pearls around the neck • 185
right in front of her but she preferred using her emergency kit, as if she’d already left the house. In a
hurry, she seamed the hem around her dress skillfully without even taking her shoes off. She wriggled
about a little to reach the part at the back, mumbling, her chin pursed forward.
“Anita, let me help you with the hem.” Mirta’s voice drew nearer with each syllable. Ana jumped
from the bed and stormed down the hall, her heels clapping loudly. She remained stone cold when
she entered the dining room, her alarmed reaction confirmed: her mother was trying to walk. She had
grabbed on to a chair and her right slipper was sliding further and further from the other one. Ana
looked at her, stifling a cry for fear of startling her. Mirta’s eyebrows lifted into arches as she attempted
to bring her right slipper back in place. But in one single move, her legs collapsed apart and the chair
she’d been using as support gave. Although the scene seemed to take place in slow motion, it left no
room for thinking what to do. Ana threw herself on the floor, just in time to cushion Mirta’s head with
Lying on the cold tiles, she heard an Ave Maria as if it were an old dream. She saw the bride’s
parents’ tears. She even saw her own sad brown dress between the colorful ruffles and the flowers on
the benches. She slowly stood up and looked at her mother from above. She looked like a motionless
heap of rags. On her side, slowly spreading, bigger and bigger, a puddle of pee. The bride was walking
down the aisle, sighs could almost be heard.
Mirta shook her out of her reverie as she explained, from below: “I got scared.” Ana did not move.
Her eyes riveted to her mother’s, who was pleading: “Forgive me.” Nothing. She was paralyzed. The
plea became a lamentation and Mirta whined like a baby left on the ground until Ana pulled her up,
without a word, to sit her back in her armchair. She bore in silence the acrid, warm smell of the soiled
piece of clothing, as the priest’s first few words at the altar rang in her hears, soon distorting and fading
Since Mirta needed air, Ana sat on the armrest and undid one button. She took the cream from her
purse and placed a little on the wrinkled chest, rubbing in circles until her mother’s breathing eased.
She accompanied her mother’s sobs with a rhythmical whine attempting to calm her down. The two
hoarse voices mingled and merged, and Ana let herself slide down into the armchair.
They both stared emptily, through their horse-like eyes, into the space before them. On the TV set,
the film was finished. The music playing along the end credits lulled them. The tilted their heads, one
leaning against the other, and fell asleep.
Author: Lucia Arroquin, Argentina, 2012
English translator: Sylvie Froschl
Illustration: Catherine Beeckman