El presidiario / José Antonio Ramos Sucre

The Convict

     The village where I spent my childhood was never going to grow and become a city. The stone houses barely defended against the glacial temperature. They had been built according to a single outdated model.

     During the brief summer I would leave my father in his habitual retreat and leave the settlement to run after some idle ducks on the prairie. I hoped to reach them in their escape along the ground. My indolent neighbors never bothered to chase them.

     I could try no other means of hunting the birds aside from catching them with my hands. I lacked a bow and a sling and rocks could not be found in that district.

     My father ended up dying from an exiguous and tenacious fever. He had found himself in the case of drinking water from the swamps. His organism was reduced to the cavernous voice and brilliant eyes. He provided for my child’s disability until his final breath.

     I would have perished from inanition had I not been succored by a military officer destined to be garrisoned in a more pleasant town, established in a spacious roadstead. He held my hand on the day of the burial and took me with him. The detractors called me the deported man’s son.

     I grew up in the shadow of the charitable military officer. He would become violent when he saw me being slovenly and pusillanimous. I resisted following him when they took away his appointment and transferred him to a port on the Black Sea. Sorrow impeded him from speaking when he hugged me for the last time.

     From that moment on I fell into mendacity. The advice I received from a dissolute man encouraged me in crime and brought me to prison. I dedicate the usual hours of the day to transporting heavy lifting stones to my shoulder.

     The counselor of my misfortune visits me over the course of the immobile night, when I lie on the floor of my cell. He fascinates me in a peremptory manner with the sounds of his flute originating from a hanged man’s tibia.

Las formas del fuego (1929)

{ José Antonio Ramos Sucre, Obra completa, Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989 }

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