of us here are bound together by our strle, by our deep affection for one another, and by the realization that without one another nothing is possible," she said.

"You aren't part of a religious group, are you?" I asked in a voice that betrayed my growing apprehension. "You don't belong to some kind of a commune, do you?"

"We belong to power," the woman replied. "My companions and I are the inheritors of an ancient tradition. We are part of a myth."

I didn't understand what she was saying.

I glanced uneasily at the others: Their eyes were fixed on me. They were watching me with a mixture of expectation and amusement.

I shifted my attention back to the tall woman. She, too, was observing me with that same bemused expression. Her eyes were so shiny they sparkled.

She leaned over her crystal goblet and daintily sipped her water.

"We are essentially dreamers," she explained softly. "We are all dreaming now, and, by the fact that you were brought to us, you are also dreaming with us."

She said this so smoothly that I really didn't realize what she had said.

"You mean I am sleeping and having a dream with you?" I asked in mock incredulity. I bit my lip to suppress the laughter bubbling up within me.

"That's not exactly what you're doing, but it's close enough," she admitted.

Unperturbed by my nervous giggles, she went on to explain that what was happening to me was more like an extraordinary dream where all of them were helping me by dreaming my dream.

"But that's idio--," I started to say, but she silenced me with a wave of her hand.

"We are all dreaming the same dream," she assured me.

She seemed to be transported by a joy I was at a loss to understand.

"What about the delicious food I just ate?" I asked, looking for the chili sauce that had dribbled on my blouse.

I showed her the spots. "That can't be a dream. I ate that food!" I insisted in a loud, agitated tone. "I did! I ate it myself."

She regarded me with a cool composure, as though she had been expecting just such an outburst. She asked equably, "But what about Mr. Flores lifting you up to the top of the eucalyptus tree?"

I was on the verge of telling her that he hadn't lifted me to the top of the tree but only to a branch when she whispered, "Have you thought about that?"

"No. I haven't," I said snappishly.

"Of course, you haven't," she agreed, nodding her head knowingly as if she were aware that I had that instant remembered that even the lowest branch of any of the trees around us was impossible to reach from the ground.

She said then that the reason I hadn't thought about it was because in dreams we are not rational. "In dreams we can only act," she stressed.

"Wait a minute," I interrupted her. "I may be a little dizzy, I admit. After all, you and your friends are the strangest people I have ever met.

"But I am as awake as I can be." Seeing that she was laughing at me, I yelled, "This is not a dream!"

With an imperceptible nod of her head she motioned to Mr. Flores, who in one swift movement reached for my hand and propelled himself, with me in tow, to a branch of the nearest eucalyptus tree.

We sat there for an instant, and before I could say anything, he pulled me back to the ground, to the same spot where we had been sitting.

"Do you see what I mean?" the tall woman asked.

"No, I don't," I screamed, knowing that I had had a hallucination.

My fear turned to rage, and I let out a stream of the foulest imprecations.

My rage spent, I was engulfed by a wave of self-pity, and I began to weep. "What have you people done to me?" I asked in between sobs. "Have you put something in the food? In the water?"

"We have done nothing of the sort," the tall woman said kindly. You don't need anything..."

I could barely hear her. My tears were like some dark, gauzy veil: They blurred her face and also her words.

"Hold on," I heard her say, although I could no longer see her or her companions. "Hold on, don't wake up yet."

There was something so compelling about her tone, I knew that my very life depended on seeing her again.

With some unknown and totally unexpected force, I broke through the veil of my tears.

I heard a soft clapping sound, and then I saw them. They were smiling, and their eyes shone so intensely their pupils seemed to be lit by some inner fire.

I apologized first to the women and then to the two men for my silly outburst; but they wouldn't hear of it.

They said that I had performed exceptionally well.

"We are the living parts of a myth," Mariano Aureliano said.

He puckered his lips, and blew into the air. "I will blow you to the the person who now holds the myth in his hands. He will help you clarify all this."

"And who might he be?" I asked flippantly.

I was going to ask whether he would be as opinionated as my father, but I was distracted by Mariano Aureliano.

He was still blowing into the air. His white hair stood on end: His cheeks were red and distended.

As if in answer to his effort, a soft breeze began to rustle through the eucalyptus trees.

He nodded, apparently aware of my unspoken thought and confusion.

Gently, he turned me until I faced the Bacatete Mountains.

The breeze turned into a wind; a wind so harsh and cold it hurt to breathe.

With a seemingly boneless, uncoiling movement, the tall woman rose, grabbed my hand, and pulled me with her across the ploughed furrows.

We came to a sudden halt in the middle of the field.

I could have sworn that with her outstretched arms she was luring the spiral of dust and dead leaves spinning in the distance.

"In dreams, everything is possible," she whispered.

Laughing, I opened my arms to beckon the wind.

Dust and leaves danced around us with such force that everything blurred before my eyes.

The tall woman was suddenly far away. Her body seemed to be dissolving in a reddish light until it completely vanished from my field of vision.

And then blackness filled my head.
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