The three amigos
By Parson Thru
Carlos brought two coffees from the kitchen and placed them on the low table. Three floors below, the street was coming to life to the rattle of metal shutters, the heavily accented shouts of roused Dominicans and the engines of scooters weaving their way through parked cars and delivery vans.
Javier stared into space, lost in private thoughts.
The flat tone of the door buzzer jarred him to consciousness. He looked at Carlos, who had just sat down.
“The post-woman has already been.”
Carlos grunted. He got up and looked down into the street from the balcony.
Down on the pavement, looking up from the clutter of bins was Rico. He had stepped into the road slightly to be seen – oblivious to the scooters rushing past.
“Hah!” Javier grinned. “Let him in. No. Tell him to bring up the post first.”
Carlos leaned over the balcony rail. “Come up, Rico, but bring the post from our box.”
Javier closed his eyes, smiling to himself.
Rico's feet could be heard labouring up the stairs. He pushed open the apartment door.
“Hola! Carlos! Javier! Why can’t you live on the first floor? So many stairs. When I reach your landing I feel I should plant a flag. Jesus!”
“Sit down, Rico.” said Javier wallowing in the familiarity of the exchange.
Rico shook hands with the two, then fell heavily into an easy chair.
“Any post?” asked Carlos.
“Just this.” Rico tossed an envelope to Javier.
“What’s in your bag?” Javier asked.
“Aaah! I didn’t like to arrive empty handed.” Rico produced an almost full bottle of wine.
Carlos stood up and quickly produced three glasses from the kitchen.
“It’s too early, Carlos. We have not yet finished our coffee.” Javier admonished.
Carlos appeared not to hear as he carefully measured the wine into the glasses. The bottle was drained.
The three raised their drinks. “Salud!”
“What is this stuff?”
“Just a Rioja.” replied Rico. “Nothing special.”
“How long has it been open?” Javier enquired.
“Only a day. I don’t know how it survived this long.”
“Well, it has something.”
“It’s just a Rioja from the supermercado. Maybe you should write a poem about it, Javier.”
The room filled with warm laughter.
Rico suddenly became serious.
“I’m sorry I never made it to Miguel’s funeral.”
Carlos and Javier said nothing. Javier waved his hand to dismiss the apology.
“It doesn’t matter, Rico. We all have our lives. I’m sure that the dead appreciate this.”
“But, all the same.”
“Rico. Forget it.”
“But I was so surprised when it happened. He was still full of hope and yearning for things.”
Carlos nodded. “It’s not a bad way to go.”
Rico slowly shook his head. “He came. He made his mark. He gave up the ghost, as any decent person would, to make way for someone else. But that voice. I can still hear him.”
“It’s true. He was a walking poet.” Javier held up his glass and stared into it.
“He will be missed.” added Carlos.
The three nodded in silence.
Javier tore open his envelope. Inside was a letter.
“What is it?” asked Carlos.
Javier said nothing, but read the handwritten pages.
The others watched in silence.
Javier cleared his throat. “It’s a letter from my son.”
“What son?” Carlos stared incredulously.
“This one. The one in the letter.”
“I didn’t know you had a son.”
Javier shook the letter. "He wrote this.”
Carlos pondered in silence for a moment.
“Why did you never tell me?”
Rico’s gazed moved from one to the other as he tried to gauge what was going on – to enter the impenetrable zone the two men sometimes occupied.
“Do I have to tell you everything? Can I have nothing to myself?”
“But it’s normal to talk about these things.” protested Carlos, hurt.
“Please. Carlos. Don’t pester me. It is still before noon – I can only take so much.”
Outside the window, swallows picked off the morning’s insects in joyous chirping forays.
“Do you have any more children?”
“What business is it of yours? Do I pry into your family affairs?”
“I have no family, Javier. Pry as much as you wish.”
“Well my family is my business.”
“Are there others?”
“I expect so.”
“You don’t know?”
“There were many women – pretty ones like his mother.”
“When did you last see your son?” asked Rico.
Javier gave him a patient look.
“He was very small. A babe-in-arms. I was a seaman working the coastal ports. My life was not my own. Where the cargoes went, I went. It was never an option to remain in one port.”
“Why don’t you go and visit the boy?”
He is not a boy, Rico. He is a man. What would I say to him? No. It would only lead to other things.”
“What things?” asked Carlos.
“The past. Better to let the past sleep.”
“Why has he written to you?” asked Rico.
“I am trying to read.”
Carlos and Rico quietly sipped their wine. Carlos watched his friend with concern.
Javier read on for a few moments, then shook his head with a sigh.
“His mother has died. He wanted to tell me.”
“You never married?”
“I’m sorry.” offered Rico.
“He says that she never forgot me.”
“Is that it?” asked Carlos.
“He writes about her marriage. The husband used to beat her. Why do I need to hear this? I need a walk. Are you coming? We need food from the market.”
In a few moments all three were walking down the stairs and out into the morning light. The narrow street was still in half shade. Soon they were under the plane trees of the plaza and crossing the cobbled space. Delivery vans obstructed the pavement, stall-holders opened the shutters of their stalls.
Familiar voices called greetings as they passed tobacconists and hardware shops, hidden like caves in the ancient walls.
A trim lady in late middle-age was dragging her shopping trolley across the square.
“Hola! Chica!” Hola Mercedes! Buenos dias. Where is Pepe?”
“My daughter has him. I’m going to Galicia to stay with my sister for a few days. Do you remember her?”
“Of course.” said Javier. “She is the big girl.”
“Javier!” She scowled, then burst into laughter. “You’d better hope I don’t remember to tell her what you just said. I haven’t seen you since I heard about Miguel. I’m very sorry.”
Carlos smiled. “It was a shock, Mercedes. Nobody expected it.”
“Have you heard any more about the Will?”
“What Will?” asked Javier, bristling.
Mercedes looked at them wide-eyed.
Rico looked to Carlos and Javier. They looked at each other. Javier nodded slowly. “Juan.”
“It will be all over town by now.” said Carlos. “He is faster than CNN.”
Javier turned to Mercedes. “There is no Will. Not for us.”
“You mean we are not going to the reading?” asked Carlos.
Javier looked at him. “Do you think Miguel’s family would give us anything if it was of value? We will end up with his old slippers and note-pads. Forget it.”
“Well I would be content with just those things.” said Carlos, indignantly.
“You should go.” Mercedes urged. “It’s what Miguel wanted. He cared about his friends. In the end, his friends were all he had.”
“Everybody has an opinion on this.” Javier snapped and made off across the plaza. Carlos and Rico shrugged and smiled at Mercedes, then turned and left her standing under the trees.
They followed Javier to the tobacconist and waited outside the door. He was some time inside.
“Hey! Javier! Mercedes didn’t mean any harm. People are bound to take an interest. Miguel was well known and news travels fast. Why don’t we go to hear the Will?”
Javier’s eyes were red. “Don’t you think I’ve had enough death for one day?”
He wandered over to a bench by the fountain, snipped the end from a new cigar, and played the flame of his lighter over the brown folds.
Carlos sat beside him.
“I miss Miguel, too.” He patted Javier’s knee. “I’m sorry about your news.”
Rico looked on awkwardly as Javier quietly wept.