pearls around the neck • 219
up dancing not one but six ring dances and it would even have been more if you hadn’t taken me by
the shoulders to pull me outside with the excuse that it was time to go. You remember now? Well, as
I was saying, it only took a few conversations laced with Scotch whisky for my darling’s parents and
future in-laws to organize a fairy tale wedding. Joaquín begged for forgiveness with a great deal of tears,
showered her with presents wrapped in promises and all was forgotten, even though it had happened.
I found out much later and I understood, but at the time I was the one she loved, although secretly of
course, so you can imagine my rage and my distress. For the truth is that before this goddam evening,
Magdalena and I had been thinking of running away. It was our only possibility. We had realized that,
one afternoon, long before Joaquín even appeared, the afternoon when Magdalena gathered all her
courage and confessed to her mother that she loved me. She hardly pronounced my name and Doña
Eulogia collapsed like a puppet, and as luck would have it, she fell on the living room’s cactus, instantly
going from fainting sighs to shrieks of horror.
“Lie down here, mother, and don’t move your hands or you’ll only hurt yourself more,” Magdalena
instructed her as she dialed Doctor Retana’s number, whom she implored to come urgently to their
place. She hung up and also called her father’s office right away, but since he wasn’t there, she left the
same message with his secretary. Magdalena was taking out the last of the visible thorns with tweezers
when someone rang at the door. His copper wig pulled down over his ears, Dr. Retana appeared,
followed by Don Iturrazpe, drenched in sweat, his shirt hanging loose. Doctor Retana did what he
was supposed to do and left. After a while, under the effect of the sedative, Doña Eulogia fell into a
deep sleep. Don Iturrazpe ordered Clemencia, the maid, to stand watch by the armchair and took
Magdalena to his office, where he asked, whispering:
- Can you now explain to me what happened to your mother?
- Nothing, I simply told her that I was in love and she fainted.
- That you were in love? And with whom, if your father may ask?
- With El Curro, father, I am in love with El Curro, Magdalena declared once again.
My name didn’t please Don Iturrazpe either but instead of fainting he gathered momentum and dealt
my darling a slap that took her breath away. He told her she was a shameless hussy and warned her: “If
it were only up to me, I’d throw you out of the house right now. Be thankful that I don’t want to cause
your poor mother any more pain than she’s already suffering.”
What pain? That he didn’t explain, Peña, but I will. Don Iturrazpe’s “thing” hadn’t been working
so well for a number of years. Doña Clemencia had showed up at the market one morning with
her grocery bag and her story. The story Serafin, the gardener, had told her. How did Serafin know
about it? My, Peña, you ask such questions! Well, because Serafin, aside from mowing the lawn and
caring for the rosebushes, had also taken charge of a few other things for Doña Eulogia. Meanwhile,
Don Iturrazpe went to the convent to proclaim his virility. Yes, the convent. And the man was quite
extravagant at that; he would ask Vicky, for example, to blindfold him, then to take his clothes off one
by one, and then once he was completely naked, to whip him from the ankles up to the nipples. Yes,
that way he could do it!
But let us go back to this gentleman’s office, shall we? After threatening her, he lectured her and ended
with the following sentence: “I swear, Magdalena, if I hear that you have as much as exchanged a gaze
with El Curro, you can forget you’ve ever had parents. After all the efforts your mother and I have
made to give you a good education, we won’t let you ruin our reputation and yours in the arms of
that poor devil, with his poetic airs, whose father is unknown and whose mother is nothing but a cook
and a thief.” Yes, a thief he said, because of Doña Clemencia’s gossiping. I’ll explain right away but let
me finish first. “What a prospect! What a shame!” the old man screamed, concluding: “An Iturrazpe