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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Juan Kruz Igerabide Sarasola > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2005 | Alberdania

I WAS A YOUNG LAD AT THE TIME, but I still went to the meeting, forgetting that my father had forbidden me to do so; I stood in a corner. The Basque pelota court was bursting at the seams, because more people than ever had gathered to organise a general strike in support of three workers who had been shot dead in Gasteiz (Vitoria) on March 3rd. It was absolutely packed. When the Civil Guard made their appearance, I got out through the little door of the pelota court, but the rest of the people moved too slowly and stumbled into each other. I escaped through the "Communists' shortcut" and heard shots, as if somebody had aimed at the back of my neck. I flew rather than ran, totally unaware of my limp. I left the path and, crossing the vegetable patches, returned through the fields; when I reached the corner of Marro's hut, I crouched down. I met a lot of people spread out all over the vegetable patches as well as behind the huts. I could make out the officers of the Civil Guard from my hiding place and could see them loading people into their jeeps: they also took away the injured piled on top of each other. I was afraid they might start combing the area and I was ready to start running at any moment, as I showed the people around me which way to escape. However, the Civil Guard had caught enough people that day; when the jeeps were full, they ordered the detainees who could not fit in to lie on the ground, whereupon the officers proceeded to kick them. Someone shouted from one of the windows:

-"Murderers!"

The officers raised their rifles threatening those who had appeared at the windows, and carried on kicking.

When they left, those who had been hiding ran off to help those who had received the kicks; people also came out of their houses. But I stayed right where I was, because when I realised that the danger was over, I started trembling and could not move, until I caught sight of my father in the square with his hands raised to his head asking everyone if they had seen me. At that moment I ran out of my hiding place and went up to him, even though I was afraid he might give me a beating right there and then, because I had given him such a nasty fright; but I did not care about that, all I wanted to do was hug him. When he saw me running towards him, he, too, opened his arms out to me. We hugged each other tightly, very tightly, as never before. On the way home the only thing he said to me was this: "Be careful, son; don't go mad. Be careful."

THE WAY THINGS WERE, I was afraid that Adela would be taken away at any moment. The police must have known the kind of family she was from, the kind of people she mixed with, the kind of acquaintances she had. I swore to myself that if anything happened to Adela, Julio would pay dearly, because I was sure that his shadow was hovering in one way or another behind all the arrests. If Adela were to be taken away, I myself would bump Julio off. I knew that Adela would in no way have approved of my plans, but from time to time something would flare up inside one. Even if reason pointed one in the opposite direction, one cannot extinguish that flame inside, and in the end reason yields to the power of passion. That is how it happens from time to time.

One afternoon when I was alone at home I got out my pistol, loaded the bullet bearing the letter "J", stood in front of the mirror and, keeping my hand absolutely still, aimed at the heart.

-"Julio, you bastard: your time has come," I repeated, frowning deeply. "Your time has come, your time has come..."

However, I did not need to kill Julio, because nothing happened to Adela. On the contrary, the news could not have been better: for a start, Franco had passed away; and, over the months that followed, many people were released from the prisons.

Julio, on the other hand, stayed inside the house that came with his teaching post, and when he did venture out occasionally, he would head straight for the pub, but without his former, solid appearance and proud expression. Quite the opposite in fact, he was either scared, or else felt excluded; he had somehow gone back in time, was dead in life, along with the regime he had adored. I hardly ever saw him, but rumour had it that every afternoon he used to come down to the school drunk and had not shaved for days. The parents of the students were not prepared to keep quiet now and complained to the provincial office. They made the inspector come, he told Julio off, humiliated him, even though before, in Franco's time, that very same inspector used to be quite different; he ordered him to comply with a very different legality. The inspector himself, too, like many others, was now a democrat by magic and the promoter of the winds of change. In fact, he told Julio that if he wanted to carry on working in that neighbourhood he would have to attend an Euskaltegi or an academy to learn Basque, because the children of the neighbourhood spoke Basque from home.

IT WAS SATURDAY, I'M ALMOST SURE OF IT, because Marisa and I went to the neighbourhood down below to see "A Fiddler on the Roof". Afterwards we walked home along the path next to the river and up the slope in darkness, because there was no street lighting along the way, singing the song from the film over and over again, because it had got stuck in our heads: "If I were a rich man, ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dumā" As we walked slowly up the hill, we often stopped to kiss each other; take a sweet with our lips and suck it between us. That slope was like going up to heaven for us, up Jacob's ladder, not the path on the way to happiness, but happiness itself.

All of a sudden we heard crisp gunshots: rat-a-tat-tat!

"What on earth are they doing out hunting at this time of night?" asked Marisa shocked.

Sometimes hunters used to go out hunting at night with torches and everything, because the woodcock were drawn to the light, or they stared at the light without moving; then it was easy to shoot them.

-"Those weren't shots from a shotgun, Marisa."

Shortly afterwards we heard the engine of a car racing down the hill. Fearing that we could be run over, I pushed Marisa and the two of us fell into a ditch. As we crouched down there we heard two vehicles passing at great speed; we could not see them properly, because we were crouching down, but we could easily make out the sound of their engines. We climbed back onto the road and ran up the hill. When we reached the corner of the pelota court we saw Joxe Mari and Ana arriving at a run. A crowd of people had gathered in front of the pub and there was somebody on the ground in a pool of blood; others did not dare come out of the pub. Ana and Joxe Mari came up to us.

The barman was bending over beside the person. Joxe Mari joined them and began to help the barman staunch the bleeding. Ana also bent down; and took the person's pulse.

-"He's alive. We've got to keep him warm."

The barman went back into the pub; he brought a couple of tablecloths to cover the person with.

-"I'm going to call an ambulance," he said, turning to go back into the pub.

-"There's no time!" Joxe Mari told him. "We can't wait for an ambulance. I'll get the van."

Joxe Mari ran to get the van; Ana supported the head of the person on the ground.

-"Don't worry. We're going to get you to hospital."

His eyes were open as if unable to comprehend what was going on. I extricated myself from Marisa, because she had her arms round me, and went up to them.

He looked straight up from the ground and made a sign to me. I moved closer to him; he whispered something to me. I moved even closer to him until my ear was right next to his mouth.

-"Joantxo, Joantxo," he whispered to me so quietly that I could barely hear him.

Blood seeped out from between his lips down his cheek to his neck. I've no idea what prompted me, but I took his hand and held it against my chest.

-"Joantxo," he whispered to me again.

I put my ear next to his mouth.

It seemed to me that he was saying, "Long live Adela."

TWO PEOPLE IN DISGUISE who had fired the shots from a vehicle were responsible for the murder; it all happened in a matter of seconds; later, the two sped off down the hill. Yet Marisa and I had heard two vehicles passing; there was no way the other could have been waiting somewhere on the hill. And I am sure, absolutely sure, that the second vehicle was a motorbike, because that is what my ears told me; it was a "Bultako Metralla" engine without any shadow of doubt. But I did not mention that to anyone, not even to Marisa.
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