Volume III (Summer 2008)
ISSN 1934-4324

Mauricio Wacquez,
Peter Robertson, trans.

Mauricio Wacquez (1939-2000) was a Chilean writer and academic. He was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Havana and the Sorbonne in Paris. His many literary works include the short fictions, “Cinco y una ficciones” (1963), the novel, “Parentesis” (1975) and “Epifania de una sombra”, (2000) the first part of his projected trilogy, unfinished at the time of his death in Spain.

Peter Robertson’s fiction, critical articles and literary translations have appeared in many publications including “The Literary Review”, “Turnrow” "The Boston Literary Magazine" and "Spike Magazine". Born in Scotland, he is based in Buenos Aires and Madrid.


The Music from the Street

by Mauricio Wacquez

For Marta Gil Solá

(Madrid, April, 1962)

Translated from the Spanish by Peter Robertson

The infant boy that Gregoria held in her arms unleashed an ear-piercing shriek. Jolted into action at the sound of it, she started to rock him back and forth with that langorous movement which, over the years, she had come to perfect. Better this than to stand alone at the window, not knowing what to do with her arms as they dangled by her sides. Mindful that this was her best option, at least until the music from the street got under way, she kept on rocking the boy. Later, with a weathered hand, she wiped some drops of milk trickling down his chin, then made an overmastering effort to lull him again to sleep.


On Sundays, with everyone away, Gregoria communed with ghosts. Without its habitual occupants, the house seethed with phantoms. Disembodied from its daily reality, it floated in a dimension that was scarcely palpable. Alone with her infant charge, as the afternoon encroached, she felt as indeterminate as every lurking presence.


"How this silence unnerves me," she reflected, looking again at the window. Of course, it was not yet seven o' clock, and that was why this stillness prevailed. As soon as the orchestra struck up, she would walk over to the balcony and look below, hanging on each melody as it wafted up from the street. If only she could find a way to wrest an hour's reprieve from her duties, that was all she asked for. As the infant in her arms drifted off, succumbing to the movements with which she ensnared him, she felt a surge of relief, sensing that her modest request would soon be granted. But then, in a flash, she was forced to concede how credulous she had been as another plangent howl pierced her heart.


The fierce heat starting to abate, she perceived the window as an ever-distant glow. This was her lot, to end up a withered hag, slaving over the offspring of others. If only this mewling infant would prove to be an illusion, and she could be transposed to a more congenial reality, kissing her own children goodnight, smoothing her husband's tousled hair. Perhaps even now, that very man was down there in the street, waiting for her expectantly. But much as she longed to rush out to meet him, she felt paralyzed by the deadweight of responsibility. "Don't take your eyes off the boy, even for an instant," she had been warned. With each second ticking away, she felt her fate closing in on her but was nonetheless consoled by the window through which, on Sundays like this, the music would rise up invariably. Without these cadences, weekdays hung more heavily than when she had been young, with every illusion intact. She saw that she had duped herself, and, furthermore, how gullible she had been to have heeded the advice of others. "Work as a nanny, Gregoria, and you'll be given digs, and a salary. And once you get the hang of it, looking after children is a piece of cake." But, clenching her fist in a gesture of defiance, she was forced to admit the futility of lavishing an atom of love on creations of other wombs when, in a final act of betrayal, each one ended up being snatched from her. By now the room was engulfed in shadows and she could barely make out the window. This was the cue for the music which, any moment now, would surely begin. Looking at the infant in her arms, she exulted in the knowledge that he had finally nodded off. If only she could will herself to stay awake, she would be able to enjoy the music at last. But, felled by fatigue, she closed her eyes. In the formless welter of images that assailed her, she somehow deciphered her own face, an extension of the room itself, all its color ebbing away. The afternoon had not yet renounced the embers of its warmth, and particles of sweat crept all over her body.


The wind, getting up in the street below, came to her at first as a muffled monotone. Advancing only to recede, it seemed intent on baiting her. As she strained to listen to it, she was enthralled by its rhythm which, she was certain, held the key to some portentous message. The window, draped in its wreath of foliage, contrived to wring a last few vestiges of blue from the waning afternoon. Transfixed, all she could do was to sit there, a solitary witness, as the day, defeated, nursed its bruised and vinous tones. Tired of its taunting, the wind, in one imperious gust, divulged its message. This was the summons and she would not shrink from it.  Like a somnambulist, she walked over to the window. Looking down, she saw that the musicians had not yet arrived. "They have taken too long," she lamented. Through the cloud of dust, she could make out a cluster of children standing near the roundabout. Leaning over the balcony, she drew one last deep breath. As she fell, she held out an unsteady hand, fumbling for the light switch, to ascertain her bearings