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.From now on they wouldn’t have any expectations.They’d sit and watch days run into weeks into months into years….And then one day, after a lifetime of loneliness, they would die; bitter old maids who never knew what it felt like to have a man other than the priest panting around their necks, his bristly face brushing against their breasts or between their legs.“What has befallen me?” Magnolia Morales cried, kicking and hitting the blameless tree with her fists.“What a disgrace! What a terrible misery! I’ll never be happy.” But with her sobs came a certain relief: for the very first time in her life Magnolia confronted her biggest preoccupation.She tenderly stroked the scabrous surface of the tree as though it were her man bidding her a sad farewell.And she cried some more.At that moment Nurse Ramírez arrived from the infirmary.Her face was shiny and sweaty and her eyes sunken.She was followed by el padre Rafael, Julia and Santiago.Santiago carried a large book between his hands.The nurse stood on the platform next to the magistrate and announced that she had examined the three men.But in reality, since they hadn’t complained of any symptoms, she’d merely asked them to undress and, from a certain distance, verified that everything was what it should be and where it should be.“None of them is missing anything.They’re complete and intact,” she announced to the crowd, under the obvious impression that she was the bearer of good tidings.But her tidings didn’t bring any relief to the women’s grieving.They’d never thought of Julio and Santiago as men—neither had Julio and Santiago—and as for el padre Rafael, that was all in the past; a nasty, shameful past of which no woman wanted to be reminded.But the nurse wasn’t finished.She reported that she had found something.A lead, she said, in an old medical reference book that was like a Bible to her.“I presume that our boys are suffering from a condition known as…” She signaled to Santiago to come closer with the book.“Let’s see,” she said, opening it on a page marked with a corn husk, pulling her face away from it to better see the small print.“Here it is: Babaloosi-Babaloosi.A mysterious condition seen once in the late 1800s in a remote region of southern Africa.Babaloosi-Babaloosi is believed to have gradually turned infants of the Zukashasu tribe into exceptional creatures that were neither men nor women.The creatures, known as Babas, eventually became the tribe chief’s advisers due to their impartiality in all matters.”“Please stop,” el padre Rafael called.“This whole thing is absurd.Are you all blind? Can’t you see that this is a punishment from God?” He walked up to the magistrate, looking as though he was experiencing muscular dystrophy on his face.“You must do something about all this nonsense,” he hissed.“Ramírez, please continue,” Rosalba said to the nurse.Furious, the priest stepped aside.He crossed his arms and shook his head repeatedly.The nurse went on.“Babaloosi-Babaloosi was confirmed by the English doctor Harry Walsh, who began studying it during the last decade of the nineteenth century.Unfortunately, Dr.Walsh died of malaria in 1903, leaving inconclusive theories about the selective disease.The Zukashasu believed it to be a miracle, but medical records classified it simply as a mysterious condition of unknown origins.” The nurse stopped and asked if anyone had questions.“Where’s Africa?” Francisca said, raising her hand in the air.The nurse shrugged her shoulders and scanned the crowd, looking for Cleotilde.The schoolmistress always had an answer for every question.“Africa is located south of Europe, between the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans,” the old woman answered from the back.Francisca was just about to ask where Europe was when the priest spoke.“Does your book say what happened to this wondrous tribe?” His words were filled with contempt.The nurse took notice of el padre’s question but overlooked his sarcastic tone.She faced the book again and read, “The Zukashasu tribe was exterminated by their neighbors, the Shumitah tribe, in an ethnic war that killed thousands of native Africans in 1913.Nevertheless, they are remembered as one of the most successful forms of society ever seen in that continent.” She paused to look up and then said, in the ingenuous voice of a young girl, “Imagine that: an impartial human being, someone who won’t take sides because they are neither male nor female.I think the world needs people like that.” She closed the book, convinced she’d ended her speech with a profound sentence.An absolute silence spread throughout the plaza as the women began speculating.First, they tried to picture what an impartial human being would look like; and then they tried to conceive of a society with no prejudices, ruled with fairness and honesty.But nothing materialized.They had never seen either.“No one’s as impartial as God.He doesn’t judge us,” the priest interrupted their thoughts, in the same tedious and sermonizing tone he used daily in church.“But your God doesn’t live in this town, Padre,” Nurse Ramírez returned, feeling under attack.“He gave up on us, and you’re very stubborn to still believe in Him.”“You’ll burn in hell, you blasphemous woman!” the priest shouted.He turned to face the crowd and said, “Turn a deaf ear to foolish fairy tales.The Bible says—”“The Bible says nothing we can understand or relate to,” the nurse interposed suddenly, her cheeks flaming with rage.“How many times has manna rained from heaven when we’ve been hungry? How many of our dead relatives have been brought back to life? Your fairy tales are no more believable than mine, Padre.” Both the nurse and the priest turned to the magistrate, as though seeking support, and the crowd, which had detected the delicious prospect of a serious confrontation, also looked at the magistrate (nothing made their problems smaller than witnessing the difficulties of others).But Rosalba didn’t respond immediately.She seemed to be considering both el padre’s and the nurse’s arguments.Whatever she said next, she knew, could calm them down or infuriate them even more.“I say we should write our own Bible,” she finally proposed with a giggle.“A Bible that speaks to us, that tells about towns devastated by guerrillas and paramilitaries.About doomed villages of widows and spinsters and penises that disappear overnight.”Except for el padre Rafael—who rolled his eyes—and a handful of pious widows, the crowd found the idea amusing.The women nodded and murmured to one another, and some even laughed quietly.And so Rosalba, encouraged by the somewhat positive response to her witty remark, went on, “We perform our own miracles, after all [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]