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Xabier Etxaniz Rojo > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

Here's to... |


September 26th, 2000.

If you are reading these lines, it is because I'm already dead, so I shan't detain you for too long. You will know by now that I have thrown myself under a train and you may know my reasons. I have been broken-hearted and utterly miserable ever since your mother died. What has really finished me off is the fact that you put me in this cage, which has a notice at the entrance claiming that it is an old people's home. You put me in this home, because you loved me. I have never been able to understand that kind of love of yours.

But, as I've just said, I won't go on and on. You have not in fact bothered about me very much for the last seven years, and I don't think my death will arouse that much curiosity. Nevertheless, before I share out the things I value most in this world among the three of you, I'd just like to bring up a number of matters which I don't want to keep quiet. The first thing is that I am glad your mother died before me, because that way she could never know what kind of sons she had. The other matter has made me absolutely livid. After so much sweat and tears all on account of you all. what did we do wrong? There is nothing worse than not knowing. And in the end it is so heart-breaking that the only way to bring you all together is to make this will. Anyhow, I must get to the point. I gather the Renfe trains are pretty punctual.

Luis, I'm leaving you granddad's radio. It is older than I am, but it is no worse for wear. It is an excellent radio, much better than today's ones. Many years ago we used to listen to it to find out what was going on in the outside world. Beside it we spent joyful as well as painful moments. Beside it we learnt how to listen to other people. Let's see if you learn to listen to others. The thing is, when I told you I was suffocating here, you acted deafer than a post. As hard as stone. Never once did you listen to my complaints, because you were so overworked in that wretched clinic of yours. And you of all people had to be an ENT specialist. Here's to paradox!

Tomas, for you a book by my favourite author: it's Kafka's Metamorphosis. I don't know whether you will read it, because it became clear to me from those few visits you paid me that you are a very busy man. Let me tell you, just in case, that it is a truly remarkable story of a man who turns into a beetle. Read it carefully and maybe, just maybe, you will see yourself reflected in it. You are in fact the one who has undergone the profoundest change among the three of you. In recent years I believed, the idiot that I am, that you would take care of your old man a bit, as you used to do when you were little, I thought that you would go on being our favourite and most loving son. I've hardly seen you since you were put in charge of the Municipal Social Services Department. Afraid of incompatibility laws or something?. Here's to nonsense!

Antonio, I leave you my fob watch. It was given to me by a friend who came on a Russian boat. I gave him two bottles of wine in exchange. Because that is the right thing to do. Many years have gone by, but I have not forgotten that friend. Yet you forgot me, because I was apparently too great a burden for you. And that is not the right thing to do. The watch has the letters CCCP on its cover and it is really beautiful. If you want, you can use it at school, so your students will know there once existed in this world a country known as the USSR. But above all use it to learn that time is inexorably marching by for you, too, and one day, sooner than you imagine, the same wrinkles that I now have will appear on your face. And that day you will crave that very patience that you denied me. Here's to the Russian saying: a teacher without patience is a teacher without students.

And that is it. Now that all has been said and done, I still love you all, and here is proof of this: I am going to leave you what I have most valued in this world. You don't need to worry about the house -in other words, my house, the one you were planning to sell as soon as possible. I sold it last week for twenty three million pesetas. I got a good price for it and the deal was done quickly. However, the small loans that banks and companies are prepared to grant you over the phone turned out to be more laborious. You're going to have to foot a rather hefty phone bill next month, but it was worth the trouble. Indeed, I was able to put together twelve million pesetas with those loans. It all came to a total of thirty-five million pesetas and I have shared out the whole lot among a number of NGOs, anonymously, of course. Here's to class!

Now I know that you will have to concern yourselves about me, or rather about my debts. From now on you will have to do for me what you did not do for me while I was alive. And, naturally, I do not expect you to understand this expression of my love, this special kind of love of mine. It would be too much to ask. In the end I did not understand yours, either.


Laxa Idarreta

P.S. Right now there is bound to be a devastated train driver somewhere. Be so good as to contact him and tell him the truth.


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