The Explanation

No, sir. You're wrong. It's not my fault. Who could possibly think of punishing a person because he defended his mother? Who? Tell me -- who? Do you know what it's like to battle from morning to night to get something to eat for your nine children? Do you know how much we have left or how much we need out of three karaku that we boil with a handful of porotos? Sure, you're a man and you look a lot like the fathers of my eight brothers and sisters, "Yes, I've seen you, but I don't remember..." That's why you don't understand me.

Where's my dad? I don't know. I never heard a single word mentioned about him. More than one time I thought I was like Jesus Christ and my mother's another Virgin Mary. On top of that, you're about to crucify me without a reason why, just like the first time it was done. Now I'm asking you, Who will protect my mother and my brothers and sisters while you've got me stuck here?

Some are lucky, like Benita, the godmother of Pastor. She and her five kids lived worse than us, all shriveled up with hunger and privation until Louis, the live-in boyfriend who never contributed a single thing to the pot, was killed. They stabbed him one night over some sort of woman question. He barely lived an hour because they cut his gut, said the doctor at the hospital. Poor Benita was desperate, and she didn't know what to do with his dead body -- she didn't have even one peso for a coffin. But then, there was a miracle. The medical students offered to buy the body to cut it open and study his death. That's they way they learn to heal. Lord, look at the way luck works! With the money they paid her, the widow put up a candy stand near the school. Now Benita's kids are fat and they've even started learning how to read. The little business is going full sail ahead. She calls the little stand, "Lucho" because Lucho's what she called Luis when he was alive. Lord, you see, some fathers are good for something after they're dead, like Luis.

But, ... my mother? How on earth was she getting along, with so much childrearing to do, alone? When I'm there, I try to come up with a few little things in the market, and I search through the spoiled goods, that with the occasional idiot and washing clothes gives us a way to make it by. We're pretty bad off, but we manage to eat. What do you think happened to us when Tomasita, my sister, got hit with a bad case of diarrhea? Dona Bienvenida, the witch doctor / midwife, rubbed the base of his spine, prayed over him, put a bandage of carpincho-grease on his belly, all for nothing. Mother was crying, and we all were crying because Tomasita -- the littlest one -- would die, said Auntie Bien. Do you know what I did, out of pure desperation? I took off running through the neighborhood until I got up the ravine; I turned, slowly, through the streets that bordered the Cathedral, and right there appeared a white Mercedes, parked. I didn't even have time to think. I grabbed the mirrors and a blink of the eye and I sold them. The person who has to get money is the man, and if I'm the only man in the family, then what other choice do I have? I hope you forgive me... Try me. Then, after you have the results, pardon me. Let's get all the fathers together and I'll bet that not even one of them will come out well. Don't count Inocencia (may he rest in peace). He was worse than an animal! Those kinds bring shame on us. And what shame!

Being poor isn't too serious if someone gives you a hand -- some bread, a shirt, or, in this case, a little rearview mirror for looking out for some Volvo or something. And, if you've got the feet for it, you can even sell oranges on the streetcorners where they have stoplights. That's how I managed to see a porno movie and, upon leaving the theater, smoke a cigarette. Depending on the type of cigarette you smoke, things happen. If it's a Benson, a young blonde will come up to you, with green eyes bigger than mint candies, and she'll stretch out her lovely colored lips to blow out the flame from your match. Then she'll come up even closer and her heat will burn your entire body. On the other hand, if you smoke a Marlboro you can cover the whole world on a wild horse galloping against the wind. Try one, and it will start to rain big-titted girls. If you prefer nudes, watch videos in the Korean bars. You like porn? You'll go crazy with the crazy bitches and you'll learn a lot about filthy whores.

The truth is, it would be a lot easier to live if there weren't any diseases. That's especially true for mothers. My mom didn't know what to do when we started to get sick. Desperation takes over and even I get it, but like I was telling you, true hell came in the form of that guy, and my mom was stuck with another asshole, this one worse than the others. Inocencio was the worst of all the guys I had ever met. He was a true devil. Curupi, the jungle monster, and Luison, the werewolf, were nothing compared to Inocencia! To make things worse, he was a good-for-nothing and bossy. I know that all bossy assholes are lazy good-for-nothings, that's why people try to run them off. With that guy in the house, no one could relax even for one minute; he was always lounging about, barking orders: "Where's my mate, goddammit! I want some meat stew -- lots of meat and no bone! I'm missing a white shirt!"

Mama was going along with his ridiculous demands more and more. The stuff I got off the street and in the market weren't enough. Wait... wait a minute, sir, and I'll tell you what the jerk did to us each night after he finished getting all dolled up. He dug through all our furniture in our only little bedroom to haul off every last little dime and dollar that only San Cayetano knows who we scrounged up. He was stealing from us!!! Why? So he could go out on the prowl, and later leave behind children for the girls he met. Children thrown off to the side, just like us. I swear it's the truth, sir!

Tell me, sir. Do you do it, too? Do you go out and have kids, then disappear? The truth is that even that wouldn't be so terrible any more. What's serious is when he beats up our mom. It's bad. You try to disappear like smoke so as not to hear or to see. You put anything you can over yourself while you hear smacks and blows. The dog comes in and I clench together my trembling knees and I cover my head with the first thing I can lay my hands on because it's filled with noise. My mother screams and screams and I start thinking of the pig my neighbors killed for the festival of San Blas. Then I scrub down my entire body, piece by piece, trying to clean myself of the blows and the pain. Sometimes I feel wet, and I don't know if it's from tears or from sweat. And that's the way it is, night after night, and every night. And the asshole falls asleep like nothing happened, like he's the only man in the house, like anything is cool. That was the way it went until one day I said to myself, "This is the last time this happens."

Tell me, Commissar, do you beat your wife? I'd like to know if you're capable of blaming your son because he stands up for his mother. I've been here seven days and I don't know why. There's no way I could explain it any more clearly. I couldn't go on hiding like a cowardly piece of shit, dying of shame, without moving a single finger to help her.

It's true. That morning I waited for Inocencio, and I was hiding behind the door. Yes, sir, I hit him again and again and again, with the full force of my rage. I had to gut him like an animal!! Yes, sir. It's true. I'm eleven years old and my name is Manuel. Just Manuel.