The ground cracked like the rough pit of a peach and snapped in two. The sun behind the mountains turned into an olive-green glow. To niña Gloria this was home. She continued to sell her bowl of lemons, rubbing a cold, thin silver Christ pocketed in her apron. Others like Lito and Marvin played soldiers in the ruins of a school, running around mounds of bricks, shooting chickens and pigs. No one knows exactly how a light film of ash appeared on everyone’s eyelids early in the morning or how trout and mackerel plunged from the sky, twitched, leaped through the streets. Some say the skin of trees felt like old newspaper, dry and yellow. Others believe the soapsuds washed aside in rivers began to rise in their milk. One Monday morning, a rain fell and the cemetery washed into the city. Bones began to knock and knock at our doors. Streets became muddy rivers waiting for bodies to drop among piles of dead fish. In a year, everyone stabbed flowers on a grave. This explains why women thought and moved like lizards under stones, why men heard bees buzzing inside their skulls, why dogs lost their sense of smell sniffing piles of rubble to get back home. In a few years, no one cared about turtles banging their heads against rocks, bulls with their sad, busted eyes, parrots that kept diving into creeks, the dark swelling of the open ground or at night a knife stained the kitchen cloth. Instead, niña Gloria swept the ground, the broom licking her feet at each stroke. At the bus station, Marvin shined military boots, twenty-five cents a pair, reduced his words to a spit, a splutter of broken sentences on shoe polish, leather. In the evenings, he counted coins he’d tossed in a jar, then walked home, one step closer to the cracked bone clenched in the yellow jaw of a dog.
Copyright © 2009 William Archila. Used with permission of the author. “The decade the country became known throughout the world” appears in The Art of Exile (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2009).