Saturday, June 9, 2012
The Widow Adriana (A Tierra del Fuego, Tale)
It was his custom once a year to climb that old wooden arduous stairway—one-hundred and sixty-steps, from the foot of Cape Horn, to the lower part of its near fifteen-hundred foot summit, where resided a little red house, with a little red chapel in the background, where a retired General of the Chilean Army resided with his wife, Adriana De
Vega de Pinochet, to inspect the premises, and let the world
know, that the last part of Tierra del Fuego mountains, the renowned Tierra del
Fuego, of Patagonia, in spirit and in rule, the
island of Cape Horn, and its waterway belonged to Chile; thus, the
Chilean Emissary Diego Medina, who had offices in Punta Arenas and Santiago
with his entourage stayed only long enough on that windswept, forsaken island in the Drake
Passage, only long enough for his picture to be taken and to say hello to his
old friend, Jorge Pinochet (who had
been close friends with Lieutenant Colonel Luis Altamirano, who had become
president in 1925, of Chile, and his associates)
to legitimately say, he was there in his person. And then off he’d be (it was a time when there was a sense of a de
facto government governing the land of that region, one not ordained by law but
one established by practice, and considered accepted by norm).
It is that Jorge Pinochet, had died as every man must die, departing this world, but in his case, in quiet footsteps, adown in his bed, no longer the great erect clinched fisted general he once was, cursed by destiny, flung over to the elements of nature, he died of double-pneumonia—not in the wicked battles he had dreamed of between Peru or another enemy of old, passing forever into the subduing winds and passage of time, and into the un-witnessed hands of fate, and cast into the great waters of the Drake Passage, where ten-thousand sailors had perished before him, and eight-hundred ships had sunk to its ocean floor—with its long avenging triumph over the immortal strait that walled two great oceans.
It was Old Widow Adriana now, who seemed inseparable from this old and desolate shelter on top of the summit of Cape Horn, doing daily what she always did, her nominal duties, as if nothing had happened. Upon the next visit by the Emissary, with the scrupulous good manners, he had always shown for General Pinochet, (retired, and now deceased) he had expected for her to depart this God Forsaken place for a more comfortable residence and life, and an admirable pension, in Punta Arenas or Santiago, or perhaps back to her homeland in Seville, Spain.
“Widow Adriana, why do you hesitate to come?” questioned Diego.
“Not so,” she answered, “this here will be my tomb, as it was for my husband, I will not leave,” answered the Widow.
“Be that as it may, I must then force you to leave, this is no place for a lady of your rank!” he proclaimed, handing her some currency, for her husband’s past duties.
“My dear old friend” commented Adriana, “Never, never shall I leave this place, even if you take me away, will I return somehow!”
‘Awe,’ what a contemptuous woman he thought, stubborn as the day is long, nerves like the old hero of Seville, Hercules.
“Okay,” he unwittingly said, “be scattered here and about, if you wish old fool, I shall leave you to your tomb, and isolation, to the empty world that surrounds you here, to visit the ghosts if you can find any, I fear for you and have pity on you—and that is enough scorning for me on you, therefore, I will see you in a year’s time, if indeed, the Good Lord is willing!”
So he murmured, and left, and as he looked back there was a haunting about her; on the other hand, he now had a watchman in this case a watchwoman, for the premises, one who if anything, by and large, was faithful, and devoted to her countrymen, although she’d be in utter loneliness surely in due time.
In brief, it was at this juncture, the few figures in her life had disappeared, but a strange thing happened soon after that last visitation by the Emissary, the forbidden dynasty of the infamous, Drake Passage, the sailors of the graveyard, entrenched in watery graves, in old ships eight-hundred old ships, ten-thousand dead, now shadows, at the bottom of the passage, under a gibbous moon, and starlight night, four miles deep into the depths of the ocean, the Drake Passage, long buried, dating back a thousand-years, came to visit the Widow (so she wrote in her diary; yet some in future time would proclaim her crazed).
It happened something like this: she lived long in her own region of facts and figures, writing notes and information into her diary of the regular appearance of her guests, composed into strange tales, she even gave names to the sailors who visited her, names that would in time prove to be registered names, official names of those long lost at sea, forgotten by time. She had even proclaimed in one journal note to have talked directly with Sir Francis Drake, whom she said often, visited the area—long dead, and the Drake Passage named after him. She summon them by having by her side, a pan of water, that reflected—she said—their shadows mingled, and she’d beckon to them, to join her. And most often they did, she said; thus, learning of long forgotten tales that never would have been told, like this one.
And so it was, upon her death, they found her diary, attesting to this very strange story indeed, and the Emissary buried her according to her wishes, to be with her husband, and upon completion of the burial, he simple said to his entourage, “Now that we’ve buried her with dignity, let us be done with her, we have much work to do with the living.”
No: 687/10-2010 (Reedited: 6-2012)Dedicated to the Watchman, or Watchwoman (At Cape Horn)