Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Descent of Winter: 12/18

Paul Klee, Bust of a Child

   Here by the watertank and the stone, mottled granite, big as a rhinocerous head——cracked on one side——Damn families. My grandfather was a businessman, you know. He kept the ice house in Mayaguez. They imported the ice. He kept it and sold it. My grandmother, my mother's mother, would make syrups, strawberry and like that. He would sell them also. But his half-brother Henriquez, there's plenty of that in my family, would go there, to the ice house, and drink all day long without paying anything, until the man my grandfather had there complained. "You know Henriquez comes and drinks five or six glasses of syrup and never pays anything."He did that. Just drank, lived at the house, took anything he pleased. That's how, as my mother says, she came to know Manuel Henriquez, her half-cousin, better than she did her own brother who was away much of the time studying. Henriquez would never work, help or do anything until my grandfather had to tell him to stop. It was at about this time my grandfather died and this is how my mother came to hate and distrust the Germans. All my grandfather's friends were German, all but a few. "It was a man named Krug. I suppose he may have been father's partner anyhow he was his best friend, I don't know. When my father died, Krug came to my mother and asked her if she had anything because my father owed some money. She had an hacienda in the country that she had since before she was married, her own. She gave that. Then Krug came and said it was all gone, that there was nothing left. After that, he turned his back on the family (the skunk). It was the Spanish druggist Mestre who lent my mother the money to buy a few things and sell them to make a little business. He was a Catalan——they can't say Pepe, like a Castilian but he would call his wife, Papeeta. My mother would send to Paris for a half dozen fine shirts, but fine, fine shirts and a few things like that. My brother was in Paris studying. When Krug told my mother she must send for him, that there was nothing left, she wrote. He answered her that he would sweep the streets of Paris rather than leave. She would send him money she made on her little business. Sometimes, he told us afterward, he would keep a sou in his pocket two weeks so as not to say he hadn't any money. The students helped each other. Barclay, an Englishman, was one of his best friends. He helped him."

   That's why my own mother's education ended abruptly. Sometimes she would copy out letters for my grandmother, child that she was, to send to Paris. When her brother returned a doctor he himself sent her to Paris to study painting. But he married and he began to have children and he never collected any money——he had a wife too. So finally he sent for my mother to go back to Santa Domingo where they were living then. Mother cried for three days then she had to go and leave it all. When she got there her brother told her about his friend, Blackwell. A fine fellow, the best in the world, "pero no es musicante." Blackwell was in the States at the time of my mother's return home from Paris having his teeth fixed.

   When a little child would be bothersome they would tell her to go ask the maid for a little piece of ten te aya.

   When my brother was happy he would sing, walking up and down kicking out his feet: Si j'├ętais roi de Bayaussi-e, tu serais reine-e par ma foi! You made me think of him right away.


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