BETWEEN ICHU AND DAISIES (short story. June, 2019)

Posted: 7 June, 2019 in 2019
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I bend down to see what’s inside. I open one of the two little blue doors and look in carefully to make out the objects. A red hen, yellow daisies, a woman wearing a fuchsia skirt playing the harp, a donkey with a grey belly.

I feel an intense smell of fresh paint.

“Are you going to take it to Lima?”

But who is speaking? Where are the red hen, the yellow daisies, the woman with the fuchsia skirt and the grey-bellied donkey? What darkness! I need oxygen!

But the smell of fresh paint remains.

“Open the little door with confidence, gentleman…”

Light and air again.

“We call it “retablo” in Spanish.” Continued the man’s voice. “It´s made of cedar wood,  leather hinges and the figures are made of boiled potatoes mixed with plaster. Look at this delicate work. My father, taita Fermín, made it. He is from here, Pampa de la Quinua. He learned from his taita to make altarpieces. From father to son, from son to grandson. I also build them, but those made by my taita are the best in Peru. In spite of that, I sell them cheap, eighty solcitos

“And that figure of a woman with blond hair and blue jeans? I didn´t know that they use them in the Ayacucho´s altarpieces.”

They are talking about me! How did I get inside? And now, they are picking me up! Altitude sickness?  Is it the coca tea?

“That’s weird. My taita Fermín must have modernized his altarpieces. He has never done one like this.”

“Let me see.”

Help! I try to hold on to the donkey´s tail  hoping not to fall down. What am I doing inside an altarpiece? The googly eyes of the red hen are staring at me!

“Listen maestro, your taita is really a great artist. Depending on the point of view, the woman in blue jeans looks frightened and from other angles she seems to be smiling at me. She looks so pretty. Is it Art Nouveau? Contemporary art combined with folk art…”

“Yes, of course, you are right. Are you going to buy it?”

“Will you give me a discount?”

And now he thinks that the price is too high! I will ruin the artist´s sale!

“It has a strange sound. It seems that something is loose inside, maestro.”

Don´t  shake it please or I will hit myself with the harp!

“What are you doing lying on the floor? Where did you come from? May I help you stand up, madam? You look just like the woman inside my taita´s retablo …”

“How beautiful!” adds the tourist.

“Thanks.” I say to the salesman. “I would like to buy the altarpiece that the gentleman is holding.”

“It’s very expensive, special. Costs one hundred and twenty soles. An international new trend.”

“What? It´s more expensive now?” complains the tourist.

“Can you let me see it up close?” I ask.

And indeed, inside the box with blue doors, was the woman in a fuchsia skirt accompanied by daisies (and of course by the bulging-eyed chicken) and, well mounted on the grey-bellied donkey, there, I was.

“I love it. I will give you whatever you want for this altarpiece –says the man looking at me while paying and taking the piece of art away.”

And here, sitting in the Pampa de la Quinua, under the sun, between ichu and daisies, I listen to the quena´s melody carried away in the cold wind, and watch the tourist observing his new altarpiece and opening its little blue doors carefully.

¿Should I smile?

Rossana Sala

June 2019


English version of Entre Ichu y Margaritas


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