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

6: Jaramillo


Struggling against the darkness swallowing his soul, Homer remained by his father’s side, hot tears running down his cheeks. Father had been alive a few minutes before.

It had to be a mistake.

“He is asleep,” he said.

Miguel organised everything during the next few hours when people came to the house and Maria brought cups of tea.

Heavily sedated, mother rested in bed, while Homer remained aloof, pain washing over him.

After dressing father in his best clothes, the undertaker made him ready for that final trip in this world. They buried father in a shallow grave by a tree at the back of the cemetery. Time had gone past in a blur as the priest talked and people offered their condolences.

Homer reflected on his life since he had been a child, tears rolling down his cheeks.

He had to find the reason for his existence and for that journey their parents had made a long time ago in search of paradise.

He sat in his room after going back home, where Maria tried to bring him back to reality.

“Life has to go on,” she had said.

Homer had to awaken from the limbo he had fallen into since father’s death, as mother had buried herself in a room full of memories, while Miguel worked in the shop.

One morning a few weeks after father’s death, Homer found a large envelope with a nice stamp by the door. As he opened it, a cheque fell on the table.

Uncle Hugh had sent them money to board a ship on route to New York. Homer danced around the kitchen, as Maria appeared at the door.

“I’m going to New York,” he said.

He showed her the letter inviting them to a city full of opportunities in spite of the recession. Uncle Hugh’s Pictures showed the Statue of Liberty raising its torch to the sky, calling for them to come to another world. Admiring the Empire Estate Building, Maria imagined all the steps people had to climb.

“They have lifts,” Homer said.


“They’re metal boxes inside the buildings.”

As Maria thought of all the wonders in the USA, Homer took the tray up to mother’s bed, where he found her asleep.

“Breakfast is here,” he said.

Putting the tray on her lap, he helped her to sit up on the bed. She looked tired and drained even if she had slept all day.

“Shall I call the doctor?” he asked.

Mother ate the scrambled egg, thin fingers cutting the bacon, before mixing it with the eggs. As she sipped her cup of tea, Homer summoned enough courage to give her the news.

“Uncle Hugh has written to us,” he said.

Mother looked for the glasses on the bedside table before reading the letter with the nice handwriting. Homer watched her reaction to uncle’s invitation while pouring more juice in her glass. After putting the letter on the table, she sipped her tea. Father’s death had left her tired of life.

“We won’t have another chance,” Homer said.

Mother buttered her bread while he tried to convince her of the benefits of New York on her health and well being. A big city might offer more opportunities in their lives.

“New York is cold in winter,” she said.

“We’ll get a heater.”

After brushing the crumbs off the sheets, mother lay back on the bed trying to forget the letter and Uncle Hugh. Homer had to fight against her stubbornness to get what he wanted.

“We have to talk about this,” he said.

Mother shut her eyes, pretending to be asleep but Homer wouldn’t give up.

They had come to South America in search of a better life and they could do it again.

She looked at the pictures Uncle Hugh had sent them, as he spoke of the doctors looking after her in New York.

“Nobody heals the soul,” she said.

Pushing the pictures away, she covered herself with the blankets, while Homer waited by her side.

He had to convince her of the goodness of that other country, where he might earn lots of money.

Homer held mother’s hand, muttering silent prayers and wishing for her to come back to reality.

He didn’t believe in God but this was an urgent matter.

“I will be a millionaire,” he said.

Miguel appeared at the door, accompanied by a plump priest, wearing a black habit in contrast to his pale face.

Three strands of dark hair adorned his head and his ears stuck out of more tufts of hair.

He put his bible on the table, as mother opened her eyes.

“Father Ricardo,” she said. “I’m sick.”

The priest sat by her side, hands searching for hers as thunder roared outside and drops of rain battered the window.

After crossing himself, he waited for the storm to die out, leaving them in peace.

“In the name of the father, of the son and of the holy spirit,” father Ricardo said, sprinkling holy water on mother’s face.

After anointing her forehead, he wished for her soul to be accepted in the kingdom of God, because of the work Jesus Christ had started on earth, before ascending to heaven.

“She’s not dying,” Homer said.

On throwing the container on the floor, it shattered in many pieces, leaving bits of glass all over the carpet. Maria picked some of the glass with the dustpan and brush she had found in the corner.

“She is still alive,” Homer said.

As the wind battered the tree, moving its branches against the wall, the world remained in the grip of the storm.

Father Ricardo shut his eyes, muttering prayers, shadows covering the world, and thunder exploding around them.

“Make it stop, father,” Maria said.

Father Ricardo raised his arms to the ceiling, eyes full of tears, as the light of the lamp illuminating the room, a strand of hair falling on his face.

The priest regained his composure, after blowing his nose. Homer wanted to tell him of his uncle’s invitation but the priest was muttering prayers.

Maria strolled across the room, holding a tray with a few cups of tea.

“Uncle Hugh sent us a cheque to go to New York,” Homer said.

After putting his glasses on, Father Ricardo ran his eyes through the pages.

“New York is an evil place,” he said.

He talked of a city full of gangsters, where loose women wandered the streets, looking for young boys like Homer.

Evil awaited in every corner ready to lead him away from God’s path.

“We need money, father,” Homer said.

Thinking on the problem while Mother drank her tea, Father Ricardo noticed the bags of coca Miguel had left by the door that morning.

On seeing his accusing eyes, Maria tried to explain about the coca.

“The Indians have taken it for centuries,” she said.

Father Ricardo crossed himself, after looking at her with disdain. She might lead Homer along the road of sin with her big breasts.

“I haven’t seen you in the church on Sundays,” he said.

“I’m always busy, father.”

Homer knew a lot about the priest to come to his own conclusions.

Father Ricardo didn’t like people turning their backs on Jesus Christ for economic reasons.

Parents had to teach their children their religious duties even if they were young or their souls might go to hell. He had to save Homer’s soul before she perverted him.

“If we don’t go to New York, I’ll sell merchandise in the slums” Homer said.

The priest hated Homer’s ideas. That young man would cause the end of the world one day, when God would take revenge for his sins.

“When will you do it?” he asked.

“I don’t know, father.”

Father Ricardo took another bottle of holy water out of his bag= and sprinkled it around the room, vanquishing all the demons forever.

As mother coughed, he held her hand, his lips whispering prayers.

“I’ll get the doctor,” Homer said.

Father Ricardo didn’t need a doctor when he could treat mother with his faith. He gave her the last rites against Homer’s wishes as the storm raged outside.

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