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Things happen all the time in the world, but not all things are as interesting as others, from time to time the type of things that you can’t forget happen, those things that even if you try to shake them off, they never leave you and, what’s more, they sprout involuntarily, they have in themselves a message or a warning only understood by those implicated. When a story has this, even if it’s fiction it mysteriously turns in something more real, and by “more real” I mean in a personal whisper.
We call it conscience because it resembles an inner knowledge that reveals good and bad in ordinary things. There is nothing more ordinary than a man sleeping peacefully after cleaning his patio with a broom, but if the broom turns out to be his neighbor’s, undoubtedly, this man will notice at the darkest hour of his night something extra-ordinary.
To be rechoncho there are some requirements to meet, and by meeting them you can say goodbye to certain abilities. However, Rechoncho’s skills were responsible for being the support for the most fanciful legends that could feed the imagination of even the wildest beast.
The matter of the “legends” (as the villagers usually call gossip) kept the residents busy, who, to this day, usually meet at certain points in town to drink every night with the excuse of a new story.
When Rechoncho was seen in the streets, surprised people stammered awkwardly:
—It’s him! —But as soon as the others turned to see the show, Rechoncho would disappear.
Everyone would have thought Rechoncho was a drunken story, except for the fact that he could be seen sitting in front of his bedroom, intently watching the dim, intermittent light that hung from the top of the pole in front of his house. No matter the time of the day, if you passed by his house, you could see through a plum tree and the frame of the front door, the entire figure of Rechoncho.
Drunk men still with a sense of shame, who returned home in the dark so as not to be seen, preferred to give themselves away rather than hold what their battered eyes saw, because even at night, with some effort, it was possible to see the unmistakable silhouette of Rechoncho in his usual corner. While some claimed to see him in the streets at a certain time, others swore they
“...except for the fact that he could be seen sitting in front of his bedroom...”
had not seen him leave his place at the same time. Thus, every night Rechoncho filled not only his overalls, but also the mouths and ears of the entire town.
After all the fantastic explanations by the neighbors, the conclusion was, by democratic rumor, that Rechoncho was full of “omnipresence”, without really understanding what that meant, since “bilocation” is the word they were looking for.
Very thin are the souls that feed only on what they want to hear and refuse to listen to the truth, because the truth widens and the lie narrows, the truth points out and the lie hides, although sometimes the truth is hidden and the lie exposed, but not even one of these souls was thin enough to enter Esbelto, of whom it was said precisely that, that he was so slender that not even a soul could fit him.
Not far from dawn, Esbelto, full of hunger, rode upriver on a hastily repaired bicycle. A handlebar without rubbers that when pointing to the right the rim went to the left and vice versa, the frame had six extra limbs and an emblem with the inscription SUNDAY finishing off the stem. Thanks to Esbelto’s incredible height, each pedaling drew a circle with his knee that passed over his head, it was so elongated that another rumor said that the historic drought that had hit the town years ago had been caused thanks to Esbelto covering the entire river’s lenght trying to wash his pants.
Esbelto was a not-looking guy, holding a glance with him numbed the throat, the apparent ferocity of his countenance scared away any attempt for friendship. The ferocity that men appear is in some cases useless against the devilish whispers of a hungry body, and very often meekness conquers more than external violence, any path exhausts, but a trembling conscience is a heavier burden than an exhausted body.
After passing the last light pole on the street and getting lost in darkness, Esbelto came out again and made a splendid skid that thanks to its airless tires no one heard, cutting the maneuver right in front of a large plum tree. He got off his bike and stuck it with two stones per tire, leaving it ready to ride.
Esbelto headed towards the tree avoiding the branches and the further he got from his bike the less ferocious he felt, because having a small bi-
“...Esbelto, full of hunger, rode upriver on a hastily repaired bicycle.”
cycle by his side made him feel bigger, and halfway he stopped waiting for a voice that made him turn back. He kept advancing, and swallowing distances with the length of his stride, he passed first under the plum tree camouflaged with the thinness of its branches, he was almost invisible because he was even thinner, and second, upon reaching the door, he rested his foot on a frame of steel and then, with the left one already on the fence, he climbed in two steps to the roof. Despite the darkness of the night and the fact that he could only see a few inches ahead, it seemed to Esbelto that there was too much light exposing his felonies.
Esbelto continued looking for the best place to get off, and although a darkish cloud moved and let moonlight in, it was not enough to safely pass the unknown path, but Es-
“...upon reaching the door, he rested his foot on a frame of steel and then, with the left one already on the fence, he climbed in two steps to the roof..”
belto kept going. The man walking was not the same man who steps back had skidded and fearlessly dismounted his bicycle, with each step he took his night became darker and with nothing to compare himself to, he felt smaller, but Esbelto knew that he no longer had a choice but to remain calm despite the embarrassment.
The roof wasn’t long, in fact, it was only a few meters long, but it felt long like waiting for comfort, and just when he was at the top, not of the roof, but of his shame, the darkness of his feet took the ground where he was standing making him fall. The fall counts not from the feet to the ground, but from the head, for this reason, while gravity was doing its thing, he had time to turn his gaze in the air, allowing a glance at the great circle through which he fell and through which he could see the stars, feeling like falling to the bottom of a hole.
—The last time I checked, the roofs didn’t have holes —Esbelto thought as he stood still in case someone had heard him, but there wasn’t a whisper and that was precisely what made the night more miserable, a man knocked down to the ground end of a hole, who can only look at the sky with desire, if the stars had a conscience, they would have voluntarily turned off so as not to humiliate him more.
A little later, Esbelto stood up and dusted off his right shoulder with his same right hand, encircling his back, and his left shoulder in the same way, took from his pocket a cloth sack where he planned to put what he wanted. In front of him, thanks to a large window he could see the silhouette of the faucet that served as a compass to
“...allowing a glance at the great circle through which he fell and through which he could see the stars...”
the kitchen, and doing so in silence he began to fill the sack. The more robust the sack was, the more weight was dragged by Esbelto naturally and what at first promised him relief, turned out to be heavy affliction.
Around the kitchen the plants seemed to be painted, because not a grain of sand was blown by the wind, except for one plant placed in Rechoncho’s usual corner that moved strangely back and forth. Not realizing the contradiction, and already having the bag to burst, Esbelto left the kitchen by the right side. “The plant” stopped rocking and began to move quickly behind him, Esbelto, who was walking at a short step (which for him was two meters per step) when he took the third, he quickly turned his gaze and “the plant” stopped unnoticed, he went ahead and took the fourth step. Right in front of the white front door he heard Rechoncho say in a deep voice —I have seen many lean trees, but they all grow from the ground to the sky, I never saw one that wanted to stick so problematically to the ground —with a mocking, but friendly laugh.
Surprised, Esbelto turned so quickly that his shoulders reached his eyes a second later, even so, by seeing Rechoncho silhouette reveal itself in the ambient light he felt as light as a feather, and realized that in Rechoncho huge right hand was the sack he had a few seconds ago on his left.
Released from the weight, Esbelto was able to extend his knees and reach his true commanding height thinking it would do any good. He had never been beaten to a pulp, but seeing Rechoncho huge hands and the way he was swinging easily from side to side the sack he could barely hold on, he knew he was in danger of being initiated and concluded that he did not want to find out and slowly deflated his chest. The air coming out of Esbelto was the only thing that moved the plants, because the wind was not blowing, not even the crickets sang and the atmosphere became more and more uncomfortable at time.
—I’m just trying to put myself out of misery —Esbelto said.
—Hold this —Rechoncho replied, and with great speed Rechoncho thrust the sack of food into Esbelto’s hands.
—I see you just as miserable —Unbelievably already having Rechoncho the sack in his hands again.
Looking at Rechoncho’s tummy, Esbelto forgot his guilt for a moment and said —What do you know about misery and hunger if you have never had to take care of the minutes in the morning so as not to reach the afternoon without eating and tried to skip the night by sleeping early?
—Esbelto looked through the door’s grid towards the street muttering —Scarcity is like a prison where they take you without crime. There is no trial, judge, or justice, only executioners, the executioner passes in front of you with the keys hanging around his neck, but he does not release you, because to release you he needs to take your place and become a prisoner, this prison cannot be left without a guest. There must be some of us inside, or all of us, some must lack everything, or we all lack something. —Taking a breath, he continued saying —The executioners are encouraged when they see us, because they are not in misery, they admire us without wanting to be us and thank God for not being. When their eyes soften, they throw their leftovers on the floor and wait for us to take them with gratitude. They don’t speak, but they offend with their way of giving, because we are humiliated on top of hungry. Good face would fill more than their crumbs.
—As soon as Esbelto returned to himself, he began to climb the door’s grid while he was still talking, to see if he managed to escape, but suddenly he felt a slap that, had not been stopped by the brick floor, would have sent him back to his childhood. He stood up angrily with the veins on his forehead like deltas, but when he saw Rechoncho’s hammer-like hands again and remembered what he was doing, he thought he could hardly have slept without that caress.
—I’m brimming with luck —Esbelto said, shaking himself as he stood up. —I don’t know which is worse, beating the poor guy or sending him to jail —Esbelto said, looking at Rechoncho out of the corner of his eye, as if he thought he had received enough penance.
—Fret not —replied Rechoncho, who kept swinging the sack of food —I don’t think there are handcuffs of your size anyway, besides, a thief is a thief when he escapes with something and without looking back loses his heart —Rechoncho was not the corny type of guy, but said this because in amid the silence, Esbelto’s heart pounded so loudly that with each beat he rose from the ground.
—And from what I see, you don’t take anything or forget anything —Rechoncho said.
—We agree on that —replied Esbelto spreading his arms —What could I leave if I arrived with nothing? —continued.
—He who embraces poverty very often witnesses the best things in this world and expects those of the next —replied Rechoncho.
—Do you want to know what I’ve seen? —replied Esbelto —I see men with sick eyes, with lives long in time, but short in meaning, they strive not to look at the captive they imprison, until we make the noise of their nights and silence us with leftovers, then, they leave promising more help tomorrow, giving time for their guilt to wane. For the poor, stealing is revolutionary! the uncertain generosity of tomorrow, the revolutionary makes it justice today. It is fair that everyone has what they need, there is no reason to hoard while others need. This is the true virtue, this is the true generosity, the one that works before the bodies fall, not the one that raises bodies between tears.
—Two liters of milk, half a dozen eggs, three cans of beans, two tomatoes, half a kilogram of tortilla, boiling chocolate, turkey ham, two kilograms of beef and three kilograms of chicken milanese, and a milkshake,” said Rechoncho.
—The list sounded familiar to Esbelto, but didn’t bat an eyelid, he was too worried about getting out soon —I have a question, leader of the insurrection —said Rechoncho.
—Hurry up to talk —Esbelto replied without removing his teeth and clenching his bony hands at Rechoncho’s mockery.
—If your justice consists in everyone having what is necessary, how does the thief know what the people he steals from need? Tell me, does he stop to estimate the need of the one whose property he snatches? Or would it not be better to say that if he stops depriving his victim is because he did not bring a larger sack or because the night is not long enough? And... if he had a sack and a larger night, wouldn’t he continue to strip at will, taking everything, even their name? —asked Rechoncho sarcastically curious and continued —The captive you speak of looks with greed over envy at the executioner’s goods, and the executioner sees nothing other than his goods with greed over idolatry, both in the dark for a good that in the face of their freedom is no more than a miserable wage. How do you call this justice, how do you call it virtue if it is born from the same selfish and idolatrous desire of those who do not share what they have or share leftovers of their leftovers? —Rechoncho kept talking, scaring thunders with his voice —You outburst with the same evil with which they hoard, and make no mistake, vicious thieves are as greedy as those who deny the release of others from the teeth of hunger.
—Esbelto counterattacked by saying —The virtue you talk about is as virtual as the food in my mind, it does not make today’s hunger disappear, and the poor do not live for tomorrow.
—Actual hunger came about because of the actual virtue that wasn’t there yesterday —Rechoncho said quickly, as he continued to circle the food sack.
—Esbelto followed the sack with his sunken eyes and two turns before being completely hypnotized, he got a move on saying —Because their virtues have not arrived, we must now take other paths of justice and if lackness pervades into their life, let them know that it did into mine first.
—I’m not surprised that your brain is as deviated as your handlebars —Rechoncho rammed, not knowing how to hold back —You don’t see in front of you the darkness in which you walk, your false virtue not seeking for justice? You are pursuing revenge, and that is where your true narrowness resides, not in the food you do not have but in the one you do not accept. There is one thing that scarce or abundant can give, and it is their fidelity to virtue because in this way, already walking in lights, they are the light of others.
—While Rechoncho was talking, Esbelto felt himself widen as he listened, and for the first time his fingers did not fit between his pants and his waist, feeling contradictorily lighter.
—Those who are wide in virtue, even if they have little, feel they have received much because they are free to pursue what is good, and what a light shines on them when they find it! Everything they appreciate is under this light and they prefer it over all stones, just as the abundants, who also know it, they want nothing more than to become poor. They no longer have anything of their own; what they possess becomes the cooing of others. Thus, self-sovereign, the dispossessed and the possessed kings can both become, because the ruler is the one who serves the Good —said Rechoncho, approaching Esbelto in light speed.
Before any word, Rechoncho took him by one of his suspenders, and led him to the living room while Esbelto was helplessly foaming at the mouth.
—Now you are free to go... but not before you get out of the hole you fell from! And molding Esbelto into a ball, Rechoncho made a formidable clearance out of him that looked like an incendiary shooting star shining for the whole town.
Esbelto’s flight ended on top of his bike perfectly seated, and with a notch and raising his arm declaring revenge he pedaled away.
His bike was old, but so was their story together, Esbelto knew how to recognize the squeaks of his loyal companion, so he soon realized that something strange was sounding in the front tire, and the weight of the handlebars was not familiar. He stopped to look for some starlight, discovering his sack full as a candy on the street of ants is, tied to the handlebars. He opened the sack and began to name what he saw —Two liters of milk, half a dozen eggs… —As the list progressed, the volume of his voice decreased until a shiver ran through his bones (naturally, since he had nothing else) to recognize that the food in the sack was equal to the list of groceries that every month was delivered in the town only to the poorest of the poor.
The best part was a glass jar of berry smoothie that coincidentally was Esbelto’s favorite, better always after giving it a shake, something Rechoncho had already taken care of by circling the food sack. Esbelto took the bottle, raised it while he bowed his head with the respect that ruffians also know how to give, and filled his nothingness.
The next morning, electricians from the town hall miraculously turned up to install a new light pole seventy meters after the last one on the road upriver. That same night, Rechoncho rested in his usual corner looking at the post in front of his house, which this time, its light was no longer dim, but perpetually blazing and seventy meters upriver, Esbelto’s house could be seen under the new post with a similar light.