This is an exercise in transformative writing, seven sentences are borrowed from the Katherine Anne Porter story – Rope.
With the familiar feel of caustic heat biting at his skin, Augustine knew he was back. He looked longingly at the deep shade under the calabash trees which lined the dusty road but instead concentrated on reaching his front door where, inside, he knew Marcella, a giant of a woman, six foot two inches, almost toppling over with her pregnancy, was waiting for him.
Weary from the journey and saturated in sweat, he paused for a moment longer amidst the Mexican summer remembering the blue rocky mountains of Colorado from where he had just returned. His trip to the States had been a sorrowful one, the only joy he took was his time spent on the peaks where it was possible to be completely alone, silent, far away from his life. He saw the outline of Marcella through the window in the downstairs bedroom, was it possible she was bigger, he had only been gone two weeks! She raised the blinds and he saw her un-manageable funny black hair was all on end, it was not endearing. He heard her shrill, thick Hispanic voice ‘Papá llegó…’ He understood what she had said, and the sarcasm that went with it, ‘father is home’. Augustine hated her referring to him as father.
At once he was swept away from the calming view of blue mountain peaks and spring lakes. It was reaching mid day and he needed rest; he leapt through the front door, desperate for shade. The clothes he wore were suited to the States and his grey flannel shirt stuck to him, his heavy shoes thick with dust. She assured him he looked like a rural character in play though she phrased it without the eloquence.
‘Hola campesino, ¿como estás?’ she muttered.
‘I’m well,’ he replied. ‘But I’m too tired to concentrate, can we speak in English?’
‘¡Cállate! ¡Quiero un vaso de agua! Yes? Yes? Get me water?’ She turned her head back to the television.
Augustine dropped his bags where he stood, walked over to the small table she kept by the armchair, took her glass and headed into the kitchen. He hated her starting sentences with ‘shut up!’ Placing the glass on the sideboard he rested both hands on the side of the sink and with his head between his arms let out a long, silent sigh. He went to the freezer, but before reaching in to get ice, he took from his back pocket a post card. Placing it onto the door with a magnet he paused to study it: it was Crestone Peak. He looked out at the dark blue afternoon sweltering on the slopes and longed to be back.
“¡Rápido!” Marcella screamed through the thin walls. She needed someone weaker than she was, someone to heckle, someone to tyrannize! Quickly he filled the glass with ice and listened as the pipes rattled and water came through. Taking it in he handed it to her, “¡Ponlo ahí, en la mesa!” she sighed and then lashed out with contempt, “on the side, put it down on the table!” He did as instructed and then sat on the chair opposite her.
He fumbled through his bag and pulled out an old, tatty bit of rope and handed it to her. Unimpressed she asked, ‘why am I holding this?’
‘I told you that my grandfather left Mexico and started his own rope manufacturing factory in Denver, well at the funeral this was given to me.’ Augustine spoke with a sense of pride. ‘It was the first piece of rope his company ever made. He had it on his mantelpiece his entire life.’
‘No money? Just this? Worthless rope? ¡Dios Mío, viejo idiota!’
Augustine struggled with Spanish, he was American born but he understood something close to ‘stupid old man, My God!’
He swallowed the words red hot, his face burned but he forced himself not to retaliate, not to unleash the bitterness and the nothingness he felt for her. He picked up the rope and started to put it on the top shelf. She would not have it there, what would her friends think of her, having a dirty old bit of rope on display. She stood up to go on one of her many bathroom breaks. Where else would she reapply her makeup and moan about this horrible thing that makes her so fat. She demanded, “The rope should be gone when I come back, yes?” Yet Augustine simply sat back down and stared at the delicate intertwined threads his grandfather had woven so lovingly. He even ignored the sound of Marcella’s tacky high-heeled bedroom slippers clattering and thumping on the stairs.
He imagined their child in her womb and delicate hands weaving together life with as much love as they could muster. If Marcella’s countenance was so grotesque it was surely because all the love she was born with was caring for the child inside her. Three more months, he thought to himself, three more months and I will be Stateside with my child! You can buy any aspect of humanity these days; there was no pride in his actions, just another quest for convenience. Even a womb becomes a commodity when nature fails. Marcella would, on occasion, drink and claim that she was doing something much greater then selling her body. That she was helping where God could not. Yet at the core of it all she desperately needed the money … he knew how she was, didn’t he? Sure, He knew how she was.