Magnificence Author(s): Estrella Alfon Reviewed work(s): Source: Feminist Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), pp.

202-208 Published by: Feminist Studies, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3178600 . Accessed: 06/01/2012 12:07
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for they waited for him every evening as they sat at their lessons like this. The little girl and her brother would look up at him where they sat at the big table. his eyes glinting in the light. He would smell very faintly of sweat and pomade. his feet in the circle of illumination. but his voice soft. his manner slow. and a boy of eight.They'reso lazy with them. He'd throw his visored cap on the table. but the children didn't mind although they did notice. They could rememberperhaps two weeks when he remarkedto their mother that he had never seen two children looking so smart. The praise had made their mother look over them as they stood around listening to the goings-on at the meeting of the neighborhood association. the man would knock gently on the door and come in. Two children. of which their mother was president. one a girl of seven. At night when the little girl and her brother were bathed in the light of the big shaded bulb that hung over the big study table in the downstairs hall. Their mother saw them with eyes that held pride. a dark little man with protuberant lips. for the man was always so gentle. and their legs were the long gangly legs of fine spirited colts. They were both very tall for their age. so kind. then he'd go around to them. and he'd nod his head to say one was right or shake it to say one was wrong. It was not always that he came. the rest of him in shadow. And the man said. their eyes bright in the bright light. and it would fall down with a soft plop. He would stand for a while just beyond the pool of light. look at the paper on which they were solving a problem or writing down phrases. in answer to his praise.But their homework. I have nothing to do in the 202 .ESTRELLAALFON MAGNIFICENCE There was nothing to fear.she said to the man. and watch him come fully into the light. and then to partly gloss over the maternalgloating she exhibited.

who he said was very bright and deservedmore. Until their mother called from down the stairs. Sometimes it is for have rages going at one time or another.his promisethat he would give each of them not one pencil. And the third pencil. and had been sharpened. and the man came in the evenings therefore. let me help them. for that was his name. two of the same circumference the little boy's but colored red and yelas low. And the thing rested there. At this particular time. a jumbo-sizedpencil really. to tie with strings near the eraserend. The Japanese bazaars promoted a rage for those. their mother called. but in all schools then.What are you shouting about?And they told her. They of were all of five centavos each. one blue. watch him bathed in the brightnessof the incandescentbulb. it was for pencils. to dangle from one's book-basket. The evenings of waiting had made them look forwardto this final giving. One evening he did bring them. and when they got the pencils they whooped with joy The littleboy had two pencils.to arouse the envy of the other childrenwho probablypossessed less. in circumference smaller not than a man's thumb. And the little girl had three pencils. the rage was for pencils.Alfon Estrella 203 evenings.Four or five pencils. where Japanesebazaarsclustered.he would get the biggest pencilhe could find. if you want to bother yourself. And every evening after that the two childrenwould wait for him. The little boy smiled and said. Pencilsbig but light.In rages. Vicente had brought the pencils he had promisedthem. Add to the man's gentlenesshis kindness in knowing a child's desires. and wait eagerly for him to give them the pencilshe had promisedthem. but two. Vicente.there were all colors of these pencils selling for very low pricesbut unattainable to a child budgeted at a "ba-on" a centavo a day. shouting gladly. Mothernodded her head and said. And for the little girl. They were unwieldy in a child'shands. Sometimes it is for paper little lead toys found in the folded waffles that Japaneseconfection-makers had such light hands with. one green.and he helped solve fractions for the boy and write correctphrasesin language for the little girl. of differentcolors. Thankhim. watch him come first into the pool of light. one kept a collection.and the little girl jumped up and down and shouted with glee.was white. and one pencil was not at all what one had ambitionsfor. Schoolchildrenalways butterflies that are held on sticks and whirr in the wind. In those days. .

said theirmother. The little girl went up to the man shyly. and they both made to kiss him. All throughthat day. I don'tthinkso.He's only a bus conductor. showing off theirbrandnew pencils. too.It is a pity.the little girl and the littleboy.And this observationtheir mother said to their father. Boys do not kiss boys. until the little girl squirmedout of his armsand laughed a little breathlessly.You'dthinkthey wouldn'tbe ableto affordit.People like those. and said. Their mother said. they were asking their mother for money to buy more. The fathergruntedagain and did not pay any furtherattention. And their motherhad finally to tell them to stop talkingabout pencils. they had been very proud in school. and threeat least in the jumbosize that the little girl's third pencil was. he came around again. but Vicenteslapped the boy smartlyon his lean hips. put her arms about his neck as he crouchedto receiveher embraceand kissed him on the cheeks. but I have watched him with the children. The man probablyneeded a new job.And the mothersaid. disturbedbut innocent.who was eating his evening meal between of paragraphs the book on masonryrites thathe was reading. All the little girls and boys had been envying them. And the little girl mutteredunder her breath. and said Thank you. or the chil- drentoys and things. they make friendswith people like us.looking at the man with a smiling little questionof puzzlement. No. The next evening. he's a ratherqueer young man. Theirmother replied. the boy two. pencils. But the man said. so that they could each have five. And the little girl smiled. It'sa pity.204 Alfon Estrella Thank you.and said.I'llask Vicentefor some more. I think. The man's arms tightened suddenly about the little girl.and he seems to dote on them.don't ask him for too many things. Are you not going to kiss me for those pencils? They both came forward. you can only write with one at a time. what will you do with so many pencils. he doesn't have many friends. . And the little boy laughed and scamperedaway and then ran back and kissed him anyway. and the girl three. Oh stop it. and they feel it is nice to give us gifts. for now that they had. The fathergrunted. and was softening his way through to him by going at the childrenlike that.

and held her to sit down on his lap and he said. for they don'thave as many or as pretty Vicentetook the girl up lightly in his arms. . for somehow she felt uncomfortable to be held thus.as many as you want. then I will tell my friends. The little boy followed her. would he buy them more pencils? Vicentesaid to the little boy. attend to the homework she was writing. still gently. please.and they will envy me. you will get tired. By and by. holding her under the armpits. and indicated to her that she must turn around. The mother said. I brought you some zarzaparilla. Vicenteheld the little girl by the arm. and his eyes looked very strange.and please. all of a sudden she was immensely frightened. she was always told never to act like a baby. and said nothing. and she told him that that was her lesson but it was easy. His face was all in sweat. feeling that queer frightened feeling. her mother and father always treated her like a big girl. huh.and said gently. interrupting her careful writing to twist around. said the little girl. holding in her hand a glass of zarzaparilla. in a very short while her mother came down the stairs. The children immediately put their lessons down. Vicente. Don't hold me on your lap.Of course I will buy you more pencils. Then go ahead and write. And the little girl giggled and said. Go and ask if you can let me have a glass of water And the little boy ran away to comply. and I will watch you. She stood looking at him. What are your lessons for tomorrow?And the little girl turned to the paper on the table where she had been writing with the jumbo pencil. buy us more pencils:and then went up the stairsto theirmother. and she jumped up away from Vicente's lap. I am very heavy. The man shook his head. She looked around at Vicente. but held her on his lap just the same. Oh. But the little girl felt very queer.Estrella Alfon 205 Vicente was earlier than usual that evening. The little girl kept squirming. saying behind him. telling him of the envy of their schoolmates. not knowing what to do. But buy us some more pencils. she didn't know why.

She was going to open her mouth but she glanced at the boy and closed it. Once in the shadow. and without looking at Vicente again. her eyes darkpools of wonder and fear and question. she raced up the stairs. The little boy bent over his lessons. and with a look and an inclinationof the head.Up the stairs went the man. Come here. The mother's voice was of such a heavy quality and of such awful timbrethat the girl could only nod her head. She had been in shadow. Turnaround. she said.where in the light one could watch the little bubbles go up and down in the dark liquid.she extendedher hand. for she said nothing either. and she waited until he had finished. she bade Vicente go up the stairs. The man said nothing. But now she advanced into the glare of the light that held like a tableau the figures of Vicente holding the little girl's papers to him. Her voice had been like a bell of safety to the little girl. The mother kept coming into the light. very low. for she was a tall woman and she said.and the motherknelt down. the woman called down to her .finish your lessons. but very heavily. When they had reached the upper landing. and advanced into the light.she said.206 Estrella Alfon But Vicente has jumped up too as soon as the little girl had jumped from his lap. and without any oppositiontook away the papers that Vicentewas holding to himself.turningaway from the mother'scoming. and the mother followed him behind. He snatched at the papers that lay on the table and held them to his stomach. and the little girl in looking up at him frightenedly.Do not move. and when Vicente made as if to move away into the shadow. Oscar. She stood there saying nothing as the man fumbled with his hands and with his fingers. The mother said to the little boy. And then turning to the little girl. The motherwent to the coweringman and marchedhim with a glance out of the circleof light that held the little boy.Obedientlythe little girl turned around. Go upstairs. The little girl went to her.she said. and her mother passed her hands over the little girl'sback. The little girl looked at her mother and saw the beloved face transfiguredby some sort of glow. She put the glass of soft drink down on the table. The mother looked at him. stopped in her tracks.

Son. he recovered enough to turn away and run.retreating.his face continually open to the force of the woman's slapping. And so down the stairs they went. Finally. tearing at the buttons and imparting a terror to the little girl that almost made her sob. but her eyes eloquent with that angered fire. asking no questions. for indeed he was feeling sleepy already. scrubbed her and soaped her and then wiped her gently all over and changed her into new clothes that smelt with the clean fresh smell of clothes that had hung in the light of the sun. come up and go to your room. until out of his mouth issued somethinglike a whimper. The little girl watched her mother come up the stairs.She had been witness. When her motherreachedher. As soon as the boy was gone. Therewas a pause. The clothes .the woman raised her hand. Take a bath quickly. into the shadows that ate him up. He made no resistance.the woman held her hand out to the child. Alternatelyshe lifted right hand and left hand and made him retreatbefore her until they reachedthe bottom landing. Her mother presided over the bath that the little girl took. Withher other hand she slapped him on the other side of the face again. and with those hard forceful slaps she escortedhim right to the door. He retreateddown one tread of the stairs with the forceof the blow. The little boy did as he was told. the mother turned on Vicente. The mother thus shut his mouth. kneading at her flesh. She felt the little girl's dress and took it off with haste that was almost frantic. The woman looked after him and closed the doors. She knelt. Before the silence and the grimnessof her attackhe cowered. but the motherfollowed him.As soon as the cool air of the free night touched him. to the picture of magnificenceher mother made as she slapped the man down the stairs and out into the darknight. Always also.offered no defense. the man backwards. the woman herself stricken almost dumb. with the terribleindelibilitythat one associateswith terror. Hush. girl was to rememberthe touch of thathand the on her shoulder:heavy. watching through the shutters of a window that overlooked the stairs. the mother said. She turned out the blazing light over the study table and went slowly up the stairs. and slapped him full and hard in the face.Alfon Estrella 207 son.

she bundled into a tight wrenchedbunch. she led her to her little girl'sbed. . Take also the pencils. No. And taking the little girl by the hand. made her lie down and tucked the covers gently abouther as the girl droppedoff into quickslumber. But when the girl turned to comply. the mother said. tomorrowwill do. Takethem and throw them into the fire.which she threwinto the kitchenrange.newly changed child. said the mother to the watching newly bathed.208 Estrella Alfon that she had taken off the little girl.

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