The Ears of the Wolf

Antonio Ungar

Artwork by Hidetoshi Yamada


My sister is alone on this side of the fence, standing on the red earth, under the noonday light. I am looking at her from next to the columns on the porch. She has done something forbidden and without hesitating for a second she has walked right up to the fence in order to show everybody (me, the silence of the garden) her limitless strength and seriousness. My sister is four years old. I am six. She has smeared herself with the honey mama left in the kitchen: her arms, her legs under her short dress, and two blobs of honey on her cheeks. And now, alone, in the middle of the garden, under that totalizing light, deformed by the heat that rises from the earth between us, separating us, she defies the world, she smiles and waits. Little by little her body begins to change, getting thicker and darker.

Thousands of bees from the neighbors' gardens, from the honeycombs at the tops of the silk cotton trees, from the guava trees, head for my sister's body that stands as still as a totem pole, defying the sun and the clouds of smoke, defying the entire tropics with her stillness and her serious little-girl smile. I feel like I'm going to choke from fear and the good fortune of being able to participate in this ritual, that I'm going to faint out of admiration for that girl who is no longer a girl but rather a stiff body thousands of bees are walking on without stinging her (not one attacks her, as if they know how powerful she is), bees who are enjoying the honey, piled on top of each other, a swarm of little restless living beings, frantic, who deform my sister and make her magical, awesome, standing still in the middle of the garden.

A while later, as if in a dream, in a painting divided up into pure colors, into total oil colors, comes the image of mama with her hands raised high above her head, dressed in a long green dress, mama running through the garden and shouting, her body trembling (I watch her, without moving), pulling my sister by the hand and feeling the first stings, the first of many stings that will leave her in a rocking chair for a week, swollen and sad. Holding my sister by one hand and waving the other arm, in pain, crazed, mama runs to the pool on the shady side of the house, picking up my sister who is immune to the bees who don't want to sting her, she puts her in the water, all the way in, she can stand in the pool with her head out of the water and from that head, my blond, freckle-faced sister, my beautiful sister with cat eyes, surrounded by bees buzzing around her and drowning, with perfect white teeth, with pink lips, is laughing. Gales of laughter. She doesn't stop laughing and she keeps laughing while mama, defeated, sits on the edge of the cement deck of the pool, places her head in her hands, looks at the earth between her feet, and cries.

translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver

Used by permission of Brutas Editoras. The Ears of the Wolf will be out in bookstores soon.

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