Siete minutos by Ismael Camacho Arango


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Dear Apollo
I think this has all finished. I’m leaving this last letter under the sand, for you to read after the party. I never thought the world would go so quickly. A few earthquakes have destroyed most of civilisation.
I have seen or I’m still seeing the greatest spectacle of all times, and I haven’t paid one penny.
Man has become rational for the first time. A few people found a box full of dollars not long ago but they picked up some pieces of bread, while looking at the money with indifference. The sun had to get fat for that miracle to happen.
It’s the first time I’ve seen men acting like animals. An earthquake has left them without nationalism, money, Gods, millionaires, generals, popes, economists, skyscrapers, nationalities, footballers, clothes, fashion, morals, communists, and all of those other things we thought were eternal. The last seven minutes of mankind have redeemed all of that.
We might hear this advice at any time: WE ONLY HAVE SEVEN MINUTES.
I’m sitting on the first seats by now, and I don’t want to miss the last part of the spectacle. I think we might expect something even better.
I had not understood the beauty of living up to now. I needed a few general cataclysms and most of humanity buried under the mud to understand the importance of life. They called us Homo sapiens.
What did we do all of this time? We built temples to imaginary Gods. We adored myths, and lived only for them.
This planet has finished and it must be erased from the universe. They must immunise all the other stars against stupidity, because it’s dangerous and it can produce an infection again.
I want to send luminous messengers to all the planets. The earth has exploded, they should say: careful with human contamination. All electrons should be vaccinated before they travel through space and pregnant molecules must be sterilised, photons have to wear aprons against stupidity and any protons getting near Jupiter have to present a carnet of health. Contaminated stars should become comets. They must hang in the telephone posts of the Milky Way.
It will be forbidden to drink milk for the next 40,000 light years and the twins will be fed by Ursa Major.
The sun might not explode. Then they’ll rebuild the White House, the Kremlin and St. Peter in Rome. Man will be civilised and the sun’s work vindicated.
The last days before the cataclysm had been frantic and I had never seen anything more evil than Homer’s yacht. The bathroom had golden taps and silver toilets with pictures of dancing nymphs, but I have the only good thing it had. I’ll tell you later what it is.
Homer’s actions changed history. He was born to exploit the weak and make lots of money.
I’ve researched much of Homer’s story from newspapers, magazines and a few diaries he kept. I’m leaving it here along with other information for future civilisations to see.
I have heard of universes existing alongside ours and I hope humans of other realities find my story one day. They must avoid the mistakes we made in our world, where the sun taught us a lesson.
We once lived in a blue planet with beautiful oceans, high mountains and many animals.
Man was the king of the earth. He had arrived at this position through many years of evolution, rising above other creatures inhabiting his world but the explosion of the sun finished with his plans.
I’ll tell you what happened during the last few years of the kingdom of man amidst the stars.
Forever yours


1 Homer’s story

Two and two are seven. By Homer’s imagination filed an army of green soldiers, who looked like green dollars. The sea seemed like an unending pile of green dollars. What about the clouds? He would have a rain of green dollars if he sold them.
A slight rain, lasting half an hour, should produce a three thousand dollars profit, while a two hour thunderstorm might cost a small fortune. Whoever couldn’t afford it would die of thirst. Homer imagined his employees solving the water problems of New York, the dry weather of Morocco or the need for beautiful sunsets in Bombay.
He looked at the sea and saw it full of green dollars. Green dollar was his favourite colour.
What about the waves? They should be used to move turbines and lift tractors as it was a waste of energy to have them just rolling around. They had to be classified by their size. The small ones would be worth one hundred dollars and the big ones fifteen hundred dollars, with froth of different colours to suit diverse tastes.
The world is crazy, Homer thought while sipping his favourite scotch. Chickens should lay their eggs in boxes, sardines grow in tins, and the air must be bottled, whoever can’t pay for it has to die. People without money are bad for society.
They contaminate the air with their dead bodies and waste much needed food. We’ll get rid of the unemployed, when the air is controlled by a worldwide association of proletarians. They pollute the planet with their bodies and rubbish.
That control should have another positive effect. People who can’t afford to buy the air should die in special sanatoriums and their organs used for transplants. The poor things would get money for something they don’t need.
Homer’s anguish trebled as he thought of the passivity of matter, the laziness of people and the indifference of galaxies.
Nasa spends billions of dollars sending humans to the space station and probes to the moon and Mars. Half of that money would buy Manhattan and part of the Hudson River or a fleet of ships to look for oil in the seven seas. They could purchase The Vatican and convert it into the biggest museum in the world, or rebuild the Great Wall of China with neutron bombs. Homer would build his home inside there and empty the Yellow River to fill it with dollars. Why did they have to go to the moon?
He felt that anguish again. It had to be a sign of superiority. Some men were under God’s tutelage while others had bad luck.
Homer had been born poor by accident. He didn’t remember his father. He had been a man without limits, a man without space, while his mother on the other hand had acquired a profile as sharp as that of Washington on the dollar bills.
She had told him a funny story, one day he had flown but he remembered that event with mixed feelings. As he started to crawl, he saw a dirty dollar that had fallen from somewhere and the wind blew it around the patio.
The dollar went up and down and spun around. Baby Homer looked as the piece of paper flew like a butterfly and was entangled in the branches of a tree. The child couldn’t take his eyes away from the money.
He flew up there to rescue the dollar and put it in his wet nappies. Everybody thought he had God’s blessings. He must be an angel because the wings of angels had been invented to rescue money from trees.
He wanted to tell his mother how he felt about dollars but she wouldn’t listen.
Homer didn’t know why his parents never exploited his qualities. They let him walk like anyone else and never put dollars by his eyes or his wings.
They didn’t see the money anymore after the incident. Confusion reigned in the region and it became part of another country.
Nobody knew where she or he had been born and more than three countries fought for the honour of being Homer’s birthplace. He was a hero and in some ways greater than his Greek counterpart.
The thread of his existence might have been woven by a benevolent God who wanted him to gain glory. The fact that he had no country was an advantage in his life. If you don’t have a country, you can be a citizen of anywhere in the world and without any inhibitions. Homer thought as he finished his glass of scotch. Schools should be abolished. Why did they teach children so much rubbish? I never learned anything and most of the wise men in the world are my slaves now. Many documents accredit my relationship with the best universities while hundreds of papers signed by the pope and his dignitaries show that I have bought a place up in heaven.
Homer had never been to school as his parents had gone to South America some time ago, and it looked from afar like a place full of gold and fools. The first was a lie but the second one turned out to be true.
He didn’t have time to learn his own language and never spoke Spanish properly but everyone managed to understand him. He seemed as ignorant as his Greek counterpart.
He trained himself in the business of exploiting human ingenuity, learning about intuition as he lived with his parents in a small house at the edge of the city.
He helped his parents in their shop, where they sold an assortment of things. He remembered his mother leaning over the counter as she spoke with the customers.
She used to send him to buy food. He had to get a list of things his mother had written on a paper, for her to sell them more expensive in her shop. She called it, human exploitation of the poor.
She taught Homer how to make money out of everything.
“One day you’ll conquer the world,” she said.
Homer remembered those words as the days passed and he grew from a skinny boy into a young man. He collected coins inside a box and took it to the nearest bank a few months later, where the clerk exchanged them for pesos.
He used to sit by himself in the backyard, marvelling at the way animals exploited each other for their own gain. He spent his infancy helping in the shop and playing by himself in the yard, where he learned to bark while looking at the moon and the stars.
His mother never heard him barking or she thought it was the neighbour’s dog as Homer kept it a secret.
One day he had a friend. He was called Jose and his parents had come from a jungle where pumas lived. He told Homer many stories of life at the edge of the world.
He spent sunny afternoons playing with Jose in an empty plot of land by his home. They played with a few toy cars Homer had and Jose learned to bark like Homer. They spent many sunny afternoons barking to the squirrels going up the trees.
“Will you forget me?” Jose asked
Homer shook his head. “I want us to remember each other forever.”
He took two stones from the floor and gave one to Jose.
“You’ll think of me every time you see your stone.”
Jose nodded. They played with their stones as the sun set in the sky and Homer had to go back home, where his dinner waited at the table. Homer put his stone in a box where he kept his best possessions before he started to eat.
“What have you been doing today?” his mother asked.
“I looked at the birds and played with stones, mother.”
“You’re a dreamer,” she said.
He ate his soup while thinking in his mother’s words. He liked to imagine a different world existing alongside his, where he played with Jose forever.
The child disappeared one day and Homer didn’t know where he had gone. He had filled Homer’s life with an imaginary world full of excitement where they fought monsters and devils. Homer’s mother thought Jose had been an imaginary friend, as she never saw him playing with anyone.
Her son was a loner, who imagined other children playing with him.
Homer’s father died of a heart attack in his sleep. He had shut the shop early complaining of pain in his chest and arm and passed away in the early hours of the morning.
Homer would never forget the memory of that night, as he had run down the streets to get the doctor. His wife had opened the door in a bad mood.
“My husband doesn’t see anyone at this time of the morning.”
Homer showed her the money his mother had given him and the woman went inside the house for a few moments, then a fat man wearing a dressing gown had appeared at the door.
He accepted the money Homer gave him.
“I’ll get my things,” he said.
Homer understood the value of money, as they rushed through the dark streets. He had seen the doctor’s face while looking at the few pesos. Money was better than a human life or death in this case.
The doctor signed the death certificate and phoned the undertaker.
They buried Homer’s father in a small plot of land at the edge of the city. His mother didn’t feel very well after that. Homer had to attend to the customers in the shop while she rested in bed but she kept records of the accounts even if she didn’t move much. Homer didn’t buy expensive merchandise or he might lose money.
He found his mother dead in her bed a few months later. She never recovered after his father had passed away. He barked that night in the backyard as his mother lay in a coffin in the room.
They buried her next to his father in the cemetery near his home, where they lowered her in the ground and threw mud on her coffin. He remained there for some time, thinking in the cruel world that awaited him without her presence.
Homer remembered her advice about money because he had to triumph in life just to please her.
“I’ll conquer the world,” he muttered.
He had lost the two people he ever loved in his life and had a shock as he received the letters from the creditors. Homer’s parents had left him destitute. He had to sell the shop to pay his debts.
He lived in a room he rented with a few hundred pesos he had collected, and used some of the money left by his parents to buy cheap merchandise plus two suitcases. As he organised the merchandise to sell the next day, he dreamed of all the money he would make in his life.
Homer remembered the first few times he had appeared in public. He had gone to the ugliest part of the city with a suitcase in each hand. He sold his merchandise on easy terms to men who were hungry, had syphilis or TB. He reminded his customers of all the pain, suffering and sweating his goods had cost him. He had paid for them in cash but they could do it on credit and without any interest.
Homer didn’t give anything free to poor people as that had been one of the strongest pillars of the economy. Rich people looked after their money, while the poor liked to pay their debts. That’s the reason they remained poor.
Homer’s business improved. He hired a boy to pull a cart with a few battered suitcases while he marched in front of it. Homer sold brassieres, trousers, table cloths, woven textiles from exotic places and colourful beads against bad luck. He would go from house to house selling his things and knew how to convince the unemployed of the finery of his shirts.
He told them his merchandise was the best in the world. People used to crowd around him, as he talked.
They heard all the tales of the silk shirts imported from Japan or the wrist watches brought from Switzerland. That always worked.
“You can’t find anything cheaper than this,” Homer said, as he opened his suitcases.
They listened to the foreigner selling magic potions and wonderful clothes, even though they didn’t have much money.
People queued to buy clothes, toys for the children or even shoes and everything at very good prices. Some of them would pay for their purchases over the following weeks.
Homer told them how their life might change with his magical beads, as they guarded infants against the evil eye endemic in these parts of the city. They protected him against all kinds of illnesses.
Homer waited for the audience to ask questions as he convinced them of the potency of his beads and potions. He wrote down in his book every time someone purchased something and kept another book for payments people made over the next few weeks.
He cycled to collect the money his poor customers owed him, crying if they didn’t pay and his tears would soften the hardest heart. Engineers should use them to build better roads.
Homer hardly ate anything or bought any clothes and looked half starved, but the notes grew in his purse.
He counted his money every night in the decrepit room he shared with other people. It ran on a strict timetable. A man, his wife and four children lived in it up to eleven o’clock in the evening and then they had to look after a factory.
It became a cafeteria for the bus drivers at three o’clock in the morning until three in the afternoon, when the workman and his family came back again. Homer didn’t have any trouble falling asleep for three hours, and counted money in his dreams. He sold his food for the rest of the night and slept on his seat when he didn’t have many customers.
He made enough money to look forwards to the future, honouring his parents’ wishes.
One day Homer had a shop, he called it: El Baratillo. It was between a café in the central market playing tangos and rancheras twenty four hours a day, and a drugstore where nonqualified doctors prescribed medications. A fish shop in front of it had a smell of putrefaction that stuck to the clothes. It gave Homer an additional advantage as he didn’t have to spend any money on soap and water.
“El baratillo” became an institution. A neck tie that cost forty pesos was sold on credit at fourteen pesos and fifteen cents. A dress of four hundred pesos could be reduced to one hundred and twenty and the same with everything else.
Homer cycled to the houses of his customers to collect the weekly payments. He paid himself a tiny wage for sweeping his own room, and saved money on food by drinking a cup of tea with a bit of cheese on Sundays, and sometimes he had his light on before he went to sleep.
He lived in the cellar behind El Baratillo. It wasn’t comfortable but it was free, as he slept on wooden boxes and covered himself with rugs.
One of his customers brought him coca from the mountains to sell at very good prices. The police didn’t mind Homer selling coca so long as no one used it in the shop. Homer expanded his business with the coca but he never made much money with it.
One day something happened that changed Homer’s life. It started in a simple way like all the great things in the world.
An Indian with high cheek bones, a long black skirt and his hair in a pony tail had come in the shop. He looked like one of the figurines of San Agustin, as he stood against the dirty white wall and remained there until the last customer had left the shop.
He asked the salesman over to the darkest corner of the room after checking they were alone and then he opened a greasy bag.
Homer saw an Indian’s head reduced to the simplest expression. It had its eyes shut and its mouth had been sewn while the hair went down to what had been its shoulders. Homer felt attracted and repulsed at the same time.
The head looked like its owner and anyone would think it was his son. It looked like a miniaturised man’s head. Homer had discovered something never imagined Balboa must have felt like that as he set eyes on the Pacific Ocean or Columbus when he shouted “Land” for the first time. In a moment of generosity he offered the man a cup of tea.
The Indian accepted the invitation and Homer marvelled at the similarity between the man and the small head. Children have to play with shrunken men instead of artificial toys, Homer thought as he sipped his insipid tea.
He tried to obtain more details from the Indian, but the man hardly spoke and they agreed by gestures, on a price for the head. Homer gave him a few bits of cloth he had been unable to sell, promising an Inca treasure if the man came back again.
The Indian finished with his tea and left the room. Homer wished the man would bring him some more heads as he disappeared down the road.
He admired the head in the privacy of his room, feeling the rough skin of the face and the black hair around it. Homer thought the Indians must have used magic to reduce the head to that size. He dreamed of riches that night.
He put the small head in a padded envelope and mailed it to a friend in the USA the next morning, hoping the postman would be gentle with the packet.
They received it with due honours in the USA and one of the most respectable shops in Fifth Avenue asked for ten thousand more heads.
The Indian’s second visit to the shop happened a few weeks later. Homer finished serving his customers, led the man to his private room and gestured to his only chair.
As the Indian opened a parcel another head appeared, it seemed almost identical to
the first one. Homer gave him a bag and his eyes widened after he looked inside. The
man hopped around the room while shouting things in his language.
“I’ll give you an infinite amount of coca in exchange for heads,” Homer said.
The Indian stopped his dance to look inside the bag again.
“Where do you live?” Homer asked.
The man looked at him impassively, his eyes not betraying his emotions. As Homer showed him a map of Colombia, the Indian pointed somewhere in the Amazon jungle.
Homer had never been to the jungle and imagined pumas coming to get him but he had to find more heads.
“When can we go there?” he asked.
The clock on the wall ticked while Homer waited for an answer. He studied the place in the map where the heads were supposed to be, miles away from civilisation. The Indian must have used some form of transport to travel through the jungle, otherwise he wouldn’t be there.
As the man moved towards the door, Homer wondered if he spoke another language. That’s why he kept his silence.
Homer watched the little man disappearing down the street. He wanted to find out about the languages the Indians spoke and their way of life.
Next day he shut his shop in the middle of the day to go to the library as this was an urgent business. He thought of his dilemma while moving down the street and towards the old building with the glass doors. Municipal library, it said in red letters by the door.
Homer stopped at the entrance to admire the pictures on the walls, depicting the area in colonial times, but then he looked with owe at the rows of books. How could anyone read so much? He didn’t need any culture to earn his money.
He had learned how to read and write as he had sat in the park on sunny afternoons after he had finished helping in his parent’s shop.
The clerk at the library looked at Homer with suspicion as he wore his usual old and dirty clothes. After he asked for Amerindian languages, she directed him to the back of the room, where he found book after book about the jungle. Homer wrote down some of their words in his notebook.
As he opened a book with a forest on the cover, he saw pictures of the Indians in the pages with a brief story of the tribes. This was an important occasion as the fate of his business rested in this enterprise.
The Indians had been addicted to coca for many years but the weather had changed in the jungle, and the rain had damaged the crops they had managed to grow in the middle of nowhere. Then he had a marvellous idea.
Homer would offer the Indian coca for the heads. He left the library with a list of strange words he didn’t know how to pronounce, as he was Homer the Clever now.
He sent the new head to the shop in Fifth Avenue in New York, expecting to get a fat cheque later.
He mentioned his wish to visit the jungle to a journalist friend called Jaramillo, and Homer’s name appeared in the newspapers for the first time: foreign businessman wishes to visit savages. The article said how Homer wanted to take civilisation to the far corners of the country.
Journalists came to the shop to interview Homer after the customers had gone. He stood in front of the counter as they took pictures.
“I’m waiting for someone to lead me to the jungle,” Homer said.
Thousands of people read the newspaper headlines saying how Homer would travel through the forest to help a tribe lost in time. The Indian came to the shop a few days later and waited amidst the shadows for Homer to finish serving his customer.
“Are we going away now?” Homer asked.
The Indian nodded.
After shutting the shop, Homer followed the man to the bus station where they had to wait for a few minutes. Then it was time to board the bus in front of the window.
Homer followed the Indian inside the vehicle as people went inside with baskets full of potatoes and their animals.
Homer sat next to a woman with some chickens that flapped their wings and scattered their droppings about.
The Indian slept while Homer fought with the chickens and argued with the woman. He dreamed of chickens without their heads when he managed to doze for a few minutes.
He woke up as the bus climbed a mountain through the white cloud and drops of water ran down his window. He left a mark on the wet glass by running his finger through the condensation.
The light of a car went past them but then the fog lifted, showing steep fields and precipices outside the bus windows.
They had reached the plains half an hour later where the sun shone in the sky. The bus stopped at a small restaurant by the road side, and Homer took the opportunity to stretch his legs while the Indian looked at him from the bus window. Homer thought the man didn’t have any feelings.
He didn’t understand the sacrifice Homer had made by shutting his shop in the middle of the day, when the customers wanted to buy his merchandise. His employee would open it tomorrow but he wasn’t as good as Homer.
He had to sit next to the woman with the chickens again but the heat made them sleepy. The bus moved through a plain full of trees, where cows munched the grass. Nothing interrupted the flat land in this new world where the bus driver had taken them after the mountains and the fog.
The chickens came back to life in their boxes and looked at him with their beady eyes while flapping their wings, as the woman snored.
The bus stopped and the chickens fell on Homer, who was covered in feathers and shit. He cleaned his face with his handkerchief while the chickens cried. This is worse than hell, he thought.
They arrived as a small town, where a few country people left the vehicle. They had to live in one of those huts in the middle of nowhere.
The Indian moved towards the bus door, and Homer awoke the woman as he followed the Indian to the dusty road, where dogs played in the dirt. He looked for the bus or train they would have to take to their destination.
“Will we go by car?” he asked.
The Indian gestured to a few mules munching the grass, and after putting their bags on one of them he helped Homer to get on his animal. They left the town and moved along the plain. The Indian rode in front while Homer tried to make his mule move. His body hurt with every step the beast took.
They moved at a slow pace but Homer didn’t care about the mosquitoes or the snakes as he had his mind on the Gringo’s dollars. They saw the sun setting over the flat landscape by turning into a ball of fire, before sinking under a pink horizon.
The Indian used a torch to illuminate the path in front of them, while Homer held the reins of his animal as it took him through the twilight world of the plains.
The Indian stopped by a river.
“We’ll camp here tonight,” he said.
It was the first time he had spoken a whole sentence and Homer wanted to thank God for such a miracle. The beautiful sunset must have brought the man’s vocal cords to life.
Homer helped him to erect a tent. They first put the main pole, then they covered it with a tarpaulin the man had on the mule, while another one covered the floor. The Indian was prepared for life in the middle of nowhere.
Homer had a terrible night amidst the heat and the mosquitoes. He awoke as the sun rose in the jungle while a symphony of birds sang their love songs just for him.
The Indian slept under his blankets, his face impassive as ever. Homer wondered whether the man dreamt of the heads he would cut during the next few days.
The sound of the Indian boiling water on a fire awoke him early in the morning. Homer stumbled out of the tent and sat on a stone by the fire. The day was hot while clouds floated in a blue sky and birds flew over the world.
Homer sat on a stool the Indian had brought for him while sipping his tea. He had some of the comforts of civilisation in a jungle full of animals.
He looked at the disc of the sun shining above the trees, as the world around him erupted in a symphony of sounds. Tweet, tweet, a bird sang somewhere and the sound echoed through the jungle but then he had to climb back on his mule.
Homer lost count of the days they moved through the jungle as they slept in the tent during the nights and the Indian made tea in the mornings.
He saw snakes and a few other animals while galloping on his mule by the dense vegetation. They must have been the only human beings for miles. Homer thought of the money he would make with the heads while he fought against the heat and the mosquitoes in the middle of nowhere.
The jungle acquired different tones during the days as the vegetation changed under the shadow of the tall trees where creepers tried to get to the sunlight. Birds sang while monkeys screamed in a cacophony of sounds, and macaws flew over the trees.
“We are near,” the Indian said one day.
He helped Homer get down from his animal and they rested amidst the flies and trees.
Homer’s bottom was sore and he had to sleep on his front in the evenings, but he felt like a conquistador bringing the light to the wild parts of South America.
The jungle had fewer trees while wild flowers grew by the path, as they approached the village. It rained that afternoon. Homer felt refreshed and full of the joys of life as the mule trotted towards the unknown.
A small man with his hair in a ponytail and a belt of feathers around his waist waited in a clearing. He greeted Homer in another language.
“The chief is pleased to meet you,” the Indian said.
Homer dismounted his mule and staggered towards a seat as the two men spoke. They looked at him.
“He wants to talk about business now,” the Indian said.
As Homer wiped the sweat off his forehead, the chief offered him a cup filled with a clear liquid. Homer almost choked on it.
“It’s the chief’s liquor,” the Indian said.
The Indian spoke good Spanish. The interview took place amongst the trees, between Homer, the Indian, the chief, three snakes and thousands of mosquitoes. Homer opened his case and put the bags of coca on the floor as the chief mumbled something while looking at the powder.
“He thanks you for God’s mineral,” the Indian said.
“Where are the heads?” Homer asked.
The Indian translated and the chief gestured to a bag on the floor where Homer found three heads. The Indians could only count up to one.
Homer explained that other numbers existed apart from one.
He put a finger up and said, “One.”
They did the same thing and Homer tried again with number two. The chief put two of his fingers up and said, “Two.”
Homer smiled. “It’s good.”
“It’s good,” they said, with three of their fingers up.
“No,” Homer said.
The chief showed four fingers, “No.”
Homer had to start with number one again and two hours later the men had learned to count up to ten. He told them that ten thousand would be many times ten.
He gestured to the coca. “I’ll give you ten thousand bags if you bring me the same amount of heads.”
“We don’t have so many Indians,” the Indian said.
Homer gestured to a depression on the jungle floor. “If you fill all of that with heads, I will bring as much coca.”
They seemed impressed with the amount of coca Homer had promised them.
Homer treated them to a cup of tea, after the Indian had boiled some water. The chief looked at the coca in the bag while sipping his tea.
“The chief is pleased,” the Indian said
Homer needed many more heads. All the heads they could find had to be sent to him and they would get a similar quantity of coca. He knew someone had to die every time he got a head, but he had to make money.
The thought of the Indians without their heads hunted him during his journey but an artificial head wouldn’t be as good as a real one. He dreamed of the heads chasing him that night as he slept in the chief’s hut.
He woke up to the sounds of the jungle and under a cloud of mosquitoes. After a bit of breakfast the chief had prepared, Homer got ready to go back to civilisation.
“Our town is a few minutes away,” the Indian said.
Homer frowned. A town meant many heads and dollars for his pockets.
“Can I see it?” he asked.
They led him through the vegetation until they found more huts, as a few children appeared while dogs barked. He could sell them his merchandise but the heads were more important.
He admired a young girl’s body as she moved down the path. Homer saw her talking to an old woman, as she looked at him with her dark eyes while pushing strands of black hair back. She’d be the most beautiful girl in the world, if she wore one of the dresses he sold, but he came here to do business.
Homer moved along the path until he found a river, where young children splashed in the water full of the joys of life.
They crowded around him, feeling his clothes while chatting amongst themselves, and as Homer gave them some of his magic beads, they wore them around their wrists. They were happy souls, living in an ideal world without any clothes or money.
Homer saw them playing with painted stones by the edge of the river. As they threw them on the floor, they jumped on one leg while chanting something. One of the boys gave him a pink stone and gestured how to jump.
Homer did as he had been told amongst their laughter.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
The first boy presented him with a bigger stone and asked Homer to throw it on the floor. He did it and jumped a few times amidst their merriment.
The Indian interrupted his game.
“You must come now,” he said.
He led him to a hut where a few men sat on the floor, while the women prepared food outside. Homer wanted to interact with his merchandise and sat by their side. They offered him a pipe with a bitter taste that went to his head, as colourful clouds danced in front of his eyes.
“What is this?” Homer asked.
The Indian smiled. “It’s a wild herb. We call it the dreamer.”
The name fitted the stuff very well. As the world span around Homer, the beautiful girl sat by his side and kissed his lips while unbuttoning his trousers. The rest was confusing.
He remembered making love to her under the hammocks and over the plantains littering the place, as she muttered sweet words in a strange language.
“Will you love me forever?” he asked.
She smiled while calming his passion and the beautiful dream went on and on.
He awoke later. It was early in the morning because the sun sneaked through gaps in the wall and people slept on straw mats around him. Homer wondered where the toilet was, if they had anything like that here.
He saw the girl sleeping next to the chief as he staggered outside. Perhaps he had dreamt of her after smoking the pipe the night before.
The sun shone on the town while birds flew in a blue sky. Homer did his business behind some bushes and went back to the hut, where people slept. He thought of the money he might make with so many heads while he dozed. He woke up as men walked in the hut.
“Good morning,” the Indian said while preparing the bags for the trip.
“What happened last night?” Homer asked.
“You went to sleep after smoking the chief’s pipe.”
Homer recalled the girl’s caresses amidst the straw bed and the dusty floor as it had been a beautiful experience. Then he found some of the stones the children had given him.
He organised them by their colours as a boy brought him a cup of tea. He ate meat with potatoes, rice and yucca while the chief and the Indian conferred with each other.
“We want to give you more heads,” the Indian said.
Homer smiled. “I promise you coca in return.”
He finished eating and went outside the hut where the children played. They showed him the beads around their wrists as a woman made the mules ready.
“I don’t have anymore beads,” Homer said.
They laughed and Homer wondered what was so funny.
“I have to go now,” he said.
They imitated his gestures amidst their laughter before the Indian helped him to get on his animal. The chief and the rest of the town watched their departure while the girl waved her hands from behind the crowd. Homer returned the gesture before turning his attention to the mule.
They trekked through the jungle amidst a cloud of mosquitoes and under the scorching sun. Homer admired the life these people led in the middle of nowhere. They didn’t have a shop for miles, had never tasted pizza or coca cola in their lives but they were happy.
They were merchandise he had to sell to the world because he needed money.
Homer had pain all over his body as the mule trotted along the path that went on forever. They ate a snake by the shores of a river that night and it tasted like fish. These people would never starve, Homer thought while eating wild herbs with a sweet taste afterwards.
The Indian woke him up in the middle of the night.
“We have to leave,” he said.
As Homer struggled out of his sleeping bag, he heard the faint noise of drums and the Indian looked nervous.
“Enemy tribe wants our heads,” he said.
Homer understood the reason for the man’s anxiety and after leaving in the semi darkness, he didn’t let Homer use his torch. He had to trust his animal while it trotted along the path. They moved out of the thick jungle and the undulating plain greeted them by dawn.
They camped that evening in a field but the Indian wouldn’t make a fire to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Homer heard the sound of the drums that night, echoing amongst the trees.
On wandering out of his tent in the middle of the night, something flew by his face while the drums went on and on. Homer lay back on his sleeping back, hoping the head hunters wouldn’t come for him that night. He didn’t want to lose his head. The Indian boiled water to make a cup of tea as he awoke next morning.
“Where is the other tribe?” Homer asked.
“They live by the river.”
Homer wondered how the man travelled through the jungle without losing his head. They saw the frontier town a few hours later while the animals trotted faster as if guessing the end of their journey.
“How can you buy the tickets if you can’t count?” Homer asked.
“I know what money to use for the bus,” he answered.
Homer imagined the man choosing the five pesos because they had Simon Bolivar while the ten pesos had another hero.
They had arrived at the station where his bus waited. Homer staggered towards the vehicle after dismounting his animal, and he didn’t want to see another mule again in his life. The Indian disappeared before Homer boarded the bus. He sat next to a woman who breastfed her child and changed his nappy for most of the time.
Homer dozed and the savannah had been replaced by mountains full of fog and drizzle when he woke up later. The jungle and its Indians belonged to another world far away from civilisation.
As the bus drove through a valley full of green fields and small farms, Homer wondered if the Indians had ever seen a car or any of the other things in our modern world.
“Hurrah for civilisation,” he muttered to himself and the woman looked at him.
They arrived at the outskirts of the city where ugly factories infected the sky with their smoke, and traffic roared through the streets. Homer wanted to get back to his shop to check the transactions his employee had done during his absence.
Homer could hardly walk as he arrived back home. He dreamed that night of the mule galloping along the jungle path, leading to a world full of shrunken heads and dream pipes. The girl visited him in his dreams where they made love in between the rugs.
Jaramillo came to see him next day and wanted to know of his adventures through the jungle. He sat in one of the boxes while smoking a cigarette.
“I saw a town full of Indians,” Homer said. “I’ll make lots of money with all the heads.”
“Did they treat you well?” Jaramillo asked.
“I saw children plying in a river. Then the men invited me to smoke their pipe, but I went to sleep and a beautiful girl appeared from the shadows.”
“It sounds like paradise to me,” Jaramillo said.
Jaramillo finished smoking his cigarette and left the shop as Homer drank another cup of tea. He thought of all the money the Indians might bring him. He hoped their love for coca would make them search for heads.
The papers spoke of the young foreigner. The citizens of the country didn’t care about the jungle, while he had gone to meet the indigenous population. Homer collected all the articles about his journey through the Amazonian jungle in newspapers and magazines.
The heads arrived at the shop and the cocaine travelled through the rain forest to the chief. Homer had mailed many heads to the US by the end of the year. They belonged to a neighbouring tribe where only two hundred people had escaped with their lives.
Homer remembered how nervous the Indian had been at the sound of the drums, as if he understood what they said. He heard the drums in his dreams again. They spoke of retribution for the Indian souls but Homer didn’t believe in superstition.
He remembered his mother’s words: One day you’ll conquer the world.
He had to work hard to make his wishes come true. The Indian adventure had sent him towards the pinnacle of his existence, where he might accomplish anything he wanted.
Homer didn’t get a new supply of heads. They didn’t have telephones in the jungle and he had to wait while serving the customers in his shop.
He felt nervous. Why didn’t the Indian come to see him?
He barked in the backyard when he was nervous. He started with a low groan and finished howling like a real dog, while moving around the rubbish littering the floor. He needed the heads more than anything else in his life as they brought him wealth and happiness.
Homer phoned Jaramillo the next day but the journalist had not heard from the Indians.
“We could fly to the jungle,” Jaramillo offered.
Homer didn’t like planes. He thought about it while turning in his boxes that night but the Indian appeared in the shop again. Homer took him to his private room and gestured to his only chair.
“Did you bring any heads?” he asked.
“No one has died,” the Indian said.
“Couldn’t you kill a few enemies?”
“We don’t have any wars.”
Homer thought the Indians might start a war by stealing the neighbour’s cows or their women, because his people needed coca.
Homer regarded the little man as he sat on the chair, looking worried and his dark eyes had grown darker while reflecting in his problem. He didn’t want his supply of coca to finish. Homer’s dream had been nothing if you compared it to the dreams coca brought to whoever smoked a cocktail of its leaves and other herbs.
The Indian rose from the chair determined to please Homer even if it meant the destruction of other tribes in the rain forest.
Homer hoped the Indian would come to his senses if he wanted to keep the coca coming to his people He didn’t bark that night and heard the sound of drums in his dreams as heads rolled on the ground. He awoke bathed in sweat but the Indians were in the jungle and nothing would happen here.
The heads came again and Homer earned money from the shop while the heads gave him dollars. He acquired fame as an exporter, earning his rights as an importer because he sent the heads to the US where they gave him dollars.
Homer wondered who bought the heads in the United States. He imagined rich people putting the shrunken heads on their mantelpieces.
“That’s the head of an unknown inhabitant of the jungle,” they might say to their friends and family.
Homer’s picture appeared in a few papers in the United States. The New York Times gave Homer’s name as an example of human achievement and Homer basked in his own glory until one day something bad happened.
A man with a basket covered by a cloth came to see him. Homer finished serving his customers and shut the shop. As the man pushed the cloth away, he saw two small heads and a piece of paper with something written on it: Mr. Homer. We send you the last two heads of our tribe. They are the chief’s and my own.
Homer recognised the Indian who had made him happy. The man’s lips had been sewn together, something superfluous for a man who had not said much during his life.
Who are you?” Homer asked.
“I work for an agency,” the man said. “They asked me to deliver the packet.”
“I want the name of the agency,” Homer said
The man gave him a card. “We deliver parcels anywhere in the city.”
Homer checked the address and telephone number. He didn’t know who had sent him the heads of the last members of the tribe.
“Wait a minute,” he said.
He led the man outside the shop.
“I want to see your boss.”
The man nodded. He led Homer along the road and past the park to a building of several floors, where they took a lift.
He saw a tall man behind a desk in a room on the fourth floor. Homer put the packet on the counter.
“Hi,” Homer said. “I want to know who paid for this packet to be delivered to me.”
The man looked in his book for a few moments.
“It’s here,” he gestured to the middle of the page.
It was an address in Leticia and Homer wrote it down in his diary. He had to find out who they were and why they had delivered the heads.
He thanked them and left the office. The business had come to an end as nothing is eternal and the Indians only had one head.
A whole town had finished because of his greed. He wondered what the media would say about him now and imagined the headlines in the papers: Foreigner exterminates the Indians. He had to contact Jaramillo.
Homer opened the door of his shop as shadows invaded his soul but he didn’t want to look inside the basket again. He couldn’t believe they were all dead and imagined the girl’s head with her lips sewn together.
He had not seen any girls amongst the heads he had sent to the USA, and she had to be alive somewhere in the jungle.
“I have to find her,” he said.
He barked in the backyard that night and one of the neighbours looked out of the window.
Homer barked for a last time, before shutting the back door.
“Grrr,” Homer said as he lay back on his boxes before he went to sleep.
That night he heard the noise of drums in his dreams, dam, dam, dam; they said as he ran through a forest of heads. He awoke on the floor later.
“Mother,” he said. “I’m a killer.”
He cried for himself, for the Indians and for the girl, because the Indians had killed themselves. He unlocked his phone and dialled Jaramillo’s number
The journalist answered on the other side of the line.
“I want to go to the jungle,” Homer said. “It’s urgent.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Jaramillo said after a pause.
The journalist appeared a few hours later and Homer told him of the extermination of the Indians.
“Someone in Leticia sent me the heads,” Homer said.
Jaramillo saw the address Homer had written down in the paper. He wrote it down it in his diary before giving it back to Homer.
“They must be lying,” Jaramillo said.
He gasped as Homer showed him the two heads in the basket. Jaramillo didn’t like dead bodies and the silent presence of the Indians made him nervous.
“Someone has to be alive,” Homer said. “Or the heads wouldn’t be here.”
“Where is the village?” Jaramillo asked.
Homer showed him the location of the town in a map of the jungle. He knew that a plane would cost a lot of money,
“I can ask a charity to pay for the plane,” he said.
“You killed the Indians,” Jaramillo said. “No one will pay for you to go to their town.”
“We mustn’t tell anybody.”
It would be the greatest secret ever kept by the two men. They had to pretend the Indians were alive and doing business with Homer somewhere in the jungle.
“How much will I get to keep the secret?” Jaramillo asked.
“We’ll arrange a price later,” Homer said.
He had to contact the address in Leticia before making any plans to go to the jungle.
“Do you want to find the girl?” Jaramillo asked.
Homer was quiet.
“Yes,” he said in the end. “She must be alive.”1
“I’ll see what I can do,” Jaramillo said.
Homer’s mind was in the jungle, amidst the snakes and mosquitoes as he served his customers that day. He thought the Indian would appear to tell him he was alive.
Perhaps he wanted to play with Homer’s fears and the two heads belonged to another tribe. The chief with his belt of feathers and the beautiful girl had to be alive somewhere in the jungle, laughing at his discomfort.
Homer barked before he went to sleep that night as his room smelled of failure. The Indian town appeared in his dreams while he ran by a river of heads.
“Failure,” they shouted.
Jaramillo phoned him the next day.
“My boss is paying for a plane to take us to the jungle,” he said.
Home couldn’t understand how Jaramillo had managed that. It had to cost a lot of money to hire a plane to fly over miles of trees and he didn’t know where it could land.
Then he remembered the flat promontory he had seen by the town. It would be an ideal runaway.
“I told him the Indians had vanished and he was interested,” Jaramillo said.
Homer didn’t like planes but he had to find the Indians. Jaramillo had told the media that the Indians had fled their town and it had not been Homer’s fault. No one suspected anything and Homer started to believe the lie the journalist had invented.
He got up early in the morning to organise all the things he had to take in the expedition, along with his lucky beads to keep the evil spirits away. He had his cup of tea on his boxes while waiting for Jaramillo to arrive.
The journalist knocked at the door later and helped Homer to take a few things to his car.
“We have to find your Indians,” he said.
Homer left Miguel in charged of his shop. He had found the man begging in the streets to feed his wife and ten children but his life had changed since he looked after El Baratillo.
He had given someone a new lease of life while the man made his sales grow with the intelligence and wit he had acquired while begging. Miguel managed the shop when Homer was ill or had a problem.
“Don’t worry Mr. Homer,” he said. “I’ll look after your merchandise.”
Homer left to find his Indians as the sun shone in a clear sky. They arrived at the airport later and the plane waited for them in the runaway, shining in the morning sun like a sleepy monster waiting to take off.
As Jaramillo went to get the pilot, Homer thought the surviving members of the tribe had to be alive somewhere in the Amazonian jungle. He didn’t have the proof that everyone had died or perhaps they had moved the entire town to a new location or near another river.
Jaramillo appeared with a tall man who wore dark glasses and had a moustache.
“Come,” Jaramillo said.
They found the plane outside the hangar and the pilot shut the door after they had gone inside its cool interior.
“It’s a nice day for flying,” he said.
They flew over miles of trees as the pilot followed the path Homer had drawn in the map, as a river crisscrossed the landscape interrupting the monotony of the jungle.
Homer thought the Indians might hide anywhere in such a vast place where no one would find them. They flew over the village one hour and a half later.
It looked like a normal town from the air. Homer expected to see people moving through the houses as the pilot landed in the flat plain on a low hill at the edge of the town. Jaramillo opened the door.
They saw an empty village, dogs slept in the huts while pigs roamed about. Homer imagined the chief and his people hiding somewhere.
“I remember seeing her here for the first time,” he said.
“Was it the girl?” Jaramillo asked and Homer nodded.
“She moved along the path like a queen and then she smiled at me.”
“That dream pipe is very good,” Jaramillo said.
“No,” Homer said. “She was real.”
He led Jaramillo to the river where the children had played but nothing stirred there today.
“I see this place in my dreams,” Homer said.
He moved around the muddy shore trying to find some proof that the Indians had not vanished. The water formed pools where small fish swam and plants grew in its clear bottom. Homer threw a stone, disturbing the calm and then he saw some of his beads on the floor.
“I gave them to the children,” he said.
Jaramillo looked at the colourful beads with a bit of dirt on them.
“They wore them around their wrists before I left town,” Homer said.
He thought of that sunny day when laughter had ruled this part of the jungle, a long time ago before the Indians became ghosts. They followed a path leading to a promontory by the river where a few figures made of clay had been placed. Homer took one of them and saw the sewn lips.
“Oh, my God,” he said.
The figure broke in a few pieces by Homer’s feet. Jaramillo put them in his bag along with the beads.
“I don’t know why you’re so frightened,” Jaramillo said. “It isn’t even a real head.”
Homer turned his attention to the mound of earth where they stood. It had a round base as mud had been added to make it thicker towards the top. He didn’t understand the meaning of the clay figures on top of it like guardians of the mound.
“They must be buried here,” he said.
After dislodging some of the mud with his shoes, he bent down to dig some more dirt out.
“We have to get to the dead people.”
“It won’t prove anything,” Jaramillo said. “They might have always buried their bodies here.”
Homer dug some more mud out with his hands as thunder roared about them. The weather had changed since their arrival at the village and dark clouds gathered in the sky.
“We must go now,” Jaramillo said.
Homer shrugged. “I want to find what lies under here.”
“We can do that some other time.”
They went down the mound and as they moved along the path in the thickening rain, the river burst its banks. It rained with the force of a tropical storm, and they had to take refuge in one of the huts. They had been built on wooden platforms to stop the water going inside them as the Indians were prepared for everything.
“I wondered why it’s happened now,” Homer said.
“The Gods want to punish us.”
Homer didn’t feel comfortable in the huts where the tribe had lived. Jaramillo sat in one of the straw mats and lit a cigarette.
“We must wait for the water to go down,” he said.
The deluge had turned the town into a lagoon where the leaves and twigs floated towards the unknown. They had to wait for the water to go down before they left the hut.
Homer huddled by the entrance at first, afraid to look into the shadows but then he felt more confident to explore the place. He found the feathers the Indians used to wear around their waists and the painted stones the children had by the river. They looked like dice but had symbols painted on the sides.
“I thought they couldn’t count,” Jaramillo said.
“They must have a different system for numbers.”
Homer threw the stones on the floor and two yellow faces stared back at him. They listened as the wind battered the hut while the plane waited for them at the edge of the village. Then Homer turned his attention to the stones lying on the floor.
“They might tell us what to do,” he said.
Jaramillo shrugged. “We’re lost in the middle of the jungle and you play with stones.”
“I have heard of the Indian’s talent for predicting the future.”
“They didn’t predict their own death.”
“They’re not dead,” Homer said. “They’re lost in time.”
Homer threw them on the floor as a bolt of lightning fell on the trees in front of the hut and set them on fire.
“My God,” Jaramillo said.
They watched as the fire consumed them and the smoke rose towards the dark sky.
“There is writing on the floor,” Homer gestured to a few lines by the rags.
As he bent down with the torch, he saw two long lines perpendicular to another one.
Jaramillo shook his head. “Lines on the floor mean nothing in this hut.”
As Homer removed the rugs from the wall, he saw a few plantain leaves and some more lines on the floor. Then he noticed a small box made of wood under the piles of rugs by the wall. He tried to open it but damaged some of the wooden decorations. He thought it had to be some kind of message the Indians had left him or it might give a clue to their whereabouts.
“The rain has stopped,” Jaramillo said. “We must go back to the plane.”
He lowered himself down into the murky water and moved away from the hut. Homer followed him down the flooded street, and as they shuffled amongst the dark shapes of the huts, they heard the sound of drums.
“It’s them,” Homer said. “We must hurry.”
“Your Indians are dead,” Jaramillo said.
Homer shook his head. “It’s another tribe of head hunters.”
Then he was stuck in the mud and couldn’t move. Homer sank until only his head was above the water.
Help me,” he said.
Jaramillo found a plank nearby and asked homer to hold the other end. He summoned all his strength but it was useless.
“I’m not sinking anymore,” Homer said.
His bag had drifted away and rested on a nearby boulder, as the wooden box must have helped it to float on the water. Homer looked at the world from his new position, where the huts appeared like monsters, but he managed to release his legs from their muddy prison.
His hands had cuts and his clothes had been turned into a muddy mess but he was safe. They trekked through the mud without anymore trouble until they arrived at the flat promontory where the plane waited for them. The water had not gone up there because it was higher than the town.
They were covered in mud as they boarded the craft.
“I thought the storm had killed you,” the pilot said.
Homer had nearly died trying to find the Indians but he still had the wooden box in his bag. As he sat in his seat, a roll of papers fell on the floor, and he looked at them under the lights of the plane.
He had never seen the papers in his life. They had not been inside his bag or he might have known about it, but then he found the wooden box. The lid had fallen off exposing its carved interior.
Themanuscripts had to belong to the Indians who once lived in paradise. As he unrolled the roll of papers, he noticed the smell of dirt while dust flew in the air.
“I wondered why they left them inside the box,” he said.
Homer looked at the letters written on the first page as they repeated themselves throughout the text. He thought that most languages have letters forming words and sentences ruled by grammar.
“Did you bring the stones?” Jaramillo asked.
Homer checked in his pockets and found the toys the Indian children had used the last time he had seen them.
“We have the relics of these people,” Jaramillo said.
He showed the pages to Jaramillo who turned the pages over a few times.
“We don’t know what they are,” he said.
The pilot’s voice interrupted them.
“I don’t want to travel at night,” he said. “We’ll leave tomorrow morning.”
Homer wanted to go back to his shop but the pilot lay down on a few seats, ready to go to sleep.
As he looked at the manuscripts again, he saw the picture of seven suns with a strange word amongst all the gibberish. He thought it might have a special meaning.
“Seven suns,” Homer muttered to himself.
Then he had a vision of Jose telling him it was something to do with the world.
“I have to find Jose,” he said.
Jaramillo shook his head. “I though he was your imaginary friend.”
“He taught me to see the world through his eyes.”
Homer remembered his friendship with the boy he had met in his childhood. He had come from a town near the jungle, and had played with pumas when he was little.
He stopped his reverie as Jaramillo appeared with a glass of orange juice and a sandwich.
“It’s your dinner,” Jaramillo said.
Homer ate his food while thinking of his predicament. He thought the Indians had moved away from the village for some reason and not because he had killed them. Someone must have prepared the heads of the two men.
Homer put the roll of papers in the bag after his dinner and lay back in his seat. The writing with the seven suns had to wait for another day. He dreamed of the manuscripts, as the number seven appeared in front of him, while a voice whispered all the things it might mean.
Homer woke up next morning as the plane took off and flew over the canopy of trees towards civilisation. He found the Indian manuscripts in his bag and tried to decipher the writing as Jaramillo brought him his breakfast.
“They must say where the Indians have gone,” Homer said.
Homer had a few ideas of his own but he wanted to learn more about the manuscripts first. The plane flew over the rolling plains as a river flowed across the landscape and disappeared in the horizon. They landed one hour later and Jaramillo invited Homer to the coffee shop in the airport. They sat at a table, amidst customers drinking the last coffee before their flights.
They were quiet. Jaramillo read a newspaper while Homer thought of his shop as his business was more important than the Indians.
“It’s time to go,” Jaramillo said.
Homer thought that he needed a new business venture as he followed him to the car park. He had to understand the fact that the Indians had finished.
“I’ll be in touch,” Jaramillo said as he left Homer by his shop.
He heard loud music from the bar in the corner while the fish shop sold crabs and sardines, but he was back to reality and far from the jungle. As Homer opened the door of his shop, he saw the rows of merchandise ready to put inside the display windows for his customers next day.
Miguel had left the book with the latest transactions in the counter. He had made good profits during the last two days, when Homer had been in the jungle. He checked his safe where the money waited for him by the stone he had exchanged with Jose many years ago.
He started a strict diet of water and a bit of cheese sometimes in order to save money. Homer felt weak but the notes grew in his safe. He had to avoid spending his money in unnecessary things like food.
Then he thought in the Indian adventure where he had found the last vestiges of the existence of a vanishing tribe amongst the rain and the huts.
He looked at the manuscripts he had found in the hut that night. Seven suns, he scribbled on a notebook he used for the shop transactions. Why seven suns? He put the pen and paper aside.
He growled and then he barked. It relaxed the tension in his body before lying down on his boxes.
Why seven? He asked himself just before he went to sleep. He had a strange dream that night where the Indian had waited amidst the shadows of his room.
“You finished with my people,” he said. “You’ll pay for it.”
Homer covered his face with the rugs but the voice echoed in his mind. On recalling his dream in the morning, he didn’t see anyone in the room and the door was locked.
“Seven suns,” he said to himself. “I wish I knew what it means.”
He and put the manuscripts in his safe before phoning Miguel. Homer had to open his shop or he would lose money.
“What does it mean? Homer muttered to himself.
Seven was an important number for whoever had written the papers and Homer felt that anguish again. He thought of Jose talking of his life in the wild and about the land lost in time.
He couldn’t recall Jose’s face, it didn’t matter how much he tried. He had lost money during the Indian adventure by shutting his shop and spending his cash in silly things. Jaramillo’s boss had paid for the plane but Homer had bought the coca colas.
The problem with the heads had left him drained of energy. The mosquito bites might have made him ill and he slept all day on his boxes.
Miguel served the customers while Homer rested but he went back to his shop on the third day after coming back from the jungle. He kept his strict regime of drinking water to save money, eating a piece of cheese for dinner.
Homer worked during the day and barked in the backyard in the night. The manuscripts had sent him into a world of magic where the word seven spoke of mysteries. He filled a notebook with his writing while imagining all the different things it might mean: seven wives, seven mules, seven bags of cocaine or even heads.
Homer worked in the shop, selling his merchandise to poor people, who couldn’t afford to feed themselves and kept the manuscripts in his safe. He would shut the shop at lunch time to have a look at the pages.
Homer went back to the library, but this time he had a mission to accomplish as he went past the girl filing her nails and towards the foreign language section. He had some of the characters used in the manuscript in his notebook, as he opened a fat tome of Amerindian culture.
Seven was an important word for the ancient people who had inhabited the jungle, even if their descendants didn’t know much about numbers. Homer barked.
The girl stopped filing her nails.
“Quiet,” she said.
He awoke from his daydream. Had he gone mad? He was in the library trying to decipher silly things, but the Indians lived in his imagination just as Jose.
He saw the name of a professor specialised in the lives of Amazon Indians in the back of the book. Professor Alvarez, Homer wrote in his notebook. He remembered the address of the company in Leticia in the back of the box with the heads.
He had to contact Professor Alvarez and the Leticia shop, he thought shutting the book and getting up from his seat. The librarian stamped books as he moved towards the door. He hoped never to come here again as this madness had to stop. He barked and a couple leaving the library turned to look at him but Homer didn’t mind. The Indians had killed themselves to please the god of coca.
He had done nothing to accelerate their destruction. As he moved through the streets, he saw how the world needed him. Homer found Miguel selling to the customers in his shop, but the man muttered a quick greeting before turning his attention to his customer.
He went straight to the cellar, where he kept his safe and after punching the right combination of numbers, he put the manuscripts inside. He didn’t want to see them again in his life.
He opened the door to his hovel and lay down on his boxes ignoring the sharp edges of the wood. He lived worse than a dog but he didn’t care.
He thought the manuscripts were rubbish he had found on the floor as he heard Miguel shutting the shop later. The man had been trained in the principles of Homer’s economy.
Homer dreamed of the promise he had made to his mother that night. The Indian adventure had given him money, but life had to get better for the man who wanted to conquer world.


2 The sea

Heroes never give up. Homer had seen the sea in his dreams whenever he went to sleep. It had to be an ancestral calling as his forebears had sailed the seven seas.
He phoned the local library one morning.
“I want to speak of the importance of the sea,” he said to the young woman who answered the phone.
She called somebody to the phone and Homer spoke to her boss who agreed on Homer giving a lecture about his ideas.
“We need more young entrepreneurs like you,” he said.
Homer researched his idea before he had to appear in front of the crowd while Jaramillo invited a few of his colleagues and friends to attend the lecture. The librarian put ads around the library advertising the event to the general population.
He borrowed a suit from a friend who was about his size. Homer paraded through his living quarters while wearing the clothes his friend had bought him.
“You look like a lecturer,” his friend said.
Homer looked proudly at his reflection in the mirror before going to bed that night. The world had to listen to him. He had gone to the jungle at first, but now he wanted recognition for his struggles against a bad world.
The day was clouded and it had started to rain as Homer made his way to the library a few minutes away from El Baratillo. A woman took him to the conference room where some people waited.
“We’re waiting for you, Mr. Homer,” she said.
He was nervous as he stood in front of an audience for the first time in his life but then he talked about his ideas. He had seen the sea in his dreams since he had been a child.
“We used to have two large coasts filled with maritime treasures. I love the sea,” he said with tears in his eyes.
A few people in the audience cried as they thought he remembered his country. Homer promised to have the best ships in the world and they applauded.
He sat back in his seat as other people talked.
“We must give Homer our support to help our ports,” the woman said.
The spectators donated thousands of pesos for Homer’s ideas as a few other people talked. The woman called him to the podium again, where she offered him a basket full of money. Homer accepted it with tears in his eyes while thanking everybody.
“God will bless you for all the good work you have done today,” he said.
He had come back from the jungle only a few weeks before, where he had found the ghost town. He had to forget the Indians and their manuscripts.
Reporters crowded around Homer as he tried to go home later.
“Do you have any boats?” someone asked.
Homer shook his head. “I’ll buy them soon.”
He moved down the road followed by the reporters but he had to go back to El Baratillo.
“Tell us when you buy your ships,” the same person said.
They walked next to him holding their cameras. He thought people might want to buy his pictures if he became famous, and imagined his name in golden letters while he signed autographs.
“All right,” he said. “Take a few pictures.”
He posed in front of their limousine while they clicked their cameras and passers by looked at him with curiosity.
Homer moved down the road after they left, as sellers sold their merchandise. He arrived at El Baratillo and went straight to his cellar, where he lay down on his boxes to dream of his ships sailing the seven seas.
Homer woke up as his assistant opened the shop in the morning, and the sun shone in a day full of hope where he would make his dreams come true. Miguel served a customer as Homer left the shop with his bags.
He left the shop in the hands of his favourite employee while he went in search of his destiny. The papers that day spoke of the foreign businessman travelling in the back of one of his trucks to the nearest port that afternoon.
He slept between a sack of potatoes and another one of plantains as flies and other insects annoyed him but he didn’t have to pay any money. He arrived at lunch time as the shop owners slept their siesta.
Homer didn’t like the town with its slums and shops selling seafood. As he went down the narrow streets and under the hot sun, he went past a market full of coconuts and crabs. He moved through a long bridge until he found the docks, where a few ships swayed in the gentle waves. Homer examined them one by one, wondering if they were for sale.
A man approached him.
“It costs six hundred pesos,” he said.
Homer thought it was a good price for the ship, and as he followed the man up the steps to the first boat, he saw an ample deck with bits of rubbish in the corners. He wanted his boats to bring merchandise to sell in El Baratillo, he didn’t care if it wasn’t comfortable.
“I’ll buy it,” he said.
Then he noticed the next ship. It had a big deck but the paint had peeled where the water buffeted the sides.
The man followed his gaze. “It costs six hundred pesos.”
Homer examined the rusty sides while the man talked.
“It’s a bit smaller than the other one but it’ll hold a big cargo,” he said.
Homer stood under the hot sun while thinking about it. He had enough money from the collection in the library to buy them.
He gestured to another old ship next to the other two.
“That boat is also mine,” he said.
Homer thought about it. “I’ll give you one thousand two hundred for the three of them.
The man shook his head. “I’ll be loosing money if I do that.”
“One thousand two hundred and fifty pesos,” Homer said.
The man agreed after thinking for a while.
“You can have them,” he said.
After looking in a bag, he gave three keys to Homer, who counted the money he had collected in the library. It was a small price for someone who loved the sea.
He hired a few sailors he found in the docks and they accepted Homer’s offer of a job, as they needed money to buy drink and have women. They helped to clean the ships for a few pesos.
Homer invited them to a bar afterwards, where they drank aguardiente and sang sailor’s songs.
He forgot his problems while singing with the sailors and flirting with the girls. The Indians and the manuscripts were in the past as Homer enjoyed life. He woke up next morning under the fishing net of one of his boats, and as the seagulls flew in the sky. Some of the sailors had also gone to sleep in the boats and they snored on the dirty floor under the raising sun.
Homer struggled to his feet on the dirty deck and breathed the air of the sea mixed with all the other smells of the boat and the fishing net. The men awoke later and they all went down the boat as the city burned under the hot sun.
He had a headache as he examined his new property afterwards.
They weren’t the best boats in the world but they would sail the seas, and he gave them exotic names: Atenas, Esparta and The Termopilas.
The sailors put fish oil all over them as they had to smell like proper fishing vessels, even though they would never catch anything. Homer had the aroma of fish from the shop near El Baratillo. He never set foot in one of his own vessels as they defied death by immersion, that’s how doctors without a degree call death by drowning.
Homer had a meeting with the captains in a bar called La Tia Maria, where they drank aguardiente while discussing the route the ships would take. Homer put a map on the table.
“You have to bring merchandise along the river,” he said.
He showed them the route they had to take.
“I’ll sell it in my shop, El Baratillo.”
“We’ll do that, Mr. Homer,” a big man with a moustache said.
Homer raised his glass. “Let’s toast to my ships.”
They drank for most of the night in the bar. He didn’t remember much as he awoke in the bar early in the morning and his ships had already left the port.
He searched for cheap merchandise in the market to sell in his shop amongst the tourist buying sea shells and post cards to send to their family. After buying a few things in the market, he went to find hid trucks.
He found the garage behind the train station and climbed in the back of a red truck preparing to depart. The driver greeted Homer as they all knew how eccentric he was. He had enough money to buy ships, but travelled in the back of a truck to have a fare paying passenger next to the driver.
“Hurrah to the sailors,” Homer sang as the truck drove along the road.
He looked at the rainforest from the safety of his vehicle. The government should build roads through the jungle, Homer thought as the trees went on for miles, hiding all their secrets.
He arrived at El Baratillo that evening and slept on the boxes after drinking his cup of tea with a bit of cheese. Then he barked.
Homer had started to bark while playing with an imaginary friend many years ago. He first growled but then he howled like a pedigree German shepherd, as he walked around his back yard. All his worries disappeared while his voice flowed through the place in a symphony of sound.
He collapsed on his boxes later as mice chewed the few crumbs they found on the floor. Homer couldn’t pay for a pest controller as he had to save money if he wanted to be a millionaire. Miguel came for a few hours every week and Homer counted his money while the man served the customers.
He sold food in his shop but he starved in the midst of plenty because every tin of food cost ten pesos and Homer wanted to make money. That had been his mission in life since he had been a small child.
He had bought the ships with the collection of money from the library because he needed all the help he could get to bring dollars into the country. His capital would grow and one day he might be a millionaire.
He punished himself if he forgot to sweep his room, by reducing the amount of food he had to eat. It played havoc with his health and he nearly fainted sometimes. He was his boss, secretary, and accountant as he did his own cleaning, cooking and guarded the premises as a dog.
He avoided the Indian manuscripts in the safe. They had to wait for the right moment or until Homer found someone willing to buy them.
Homer’s face grew longer and bony, his ribs stuck out of his flesh and he looked like a concentration camp survivor. He went to see a doctor who treated poor destitute orphans for free as Homer was also an orphan.
The doctor said Homer suffered from bad nutrition. He had to eat but food cost money and he couldn’t afford it.
Homer wrote a letter to himself and asked for a substantial increase in his own wages. He didn’t have an answer as he had to travel to the port that afternoon in one of his trucks full of merchandise. He travelled on the boxes in the back of the vehicle and could have a free shower if it rained, while absorbing great quantities of vitamin D, when it was sunny.
He had good luck this time as somebody who travelled with the driver gave Homer some of his lunch to feed the animal and our man had not had such a nutritious lunch for a long time.
He had an erection while trying to sleep in the back of the truck and masturbated. It’s cheaper than doing it with a prostitute, Homer thought while the sperm ran over the boxes. Why didn’t he marry himself? Then he might increase his own salary.
As a married man, he would have to pay less tax. Homer’s Industries answered in an unexpected way as he wrote a long declaration of love to himself. He thought about it for a whole week but hunger made him answer yes.
The ceremony was solemn given the circumstances. One of his sailors brought two salted fish from the port and bread with cheese for his wedding party. Miguel phoned a few friends.
“Homer is getting married,” he said.
Someone told the papers and they wrote articles about the eccentric businessman with the strangest ideas, but Homer wouldn’t give them the date of the ceremony. His employees gathered in his shop one evening as a big sailor held a bible in his hands.
“We have gathered here today to join this man with himself,” he said.
Homer held his own hands as the man read passages from the bible.
“Do you accept yourself as your wife?” the man asked.
Homer nodded. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with himself or until death came.
“I pronounce you husband and wife,” the sailor said.
Everyone cheered as Homer kissed himself. They brought a bottle of aguardiente and the celebrations went on until the early hours of the morning, when Homer retired to his boxes.
The cellar had confetti and garlands of flowers on the merchandise for sale, while Homer dreamed of food that night. He awoke next morning with pain in his stomach. He had his usual cup of tea but the pain wouldn’t go away and the recently married man had to go to the doctor.
Homer moved along the streets until he reached the local clinic. The doctor thought he looked like a victim of war by now.
“When was your last meal, Mr. Homer?” he asked.
Homer had forgotten the exact date he had eaten something. It might have been one week or two weeks ago but he just couldn’t remember, and the doctor had never seen anyone else like Homer.
“You have to eat slowly at first,” he said.
Homer had to start eating before he starved himself to death.
As he opened the doors of El Baratillo, he saw the tins of food in the counter. He had been starving in the midst of plenty as he had to make money.
He forced himself to open a tin of beans, even though it cost ten pesos. Homer’s mouth had forgotten how to eat as he tried to swallow the food. He had and orange juice afterwards to digest his dinner.
Miguel showed him the article that had appeared in the papers about his marriage. Businessman marries himself, said in big letters in El Pais and El Tiempo. They speculated about Homer’s married life and if the marriage was legal.
“You must find a girlfriend,” he said.
Homer shook his head. Women were expensive items he just couldn’t have at the moment.
“I have myself at the moment,” Homer said. “I don’t need any girls.”
Miguel left the papers on Homer’s boxes and went back to the shop. Jaramillo appeared in the dilapidated room that evening and looked at the corpse Homer had become.
“What’s happened to you?” he asked.
Homer shrugged. “I’ve been on a diet.”
Jaramillo took a paper out of his bag.
“I have sold your shares in the international market but something doesn’t let the money grow,” he said. “It must be the Indian curse.”
Homer didn’t believe in curses.
“The Indians are finished,” he said.
Jaramillo sat on the chair as Homer made some tea and spoke of their adventure through the jungle.
“I thought we would drown in the town,” he said.
Jaramillo nodded. “We didn’t find the Indians but we have the manuscripts.”
Homer nodded. “I think the Indians wanted to confuse us.”
“Why would they do that?”
“They want us to translate the manuscripts for some reason.”
They drank their tea in the semidarkness of the cellar, as a clock marked the passage of time. Homer fiddled with the paper Jaramillo had taken out of his bag.
“You have to think in your health at the moment,” Jaramillo said.
Homer shrugged. “I’m eating now.”
“I’ll be in touch,” he said.
Homer shut the door after Jaramillo had left. He found his business papers and authorised himself to open a tin of food. He had a good dinner that night and barked before retiring to his boxes, where he dreamed of dollar bills raining from the sky.
He ate another piece of bread for breakfast the next morning as he was a married man now. The situation of our young executive improved after his marriage as he ate fish, meat or even eggs three times a week. He looked healthier and masturbated often.
Homer’s financial position improved and he made a lot of money, but taxes had gone up in spite of all the tricks he used. He could feed himself for ten years with the money he spent in tax.
He had lived following the right path. He said he would go to the jungle and everyone supported him, then he had sent the heads to the US. He noticed the sea and his boats sold contraband but then a beautiful girl came in the shop one morning, her long black hair went down to her waist and she wore dark clothes. She was a widow and her husband had been killed in the violence the country had been experiencing.
As she bought silk stockings, Homer imagined her trying them within the confines of her room.
“I wish someone did something to end our poverty,” she said before leaving the shop.
The image of the woman stayed in Homer’s mind. The country had been through a bad patch, as every day men, women and children appeared dead and nobody cared. Genocide became a national industry just as football and politics.
Widowers with a lot of children were numerous. Why didn’t anybody help them?
Homer’s eyes filled with tears as he had another ingenious idea but the woman had not left her name. He wanted to help people like her to have a better life, and looked for land to build houses while cycling through the poor parts of the city. They would be called: “Poor Widow’s Housing.”
Homer found an empty plot of land, where he would build houses there before the rains came. He contracted a cheap firm of builders to build the houses but they had to work fast before the summer came to an end.
Homer looked after the plot of land as the work was carried out as the workers could steal the bricks or charge him for work they had not done. Jaramillo joined him during the long days when Homer looked at the men working in the sit.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked Homer as they sat on a boulder by the building site.
“I want to help the widows,” Homer answered.
“You never give something for nothing.”
Homer ate the sandwiches Jaramillo offered him in the building site. He had to feed himself as he was a married man who wanted to be millionaire. .
The inhabitants of the slum admired the young entrepreneur, and as Journalists heard of the new widow’s helper, Homer became more famous than Saint Francis of Assize. The papers spoke of the five chalets destined to redeem the widows of the violence.
They interviewed Homer by the site as he spoke with Jaramillo.
“We admire you, Mr. Homer,” a journalist said. “First you marry yourself and now you want to help the widows.”
Homer shrugged. “I’m a man of many talents.”
Journalists photographed him with a few of the young women who would live in the houses one day. Homer hugged them in the pictures as the children smiled full of the joys of life.
The women kissed him while he patted the children’s head, because he had been sent to earth to improve their lives. Homer’s pictures with the women appeared in most of the papers of the country and the world, as whole pages were devoted to his work amongst the poor.
He helped to bring the women’s few things to the new huts he had built while journalists took their pictures. They held a press conference outside the new homes and under the hot sun.
Homer stood with a few pretty women by his side while answering the journalists.
“I want to improve their lives,” he said.
Then the journalists turned their attention to one of the young women. She was a young widow, who had been given a second chance of life, thanks to Homer’s generosity.
As she cradled her youngest child in her arms, she answered the journalists’ questions.
“Homer’s like a father to us,” she said with tears in her eyes.
A child gave him a bouquet of flowers while the men clicked their cameras. Homer posed next to the young woman as the journalists used the latest cameras of the time to record the moment for posterity, because the myth of Homer the great had been born amidst the widow’s housing.
He knew certain things most people didn’t know, including the women. They’d have to bring the water from a well a few miles away and lit their homes with candles in the evenings. The children would suffer ill health because of the unhygienic conditions but Homer had taken them out of the streets, while the rest of society didn’t want to know.
Homer welcomed the widows to the houses along with the journalists. The bishop accepted Homer’s project after a few concessions as he wanted to elect a young widow for a pastoral mission. Homer went to see the bishop as he said mass in the cathedral.
He had met his highness before when he had married himself. The man had never agreed to such a thing but he agreed with Homer’s work for the poor and oppressed.
Homer went to sleep during the sermon but awoke when people left the church. He waited for his highness to finish praying, but the man smiled as soon as he saw Homer.
“I thank you for helping the poor,” he said.
Homer wanted the support of the church in his charitable duties.
“I want your blessing, your highness,” he said.
The bishop led him to his private quarters behind the church, and asked for him to sit down while he took his cape off.
“I have been thinking in honouring you in some way,” he said. “Would you like to become Apostle Homer?”
Homer frowned. The bishop wanted to canonise him but he wasn’t even dead but the man smiled as he noticed his face.
“You’d be an apostle of God amongst his followers.”
Homer thought about that for a few moments and then nodded.
“All right, your highness,” he said. “I give you permission to do as you please.”
Homer kneeled on the floor as the bishop sprinkled holy water on his head, while praying.
“You’re Apostle Homer now.” He said.
“Thank you, your highness.”
The bishop promised money from the church for his charitable trust. He would open an account in the bank just for Apostle Homer.
“I’m grateful for all your help, your highness,” Homer said before he left the church.
He thought the world should have more people like the bishop and barked while crossing the street. He had to forget the Indians and their curses.
The bishop wrote the following letter to be read in all the churched in the area for a few consecutive Sundays:

Dear children.
Our flock has been invaded by the wolves the scriptures talk about as atheists and sinners try to lead astray the herd God has given me.
You have witnessed my efforts to kill those wolves, but it seems as if the earth throws them out in big numbers every day. These atheists are the antichrists the scriptures talk about but hell will teach them a lesson they’ll never forget.
Assassins without any faith kill men, women and children. Our churches have been filled by orphans and poor widows who ask the heavens for retaliation but God will punish the sinners just as he did the Egyptian children.
You must be afraid of his anger and repent of your sins. If the Devil appears from the abyss the angels can also come from heaven. God hasn’t abandoned us yet.
A foreigner called Homer has dedicated his life to help the widows and orphans of the violence. We mustn’t let our angel alone, as we need the solidarity of God’s people to win over darkness and we want your charity to erase the most despicable sins against these poor people.
I’m asking you to send money to our Episcopal palace. You must forget material interests that won’t serve in our present life, as this is a temporal place before our real country up in heaven or down in hell for sinners. Perhaps they didn’t help their poor brothers or sisters.
You’ll have God’s blessing for every million pesos you give to Homer for his angelic mission.
His Highness

The letter had a good effect. Homer received many times the money he had spent in the houses in the next few days, even if the bishop kept more than half of it. The bishop had to reprimand a few priests who wanted a percentage of the earnings.
The local papers published editorials exalting the qualities of Apostle Homer. He gazed at the distance in the pictures as if looking at God’s face instead of a million pesos. The mystical breakdowns of Saint Theresa might give us an idea of Homer’s face before the cameras and the television.
The citizens filled millions of petitions asking for social solidarity as the governor with all of his cabinet marched to the Widow’s Houses. He gave materials for construction and money to Homer.
The Widow’s Soup was served in the most exclusive restaurant. The beauty queen of Colombia, the queen of the potato, the yucca, the corn, the banana, the pea, the pumpkin, the yucca bread, the tamales, the guarapo, and a hundred beauties of the city served the four thousand guests.
Each person had a bowl filled with boiling water and cold bread for the sum of one hundred thousand pesos. Rich people from the city were amongst journalists and television cameras, hoping that God would absolve their past sins and those still to come.
Homer read a few lines of the Old Testament and spoke for five minutes. As he talked of the widow’s pain, his eyes filled with tears. He had learned how to do that without much effort.
He stood in the podium as the band played the national anthem amidst cheers from the public. He wiped his tears while they collected money from the audience, who gave lots of dollars for such a good project.
The beauty queens filed in front of Homer and kissed his hand, leaving it full of tears and saliva. People in the restaurant sobbed as radio and television audiences cried. The readers of the newspapers cried the next day and the poor widows wept, while Homer shed tears of happiness in his room. He was a genius.
He made enough cash to build a city filled with poor widows but he needed the money.
Five more huts joined the others while some young and pretty widows who liked the bishop, went to live there. Homer had never earned so much and so quickly. He became more popular than Sister Theresa and Saint Francis of Assisi.
Someone told the papers that the houses didn’t have any water or electricity and a group of journalists waited for Homer to open the shop that morning.
“Is it true that you’ve tricked the women?” someone asked.
“I don’t know what you’re saying,” Homer said.
All the men surrounded him while Miguel pulled him back into the shop. They shut the door as the cameras clicked and people talked at the same time.
“You needed the lawyer to defend yourself and not to attack the press,” Miguel said.
Homer shook his head. “I didn’t know the houses didn’t have anything. It’s the engineers fault.”
Someone came to see him after he had his cup of tea later and he recognised the woman who had taken him to talk in the library before.
He shut the shop while Miguel had his lunch in the cafeteria and invited her to sit in his only chair. Then she talked about what the papers said.
“It’s the engineer’s fault, Mr. Homer,” she said.
“Homer nodded. “I agree.”
The woman gave him a bag full of money.
“We have made a collection for you to improve the widow’s houses.”
He thanked her.
“Would you like to have a cup of tea?” he asked.
The woman shook her head.
“I must go back to the library,” she said. “I’ll phone you later.”
She left the shop while Homer emptied the bag on the counter, where he counted all the coins and the pesos. He had five thousand pesos in total, enough to pay the firm of builders again, but he had to do some repairs to his shop and his cellar.
The sacrificial ritual of Apostle Homer had started. Jealousy reigned in heavens as they heard of his good work and bad angels opened the gates of rain over the city. The poor inhabitants of the muddy ghettos suffered more than anyone else.
A few widows and orphans drowned but the newspapers remained quiet. They considered it a calamity of nature and nothing to do with Homer.
God takes away the innocent lives, said in all the headlines. The pictures of the victims appeared under the titles, while the articles spoke of the women’s bravery as they confronted the elements in their own homes. Apostle Homer had given them a home but nature had taken it away.
Nobody paid for the burial and the wooden coffins were lowered into the ground without any ceremony.
Jaramillo knocked at Homer’s shop that morning. He wanted to give him the bad news before he opened his shop but Homer had been barking the night before and felt tired.
“The rain has wiped all the houses,” he said as soon as he went inside the shop.
Homer sat on his boxes. He didn’t want another scandal in his hands as he had helped the women to have a better life and the rain wasn’t his fault.
The smell of dirty rugs and moth balls assaulted Jaramillo’s senses as he sat on the boxes, and Homer blamed the weather for the women’s misfortune in the hands of the rain.
“What can I do? Homer said.
Jaramillo took him to the cemetery, where they watched as poor people filed by the graves but Homer had not done anything wrong. They left the cemetery before anyone noticed Apostle Homer.
They visited the firm of builders down the road as Homer wanted to build new houses for a few more widows.
“We’ll start tomorrow morning,” the engineer said.
They would be ready in a few days for more widows and their families. Homer was full of optimism as he barked that night in the backyard.
The woman came to the shop the next day and waited as Homer served one of the customers.
“Good morning Mr. Homer,” she said as the customer left the shop. “I want to give you a medal for your work amongst the poor.”
“The tragedy wasn’t my fault,” Homer said.
She nodded. “I know. We must blame mother nature.”
Homer heard as the woman talked about him
“You are an example to us all,” the woman said.
She talked of Homer’s trip to the jungle to help the Indian tribes, but they had abandoned their village to go to better lands.
Homer stopped her speech.
“What did you say?”
The woman looked annoyed at the interruption.
“Someone has seen the Indians by the Amazon river,” she said.
“Are you sure?” Homer asked.
The woman nodded.
She thought he was excited about the medal. She wanted him to attend the ceremony the next day but Homer’s mind was in the jungle.
He thought of many things while the woman talked.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Homer,” she said.
Homer unlocked his phone after shutting the shop as he had to find Jaramillo. The journalist wasn’t in his office but Homer left a message with his secretary. He had to contact him as soon as possible.
He opened his safe and looked at the Indian manuscripts, where the seven suns stared at him amidst all the jargon. It might mean seven minutes to the end of the world or seven minutes to find a new head.
He found Jose’s stone at the back of the safe and a tear went down Homer’s face as he remembered his friend. Then the phone rang and Homer heard the woman’s voice at the other end of the line after he answered it.
“Mr. Homer,” she said. “We’ll come to collect you tomorrow morning.”
Homer thanked her and put the phone down. He thought the tragedy of the widows had not been his fault. He didn’t bark that night and woke up early in the morning.
He chose his best clothes for the town hall as the apostle of the poor and rescuer of the oppressed. Then he waited for the woman to collect him.
The jungle with its curses seemed a long way away as he went to the award ceremony, because the woman was right. The weather had caused the death of the widows and their families.
He had to stop blaming himself for all the bad things that happened. People applauded as he entered the town hall.
“We have here our saint apostle,” someone said as he moved towards the platform.
She passed Homer the microphone amongst cheers from the audience.
“We have gathered here today,” Homer said. “To commemorate those brothers and sisters who lost their lives in a calamity of nature. They will go straight to heaven, because the meek and the poor are welcome in his kingdom.”
The audience cheered but Homer felt dizzy. He passed the microphone to the woman while mumbling something.
“Our apostle doesn’t feel well,” the woman said.
Homer sat down as the woman talked about Homer’s good spirit and how he had suffered after the widows died.
“He has lost the power to talk,” she said.
They applauded but Homer wondered when she would finish.
“We give Apostle Homer a cheque for a few thousand dollars to build more houses,” she said.
Homer accepted the cheque with tears in his eyes while people in the audience cried. He left the auditorium in jubilation amidst the flashes of the cameras.
Jaramillo waited by the shop as Homer arrived in a limousine. He opened the shop and led Jaramillo to the cellar, where they sat on the boxes.
“The Indians are alive,” Homer said.
Jaramillo nodded. “I know.”
Homer was angry and wanted to throw the journalist out of his room.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” he asked.
“You were busy with the widows,” Jaramillo said.
Homer shuffled on his box. The manuscripts had to be worth a lot of money to a scientist, but he had to sort out the widows first.
Homer’s mind was in the Amazons while he made a cup of tea. He listened as Jaramillo spoke of the danger of flying over some parts of the jungle.
Homer went to sleep on his boxes without barking that night. The woman who had given him the medal appeared in his dreams along with the decapitated Indians.
He went to visit the building site the next day, where a crowd had gathered to see the new homes taking shape out of the mud. Homer talked to a few people who wished him good luck with his project.
“We need more people like you, Mr. Homer” an old lady said.
The houses were ready a few days later, when young widows moved in, amidst praise for the apostle. They still didn’t have any toilets or electricity, but the papers were quiet as no one wanted to know how the poor women lived.
The widow’s business didn’t just give cash but it generated great publicity, benefiting Homer’s smuggled goods and taxes.
He asked the deprived mothers to sign documents. Most of them couldn’t read or didn’t want to know why they had to sign. He stood next to the children as the women scribbled something under a few pages of legal language.
They invited him to have lunch with their families. The water had to be brought from the nearby river as the children disappeared in the garden to do their business by the trees but they were happy.
The mud had dried and the streets looked like river beds. No one thought of the consequences if the heavens decided to open themselves again, as God almighty would prevent another calamity.
The widows thanked the benefactor who gave them a roof over their heads and some food. It wouldn’t let a rat die of hunger.
The papers the women signed left Homer out of reach of the income tax. His expenditure became far greater than his earnings, according to the certificates. He had done all of this to sustain the poor women.
The widows’ food grew to be the largest business for our man. He brought lots of merchandise into the country every month. The boxes had a cross on them. It said in big red letters: Charity. This food is for the poor of Colombia. Look after it!
The boxes went past customs without any problems. Sacks full of wheat went through customs sometimes, but they usually contained goods. Sport cars were smuggled with ‘frozen food,’ written on them. Any food sent in the packets would be sold at high prices to Homer’s customers.
His ships brought Swiss watches, Scotch whisky, French Wines, tinned food from all over the world, televisions, videos, pants, bras and other things.
Homer’s modest shop became a world bazaar. You could find a Mercedes Benz or fine French pants, and custom officials never wondered about so many expensive and rare things. They didn’t doubt Apostle Homer’s behaviour or the public would attack them.
They couldn’t bother someone as nice as Homer. He gave them whisky, cigarettes and lighters and sometimes he sent them cheques for a few thousand pesos for Christmas. What a remarkable man!
The old boats: Athena, Sparta and The Thermopilas had been replaced by three new and powerful ships: Odysseus, Ajax, Diogenes and Cyclops. They traded in goods.
Homer slept better during the nights, and as he lay on his boxes with a few rags on, he counted and recounted the day’s earnings. His food improved as he drank a cup of tea with a portion of rotten cheese three times a week. He looked much better and had bought three suits in a second hand shop.
He stopped barking for a few nights as one of the widows gave him a dog but it didn’t have Homer’s deep voice. The animal had a bad habit: it ate. Homer trained it to live without food but the dog died.
Our man walked around his property barking again and a neighbour paid two hundred pesos for Homer to bark in his patio during the night. He accepted the job and used the money to buy some meat.
Homer had made lots of money in a few years of suffering and abstinence while forgetting the tribe lost in the jungle. He had not seen Jaramillo much as the man had been busy with his work.
The journalist appeared as Homer shut the shop one day, and took a newspaper out of his bag.
Homer read the headlines: Indian tribe have been discovered in the Amazon jungle. They claim to descent from the most primitive people of America.
“They might not be our Indians,” Homer said.
Jaramillo took a small head from his bag.
It was similar to the ones Homer had sold in the past but the skin was soft and rubbery.
“This isn’t real,” Homer said.
Jaramillo nodded. “I think they want to confuse us. They must be the real head hunters.”
Homer had shown the world who he was and the results had been magnificent. He had the respect of most people in town, who had forgotten the dead widows and their children.
He didn’t want a few head hunters spoiling everything, but Jaramillo thought the manuscripts Homer had in his safe held a clue as to the whereabouts of the tribe.
“I want to see the manuscripts,” he said.
Homer looked for the keys under the box and as he opened the safe, he put the pages on the table. They had been written by Indians who didn’t know how to count.
Jaramillo sipped his tea while writing in his notebook later.
“I have to decipher them,” he said.
Homer had tried that before without any results. He led Jaramillo to an adjacent room, where he kept his merchandise. The journalist sat at a table as Homer checked his goods.
“You can read the manuscripts here,” he said.
Jaramillo didn’t lift his eyes when Homer shut the door.
Homer went to bed after barking in the backyard that night and hoped the man would pay for the electricity he used in the room. He found Jaramillo reading the manuscripts the next day. He only left the cellar to go to toilet in the backyard and hardly ate the food Homer brought to the table.
“You haven’t been to your job or your home,” Homer said. “The police must think I kidnapped you.”
Jaramillo mumbled something, hunched over the papers while his notebook was full of writing. Homer carried on with his life but found the journalist asleep over the papers a few times. He didn’t want to be accused of kidnapping the man.
Jaramillo didn’t know much about the Indians to decipher the papers.
Homer enjoyed his fame as the journalist read the manuscripts. He appeared in the papers and spoke on the radio about the widows he had saved from the gutter, while his face became synonymous with love and charity. His life had changed since he had discovered the widow’s suffering.
“I think of the poor women all the time,” he said with tears in his eyes in a radio programme. People showered him with money every time he cried in the studio. The tragedy had been forgotten as he talked in the library a few more times, and the woman had become his mentor even if he never remembered her name.
Homer lost count of all the charitable functions he attended where she collected money from the public to improve the women’s houses. He hired the builder to paint the houses for a few pesos and kept the rest of the money in his safe. The papers didn’t want to know about the life of the people in the slums as they cashed on Homer’s fame.
Everyone bought El Pais when he appeared in the front page, while the women and their families lived in the squalor.
Homer worked in the shop and barked at night as Jaramillo sat at the table translating the manuscripts. He stopped taking any notice of the man in the cellar, as he sipped the cups of tea Homer left by his side and went to the toilet in the middle of the night. The translated the manuscripts as Homer sold his merchandise and made money from the widows.
Homer had a crisis at this time. He felt in love with a girl for some reason. How could it be? As he saw her on his way to his room one day, he had a shock that ran down his spinal cord and ended in his genitals.
“What a woman,” he muttered.
He followed her along the streets and up to her home and masturbated several times that evening. He had to buy two extra eggs in order to feel strong.
The woman phoned him that evening.
“I want you to attend another function in the library,” she said.
Homer’s mind was in the girl while he discussed the best time for him to go there. She came to collect him in the morning and reporters waited outside the library.
“We have a young widow with us today,” he said.
Homer greeted the woman and they entered the auditorium together as the audience applauded. Homer had become an expert on talking to the masses but he thought of the girl. They collected money for his charities as usual and he waited for his girl with his wallet full of notes.
“You’re as beautiful as a million pesos,” he said as he saw her coming.
He didn’t feel well, perhaps because he had masturbated the day before or the thought of a million pesos. The two things made him as pale as an anaemic flower.
Lola earned enough money in a beauty shop to buy clothes and food for her and her mother, but she had a perfect body and any clothes she put on seemed superfluous. She looked better than a duchess even if she dressed in rags.
She rounded her meagre wages, calming the amorous needs of a few sergeants. They were her favourite dish. She had seen Homer’s pictures a few times in the papers and knew that he wasn’t a poor Franciscan.
Lola had loved a few members of that community and liked to mix sergeants with clerics. Homer was a young man with a few ships. He didn’t look like superman but he wasn’t Frankenstein, add a few million pesos to all of this and any woman would fall in love.
“Can I walk you home?” he asked.
She could see how pale he was but pretended to be shy and shook her head. He couldn’t follow her anymore as his legs felt like jelly.
Homer had gone home. He wanted to confide his feelings for the girl to the journalist in the store room, but as he went inside, he saw the man looking at the manuscripts, a cup of tea by his side.
Jaramillo didn’t move as Homer passed a hand in front of his face.
“I want you to go home,” he said.
The man didn’t answer. Homer looked at the notes he had written in his notebook but he couldn’t understand anything. He thought the journalist had lost his mind.
Jaramillo went on writing without noticing him, his eyes fixed in the manuscript.
Homer left a slice of bread on the table but the plate was empty by the morning. The journalist had been living with him for the last few days.
“We have to talk,” Homer said.
Jaramillo didn’t move and Homer found a notebook in his pockets. A woman answered the first number he phoned.
“I have Jaramillo in a trance in my room,” he said.
The woman on the other side of the line laughed.
“You must be joking,” she said. “He is having a nice time with one of his girlfriends.”
“Jaramillo’s in my shop, el Baratillo,” Homer said.
“Is it the one by the market?” she asked after a pause.
The woman appeared half an hour later.
“I’m Mary,” she said.
She sighed as she stepped into Homer’s room and smelled the stale food and dirty clothes.
“Where do you sleep?” she asked, looking at the heaps of rubbish.
Mary’s eyes widened as Homer gestured to the wooden boxes in the corner.
“You must be joking,” she said.
As Homer led her into the adjacent room, she looked around her.
“Where is he?”
Then she noticed the journalist sitting at the table amidst piles of stuff. He didn’t react when Mary called him.
“He has been sitting there for the past few days,” Homer said.
She shook him. “I’m coming to take you home.”
The journalist muttered something while writing in his notebook and Homer helped her to take the man to her car. He found some of his notes on the table as he went back to the cellar later.
He couldn’t make sense of Jaramillo’s writing. The word seven was repeated throughout the pages, amidst all the nonsense and Homer thought the manuscripts had made him mad.
He tried to read them with the help of the dictionary of Amerindian languages the journalist had left, but they didn’t make sense and put them back in his safe.
He thought of Lola as he sipped his cup of tea later. How could a man of his quality fall for that girl? Every time he thought of her he barked in his neighbour’s patio. Then he went to sleep on his boxes.
He forgot his business with the widows because of the girl. He had to travel in one of his trucks the next day and he thought about it. What about if the driver stole something? He could do that often and waste petrol or he could bring his girlfriend. How could Homer see Lola and look after the trucks at the same time?
He surprised himself as he waited in a corner for Lola to appear, when he should be behind the counter of El Baratillo, or in the port as his ships loaded or unloaded their merchandise.
The girl was late. Homer’s hands sweated and he wanted to go to the toilet, when she appeared. She looked as beautiful as ever.
He checked his clothes and found them all right as a friend had lent him the suit. The trousers seemed a bit large but they looked fine so long as he kept his coat on.
“Miss,” he said. “Can I walk with you?”
He had thought of this phrase for a long time and said it with elegance.
Lola blushed like a shy school girl. “My mother doesn’t let me take anybody home.”
Homer walked by her side. She had a spiritual quality he loved.
“I work hard to pay the debts,” she said. “I make dresses at home to earn extra money.”
He shrugged. “I’m also poor.”
He was madly in love with her and it had to be love at first sight like they said in the soap operas.
“My mother can’t see you,” she said.
As Homer left, a sergeant waited for her in the next street. He took her to the cinema but Lola didn’t let him kiss or hug her.
She kept the militaries and the Franciscans away and dreamt of rude sailors smelling of whisky and fish, making love to her.
Homer thought he would go mad. That night he barked aloud and the neighbours complained. He missed the journalist translating the papers in the cellar even if he didn’t talk.
Lola would like to marry a rich man to live like a princess with all kinds of commodities.
“Can I take you home?” Homer asked the next day.
Lola nodded. “I’ll introduce you to my mother.”
He imagined Lola’s mother as a monster guarding her daughter against all evil but a nice woman opened the door. She had Lola’s dark eyes and jet black hair.
“Come in,” she led him into their small sitting room.
He sat on a sofa next to Lola while her mother prepared dinner on the kitchen. She blushed as Homer kissed her and she let him hold her hands. Then she felt itchy.
She saw hundreds of tiny animals crawling in his head. He had as much life in his body as he had money as he only used water and soap for shaving himself and washing his hands. Perhaps she could change him with her charms.
“I live in a hut with my dog,” Homer said as her mother brought the tea.
Homer had found paradise as he had a beautiful girl and free food. Lola refused Homer to kiss her again.
“You must get rid of the lice first,” she said.
Homer thought she made a fuss about nothing. He had had lice for as long as he could remember and no one had cared about it, but he loved the girl.
He left an hour later. As Lola went back to her room, she awoke Fray Serapio who had gone to sleep under the bed and had rheumatism ever since. He made love to her that night amidst the pain in his back.
“I don’t like your new boyfriend,” he said as Lola helped him to go back to his convent next morning.
“It’s my own business,” she said.
He tried to kiss her by the convent door but she pushed him away.
“Stop it,” she said.
The priest hated Homer. He wanted to bring God’s fury on the man who had stolen his girl. Lola had never seen Fray Serapio angry. He had told her that anger wasn’t a nice quality.
She thought of her religious duties, as leaving Fray Serapio had to be an offence punishable by God. She crossed herself a few times while reciting the rosary. She had shut her eyes as Fray Serapio satisfied his hunger to please the scriptures.
Lola would do anything to have the money and wealth that she yearned for. She had to use her charm to get to Homer’s fortune.
Homer had forgotten the Indians, the widows and Jaramillo as a beautiful woman had changed the way he saw the world. He purchased a new suit, bought soap and had a bath. He had never done so many mad things on the same day.
Lola kept her other lovers away. She went to work, did her shopping and even slept alone as chastity might be a good business sometimes.
You know where to start when you are in love but you don’t know when it will end. Homer’s madness grew worse and invited Lola to have an ice cream that afternoon but she didn’t waste his money in colourful ice, while Homer had a glass of cold water.
He forgot to bark that night and lost a few hundred pesos. The two employees at El Baratillo and the crews of his ships couldn’t believe the change in him. They had never seen Homer clean. He travelled to the port only once a week and sat next to the driver. He didn’t sleep on the boxes but at a hotel that charged a few hundred pesos per night, sharing the room with someone else. Everyone thought he had gone mad.
It didn’t end there. He bought a small coconut when he returned to the city. The taxi driver asked for a piece of the hard skin to keep as a treasure.
“It might bring me good luck,” he said.
That evening, he met Lola after she finished working in the shop. She wore a pink dress with a rose by her breasts, and his heart bit faster as she moved towards him. He couldn’t imagine anyone immune to the girl’s charms.
He had the coconut in a plastic bag.
“This is for you,” he said.
Lola sighed as she opened the bag and saw the present he had brought her. She had expected something better from her rich boyfriend, like a golden watch or a diamond ring.
She thought this was just the beginning. She didn’t have the priests or the sergeant anymore and kept Homer at a distance. As he tried to kiss her, she stopped him. The coconut had not been enough but Homer thought she was a virgin.
“When can I go to your home again?” he asked.
She shrugged. “I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
He slept better and did his job as a guard dog. The rest of the time he reproached himself. Why had he spent so much money in the girl? What use did it have?
These questions kept on repeating themselves in his head like characters in a nightmare and he couldn’t find an answer. Why did he give her the coconut? He could have fed himself with it for the whole week, while the ice cream had been water with a bit of taste and colour.
He had wasted water having a bath as well as the new soap he had bought. He had to think in his water bill and the money he had paid to the hotel in the port because he must be losing his mind.
He had been afraid of mad people since he had been a child as his mother had shown him people eating, drinking and spending money, they had to be crazy. He remembered fiends without a form and infamous animals moving through the streets. They were mad.
People who took care of their money looked fat and healthy and were not crazy but Homer didn’t look healthy.
He wanted Lola in spite of all of this and missed her firm breasts and sex appeal, his body floated like a shipwreck survivor in a typhoon as he masturbated repeatedly, dreaming of a muddy lake full of bits of women and dollar bills. He had been destroyed by sex, mud, sex and mud.
Homer missed the journalist’s silent presence in the cellar, where he had become part of the shadows. He wondered if the manuscripts might have an answer to his mental distress as Jaramillo had found them interesting.
Homer opened his safe and took out the roll of papers he ha found in the Indian town. Once he sat down at the table, he couldn’t stop reading them.
He wrote his own interpretation of the manuscripts after the notes the journalist had left in the cellar, but he couldn’t get up from the table to boil the water for his cup of tea in the morning. His employees found him on the floor as he fallen off his seat, hurting his face. He stayed on his boxes all morning.
Miguel brought him a cup of tea.
“You must go to the doctor,” he said.
Homer shook his head. “Doctors charge a lot of money.”
Miguel brought him milk and brandy and Homer felt much better but then he found out what he had and felt ill again.
“You don’t have to pay for anything,” he said. “It’s a present.”
Homer dreamt of the Indian village as he slept that afternoon but the town was deserted except for a few vultures standing on the rooftops. As shadows drifted through the streets, he had seen the chief and the Indian with their heads on.
The chief had taken the manuscript out of his pocket while everything whirled around them as the wind lifted them up in the air. Homer awoke on the floor. He remembered the chief’s painted face and his long black hair amidst the smells of the jungle and as Homer climbed back on his boxes, one of his employees knocked at the door.
“You have a visitor,” he said.
A young woman appeared. She had a plate covered by a cloth.
“I’m Sara,” she said. “I’ve brought you something to eat.”
Homer saw chicken soup with potatoes and onions under the cloth as she helped him to sit at the table. Sara waited for Homer to finish with his soup and took the empty plate away.
“Thank you,” he said.
She smiled and left the room. He thought she had been an angel sent down to earth to save his soul, but he had seen her before. Sarah was one of the young widows who had moved in the new huts he had built.
After putting the manuscripts back on his safe, he went back to his boxes, where he stayed until that evening, and his employees had gone home when someone knocked at the door. Homer didn’t expect anyone because Jaramillo had gone on holydays to recover from his breakdown.
As he looked through the keyhole, he saw the woman who lived next door holding something in her hands. Homer opened the door.
“I have brought you some food,” she said.
She put a steaming plate on the table as Homer mumbled a thank you. The woman smiled.
“I’m your neighbour,” she said. “I want to help my dear dog.”
Homer left his boxes after his dinner to read the report his employees had left on the table. His shop had made good profits and the widow’s business had recovered since the last tragedy. He had a lot of money in his bank now.
He threw Lola’s picture to the waste paper basket.
Homer didn’t want a girl to destroy his life, his mission in this world was to make money at the expense of other people and Lola had to go. He growled and barked aloud.
Homer tried not to think about Lola while counting the money in the till because he had to concentrate in his business. He barked in the backyard that evening, feeling the breeze on his face as the moon shone in the sky.
This was the start of a new life as he didn’t want to think in women again.

Colombia is beautiful

3 Disgrace

At the other end of the town the bad spirits conspired against Homer. In a church near the widow’s housing, Father Ricardo had just finished taking confessions, when he saw some of the widows in the church.
“Good afternoon, father,” a young woman said.
Father Ricardo smiled, trying to keep temptation away but being polite at the same time. He couldn’t be rude to God’s children even if they happened to be pretty women.
“Can we talk to you?” she interrupted his thoughts.
Father Ricardo took them to the refectory where the women sat in the chairs.
“What did you want to tell me, my daughters?” he asked.
A woman sighed. “Our homes don’t have any toilets or electricity, but Homer doesn’t know anything about it.”
He shrugged. “Why don’t you tell him?”
Father Ricardo couldn’t understand it, but the woman looked at him with dark eyes.
“We thought you could raise the money to improve our homes.”
Father Ricardo found pen and paper on his table and started to write what the women wanted: electricity, water, toilets and better houses. He would ask people on the Sunday service to donate money for a good cause.
The women thanked him for giving them a place to live but they wanted to improve their lives.
“We cooked food to Homer when he was ill,” someone said.
“I didn’t know he had been ill.”
The woman nodded. “He fell on his face one morning and couldn’t get up again.”
“Why?” he asked
The women didn’t know but they had several hypothesis.
“Homer is supposed ton be studying a pile of papers,” the same woman said.
Father Ricardo thought things were a bit confusing. He had heard a few rumours about Homer: first he had married to himself and now he studied papers. He wondered what he might do next.
“We helped the man who gave us a place to live,” the widow said.
Her friends nodded. They spoke of all the good things Apostle Homer had done for them and how their children had a roof over their heads.
Father Ricardo blessed the widows while reciting a Hail Mary, before they left the church. He admired these women who had suffered so much in their life, and as he moved to the rectory, he met Fray Serapio. The man stopped limping to greet Father Ricardo.
“My rheumatism is bothering me,” he said.
Father Ricardo told him to take camomile for the pain of the joints.
“You must pray to the Virgin Mary after you finish your drink,” he said.
Fray Serapio nodded. He had tried praying before without any results, but a visit to the young widows might take his mind away from the pain.
“I’ll ask the widows for advice,” he said.
Father Ricardo knew of Fray Serapio’s love for beautiful women and wished the priest took more care of his spiritual life instead.
“The widows sent food to Homer when he was sick,” he said.
Fray Serapio thought Homer had enough money to buy all the food he wanted.
“I have to go,” Father Ricardo said. “Tell me if the camomile helps you.”
He went to the sacristy while Fray Serapio looked for the phone. He had to tell Lola about her greedy boyfriend.
Lola had just arrived from work when she answered the phone.
“The widows are feeding your boyfriend,” Fray Serapio said.
Lola frowned. “You’re jealous.”
She wanted to ask the widows but they lived in a dangerous and unhealthy place, sewer ran through the streets while dirty children looked in the gutters for something to eat.
“You must tell Homer to go away,” Fray Serapio said.
He hated his rival just as much as the serpent loathed Eve.
“I still don’t believe you,” Lola said on the end of the line.
“Ask father Ricardo,” he said. “He knows all about it.”
Lola tore the numerous cards Homer had sent her after putting the phone down. The man didn’t like to spend his money on anything.
She threw Homer’s pictures in the bin.
“I don’t want to see that man again,” she muttered to herself.
Lola’s mother thought the girl shouldn’t send away her rich boyfriend.
“You have done this before,” the woman said. “Can you remember the sergeant, the policeman and the young lawyer?”
Lola shook her head.
“Mother, Homer is evil.”
She threw some more pictures in the bin and dumped the piece of coconut Homer had given her a few days before. It wasn’t a present fit for a rich man.
She phoned the sergeant.
“Can you take me home today?” She asked him.
“You have your rich boyfriend,” the man said.
“He’s not my boyfriend anymore.”
“I don’t believe you.”
The sergeant appeared as she left her job. They walked down the road while Homer waited in a corner, holding a bunch of flowers he had found in a dustbin. Then he noticed the sergeant. Homer had seen the man in the army parades through the city.
The sergeant had heard of Lola’s infatuation with the businessman. He grabbed Homer by his shirt and punched him a few times. Lola fainted as blood poured out of Homer’s nose and mouth, but he escaped while the sergeant attended to the girl.
He didn’t stop running until he arrived at the safety of his shop, where his employees looked at him in shock.
“A madman has attacked me,” Homer said.
He washed his faced in the tap of water he had installed in the backyard. Then he lay down on his boxes.
“Shall I call an ambulance?” someone asked.
Homer shrugged. “I’ll be fine.”
He had learned his lesson. He would never let a woman do this again as they were evil. Homer didn’t bark that night. He had given the girl a bit of coconut and ice cream but she let the sergeant beat him up. All women had to be like that.
He went to his boxes after cleaning his face and covered himself with the rugs, where he dreamed of Lola walking towards him but the sergeant bit him up. Homer had pain all over his body when his employees opened the shop next morning, his nose had swollen and a few of his teeth had loosened. He would never forget all the pain Lola had caused him.
The edges of the boxes felt hard while he thought of the girl. Then one of his employees appeared with a plate full of chicken soup.
“It’s from the widows,” he said.
Homer thought of the women’s muddy houses with an open sewer running through the backyard while sipping his soup, but it would cost money to improve their homes.
As his friend came to collect the suit, he heard of the harrowing moments when a bus had knocked Homer down. He didn’t accept any money for the ruined suit.
He spent a few days on his boxes, hating all women and their sergeants. An employee found a mattress next to Homer’s place of death, sorry, next to his place of living and took it to his room.
Homer thought it was better than the boxes, and dismissed his employee the next day in case he wanted a salary increase. He didn’t bark in the backyard that night. He had lost a fortune in a few days without counting the coconut or Lola’s ice cream.
It rained the next night. Seven widows and eight children drowned in the widow’s houses and the chicken soups stopped coming.
Homer watched from afar as the people of the slums took the bodies to the cemetery. It was a tragedy. He went back to his room and slept in the mattress his employee had found in the rubbish.
He had not heard from Jaramillo again. The man had left his job in the newspaper after reading the manuscripts, but someone had seen him taking a bus to the jungle. Homer didn’t want to know about widows or Indians anymore as he had to change the goal of his life.

Colombia is beautiful

4 Homer the warrior

The world had been at war for a few years. It was called a war world and Homer’s old country was invaded. He had made money from the Indian heads, the widow’s pain and his boats. Could the invasion of his dismembered country be another business?
He decided to fight for his land to change the course of his existence. He had spoken a few days before with Hugh, a friend he had in New York. Homer had heard tales of people getting very rich in the land of dreams.
Homer spoke with Miguel one day after he had shut the shop.
“I leave you in charge of my business while I’m in foreign lands,” he said.
Miguel didn’t like the idea of managing the shop on his own, as he didn’t want the blame for anything happening in Homer’s absence.
“You’ll have my telephone number wherever I go,” Homer said. “Or you can wire me.”
Homer packed his suitcases after Miguel had left the shop. He opened the safe and put the manuscripts in his case. He would take them to a museum once he was in New York. He had seen pictures of the city and imagined himself in the Empire State Building.
He didn’t bark that night as his mind was in the great city of the north where the streets were paved with gold.
Homer woke up early the next day. He had tickets to board one of his ships in the way to the USA. He wanted to earn some money even if it was one of his boats, and thought of a plan to make some money during his journey. They needed a waiter and Homer took the job. He could earn pesos and have free food.
He travelled in one of his trucks to the port, where the ship waited under the hot sun. Homer pushed his suitcase up the steps as the captain came to greet him.
“Mr. Homer,” he said. “We were expecting you.”
He took him to a cabin in the ship with all the modern conveniences of the time. The man couldn’t understand why Homer wanted to serve in the restaurant as he was the owner of the ship.
Rich people are strange, he thought as he showed Homer what he had to do. He went to unpack his suitcases while the captain remained in the restaurant. Homer stood on the deck later, as the seagulls cried and the waves battered the ship.
He thought of Miguel and El Baratillo. Homer trusted the man with his business in Colombia, where he hoped to return one day after the war.
“It’s time to serve dinner,” the head waiter said.
He was a big man, who had sailed the seven seas. Homer felt seasick and took an Alka-Seltzer before serving the customers in the restaurant.
He tried to keep his balance as the floor swayed and went to bed after the break, where he remained for the next few days. The doctor diagnosed seasickness and Homer had to take a few tablets but they made him feel sleepy. He spent the rest of the trip in bed, where he dreamed of Lola and the Indians chasing him for their heads.
He kept the manuscripts in his luggage, hoping to sell them one day, as his past life chased him wherever he went.
Homer left his bed just in time to see the statue of liberty rising in the horizon. He hoped to start a new life in the empire of the north, where the dollar reigned amidst hopes and illusions.
He put his clothes back in his suitcase and prepared to disembark in the land of gold. As the ship approached the port, Homer wobbled to the top deck where the passengers had gathered. .
The ship stopped moving and people went down the steps towards the waiting officials, but Homer didn’t have anything to declare as none of his belongings cost more than one dollar.
He looked for Hugh, amidst the many faces waiting in the dock. He had only seen the man once, when he had visited his parent’s shop a long time ago. A middle aged man with a moustache hugged him.
“I’m Hugh,” he said. “You have grown so much.”
They sat down at a table in the nearest coffee shop, where Homer had another Alka-Seltzer. He had not recovered completely after his hard time in the boat.
“I was seasick all the time,” Homer said.
Hugh shrugged. “I hate ships.”
Hugh told him about life in the USA.
“You can fight the Nazi enemies,” he said.
Homer imagined his fleet selling arms to the warriors of the world. He was happy for the first time since he had embarked in that ship.
“I’ll put my fleet to the service of my country,” he said.
Hugh smiled. “You’re a patriot. You offer your life for your land.”
Homer had never said that. He didn’t like people who misunderstood his intentions, even if they were noble but Hugh ordered a bottle of champagne to celebrate his arrival.
“To the end of the war,” he said.
Homer nodded. “To us.”
He looked at the other customers while sipping his drink. This was a country of opportunities and good for his plans.
They left the coffee shop while the sun set on the tall buildings and the stars appeared in an autumn sky. As Homer barked, his friend looked at him.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
Homer smiled. “I couldn’t be better.”
As he dozed in his friend’s room that evening, he heard the traffic in the city that never slept. It had streets paved with fools, who should give him gold.
He worked as a waiter in a restaurant and Hugh found a cheap room for him to sleep in the evenings. It was much better than the cellar behind El baratillo.
This was a new beginning far from widows and Indians, Homer thought while looking at the city from his balcony. He didn’t want to get lost in the jungle like had happened to Jaramillo.
Homer worked in the restaurant during the days and planned his next move in the evenings. Hugh took him to meet a few people from his country and Homer liked the subway with its escalators and electric trains.
As they left the train in Brooklyn, he admired the vibrant city full of life. Children played in the streets as youth gathered in the corners. He could have sold them some of his merchandise.
They stopped by a block of flats with a nice garden and trees. They went up to the tenth floor in the lift, where Hugh rang the door bell. A fat woman appeared at the door. She had short black hair and honeyed coloured eyes like a cat, and after hugging Hugh, she turned her attention to Homer.
“This is my friend Homer,” Hugh said.
The woman smiled. “I’m Maria. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
She led them to a room full of people, sitting around a long table with a few candles in the middle.
“This is the hero we were expecting tonight,” Maria said.
They all greeted Homer and he sat down as Maria brought cups of coffee and biscuits.
“What plans do you have for the war?” she asked.
“I will use my ships to defeat the intruders,” Homer said.
They applauded.
“You’re our hero,” she said.
Homer drank his tea while listening to their stories.
“I escaped from the Nazis in a hot air balloon,” a man said.
He told a long story of danger and they cried, listening to his suffering in the hands of the soldiers.
“I hope you can liberate our country,” he said.
They made a collection to help Homer’s plans. People dropped their money in a box Maria took around the room, while Homer talked to his compatriots. The fire of freedom had swept through this colony lost in New York.
“This is to help the war effort,” Maria said as she gave him the money.
Homer put the dollars in his wallet.
“I promise to put my ships at your service,” he said.
“Hurrah to Homer,” they cheered.
Maria poured champagne in their glasses and they toasted to the hero. Homer saw snow falling on a white world as he left with Hug later. The streets of this city were paved with snow and gold now.
It was cold that night and Homer’s room didn’t have a heater but he slept wrapped in his coat, as he would leave his bones here if it was good for his countrymen.
The gringos liked Homer. They wanted to use his ships to help the war in Europe, and instead of dying in New York, he would do it at the bottom of the sea. The USA government would give him free arms.
All of Homer’s ships were at the service of the war as he cancelled his businesses in Colombia, including El Baratillo. He had a long conversation with Miguel on the phone that evening, where the man cried.
“You have left me without a job, Mr. Homer,” he said.
Homer promised to send put money in his bank account every month without fail, and that stopped Miguel’s tears.
“I wouldn’t abandon my best employee,” Homer said.
Miguel sighed. “Thank you, Mr. Homer.”
The Widow’s houses had disappeared under the water a few moths before and its inhabitants drowned. Homer was a warrior now.
He visited his ships docked in Manhattan as they waited for a secret consignment of arms to take to the war. The sailors prepared the ships for the crossing of the Atlantic, where the enemy would be punished by Homer’s weapons.
Maria brought him some more money his countrymen had donated. Homer liked people who did anything for their country.
Time went past as workmen painted and repaired the ships. Homer survived with the money Maria brought him every week, and the sale of El Baratillo had added more cash to his account. He had erased all signs of his former life while preparing to fight the enemies of the world.
Odysseus would be the first ship to leave port but it was surrounded by absolute secrecy. As the captain of the ship, Homer wore an artificial moustache and looked like an old Turkish sailor.
He saw the workers putting things in his ship, machine guns arrived in boxes, bombs that looked like corn on the hob and munitions disguised as chocolates. Canons pretending to be canoes and a few tanks camouflaged as ambulances.
Hugh and a few other people from his country went to the dock to see Homer off.
We wish you a good trip,” Hugh said just before Homer went up the steps to his ship, as a band played their national hymn.
Homer left New York on a misty morning, thinking in the new adventure in the horizon. It might be more productive than his past enterprises. He had started his life as a diplomat a few months before. He obeyed his instincts and his manner had softened while acquiring a psychological saturation comparable to that of Fouche or Nicholas Machiavelli.
Homer was ill for the first day of the voyage. He spent his time in bed talking to his crew trough the phone. He had given orders to sail south once they were in high seas.
The sailor in charge of the route came to see him. He was a small plump man, who spoke with a lisp.
“Why are we going south, sir? He asked. “Europe is to the east.”
Homer didn’t like his employees questioning his judgment.
“We are helping the war effort,” he said.
“In Latin America?”
Homer smiled. “Those countries are part of our mission.”
The man didn’t understand Homer’s way of thinking but he was pleased they had not ventured through the dangerous waters of the mid Atlantic, where enemy submarines might lurk.
They arrived at the Republic of Salvacion three days after leaving port. Homer had cabled the authorities of their arrival.
He left the gloomy skies over New York City for the hot Caribbean sun. The president of the country welcomed them as a small band of musicians played the national anthem. After Homer and his crew went down the ship steps, he shook hands with the president.
“Hurrah to our country,” they shouted.
Homer led the president up the stairs to the ship, where he saw all the tanks and armament.
“I’ll sell you everything at very good prices,” Homer said.
The president of Salvacion agreed. His country needed arms to defend itself from its neighbours.
“Atenagoras,” he called.
A small man wearing sailor clothes and a red hat appeared.
“Get me the check book to pay for the arms.”
Atenagoras handed the cheque book to the president, who wrote the sum Homer wanted and signed it. Homer ordered his men to take the arms off the ship.
The president watched while everything was unloaded and Atenagoras made sure the men were careful with the tanks.
“He’s my right arm,” the president said. “I wouldn’t know what to do without him.”
Homer invited the president for a drink in the bar of the ship. A sailor opened a bottle of champagne and poured it into their glasses.
“To the war,” Homer said.
The president smiled. “I’m ready to defend my country, Mr. Homer.”
“I’ll sell you more arms if you want to.”
“Hurrah for democracy,” the president said.
Homer nodded. “We fight for democracy and make a few cents at the same time.”
The president of Salvacion discussed the world war with Homer. Hitler was a greedy man who wanted to conquer Europe.
“He won’t attack us,” Homer said.
“The arms have been taken down the ramp, Your Excellency,” Atenagoras interrupted.
“Good job,” the president said.
“I’ll bring more ammunition in the future,” Homer said.
The president smiled. “I need arms to fight for democracy.”
Homer watched as he examined his tanks later. He was like a child with a new toy. He went inside one of the tanks as Homer drank another glass of champagne. He had to drink to the success of his trip.
Atenagoras appeared with his suitcase as he wanted to follow Homer to New York.
“Does your president know about this?” Homer asked.
“He doesn’t mind, sir.”
Atenagoras waved to the president, who waved back.
“Have a good time,” he said.
The president had given Homer his best man in a show of solidarity, and as the ship sailed away from the island, Homer admired the beautiful Caribbean Sea. The tropical climate was replaced by cooler weather as they moved northwards but they kept away from the mid Atlantic to avoid enemy submarines.
The Odysseus had left its precious cargo in the Caribbean while the storm went on in rest of the world. The papers spoke of Homer’s heroic behaviour in New York as perhaps the sea had taken him away forever.
Homer came back sunburnt and with bananas and dried caimans. He brought a few messages from the anti Nazi warriors; they needed more arms.
Hugh waited for him amongst a delegation from his country and they carried Homer on their shoulders to a hotel, where an orchestra played. He was treated like a hero by his countrymen and women, a child gave him a bouquet of roses as everyone sang the national hymn.
Maria handed Homer thousands of dollars donated by his friends for future enterprises. He went to bed happy that night as he had done a good business with the president of Salvacion, while people had showered him with money.
He was a hero as journalists wanted to interview him about his intrepid voyage through the Atlantic. Homer didn’t want anyone to know of his Caribbean adventure.
Then he organised another expedition with four of his ships. He took more arms than the first time: tanks, bazookas, anti-tanks canons, machine guns and a lot of ammunition and two small aeroplanes completed the arsenal.
A crowd accompanied Homer to his ship as an orchestra played. They took pictures of our hero waving goodbye, while fireworks went up the sky. The fleet sailed around the sea taking care of enemy submarines as a bigger and more powerful South American country received the armament this time.
Another president came aboard and signed a cheque for thousands of dollars.
“You’re the saviour of my country,” he said.
He had been fighting the president of Salvacion for some time, who had bought powerful arms from mercenaries.
Atenagoras opened a bottle of champagne and poured it in their glasses.
“To my country,” the president said.
Homer raised his glass. “I hope you attack Salvacion.”
A few girls danced as everyone celebrated the new arms for the country and the festivities went on until the next morning, when the president and his entourage left the ship.
Homer dreamt of riches that night as the war in Europe had brought him good luck. One of Homer’s boats sailing towards the Mediterranean Sea with a few old tanks had sunk and the sailors died.
Atenagoras gave him the bad news next morning. As Homer sat on his bed, he thought of the consequences such a tragedy might have.
“Send a message to New York,” he said. “Tell them I was in another ship.”
Atenagoras shook his head. “You were the captain, sir.”
“I missed the ship then.”
“They saw you inside it,” Atenagoras said.
Homer had changed ships once they had left port. He couldn’t pretend he was alive.
Atenagoras called all the sailors to the deck, where Homer waited.
“Dear men,” Homer said. “I have died in action in the Mediterranean Sea.”
They didn’t know what to say.
“Are you dead, sir?” a young man asked.
“I’m dead for now but medical science can perform miracles.”
The men were quiet as Homer packed his suitcases and Atenagoras put a few sandwiches in a bag.
“Where are you going now, sir?” a young man asked.
“That’s my business,” Homer said.
Homer spoke with Atenagoras in his cabin before departing.
“I’m leaving you in charge of the ship,” he said.
“Will you pretend to be dead, Mr. Homer?”
Homer nodded. “I’ll have to think about it.”
Atenagoras helped him to take his suitcase to a waiting boat as Homer had to get lost in the Caribbean before he could come back to life again. He rested inside the boat while the news of his death went around the world.
Homer’s friends in New York couldn’t believe it, while they prayed for Homer’s soul in Colombia. He was a hero, and as the night neared its end his name was in everybody’s lips.
He stayed in a hotel by the Caribbean Sea, where the waves rolled on the sandy beach. Homer had left Atenagoras in charged of the ship while he was gone.
Wearing a false nose and a moustache he went to the nearest shop to buy a newspaper and read the bad news. The doomed ship had sunk and no one had survived the tragedy.
Homer took a taxi to the nearest airport, where he looked for an office.
“I want to hire a plane,” he said to the young girl reading a magazine behind a sign that said: administrator.
The girl called through a microphone.
“Attention, I need a pilot at the reception.”
A middle-aged man with a large stomach and without much hair appeared a few moments later. He smiled at Homer.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“I want to go to the Mediterranean Sea.”
“They’re having a war there,” the man said. “Someone might shoot us down.”
Homer took his wallet out of his pocket. “How much do you want?”
“Three thousand dollars.”
“That’s a lot of money,” Homer said. “I’ll give you two thousand one hundred dollars.”
“I’ll take you there.”
“I want a small boat with food for a few days,” Homer said. “Then you’ll contact a ship to rescue me on the third day.”
“That will cost you more money.”
“I’ll give you one thousand dollars more.”
The man nodded. He disappeared inside his office for a few moments while the girl and Homer looked at each other.
“You’re weird,” she said.
The man appeared again.
“I’ll take you to the Balearic Islands,” he said. “Someone will leave you in the Mediterranean Sea.”
Homer had not eaten anything but the man wanted to leave now.
“I have food in my plane,” he said.
Homer pushed his suitcase towards a small plane at the rear of the building and sipped an aguardiente as the plane left the tarmac and rose over the sea. The sun shone in a clear sky while they gained altitude and Homer gripped the sides of his seat when the plane started to shake.
“It’s due to different currents of air,” the pilot said. “Don’t worry.”
Homer dozed as they flew high over the sea. The pilot opened tins of food later and they had sardines and coke.
“We’ll spend the night in Gran Canaria, before leaving for Ibiza tomorrow morning,” he said.
Homer didn’t want to be inside the plane for another day and went to sleep after drinking another aguardiente.
As he woke up later, he saw big waves battering a deserted beach outside the plane window. He wanted to go back home but the pilot’s voice took him out of his reverie.
“Welcome to Gran Canaria, Mr. Homer,” he said.
Homer wasn’t impressed. “I want the Mediterranean sea.”
“It has submarines and enemy planes.”
“I know,” Homer said.
The pilot thought rich people were strange.
Bright sunshine hit Homer’s face as they went down the steps because Gran Canaria was a beautiful place. The sea roared just a few metres away while seagulls flew in a blue sky.
Homer revised his plans in the airport, as he had to convince the world he had survived the tragedy. Everything had been arranged for Homer to emerge from the sea as a hero and nothing could go wrong.
“Someone is leaving you in the Mediterranean sea, after we arrive at Ibiza,” the pilot said.
“They must rescue me the next day.”
The pilot nodded. “They know that.”
The pilot showed him a paper with all the steps they had to follow to get Homer out of the sea.
“You mustn’t worry about anything,” he said.
He left Homer in his hotel room with a beautiful view of the sea.
“Why are you doing all of this, Mr. Homer?” he asked before leaving the room.
“I have to come back from the death.”
“You could pretend you never took the ship.”
Homer shook his head. “I can’t do that.”
He heard planes roaring in the sky while he slept in his room that night. Perhaps the enemy had confused the Atlantic Ocean for the English Channel or the Adriatic Sea.
The pilot got up early the next day.
“We must go now if you want to be shipwrecked by tomorrow morning,” he said.
After a quick breakfast in the hotel, they took a taxi back to the airport where the plane waited on the tarmac under the hot sun.
“We’ll be in Ibiza in a few hours,” the pilot said.
Homer sipped his aguardiente while the plane flew over the Atlantic Ocean. Two hours later they were over Portugal.
The aguardiente calmed Homer. He went to sleep as the plane reached the Mediterranean Sea and dreamed of German submarines shooting at them from under the waves.
“Mr. Homer,” the pilot’s voice awoke him. “We have arrived at Ibiza.”
As Homer opened his eyes, he saw the plane parked outside a building. He had slept while the pilot landed, and Ibiza felt cooler than Gran Canaria.
Homer followed the pilot inside the terminal where a man with a round face and dark glasses shook his hand.
“I’m the intermediary, Mr. Homer.”
“You have an unusual name,” Homer said.
“This is a war.”
He led Homer to a car parked at the front of the building and the pilot gave him his bags.
“Have a good ship wreck, Mr. Homer,” he said.
Homer smiled. He could see the funny part of his adventure. The Mediterranean Sea didn’t have sharks but it had enemy submarines and planes flying over it.
The Intermediary took Homer to the port where a ship waited for them.
“We’ll leave you a few miles away from the coast,” he said.
Homer didn’t like to be alone in the sea. What about if a German submarine found him?
The Intermediary interrupted his thoughts. “We’ll be near you all the time.”
He gave Homer a few flares with the rest of his things. He had tins of coke, bars of chocolate, caviar, biscuits and bottled water. Homer was scared as the man left him in a boat, but the thought of being a hero helped him to overcome his fear.
He spent the first day under an umbrella the Intermediary had given him. It stopped the rays of the sun from burning his skin. Homer read in the financial times that the dollar has lost its value since the war had started, as the fighting in Europe had pushed down the world economy.
He thought of the arms he would sell to South American countries as he floated in his boat, the skies opened that evening and water poured on him. The umbrella kept him dry but some of his food was spoiled by the rain.
The waves had been small at first but the sea got angrier. He held his breath every time a wave came towards his small boat.
Homer managed to send two flares up the sky, their light illuminated the clouds above him but nobody came. He hated the Intermediary and his friends as the waves rose around him.
The storm had eased by morning and Homer sipped a Coca-Cola while waiting for his rescue as they had promised to come at about noon. He had enough food and water for two days but the weather could turn nasty again.
He only had a few more flares left. He had thrown in the sea everything the rains had spoiled and a big fish had a feast with the soggy food he had dumped overboard.
Homer wrapped himself in a poncho that evening as it didn’t rain but the night was cold and dark. He dreamed of a big shark swimming by the boat, threatening to swallow him.
He awoke as the sun rose on a grey sea full of waves. He ate a soggy slice of bread accompanied by two sips of water, while looking at the grey sea under the shining sun.
“Where are you Intermediary?” he shouted.
His voice echoed around him. Then he noticed a man dressed in an odd costume, walking on the waves. As he stopped a few feet away from the boat, Homer saw his long hair. He looked like Jesus Christ
Homer didn’t want to share his boat with ghosts and shut his eyes, but the apparition had gone away when he looked again, and the waves rolled under the sun. He took another sip from the only bottle of water he had.
He wondered why he had paid money for the Intermediary to rescue him. The man had forgotten all about Homer while having a nice time in Ibiza.
Homer tried to sleep but his lips had dried and his body hurt. He opened the umbrella to stop the rays of the sun from scorching his skin as the waves lifted the small boat up and down. Homer felt very bad that night. He had no more food or water and his skin felt sore.
He took a sip of sea water, thinking it was the best bottled water in the world. It dried the inside of his mouth and he wanted to throw up the contents of his stomach over the ocean.
That evening he hallucinated. He saw lights dancing around him while the sea turned into a skating ring. Jesus Christ danced with Maria Magdalene and the Virgin with Saint Joseph.
Homer was near death by morning and lay down while the waves moved the boat. As a man appeared by his side, Homer told the hallucination to go away.
The man shook his head.
“I’m the Intermediary,” he said.
Homer kicked and punched him as another man held his hands and the intermediary lifted his body. They transferred him to a boat where some other people waited.
Homer didn’t want the ghosts to take possession of his body as the Intermediary injected something in his arm. Homer found himself in a small room with a round window when he awoke later and the sea with its hallucinations had gone away.
He looked at the light coming through the curtains for some time, before the intermediary appeared in the room.
“We thought you had died,” he said.
Homer tried to talk but his mouth hurt, the sea water he had drunk must have damaged his vocal cords as he had difficulty swallowing the medicine the Intermediary put into his mouth.
“It’s good for you,” he said.
The man didn’t know anything. He had left Homer alone in the sea for three days and he had nearly died.
“We couldn’t find you,” the intermediary said. “An underwater current took you towards the African Coast.”
Homer wanted to say many things but no sounds came out of his mouth. He didn’t want to be a mute as he needed his speech to sell his merchandise, and hated the Intermediary.
A famous journalist called Fifi, had followed Homer’s adventures in the sea.
She had black hair, black eyes and wore a mini skirt that showed her long legs as she sat by his bed. Homer imagined she was a princess who had come out of the sea to make him better.
He found his voice again in the company of Fifi.
“Take me to your king,” he said.
Fifi thought the sun had affected Homer’s mind, but he fell in love with the slim woman who took notes all the time. He dreamed of amazing adventures where he rescued her from sea dragons and monsters but Fifi didn’t say much. She smiled at Homer every time he looked at her.
“You must go back to the bottom of the sea, my princess,” he said.
She fed him soup every evening while he sat on his pillows. Homer’s health improved under Fifi’s care and he sat at the table to have his lunch a few days after his rescue.
“Everyone knows you didn’t die,” she said.
Homer’s eyes clouded with tears as the three days lost at sea had confused his mind. He thought he had been in the doomed ship, and remembered the tragedy where his men had died at the mercy of the bombs.
“I want to revenge their death,” he said.
As Fifi passed him a box of tissues, he cried even more. Homer didn’t understand the God who had spared his life while his friends had died.
He cried on Fifi’s lap as she stroked his hair. She had to tell the world the adventures he had in the middle of the sea, and wrote most of the article while sitting by Homer’s side and listening to his ramblings.
Homer felt in love with the girl and told her everything he thought had happened since his ship had capsized. God wanted him to live, because he had seen a light in the sky while the angels sang religious songs.
Fifi wrote her article as Homer spoke. She kissed his lips when he cried because all the great romances in this world had started with a kiss, as the heart spoke through the lips.
“I love you,” he muttered.
Fifi only wanted to hear the story of his suffering in the hands of the Mediterranean Sea. They sat together in the deck on cool evenings when the stars spoke of love and romance.
“I want to be with you forever,” he said.
She shrugged. “You’ll forget your promise later.”
As he looked at the full moon reflected in the dark sea, he remembered the voices of his companions as they had drowned in the cruel water. The breeze brought him the memories of his friends when life had deserted them amidst the waves.
He cried again in Fifi’s arms, but she dried his tears with her hands. He felt the magic of the sea, the moon, the starts and the dark woman who had brought him back to life.
“I love you,” he muttered.
They lay in bed on warm evenings where they consummated their love as the waves roared outside the window. He forgot the manuscripts, the widows and the German bomb in Fifi’s arms.
“You remind me of someone else,” he said.
“Is it a girlfriend?” she asked.
He couldn’t remember where he had seen her in the past but perhaps it had been in his dreams. Homer’s strength returned, and he was all right when they arrived at New York.
Cameras flashed as he moved down the steps followed by the crew. People cheered while he waved and then the journalists surrounded him. They wanted to be the first ones to hear what Homer had to say.
He spoke of his suffering when his ship had sunk in the depths of the sea, describing the dramatic scenes as water came in and the fire consumed everything.
“Why didn’t you go down with the ship?” a young man asked.
“God sent a life jacket my way. He had more important things planned for my life in this world of pain. I wanted to drown with my fellow sailors but the life jacket wouldn’t go away, as I heard a voice telling me to save myself.
Homer wiped his eyes with some tissues a reporter gave him. He didn’t feel well and they had to help him to a limousine, where Fifi and Hugh waited. Confetti showered on them from the tall buildings while the car drove through the streets and up to a hotel. As Homer hurried upstairs followed by his friends, he saw journalists waiting in the lobby.
Hugh ordered a bottle of champagne and they toasted to Homer’s luck. He was the most famous person in the world at that moment, when the enemy had to be defeated. Hugh left them alone after a few glasses of champagne, and as he cried in Fifi’s arms.
“Nothing will go wrong now,” she said.
They made love in the darkness of the room, while the clocked on the bedside table ticked and the cars hooted outside. Homer had sweet dreams that night, and the rays of the sun sneaked through the curtains as he awoke next morning. He remembered the goddess he had met in his dreams as he looked at her face.
Fifi had to be that sweet girl he had seen while he slept on his boxes in El Baratillo. Then she opened her eyes.
“I love you,” she muttered.
She offered her lips and her body to satisfy his passion, and they rested in bed as his face appeared in the newspapers o the world. Homer defies the sea, said in the New York Times. The battles fought in Asia and Europe were nothing in comparison to our hero’s adventures.
Most people on earth learned of Homer’s daring moment, when he had challenged the elements to make his way into the hall of history. Hitler and Churchill lost all of their glory while Homer’s star rose in the world.
Fifi wrote a chronicle called: Alone between the sky and the sea. It won the first prize in international journalism and the peace prize.

Fifi’s chronicle. Winner of the journalism peace prize.

The air melted over the quiet mirror of the sea as the bearded and almost naked men, whose eyes shone with resolution, knew where they had to go.
Men’s lives are like ships. They have a goal in life or they go around the Sargasso Sea forever.
Our bearded heroes didn’t know where to go when they found their north but it really was their east. They didn’t want to remain in the Sargasso Sea amidst bits of ships as they had to justify their existence.
Sometimes we hear our inner voice, the call of the ancestors or the need to adopt a definitive goal with death as its limit.
We have heroes in this world. That singular example of human beings will never cease to exist for the well being of humanity, and the Odysseus has stopped any doubt about that.
It had the same name as the Greek hero, because of some premonitions, as if it knew of its honourable end. Real ships aspire to end at the bottom of the sea like in the poem of Neruda.
The sailors and the ship were an arrow sent by God against the enemies of humanity. They recognised the sound of the motors and the movement of the ship in the immensity of the sea. It had become a hero’s shout caressing the water.
They sailed through the turbulent Atlantic Ocean, full of submarines and arrived at the calmer Mediterranean Sea, who after giving birth to civilisation had been menaced by man’s insanity.
Civilisation is the fruit of many years of evolution. It can’t be lost because someone wants to make Berlin as the Russian capital when everyone knows the Russian capital is Leningrad.
In such a radiant day, the heroes carried arms to their companions fighting in inhospitable mountains, turbulent rivers and bloody awakenings. They wanted to fecundate the earth with the bones of their ancestors.
In Homer’s mind appeared the foggy form of his far away country where he would leave the glorious effort of his resolution. This thought made the men insensible to the water, hunger and hard work.
The wine coloured sea where Homer sang wanted to keep in its entrails that other contemporary Homer who never sang any epopees. He had written them in his modern life with as much heroism as the old Greeks, who had defied the danger of the unknown in their concave ships.
The modern Argonauts travelled here wishing to leave their sober existence in the cliffs where gold and freedom flowered
The furious explosion of a torpedo covered all their dreams with flaming waves. Before their eyes, the sea turned purple and the sky a big breath of fire that ate them with indifference.
Oh the hero’s life!
Oh the tears we all pour!
Oh the mothers and lonely sons!
The captain was there like a sign in the torment. Homer, the omnipotent hero, fought against fire and death like a hard rock.
They saw him all over the ship, fighting, calming and comforting his crew. His leaden soul didn’t suffer the attack of the waves and didn’t fracture with a powerful explosion. He tried to save his men, his boat and the arms of liberty.
He didn’t remember how long he was there but came back to reality as the ship sank. Most of the crew had gone away in the boats before the sinking ship took them under the water.
Then he saw the apocalyptic monster still smoking between the waves as the submarine shot them with its guns. They were not alone. The intrepid captain would not let them be killed like pigs and the small canon blasted the submarine. It sank quickly but alas too late as everyone in the boats had died.
Homer wanted to die with his ship. He tried to dress himself with his best clothes but the room had been flooded. His burned lips intoned a song he had learned in his childhood. Then his rough voice sang the national hymn of his country above the dead bodies and bloody water.
The Odysseus didn’t want to die, perhaps in solidarity with our hero. As long as his heart could pump blood, the enemies of freedom would have a champion to fear and respect.
Our hero became a symbol for people suffering under the boot of the tyrant, and a hope for those fighting in the mountains, as well as for the poor people in concentration camps and the millions of slaves dying of hunger.
Homer spent a long time between the smoky remains, waiting for the ship to sink to the bottom of the sea but the Odysseus didn’t want to die yet. The flight of a solitary airplane brought him back to reality as life is his passion and in this case freedom.
The sun dived behind the clouds when our hero thinking of his country and freedom went into the small boat, swearing revenge for the blood of the soldiers floating in the dark sea.
Loneliness is the food of big souls. The quality of a hero is measured by the ability to be on his own for an indefinite time.
Homer, a tiny toy of God’s element had found himself alone between land and sea. He would be welcome in heaven for all the great work he has done but that place appeared hostile and burned him with its hot rays. He knows very well what the almighty wants: Life eternal requires good souls purified by tears and hope.
None of us has experienced loneliness. He tried to give us a description of his suffering with his modesty.
Sea, the eternal sea surrounds him, until it disappears in the horizon and a shark moves around the small boat. Homer tries to hit it with an oar but he only makes the monster angrier. He doesn’t remember how long he fought with the shark as a barracuda also came to the side.
Homer’s clothes have been torn, exposing his body to the hot sun. The shapes of his persecutors hide in the shadows of the night as he tries to sleep.
The sea turns into an enemy and he has to tie himself to the boat so that he won’t go overboard. He can’t sleep in peace for fear of capsizing.
He doesn’t remember when the sea quietened down but as he woke up later, he noticed the sun high in the sky and felt very thirsty. He didn’t see any sharks because a giant whale had eaten them. The whale wanted to have the boat and its occupant for dessert.
As Homer punched the monster’s nose, the big fish fled towards the North Pole.
WATER!!!!!!!!! WATER!!!!!!!!!
He had his feet inside the water. It seemed to be a penance for big souls. Out of the water emerged a submarine and Homer shouted: WATER!!!!!!!!
It happened to be a U225, commanded by Lieutenant Fritz Wise. He found out the nationality of our hero and gave him a piece of salted fish. He left Homer in the same place, after doing the Nazi salute.
The salted fish dried his entrails and his stomach rumbled. Very soon he floated in a sea of chit.
The vomit changed the quality of the sea as time went by. He stopped seeing the sea. He had been transported aboard a high mountain as the sun burned his skin while his entrails asked for water.
How long had he been there? No one knows. After hearing the noise of the waves, he appeared again in the sea and realised what had happened. He had been on the head of a giant dragon that threw fire out of its mouth but the dragon had not noticed Homer’s presence and went to sleep at the bottom of the sea.
Homer remembered his mother while remaining on the floor of the boat, and saw a light shining in front of his face as a voice said: Homer, my son. Our hero replied. “Who is calling me?”
“It’s your father who lives in heaven and will never abandon you!”
After a moment of silence even the sea went quiet.
“Heavens and earth will end but my words will go on,” the voice said.
As the light disappeared, an angel brought him something to drink in a big amphora. It tasted better the Coca-Cola.
He was fortified the next morning. He had to win as his life had been planned by God for higher purposes and when the British anti-torpedo ship, Robin Hood, found him, he looked thin but all right. He had been sixteen days without any food and drink.
They all marvelled about it except Homer, who remembered the amphora and the angel.
He recalls that life without freedom and dignity is not worthy.



The journalist article of the writer Fifi was translated to all the languages and dialects of the world.
She had given a good account of Homer’s suffering in the hands of the sea, aboard the boat of death and forgotten by his people. She spent many nights in Homer’s hotel room, where they made love until the sun rose over the city.
They wandered the streets of New York during the days, and she took him to the Empire Estate Building where they toasted to their love. She helped to heal the wounds the German bomb had inflicted him.
“I love you,” she said.
Homer had searched for the perfect love all his life but he didn’t know what to do now. She had lived in his dreams once, where he had loved her in the kingdom of his fantasies.
As he looked through the telescope by the big glass windows, he saw tiny people and cars moving about the streets. She showed him all the attractions of the city from their vantage point.
“Fifi,” he asked. “Where are you from?”
“I come from a small town one hour away from Bogotá.”
“Are you from the jungle?”
She smiled. “Not really.”
An airplane flew near the building and they watched as its lights disappeared in the horizon.
“I’ve dreamed of you many nights, as I slept on my boxes,” he said.
“Why did you sleep on boxes?”
Homer didn’t know how to explain the things he had done to make his money.
“I’m an eccentric,” he said at last.
As they looked at the tiny people moving in the streets, Homer remembered the days when he had worked so hard to earn his money. The road had been hard but he had done something with his life.
“I’m the girl in your dreams,” she said.
“I know you are.”
Fifi shook her head. “I’m not joking.”
Homer listened to Fifi’s confession of love in another time and place, where they had loved each other all night long.
“Do you think we have met in another life?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “You don’t understand.”
She was right. Homer didn’t know what she tried to say with her story of dreams lost amidst time. Then dark cloud surrounded the building and they couldn’t see outside anymore.
“Let’s go to the cafeteria,” he said.
They went down the lift, as it started to rain outside.
“Who is this stranger in your dreams?” he asked after they had ordered two coffees in the cafeteria on the ground floor.
She shrugged. “The world came first and then man learned to dream.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” he said.
“I don’t like this coffee,” she said.
Homer nodded. “It’s watery and without any taste.”
The rain had stopped and the sun shone outside the window as crowds of people drifted through the street.
“Let’s go to the park,” he said.
Fifi followed him out of the cafeteria and along the crowded streets to Central Park, where ducks and geese swam in the pond amidst utopia. They sat on a bench to look at the ducks under the rays of the afternoon sun. It was all so peaceful but then a group of reporters appeared out of nothing.
“Mr. Homer,” one of them said. “We want to talk to you.”
They had their big cameras ready as they surrounded their bench.
“Can you leave us alone?” Homer asked.
They clicked their cameras while he talked and Fifi covered her face. They fled along the path with the reporters in pursuit until they reached the street.
“I want to go far away from this city,” he said.
“Would you take me wherever you go?” she asked.
He was quiet. They went back to his hotel room as the shadows invaded the city. Homer opened a few tins as Fifi listened to the latest news about the war on the radio. They ate in silence as the voice in the radio spoke of the war in Europe.
“Homer,” she asked. “Do you love me?”
He hesitated before answering. “I live with you.”
“That’s not enough,” she said. ”You have to feel something for me.”
Homer barked and Fifi looked surprised.
“I’m a dog,” he said.
“I do believe you.”
He kissed her neck as his lips wend down her body.
“I’ll prove it to you.” he said.
They made love on the table and amidst the plates. Fifi stood up afterwards full of baked beans and tomato sauce, and he cleaned the mess while she had a shower.
She thought he barked and made love like a dog and made love like an animal.
“Once upon a time,” he said. “I used to live in a cellar with my dog.”
“I didn’t know you had a dog.”
“I tried to starve myself because I wanted money and then I married.”
Fifi frowned. “Who did you marry?”
“I married myself.”
She thought it was some sort of a joke but Homer looked serious.
“It’s all legal,” he said.
He found a document inside his suitcase. This is to confirm Homer’s marriage to himself inside El Baratillo, Fifi read.
“It isn’t valid,” she said.
Homer was his own wife and Fifi had never heard so much nonsense. She went to bed while thinking in the mystery of his marriage. Fifi dreamed of Homer looking like a dog and making love to her forever.
She woke up as a waiter brought their breakfast in the morning.
“I want to visit my countrymen today,” he said, putting the tray on the table.
She ate her fried eggs while thinking of the night before when Homer had acted like a dog to please his appetite.
She took him to the metro that afternoon amidst crowds of people doing their shopping or going to work. His marriage was in her mind while the train moved through the streets and Homer read the financial times. He only cared about money while Fifi suffered.
They received him with honours in the Brooklyn flat. Homer had acquired a spiritual dimension and anyone pronouncing his name had to cross himself as a sing of respect.
Maria invited them to have lunch along with some other people. They talked about Homer’s adventures in the sea and how he had defied Hitler’s reign of terror.
“I remember all my suffering aboard the boat,” he said.
He talked to them in their language as Fifi sipped the hot soup. She wondered why she had come here if she couldn’t even understand what they said. They went back through the dark streets to the hotel later.
“Can’t you divorce yourself? She asked as they entered his room.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s Colombian law.”
Fifi sulked that evening and didn’t enjoy his love making. He was a married man who had tried to starve himself to death in the name of money. She had to find out what other bad things he had done to humanity.
Life went on as usual. People approached Homer as he moved through the streets to congratulate him while Fifi waited by the side. She learned to accept all the fuss he generated everywhere they went.
She took him to the dance halls where they spent many evenings listening to boleros and cool salsa. She had to teach him how to dance, as his years spent in the cellar had not done much for his manners.
One day they went back to their table after dancing a tango, where he drank an aguardiente.
“I love you,” she whispered.
The orchestra played a waltz, and as they moved along the floor, she wondered if he really loved her. She had to accept all of his eccentricities if she wanted to be with him. She had a long conversation with Homer later that night about the benefits for his image if he had a wife.
“People will like you more,” she said.
“I’m already married,” he said.
“I mean a real wife.”
Homer preferred his life as a bachelor, where he could do what he wanted and have girlfriends everywhere. Fifi guessed all of this even if he didn’t say much.
Time went on and they sat in central park to have picnics, where he talked about his dreams for the future, but she was never a part of that life.
I love you Homer, she wrote in her notebook, and her infatuation grew with each passing day. She took him to a shop selling expensive jewellery where he bought a few rings for his friends. He didn’t mention their relationship or what she meant to him.
They lay in each other’s arms one evening, as a radio presenter spoke of the liberation of Europe from the Nazi rule. The telephone rang and Homer leaned over Fifi’s naked body to answer it. She had prepared a cup of tea by the time he finished talking.
“The president of the United Stated wants to give me a medal next Sunday,” he said.
Fifi smiled. “You must be proud.”
He lit a cigarette, worried about the telephone call and ignoring her feelings. She answered the telephone the next time it rang.
“That was Hugh,” she said. “The press is waiting in the hotel lobby.”
He got ready while Fifi brushed her hair and wore her best dress for his moment of glory. He was a hero and the world wanted him.
“Will you be my princess today?” he asked.
“You might not remember me tomorrow,” she said.
They stood in front of the mirror hand in hand and her eyes clouded with tears as she remembered other times when she had been happy.
“I’m nervous,” she said.
He hugged her. “It’s only the press.”
They left the room and as they moved down the corridor holding hands, the photographers struggled to take pictures of the couple. Fifi looked radiant while they posed in front of the crowd.
“Hurrah to Homer,” they chanted.
He spoke to the press as she waited by his side.
“What are your plans for the future?” someone asked.
Homer shrugged. “I want to travel the world and meet people in distant lands.”
He didn’t mention her in his plans but she thought he might change when the festivities had cooled down.
People celebrated the end of the war while Fifi and Homer danced in the hotel bar, but he looked tired as they sat at the table. The fireworks reminded him of the night the ship had sunk. He rushed out of the bar and Fifi followed him up the stairs to their room. She found him on the bed with a pillow over his face as a defence against the world.
“I remember the submarine bombing us,” he said.
He trembled in her arms while the festivities went on outside, because the world might end soon.
“This is your moment of glory,” she said.
Homer had to be strong to face a world clamouring for him. They heard music coming from downstairs while the fireworks left a smoky trail outside their window. She comforted him while the light of the fireworks interrupted the darkness of the room.
“We have to talk,” he said after sitting on the bed.
Fifi saw his profile in the faint light of the lamp.
“I was right,” she said. “You don’t want me now.”
He shook his head. “I do love you…”
“But you want your freedom.”
He was quiet as she sobbed.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
As he told her of the manuscripts and how they changed the way he saw the world, she thought he lived in the past. Homer was in love with a pile of papers he had found in a hut.
“Are they more important than me?” she asked.
Homer shrugged. “I have to find their meaning.”
She thought of their relationship that evening as the clocked ticked amidst the darkness of the room, while he snored by her side. She packed her suitcases early in the morning.
“I’m going back to my flat,” she said as he opened his eyes.
He sat down on the bed while she finished packing her clothes.
“Will you miss me?” she asked but he was quiet.
She thought he wanted to study the manuscripts, and she had to give him his freedom before he wanted her again. She kissed him for a last time and left the mark of lipstick on his mouth.
“Phone me,” he said.
She nodded. The photographers took pictures of the moment when she left the hotel. Fifi leaves the hero, the headlines said the next day. The papers thought she had someone else in New York or she didn’t want Homer anymore.
She went back to her job as a writer while he enjoyed his fame. They met in Central Park a few times, where they moved along the path holding hands.
“Have you missed me?” she asked.
He nodded. “I want some more time on my own.”
She understood he had to sort himself out. He left her in her flat and went back to the hotel to face his new life.
Homer’s image was a symbol of heroism around the world. He received a medal from the United States congress in a sober ceremony attended by the heads of many democratic countries, three hundred thousand soldiers, nine hundred thousand students and a lot of wounded and veterans of the world wars. Stalin declared him leader of the Soviet workers and General De Gaulle kissed him repeatedly in the cheeks.
Homer went on with his business as bigger ships sailed under his flag and he sold arms to poor countries in Latin America.
Fifi was with him as he prepared his ships to send arms to the president of Salvacion once more.
“I have a rendezvous with destiny now,” he said early that morning.
They had a quick shower before getting dressed. A limousine waited by the hotel’s door later and people applauded as they arrived at the docks.
“Hurrah to Homer!” they chanted.
Confetti fell on Fifi’s black hair as she stood by Homer in another moment of glory, but this time Atenagoras was in command of the adventure. The little man greeted them by the ship.
“Everything is ready, Mr. Homer,” he said.
Homer examined the inventory of the arms inside the ship, as the president of Salvacion would have more ammunition to bomb his enemies. Atenagoras turned his attention to Fifi.
“I’ve heard so much about you, my dear,” he said.
“Give my regards to the president,” Homer said before he disappeared inside the ship.
That night she slept in Homer’s room as he celebrated his new mission in the waters of the Caribbean, and she had to write his transactions in his diary the next day.
“I never went to school,” he said.
She enrolled him in a few correspondence courses from Mexico. As he received his first lesson a few days later, he sat at the table in his room to learn how to read and write properly.
Fifi helped him to do his homework but went back home during the night. It rained the next day when Fifi awoke in her own bed, missing Homer. He phoned her later.
“Can you help me with my homework?” he asked.
Fifi went back into Homer’s heart while helping him with his work but he wanted to start his own business teaching people through the mail. Fifi heard of his idea and how it might give him money.
“You could write the courses,” he said. “Every person has to pay one thousand dollars.”
He talked about the scam where people would pay money to learn nothing.
“You’re clever,” she said.
She was busy the next day, preparing the ads to send to the various papers in the city as he phoned the Mexican embassy.
“You must learn your first language before English,” he told the ambassador.
Homer loved his second country as much as his native land. He wanted to preserve the language of the Latin American community in New York.
“It’s good for my business,” he told Fifi.
She typed for most of that night as he prepared many cups of tea, and the rays of the sun came through the curtains when they went to sleep. She awoke as Homer ordered food from room service later. Fifi couldn’t believe she was still here after Homer’s rejection, but then she saw the papers on the table.
“We have to work now,” he said after they had their breakfast.
Fifi had asked for the day off in her journalist job to help Homer with his scheme. She had breakfast in bed, as he went through all the steps for his new enterprise. She had to phone the papers later.
“They’ll want to know what Homer the great wants,” he said.
She had a shower while he got ready to face the world once more. That’s how Homer advertised his new business to the world.
A man called, Eduardo Gomez Ayala was interested in the course a few days later. Fifi had heard the name somewhere as she replied to his letter and Homer ordered champagne to celebrate the success of his initiative.
“He wants to meet me in a cafeteria by Central Park,” she said.
Homer nodded. “You must do as he wants.”
She saw Eduardo Gomez Ayala as he sat sipping his cup of coffee. He was a little man who had a big moustache and an even bigger smile.
“You must be Fifi,” he said.
He shook her hand while she muttered an apology for being a few minutes late.
“I’m always late for my appointments,” he said.
One of the waiters came to their table holding the menu.
“I want a cup of coffee,” she said.
Eduardo read the letter about the course Fifi had prepared the night before.
“I’m proud to meet Homer’s girlfriend,” he said.
Fifi knew that her picture had been in all the papers and he looked at the leaflets while she drank her coffee.
“I accept it,” he said.
“You must sign in the last page.”
Eduardo held her hands after he had done it.
“You’re a beautiful woman,” he said. “Will you go out with me tomorrow?”
“I don’t know,” she said
He shrugged. “You must be in love with Homer.”
Then Fifi heard his life story.
“I’m in the Colombian army at the moment,” he said. “I’m hoping to get promoted to general.”
“Why are you in New York?”
“I’m training here.”
He talked to her amidst the aroma of coffee and the noise of the other customers. She learned of his duties in the army and how he wanted to be president one day.
“That’s why you want to do the correspondence course, I suppose.”
Eduardo shook his head. “I wanted to meet you, my dear.”
She didn’t know what to say as no one had ever bought expensive courses just to meet her.
“I’ll study the course if you help me with it,” he said.
He talked about his army training near New York.
“Have you been on any missions yet?” she asked.
“We’re waiting for an order to travel to Colombia.”
They drank their coffee amidst the noise of the coffee shop and the smell of fried eggs and bacon. He looked at the papers once more as she sipped her drink and people spoke in the other tables.
He wanted to learn how to write properly for his revolutions.
“I have to go now,” she said.
He smiled. “Homer must be waiting for you.”
She put the form in her bag while he paid for the coffees.
“Think of my offer,” he said. “I want to love you.”
Fiffi took a bus back to Homer’s hotel after leaving the coffee shop. He wanted her to write more letters for the customers.
She thought of Eduardo’s offer while typing in Homer’s old type writer. Homer treated her as his secretary and they seldom slept together, but the business grew and he had a few customers a few weeks later.
Fifi became indispensable in Homer’s school as he enjoyed his fame. She organised his business while girls ran after him in the streets. He didn’t like crowds of journalists following him and thumped a photographer who wouldn’t leave him alone.
“I’m leaving in one of my ships,” he said one day.
Fifi nodded. She had to remain in New York looking after his enterprise but he would pay her good money.
They slept for a last time before he left. Fifi awoke in the morning, feeling the pain of losing Homer all over again but he had never been hers anyway. She had to get ready for another farewell.
They had breakfast in silence as he reflected in the new adventure in his life, while she wondered why she had wasted her time on him.
“Don’t forget me,” she said as he boarded his ship later.

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You’re always in my mind
As I look at the skies
And at the wonders of life

You told me of galaxies
In far away places
And how their light journeyed

Throughout space
To come to us
You’ve become a star

Far and remote
In the heavens of my soul
As the years continue

Their relentless march
Through time
You’ll always live in my mind

Writer's page


Rain splatters on the windows
As my soul feels lonely

I chose a path
To take me to glory

But it failed
I’m at the mercy of intolerance

And the bad spirits
Who haunt me

Amidst the debris of time
And the end of reason




I’m sharing with you the life of a clever, funny and gifted writer, a man who could talk about any topic and knew everything. A father that I miss and wished he could have been preserved for eternity.

Santander del Norte was a quiet province in northern Colombia at the beginning of the twentieth century. It had been rocked a few times by the wars between the liberales and the conservadores during the last century. In a quiet village called Lebrija an hour away from Bucaramanga, a young woman (Josefina Camacho) went in labour. She already had two other children and had lost a few others at birth.

Little Horacio Camacho was five years old and his sister Lijia, three years old when they waited with their father outside the room. As Josefina pushed for a last time, a rose faced child appeared in the world with locks of fair hair.

The two children heard the baby crying and pushed the door as the father- Ismael Camacho- admired the new addition to the family. The midwife cleaned the child and cut the umbilical cord.

She didn’t let her Ismael hold the child as Josefina had lost another baby during the previous year. He led his two other children out of the room and gave them some lunch, while the midwife made sure mother and baby were all right.

That evening little Jose Ismael slept in a small cot by his mother’s side. The sound of the cockerels singing woke them up the next morning. As the child cried, Josefina put him to her breast. The memory of the other children who had died young was fresh in her mind.

Jose Ismael grew up into a chubby child with golden curls. He played with his brother and sister in the countryside around their home. His peaceful childhood was shattered when his father died. Jose Ismael was five years old while Ligia and Horacio were six and eight years old.

They travelled on the back of a few mules, to a town where Josefina's uncles lived. That journey across the mountains must have been exciting for a five year old boy.

It was the ninety thirties and the country didn’t have many roads. Jose Ismael didn’t remember much of his trek through the countryside. Josefina was a young woman who had just lost her husband. She wanted to give her children a better life and education.

Little Horacio did recall the slow pace of the mules along the path. A friend travelled with them on another mule. He had a map of the region where the path sneaked through the mountains and towards the next province.

They stopped to rest and ate their food in a lay by. Josefina had brought boiled eggs, potatoes and water bottles. It was a big adventure for the children who had never left the town where they had been born.

They slept in a tent by a river that evening as the mules munched the grass. Their friend got up early next morning to saddle the mules in preparation for the journey.

The children ran in the field in the morning. It was a great adventure for them all, even if the weather was a bit cold and they felt tired.

They played hide and seek while their mother and friend got ready to leave.

Jose Ismael hid behind a bush as Horacio looked for him but then a fox frightened him.

Josefina put the child on the mule as the man helped the other two children on the other one. She was a strong woman who had chosen to trek across the mountains to find her family. She needed their support in this stressful time.

The mountains followed each other like an immense kaleidoscope as they went in their journey. They had left the province of Santander behind and the lush grass had given way to the plains where cows lay by rivers and ravines.

The mules moved through the landscape of green vegetation and steep fields while nature rejoiced in life.

As they went deeper inside the Boyaca Province, they saw small houses while children wearing colourful ruanas looked at them. A dog barked at the mules and a woman appeared at a door.

“We are on our way to Choconta,” Josefina said.

The woman invited them to go in her house to rest. It had started to rain and Josefina was glad to wait in the hut until the weather cleared.

The woman offered them hot chocolate while puppies ran by their feet. Then she gestured at Josefina’s friend.

“You’re very brave to travel across the country with your husband and children, on the back of mules.”

“He’s just a friend,” Josefina said. “My husband died a few weeks ago. My uncles live in Choconta.”

“I’m sorry about your husband,” the woman said.

The sun was shining a few minutes later.

“Thanks for the drink,” Josefina said. “We must go now.”

They went back on the mules while the dog barked. The animals trotted on the muddy path as the sun shone in the sky and the vegetation changed. They saw coffee plantations in the fields stretching to the horizon.

They arrived at Choconta later. The town had small houses but the church tower was then tallest building of them all. The mules sensed the end of their journey and trotted towards their goal.

Josefina with little Ismael were the first ones to enter the town and people looked at them from their houses as children played in the streets.

They found the church behind the park and the sound of the choir spilled into the surrounding streets.

The man helped them to dismount from their donkeys and they entered the church as Father Ricardo read the sermon.

He was a little man, who pushed his big glasses up his nose as he talked. He paused to look at the new arrivals but then he resumed his speech.

Father Ricardo hugged Josefina and the children after mass.

“I was expecting you,” he said.

He was a catholic priest who believed in the kingdom of God, and helped to bring their belongings inside the church.

The man who had accompanied the family to Choconta stayed in the house that night. He would go back to Lebrija in Santander the next day.

Josefina and her children were tired after the long journey. Father Ricardo took them to their rooms at the back of a house after they had their dinner.

His brother- Father Felipe- met the family that evening. He had only seen Josefina once before. He admired the young widow who had journeyed through the mountains to come to Choconta.

The uncles taught the children all about religion and the bible. The family had to move a few more times, but they paid for the children’s education.

My father was 14 years old when the second war world started. He used to read everything about the conflict. He liked going to the movies to see films and the trailers of the time.

He was a clever boy, who did very well in the school. He had inherited his mother’s blond hair and fair skin. His sister Ligia and his brother Horacio looked more like their father.

Jose Ismael finished school and studied medicine at the Universidad Nacional of Bogota. He got his degree in medicine and married his second cousin, Cecilia Mogollon, on the 14 of February 1952.

Maria Cecilia Camacho (The writer of this page) was born on the fifteenth of February1953. My brother Ismael Hernando Camacho was born onthe thirty first of May 1954

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