The Senora de Quico stood just inside the room and shut the door behind her. She was a
large woman, solid rather than fat, with oiled black hair and huge dim sensual eyes. She
crossed her arms over her heavy breasts and then turned her right wrist and hand sharply
under her left armpit. The movement was like a tic and she said, "Bueno, y
que?"--meaning "All right, now what?"--and waited there.
She indicated that a big foot was tapping in her mind. Never since they had known the wife
of Quico had she dared to make such an entrance. She was meaning to display that she had
lost the final vestige of politeness with them. "I will treat you people like
animals, because you are animals, because you are not people." In most of Andalucia
if you come into a room without saying good evening that is what you mean.
His father said. "Good evening, Senora."
He and his mother and sister murmured it.
La de Quico nodded. Then she lifted her shoulders. Then she made
the quick turning tic-like motion with her wrist and hand again, and took the hand out and
pointed to her throat. "I cannot eat the good evenings," she said. "They
stop here. I cannot swallow them. They will not go down, the good evenings. They must not
be good for me. Sometimes I have them on the stomach all night; the doctor has warned me
about trying to digest all the good evenings, I must be very careful. To some people the
good evenings are very valuable. To me, no. I did not come here for any good
She lowered her hand and tucked it under the armpit again and
"I do not have money today, Senora," his father said.
"Que cosa mas rata," the Senora de
Quico said, "What a rare thing. I thought that you had millions of pesetas. However,
listen . . . you have plenty of good evenings. With what did you buy the good
"The good evenings are not bought," his father said.
"No?" the Senora de Quico said.
"The good evenings have nothing to do with money," his
"Ah," the Senora de Quico said. She batted her lids
brightly. "I understand now. You cannot buy them because they are not worth
His father kept his face turned in her direction and the small
white clobbers over the pupils in his eyes seemed to tense and grow whiter.
"Politeness is not in the market, Senora," he said. "There are other things
than money that make value."
"Si ya lo se," the Senora de
Quico said. "I have the other things at home. I do not come here for the other
"Senora, I have already told you. Today I have no money. I
am very sorry," the man said. But there was no bending in his voice. He did not sound
The Senora de Quico watched him. She hated the blind man and she
could not help herself. It was not her fault. She had not hated him when she first came to
collect money; she had had no feeling then one way or the other. He was just another
client with an unpaid bill. But little by little his limitless pride in simply being
alive, his lack of fear ate into the fever of her blood like too many aspirins and
poisoned her. The Senora did not know the difference between arrogance and pride because
she herself was arrogant and had no pride. She mistook the blind man's facing her openly,
as he did, the only way he could, for something else. She thought in her arrogance that
she saw arrogance in him; the man owed her money and yet he did not pretend to quake and
he did not plead with her as the others did who could not pay and he did not allow his
wife to either. His silly useless wife always cried, the Senora knew, on purpose to make
her feel pity: so did most of the other wives she collected from. But this one had even to
do that without the husband's knowing. If the blind man ever suspected that his wife was
crying he would send her out of the house. Such was the power of the pitiless humorless,
blind honorable man. Not that she, the Senora de Quico, wanted anyone's tears. But she was
used to them. The tears and the pleading and the tearing of the hair, such outbursts of
melodrama were parts of the scenes she played weekly in one variation or another--in all
the houses where people could not pay and the bills were as old as this one. She was a
woman with a melodramatic frame of reference. The blind man was peculiar. It was not only
his arrogance, she thought, that made her angry; it was his unwillingness to play the
scene as written. Her anger was partly that of the stage actress whose leading man stops
the scene by forgetting his lines on opening night and then makes the pause look like
hers. Every visit to the blind man's house was like another bad opening night to the
Senora de Quico. The blind man embarrassed her; she could count on it, whether he had
money or not he embarrassed her, and she never quite knew how. She believed secretly it
was because he was cleverer than she, but she kept that secret even from herself. Every
time it loomed up in her mind she pushed it back with her stomach. She was glad in her
private mind that the bill was this long overdue. It gave her the opportunity to release
her anger at the blind man, and she was beginning to need an opportunity. The days of
complimenting them on the realism of each one of the thorns of Christ were over, thank
God. That had been all she could think of to do as the betrayed actress when her leading
man just sat there. In the embarrassment of trying to fill those silences she had gone to
the photograph again and again--until she could hear her own voice quiver--until she
sounded ridiculous to herself and then could hear the silent tittering in the minds of the
audience, made up, finally and unfairly, of the man's children and of his wife. The wife
now: the wife. The wife bothered her almost as much as the blind man and the Senora de
Quico could not begin to know the reason. But the silly woman sitting there crying
infuriated her. The woman had no right to cry against the wishes of her husband; whatever
else he was, he was her husband and he plainly did not wish his wife to cry. The Senora de
Quico despised the woman for it. There were many dim things the Senora de Quico did not
know about herself and one of them was that she was more than a little bit in love with
the blind man. She was tremendously sexually attracted by him, much more than she had been
by any man she had ever known, and because she had never acknowledged sexual attraction in
herself she was not sure what it was and she mistrusted and mistook it for something else,
just as she mistook the blind man's pride for arrogance. She mistook her own sexual
response for loathing. It was easy to do, she only had to turn it around. It turned like a
magnet and instead of being attracted she was repelled by him. Somewhere in the deepest
part of her she did have to keep turning the magnet every time she saw him but that was a
small price to pay. She could do it willingly and anxiously. One afternoon she had come
when the man's wife was out and she had relaxed too much in his presence and she had felt
something inside her begin to turn back the right way. The something was only the sexual
magnet but the right way was the wrong way for the Senora de Quico and after that she kept
the grip of her mind firm on the magnet and her eyes carefully on the thorns of Christ.
There are certain things that are apt to occur in twos, such as death and desire and
people telephoning the wrong number. That much she knew and she did not intend to let this
turn on her again. She was a godfearing woman, the Senora de Quico, and she was married to
the best butcher in town.
Well, almost the best.
The best in this part of town.