They mounted the horses, which are highstrung to begin with and dont appreciate overweight brutes squashing their kidneys and making them gallop in the dark along muddy paths, followed by a procession of Toyota 4x4s full of bodyguards, you know how it is, angel, because you come from that world and escaped it only when you'd had all you could stomach, but does the aftertaste ever go away?, no, sweetheart, the taste of shit lingers in your mouth no matter how many times you gargle with Listerine. Every fat cat from Las Lomas Polo is shadowed wherever he goes by five or six escorts, and Spider Salazar is even worse; ever since he struck it rich hes had himself protected by a troop of thugs trained in Israel, and that night Spider, who hadnt been on a horse for months because he was clogged with cholesterol and had to content himself with watching from the stands, that night Spider, who was completely plastered, ordered them to bring him the most spirited horse, a big, imperious bay called Parsley, and if I say called, Agustina princess, its because no one calls it anything anymore, since in the darkness, the mud, and the commotion, Parsley lost his temper and threw Spider, slamming him against a rock, and then some genius of a bodyguard, a guy they call the Sucker, had the brilliant idea of teaching the horse a lesson by blasting it with his machine gun, leaving it riddled like a sieve with its hooves pointing up at the moon, the most pathetic little scene imaginable. In a single burst the idiot pissed away the two hundred and fifty grand Parsley was worth, because thats life, Agustina sweetheart, fortunes go down the drain in a single binge and nobody bats an eye.
THE GIRL AGUSTINA hugs another, smaller child tight; its her brother Bichi, who has a head full of dark curls, a Christ Child, the kind artists paint with black hair instead of golden. Its the last time, Bichito, Agustina promises him, my father will never hit you again because Im going to stop him, dont hold your arm like that, like a chicken with a broken wing, come here, Bichi, little brother, you have to forgive my fathers bad hands because his heart is good, you have to forgive him, Bichi, and not stare at him like that because if you do hell go away and itll be your fault, does your arm still hurt?, come here, its all right, if you stop crying your sister, Agustina, will summon you to the great ceremony of her powers, and well do what we always do, shell get the pictures from their hiding place and Bichi will spread the black cloth on the bed, you and me preparing for the service that will make my eyes see, Agustina calls up the great Power that lets her know when her father is going to hurt her brother, youre the Bichi I loved so much, Agustina repeats over and over again, the Bichi I love so very very much, my darling little brother, the beautiful boy who abandoned me a lifetime ago and is lost to me now.
Ill cure your broken wing, sings Agustina, rocking him against her, Ill kiss it and make it better. The only problem is that the powers of divination come to her when they feel like it, not when she calls on them, thats why the ceremony doesnt always work the same way even though the two children put on their robes and do everything right, step by step, carefully performing each step, but it isnt the same, Agustina complains, because the powers forsake me sometimes, the visions fade and Bichi is left defenseless, not knowing when the thing that's sure to happen to him will happen. But when theyre going to come they announce their arrival with a flicker of the eyelids, the First Call, because Agustinas powers were, are, her eyes ability to see beyond, to whats still to come, to what hasnt come yet. The Second Call is when the head tilts back of its own accord, as if it were descending a staircase, as if the neck were tugging it down and making it toss its hair like the Weeping Woman when she wanders the hills. I know Bichi is terrified by the Second Call, and he doesnt want to know anything about the Weeping Woman or the wild rhythms of her flowing hair, which is why he begs me not to roll my eyes back in my head and toss my hair because If you keep doing that Agustina, Ill go to my room, Dont go Bichi Bichito, dont go and I wont do it anymore, Ill control the shaking so I dont scare you, because after all this is a ceremony of healing and comfort, Id never hurt you, I only want to protect you, and in return you have to promise me that youll forgive my father even when he hits you, my father says its for your own good and parents know things that children dont.
Excerpted from Delirium by Laura Restrepo Copyright © 2007 by Laura Restrepo. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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