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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Karlos Santisteban Zimarro > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2001 | Ibaizabal

6


When I went up to senior school, it had only just opened. I felt grown up, more mature than just an ordinary schoolboy, one could say, more important.
And even though one had to tip one's hat to Don Julio1 the landowner, Don Jenaro the doctor, Don Esteban the Falangist mayor, Don Eduardo the priest who loved long sermons, Doņa Elbira the rich, avaricious widow and other despots, because they were not only mean but also thirsty for revenge, I figured the teachers per se deserved recognition, when I realised how much they knew, because, despite the odd exception, they were merely expert repeaters of the subject they had mugged up the previous day.

Don Agustin was particularly skilful. He was a vet so he managed well with science subjects, but he even had the audacity to have a stab at French and made us buy lots of books and dictionaries -not that we should study but so that he could make a nice little bit on the side, when we bought the books from him. When we learnt oui, un, une, bonjour, au revoir, le cheval, du pain, de la viande and things like that, he made us repeat the phrases with excellent pronunciation. What gibberish he spoke! What instant knowledge!

And we used to have Don Santiago for drawing... He managed splendidly with a pencil and produced wonderful circumferences using a string as a radius to produce a perfect circle; they were so perfect that anything could fit inside them, for example, Amaia, who used to be trapped in the centre of all his circles. Although she was a bit lanky, she was a really pretty girl, blonde, her nose a mere lentil, her brownish-grey eyes two remarkable flashes of light, her snub nose like a sparrow's beak; under her blouse her tits were visible like two ripe cherries. However, like all Don Santiago's flatteringly caressed concentric circles, the fruit seemed to be excessively petted to me, like the figs on my father's fig tree in Larraeta which the hunchback Ismael caressed again and again with his bony hands, even though the flesh deep down may have remained untouched and pleasant.

So Julia replaced Florentxi, who I only saw occasionally. Although Julia lacked Amaia's prettiness and refinement, she was attractive in her rawness, because her face and body, which were special and difficult to classify, endowed her with exceptional charm.

On one occasion I got into the girls' lavatories without being seen and peered through the space at the bottom of the door into the lavatory where Julia was. When she lowered her knickers I was surprised to see the luxuriant black forest that covered her crotch with a thick shadow. What a maize beard!
From then onwards I used to stalk her constantly and whenever she went to the lavatory alone, I would slip in behind her. Once she realised that I was watching her and cried out when she saw two prying eyes underneath the door, but I asked her to pipe down, and begged her to open the door, because I had something I needed to show her urgently. When she opened it, I showed her my urgency while I rubbed the little stalk in her garden as Florentxi had taught me. I had won medals and moreover I had a brother in Venezuela and another in Switzerland, I was irresistible!

I had a nice group of friends and although I sometimes had to work very hard at Larraeta, I had plenty of opportunities to put the impertinence that corresponded to my age to good use.

On one occasion when rumours of war shook the whole valley, full-scale fighting broke out among the clans.

In winter my friends and I used to hang around the pelota court or play under the town hall arches, whereas at the height of the summer we mostly went to the river to bathe in the pool surrounded by tall poplars. I loved that place, moreover, we had the chance to see the girls in their swimming costumes and if we were clever spies, we saw them in the nude while they were changing. The worst thing was that the pool was full of leeches unfortunately, and sometimes it was a very hard job getting them off our skin. Once Isabel, who had come with us for the first time, happily submerged herself in the pool and after swimming a long way discovered a leech as big as a slug on her breast when she got out of the water. What a fright! What noisy screams!

-Get that thing off me, get it off, please! -she said over and again, appalled.

-Wait a minute, I'll get that thing off you -I told her, unable to contain my laughter.

Isabel had the most beautiful breasts, perfectly round and I did not want to pass up the chance. With two hands I squeezed the breast to which the sucker was attached, and even though Isabel was frowning, she did not utter a word, because she had no alternative. But the creature would not budge, and hung on for dear life just like glue, while Isabel was getting more and more alarmed.

-It's going to suck all my blood! -she shouted at me impatiently.

-If it doesn't want to let go, I'll pull it off with my teeth -I answered.

I brought my mouth close to Isabel's breast intending to kill the stubborn leech, but apparently I miscalculated, because I put my mouth over her absolutely delightful nipple instead of over the sticky creature next to it. Anyhow, Isabel did not realise, because the poor thing had closed her eyes to conceal her revulsion.

-Please get on with it, I can feel it sucking me! -she shouted at me.

-Hang on, it's not that easy -I replied as I stopped suckling.

In the end I got the leech off by biting it and the bruises of two deep sucks appeared on Isabel's breast.

-Thank you so much Anton -she said, as she shyly covered her breast with her swimsuit with dexterity.

-Not at all, the pleasure was mine -I replied mischievously.

We had all been so involved in the leech that we did not realise that a fox had been prowling around the vicinity until we went to look for our clothes, which we had left on a rock, to change out of our wet swimsuits.

There was no sign of our clothes there as everything had disappeared: trousers and skirts, shirts and blouses, pants and knickers, shoes, keys, money... The lot. So burning with embarrassment we had to walk the three kilometres back wearing nothing but our wet swimsuits.

We knew very well who had been behind that `honourable' deed, but when we reached the main square we saw our clothes hanging all round the bandstand as if they were bunting put up on feast days, and to make sure we were in no doubt whatsoever, there was a message there for us, which read: `Chickens never remove their feathers but you, you silly wet chickens, end up minus your feathers without even seeing the fox. The brave gang from Zubialde.'

So they were from the other side of the bridge. In the town the two gangs on each side of the bridge had been feuding with each other for a long time, as if the old stone bridge was capable of building a frontier, and even though no one knew the reason, there had been quarrels and fights on more than one occasion. However, when the resentment and aversion seemed to have died down, because both adults and children had been living in peace, that event rubbed salt once again into the wound that had not healed.

We were the laughing stock of the whole town, everyone pulled our legs when they saw each one of us in that ridiculous situation in the bandstand looking for our things. And at home, when they saw our embarrassment and the soles of our feet scratched by the small stones, instead of being understanding, they tore us off a strip, asking how we had fallen into that shameless trap set by the mean guys of Zubialde2 , and telling us we were totally naīve and that we should have been on our guard...

However, that insult did not go unanswered.

Thirsty for revenge we set off the next day and headed for a cave next to the road that the Zubialde gang from used as a hiding place. We were armed with sticks, catapults and, above all, hatred. The hiding place was a bit difficult to reach and as they were expecting us to retaliate they had closed off the entrance from inside with quite a large stone, but this time the fox was the hen, because we set fire to some dry grass next to the entrance and all the members of the Zubialde gang finally came out one by one choking with the smoke. What a massacre! As they came out we gave them a good drubbing, every one of them, and as I was not satisfied with an eye for an eye, I acted in a particularly cruel way, as I was later to realise. Seeing lots of bleeding from burst lips not only did not make me more merciful, it egged me on until Iņaki calmed me down saying `That'll do Anton, are you trying to kill them?' I carried on blindly, encouraged by a violent internal hatred. It was only when my accelerated breathing slowed down that I realised that my knuckles were all red and hurting, because I had been using my fists as hammers. No enemy would approach when they saw the aposematic coloration on my cheeks! The pathetic appearance of the Zubialde gang was enough to make even the coldest feel compassion: the gave off a stench like the smelly guts of pigs killed in Larraeta: hung up by their throats on a hook and their hides singed with ferns, they were cut open with a sharp knife from top to bottom. Nevertheless, the screw of my cruelty continued to turn and I was not yet satisfied with what I had given in return.

-Let's strip these pullets that have been crowing like proud cockerels! -I said.

Iņaki, Alfontso, Peio and all the other friends were doubtful, but in the end they accepted my suggestion. The fact was it was the Zubialde gang who had started the row and they deserved to be taught a lesson. Like shorn lambs, they had to return to their homes amid mockery and jeering with their goolies exposed.

But these events had repercussions that went on for a long time, not only because of the feuds among our families, but also because of the complaints, trials and all kinds of sword dances and the bad, bitter atmosphere between the two gangs on each side of the bridge that lasted for several years.


1 Don/Doņa plus first name: a polite form of address in Spanish.
2 This place name in Basque means "the area near the bridge".
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