Monday, July 9, 2012

The Old Man and the Baby

((“Spare the rod, spoil the child”) (A Story out of Huancayo, Peru))

It would be first light soon; the crack of dawn was just coming over the Andes into Huancayo, Peru. The old man asked his wife for his coffee: he like it plain, strong and dark. He was cold, so he remained under his two blankets, as he tried to go back to sleep, which would cure that. His breathing appeared to be with ease, he had adjusted to the thin mountain air—it normally took a week or two; unable to go back to sleep, he decided to get up and walk about his apartment, looking outside, through the window, the night almost ended, the tall streetlights beyond the bushes and flowers in the garden had just gone off, although one could still see their shadow; the inky like night had turned into a light gradation of grays.
       Cars and other vehicles were starting to become constant and ceaseless on the street beyond the garden’s bushes, thus, giving over to the hummingbirds dancing over the tall foliage.  He was still a little stiff, his old bones, and muscles, in need of a long enduring stretching out of them, he figured he’d go for walk to cure that cold inside them as soon as the sun showed it face fully.

       Thereafter, he went with his wife to catch a taxi on the corner, purchased a paper from the nearby newsstand, a little old blemished woman, sat in the wood and metal cubicle, always with an odd if not slanted kind of smile—and there were many neighborhood voices, and bird calls, unending dogs running by—a busy corner indeed.  He didn’t look any particular way, saw his friend, Poncho—who owned a taxi, and caught a ride.
       By the time they had gotten to the Mia Mamma Café, it was too late to have breakfast. Getting out of the taxi, the old man grasped for air, behind him the taxi had quickly taken off, his wife by his side, holding his elbow, he had fallen three times in two days, lost his balance. He thought for a moment of pulling his arm away, but he knew if he had, he could lose his balance again. He looked down towards his feet, the ground just ahead of him, and walked slowly to the café door entrance. His pulse and breathing racing; presently he was in the road, about to step up onto the sidewalk. He could hear the movement of vehicles on the two crossroads, as if they were almost upon him, but he didn’t look; he had to make sure he kept his step, his balance, and even then he knew his ankles might give way, as if the body knew before his mind. He looked around him, it was a weed and rock choked road.
       Once inside the café he saw the colorful silhouette of Mini the Chef.  The early summer light, and coolness of the sky had not vanished—it shinned inward from the road all the way through to the back kitchen   and onto the two pausing figures, Nancy and Mini. 
       “Hola, Hola!” he said, in Spanish.
       Behind the wall of the kitchen was the Garden Café where he’d eat today, he was hugging a few books he had brought along. 
       Mini and Nancy gave him a kiss on the cheek, and he stumbled forward on his feet, looking for the child he called the Little Elephant, a child, whom he was a Great Uncle to—soon to be taught how to walk by the old man. His wife went to go fetch him. He was huge for six months old, much volume for a little fellow. He feared to hold him, lest he drop him. He had an astonishing high voice he thought, like the fighting call of Bruce Lee. And when he mimicked the call the child trembled, and thus, he restrained from duplicating it again.  Now the ox-like expression on the child’s face interested him. His little fat arms reaching for the old man’s wife, as if to climb over him to her; his little heart and lungs drumming, as if they were looking for a safe-house, or a house he could safely control; he almost burst into tears, he wanted what he wanted, demanded, and got what he wanted. He saw the astonished face of the old man, knowing he’d not indulge him with every fancy, and started the Bruce Lee scream again,   incessantly. 
        “Take him,” the old man said to his wife, fed up with trying to comfort the child, without creating for him more pampering, which everyone else was doing for him anyhow. But he knew it was too late, the child knew who he could control, and who he couldn’t—hence, just start screaming, and he got his pampering: but not from the old man.

         Behind him, were the soups and hot dishes being prepared for lunch, it was 12:05 p.m., he lifted up the covers of the  pots to smell the aroma, as if he wanted to dive inside the big soup container. 

No: 440, written: 7-8-2009, Huancayo, Peru (reedited, 7-2012)
Original title: “Baby Obese”