At Seven in the Evening

"Little green leaf, little green leaf, if you don't have a set you lose."

(Popular Paraguayan round)

It is seven o'clock. The girl doesn't need a watch to know it. The bells of the nearby church are already ringing for mass, and since it is summer, the sun takes its time in setting, creating fragments of stunning clarity.

Alejandra, just bathed and perfumed, like every afternoon, is seated in her large chair in the garden in the front yard. Her starched dress rustles lightly when she smooths her skirt. Her hair is arranged in double braids held back by two bands of silk which rub against her cheeks.

It's seven o'clock. She knows it because the hot wind carries the voices from the round in the plaza. "I've lost a little girl, cataplin, cataplin, cataplero..."

Suddenly, everything vibrates because the sharp, cutting chirp of the cicada has begun from a neighboring tree. Quickly, it there is no delay, they will hear the whistle of the suburban arriving at the central station.

Dionisio greets her and begins to water the garden. Following the directions of his employer, he has waited until sunset to water the plants. The first hit of water rings over the leaves and immediately the smell of wet dirt rises up.

Cleo flees from the intrusive sprinkler that soaks the jasmine bush and takes refuge on the chair next to Alejandra. With a light mewing sound it rubs its soft fur against the legs of its owner. Only a movement from her is sufficient to make the cat leap with its delicate agility to coil up in her lap.

The girl embraces her little pampered cat; she caresses its back with its stiff fur and later her fingers curl in the warm fur of its throat where a grateful purring is boiling.

The gardener is whistling, as is his custom. Dionisio speaks very little, but he's a great whistler. His ability in "executing" comes forth in the flourishes with which he embellishes his interpretations, and in the form that keeps the beat and changes of tone, as if an entire symphony were issuing forth from his lips. He knows quite a few polkas, gallops and marches, cheerful and vibrant, but also sometimes, like today he also whistles sad melodies.

It is seven o'clock in the evening. Alejandra knows that Se-orita Perla will come by soon, coming back from her position in the post office. She has organized a little set of greetings and she has to have an idea of when sheOs coming so she can take advantage of this perfect opportunity.

Yes. Perla is approaching the house. She can already hear the little heels of her light footwear, clattering down the bare stretches of the sidewalk.

"Good-bye, Alejandra! Little green leaf!" she says in greeting to her friend, rustling a branch of an orange tree on the side of the street.

"Little green leaf!" responds the girl, showing she can snatch up the closest plant.

Perla stammers for an instant. She's about the say that that's an alcalipha leaf and it's red, not green. But, something very tender urges her to stop and shout with false cheer.

"It's a tie!"

Triumphant, the blind girl smiles.