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Siete minutos by Ismael Camacho Arango- Translated and edited by Maria Camacho

6: Jaramillo


After a night full of pain, mother passed away in the morning amidst Homer’s consternation.

As he chewed coca to keep his sanity, people paid their respects, praying by the coffin.

Thinking of his parent’s legacy in this world, Homer didn’t notice the passage of time, as they prayed for mother’s soul, incense drifting through the room.

Having worked in the shop for many years, they had never made any money to live a decent life. Father dreamt of improving their shop to sell better merchandise.

They had bought a few toys for him during the years with the promises of something better, but because of their poor credit history, they could never borrow money to help with their expenses.

Uncle Hugh brought toys for the child, bought in that country of the north, where rich people lived in big houses with swimming pools.

The biggest treat in Homer's infancy had been their outings to the fair to seen the bearded woman, the fattest man and the child that fit in a tiny box. He had tried doing that with the boxes in the cellar, scratching his legs and making mother angry.

“The boy in the fair did it, mum.”

She shrugged. “You'll never learn.”

Those sunny days had taught him so many things. He had learned how to annoy the monkey man by throwing paper balls at his cage while shooting the camel woman with his water pistol.

A voice interrupted his reverie as a large woman with black hair tied in a bun, hugged him, leaving the smell of cologne and fried eggs in his clothes.

“I’ll miss your mother,” she said.

Homer grunted. Everyone claimed to have known mother, even if he had never seen them before. The woman discussed mother’s life and her qualities.

As a good daughter of God, she had spread his world amongst the people of the market. Homer listened to the stories the woman told him of mother looking after her customers.

“She was an angel,” she said.
Not feeling well, Homer hoped the weoman would end the story of life in the market full of excitement.

The men to collected the rubbish on Wednesdays and got drunk on Fridays to celebrate the end of the week.

”We’ll take her to the cemetery now,” someone said.

Several people took the coffin across the room, keeping it away from the walls.

The image of the monkey woman beating at the bars, keeping her away from freedom, came back to Homer's mind.

His mother didn’t deserve to be locked in that coffin.

“Give him an aguardiente,” the woman said.

He drank the liquid, they offered him in a small glass,burning his throat and some of the pain.

Then he followed Maria to the car, while mother waiting inside the coffin.

“You must sit next to the driver,” the undertaker said.

Mother had paid for her funeral with a life insurance she had purchased before her death.

Homer remembered her putting the money in the bank after she had done her shopping every month.

He wanted to wake her up from her slumber, before she disappeared into the earth, but the moving car brought him back to reality.

He had to bury his mother as a present to the earth, mad and the universe.

On arriving at the cemetery, they followed the coffin down the path, as drops of rain fell on the earth, and the wind ruffled their hair.

Father Ricardo waited in a clearing holding a bible in his hands. After hugging Homer, he wiped his tears.

“The world will miss her,” he said.

Homer didn’t say anything, mother’s death taking away his soul and his mind.

The priest opened his bible, getting ready to deliver his message of love in a time of pain amidst the rain and the flowers.

“Dear people,” he said. “We have lost an angel of mercy on this earth.”

He spoke of salvation, while Homer found a few coca leaves in his pockets. Brittle and dried, they might help him to forget his ache.

He listened to all the good things his mother had done, and how she had suffered in the hands of life, before shutting her eyes forever. After sprinkling holy water over the coffin, Father Ricardo muttered a few prayers to our lord.

“Ashes to ashes,” he said.

“Amen,” everyone said.

Homer remembered the day he had flown, while the leaves fluttered in the wind. The trees in the cemetery resembled the tree of life in the backyard with its branches searching for the sky.

“The Devil wants to interrupt this service,” Father Ricardo said.

After opening his umbrella, he talked of the work mother had started in this world, helping poor souls.

“She gave me a sum of money every week for poor children begging in the streets,” he said.

Homer heard a few more things his mother had done, when they never had any money.

She had helped the unfortunate live better lives in this world full of pain. Tears of frustration left his eyes, already wet with the rain.

“This woman devoted most of her existence to helping other human beings to live better lives,” the priest said.

Wondering if his father had known about this, Homer imagined all the things they might have bought with the money his mother had spent in charities. He chewed some more coca leaves, their bitter taste leaving his mouth dry.

“She will be remembered by the poor and meek..”

A long line of children appeared along the path singing a hymn. One of them threw a single rose on the grave as the others sang the psalms.

“She gave us everything we needed,” a child said.

Homer didn’t feel very well as Maria squeezed his hand.

Then he cried on her shoulders for all the times he had wanted a toy or nice clothes while his mother gave everything to charity.

Father Ricardo kept on talking of mother’s good work in the kingdom of God.

“She left a life insurance for a widow’s charity,” he said.

A few women dressed in black appeared by his side praising mother. Homer didn’t want to hear anymore terrible things his mother had done and put more coca leaves in his mouth.

Shutting his bible, Father Ricardo talked to the women while stroking the children’s heads.

Retreating to the back of the cemetery, where the bushes met the roses by the walls, Hopmer cried for his mother and himself.

Maria followed him, holding her prayer book.

“She was a good woman,” she said.

“We didn’t have any money.”

“God will thank her.”

Homer didn’t know when he might do that. The crowd dispersed after it had started to rain, water dripping down their clothes.

They moved across the cemetery, splashing in the puddles and getting mud on their shoes.

They had reached the entrance to the cemetery, as the wind moved the branches of the trees and a few wreathes adorned the graves.

One of the widows stood under a ledge, looking at him with sad eyes. Homer liked her pale face surrounded by dark hair, but then Maria pulled his hand.

“Let’s go,” she said.

They went back home through the same streets the funeral cortege had followed three hours ago, where people went about their business unaware of his pain.

The shop looked sad under the blanket of rain, the sun struggling to appear behind the clouds. As they entered the building, Homer saw the empty space where the coffin had been that morning.

“I’ll make some coffee,” Maria said.

Looking at the pictures on the table, Homer thought he had to start anew. His shop would be the best in town, even if she had thought only of her charities.

He had spent all that money on the funeral even if mother had paid for it with her life insurance. He had to put right all of her love for the poor of the world.

“I’ll call the shop, El Baratillo,” he said.

“El Baratillo?”

“Everything will be cheap.”

Homer wrote down in his diary all his plans. After renting the top part of the house, he would live in shop to save money. He had to sort out his life now.

He would have lots of money by the end of the year by charging hundreds of pesos for his house every week.

As Maria put the kettle on, he went in the cellar, full of shadows and cobwebs, his footsteps echoing in the lose boards. Maria appeared behind him, with a cloth in her hands.

“I want to sleep here,” he said.

“You must be mad.”

“Mother’s love of charities had to be crazy,” he said.

He led her to the darkest part of the dark cellar, where moss grew on the walls.

Disentangling herself from his arms, she rushed out of that place full of grief, as Homer lingered by the walls. Then the darkness parted and he saw Jose’s face amongst the bags of coca.

He wore a long gown, and his hair went down to his shoulders. Smiling, he stretched his arms towards Homer, but then the image disappeared, leaving him confused.

Homer had not touched coca leaves that day, and he rarely saw any mirages. Muttering to himself, he made his way across the piles of rubbish to the door.

Then the darkness parted and he saw Jose’s face amongst the bags of coca.

He wore a long gown, and his hair went down to his shoulders. Smiling, he stretched his arms towards Homer, but then the image disappeared, leaving him confused.

Homer had not touched coca leaves that day, and he rarely saw any mirages.

Muttering to himself, he made his way across the piles of rubbish to the door. He had a last look at the cellar, before stepping back in the kitchen where Maria waited.

El Baratillo became an institution: a neck tie that cost ten pesos, he sold for eight pesos and the same with everything else.

People came from all over the city to buy his merchandise and his coca was the best in the region.

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