MARTIRICOS MÁLAGA’S E.O.I. SHORT STORY JOURNAL Nº 7 - MAY 2009
MARTIRICOS is an annual publication of Málaga’s E.O.I. English Department. Its sole purpose is to make public the short stories that each year are short-listed in Málaga’s E.O.I. Short Story Contest, which can be entered for by all the students (any language) of all the Escuelas de Idiomas in Andalucia as long the story is written in English. In this edition, 2008-09, the first prize has been awarded to Adolfo Bardón Martínez for the story A Brown-New Day, which will also be published in SUR in English; Alejandro Benítez González has been the runner up with Darkness, while Víctor Mérida Muñoz has come in third with The English Exam. This edition also includes 2007-08 finalist Samar Saber Rodríguez’s When the Sun Shines, last year excluded by mistake.
CONTENTS Adolfo Bardón Martínez ................... A Brown-New Day .................................... 3 Alejandro Benítez González .............. Darkness ................................................. 5 Víctor Merida Muñoz ....................... The English Exam .................................... 8 Silvia Conde Fernández ................... The Mystery of the House ....................... 11 Francisco Javier Rosano .................. A Fair Action ........................................... 14 Mercedes Sánchez Rivera ................. Ashes of the Past .................................... 17 Laura Segalerva Romero .................. Fate ........................................................ 20 Pablo Parra Molinier ........................ How Have I Ended Up Here .................... 22 Samar Saber Rodríguez ................... When the Sun Shines ............................. 25
MARTIRICOS Nº 7 – MAY 2009
Panel of judges of VIII Malaga E.O.I. Short Story Contest Lusi Castillo, Ana María Sepúlveda, Carmen Treviño, María José Herrera, Amaya Fernández, Cristina Herrero (Málaga’s E.O.I’s English Department) and SUR in English Cover: Javier Ponce, Sin Título www.espaciotres.es Javier ponce / firstname.lastname@example.org Edition: Diego A. Nieto Internet Edition: Carmen Carmona: www.eoimalaga.com Coordination with English Deptartment María Isabel Rozas Mancha Distribution: Libraries: All EOI’s in Andalucía, UMA General, UMA Filosofía y Letras, Biblioteca Diputación de Málaga, CEP.
Deposito Legal: MA – 565 – 2003
A BROWN-NEW DAY Adolfo Bardón Martínez Winner of VIII Málaga EOI Short Story Contest 2008-09
Adolfo Bardón Martínez was born in Madrid in 1972. He graduated in arts from Universidad Complutense in Madrid. He is a high-school teacher in Alahurín de la Torre. He is a lover of all forms of art: sculpture, painting, cinema, theatre and literature, especially historical novels. This is the first story he has ever written. He is doing his 5th English Course at Málaga’s E.O.I.
My name is John Doe. I’m forty years old and I’m still living with my parents. But don’t worry. This is not a horror story….I just aim to show you a piece of my empty, boring and tasteless life. Last week I saw the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. In that movie Audrey Hepburn played the part of a young girl who used to say that sometimes she had what she called red days. She explained that people usually have a black day or they have a blue one when they feel just sad. However, she continued, a red day is more than that. Nothing seems to make sense. You feel scared and you don’t know why. I felt like I could identify with her. Actually I also have that kind of days. In my case it isn’t just that things go bad, it’s also that everything seems to rush nowhere as if someone had just flushed the loo. I call those days “brown days”. You know that you’re having a brown day from the very beginning of it. I usually can’t sleep well the night before a brown day, so no matter how many coffees I have I’m tired the whole day long. I take a shower. For most people it’s usually a quite private moment of the day. However, in my case, I’ll be interrupted several times by my mother who steps into the bathroom to shout me out the main headlines that she has just listened on the radio programme. Lately she seems quite concerned about the Taliban problem. In fact, she’s convinced that our new next door neighbours are all members of an Islamic cell, including an eight-year-old schoolgirl and her grandmother. I have tried many times to explain to her that they’re, actually, a Portuguese family that has just moved in. On a brown day, breakfast time always means fighting. My mother is set on thinking I’m overweight so she only allows me to have an apple and a cup 3
of tea. All because she learned from a woman’s magazine how to estimate my right weight considering my height and weight. As a result I feel dizzy most part of the time. On this kind of days I always get late to work. As I get into the building where I work, at a Customer Claim Service of a mobile phone company, I can see a huge queue of annoyed people waiting for me. My supervisor, who has been trying to calm them down, looks at me like Superman throwing x-rays through his eyes. The morning goes by slowly between complaints and frustrated people barking at me from the other side of the desk. There is no tenderness left in the world... At about noon I take a short break. I don’t feel very well. It isn’t because that lady had thrown her bag at my head. I can’t see properly. I think it’s just weakening. Once again I have to put up with my workmates laughing at me when I take out the same metal lunch box that I used at school, another of my mother’s humiliations Inside it, there’s a gorgeous sandwich with three tiny pieces of lettuce between two slices of tasteless diet bread. As you can imagine, on a brown day it always rains. That means the city turns into a massive traffic jam. On these circumstances, the tube is the best choice, though it’ll be extremely overcrowded. Hundreds of people ran to the ticket office. After one hour queuing, it was almost my turn. In front of me, there was a group of mentally handicapped people getting back from a day out. Their keepers had provided them with money so each one could practice buying their own ticket. By the time I got to the ticket seller, I produced a ten Euro note and asked for a single ticket. The seller spoke to me in an unusually slow and loud voice pronouncing carefully every word. She explained to me patiently the whole process of buying a ticket, from the money I gave her to the change that she gave me back. Finally she put the ticket on the tray and smiling as if she were my aunt Maggie, she begged me to be careful and not to lose the ticket. Only a couple of minutes later I realized she had mistaken me for one 4
of the mentally handicapped. After another hour and a half being squashed by the crowd, I finally got to the pub where I was to meet my girlfriend. We were going to plan a romantic weekend out. I went directly to our favourite table. She still wasn’t there. I went to the bar for a beer. Four beers later she hadn’t turned up yet. The toilet was occupied. On a brown day toilets are always occupied when you most need them. I knocked on the door several times. No answer. I got back to the bar where another beer was waiting for me. From where I was sitting at the bar I finally saw a guy getting out of the toilet. I was unzipping my pants as I reached the door when I saw my girlfriend in front of the mirror re-applying her make up. We looked at each other for a long minute. Silence. Then she reacted naturally, she took my hand and she said: ‘we need to talk…’ A perfect brown day is always a Friday. As I walked back home, the streets were getting full of people going out to have fun. In my head I still heard Susan’s voice reproaching me things like I was a depressing person, I was getting her down and even that she needed to feel alive again. I got home. My parents had already had dinner. A boiled fish with vegetables was waiting for me on the kitchen table. For the first time that day I wasn’t hungry. I sat in front the television between my parents. On one side my father snored, on the other, my mother tried to give me all kind of details about the private life of a celebrity who was being ‘interrogated’ in the programme. I said goodnight to my mother and as I was stepping out of the living room, I heard her saying to me: ’Sleep well…’, ‘God bless you….’, ‘…. and remember that tomorrow will be a brand-new day for you…’ I turned back to her and I said: ‘you mean a brown-new day…’ But she didn’t even hear me as she was concentrated on the screen.
* * *
DARKNESS Alejandro Benítez González Runner-up 2008-09
Born in Málaga in 1983, Alejandro Benítez González is at the moment preparing his “oposiciones” to become a Primary School Teacher. He both reads and writes as a hobby. He is on 4th Course at Málaga’s E.O.I.
In the beginning was Darkness, but it remained when he opened his eyes. Blind since the moment he was born, an orphanage was the place where the endless shadows in which Tom lived happened. His family had left him behind the very moment he was born. In an elitist and hedonistic society in which all the people had lost their minds searching for success and external appearances, the lost of his visual sense was too huge a defect for his family. In his dark experience, Tom’s world was organized in a mathematical and precise way: corridors were memorized steps rectangles, faces were ovals with a personal and unrepeatable geometry inside. Each person or object had its form, feel, smell, and that was the way Tom could feel and live the world beyond his darkness. Tom was 26, and he had been helping and working at the orphanage which was his home for 15 years. He started working to help frail and little Mrs Blondimont, who was skinny but had a heart of gold, after her husband, huge and loving Mr Blondimont, who had a long itchy beard, passed away. The venerable old woman and the other children in the orphanage were their mother, brothers and sisters. The family he needed. Tom didn’t know it, but he was a shining sun for someone. A teenager oval with curly hair and soft voice whose name was Gertrude. She had arrived at the orphanage some months ago, after years and years of domestic violence which had finished when her parents killed each other. She was used to screams and hits, so Tom’s voice was like a river running through a plain; Tom’s touch, steady and comforting; and especially his special understanding and kindness which is only used by those who had felt pain in their own soul; had filled her heart with new dreams and illusions. That’s the reason why Gertrude was surprised when she found Tom arguing with Mrs Blondimont and Mr. Harding, the orphanage’s doctor. She 6
had never seen Tom so angry before, so she hid and listened very carefully. According to the modern medical advances, Tom’s blindness could not be permanent. The operation wouldn’t be too complicated because the surgical techniques used in the process were starting to be used in other optical interventions achieving amazing results. Tom wasn’t disturbed by that, because even if the operation went wrong, he couldn’t be blinder than he was. What he couldn’t stand was that for the operation to be successful another person had to risk and lose part of his own vision. Both could be blind if the worst came to the worst. Mrs Blondimont herself had asked to donate one of her eyes to Tom, but he refused. He said he only could accept the eyes of somebody who was dead, who didn’t lose the valuable gift of vision. Mrs Blondimont and Mr. Harding were still talking when Tom went out of the room. The doctor was saddened. He understood and respected Tom’s decision, although he knew that the properties of a living eyeball were needed for a successful operation, but he felt powerless because he couldn’t help the most loyal and brave man he had ever known with his medical and scientific knowledge. Some days after the discussion, Mr Harding arrived euphoric at the orphanage. There was an elderly man in the hospital who was terminal and he had decided to donate his organs after his death. He had agreed to doctor Harding’s asking him to give Tom his eyes before they were useless for the operation. Tom tried to argue and to refuse the operation, but he had no arguments and finally he accepted the doctor’s. When Tom went to hospital, all the little soothing voiced ovals which were the other kids wished him all the best. Gertrude’s voice was especially filled with emotion, and Tom could feel little liquid spheres running down her mathematical features. Tom woke up feeling a strong pressure against his eyes. He was disorientated. He raised his hands and touched a rough strip round his head and he knew the operation was over. That was confirmed by Doctor Harding, whose happy voice was the first clue of success. 7
Tom’s heart beat faster and stronger in his chest. He was very nervous. It had come. The time to see, the time to be free of the darkness in which he had always lived and to know a completely new world. It was like dying and being born, and he remembered the man who had given his eyes to him. Tom asked to be in front of him, because he wanted to look at his face with his very first gaze. The bandage around his eyes was slowly and carefully unrolled, in several agonic minutes. A shining brightness, a painful and blessed light started to reach his eyes through the bandage. Tom took the anonymous donor’s hands whispering ‘thanks’ again and again, but there was something weird. Those hands were too soft and smooth for an elderly man. Tom raised his hands towards the unknown face while the last remnant of bandage was removed, and he could feel and see by his hands and eyes his donor’s face. The well-known touch of a face which was a teenager oval with curly hair. *
THE ENGLISH EXAM Víctor Mérida Muñoz Third Place 2008-09
Born in Málaga in 1988, Víctor Mérida Muñoz is at present on his 3rd Course of Laws at UMA and doing his 5th Course of English at Málaga’s E.O.I. Reading is one of his hobbies, being Harry Potter, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Cave Bear, The Shadow of the Wind among his favourite books
“Unit 1: Present simple and present continuous...” Carlos had spent the whole day doing nothing, and now there was nothing else for it but to sit at his desk to study for the English exam that he had the next day at the EOI. It was a warm afternoon on the 10th of June and Carlos had millions of things to do before studying for the wretched exam. But that was life. It was one day before the test and he had just started reading the first lesson “present simple is used for habits...” Suddenly Carlos heard a conversation which seemed to come from his student book: 8
‘It seems that this guy is not going to pass the exam, it’s time to teach him a lesson...’ ‘But Lord, don’t you think it’s too hard? The others have failed at least once before.’ ‘Don’t interrupt me insignificant Yankee! You and people like you have polluted our fantastic language! What’s more, I haven’t seen anybody pay such little attention to our language in decades.’ Carlos couldn’t believe his ears: who were those people that were talking so much about him without knowing him? The answer wasn’t long in coming. Carlos didn’t have time to see how his room vanished while he was being gobbled up by his book to enter into a world that he had never imagined existed. When Carlos opened his eyes he found himself in a vast English garden, but what most horrified him were the strange creatures there. They were speaking in a way...just a minute, they were speaking English! Carlos tried to run away but just then a little man who looked like a cowboy appeared and exclaimed in a strong American accent: ‘Welcome to English World Country! My name is Gary Glitter. You have been picked out to do an extraordinary English exam. While walking through this forest you’ll face different English tests that you’ll have to pass (60%). If not, you’ll forget everything you have learnt about English and you’ll be unable to learn any language.’ Poof!! The little man disappeared in a puff of smoke. Nothing remained but silence. Carlos had to go into the forest to see what the exam was like. He had just started to walk when a mysterious character appeared and said: ‘There are few students who have passed the exam, in fact, nobody has passed it recently.’ ‘But who the hell are you?’ said Carlos. ‘I’m Latin word, my name is Discover. In English World Country, if you are a Latin word you are discriminated against by Lord British English, the boss in this place and director of the exam. I want to help you to pass the exam as long as you assist me and my people by talking to Lord at the end of the exam.’ 9
‘It’s a deal’, answered Carlos. They were walking through the forest when they came up against the first test: Conditionals. The Conditionals were three sisters with different personalities. From the first, most determined and dynamic, to the melancholic and aging: Third Conditional. ‘We are the Three Conditionals Sisters, if you choose one of us and form a correct sentence, you’ll pass the test.’ said First Conditional. ‘Be careful with your choice because if you made a mistake you’d fail,’ said Second Conditional. ‘If you’d studied you wouldn’t have needed to be here,’ said Third Conditional. Carlos opted for the first, who spoke more clearly, and as he was really good at grammar he hadn’t any problem to pass. However, no sooner had he finished the first test than he had to do the second one: Phrasal verbs. ‘Look Discover! What are all these verbs and prepositions doing running around? It’s impossible to get past them!” ‘Carlos, you have to be quick, you have to choose one verb and one preposition which form a phrasal verb and you must know its meaning to continue.’ ‘But I have no idea about phrasal verbs!’ ‘Don’t worry Carlos, this time I’ll be the one that helps you. I’m going to look for my synonym, my eternal enemy: find out.’ Discover had difficulties joining find with its preposition out, but finally after a hard battle he managed to capture the phrasal verb in a cage. ‘Carlos, let’s take him as a prisoner, you never know whether this could help us.’ ‘Good idea!’ answered Carlos. The next test wasn’t long in coming. They had arrived at Phonetic´s territory. Phonetic was a very strict woman who hardly looked at the world behind her thick glasses. However, despite her bad sight, she had fantastic hearing. She could hear the most insignificant details, from the “l” in the “should” to the “ed” in the past of regular verbs. 10
‘In this test you have to pronounce the word I choose correctly. If you make one mistake, you´ll fail the exam,’ said Phonetic pronouncing each syllable exquisitely. The surprise was that Phonetic chose the word find out which Discover had captured. Carlos didn’t think twice and said automatically /faind aut/. Suddenly Phonetic started laughing, Carlos didn’t know why, but the phrasal verb which was their prisoner gave him the clue: It was a past verb. It was no difficult to recognise because of the old style of its letters. Please, give me a chance! I don’t want to forget all that I’ve learnt!’ begged Carlos. When Carlos woke up It was half-past seven in the morning. He had fallen asleep at his desk with the student book still open at the first page. Carlos had a mini-breakfast and ran immediately to do the exam which was at nine o’clock. Had it all really been just a dream? Carlos missed Discover, they had become good friends. When he got to class he felt scary about the exam, but when he saw the first question: “Look for a phrasal verb for this word: Discover...” *
THE MYSTERY OF THE HOUSE Silvia Conde Fernández Granadina by birth (Loja, 1975), Silvia Conde Fernández graduated from Granada University. She is a high-school teacher of Mathematics and is currently taking her 5th Course of English at Málaga’s E.O.I. She is keen on intrigue novels and enjoys writing. Mother of two children (3 and 4 months old) also enjoys the beach with them.
That house was familiar to her. There was something mysterious about it. ‘Do you like it here, dear?’, he asked ‘Yes, I do’, but something inside her said there was something strange in it. ‘I'm glad! We've been very lucky, to find it and for the price’, said Paul while walking along the hall. ‘Come on, Helen, you have to see this. It's 11
fantastic’. Helen went into the dining-room and was pleasantly surprised when he drew the curtains open and uncovered the fantastic views of the sea. Suddenly a terrible headache made Helen close her eyes. Then something strange happened: she saw two little girls playing on the beach. When the sudden headache had passed, she looked out of the window again and in astonishment discovered that the beach was empty. Helen did not dare to say anything to her husband; she wanted to start a new life and forget the strange dreams she had had in their former home; dreams the doctors attributed to stress. ‘Are you okay?’, asked Paul. ‘Sure', she said. 'I find it incredible, darling; what I’m sorry for is that you have to travel so far to go to work'. 'Do not worry', he said. 'I want you to get well soon and if this weather helps you, as doctors say, I do not mind travelling 1,000 kilometers'. Then they merged into a kiss. 'I'm tired and have to get up early for work tomorrow', said Paul. ‘Yes, let’s have a rest; tomorrow I’ll sort things out step by step', said Helen. The sun rose. She turned her head and saw that Paul was not there. She overslept. She went to the kitchen for breakfast and again that terrible headache forced her to close her eyes. Then she saw the image of a woman who was cooking. She sat with her hands on her head and suddenly got better. 'I have to eat something, I feel a little dizzy', she thought. Afterwards, she started to open the boxes that were piled at the entrance. The first box contained their books. With great care she took them one by one. Many of them were of sentimental value because they had belonged to her father and when she read them she felt he was still alive. She had never known her mother because she had died when she was born and she had no brothers. Suddenly, taking one of the books, something fell to the floor. It was a newspaper clipping she had never seen. “Little girl disappeared. Her parents and twin sister offer a reward to whoever finds her " . 12
'What a pity!', she thought; ‘and now she would be my age'. And she continued with her work. She was so amused that she did not realize of time. Paul would shortly be there, so she went out to do the shopping. The house was on the outskirts of the town. It was a small town where almost everyone seemed to know each other. There was just a shop to buy food. She went there and got all she needed to have everything ready before her husband returned home. While waiting at the cash desk, she noticed people looked at her in a strange way. Since she was in a hurry she did not give much importance to it. 'What have you done today? How have you got on?', asked Paul. 'Time went by very quickly and I just had time to put some of the books in order ', said Helen 'Don’t worry, we have a lifetime ahead', he said. ‘Besides, doctors say it’s good for you to be outdoors; you must go out'. 'I went shopping. I think the people of this town are a little gossipy. They did nothing but looking at me and talking in a low voice when I looked at them. It is difficult to be unnoticed ... ', said Helen . 'Have you introduced yourself to them?', asked Paul 'No. I just wanted to get dinner ready before you came', said Helen 'Well, you'll have time'. 'And how about your day, Paul?' ‘Exhausting. We have a lot of work. I would like to go to bed early; tomorrow I’ll have to get up early again'. 'Poor little thing! And I am here enjoying this weather and these excellent views ... ', she said. 'Do not say that! You have to take care of yourself and get well soon', he said. The next morning, Helen continued putting the books in order. In one of the books she saw a picture of her when she was a child, but there was something strange in that picture. When she examined it carefully, she realized that she had a mole on the left cheek. She could not recall having that mole, but she said to herself it was a blot on the photograph. When she had finished with the books, she went for a walk on the beach. 13
The sun was shining and it was a great day. She sat on a bench and began to read caressed by the breeze. A boy who was playing on the shore with his dog kept watching at her. She tried to go on reading and ignore him. Suddenly, she raised her face and the boy was right in front of her. 'Mary?', asked the boy 'I’m afraid you’re wrong. My name’s Helen. My husband and I have just moved to that house over there'. The boy made a face and ran without saying anything. It was time to go, so she went back home. Suddenly someone called at the door. 'Hello Helen! It’s Mary! ‘Who?’ ‘Mary, your twin sister'.
A FAIR ACTION Francisco Javier Rosano Guil Born in Ceuta in 1969, Francisco Javier Rosano Guil graduated in Geography and History from Málaga’s University. He is high-school teacher in Alahurín de la Torre and a 5th Course English student a Málaga’s E.O.I. He is keen on reading both novels and poetry. His hobbies are cycling, trekking and painting statuettes.
Tears were falling down the cheeks of a little boy with a disordered fringe over his tearful eyes. ‘Please mommy, forgive me. It won’t happen again. I promise’. Suddenly with an abrupt movement, his mother slammed the door of the closet and darkness filled the whole room. The clothes and boxes inside the closet rapidly turned into monsters with angry faces and the sleeves tried to grab his anxious face. He felt all his body soaked in warm sweat and his breathing was restless. His chest was shaking like an earthquake. The feeling of horror and despair held his soul like a spider gets its prey. The room seemed a dark hole where his parents used to lock him, a nasty childhood in a putrid area of the 14
city. But after a few minutes, the room became a bedroom almost in darkness and Frank understood that it had only been a bad dream, the same vivid dream that he used to feel before an important work, he same dream that reminded him of his childhood in a flat on the outskirts of the town. It was forty years ago and Frank felt the same unpleasant feeling after this nightmare With a grumble, he turned on the lamp and had a look at the clock, half past six. ‘What time is it?’ said a sleepy woman’s voice close to him. ‘It’s too early honey, go on sleeping. It has been just a bad dream. Don’t worry about me. I’ll drink some water and I am going to finish my work. In the kitchen Frank started to think about his next job for Fat Tony, a famous Italian businessman in Little Italy. Being a gangster is better than being a businessman. To Frank, those goody-goodies who made poor jobs and took the tube or bus to work, and worried about their mortgage, were nobody. He made more money in just one job than those idiots in all their lives and he could buy anything he wanted. The only problem was these stupid nightmares and the sensation of sorrow when he finished some job. Fortunately he had a relationship with a kind woman, Betty, although everybody called her “Sweet Betty” because her round and pink face was always stained with sugar and jam. He had met her in a bakery near his house where she used to work making apple pies. That was two years ago and since then they had got on really well, and, what’s more, she could make him smile with a joke or a kiss at the end of the day. Her wonderful smile had something like a magic power which absorbed all his feeling of sorrow after a job. But that morning Frank was waiting for a message in his cellular phone. He was feeling worried about his next job. If it turned out well, he would probably become Fat Tony´s right-hand. After a few minutes the mobile phone beeped and its screen showed an address and an hour. Then, as he always did, Frank left a note to Betty on the fridge, and got dressed. A kiss on her forehead only had an answer, she muffled an unreconognizable sound from 15
her lips. It was cold and windy this morning when he walked along the dirty streets. A perfect day to kill a person, he thought. Nobody would notice a man in a leather jacket and nobody would notice his hands in his pocket holding a gun. Then he remembered that killing a man could be an easy and clean job as long as you knew how to do it. You must forget all your nerves and you must move quickly and self-confident. But that morning Frank had a problem: the nightmare misled him and his heart beat fast when he started to climb up the stairs of the block of flats. A dull light from a poor lamp made Frank’s shadow sinister and a smell of poverty came to his nose, the same stink that he used to feel in his childhood home. He rang the bell but it didn’t work, so he knocked on the door and a middle-aged woman opened it. ‘Hello Jack! Isn’t it early to deliver the milk?’ But her sleepy and threadbare face changed as she understood that the man in front of her was a murderer. ‘Don’t say anything and don’t try to shout’, said Frank calmly. ‘It will be better if you let me get in. Frank closed the door behind him and pointed the gun at the silent woman. It would be an easy job. Nobody could help this poor woman because nobody wanted to be in trouble with Fat Tony. She was staring at the gun with fear when a voice came from the kitchen. ‘Please mommy’, said a five-year-old child. Shall I have this puppy? I promise. I’ll… Now Frank’s face changed. He remembered this face from his nightmare and suddenly he understood that the boy in his nightmare was like an image of himself in a mirror. A cruel memory from his childhood in a sordid and tiny flat on the outskirts of the city. Two shots had been enough to finish his work. Killing them had been a little difficult but his mind was now free. When Frank returned home, Sweet Betty was watching the news on 16
television. It was being broadcast: “The famous gangster Luigi Cernucci, also known as Fat Tony, was killed this morning by a stranger. The police…” Betty turned her face to him and said ‘You always do the right thing. I’ll never forget you because you are always gentle to me.’ ‘Never mind Betty. I did the right thing this morning. It is the first time I have done something I am really proud of.’ *
THE ASHES OF THE PAST Mercedes Sánchez Rivera Mercedes Sánchez Rivera was born in Málaga in 1986. He studies both at the UMA (3rd Course of English Philology) and Fuengirola’s E.O.I (5th Course of English. In 2007 she was runner-up in VI Málaga EOI Short Story Contest with the story “In The Light Of Innocence” (MARTIRICOS 2007). She loves dancing and going to the movies. When it comes to reading she prefers romantic novels. She occasionally works as a waitress.
Denise lit up another cigarette. While doing it she was deeply lost in her thoughts. The situation she was living at that moment had been much desired, or hadn’t it? At least that was what she believed for the past couple of years. When she drew the ashes she observed the many cigarettes she had been smoking that night. They were still laying in the ashtray, more that ten. That was quite a lot considering that she didn’t smoke more than 4 cigarettes a week, or perhaps that number had increased a bit these past weeks. There she was sitting in a nice comfortable chair holding a glass of white wine in the porch of her house trying to figure out why her husband had left her overnight without previous warning, except for that letter he left: “Denise, it’s over, I’m leaving. I’ll talk to you in a couple of weeks when I make up my mind”. She knew the only reason why he would keep in touch with her and she was planning to take advantage of that. He wouldn’t call in a couple of weeks, he would call tomorrow first thing in the morning, she was sure of that. Her husband was a very weak person and loved her too much. That reminded her 17
of the first trip they took together to Madrid, they spent some really good time together. They walked from the bus station to the hotel where they were going to spend the weekend. She held the map and pointed at the route they were to take and Aleck held her shoulder and looked around at the scenery. He did not have to check if they were taking the right way, he blindly trusted Denise and just followed her. Sometimes he would stop at some point where he thought they could have a nice picture together and then would keep walking. When they arrived at their luxurious hotel room they left everything on the floor and kissed each other passionately. “Mum,” Denise put off her cigarette and hid the ashtray underneath her hand and looked at Felisa worried thinking it was someone else. She felt reassured to find out it was just her little daughter. “When are you coming to bed? I don’t wanna watch the movie alone…” “Mummy is coming in a minute” she replied. “Keep watching it, I won’t be long, sweetie”. Felisa lowered her tired eyes and turned sadly to go back upstairs to her mum’s room. She was barefoot but her mum didn’t notice it, she was more concerned about hiding the cigarettes so she wouldn’t see them. Hiding things was part of her life. Wherever she went with her husband she was always scared of who may turn up making a very uncomfortable situation out of a walk by the sea or a coffee at the café. And wherever she went out with friends she always hoped that certain people wouldn’t be there to “surprise” her. Hopefully for her none of these situations occurred. She knew she was always very cautious, but now she started to think that something to do with this issue might have made Aleck make the decision to leave her. That night they finished very late at the Zoo Café. All the animals were asleep and the whole place was quiet. Denise and her work mate, Tony, were alone in the terrace having dinner after work and a glass of wine, of course. She could finally let her long, blond hair down at that moment of the day, so she took off the hairpins and waved it a little bit. She hated to wear her hair tied up; she only held it up at work and when she was with Aleck, because he liked it like that. Now Tony was looking at her while she ate. 18
“What?” asked Denise with a shy smile. “Nothing” he lowered his head, but still kept his eyes fixed on hers. “No, seriously, why are you givin’ me that look?” “No, is just that… You look really good when you let your hair loose”. “Really? Now she became red. “Thank you!” That comment made Denise very happy because he had a very different opinion from her husband and she thought Tony’s opinion was the right one. They finished their dinner and Tony took out a cigarette, then he offered one to Denise. She had quitted smoking long time ago, but something made her want a cigarette that night and she saw no harm in it. When Denise went back to her husband’s bed he always remarked that she smelt very bad after work. She did not care much because she really enjoyed that time she spent after work with Tony, and she thought it was worth it. But now that she did not have Aleck with her, it wasn’t much fun. She had always wanted him to leave her alone and take his repressive ideas and his “machismo” with him. But now, after a few glasses of wine she missed him. She decided to light up another cigarette. The light of the little flame was reflected in the red sun that was coming up from behind the tall trees of the garden; she remembered how many times she and Aleck had seen it together from the same porch. She looked at the cigarette standing between her fingers and immediately put it off. He went straight to her room, but she was not going to sleep, she wanted to check on Felisa and then make herself and the house ready for that day, which would be a long one for her. Due to the noise she was making tidying up and picking the clothes she was going to wear, Felisa opened slightly her eyes and noticing her daddy wasn’t there yet she asked: “When is daddy coming?” “He’ll be waiting for you when you come after school,” said Denise kissing her forehead. “and I think he’s bringing you a little present”. Felisa opened her eyes in surprise and didn’t get to sleep again *
FATE Laura Segalerva Romero Laura Segalerva Romero was born in Málaga in 1970. She became a Primary School teacher and specialized in Preparatory School and works as such at San Estanislao de Kostka. She enjoys reading classical literature, historical, adventure and police novels. She paints and loves travelling. She is on her 5th Course of English at Málaga’s E.O.I.
Life is like a novel, a chapter finishes and there starts another. It is like that until the end…The end of our life; but I think we’ll be remembered by somebody in the world for a long time... We don’t choose where we are born and what family we have. Somebody or something chooses them for us. We don’t know who he is or what it is, perhaps fate is written in our brain or somewhere in our body or in the lines of our hands. Maybe in the sky… I don’t really know, do you? But ... suddenly our fate can be changed, when we least expect it. This story started on a dull day in autumn. The weather was wet and some trees had shed their leaves. The sky was blue and the sun was shining, but the dense wood didn’t let the sun’s rays in. I was trudging through the mud, because it had been raining the day before and the ground was terribly muddy. I was alone with my own thoughts. My job was perfect and I was very satisfied, my family loved me and I loved them, I had very good friends; but I felt completely alone. I had decided to start a clean sheet in life. Perhaps in another country, why not? Those were my thoughts during the long walk through the woods. In those days I thought we were never completely content with our lives. But now I’m sure that we can achieve our purpose and we must believe in ourselves. I used to go to the forest alone because I felt better when I was walking in silence. But that day I could hear voices, but I couldn’t spot them. When I was near the road I saw a car that had crashed into a tree and a man lying on the road shouting for help. I ran toward him. He was covered in blood and he could only tell me ‘I had an accident. A wolf suddenly crossed the road, I tried to avoid it, but I 20
don’t think I did. Is the wolf dead?’ ‘I can’t see any wolf, I’m sure it’s not dead’, I answered. It was a white lie... The wolf was dead in front of the car. He smiled and lost consciousness. I phoned for an ambulance and stayed near him all the time. I didn’t stop talking to him even though he was out. Since we were far from the nearest city I was worried about his health. He wasn’t moving and his eyes were closed. I thought the worst but I was hopeful. I encouraged him all the time even though he was unconscious. When the ambulance arrived after about an hour I asked the doctor if I could go with him. He told me ‘Yes, get in!’ For a long time in the ambulance he was given up for dead, but they revived him. He was in a coma, because his brain was damaged. He had a clot on his brain and it couldn’t be operated on. Next day after work, I went to the hospital to visit him. I had already forgotten about starting a new life in another country. I didn’t know why, but now I had found a good reason to go on living here. I had pinned all my hopes on his life. I hadn’t noticed that I was falling for that man whom I didn’t know anything about. I used to stay with him for an hour every day more or less. I told him all about my day and later I read a novel “The shadow of the wind”. When I was there I never saw any member of his family. I thought that he was alone in life... But one day when I got to his room I found he had gone. He wasn’t there. It broke my heart. I felt confused. I ran to ask a nurse what had happened to him. And the nurse told me that his family had taken him home. ‘Has he regained consciousness?’ I asked her. ‘Not really, but his family are going to take care of him at their home’ she answered. ‘Could you give me his address, please?’ I begged her, but she apologized to me and said ‘I can’t do that’. ‘And his name, could you tell me his name?’ my voice sounded desperate and she told me his full name. I had gone to visit him every day for three months. In those months he had moved his hands, but he hadn’t opened his eyes and hadn’t spoken or 21
anything similar. It was the beginning of March. Winter had been very cold and snowy, but now the snow had melted and the scenery was changing in colours and bright light. Spring was coming to cover the white with green. The weather was warm and the city was full of people enjoying the sun and spring smells. But I only thought about him. For a long time I looked for him, but I never found.... ...At least I thought so, but one summer day I bumped into a man and I apologized for being absent-minded and when the man heard my voice he stared at me and said: ‘I remember you. You took care of me for a long time’. I looked at him in astonishment and I could see him. I shouted: ‘Is it? I can’t believe it! Thank God!’ and we embraced each other. We plunged into a long hug for the rest of our lives. Now he isn’t here, but he’ll live in my memory until I meet him somewhere in the universe... Do you know where that place is? I don’t know, do you?
HOW HAVE I ENDED UP HERE? (A Short Autobiography) Pablo Parra Molinier Pablo Parra Molinier was born in Málaga in 1980. He graduated in Mathematics and passed his “oposiciones” to become a high-school teacher. He is on his 5th Course of English at Málaga’s E.O.I.
Today is 29th January 2009. It’s 23.48h and I’m still awake. Tomorrow I have to get up at 7.30 am to go to work; however, this night will be really long... And in the silence of this night, covered by blankets, in the middle of a cold and lonely room, I wonder: ‘HOW HAVE I ENDED UP HERE?’. But to give some kind of sense to this story, I have to go back in time a little bit: in fact, a few years. I still perfectly remember how Mr. Fernando filled the blackboard with long square roots (a curious method to find out, given a number, another number whose square is the first one). He is one of the main reasons why I’m 22
currently here. I’m talking about the academic year 1992-93, when Mr. Fernando used to organise square root contests among the best students in each class where I belong. Due to these peculiar contests, I’ve never forgotten the method to solve square roots. I was very proud to be part of the small and selected group of 12 years-old students who were able to follow one of the magisterial classes of Mr. Fernando, who was feared and hated by the other students. The truth is that his serious and ironic personality increased his hard reputation and he caused in many students a certain hate towards Maths. However, he produced the opposite effect on me: to me it was a real pleasure to listen to his explanations about maths concepts and his logical reasoning, and his particular personality just encouraged me to overcome every challenge he established. Because of this, I have spent most of my childhood playing to be a teacher. I still remember my poor cousins sitting in front of a little blackboard and me next to it, filling it with long square roots like Mr. Fernando used to do. In fact, I used to be hard and demanding with my cousins to check what they had learnt. Perhaps, I still keep some of this personality that fascinated and scared me at the same time. After enjoying for two years the addictive and always interesting (at least to me) classes of Mr. Fernando, I started secondary school, having already some reputation as a ‘clever boy’. I was very proud of this, but it looked like others found it hateful. So this ‘clever boy’ started to understand that he was rather considered by the others as a ‘swot boy’. But it was too late to avoid being elected as Head Boy of my class by the other students, and I understood that this new position wouldn’t do any good to my dubious reputation among all the students. At that moment I wondered: ‘HOW HAVE I ENDED UP HERE?’ As I was re-elected as Head Boy during the four years I spent at secondary school, I had to make efforts to show my classmates that I could be a ‘clever boy’ without being a ‘boring boy’. It took me ages and great efforts to pretend to be a regular teenager like them, but finally I made them talk about me: ‘Dude, even though you get top marks, you’re cool’. In ‘teenager’s 23
language’ it was considered a compliment but now, to me it’s just a funny sentence by one of my worst pupils. Although I’m not going to talk about my job yet… During these four years at secondary school, as my reputation grew among my classmates, the interest in Maths grew in me. Above all, the interest in teaching them, beacause I felt that everyone could enjoy them if they managed to understand them as I did. I thought the World of Mathematics was fascinating, those who understood them got fascinated by them and if people hated them it was due to their not understanding of them. Nowadays, I still think that way. I started to study Mathematics at university in 1998. My first year, I guess as it happens with all degrees, was really hard to me. Personally, I found it not only difficult but deceiving, because the fascinating World of Mathematics I knew became a horrible and incomprehensible nightmare. Those Maths weren’t as I remembered. It seemed that my mind couldn’t manage to understand those extremely abstract concepts, I even thought that I couldn’t never make it. Then, I wondered: ‘HOW HAVE I ENDED UP HERE?’. But the good results that I got in my exams and the fact that I was sure about my “final aim” of becoming what I am today, made it easier to me to endure the five-year-torture that this degree was. Step by step, I was closer to my ‘final aim’: becoming a Maths teacher in a Mr. Fernando’s style (not because of his personality but because of his way of teaching Maths and communicating his passion for them). This way, and after two official exams, I got my position as a high school teacher in a public school. The first two years I worked near my home, but I knew that sooner or later I had to face something worse. After these two years, I would be sent to a very remote place to spread the ‘divine’ World of Mathematics among people who seemed to ignore them completely. That’s the reason why I returned to the Official School of Languages to go on with my English studies. Not that I was going to need my English in a village lost in the middle of nowhere, but to get ‘points’ and come back to ‘civilization’ as soon as possible. So here I am, on 30th January 2009, really late at night, writing this 24
story on the deadline, covered by blankets and in the middle of a cold and lonely room, in some lost point in a map, in order to finish the fifth course of English and get the points I need to come back home. And feeling homesick, I wonder: ‘HOW HAVE I ENDED UP HERE?’.
WHEN THE SUN SHINES Sámar Saber Rodríguez Finalist 2007-08 Born in Barcelona, Sámar Saber Rodríguez is on her fourth course of English at Fuengirola E.O.I. A biologist graduate, she has several hobbies, most of which are outdoor activities: trekking, skating, diving. Due to a printing mistake her story was published last year under another name. This edition is an attempt to mend such an error.
I’m not sure where I was born or who my parents are. My first memories of my childhood were of living with the family who took me into their home. Well, not really their home, it was a house where they were squatters. Maybe it wasn’t the best environment to spend my childhood in or the most suitable family to raise me, but what are you going to do? I can’t blame them for that. I know they did what they could for me. I have forgiven them for my malnutrition and abuse which I still feel the sideeffects of, but not all my memories are bad. Hi, my name’s Flipi! One sunny day in July, my life made a 180-degree turn; the family abandoned the house where they lived and left me in the street. For many days I was begging in the streets of Barcelona, after that I lost the tracks of my family. Ana, a young lady, walked up to me and saw me in that terrible state and she decided to take me to her house where I spent the night. The next morning, after we went to the doctor for a check-up, we went to her office where, fortunately, she works to find homes for poor things like me. That same day I was adopted by a family who had a grumbling youngster named Rocko who, in the end, became my big brother. The first 25
contact wasn’t easy as I immediately discovered that Rocko was the jealous type and he saw in me someone who was invading his territory. My adoptive parents, Sámar and Jordi, seemed to be very good and affectionate people. With the passage of time, I discovered that I wasn’t mistaken. We lived in the outskirts of the city in a little house surrounded by pine trees, I have great memories of that place. The smell of pine trees still reminds me of the place where I discovered brotherly love. I had a brother to have good times with, and why not say it: love. The next year, my family packed their bags, but this time we weren’t going on vacation, nor was I to accompany them. Melancholic memories returned to my mind as I remembered how I had lived before, but instead of staying in the street I was left in the care of Pedro, a neighbour from Extremadura, a rural region that borders Portugal. He was a funny character because those who speak his language still have difficulty understanding his accent, so you can imagine my dismay! A month later, on a warm day in summer, Jordi and Rocko reappeared and we set off together on a journey to the South. It was a hard journey in a cramped van where I had to compete for room with a washing machine and other random electronics. We arrived at last at a village, Alhaurín de la Torre, located in the mountains behind the city of Málaga. The smell of the South, the warmth, its people, Sámar, her food ... It was wonderful. But this time the happiness lasted a short time. Sámar and I embarked on a voyage to Albacete, in the southeast of Spain. At first, I thought I was on holiday, but finally, it turned out to be my home for the next four months. What a vagabond life I lead! Villares, a little village in Albacete, is situated in the Sierra del Segura. There are only 60 inhabitants whose average age is 70 years old. Close to the village there is a stream and a fertile plot of land where Sámar’s family grows almonds, olives and other various products. The smells of thyme, rosemary, almonds and olives provided a beautiful country landscape for my nose. During the summer, Sámar’s mother took care of me, it was great because I was never alone, we did lots of things together. Every morning we got up early to go to the orchard with her sister, Luisa, to pick different fruits 26
and vegetables, after that we had lunch and we walked around the village for a while. Unfortunately, the end of the summer arrived and so did the end of the days with Sámar’s mother. She packed her bags and I stayed alone in the house. Like all the old houses, it’s a stone house, so the warmth provides comfort in the summer while the freezing cold invades your bones in winter. Sámar’s aunt, Luisa, took care of me after Sámar’s mother left. We went together to the orchard during the day, but when I was bored I went into the village to lie in the shade and listen to the halting conversations of the old villagers. Sámar would come to the village on several weekends, and this filled me with a mixture of happiness and sadness. For as I was happy to see her, I knew that it would only be too soon before she left again. The autumn passed between the corn stalks and persimmon. The days became shorter and the nights longer and colder. Some days I remember the hunger, at least in my youth I learned to store food so as not to starve, and I was able to stay happy. One day when the sun was shining brightly, Sámar appeared with her car full with her things, but fortunately, I found out that there was room enough for me! We returned to the South to be reunited with Jordi and Rocko and to live, the four of us, together at last! In my soul, I am a squatter, my surroundings change frequently and I am pressed to feel at home wherever I may find myself. Thanks to the beauty of life, there’s always someone to care for you and to love you. Nothing else is more important. We are what we are and we have what we have, I am a dog and for me, the sun always shines and I have all that I want. *