Tonight, hypocrite reader, my double, as you’re about to start reading this book, novel, stories, chronicles, or whatever you prefer to call these bits of prose, pieces of nothing, on this freezing night, with the sea so close and so alien, right here in this Villa, May, June, July, August, September, what difference does it make, in any of the off-season months, here, in his chalet in Pinar del Norte, a center-left surveyor is fucking his kid, someone, a mechanic, in a tin-roofed house in La Virgencita is beating his girlfriend, someone, a drunken laborer in a vacant lot, tries to break another drunken laborer’s neck during a game of truco, someone at the Terminal, a night watchman in canvas espadrilles, after the last bus has gone, drinks mate, the steak of the poor, someone, an AIDS victim, hangs himself in a shanty in the south, someone, a foreman at the cement plant, is burying his girlfriend’s body at a construction site, someone, a young officer, is applying an electric cattle prod to a juvie thug at the police station, someone, a loser wrapped in cardboard, dies of cold in the doorway of a building near the docks, someone, a radio-taxi driver, balls his sister-in-law while his brother works as a security guard in a warehouse, someone, a little thug, runs through the poplar groves with a police car in pursuit, someone, a city councilman, does a line of coke while the poker game drags on, someone, a frightened old woman, lets her dogs out at night, someone, an FM operator, plays Pink Floyd and rolls a joint, someone, behind a temple, an evangelist in a mystical trance, splits his sinful fiancée’s skull open with an ax, someone, a cashier from Provincia Bank, emerges from bingo having lost not only his salary, but also a sum he won’t be able to justify, someone, the rotisserie owner from the next block, takes off his belt and walks into his son’s room, projecting his shadow, someone, your neighbor the builder, jerks off watching a porn flick, someone, one of the gunmen from El Monte, is selling crack to a bunch of kids, and those boys and girls, dressed in hoodies, have just finished poisoning your Rottweiler and in a minute will be pointing a gun at you, forcing your wife to suck them off, fucking your daughter, and you’d better tell them where you keep your dough because you don’t know what they’re capable of doing with that iron you won with supermarket bonus points, the iron they’ve plugged in and which is starting to heat up. 

[. . .]



The scandal at Nuestra Señora del Mar, the eleven, because now there were eleven abused kindergartners, exploded the following Tuesday at noon. By Wednesday there were sixteen. On Thursday, nineteen. The pediatrician found irritation in one girl’s little vagina. As I anticipated, diminutives and euphemisms formed part of the rumor that spread throughout the entire Villa: heiny, weenie. And just as the diminutives helped emphasize the victims’ drama with manipulative tenderness, it also seemed to reduce the crime to a lesser category. But the capital letters pushed to the forefront in the flyer that the parents wrote; indignation was spelled out, just like in the title: THE RAPE OF INNOCENCE, all caps. There are no fewer than eleven physically abused little kids in the four-year-olds’ room and the two-year-olds’ room, as verified by professional psychologists and doctors, plus ten other little ones who may have witnessed the abuse and exhibitionism.

And so the abuse oscillated between diminutives and capitals. Dante noticed this detail. But it was no time for semiotics. Besides, the article left a great deal to be desired: exhibitionism is spelled with an “h,” observed Anita López de Campas, language teacher at Nuestra Señora as well as at the Middle School. Spelling is the least of our worries right now, a father bristled. A committee was formed and everyone took their 4-wheel drives over to the TV station. But the station owners, Salvatore of Hogarmar Appliances, Barbeito of Soles Department Store, and Rinaldi, the supermarket impresario, refused to broadcast the news that ignited the Villa’s fury. It’s not just that this incident will be bad for tourism, Salvatore said. It’s also a matter of the little boys and girls, Martínez explained. And Renaldi, in a sensible tone: We have to act cautiously while the police investigate. By late afternoon the national media were also expected to get on board. In total, between the eleven original children and the other ten mentioned in the flyer, there were now twenty-one victims. At first rumors centered on the school’s kiosk owner. Then on a friend of his. Both of them had disappeared: the kiosk guy and his friend, vanished. By curfew two kindergarten teachers were also under suspicion. By nighttime the news was on every channel. On top of all this, in addition to the DA who was sent from Dolores to intervene, a priest had now been dispatched to the Villa by the Archbishopric to mediate. It was said: Father Fragassi, our parish priest, the principal of the school, had a history. Two years before, he had made advances at the kid who was filling his tank at the Shell station. If the rumor was false, that was yet to be proved. But there must have been some reason that this particular rumor, and no other, had spread. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

And what if our dear little priest is innocent, asked Carbone.