You are on page 1of 15

Lengua para diablo (The devil ate my words)

by Merlinda Bobis

I suspected that my father sold his tongue to the devil. He had little say in our house. Whenever he felt like
disagreeing with my mother, he murmured, ‘The devil ate my words.’ This meant he forgot what he was about to
say and Mother was often appeased. There was more need for appeasement after he lost his job.
The devil ate his words, the devil ate his capacity for words, the devil ate his tongue. But perhaps only after prior
negotiation with its owner, what with Mother always complaining, ‘I’m already taking a peek at hell!’ when it
got too hot and stuffy in our tiny house. She seemed to sweat more that summer, and miserably. She made it
sound like Father’s fault, so he cajoled her with kisses and promises of an electric fan, bigger windows, a bigger
house, but she pushed him away, saying, ‘Get off me, I’m hot, ay, this hellish life!’ Again, he was ready to pledge
relief, but something in my mother’s eyes made him mutter only the usual excuse, ‘The devil ate my words,’
before he shut his mouth. Then he ran to the tap to get her more water.
Lengua para diablo: tongue for the devil. Surely, he sold his tongue in exchange for those promises to my mother:
comfort, a full stomach, life without our wretched want . . . But the devil never delivered his side of the bargain.
The devil was alien to want. He lived in a Spanish house and owned several stores in the city. This Spanish
mestizo was my father’s employer, but only for a very short while. He sacked him and our neighbor Tiyo Anding,
also a mason, after he found a cheaper hand for the extension of his house.
We never knew the devil’s name. Father was incapable of speaking it, more so after he came home and sat in the
darkest corner of the house, and stared at his hands. It took him two days of silent staring before he told my mother
about his fate.
I wondered how the devil ate my father’s tongue. Perhaps he cooked it in mushroom sauce, in that special Spanish
way that they do ox tongue. First, it was scrupulously cleaned, rubbed with salt and vinegar, blanched in boiling
water, then scraped of its white coating — now, imagine words scraped off the tongue, and even taste, our capacity
for pleasure. In all those two days of silent staring, Father hardly ate. He said he had lost his taste for food, he
was not hungry. Junior and Nilo were more than happy to demolish his share of gruel with fish sauce.
Now after the thorough clean, the tongue was pricked with a fork to allow the flavors of all the spices and
condiments to penetrate the flesh. Then it was browned in olive oil. How I wished we could prick my father’s
tongue back to speech and even hunger, but of course we couldn’t, because it had disappeared. It had been served
on the devil’s platter with garlic, onion, tomatoes, bay leaf, clove, peppercorns, soy sauce, even sherry, butter,
and grated edam cheese, with that aroma of something rich and foreign.
His silent tongue was already luxuriating in a multitude of essences, pampered into a piquant delight.
Perhaps, next he should sell his esophagus, then his stomach. I would if I had the chance to be that pampered. To
know for once what I would never taste. I would be soaked, steamed, sautéed, basted, baked, boiled, fried and
feted with only the perfect seasonings. I would become an epicure. On a rich man’s plate, I would be initiated to
flavors of only the finest quality. In his stomach, I would be inducted to secrets. I would be ‘the inside girl’, and
I could tell you the true nature of sated affluence.
Excerpt from Banana Heart Summer

Chapter One

For those who love to love and eat

For those who long to love and eat

When we laid my baby sister in a shoebox, when all the banana hearts in our street were stolen, when Tiyo Anding stepped out
of a window perhaps to fly, when I saw guavas peeking from Manolito's shorts and felt I'd die of shame, when Roy Orbison
went as crazy as Patsy Cline and lovers eloped, sparking a scandal so fiery that even the volcano erupted and, as a consequence,
my siblings tasted their first American corned beef, then Mother looked at me again, that was the summer I ate the heart of the

So how did it all begin?

With this lesson about the banana heart from Nana Dora, the chef of all the sweet snacks that flavored our street every
afternoon, except Sundays.

"Close to midnight, when the heart bows from its stem, wait for its first dew. It will drop like a gem. Catch it with your tongue.
When you eat the heart of the matter, you'll never grow hungry again." From the site of her remark, I will take you through a
tour of our street and I will tell you its stories. Ay, my street of wishful sweets and spices. All those wishes to appease stomachs
and make hearts fat with pleasure. And perhaps sweeten tempers or even spice up a storyteller's tongue.

Let's begin with appeasement, my first serious business venture long ago. Let's begin with a makeshift kitchen, a hut with no
walls, under banana trees in bloom. Here, Nana Dora parked her fragrant wok at two in the afternoon. By three, the hungry
queue began.

Chapter Two

Turon: the melody

The sound of deep frying was a delectable melody. Instantly loud and aggressive when the turon hit the pool of boiling coconut
oil, then pulling back. The percussion was inspired to be subtle.

"Ay, it sounds and smells like happiness," I said, nose and ears as primed as my sweetened tongue. Happiness that is not subtle
at all, I could have added. Such is the fact about the turon, which is half a slice of sugar banana and a strip of jackfruit rolled in
paper-thin rice wrapping, then dusted with palm sugar and fried to a crisp brown. How could such fragrance be subtle? My nose
twitched, my mouth watered, my stomach said, buy, buy.

"So you're an expert on happiness?" Nana Dora asked. Her face glowed with more than sweat and the fire from her stove.

"Believe me, your cooking is music, Nana Dora."

"Hoy, don't flatter me, Nenita." She made a face. But I could see the flush deepening on her cheeks, the hand patting wisps of
hair in place and the coy turning of the neck, as if a lover had just whispered sweet nothings to her ear.

I hovered closer, bent towards the wok, no, bowed, paying obeisance to its melody: mi-fa-so-la . . . no, definitely a high "do."
There were about five turones harmonizing in the deep wok. The aroma climbed the scales, happiness from rung to rung. Can I
get one on credit? I wanted to ask, but only managed, "Can I help you roll, Nana Dora?"

"So you want to burn your nose or flavor my turon with your grease?" she scolded.

I withdrew the endangered appendage from the wok's edge, along with my grease, or sweat, which I imagined was what she
meant. She stared at me, sizing me up in my dress that was once blue.

"I'm just saying hello, Nana Dora," I explained. "If you must know, I'm actually off to a . . . a business venture." And I'll be
earning soon, so can I get one on credit? But the question drowned in the pool in my mouth. I swallowed, but another wave
washed over my tongue, my belly made fainting cries, like little notes plummeting, and my esophagus lengthened. "When you
feel it lengthen, you know it's really, really bad." Who said that first? Nilo, my fourth sibling, or Junior, the second, maybe
Claro, the third one, or perhaps Lydia? There were six of us, so it was difficult to tell who said or felt it first. Not that we called
it esophagus then. We just said "it" and motioned with our hands from the throat to sometimes beyond the stomach. Then we
squatted for a long time, "to arrest the lengthening." Better than saying we were feeling too faint with hunger to keep on our

"Business venture, hah!" Nana Dora snapped.

Of course she meant, leave business to me, girl, as she wrapped a turon in a banana leaf and handed it to a customer right under
my nose. I kept my hand in my pocket.

"Hoy, aren't you supposed to be in school?" Of course she meant, school is your business and don't you forget that! But I was
unfazed as I listened to the sweet noises behind me
by Daryll Delgado

A man died singing. He had sung a total of three songs before he heaved his last breath and collaps"d o.r u chair.
It happened at the Municipal Hall. The time was three in the afternoon-. The sun was high. Heat seeped into
people's bones. Tuba warned their blood even more. Someone's ninth death anniversary was being celebrated.
Another man's life in that party ended. It ended on a high note.

At that very moment, Nenit4 the wife, was at home, picking leaves for a medicinal brew. Earlier that day, Nenita
had been lying on the sofa, slipping in and out of an afternoon sleep she should not have heeded, embracing Willy
Revillame in her dreams. She had had n-o plans of taking a nap. She had just wanted to catch a glimpse of Willy
after she sent off her grandson for the city, just before she resumed her cooking.

At the sala, she opened the window to let some breeze in. But the air was so dry. Outside it was very quiet.
Everyone was at the Hall, to attend the ninth death anniversary of the juez. Most of them bore the judge a grudge,
but they were all there anyway, eager to see what kind of feast his children had prepared. The children had all
come home from America and Europe for this very important occasion in the dead man's journey. Nenita herself
did not mind the judge really, even if she had always found him rather severe. It was the wife whom Nenita did
not feel very comfortable with. There had been some very persistent rumors involving the judge's wife that Nenita
did not care so much for.
Turban Legend
by R Zamora Linmark

By the time Vince arrives at the Philippine Airlines departures terminal, it is already bustling with restless souls
who, with their balikbayan boxes, have transformed the terminal into a warehouse, as if they're returning to the
motherland on a cargo ship rather than Asia's first airline carrier. Comedians use these durable cardboard boxes
as materials for their Filipino-flavored jokes. "How is the balikbayan box like American Express to Filipinos?
Because they never leave home without it."

Everywhere Vince turns are boxes, boxes, and. more boxes. Boxes secured by electrical tape and ropes. Boxes
with drawstring covers made from canvas or tarp. Boxes lined up like a fortified wall behind check-in counters
or convoying on squeaky conveyor belts of x-ray machines. Boxes blocking the Mabuhay Express lane for first-
and business-class passengers. Boxes stacked up on carts right beside coach passengers standing in queues that
are straight only at their starting points before branching out to form more-or converge with other-lines,
bottlenecking as they near the ticket counter.

Boxes that ought to be the Philippines' exhibit at the next World's Fai1, Vince tells himself as he navigates his
cartload of Louis Vuitton bags in and out of the maze. An exhibit that should take place none other than here, at
the Honolulu International Airport, he laughs, as he imagines an entire terminal buried in the Filipinos' most
popular-and preferred-pieces of luggage.

With a balikbayan box Filipinos can pack cans of Hormel corned beef, Libby's Vienna sausage, Folgers, and
SPAM; perfume samples; new or hand-me-down designer jeans; travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner,
and body lotion gleaned from Las Vegas hotels; and appliances marked with first-world labels that, as anyone
who's been to the Philippines knows, can easily be purchased at Duty Free right outside the airport or from any
of the crypt-like malls that are so gargantuan they're a metropolis unto themselves.

Filipinos will even throw themselves into these boxes, as was the case of the overseas contract worker in Dubai.
The man, an engineer was so homesick that, unable to afford the ticket-most of his earnings went to cover his
living expenses and the rest to his wife and children-he talked his roommate, who was homebound for the
holidays, into checking him in. He paid for the excess baggage fee, which still came out cheaper than a round-
trip airfare. En route to Manila, he died from hypothermia.

Vince, who had heard the story from his older sister Jing, didn't buy it. There were too many loopholes, too
many unanswered questions, like wouldn't an x-ray machine in the Middle East detect a Filipino man curled up
inside a box? He simply dismissed it as a "turban legend."

"You're missing the point brother," Jing said. "It's not the mechanics that matter. It's about drama. The extremes
a Filipino will go to just to be back home for Christmas with his family."
By Jose Wendell

Blood surges rapidly Shades of perplexity

Along Cronulla Beach To keep generations

Armed with bats, Pure and sterile,

White bodies are mad Spaces beneath vestiges

Replication of tents, Of hamlets from long ago

Parasols and sunblinds Have become driftwood,

Spreading all over Shells, cleavers of melting

What used to be kurranulla, Pots and succession,

Aboriginal landscapes, They are swaying cerily

The place of pink seashells Translucent as postcards

There is no chieftain Bereft of scintillating light

On the shore, no starfish In the heated-up weather

Where dominion matters, So, racializing, this soap

Not too far behind,

Thugs and their hand

Maids constrict exquisite

Padre Faura Witnesses the Execution of Rizal
by Danton Remoto

I stand on the roof

Of the Ateneo Municipal,
On this December morning,

Months ago,
Pepe came to me
In the Observatory.
I thought we would talk.

About the stars

That do not collide
In the sky:
Instead, he asked me about purgatory.

(His cheeks still ruddy

From the sudden sun
After the bitter winters
In Europe.)

And on this day

With the year beginning to turn,
Salt stings my eyes.
I see Pepe,

A blur
Between the soldiers
With their Mausers raised
And the early morning's

Still shimmering
Even if millions of miles away
The star itself

Is already dead.
by Ralph Semino Galdan

These are the accouterments of her office:

the blindfold symbolizing impartiality;
a golden pair of scales measuring the validity

of evidence given both pro and con;

the double-edged sword that pierces through
the thick fabric of lies; Thoth's feather

of truth which ultimately determines whether

The defendant's life is worth saving.
In J. Elizalde Navarro's oil painting titled

Is this Philippine Justice? The figure

of the Roman goddess Justitia slowly fades
into thin air, swallowed by pigments

cloudy as doubts. In my uncertain country

where right and wrong are cards
that can be shuffled like a pile of money bills,

even the land's Chief Magistrate

is not immune from culpability; found guilty
he has to face the music of derision
May Day Eve
by Nick Joaquin

The old people had ordered that the dancing should stop at ten o’clock but it was almost midnight before the
carriages came filing up the departing guests, while the girls who were staying were promptly herded upstairs to
the bedrooms, the young men gathering around to wish them a good night and lamenting their ascent with mock
signs and moaning, proclaiming themselves disconsolate but straightway going off to finish the punch and the
brandy though they were quite drunk already and simply bursting with wild spirits, merriment, arrogance and
audacity, for they were young bucks newly arrived from Europe; the ball had been in their honor; and they had
waltzed and polka-ed and bragged and swaggered and flirted all night and where in no mood to sleep yet--no,
caramba, not on this moist tropic eve! not on this mystic May eve! --with the night still young and so seductive
that it was madness not to go out, not to go forth---and serenade the neighbors! cried one; and swim in the
Pasid! cried another; and gather fireflies! cried a third—whereupon there arose a great clamor for coats and
capes, for hats and canes, and they were a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last carriage rattled away upon
the cobbles while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tile roofs looming like sinister chessboards
against a wile sky murky with clouds, save where an evil young moon prowled about in a corner or where a
murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now of the summer orchards and
wafting unbearable childhood fragrances or ripe guavas to the young men trooping so uproariously down the
street that the girls who were desiring upstairs in the bedrooms catered screaming to the windows, crowded
giggling at the windows, but were soon sighing amorously over those young men bawling below; over those
wicked young men and their handsome apparel, their proud flashing eyes, and their elegant mustaches so black
and vivid in the moonlight that the girls were quite ravished with love, and began crying to one another how
carefree were men but how awful to be a girl and what a horrid, horrid world it was, till old Anastasia plucked
them off by the ear or the pigtail and chases them off to bed---while from up the street came the clackety-clack
of the watchman’s boots on the cobble and the clang-clang of his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of
his great voice booming through the night, "Guardia serno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o.

And it was May again, said the old Anastasia. It was the first day of May and witches were abroad in the night,
she said--for it was a night of divination, and night of lovers, and those who cared might peer into a mirror and
would there behold the face of whoever it was they were fated to marry, said the old Anastasia as she hobble
about picking up the piled crinolines and folding up shawls and raking slippers in corner while the girls
climbing into four great poster-beds that overwhelmed the room began shrieking with terror, scrambling over
each other and imploring the old woman not to frighten them.

"Enough, enough, Anastasia! We want to sleep!"

"Go scare the boys instead, you old witch!"

"She is not a witch, she is a maga. She is a maga. She was born of Christmas Eve!"

"St. Anastasia, virgin and martyr."

"Huh? Impossible! She has conquered seven husbands! Are you a virgin, Anastasia?"

"No, but I am seven times a martyr because of you girls!"

"Let her prophesy, let her prophesy! Whom will I marry, old gypsy? Come, tell me."

"You may learn in a mirror if you are not afraid."

"I am not afraid, I will go," cried the young cousin Agueda, jumping up in bed.

"Girls, girls---we are making too much noise! My mother will hear and will come and pinch us all. Agueda, lie
down! And you Anastasia, I command you to shut your mouth and go away!""Your mother told me to stay here
all night, my grand lady!"

"And I will not lie down!" cried the rebellious Agueda, leaping to the floor. "Stay, old woman. Tell me what I
have to do."

"Tell her! Tell her!" chimed the other girls.

The old woman dropped the clothes she had gathered and approached and fixed her eyes on the girl. "You must
take a candle," she instructed, "and go into a room that is dark and that has a mirror in it and you must be alone
in the room. Go up to the mirror and close your eyes and shy:

Mirror, mirror, show to me him whose woman I will be. If all goes right, just above your left shoulder will
appear the face of the man you will marry." A silence. Then: "And hat if all does not go right?" asked Agueda.
"Ah, then the Lord have mercy on you!" "Why." "Because you may see--the Devil!"

The girls screamed and clutched one another, shivering. "But what nonsense!" cried Agueda. "This is the year
1847. There are no devil anymore!" Nevertheless she had turned pale. "But where could I go, hugh? Yes, I
know! Down to the sala. It has that big mirror and no one is there now." "No, Agueda, no! It is a mortal sin!
You will see the devil!" "I do not care! I am not afraid! I will go!" "Oh, you wicked girl! Oh, you mad girl!" "If
you do not come to bed, Agueda, I will call my mother." "And if you do I will tell her who came to visit you at
the convent last March. Come, old woman---give me that candle. I go." "Oh girls---give me that candle, I go."

But Agueda had already slipped outside; was already tiptoeing across the hall; her feet bare and her dark hair
falling down her shoulders and streaming in the wind as she fled down the stairs, the lighted candle sputtering in
one hand while with the other she pulled up her white gown from her ankles. She paused breathless in the
doorway to the sala and her heart failed her. She tried to imagine the room filled again with lights, laughter,
whirling couples, and the jolly jerky music of the fiddlers. But, oh, it was a dark den, a weird cavern for the
windows had been closed and the furniture stacked up against the walls. She crossed herself and stepped inside.
The mirror hung on the wall before her; a big antique mirror with a gold frame carved into leaves and flowers
and mysterious curlicues. She saw herself approaching fearfully in it: a small while ghost that the darkness
bodied forth---but not willingly, not completely, for her eyes and hair were so dark that the face approaching in
the mirror seemed only a mask that floated forward; a bright mask with two holes gaping in it, blown forward
by the white cloud of her gown. But when she stood before the mirror she lifted the candle level with her chin
and the dead mask bloomed into her living face.

She closed her eyes and whispered the incantation. When she had finished such a terror took hold of her that she
felt unable to move, unable to open her eyes and thought she would stand there forever, enchanted. But she
heard a step behind her, and a smothered giggle, and instantly opened her eyes.

"And what did you see, Mama? Oh, what was it?" But Dona Agueda had forgotten the little girl on her lap: she
was staring pass the curly head nestling at her breast and seeing herself in the big mirror hanging in the room. It
was the same room and the same mirror out the face she now saw in it was an old face---a hard, bitter, vengeful
face, framed in graying hair, and so sadly altered, so sadly different from that other face like a white mask, that
fresh young face like a pure mask than she had brought before this mirror one wild May Day midnight years
and years ago.... "But what was it Mama? Oh please go on! What did you see?" Dona Agueda looked down at
her daughter but her face did not soften though her eyes filled with tears. "I saw the devil." she said bitterly. The
child blanched. "The devil, Mama? Oh... Oh..." "Yes, my love. I opened my eyes and there in the mirror,
smiling at me over my left shoulder, was the face of the devil." "Oh, my poor little Mama! And were you very
frightened?" "You can imagine. And that is why good little girls do not look into mirrors except when their
mothers tell them. You must stop this naughty habit, darling, of admiring yourself in every mirror you pass- or
you may see something frightful some day." "But the devil, Mama---what did he look like?" "Well, let me see...
he has curly hair and a scar on his cheek---" "Like the scar of Papa?" "Well, yes. But this of the devil was a scar
of sin, while that of your Papa is a scar of honor. Or so he says." "Go on about the devil." "Well, he had
mustaches." "Like those of Papa?" "Oh, no. Those of your Papa are dirty and graying and smell horribly of
tobacco, while these of the devil were very black and elegant--oh, how elegant!" "And did he speak to you,
Mama?" "Yes… Yes, he spoke to me," said Dona Agueda. And bowing her graying head; she wept.

"Charms like yours have no need for a candle, fair one," he had said, smiling at her in the mirror and stepping
back to give her a low mocking bow. She had whirled around and glared at him and he had burst into laughter.
"But I remember you!" he cried. "You are Agueda, whom I left a mere infant and came home to find a
tremendous beauty, and I danced a waltz with you but you would not give me the polka." "Let me pass," she
muttered fiercely, for he was barring the way. "But I want to dance the polka with you, fair one," he said. So
they stood before the mirror; their panting breath the only sound in the dark room; the candle shining between
them and flinging their shadows to the wall. And young Badoy Montiya (who had crept home very drunk to
pass out quietly in bed) suddenly found himself cold sober and very much awake and ready for anything. His
eyes sparkled and the scar on his face gleamed scarlet. "Let me pass!" she cried again, in a voice of fury, but he
grasped her by the wrist. "No," he smiled. "Not until we have danced." "Go to the devil!" "What a temper has
my serrana!" "I am not your serrana!" "Whose, then? Someone I know? Someone I have offended grievously?
Because you treat me, you treat all my friends like your mortal enemies." "And why not?" she demanded,
jerking her wrist away and flashing her teeth in his face. "Oh, how I detest you, you pompous young men! You
go to Europe and you come back elegant lords and we poor girls are too tame to please you. We have no grace
like the Parisiennes, we have no fire like the Sevillians, and we have no salt, no salt, no salt! Aie, how you
weary me, how you bore me, you fastidious men!" "Come, come---how do you know about us?"

"I was not admiring myself, sir!" "You were admiring the moon perhaps?" "Oh!" she gasped, and burst into
tears. The candle dropped from her hand and she covered her face and sobbed piteously. The candle had gone
out and they stood in darkness, and young Badoy was conscience-stricken. "Oh, do not cry, little one!" Oh,
please forgive me! Please do not cry! But what a brute I am! I was drunk, little one, I was drunk and knew not
what I said." He groped and found her hand and touched it to his lips. She shuddered in her white gown. "Let
me go," she moaned, and tugged feebly. "No. Say you forgive me first. Say you forgive me, Agueda." But
instead she pulled his hand to her mouth and bit it - bit so sharply in the knuckles that he cried with pain and
lashed cut with his other hand--lashed out and hit the air, for she was gone, she had fled, and he heard the
rustling of her skirts up the stairs as he furiously sucked his bleeding fingers. Cruel thoughts raced through his
head: he would go and tell his mother and make her turn the savage girl out of the house--or he would go
himself to the girl’s room and drag her out of bed and slap, slap, slap her silly face! But at the same time he was
thinking that they were all going to Antipolo in the morning and was already planning how he would maneuver
himself into the same boat with her. Oh, he would have his revenge, he would make her pay, that little harlot!
She should suffer for this, he thought greedily, licking his bleeding knuckles. But---Judas! He remembered her
bare shoulders: gold in her candlelight and delicately furred. He saw the mobile insolence of her neck, and her
taut breasts steady in the fluid gown. Son of a Turk, but she was quite enchanting! How could she think she had
no fire or grace? And no salt? An arroba she had of it!

"... No lack of salt in the chrism At the moment of thy baptism!" He sang aloud in the dark room and suddenly
realized that he had fallen madly in love with her. He ached intensely to see her again---at once! ---to touch her
hands and her hair; to hear her harsh voice. He ran to the window and flung open the casements and the beauty
of the night struck him back like a blow. It was May, it was summer, and he was young---young! ---and
deliriously in love. Such a happiness welled up within him that the tears spurted from his eyes. But he did not
forgive her--no! He would still make her pay, he would still have his revenge, he thought viciously, and kissed
his wounded fingers. But what a night it had been! "I will never forge this night! he thought aloud in an awed
voice, standing by the window in the dark room, the tears in his eyes and the wind in his hair and his bleeding
knuckles pressed to his mouth.

But, alas, the heart forgets; the heart is distracted; and May time passes; summer lends; the storms break over
the rot-tipe orchards and the heart grows old; while the hours, the days, the months, and the years pile up and
pile up, till the mind becomes too crowded, too confused: dust gathers in it; cobwebs multiply; the walls darken
and fall into ruin and decay; the memory perished...and there came a time when Don Badoy Montiya walked
home through a May Day midnight without remembering, without even caring to remember; being merely
concerned in feeling his way across the street with his cane; his eyes having grown quite dim and his legs
uncertain--for he was old; he was over sixty; he was a very stopped and shivered old man with white hair and
mustaches coming home from a secret meeting of conspirators; his mind still resounding with the speeches and
his patriot heart still exultant as he picked his way up the steps to the front door and inside into the slumbering
darkness of the house; wholly unconscious of the May night, till on his way down the hall, chancing to glance
into the sala, he shuddered, he stopped, his blood ran cold-- for he had seen a face in the mirror there---a ghostly
candlelight face with the eyes closed and the lips moving, a face that he suddenly felt he had been there before
though it was a full minutes before the lost memory came flowing, came tiding back, so overflooding the actual
moment and so swiftly washing away the piled hours and days and months and years that he was left suddenly
young again; he was a gay young buck again, lately came from Europe; he had been dancing all night; he was
very drunk; he s stepped in the doorway; he saw a face in the dark; he called out...and the lad standing before
the mirror (for it was a lad in a night go jumped with fright and almost dropped his candle, but looking around
and seeing the old man, laughed out with relief and came running.

"Oh Grandpa, how you frightened me. Don Badoy had turned very pale. "So it was you, you young bandit! And
what is all this, hey? What are you doing down here at this hour?" "Nothing, Grandpa. I was only... I am only
..." "Yes, you are the great Señor only and how delighted I am to make your acquaintance, Señor Only! But if I
break this cane on your head you maga wish you were someone else, Sir!" "It was just foolishness, Grandpa.
They told me I would see my wife."

"Wife? What wife?" "Mine. The boys at school said I would see her if I looked in a mirror tonight and said:
Mirror, mirror show to me her whose lover I will be.

Don Badoy cackled ruefully. He took the boy by the hair, pulled him along into the room, sat down on a chair,
and drew the boy between his knees. "Now, put your cane down the floor, son, and let us talk this over. So you
want your wife already, hey? You want to see her in advance, hey? But so you know that these are wicked
games and that wicked boys who play them are in danger of seeing horrors?"

"Well, the boys did warn me I might see a witch instead."

"Exactly! A witch so horrible you may die of fright. And she will be witch you, she will torture you, she will eat

your heart and drink your blood!"

"Oh, come now Grandpa. This is 1890. There are no witches anymore."

"Oh-ho, my young Voltaire! And what if I tell you that I myself have seen a witch.

"You? Where?

"Right in this room land right in that mirror," said the old man, and his playful voice had turned savage.

"When, Grandpa?"
"Not so long ago. When I was a bit older than you. Oh, I was a vain fellow and though I was feeling very sick
that night and merely wanted to lie down somewhere and die I could not pass that doorway of course without
stopping to see in the mirror what I looked like when dying. But when I poked my head in what should I see in
the mirror but...but..."

"The witch?"


"And then she bewitch you, Grandpa!"

"She bewitched me and she tortured me. l She ate my heart and drank my blood." said the old man bitterly.

"Oh, my poor little Grandpa! Why have you never told me! And she very horrible?

"Horrible? God, no--- she was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen! Her eyes were somewhat like yours
but her hair was like black waters and her golden shoulders were bare. My God, she was enchanting! But I
should have known---I should have known even then---the dark and fatal creature she was!"

A silence. Then: "What a horrid mirror this is, Grandpa," whispered the boy.

"What makes you slay that, hey?"

"Well, you saw this witch in it. And Mama once told me that Grandma once told her that Grandma once saw the
devil in this mirror. Was it of the scare that Grandma died?"

Don Badoy started. For a moment he had forgotten that she was dead, that she had perished---the poor Agueda;
that they were at peace at last, the two of them, her tired body at rest; her broken body set free at last from the
brutal pranks of the earth---from the trap of a May night; from the snare of summer; from the terrible silver nets
of the moon. She had been a mere heap of white hair and bones in the end: a whimpering withered consumptive,
lashing out with her cruel tongue; her eye like live coals; her face like ashes... Now, nothing--- nothing save a
name on a stone; save a stone in a graveyard---nothing! was left of the young girl who had flamed so vividly in
a mirror one wild May Day midnight, long, long ago.

And remembering how she had sobbed so piteously; remembering how she had bitten his hand and fled and
how he had sung aloud in the dark room and surprised his heart in the instant of falling in love: such a grief tore
up his throat and eyes that he felt ashamed before the boy; pushed the boy away; stood up and looked out----
looked out upon the medieval shadows of the foul street where a couple of street-lamps flickered and a last
carriage was rattling away upon the cobbles, while the blind black houses muttered hush-hush, their tiled roofs
looming like sinister chessboards against a wild sky murky with clouds, save where an evil old moon prowled
about in a corner or where a murderous wind whirled, whistling and whining, smelling now of the sea and now
of the summer orchards and wafting unbearable the window; the bowed old man sobbing so bitterly at the
window; the tears streaming down his cheeks and the wind in his hair and one hand pressed to his mouth---
while from up the street came the clackety-clack of the watchman’s boots on the cobbles, and the clang-clang of
his lantern against his knee, and the mighty roll of his voice booming through the night:

"Guardia sereno-o-o! A las doce han dado-o-o!"

Related Interests