Maybe someone was feeding her
Mónica Ríos


The older girl only came to school once or twice a week. At times it was obvious she had gone days without bathing, and Marta had to take her back to her house to wash her and scrub the dirt off her feet. Marta used to talk to me about María, and gradually it turned into her favorite topic. I tried to respond with coolness, but the sound of her name conjured up images that now comfortably inhabited my mind: the rustling amid the plants, the branches, the birds, the fear, the emotion—my erection. Memories had taken on a life of their own, and they performed actions that I hadn’t actually witnessed on the day; certain glances were complemented by what I had observed of her in class, during recess, while she ate, in the way in which she handled her pencil and concentrated her gaze on the notebook.
            Marta suspected that the older girl would escape again, as she had done throughout the last several years. Her mother, said Marta, had told her that she rarely slept in the house, that she didn’t know where she ate, and that she had no idea when she went to school or to the city. Marta thought the girl slept in the fields (behind the bushes, between the branches). It was rumored that someone was stealing cows from the cooperative, and Marta thought it might be her (hands on the dark nipples). Afterwards she continued: it was ridiculous to think that she could carve up an animal ten times her size (the older girl touching the flesh), drain its blood (red lips sucking), and cook and eat it over a fire (between the branches, behind the bushes, a leg). But afterwards she said the girl was getting fatter (breasts spilling out like those of an adult woman). Marta looked at me: maybe someone was feeding her (rubbing her pelvis against the body, against the chair, against that leg).


[Excerpt from the novel Segundos (2010). Translated by Victoria Robertson]

beneath the floorboards