Page 1 of 4
1) Version in English
José Wallullo, affectionately called Josucho by his family, was an Indian of regular height and robust constitution, had only just reached the age of 18, and had been called upon by the foremost authority to take charge of bringing and taking the post between his village and the provincial capital.
He had been carrying out this task for a few months, without receiving a penny for his services, when one morning the "Alcalde de Vara1" came to his house and gave him two urgent letters by orders of the "Tayta2", telling him to set out immediately and take them as soon as possible to their destination.
Josucho put on his "montera3", wrapped up in his poncho a blanket, a little "cancha4" and cold potatoes, picked up his "wallqe5" and travelling stick and set off.
After two hours of continuous ascent up the mountain slopes, where the path zig-zagged sinuously up towards the top of the mountains which surrounded the village, Josucho stopped to get his breath back and sat down leaning against the cliff, to which he first, bowing respectfully, offered a "pijchu6" of coca.
Josucho gazed at the village stretching out below him like a striped blanket, the inhabitants scarcely visible in the streets and the bluish smoke issuing from the houses as it were ragged and faint...
Entrusting himself to the mountain spirit, he threw another "pijchu" of coca against the cliff, got up and followed the slope towards the summit, where near some large rocks could be seen the "Apacheta7" of that high-altitude plain. He picked up a small stone from the path and went to leave it as an offering, mentally repeating a prayer that the village priest had taught him.
But, oh, what a misfortune!, at the foot of the "Apacheta" was a furry dog, sitting on its hind legs, contemplating the pile of stones.
Josucho wanted to run away, because his grandmother had said this brought bad luck; but he pulled himself together immediately and, untying the sling on his belt, hurled the stone with such good aim that he hit the dog on it's hip; and the dog, uttering a cry of pain ran off limping across the plain.
And it was now about three o'clock. In the middle of the high-altitude plain, walking at a trot, Josucho was devouring the solitary immensity of its green stretches. The overcast sky was threatening with rain, he had to arrive at the "Tambo8" before nightfall.
But it turned out that Josucho wasn't the only person walking down that path. Ahead of him, a woman wearing a white "llijlla9" and black "fandellín10", a drooping hat and apparently busy winding up a wool skein had just emerged from a hollow.
With the aim of walking together, Josucho caught up with her; she seemed to him attractive and tempting and he wasn't worried about his or her age and the audacity of his youthful age urged him to speak to her.
"Are you going to Ayllukullama?"
"And you, Josucho?"
"They have ordered me to deliver these letters there. Do you know me? I don't remember you."
"Because now you only think about Jesusa. You are mama Nicola's son; we played hide-and-seek together. At home they call me Naticha."
"I wouldn't have recognised you; since serving in these tasks, I only think about running, and bringing and taking papers."
"And about Jesusa?"
"Jesusa doesn't love me any more, nor does my mother want me to marry her."
And so joking and swapping memories they both carried on walking, like old friends and with the intimate desire to spend the night without arriving at the "Tambo"; indeed it was already beginning to get dark and they were scarcely aware that they weren't advancing.
Naticha was the most talkative and decided; he told her about things which he distantly and indistinctly remembered, details of when he was a child and played hide-and-seek among the "chawales11", about which only he and the person he was playing with knew about, and which he had little by little been forgetting about.
How beautiful Naticha was! How pleasingly she laughed and talked... ! Her hard breasts trembled under the tight blouse... Her mouth, her eyes invited to be kissed!
"What? And the night is closing in on us, Josucho!"
"How about us sleeping on this high-altitude plain?"
And the night approached, at first grey and then black, and the frost advanced stealthily across the plain, like foxes when they are about to steal.
Josucho didn't dare continue walking for fear of getting lost or sinking into a quagmire and said so to his travelling companion, inducing her to rest.
He unwrapped his bundle, took out the potatoes and the "tostado12" and offered them to her.
"Thank you, Josucho. Would you believe that what I most crave for is your coca?"
"Take as much as you like from my "wallqe"." He replied. And while Naticha was selecting some leaves to chew and was biting off a piece of "llipta13", Josucho began to eat his cold lunch, thinking about the pleasurable night he was expecting to experience, in that green and silent marriage bed of the enormous plain, under the sky flowering with stars, like trembling dew drops in the corolla of a gigantic black iris.
And they lay down to sleep on his poncho and they covered each other with their clothes, so that the warmth of their bodies would protect them from the cold of the plain.
"Do you really not think about Jesusa, Josucho?"
"Think about Jesusa... !"
"Ow! Ow... ! Don't touch there, Josucho..."
"My darling, jewel for my eyes, why shouldn't I hug you?"
"Ow! Because this hip hurts... Don't you remember hitting me with a stone?"
"Me? When, miss, when?"
"Today, early, in the "Apacheta". I was sitting there, looking at the dear stones that the ancestors had offered up to the spirit, when Paf!, you hit me with your sling..."
Josucho remembered the scene with the dog, the cry of pain it uttered and the stories of ghosts and witches and witchdoctors that his grandmother had told him. A glacial cold invaded his heart, he got gooseflesh all over his body, and as if frozen hands sprayed his forehead and breast with a rain of frost, he was overcome by waves of cold and fear which made his hair stand on end.
"Bu... bu... but were you that dog?" Josucho asked in an unsteady voice.
Then "Wauuuu.. u! Wauuuu.. u!" mournfully howled the fake Naticha, and, at the blink of an eyelid, she turned into a furry dog which growling with its teeth keen to bite and its eyes emitting sparks, rose up under the blanket, looking wildly at Josucho. He didn't need telling twice; he stood up with a jump, and, like a soul carried away by the devil, disappeared into the shadows of the night. Only the eyes of the stars watched him as he disappeared like a madman, into the darkness of the solitary plain.
Shortly after the village of Ayllukullama hunted down the dog, lit an enormous bonfire in one of its streets and threw it onto the blazing fire. It was a damned soul no less which had turned into a dog.
1 Alcalde de Vara - indigenous head of a community or village whose symbol of authority is a rod
2 Tayta - literally means "father"; here means someone of authority like a mayor, priest or landowner
3 montera - a leather helmet-like hat shaped like a conquistador's helmet
4 cancha - roast maize grains
5 wallqe - presumably a small woven bag or shoulder-bag
6 pijchu - the ball of chewed coca
7 Apacheta - mountain pass; pile of stones in honour of Pachamama (the Earth-Goddess); pile of diverse elements left by travellers on the highest passes as offerings
8 Tambo - hostel; storehouse
9 llijlla - a piece of cloth typically used as a woman's mantle or
to carry objects or babies
10 fandellín - the translator couldn't find the translation of this
word, possibly "skirt"
11 chawales - the translator couldn't find the translation of this
word, possibly "children"
12 tostado - roast beans or maize grains
tijrarqa/tradujo/translated: Robert Beér.