“Tuesday
Siesta” by
Gabriel
García
Márquez,
1962 (translated
by
Gregory
Rabassa
and
J.S.
Bernstein)


The
train
emerged
from
the
quivering
tunnel
of
sandy
rocks,
began
to
cross
the
symmetrical,
interminable

banana
plantations,
and
the
air
became
humid
and
they
couldn’t
feel
the
sea
breeze
any
more.
A
stifling
blast
of

smoke
came
in
the
car
window.
On
the
narrow
road
parallel
to
the
railway
there
were
oxcarts
loaded
with
green

bunches
of
bananas.
Beyond
the
road,
in
uncultivated
spaces
set
at
odd
intervals
there
were
offices
with
electric

fans,
red‐brick
buildings,
and
residences
with
chairs
and
little
white
tables
on
the
terraces
among
dusty
palm
trees
and
rosebushes.
It
was
eleven
in
the
morning,
and
the
heat
had
not
yet
begun.
“You’d
better
close
the
window,”
the
woman
said.
“Your
hair
will
get
full
of
soot.”
The
girl
tried
to,
but
the
shade
wouldn’t
move
because
of
the
rust.
They
were
the
only
passengers
in
the
lone
third‐class
car.
Since
the
smoke
of
the
locomotive
kept
coming

through
the
window,
the
girl
left
her
seat
and
put
down
the
only
things
they
had
with
them:
a
plastic
sack
with

some
things
to
eat
and
a
bouquet
of
flowers
wrapped
in
newspaper.
She
sat
on
the
opposite
seat,
away
from
the

window,
facing
her
mother.
They
were
both
in
severe
and
poor
mourning
clothes.
The
girl
was
twelve
years
old,
and
it
was
the
first
time
she’d
ever
been
on
a
train.
The
woman
seemed
too
old
to

be
her
mother,
because
of
the
blue
veins
on
her
eyelids
and
her
small,
soft,
and
shapeless
body,
in
a
dress
cut

like
a
cassock.
She
was
riding
with
her
spinal
column
braced
firmly
against
the
back
of
the
seat,
and
held
a
peeling

patent‐leather
handbag
in
her
lap
with
both
hands.
She
bore
the
conscientious
serenity
of
someone
accustomed

to
poverty.
By
twelve
the
heat
had
begun.
The
train
stopped
for
ten
minutes
to
take
on
water
at
a
station
where
there
was

no
town.
Outside,
in
the
mysterious
silence
of
the
plantations,
the
shadows
seemed
clean.
But
the
still
air
inside

the
car
smelled
like
untanned
leather.
The
train
did
not
pick
up
speed.
It
stopped
at
two
identical
towns
with

wooden
houses
painted
bright
colors.
The
woman’s
head
nodded
and
she
sank
into
sleep.
The
girl
took
off
her

shoes.
Then
she
went
to
the
washroom
to
put
the
bouquet
of
flowers
in
some
water.
When
she
came
back
to
her
seat,
her
mother
was
waiting
to
eat.
She
gave
her
a
piece
of
cheese,
half
a
cornmeal

pancake,
and
a
cookie,
and
took
an
equal
portion
out
of
the
plastic
sack
for
herself.
While
they
ate,
the
train

crossed
an
iron
bridge
very
slowly
and
passed
a
town
just
like
the
ones
before,
except
that
in
this
one
there
was
a

crowd
in
the
plaza.
A
band
was
playing
a
lively
tune
under
the
oppressive
sun.
At
the
other
side
of
town
the

plantations
ended
in
a
plain
which
was
cracked
from
the
drought.
The
woman
stopped
eating.
“Put
on
your
shoes,”
she
said.
The
girl
looked
outside.
She
saw
nothing
but
the
deserted
plain,
where
the
train
began
to
pick
up
speed
again,

but
she
put
the
last
piece
of
cookie
into
the
sack
and
quickly
put
on
her
shoes.
The
woman
gave
her
a
comb.
“Comb
your
hair,”
she
said.
The
train
whistle
began
to
blow
while
the
girl
was
combing
her
hair.
The
woman
dried
the
sweat
from
her
neck

and
wiped
the
oil
from
her
face
with
her
fingers.
When
the
girl
stopped
combing,
the
train
was
passing
the

outlying
houses
of
a
town
larger
but
sadder
than
the
earlier
ones.
“If
you
feel
like
doing
anything,
do
it
now,”
said
the
woman.
“Later,
don’t
take
a
drink
anywhere
even
if
you’re

dying
of
thirst.
Above
all,
no
crying.”
The
girl
nodded
her
head.
A
dry,
burning
wind
came
in
the
window,
together
with
the
locomotive’s
whistle
and

the
clatter
of
the
old
cars.
The
woman
folded
the
plastic
bag
with
the
rest
of
the
food
and
put
it
in
the
handbag.

For
a
moment
a
complete
picture
of
the
town,
on
that
bright
August
Tuesday,
shone
in
the
window.
The
girl

wrapped
the
flowers
in
the
soaking‐wet
newspapers,
moved
a
little
farther
away
from
the
window,
and
stared
at

her
mother.
She
received
a
pleasant
expression
in
return.
The
train
began
to
whistle
and
slowed
down.
A

moment
later
it
stopped.
There
was
no
one
at
the
station.
On
the
other
side
of
the
street,
on
the
sidewalk
shaded
by
the
almond
trees,

only
the
pool
hall
was
open.
The
town
was
floating
in
the
heat.
The
woman
and
the
girl
got
off
the
train
and

crossed
the
abandoned
station—the
tiles
split
apart
by
the
grass
growing
up
between—and
over
to
the
shady

side
of
the
street.
It
was
almost
two.
At
that
hour,
weighted
down
by
drowsiness,
the
town
was
taking
a
siesta.
The
stores,
the

town
offices,
the
public
school
were
closed
at
eleven,
and
didn’t
reopen
until
a
little
before
four,
when
the
train

went
back.
Only
the
hotel
across
from
the
station,
with
its
bar
and
pool
hall,
and
the
telegraph
office
at
one
side

of
the
plaza
stayed
open.
The
houses,
most
of
them
built
on
the
banana
company’s
model,
had
their
doors
locked

from
inside
and
their
blinds
drawn.
In
some
of
them
it
was
so
hot
that
the
residents
ate
lunch
in
the
patio.
Others

leaned
a
chair
against
the
wall,
in
the
shade
of
the
almond
trees,
and
took
their
siesta
right
out
in
the
street.
Keeping
to
the
protective
shade
of
the
almond
trees,
the
woman
and
the
girl
entered
the
town
without

disturbing
the
siesta.
They
went
directly
to
the
parish
house.
The
woman
scratched
the
metal
grating
on
the
door

with
her
fingernail,
waited
a
moment,
and
scratched
again.
An
electric
fan
was
humming
inside.
They
did
not

hear
the
steps.
They
hardly
heard
the
slight
creaking
of
a
door,
and
immediately
a
cautious
voice,
right
next
to

the
metal
grating:
“Who
is
it?”
The
woman
tried
to
see
through
the
grating.
“I
need
the
priest,”
she
said.
“He’s
sleeping
now.”
“It’s
an
emergency,”
the
woman
insisted.
Her
voice
showed
a
calm
determination.

The
door
was
opened
a
little
way,
noiselessly,
and
a
plump,
older
woman
appeared,
with
very
pale
skin
and
hair

the
color
of
iron.
Her
eyes
seemed
too
small
behind
her
thick
eyeglasses.
“Come
in,”
she
said,
and
opened
the
door
all
the
way.
They
entered
a
room
permeated
with
an
old
smell
of
flowers.
The
woman
of
the
house
led
them
to
a
wooden

bench
and
signaled
them
to
sit
down.
The
girl
did
so,
but
her
mother
remained
standing,
absentmindedly,
with

both
hands
clutching
the
handbag.
No
noise
could
be
heard
above
the
electric
fan.
The
woman
of
the
house
reappeared
at
the
door
at
the
far
end
of
the
room.
“He
says
you
should
come
back
after

three,”
she
said
in
a
very
low
voice.
“He
just
lay
down
five
minutes
ago.”
“The
train
leaves
at
three
thirty,”
said
the
woman.
It
was
a
brief
and
self‐assured
reply,
but
her
voice
remained
pleasant,
full
of
undertones.
The
woman
of
the

house
smiled
for
the
first
time.
“All
right,”
she
said.
When
the
far
door
closed
again,
the
woman
sat
down
next
to
her
daughter.
The
narrow
waiting
room
was
poor,

neat,
and
clean.
On
the
other
side
of
the
wooden
railing
which
divided
the
room,
there
was
a
worktable,
a
plain

one
with
an
oilcloth
cover,
and
on
top
of
the
table
a
primitive
typewriter
next
to
a
vase
of
flowers.
The
parish

records
were
beyond.
You
could
see
that
it
was
an
office
kept
in
order
by
a
spinster.
The
far
door
opened
and
this
time
the
priest
appeared,
cleaning
his
glasses
with
a
handkerchief.
Only
when
he

put
them
on
was
it
evident
that
he
was
the
brother
of
the
woman
who
had
opened
the
door.
“How
can
I
help
you?”
he
asked.
“The
keys
to
the
cemetery,”
said
the
woman.
The
girl
was
seated
with
the
flowers
in
her
lap
and
her
feet
crossed
under
the
bench.
The
priest
looked
at
her,

then
looked
at
the
woman,
and
then
through
the
wire
mesh
of
the
window
at
the
bright,
cloudless
sky.
“In
this
heat,”
he
said.
“You
could
have
waited
until
the
sun
went
down.”
The
woman
moved
her
head
silently.
The
priest
crossed
to
the
other
side
of
the
railing,
took
out
of
the
cabinet
a

notebook
covered
in
oilcloth,
a
wooden
penholder,
and
an
inkwell,
and
sat
down
at
the
table.
There
was
more

than
enough
hair
on
his
hands
to
account
for
what
was
missing
on
his
head.
“Which
grave
are
you
going
to
visit?”
he
asked.
“Carlos
Centeno’s,”
said
the
woman.
“Who?”
“Carlos
Centeno,”
the
woman
repeated.
The
priest
still
did
not
understand.
“He’s
the
thief
who
was
killed
here
last
week,”
said
the
woman
in
the
same
tone
of
voice.
“I
am
his
mother.”
The
priest
scrutinized
her.
She
stared
at
him
with
quiet
self‐control,
and
the
Father
blushed.
He
lowered
his
head

and
began
to
write.
As
he
filled
the
page,
he
asked
the
woman
to
identify
herself,
and
she
replied
unhesitatingly,

with
pre
cise
details,
as
if
she
were
reading
them.
The
Father
began
to
sweat.
The
girl
unhooked
the
buckle
of
her

left
shoe,
slipped
her
heel
out
of
it,
and
rested
it
on
the
bench
rail.
She
did
the
same
with
the
right
one.
It
had
all
started
the
Monday
of
the
previous
week,
at
three
in
the
morning,
a
few
blocks
from
there.
Rebecca,
a

lonely
widow
who
lived
in
a
house
full
of
odds
and
ends,
heard
above
the
sound
of
the
drizzling
rain
someone

trying
to
force
the
front
door
from
outside.
She
got
up,
rummaged
around
in
her
closet
for
an
ancient
revolver

that
no
one
had
fired
since
the
days
of
Colonel
Aureliano
Buendia,
and
went
into
the
living
room
without
turning

on
the
lights.
Orienting
herself
not
so
much
by
the
noise
at
the
lock
as
by
a
terror
developed
in
her
by
twenty

eight
years
of
loneliness,
she
fixed
in
her
imagination
not
only
the
spot
where
the
door
was
but
also
the
exact

height
of
the
lock.
She
clutched
the
weapon
with
both
hands,
closed
her
eyes,
and
squeezed
the
trigger.
It
was

the
first
time
in
her
life
that
she
had
fired
a
gun.
Immediately
after
the
explosion,
she
could
hear
nothing
except

the
murmur
of
the
drizzle
on
the
galvanized
roof.
Then
she
heard
a
little
metallic
bump
on
the
cement
porch,
and

a
very
low
voice,
pleasant
but
terribly
exhausted:
“Ah,
Mother.”
The
man
they
found
dead
in
front
of
the
house
in

the
morning,
his
nose
blown
to
bits,
wore
a
flannel
shirt
with
colored
stripes,
everyday
pants
with
a
rope
for
a

belt,
and
was
barefoot.
No
one
in
town
knew
him.
“So
his
name
was
Carlos
Centeno,”
murmured
the
Father
when
he
finished
writing.
“Centeno
Ayala,”
said
the
woman.
“He
was
my
only
boy.”
The
priest
went
back
to
the
cabinet.
Two
big
rusty
keys
hung
on
the
inside
of
the
door;
the
girl
imagined,
as
her

mother
had
when
she
was
a
girl
and
as
the
priest
himself
must
have
imagined
at
some
time,
that
they
were
Saint

Peter’s
keys.
He
took
them
down,
put
them
on
the
open
notebook
on
the
railing,
and
pointed
with
his
forefinger

to
a
place
on
the
page
he
had
just
written,
looking
at
the
woman.
“Sign
here.”
The
woman
scribbled
her
name,
holding
the
handbag
under
her
arm.
The
girl
picked
up
the
flowers,
came
to
the

railing
shuffling
her
feet,
and
watched
her
mother
attentively.
The
priest
sighed.
“Didn’t
you
ever
try
to
get
him
on
the
right
track?”
The
woman
answered
when
she
finished
signing.
“He
was
a
very
good
man.”
The
priest
looked
first
at
the
woman
and
then
at
the
girl,
and
realized
with
a
kind
of
pious
amazement
that
they

were
not
about
to
cry.
The
woman
continued
in
the
same
tone:
“I
told
him
never
to
steal
anything
that
anyone
needed
to
eat,
and
he
minded
me.
On
the
other
hand,
before,

when
he
used
to
box,
he
used
to
spend
three
days
in
bed,
exhausted
from
being
punched.”
“All
his
teeth
had
to
be
pulled
out,”
interrupted
the
girl.
“That’s
right,”
the
woman
agreed.
“Every
mouthful
I
ate
those
days
tasted
of
the
beatings
my
son
got
on

Saturday
nights.”
“God’s
will
is
inscrutable,”
said
the
Father.
But
he
said
it
without
much
conviction,
partly
because
experience
had
made
him
a
little
skeptical
and
partly

because
of
the
heat.
He
suggested
that
they
cover
their
heads
to
guard
against
sunstroke.
Yawning,
and
now

almost
completely
asleep,
he
gave
them
instructions
about
how
to
find
Carlos
Centeno’s
grave.
When
they
came

back,
they
didn’t
have
to
knock.
They
should
put
the
key
under
the
door;
and
in
the
same
place,
if
they
could,

they
should
put
an
offering
for
the
Church.
The
woman
listened
to
his
directions
with
great
attention,
but

thanked
him
without
smiling.
The
Father
had
noticed
that
there
was
someone
looking
inside,
his
nose
pressed
against
the
metal
grating,
even

before
he
opened
the
door
to
the
street.
Outside
was
a
group
of
children.
When
the
door
was
opened
wide,
the

children
scattered.
Ordinarily,
at
that
hour
there
was
no
one
in
the
street.
Now
there
were
not
only
children.

There
were
groups
of
people
under
the
almond
trees.
The
Father
scanned
the
street
swimming
in
the
heat
and

then
he
understood.
Softly,
he
closed
the
door
again.
“Wait
a
moment,”
he
said
without
looking
at
the
woman.
His
sister
appeared
at
the
far
door
with
a
black
jacket
over
her
nightshirt
and
her
hair
down
over
her
shoulders.

She
looked
silently
at
the
Father.
“What
was
it?”
he
asked.
“The
people
have
noticed,”
murmured
his
sister.
“You’d
better
go
out
by
the
door
to
the
patio,”
said
the
Father.
“It’s
the
same
there,”
said
his
sister.
“Everybody
is
at
the
windows.”
The
woman
seemed
not
to
have
understood
until
then.
She
tried
to
look
into
the
street
through
the
metal

grating.
Then
she
took
the
bouquet
of
flowers
from
the
girl
and
began
to
move
toward
the
door.
The
girl
followed

her.
“Wait
until
the
sun
goes
down,”
said
the
Father.
“You’ll
melt,”
said
his
sister,
motionless
at
the
back
of
the
room.
“Wait
and
I’ll
lend
you
a
parasol.”
“Thank
you,”
replied
the
woman.
“We’re
all
right
this
way.”
She
took
the
girl
by
the
hand
and
went
into
the
street.

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