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The Grimoire of the Vanquished

The Grimoire of the Vanquished

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Published by warumonoscrib
English translation of Antonio Ortuño's short story "El Grimorio de Los Vencidos"
English translation of Antonio Ortuño's short story "El Grimorio de Los Vencidos"

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Published by: warumonoscrib on Nov 27, 2009
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05/08/2014

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The Grimoire of the Vanquished
By Antonio Ortuño
Originally published in the literary journal
 Letras Libres
(Mexico, August 2008) as “
 El Grimorio de los Vencidos
”.
There are certain misfortunes that favor the soul. Losing our parents is ennobling: it make us adults who will never again shall recourse to somebody, people who from that moment forward will becomepillars supporting the weakness or the innocence of others. There are other misadventures that are useful only to corrode our dignity; to nullify us. Mine is one of those. Merely a year after my parent’smemorial service, my wife cheated on me with a mage.Gina did not pick any illusionist as seducer for her adultery, but an illustrious one: The Snowmaking Mage, legendary wizard whose niveous act brought into prominence the performances on the López-Mateos Bros. Circus. Their show features a fatidic cast of tigers and elephants, a clumsy and enormous robot disguised as a gorilla and five used up and fleeting female aerialists. But none of their puerileattractions dares comparison to the sacred moment when the Mage jumps into the arena, either among applauses or obfuscated whispers, and he invokes the snow in a voice resembling natural phenomena. Isthere anyone who is not fond of snow?(Answer: I am. My deceased parents were so apprehensive that never took me to a mountain. They feared the flu and the infectious diseases so badly that they communicated to me their bias. To this date,the slightest breeze of cold air makes me sneeze.)The Snowmaking Mage was a common fellow, stouter than he should; he had a tendency towards baldheadedness and an annoying and minuscule baby-like double chin hanging below the jaw. His organwas wide and short, like a Roman gladius. I know about this because I saw him, the Mage, when he was about to penetrate Gina, my wife, over my own nuptial bed –she was closing her eyes compellingly,as if she were about to be fornicated by the icy virility that medieval theology once attributed to Satan.We first met the Mage while dining at the Valerios’ house. The Valerios were a couple of ex-schoolmates who at that time ended up being our most usual friends. Alan Valerio was a flabby dude withbronze, acne-infested skin. He incessantly made bad jokes that provoked the laughter of Mireya, his wife, a skinny and quiet living being. Alan was a psychologist but the best job he ever got is a position asconsultant at a girls’ school. Mireya –her parents have a tuna packing business– was the one who paid the bills for the utilities, the monthly mortgage and the tailor fees. She was, in addition, first cousin of the Snowmaking Mage. Whenever the Mage was in town, she used to invite him for dinner.Mireya was obsessed with her cousin’s privacy, so she avoided using a restaurant for the occasion. She chose instead to invite him home and hired a banquet service with four impeccable waiters. Theassemblage waiting for the Mage’s arrival that night was quite limited: my wife and I, bored like most middle-aged marriages; and the Valerios: the plump and the bony, together like a pair of smilingtypesets in a children’s toys cabinet.The Mage came late, in a taxi. Up to that moment, while we were devouring mussel cookies and a
Carpaccio
, the Mage’s glamour had been discussed so much, that I was somewhat disappointed when I sawhim descending from the cab, lurching, like any given dial-a-hooker.He hardly spoke during dinner, so Alan and I were the lively protagonists of a debate concerning the new Criminal Code that softened punishments for crimes of passion. Even when I was looking forsupport in the eyes of the Snowmaking Mage when I pronounced particularly severe statements; he was staring only to his plate. He quickly gulped down (adorning himself with porcine grunts) the chicken,the squids and the turnip dressed in blue sausage. He ruined our deserts with the fumes of a semi-consumed Cuban cigar that he pulled out from his jacket. Only when the waiters served the coffee, the Magerealized he was not alone.
 –
Madame, you look stunning tonight
 –
he said to Gina in a hurricane voice.He stared at her mesmerizingly. Then he eructed and wiped his mouth with a small-embroidered napkin.Mireya lead us to the parlor and ordered an emerald-colored digestive for all of us. The Mage made good use of the time by looking intently at my wife’s buttocks and calves. – I don’t know how you put up with him – I confessed to Alan when we were seated, side by side, on an uncomfortable leather sofa. – Who? The Mage? But he is such a nice person. Ask him a trick.Mireya occupied the third seat. The Mage urged Gina to seat by his side, on another sofa. She obeyed like a sheep.
 –
Please tell me, what do you think about the new Criminal Code – I asked the fellow, using an authoritarian, high-pitched tone that didn’t sound like my voice.Alas, the Mage was rather busy, peeking at my wife’s décolletage and was not able to follow up my question. Engulfed by the kinship that tied them to that wicked individual, the abominable Valeriocouple would not offer me their aid.
 –
Would you mind doing a trick for us? – Alan begged in such idiotic childish tone that I began questioning the health condition of his neurons.The enchanter surrounded Gina’s shoulder with his arm and imposed his eyes on her. She stared back at him with a resignation that made me shiver. It was the resignation that she used when surrendering tome, as my amorous demands were too intense to try opposing any excuse.
 –
Would you like to see a trick, Madame? A
small bit 
of real magic? Are you eager to be my assistant?Reduced to a condition of drooling fans, the Valerios applauded. Gina could only nod. My arms were swarming; my feet were heavy like bronze statues.
 –
Come with me – the Mage ordered her in a voice like a gust of wind.They went inside a small room next to the parlor, a room which existence I had not noticed. Mireya ordered refills for our liquor glasses and turned on the radio. Stentorious dance music suddenly assaultedus.The Mage and my wife took their time coming back, but when they did, we received them among applauses. I had drunk excessively, or at least I felt too inebriated. Alan Valerio did something that I hadnever before or ever since saw him do: he spitted twice in the floor. Mireya stuck out her tongue in complicity towards her husband’s filth.
 –
Unfortunately my assistant, however splendid, is currently not wearing the adequate garments to perform the tricks we could try. Therefore I am going to ask her to remain seated and will grant to yousomething that I rarely accept to perform outside the circus. I am going to cast the snow.Gina lowered her sight. She stretched nervously the lapels of the small jacket that she had brought just in case there were high winds in our way back home. There was no need to be a genius to figure herappearance of a freshly fornicated woman.A blizzard disengaged me from the anger and melancholy that were already engulfing me. The Valerios were embracing each other, frightened. My wife was weeping. Meanwhile in the center of the roomand the whirlwind, the Mage vociferated new laws to nature.He made it.He produced snow over our heads.
 –
You are drunk – said my wife annoyed, as she removed from her legs her soaked panties. I had accused her of adultery. My condition, certainly, was not optimal to win the argument. I had vomited twice,the last time over her shoes. The snowstorm provoked me a fever episode that worsened my monstrous drunkenness.Over Gina’s thighs there were red markings from the Mage’s nails and teeth. That could not be a product of magic or feverish delirium. I wanted to tell her, but the only thing that came out from my mouthwas back vomit.
 –
You are taking things too far – said Alan to me, downhearted –. I also loathed the Mage for some time, at the beginning. It appeared to me that he was too affectionate towards Mireya (and consider thatthose two are cousins). But I surpassed that feeling over the years.Years!That night I was visiting the Valerios by myself. Mireya had already gone to sleep one hour ago. Gina chose to stay at home. We had not exchanged too many nice words after that other night.Hanging over Alan’s head, in the wall, a family photo glistered. In it, the Mage was grabbing Mireya’s breasts, like a lover, while Alan grimaced at the camera like an idiot. Despite the fact that I looked atthe photo using all sorts of inquisitive glances, my friend did not even turned his head.(I could have swore that the man kissing the bride in the Valerios’ wedding portrait, hanging a couple of meters nearby, was no other than the Mage himself). – You are entranced – Alan suggested – . Were the Mage capable of doing any harm to Gina, we would have realized immediately.(Sure. The same way you realized, at light speed, that the Mage, using one of his artifices had casted a spell on you to make you unaware that he was shooting obscene photographs of your wife in front of your face and that he hanged those photos in the living room of your house.)I was determined to destroy the Mage.At the local library I could not find any books of magic and in the department store they could only offer me the new Criminal Code (I bought myself a copy, just in case the things with Gina got worse)and the candid deliria of self-help literature authors whose aim was to improve the sense of worth of the unemployed and the unsuccessful. I had to undergo a slow and meticulous trip to those macabreantiquarian shops downtown.At first I was unsuccessful. It was as if a cursed shadow walked behind me, under the assignment of preventing me from recognizing the book I needed among tons of stripped junk; during more than anhour I was incapable of finding something that seemed worthy. The shadow only disappeared when I got inside (almost by mistake) a bookstore that appeared more dilapidated and dark than any of theothers I had visited so far.An old man, concealed like a monkey behind the counter, welcomed me by laughing in a scantly respectful manner. – I’m looking for books of magic – I said to him using as much dignity as possible for somebody communicating such a fundamentally idiot intention. He laughed again and pointed to a corner, hinting ata mountain of yellowish and dirty papers. – Have fun – he said.The trash I selected was not precisely easy on the pocket.I had to take half day off – I am a bookkeeper in a textile loom business – in order to go all the way to a bazaar and get the herbs required in the recipe. I jot down the ingredients –products like cranberry,mistletoe and something called Herb of Saint Chaste – in a small piece of paper that I handed shyly to the fat woman tending the most discrete post I could find. – A love amulet? –Asked the woman, her cheeks puffed-up in hilarity. – That’s right – I lied.In the book, a vetust volume titled
The Grimoire of the Vanquished 
, there were specific warnings about not revealing our destructive intentions to herbalists because they are usually in good standing wothmages or some of them are also their partners.I had to tolerate the woman licking her lips and her offer of a curing ritual for impotency that she herself would execute over my manhood for a merely symbolic charge. – Do not use a lot of Herb of Saint Chaste, because you might kill her instead of heating her up – smiled the gigantic woman when handing me my package, wrapped in old newspapers.Not only did I wait for Gina to imbibe the glass of water enriched with the sedative that allowed her to conjure sleep during the last nights, I also allowed enough time for the potion to come into full effectand she began to snore.Then I climbed up to the roof, trembling, my ingredients separated in a set of pewter plates and the formula written in a small piece of paper like the one I had given to the fat woman at the bazaar. I threwinto the air an emphatic and murderous incantation; I mixed the cranberry juice with the smashed mistletoe.I had to go down again, because I had forgotten
The Grimoire of the Vanquished 
in the living room. Besides, it was necessary to cut a lock of hair from Gina’s head in order to banish from her the influx of the Mage. The purpose of the spell was to turn Gina into a magical cockroach-trap: should the miserable Snowmaking Mage ever attempted to come close to her again, the Herb of Saint Chaste wouldforever terminate his seducing drives.My wife was snoring. A tiny gush of dark saliva was drooling from her mouth. She looked like Madame Bovary one second before the sealing of her coffin. I had to rescue her. I cut the necessary lock of hair quite easily.A week had passed when I saw the advertisement in the papers. It was getting dark, the day had been long and heavy and Gina had not phone called me. A bad day, again. I was browsing through theEntertainment section looking for the movie schedules. I wanted a movie to allow myself getting home late and finding my wife under the influence of the sedative blend.Back in town! For just a few days! The one and only! The spectacular Snowmaking Mage! Look for him exclusively in the López-Mateos Bros. Circus!(The profusion of exclamation marks and the phrasing of the ad indicated that the López-Mateos Bros. were not precisely the Machado Brothers.)It was the moment to prove the results of the recipe from
The Grimoire of the Vanquished 
.The recipe failed. This time, the Mage did not even require the Valerios’ complacency. I came back home, late, two nights after the ad was published and I found the light of the family room switched on.Gina has always had a compulsion towards locking doors and turning off lights. I was troubled.I went up silently, shoes and heart in my hand. They were there, over my own bed – paid in deferred payments when I was merely a young assistant bookkeeper. Gina, distressed, opened the legs for herseducer and closed her eyes in ecstasy, as if she were waiting a gunshot in the temple. The Snowmaking Mage was seating on the edge of the mattress, calmly rolling up his socks.

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