A couple of years ago I was briefly inspired to write a short story based on a case I found in the Quito archives of Dr. D.n Ignacio Martinez del Escobar, arrested for posing as a physician (among many other things). I never did write that story, just a few opening paragraphs. I found them today when foraging the attic of my harddrive. I figure, whether I ever return to an attempt to write fiction again, I might as well put those few words up here on parezcoydigo. Such as it is, six hundred whole words….
Doctor Don Ygnacio Martinez del Escobar was awakened by the heat of the midday sun. He opened his eyes to find himself lying in the quebraba just south of the Monastery of the Nuns of Carmen de la Antigua Fundación. Don Ygnacio sat up, and took stock of himself. He noticed immediately that his hat was missing, his cloak was soiled, and a combination of vomit, spittle, and escabeche stained the cuffs of his linen shirt in a manner that did not befit a man of his station. But, these were simply distractions from the doctor’s chief concern— the searing pain that cut back from his deep-set eyes into the recesses of his head, and radiated down, exiting in the back at the top of his spine, and in the front issuing from his cheekbones, as if the deeply-tanned cracks and wrinkles of his face that marked the fifty years Nuestro Señor had granted him on this earth were channels, rivulets, ravines for his suffering. His jaw ached. The pain came in pulses as Don Ygnacio fought to get his bearings; it was encouraged by the glare of the noon sun, which was surprisingly warm and bright despite the depth of the ravine. The air was thin in Quito, and offered little resistance to the intensity of the sun. The doctor ached for the shadows, but each movement set anew the pain flowing through his head. His only relief came in the form of the swirling breezes that released the cool air that had settled in the Andean night in the nooks and crannies of the deeply cut gully.
Luckily for Don Ygnacio it was August, which meant that the wind was constantly blowing and the relief came in continual waves. August was a dangerous month, when the saints and the Virgen de la Merced and the Lord Jesus fought for control of the atmosphere with the huacas and their mountains and lakes and rivers. The instability was disconcerting, and often manifested in the narrow, steep streets of the city when the barrios of Quito felt an irresistible urge to shove off authority. Normally, the natural order of the world prevailed, shorn up by the whitewashed stone walls of the Sagrario’s impressive block houses, churches, and jails. There were times, though, when the balance between Spanish institutions and Pachamama’s temples of lava, steam, and stone was uncertain for a fraction too long. In those moments either the barrios or the earth would explode in violent convulsions. August was dangerous, because the winds testified constantly to cracks in the veneer of normalcy that defined daily life for the forty-thousand inhabitants of a city cloistered by towering volcanoes and cavernous gorges. When the winds finally abated, the rains would come and travel would go from difficult to nearly impossible. News that took weeks or months to travel from Guayaquil or Cuenca, more-less Lima or Bogota, would take many more months to arrive, if the mail made it at all. The isolation gave a sense of timelessness, of geologic immobility that was a welcome relief from rapidity of August’s winds.
Such isolation was useful for a man like Don Ygnacio, and news of his past indeed was slow in catching up with him. At the moment, though, any fear of his past was subservient to the craving need to defeat the pain. As a doctor, Don Ygnacio knew the medicine he needed. Or at least, if not as a doctor, then certainly as a boracho he knew. He knew the pain would never abate until he found his way to a bottle of aguardiente. And he was right.