This book is a hommage to the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado and the school where he taught French when he was young.
Along the tale we can see a couple of turning points which may puzzle the reader, but however they will explain themselves along the few pages it occupies, above all between points two and three in its plot.
I hope you enjoy this tender
story in which I think of the relationship between an old mand and
his grandson. You might like sending
your own thoughts on it.
I was tidying up my garage when I was phoned. Since some years ago everything seems to be in the wrong place in my garage, and so I waste much more time looking for my tools than actually repairing the little things which wear off or get broken in everyday life at home.
It was my son in law: I was about to become a grandfather! I had to sit down and enjoy the moment: on one hand you don't really like being called a grandfather properly, but I was also happy with the news: finally I was going to have a grandson, someone in my second generation. Probably nervous because of the emotion, I went on with my work in my garage, setting everything in its proper place, since I did not know really when I could go on with the task.
When everything seemed to be in its place, I got into the house and said to my wife:
“Florence, let's go. You are going to be a grandma!”
Of course she started jumping as if she were a child, for so glad she was all of a sudden. In a minute she was ready and we started for the hospital to see the little one, our little one. When we arrived he hadn't been delivered yet, and thus we met my daughter's in-laws, who were already at the waiting room. The women talked about their own businesses, while the other husband was looking out of the window, very thoughtful, and I submerged, too, into the depths of my own thinking. Even if nobody knows yet, I had just published an erotic novel under a pseudonym. The book was so erotic that when I held the first copy in my hand and had a look at it, I was really ashamed I had been able to write that crap; so I wanted to believe that guy, William Teller, was not me, but somebody I used to know. Of course I wrote it for money, but that is nothing to be proud of. And there, in the middle of the hospital waiting room, together with so many other people who love me and whom I love, I made a promise to myself: I'll neer repeat that thing even if after only one week the book had earned me over two thousand euros. From now on I'll write only things which I can show to my grandson. And to his mother, of course.
“Apparently it is delayed”, my grandfather colleage grumbled.
“It does”, I echoed.
“This is your first grandson, isn't he, Mathew?”, the other grandpa insisted.
“It is”, I assured not knowing whether it would be a boy or a girl, yet.
“It is understandable that you are delighted, he said. “I still remember when we had our first granddaughter: we were nervous for a lot of time. And wishing to be needed as we were ever ready to help”.
Ha, some boresome grandparents!, I thought. If that is compulsory, My Grandpa's licence will be taken off me soon. But they did not take it away from me, even if many would disapprove me later as an unnatural grandfather.
I always found it difficult getting used to new situations. That happened to me when my children were born. Once my first one, a boy, was in the the world, I said to myself: Ok, there is that one here. So what? I needed several years to get used to him and also to the ones who came later. That's because, I think, I am not victim to conventions: I love people, I believe, for what they give me and let me give them, not because the Family Book tells me so.
“I understand”, was my laconic answer.
Luckily a nurse came to take us out of that stupid conversation:
“Rosenda Heredia's relatives!”
I was the last one to take notice of that. I prefer taking good news peacefully, because bad ones haste you all the time into taking the wrong decisions. And I wanted to taste this one, if that was possible. After all this was not a life and death one, but an only life piece of news.
She has just given birth to a beautiful boy. You can go in two by two, but only a little time, she had said. I would not be bothered to be the last to enter, but Flor wouldn't let us be the second ones, so I had to move fast and get in. As soon as I saw my grandson, I got my pocket camera and shot a picture.
“Well, that was a good idea, dad”, Rosenda said. “We forgot our camera in all the fuss to come here.
“I thougth so, daughter. I never go anywhere without my camera, as you can never know when the good photo appears in front of your eyes”.
Flor stepped on my foot so that I watched what I said. I never understood that stupid habit of hers, but it is one of the silly things you get used to just because that is the way it is, after forty years of marriage, so I adopted a stupid smile and said nothing.
That day we all were happy. While Rosenda was in hospital, Flor visited her every day and stayed with her the whole day, till they had to push her away practically. But I went only the last day, while her husband was away bringing the car to fetch her and the baby home.
“Take this, my beloved daughter”, I said as I gave her a little parcel with my fatherly, greeting kiss. Inside there was a Jabugo ham sandwich. The ham was made in the famous South Spain city of Jabugo, in the province of Huelva, Andalusia. I bought if for her in a nearby shop because I knew she had not had any ham for nine months, since she read somewhere that ham has something which can cause a strange illness in children even before they come into the world. It is inconvenient knowing so much, isn't it?
“Thanks, dad! You are the one who knows!”
For the first two years or so, my interaction with my grandson was really scarce, for we met only when his parents visited us. My wife, on the contrary, visited them every day with great joy of the new parents, since she always went there to work: she washed the baby, was with him, looked after him when they were away to work, or every time they wanted to go to the cinema or the theater. I laughed at her, because when our kids were small nobody looked after them, but us. But Flor was used to my funny jokes about it and lying on the floor with the baby was so rewarding for her soul that she looked at me with a lot of understanding loaded with pity.
But I was not bored, even if I had retired a few years before: besides repairing the things which keep always breaking in a house, I read a lot, and above all I wrote. I always take with me a little note book in my trousers back pocket, and then, when I come back home I copy the notes I took down into the book I am writing at the moment, or I write an article for a local newspaper where I contribute regularly. Since the new boy was born I stopped writing my erotic stories, out of a stupid principle I developed, if you bear in mind that in the last two years my last book Jacinto's Scruples, gave me thirty thousand euros. Not bad for a month's work, is it? I developed the virtue of putting into words other people's wet dreams, which they keep in their most discreet place in their minds, where they never come out because of shame and hypocrisy, and then, not being enough for me its wording, I try to make art with that text so that the reader can believe they are actually seeing what I, that is William Teller, tells them through my book.
But along those two years I could not finish anything. Yes, I imagined three erotic novels, I even completed them in my head, but I promised to myself not creating anything my grandson could not read, and so I took notes only for a historic novel on the Independence of Cuba. I documented it very well, but the argument was not progressing at all. Everything I could think of was erotic anecdotes about people from that country.
Meanwhile my grandson was growing, and every Sunday he came with his parents for lunch. Well, it was his parents who lunched with us, since he had enough with his mom's breasts. When he saw me, there was something weird: he smiled at me, and if he had been crying, he stopped. At my gesture he signaled me with his little arms as if he was asking me to take him in mine. As soon as I took him, he started touching my face, and so once he threw my glasses into the air. It was lucky they did not get broken, but I learnt the lesson: when little Julian was near, glasses should be out of his reach. I talked to him as if he understood me, and sometimes I thought he did: he smiled at me and said ¡Gubaggoo! or something similar, and I went on with my speech. When my daughter heard me, she said I was mad:
“Dad, the boy is only eight months old. Do you think he understands you?”
“Daughter, you learn talking by talking. For the time being it is me who talks, but it will come the day when I will not be given that possibility”
But I did not sound very convincing, because in addition to talking to him on the things we saw through the window, like trees being moved by the wind, or the birds flying from branch to branch, or the clouds slowly moving up there to be seen, I always talked to him about the Havanna Embankment, organized crime there and many other side topics in the novel in which I was stuck for several months then.
Till one day he surprised me with a word:
I could not believe it. The first word the child said was Granddad! And the second word was not less surprising: