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Selected Short Fictions 
of Gabriel Garcia MArquez 

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Edited by Raymond Soulard, Jr. & Kassandra Soulard 



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Scriptor Press 



Fugitive Survivors of a 

Celestial Conspiracy: 
Selected Short Fictions of 
Gabriel Garcia Mdrquez 



edited by Raymond Soulard, Jr. 
& Kassandra Soulard 




Number Fifty-six 



Fugitive Survivors of a 

Celestial Conspiracy: 

Selected Short Fictions 

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



Burning Man Books is 

an imprint of 

Scriptor Press 

2442 NW Market Street-#363 

Seattle, Washington 98107 

editor@scriptorpress.com 

http://www.scriptorpress.com 



This volume was composed 

in the AGaramond font 

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For Victor Vanek, 
who always loves a strange tale 



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Translated by Gregory Rabassa 

Winter fell one Sunday when people were coming out of 
church. Saturday night had been suffocating. But even on 
Sunday morning nobody thought it would rain. After mass, 
before we women had time to find the catches on our parasols, a thick, 
dark wind blew, which with one broad, round swirl swept away the 
dust and hard tinder of May. Someone next to me said: "It's a water 
wind." And I knew it even before then. From the moment we came out 
onto the church steps I felt shaken by a slimy feeling in my stomach. 
The men ran to the nearby houses with one hand on their hats and a 
handkerchief in the other, protecting themselves against the wind and 
the dust storm. Then it rained. And the sky was a gray, jellyfish substance 
that flapped its wings a hand away from our heads. 

During the rest of the morning my stepmother and I were sitting 
by the railing, happy that the rain would revive the thirsty rosemary 
and nard in the flowerpots after seven months of intense summer and 
scorching dust. At noon the reverberation of the earth stopped and a 
smell of turned earth, of awakened and renovated vegetation mingled 
with the cool and healthful odor of the rain in the rosemary. My father 
said at lunchtime: "When it rains in May, it's a sign that there'll be good 
tides." Smiling, crossed by the luminous thread of the new season, my 
stepmother told me: "That's what I heard in the sermon." And my father 
smiled. And he ate with a good appetite and even let his food digest 
leisurely beside the railing, silent, his eyes closed, but not sleeping, as if 
to think that he was dreaming while awake. 

It rained all afternoon in a single tone. In the uniform and 
peaceful intensity you could hear the water fall, the way it is when you 
travel all afternoon on a train. But without our noticing it, the rain was 
penetrating too deeply into our senses. Early Monday morning, when 
we closed the door to avoid the cutting, icy draft that blew in from the 
courtyard, our senses had been filled with rain. And on Monday morning 
they had overflowed. My stepmother and I went back to look at the 



Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy 



garden. The harsh gray earth of May had been changed overnight into a 
dark, sticky substance like cheap soap. A trickle of water began to run 
off the flowerpots. "I think they had more than enough water during 
the night," my stepmother said. And I noticed that she had stopped 
smiling and that her joy of the previous day had changed during the 
night into a lax and tedious seriousness. "I think you're right," I said. "It 
would be better to have the Indians put them on the veranda until it 
stops raining." And that was what they did, while the rain grew like an 
immense tree over the other trees. My father occupied the same spot 
where he had been on Sunday afternoon, but he didn't talk about the 
rain. He said: "I must have slept poorly last night because I woke up 
with a stiff back." And he stayed there, sitting by the railing with his 
feet on a chair and his head turned toward the empty garden. Only at 
dusk, after he had turned down lunch, did he say: "It looks as if it will 
never clear." And I remembered the months of heat. I remembered 
August, those long and awesome siestas in which we dropped down to 
die under the weight of the hour, our clothes sticking to our bodies, 
hearing outside the insistent and dull buzzing of the hour that never 
passed. I saw the washed-down walls, the joints of the beams all puffed 
up by the water. I saw the small garden, empty for the first time, and the 
jasmine bush against the wall, faithful to the memory of my mother. I 
saw my father sitting in a rocker, his painful vertebrae resting on a pillow 
and his sad eyes lost in the labyrinth of the rain. I remembered the 
August nights in whose wondrous silence nothing could be heard except 
the millenary sound that the earth makes as it spins on its rusty, unoiled 
axis. Suddenly I felt overcome by an overwhelming sadness. 

It rained all Monday, just like Sunday. But now it seemed to be 
raining in another way, because something different and bitter was going 
on in my heart. At dusk a voice beside my chair said: "This rain is a 
bore." Without turning to look, I recognized Martin's voice. I knew he 
was speaking in the next chair, with the same cold and awesome 
expression that hadn't varied, not even after that gloomy December dawn 
when he started being my husband. Five months had passed since then. 
Now I was going to have a child. And Martin was there beside me 
saying the rain bored him. "Not a bore," I said. "It seems terribly sad to 
me, with the empty garden and those poor trees that can't come in from 
the courtyard." Then I turned to look at him and Martin was no longer 

6 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



there. It was only a voice that was saying to me: "It doesn't look as if it 
will ever clear," and when I looked toward the voice I found only the 
empty chair. 

On Tuesday morning we found a cow in the garden. It looked 
like a clay promontory in its hard and rebellious immobility, its hooves 
sunken in the mud and its head bent over. During the morning the 
Indians tried to drive it away with sticks and stones. But the cow stayed 
there, imperturbable in the garden, hard, inviolable, its hooves still 
sunken in the mud and its huge head humiliated by the rain. The Indians 
harassed it until my father's patient tolerance came to its defense. "Leave 
her alone," he said. "She'll leave the way she came." 

At sundown on Tuesday the water tightened and hurt, like a 
shroud over the heart. The coolness of the first morning began to change 
into a hot and sticky humidity. The temperature was neither cold nor 
hot; it was the temperature of a fever chill. Feet sweated inside shoes. It 
was hard to say what was more disagreeable, bare skin or the contact of 
clothing on skin. All activity had ceased in the house. We sat on the 
veranda but we no longer watched the rain as we did on the first day. 
We no longer felt it falling. We no longer saw anything except the outline 
of the trees in the mist, with a sad and desolate sunset which left on 
your lips the same taste with which you awaken after having dreamed 
about a stranger. I knew that it was Tuesday and I remembered the 
twins of Saint Jerome, the blind girls who came to the house every week 
to sing us simple songs, saddened by the bitter and unprotected prodigy 
of their voices. Above the rain I heard the blind twins' little song and I 
imagined them at home, huddling, waiting for the rain to stop so they 
could go out and sing. The twins of Saint Jerome wouldn't come that 
day, I thought, nor would the beggar woman be on the veranda after 
siesta, asking, as on every Tuesday, for the eternal branch of lemon balm. 

That day we lost track of meals. At siesta time my stepmother 
served a plate of tasteless soup and a piece of stale bread. But actually we 
hadn't eaten since sunset on Monday and I think that from then on we 
stopped thinking. We were paralyzed, drugged by the rain, given over 
to the collapse of nature with a peaceful and resigned attitude. Only the 
cow was moving in the afternoon. Suddenly a deep noise shook her 
insides and her hooves sank into the mud with greater force. Then she 
stood motionless for half an hour, as if she were already dead but could 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 7 



not fall down because the habit of being alive prevented her, the habit 
of remaining in one position in the rain, until the habit grew weaker 
than her body. Then she doubled her front legs (her dark and shiny 
haunches still raised in a last agonized effort) and sank her drooling 
snout into the mud, finally surrendering to the weight of her own matter 
in a silent, gradual, and dignified ceremony of total downfall. "She got 
that far," someone said behind me. And I turned to look and on the 
threshold I saw the Tuesday beggar woman who had come through the 
storm to ask for the branch of lemon balm. 

Perhaps on Wednesday I might have grown accustomed to that 
overwhelming atmosphere if on going to the living room I hadn't found 
the table pushed against the wall, the furniture piled on top of it, and 
on the other side, on a parapet prepared during the night, trunks and 
boxes of household utensils. The spectacle produced a terrible feeling of 
emptiness in me. Something had happened during the night. The house 
was in disarray; the Guajiro Indians, shirtless and barefoot, with their 
pants rolled up to their knees, were carrying the furniture into the dining 
room. In the men's expression, in the very diligence with which they 
were working, one could see the cruelty of their frustrated rebellion, of 
their necessary and humiliating inferiority in the rain. I moved without 
direction, without will. I felt changed into a desolate meadow sown 
with algae and lichens, with soft, sticky toadstools, fertilized by the 
repugnant plants of dampness and shadows. I was in the living room 
contemplating the desert spectacle of the piled-up furniture when I heard 
my stepmother's voice warning me from her room that I might catch 
pneumonia. Only then did I realize that the water was up to my ankles, 
that the house was flooded, the floor covered by a thick surface of viscous, 
dead water. 

On Wednesday noon it still hadn't finished dawning. And before 
three o'clock in the afternoon night had come on completely, ahead of 
time and sickly, with the same slow, monotonous, and pitiless rhythm 
of the rain in the courtyard. It was a premature dusk, soft and lugubrious, 
growing in the midst of the silence of the Guajiros, who were squatting 
on the chairs against the wall, defeated and impotent against the 
disturbance of nature. That was when news began to arrive from outside. 
No one brought it to the house. It simply arrived, precise, individualized, 
as if led by the liquid clay that ran through the streets and dragged 

8 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



household items along, things and more things, the leftovers of a remote 
catastrophe, rubbish and dead animals. Events that took place on Sunday, 
when the rain was still the announcement of a providential season, took 
two days to be known at our house. And on Wednesday the news arrived 
as if impelled by the very inner dynamism of the storm. It was learned 
then that the church was flooded and its collapse expected. Someone 
who had no reason to know said that night: "The train hasn't been able 
to cross the bridge since Monday. It seems that the river carried away 
the tracks." And it was learned that a sick woman had disappeared from 
her bed and been found that afternoon floating in the courtyard. 

Terrified, possessed by the fright and the deluge, I sat down in 
the rocker with my legs tucked up and my eyes fixed on the damp 
darkness full of hazy foreboding. My stepmother appeared in the doorway 
with the lamp held high and her head erect. She looked like a family 
ghost before whom I felt no fear whatever because I myself shared her 
supernatural condition. She came over to where I was. She still held her 
head high and the lamp in the air, and she splashed through the water 
on the veranda. "Now we have to pray," she said. And I noticed her dry 
and wrinkled face, as if she had just left her tomb or as if she had been 
made of some substance different from human matter. She was across 
from me with her rosary in her hand saying: "Now we have to pray The 
water broke open the tombs and now the poor dead are floating in the 
cemetery." 

I may have slept a little that night when I awoke with a start 
because of a sour and penetrating smell like that of decomposing bodies. 
I gave a strong shake to Martin, who was snoring beside me. "Don't you 
notice it?" I asked him. And he said: "What?" And I said: "The smell. It 
must be the dead people floating along the streets." I was terrified by 
the idea, but Martin turned to the wall and with a husky and sleepy 
voice said: "That's something you made up. Pregnant women are always 
imagining things." 

At dawn on Thursday the smells stopped, the sense of distance 
was lost. The notion of time, upset since the day before, disappeared 
completely. Then there was no Thursday. What should have been 
Thursday was a physical, jellylike thing that could have been parted 
with the hands in order to look into Friday. There were no men or 
women there. My stepmother, my father, the Indians were adipose and 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 9 



improbably bodies that moved in the marsh of winter. My father said to 
me: "Don't move away from here until you're told what to do," and his 
voice was distant and indirect and didn't seem to be perceived by the ear 
but by touch, which was the only sense that remained alive. 

But my father didn't return: he got lost in the weather. So when 
night came I called my stepmother to tell her to accompany me to my 
bedroom. I had a peaceful and serene sleep, which lasted all through the 
night. On the following day the atmosphere was still the same, colorless, 
odorless, and without any temperature. As soon as I awoke I jumped 
into a chair and remained there without moving, because something 
told me that there was still a region of my consciousness that hadn't 
awakened completely. Then I heard the train whistle. The prolonged 
and sad whistle of the train fleeing the storm. It must have cleared 
somewhere, I thought, and a voice behind me seemed to answer my 
thought. "Where?" it said. "Who's there?" I asked looking. And I saw 
my stepmother with a long thin arm in the direction of the wall. "It's 
me," she said. And I asked her: "Can you hear it?" And she said yes, 
maybe it had cleared on the outskirts and they'd repaired the tracks. 
Then she gave me a tray with some steaming breakfast. It smelled of 
garlic sauce and boiled butter. It was a plate of soup. Disconcerted, I 
asked my stepmother what time it was. And she, calmly, with a voice 
that tasted of prostrated resignation, said: "It must be around two-thirty 
The train isn't late after all this." I said: "Two-thirty! How could I have 
slept so long!" And she said: "You haven't slept very long. It can't be 
more than three o'clock." And I, trembling, feeling the plate slip through 
my fingers: "Two-thirty on Friday," I said. And she, monstrously tranquil: 
"Two-thirty on Thursday, child. Still two-thirty on Thursday." 

I don't know how long I was sunken in that somnambulism 
where the senses lose their value. I only know that after many 
uncountable hours I heard a voice in the next room. A voice that said: 
"Now you can roll the bed to this side." It was a tired voice, but not the 
voice of a sick person, rather that of a convalescent. Then I heard the 
sound of the bricks in the water. I remained rigid before I realized that 
I was in a horizontal position. Then I felt the immense emptiness. I felt 
the wavering and violent silence of the house, the incredible immobility 
that affected everything. And suddenly I felt my heart turned into a 
frozen stone. I'm dead, I thought. My God, I'm dead. I gave a jump in the 

10 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



bed. I shouted: "Ada! Ada!" Martin's unpleasant voice answered me from 
the other side. "They can't hear you, they're already outside by now." 
Only then did I realize that it had cleared and that all around us a 
silence stretched out, a tranquility, a mysterious and deep beatitude, a 
perfect state which must have been very much like death. Then footsteps 
could be heard on the veranda. A clear and completely living voice was 
heard. Then a cool breeze shook the panel of the door, made the 
doorknob squeak, and a solid and monumental body, like a ripe fruit, 
fell deeply into the cistern in the courtyard. Something in the air revealed 
the presence of an invisible person who was smiling in the darkness. 
Good lord, I thought then, confused by the mixup in time. It wouldn't 
surprise me now if they were coming to call me to go to last Sunday's mass. 

(1955) 



Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 11 



Blacamdn the Good, Vendor of Miracles 

Translated by Gregory Rabassa 

From the first Sunday I saw him he reminded me of a bullring 
mule, with his white suspenders that were backstitched with gold 
thread, his rings with colored stones on every finger, and his braid 
of jingle bells, standing on a table by the docks of Santa Maria del Darien 
in the middle of the flasks of specifics and herbs of consolation that he 
prepared himself and hawked through the towns along the Caribbean 
with his wounded shout, except that at that time he wasn't trying to sell 
any of that Indian mess but was asking them to bring him a real snake 
so that he could demonstrate on his own flesh an antidote he had 
invented, the only infallible one, ladies and gentlemen, for the bites of 
serpents, tarantulas, and centipedes plus all manner of poisonous animals. 
Someone who seemed quite impressed by his determination managed 
to get a bushmaster of the worst kind somewhere (the snake that kills 
by poisoning the respiration) and brought it to him in a bottle, and he 
uncorked it with such eagerness that we all thought he was going to eat 
it, but as soon as the creature felt itself free it jumped right out of the 
bottle and struck him on the neck, leaving him right then and there 
without any wind for his oratory and with barely enough time to take 
the antidote, and the vest-pocket pharmacist tumbled down into the 
crowd and rolled about on the ground, his huge body wasted away as if 
he had nothing inside of it, but laughing all the while with all of his 
gold teeth. The hubbub was so great that a cruiser from the north that 
had been docked there for twenty years on a goodwill mission declared 
a quarantine so that the snake poison wouldn't get on board, and the 
people who were sanctifying Palm Sunday came out of church with 
their blessed palms, because no one wanted to miss the show of the 
poisoned man, who had already begun to puff up with the air of death 
and was twice as fat as he'd been before, giving off a froth of gall from 
his mouth and panting through his pores, but still laughing with so 
much life that the jingle bells tinkled all over his body. The swelling 
snapped the laces of his leggings and the seams of his clothes, his fingers 
grew purple from the pressure of the rings, he turned the color of venison 



12 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



in brine, and from his rear end came a hint of the last moments of 
death, so that everyone who had seen a person bitten by a snake knew 
that he was rotting away before dying and that he would be so crumpled 
up that they'd have to pick him up with a shovel to put him into a sack, 
but they also thought that even in his sawdust state he'd keep on laughing. 
It was so incredible that the marines came up on deck to take colored 
pictures of him with long-distance lenses, but the women who'd come 
out of church blocked their intentions by covering up the dying man 
with a blanket and laying blessed palms on top of him, some because 
they didn't want the soldiers to profane the body with their Adventist 
instruments, others because they were afraid to continue looking at that 
idolater who was ready to die dying with laughter, and others because 
in that way perhaps his soul at least would not be poisoned. Everybody 
had given him up for dead when he pushed aside the palms with one 
arm, still half-dazed and not completely recovered from the bad moment 
he'd had, but he set the table up without anyone's help, climbed on it 
like a crab once more, shouting that his antidote was nothing but the 
hand of God in a bottle, as we had all seen with our own eyes, but it 
only cost two cuartillos because he hadn't invented it as an item for sale 
but for the good of all humanity, and as soon he said that, ladies and 
gentlemen, I only ask you not to crowd around, there's enough for 
everybody. 

They crowded around, of course, and they did well to do so, 
because in the end there wasn't enough for everybody. Even the admiral 
from the cruiser bought a bottle, convinced by him that it was also 
good for the poisoned bullets of anarchists, and the sailors weren't satisfied 
with just taking colored pictures of him up on the table, pictures they 
had been unable to take of him dead, but they had him signing 
autographs until his arm was twisted with cramps. It was getting to be 
night and only the most perplexed of us were left by the docks when 
with his eyes he searched for someone with the look of an idiot to help 
him put the bottles away, and naturally he spotted me. It was like the 
look of destiny, not just mine, but his too, for that was more than a 
century ago and we both remember it as if it had been last Sunday. 
What happened was that we were putting his circus drugstore into that 
trunk with purple straps that looked more like a scholar's casket, when 
he must have noticed some light inside of me that he hadn't seen in me 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 13 



before, because he asked me in a surly way who are you, and I answered 
that I was an orphan on both sides whose papa hadn't died, and he gave 
out with laughter that was louder than what he had given with the 
poison and then he asked me what do you do for a living, and I answered 
that I didn't do anything except stay alive, because nothing else was 
worth the trouble, and still weeping with laughter he asked me what 
science in the world do you most want to learn, and that was the only 
time I answered the truth without any fooling, I wanted to be a fortune- 
teller, and then he didn't laugh again but told me as if thinking out loud 
that I didn't need much for that because I already had the hardest thing 
to learn, which was my face of an idiot. That same night he spoke to my 
father and for one real and two cuartillos and a deck of cards that foretold 
adultery he bought me forevermore. 

That was what Blacaman was like, Blacaman the Bad, because 
I'm Blacaman the Good. He was capable of convincing an astronomer 
that the month of February was nothing but a herd of invisible elephants, 
but when his good luck turned on him he became a heart-deep brute. 
In his days of glory he had been an embalmer of viceroys, and they say 
that he gave them faces with such authority that for many years they 
went on governing better than when they were alive, and that no one 
dared bury them until he gave them back their dead-man look, but his 
prestige was ruined by the invention of an endless chess game that drove 
a chaplain mad and brought on two illustrious suicides, and so he was 
on the decline, from an interpreter of dreams to a birthday hypnotist, 
from an extractor of molars by suggestion to a marketplace healer; 
therefore, at the time we met, people were already looking at him askance, 
even the freebooters. We drifted along with our trick stand and life was 
an eternal uncertainty as we tried to sell escape suppositories that turned 
smugglers transparent, furtive drops that baptized wives threw into the 
soup to instill the fear of God in Dutch husbands, and anything you 
might want to buy of your own free will, ladies and gentlemen, because 
this isn't a command, it's advice, and, after all, happiness isn't an 
obligation either. Nevertheless, as much as we died with laughter at his 
witticisms, the truth is that it was quite hard for us to manage enough 
to eat, and his last hope was founded on my vocation as a fortune-teller. 
He shut me up in a sepulchral trunk disguised as a Japanese and bound 
with starboard chains so that I could attempt to foretell what I could 

14 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



while he disemboweled the grammar book looking for the best way to 
convince the world of my new science, and here, ladies and gentlemen, 
you have this child tormented by Ezequiel's glowworms, and those of 
you who've been standing there with faces of disbelief, let's see if you 
dare ask him when you're going to die, but I was never able even to 
guess what day it was at that time, so he gave up on me as a soothsayer 
because the drowsiness of digestion disturbs your prediction gland, and 
after whacking me over the head for good luck, he decided to take me 
to my father and get his money back. But at that time he happened to 
find a practical application for the electricity of suffering, and he set 
about building a sewing machine that ran connected by cupping glasses 
to the part of the body where there was a pain. Since I spent the night 
moaning over the whacks he'd given me to conjure away misfortune, he 
had to keep me on as the one who could test his invention, and so our 
return was delayed and he was getting back his good humor until the 
machine worked so well that it not only sewed better than a novice nun 
but also embroidered birds or astromelias according to the position and 
intensity of the pain. That was what we were up to, convinced of our 
triumph over bad luck, when the news reached us that in Philadelphia 
that commander of the cruiser had tried to repeat the experiment with 
the antidote and that he'd changed into a glob of admiral jelly in front 
of his staff. 

He didn't laugh again for a long time. We fled through Indian 
passes and the more lost we became, the clearer the news reached us 
that the marines had invaded the country under the pretext of 
exterminating yellow fever and were going about beheading every 
invertebrate or eventual potter they found in their path, and not only 
the natives, out of precaution, but also the Chinese, for distraction, the 
Negroes, from habit, and the Hindus, because they were snake charmers, 
and then they wiped out the flora and fauna and all the mineral wealth 
they were able to because their specialists in our affairs had taught them 
that the people along the Caribbean had the ability to change their 
nature in order to confuse gringos. I couldn't understand where that 
fury came from or why we were so frightened until we found ourselves 
safe and sound in the eternal winds of La Guajira, and only then did he 
have the courage to confess to me that his antidote was nothing but 
rhubarb and turpentine and that he'd paid a drifter two cuartillos to 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 15 



bring him that bushmaster with all the poison gone. We stayed in the 
ruins of a colonial mission, deluded by the hope that some smugglers 
would pass, because they were men to be trusted and the only ones 
capable of venturing out under the mercurial sun of those salt flats. At 
first we ate smoked salamanders and flowers from the ruins and we still 
had enough spirit to laugh when we tried to eat his boiled leggings, but 
finally we even ate the water cobwebs from the cisterns and only then 
did we realize how much we missed the world. Since I didn't know of 
any recourse against death at that time, I simply lay down to wait for it 
where it would hurt me least, while he was delirious remembering a 
woman who was so tender that she could pass through walls just by 
sighing, but that contrived recollection was also a trick of his genius to 
fool death with lovesickness. Still, at the moment we should have died, 
he came to me more alive than ever and spent the whole night watching 
over my agony, thinking with such great strength that I still haven't 
been able to tell whether what was whistling through the ruins was the 
wind or his thoughts, and before dawn he told me with the same voice 
and the same determination of past times that now he knew the truth, 
that I was the one who had twisted up his luck again, so get your pants 
ready, because the same way as you twisted it up for me, you're going to 
straighten it out. 

That was when I lost the little affection I had for him. He took 
off the last rags I had on, rolled me up in some barbed wire, rubbed 
rock salt on the sores, put me in brine from my own waters, and hung 
me by the ankles for the sun to flay me, and he kept on shouting that all 
that mortification wasn't enough to pacify his persecutors. Finally he 
threw me to rot in my own misery inside the penance dungeon where 
the colonial missionaries regenerated heretics, and with the perfidy of a 
ventriloquist, which he still had more than enough of, he began to imitate 
the voices of edible animals, the noise of ripe beets, and the sound of 
fresh springs so as to torture me with the illusion that I was dying of 
indigence in the midst of paradise. When the smugglers finally supplied 
him, he came down to the dungeon to give me something to eat so that 
I wouldn't die, but then he made me pay for that charity by pulling out 
my nails with pliers and filing my teeth down with a grindstone, and 
my only consolation was the wish that life would give me time and the 
good fortune to be quit of so much infamy with even worse martyrdoms. 

16 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



I myself was surprised that I could resist the plague of my own 
putrefaction and he kept throwing the leftovers of his meals onto me 
and tossed me pieces of rotten lizards and hawks into the corners so that 
the air of the dungeon would end up poisoning me. I don't know how 
much time had passed when he brought me the carcass of a rabbit in 
order to show me that he preferred throwing it away to rot than giving 
it to me to eat, but my patience only went so far and all I had left was 
rancor, so I grabbed the rabbit by the ears and flung it against the wall 
with the illusion that it was he and not the animal that was going to 
explode, and then it happened, as if in a dream. The rabbit not only 
revived with a squeal of fright, but came back to my hands, hopping 
through the air. 

That was how my great life began. Since then I've gone through 
the world drawing the fever out of malaria victims for two pesos, visioning 
blind men for four-fifty, draining the water from dropsy victims for 
eighteen, putting cripples back together for twenty pesos if they were 
that way from birth, for twenty-two if they were that way because of 
wars, earthquakes, infantry landings, or any other kind of public calamity, 
taking care of the common sick at wholesale according to a special 
arrangement, madmen according to their theme, children at half price, 
and idiots out of gratitude, and who dares say that I'm not a 
philanthropist, ladies and gentlemen, and now, yes, sir, commandant of 
the twentieth fleet, order your boys to take down the barricades and let 
the suffering humanity pass, lepers to the left, epileptics to the right, 
cripples where they won't get in the way, and there in the back the least 
urgent cases, only please don't crowd in on me because then I won't be 
responsible if the sicknesses get all mixed up and people are cured of 
what they don't have, and keep the music playing until the brass boils, 
and the rockets firing until the angels burn, and the liquor flowing until 
ideas are killed, and bring on the wenches and the acrobats, the butchers 
and the photographers, and all at my expense, ladies and gentlemen, for 
here ends the evil fame of the Blacamans and the universal tumult starts. 
That's how I go along putting them to sleep with the techniques of a 
congressman in case my judgment fails and some turn out worse than 
they were before on me. The only thing I don't do is revive the dead, 
because as soon as they open their eyes they're murderous with rage at 
the one who disturbed their state, and when it's all done, those who 



Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 17 



don't commit suicide die again of disillusionment. At first I was pursued 
by a group of wise men investigating the legality of my industry, and 
when they were convinced, they threatened me with the hell of Simon 
Magus and recommended a life of penitence so that I could get to be a 
saint, but I answered them, with no disrespect for their authority, that it 
was precisely along those lines that I had started. The truth is that Id 
gain nothing by being a saint after being dead, an artist is what I am, 
and the only thing I want is to be alive so I can keep going along at 
donkey level in this six-cylinder touring car I bought from the marines' 
consul, with this Trinidadian chauffer who was a baritone in the New 
Orleans pirates' opera, with my genuine silk shirts, my Oriental lotions, 
my topaz teeth, my flat straw hat, and my bicolored buttons, sleeping 
without an alarm clock, dancing with beauty queens, and leaving them 
hallucinated with my dictionary rhetoric, and with no flutter in my 
spleen if some Ash Wednesday my faculties wither away, because in 
order to go on with this life of a minister, all I need is my idiot face, and 
I have more than enough with the string of shops I own from here to 
beyond the sunset, where the same tourists who used to go around 
collecting from us through the admiral, now go stumbling after my 
autographed pictures, almanacs with my love poetry, medals with my 
profile, bits of my clothing, and all of that without the glorious plague 
of spending all day and all night sculpted in equestrian marble and shat 
on by swallows like the fathers of our country. 

It's a pity that Blacaman the Bad can't repeat this story so that 
people will see that there's nothing invented in it. The last time anyone 
saw him in this world he'd lost even the studs of his former splendor, 
and his soul was a shambles and his bones in disorder from the rigors of 
the desert, but he still had enough jingle bells left to reappear that Sunday 
on the docks of Santa Maria del Darien with his eternal sepulchral trunk, 
except that this time he wasn't trying to sell any antidotes, but was asking 
in a voice cracking with emotion for the marines to shoot him in a 
public spectacle so that he could demonstrate on his own flesh the life- 
restoring properties of this supernatural creature, ladies and gentlemen, 
and even though you have more than enough right not to believe me 
after suffering so long from my evil tricks as a deceiver and a falsifier, I 
swear on the bones of my mother that this proof today is nothing from 
the other world, merely the humble truth, and in case you have any 

18 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



doubts left, notice that I'm not laughing now the way I used to, but 
holding back a desire to cry. How convincing he must have been, 
unbuttoning his shirt, his eyes drowning with tears, and giving himself 
mule kicks on his heart to indicate the best place for death, and yet the 
marines didn't dare shoot, out of fear that the Sunday crowd would 
discover their loss of prestige. Someone who may not have forgotten 
the blacamanipulations of past times managed, no one knew how, to 
get and bring him in a can enough barbasco roots to bring to the surface 
all the corvinas in the Caribbean, and he opened it with great desire, as 
if he really was going to eat them, and, indeed, he did eat them, ladies 
and gentlemen, but please don't be moved or pray for the repose of my 
soul, because this death is nothing but a visit. That time he was so 
honest that he didn't break into operatic death rattles, but got off the 
table like a crab, looked on the ground for the most worthy place to lie 
down after some hesitation, and from there he looked at me as he would 
have at a mother and exhaled his last breath in his own arms, still holding 
back his manly tears all twisted up by the tetanus of eternity. That was 
the only time, of course, that my science failed me. I put him in that 
trunk of premonitory size where there was room for him laid out. I had 
a requiem mass sung for him which cost me fifty four-peso doubloons, 
because the officiant was dressed in gold and there were also three seated 
bishops. I had the mausoleum of an emperor built for him on a hill 
exposed to the best seaside weather, with a chapel just for him and an 
iron plaque on which there was written in Gothic capitals here lies 
blacamAn the dead, badly called the bad, deceiver of marines and 
victim OF science, and when those honors were sufficient for me to do 
justice to his virtues, I began to get my revenge for his infamy, and then 
I revived him inside the armored tomb and left him there rolling about 
in horror. That was long before the fire ants devoured Santa Maria del 
Darien, but the mausoleum is still intact on the hill in the shadow of 
the dragons that climb up to sleep in the Atlantic winds, and every time 
I pass through here I bring him an automobile load of roses and my 
heart pains with pity for his virtues, but then I put my ear to the plaque 
to hear him weeping in the ruins of the crumbling trunk, and if by 
chance he has died again, I bring him back to life once more, for the 
beauty of the punishment is that he will keep on living in his tomb as 
long as I'm alive, that is, forever. (1968) 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 19 



A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings 

A Tale for Children 

Translated by Gregory Rabassa 

On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside 
the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and 
throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a 
temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench. The 
world had been sad since Tuesday. Sea and sky were a single ash-gray 
thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered 
like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. 
The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming back to the 
house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it 
was that was moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had 
to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face 
down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn't get 
up, impeded by his enormous wings. 

Frightened by that nightmare, Pelayo ran to get Elisenda, his 
wife, who was putting compresses on the sick child, and he took her to 
the rear of the courtyard. They both looked at the fallen body with a 
mute stupor. He was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few 
faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and 
his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away any 
sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty 
and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at 
him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame 
their surprise and in the end found him familiar. Then they dared speak 
to him, and he answered in an incomprehensible dialect with a strong 
sailor's voice. That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of the 
wings and quite intelligently concluded that he was a lonely castaway 
from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm. And yet, they called in a 
neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death to see him, 
and all she needed was one look to show them their mistake. 

"He's an angel," she told them. "He must have been coming for 
the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down." 



20 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



On the following day everyone knew that a flesh-and-blood 
angel was held captive in Pelayo's house. Against the judgment of the 
wise neighbor woman, for whom angels in those times were the fugitive 
survivors of a celestial conspiracy, they did not have the heart to club 
him to death. Pelayo watched over him all afternoon from the kitchen, 
armed with his bailiff's club, and before going to bed he dragged him 
out of the mud and locked him up with the hens in the wire chicken 
coop. In the middle of the night, when the rain stopped, Pelayo and 
Elisenda were still killing crabs. A short time afterward the child woke 
up without a fever and with a desire to eat. Then they felt magnanimous 
and decided to put the angel on a raft with fresh water and provisions 
for three days and leave him to his fate on the high seas. But when they 
went out into the courtyard with the first light of dawn, they found the 
whole neighborhood in front of the chicken coop having fun with the 
angel, without the slightest reverence, tossing him things to eat through 
the openings in the wire as if he weren't a supernatural creature but a 
circus animal. 

Father Gonzaga arrived before seven o'clock, alarmed at the 
strange news. By that time onlookers less frivolous than those at dawn 
had already arrived and they were making all kinds of conjectures 
concerning the captive's future. The simplest among them thought that 
he should be named mayor of the world. Others of sterner mind felt 
that he should be promoted to the rank of five-star general in order to 
win all wars. Some visionaries hoped that he could be put to stud in 
order to implant the earth a race of winged wise men who could take 
charge of the universe. But Father Gonzaga, before becoming a priest, 
had been a robust woodcutter. Standing by the wire, he reviewed his 
catechism in an instant and asked them to open the door so that he 
could take a close look at that pitiful man who looked more like a huge 
decrepit hen among the fascinated chickens. He was lying in the corner 
drying his open wings in the sunlight among the fruit peels and breakfast 
leftovers that the early risers had thrown him. Alien to the impertinences 
of the world, he only lifted his antiquarian eyes and murmured something 
in his dialect when Father Gonzaga went into the chicken coop and 
said good morning to him in Latin. The parish priest had his first 
suspicion of an imposter when he saw that he did not understand the 
language of God or know how to greet His ministers. Then he noticed 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 21 



that seen close up he was much too human: he had an unbearable smell 
of the outdoors, the back side of his wings was strewn with parasites 
and his main feathers had been mistreated by terrestrial winds, and 
nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels. Then 
he came out of the chicken coop and in a brief sermon warned the 
curious against the risks of being ingenuous. He reminded them that 
the devil had the bad habit of making use of carnival tricks in order to 
confuse the unwary. He argued that if wings were not the essential 
element in determining the difference between a hawk and an airplane, 
they were even less so in the recognition of angels. Nevertheless, he 
promised to write a letter to his bishop so that the latter would write his 
primate so that the latter would write to the Supreme Pontiff in order to 
get the final verdict from the highest courts. 

His prudence fell on sterile hearts. The news of the captive angel 
spread with such rapidity that after a few hours the courtyard had the 
bustle of a marketplace and they had to call in troops with fixed bayonets 
to disperse the mob that was about to knock the house down. Elisenda, 
her spine all twisted from sweeping up so much marketplace trash, then 
got the idea of fencing in the yard and charging five cents admission to 
see the angel. 

The curious came from far away. A traveling carnival arrived 
with a flying acrobat who buzzed over the crowd several times, but no 
one paid any attention to him because his wings were not those of an 
angel but, rather, those of a sidereal bat. The most unfortunate invalids 
on earth came in search of health: a poor woman who since childhood 
has been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers; a 
Portuguese man who couldn't sleep because the noise of the stars 
disturbed him; a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo the things he 
had done while awake; and many others with less serious ailments. In 
the midst of that shipwreck disorder that made the earth tremble, Pelayo 
and Elisenda were happy with fatigue, for in less than a week they had 
crammed their rooms with money and the line of pilgrims waiting their 
turn to enter still reached beyond the horizon. 

The angel was the only one who took no part in his own act. He 
spent his time trying to get comfortable in his borrowed nest, befuddled 
by the hellish heat of the oil lamps and sacramental candles that had 
been placed along the wire. At first they tried to make him eat some 

22 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



mothballs, which, according to the wisdom of the wise neighbor woman, 
were the food prescribed for angels. But he turned them down, just as 
he turned down the papal lunches that the pentinents brought him, 
and they never found out whether it was because he was an angel or 
because he was an old man that in the end ate nothing but eggplant 
mush. His only supernatural virtue seemed to be patience. Especially 
during the first days, when the hens pecked at him, searching for the 
stellar parasites that proliferated in his wings, and the cripples pulled 
out feathers to touch their defective parts with, and even the most 
merciful threw stones at him, trying to get him to rise so they could see 
him standing. The only time they succeeded in arousing him was when 
they burned his side with an iron for branding steers, for he had been 
motionless for so many hours that they thought he was dead. He awoke 
with a start, ranting in his hermetic language and with tears in his eyes, 
and he flapped his wings a couple of times, which brought on a whirlwind 
of chicken dung and lunar dust and a gale of panic that did not seem to 
be of this world. Although many thought that his reaction had not been 
one of rage but of pain, from then on they were careful not to annoy 
him, because the majority understood that his passivity was not that of 
a hero taking his ease but that of a cataclysm in repose. 

Father Gonzaga held back the crowd's frivolity with formulas of 
maidservant inspiration while awaiting the arrival of a final judgment 
on the nature of the captive. But the mail from Rome showed no sense 
of urgency. They spent their time finding out if the prisoner had a navel, 
if his dialect had any connection with Aramaic, how many times he 
could fit on the head of a pin, or whether he wasn't just a Norwegian 
with wings. Those meager letters might have come and gone until the 
end of time if a providential event had not put an end to the priest's 
tribulations. 

It so happened that during those days, among so many other 
carnival attractions, there arrived in the town the traveling show of the 
woman who had been changed into a spider for having disobeyed her 
parents. The admission to see her was not only less than the admission 
to see the angel, but people were permitted to ask her all manner of 
questions about her absurd state and to examine her up and down so 
that no one would ever doubt the truth of her horror. She was a frightful 
tarantula the size of a ram and with the head of a sad maiden. What was 



Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 23 



most heartrending, however, was not her outlandish shape but the sincere 
affliction with which she recounted the details of her misfortune. While 
still practically a child she had sneaked out of her parents' house to go 
to a dance, and while she was coming back through the woods after 
having danced all night without permission, a fearful thunderclap rent 
the sky in two and through the crack came the lightning bolt of brimstone 
that changed her into a spider. Her only nourishment came from the 
meatballs that charitable souls chose to toss into her mouth. A spectacle 
like that, full of so much human truth and with such a fearful lesson, 
was bound to defeat without even trying that of a haughty angel who 
scarcely deigned to look at mortals. Besides, the few miracles attributed 
to the angel showed a certain mental disorder, like the blind man who 
didn't recover his sight but grew three new teeth, or the paralytic who 
didn't get to walk but almost won the lottery, and the leper whose sores 
sprouted sunflowers. Those consolation miracles, which were more like 
mocking fun, had already ruined the angel's reputation when the woman 
who had been changed into a spider finally crushed him completely. 
That was how Father Gonzaga was cured forever of his insomnia and 
Pelayo's courtyard went back to being as empty as during the time it 
had rained for three days and crabs walked through the bedrooms. 

The owners of the house had no reason to lament. With the 
money they saved they built a two-story mansion with balconies and 
gardens and high netting so that crabs wouldn't get in during the winter, 
and with iron bars on the windows so that angels wouldn't get in. Pelayo 
also set up a rabbit warren close to town and gave up his job as a bailiff 
for good, and Elisenda bought some satin pumps with high heels and 
many dresses of iridescent silk, the kind worn on Sunday by the most 
desirable women in those times. The chicken coop was the only thing 
that didn't receive any attention. If they washed it down with creolin 
and burned tears of myrrh inside it every so often, it was not in homage 
to the angel but to drive away the dungheap stench that still hung 
everywhere like a ghost and was turning the new house into an old one. 
At first, when the child learned to walk, they were careful that he not 
get too close to the chicken coop. But then they began to lose their fears 
and got used to the smell, and before the child got his second teeth he'd 
gone inside the chicken coop to play, where the wires were falling apart. 
The angel was no less standoffish with him than with the other mortals, 

24 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



but he tolerated the most ingenious infamies with the patience of a dog 
who had no illusions. They both came down with the chicken pox at 
the same time. The doctor who took care of the child couldn't resist the 
temptation to listen to the angel's heart, and he found so much whistling 
in the heart and so many sounds in his kidneys that it seemed impossible 
for him to be alive. What surprised him most, however, was the logic of 
his wings. They seemed so natural on that completely human organism 
that he couldn't understand why other men didn't have them too. 

When the child began school it had been some time since the 
sun and rain had caused the collapse of the chicken coop. The angel 
went dragging himself about here and there like a stray dying man. 
They would drive him out of the bedroom with a broom and a moment 
later find him in the kitchen. He seemed to be in so many places at the 
same time that they grew to think that he'd been duplicated, that he was 
reproducing himself all through the house, and the exasperated and 
unhinged Elisenda shouted that it was awful living in that hell full of 
angels. He could scarcely eat and his antiquarian eyes had also become 
so foggy that he went about bumping into posts. All he had left were 
the bare cannulae of his last feathers. Pelayo threw a blanket over him 
and extended him the charity of letting him sleep in the shed, and only 
then did they notice that he had a temperature at night, and was delirious 
with the tongue twisters of an old Norwegian. That was one of the few 
times they became alarmed, for they thought he was going to die and 
not even the wise neighbor woman had been able to tell them what to 
do with dead angels. 

And yet he not only survived his worst winter, but seemed 
improved with the first sunny days. He remained motionless for several 
days in the farthest corner of the courtyard, where no one would see 
him, and at the beginning of December some large, stiff feathers began 
to grow on his wings, the feathers of a scarecrow, which looked more 
like another misfortune of decreptitude. But he must have known the 
reason for those changes, for he was quite careful that no one should 
notice them, that no one should hear the sea chanteys that he sometimes 
sang under the stars. One morning Elisenda was cutting some bunches 
of onions for lunch when a wind that seemed to come from the high 
seas blew into the kitchen. Then she went to the window and caught 
the angel in his first attempts at flight. They were so clumsy that his 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 25 



fingernails opened a furrow in the vegetable patch and he was on the 
point of knocking the shed down with the ungainly flapping that slipped 
on the light and couldn't get a grip on the air. But he did manage to gain 
altitude. Elisenda let out a sigh of relief, for herself and for him, when 
she watched him pass over the last houses, holding himself up in some 
way with the risky flapping of a senile vulture. She kept watching him 
even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept on watching 
until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then he was 
no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon 
of the sea. 

(1968) 



26 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane 

Translated by Edith Grossman 

She was beautiful and lithe, with soft skin the color of bread and 
eyes like green almonds, and she had straight black hair that reached 
to her shoulders, and an aura of antiquity that could just as well 
have been Indonesian as Andean. She was dressed with subtle taste: a 
lynx jacket, a raw silk blouse with very delicate flowers, natural linen 
trousers, and shoes with a narrow stripe the color of bougainvillea. "This 
is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," I thought when I saw her 
pass by with the stealthy stride of a lioness while I waited in the check- 
in line at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris for the plane to New York. 
She was a supernatural apparition who existed only for a moment and 
disappeared into the crowd in the terminal. 

It was nine in the morning. It had been snowing all night, and 
traffic was heavier than usual in the city streets, and even slower on the 
highway, where trailer trucks were lined up on the shoulder and 
automobiles steamed in the snow. Inside the airport terminal, however, 
it was still spring. 

I stood behind an old Dutch woman who spent almost an hour 
arguing about the weight of her eleven suitcases. I was beginning to feel 
bored when I saw the momentary apparition who left me breathless, 
and so I never knew how the dispute ended. Then the ticket clerk brought 
me down from the clouds with a reproach for my distraction. By way of 
an excuse, I asked her if she believed in love at first sight. "Of course," 
she said. "The other kinds are impossible." She kept her eyes fixed on 
the computer screen and asked whether I preferred a seat in smoking or 
nonsmoking. 

"It doesn't matter," I said with intentional malice, "as long as 
I'm not beside the eleven suitcases." 

She expressed her appreciation with a commercial smile but did 
not look away from the glowing screen. 

"Choose a number," she told me: "Three, four, or seven." 
tour. 

Her smile flashed in triumph. 



Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 27 



"In the fifteen years I've worked here," she said, "you're the first 
person who hasn't chosen seven." 

She wrote the seat number on my boarding pass and returned it 
with the rest of my papers, looking at me for the first time with grape- 
colored eyes that were a consolation until I could see Beauty again. 
Only then did she inform me that the airport had just been closed and 
all flights delayed. 

"For how long?" 

"That's up to God," she said with her smile. "The radio said 
this morning it would be the biggest snowstorm of the year." 

She was wrong: It was the biggest of the century. But in the 
first-class waiting room, spring was so real that there were live roses in 
the vases and even the canned music seemed as sublime and tranquilizing 
as its creators had intended. All at once it occurred to me that this was 
a suitable shelter for Beauty, and I looked for her in the other waiting 
areas, staggered by my own boldness. But most of the people were men 
from real life who read newspapers in English while their wives thought 
about someone else as they looked through the panoramic windows at 
the planes dead in the snow, the glacial factories, the vast fields of Roissy 
devastated by fierce lions. By noon there was no place to sit, and the 
heat had become so unbearable that I escaped for a breath of air. 

Outside I saw an overwhelming sight. All kinds of people had 
crowded into the waiting rooms and were camped in the stifling corridors 
and even on the stairways, stretched out on the floor with their animals, 
their children, and their travel gear. Communication with the city had 
also been interrupted, and the palace of transparent plastic resembled 
an immense space capsule stranded in the storm. I could not help 
thinking that Beauty too must be somewhere in the middle of those 
tamed hordes, and the fantasy inspired me with new courage to wait. 

By lunchtime we had realized that we were shipwrecked. The 
lines were interminable outside the seven restaurants, the cafeterias, the 
packed bars, and in less than three hours they all had to be closed because 
there was nothing left to eat or drink. The children, who for a moment 
seemed to be all the children in the world, started to cry at the same 
time, and a herd smell began to rise from the crowd. It was a time for 
instinct. In all that scrambling, the only thing I could find to eat were 
the two last cups of vanilla ice cream in a children's shop. The waiters 

28 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



were putting chairs on tables as the patrons left, while I ate very slowly 
at the counter, seeing myself in the mirror with the last little cardboard 
cup and the last little cardboard spoon, and thinking about Beauty. 

The flight to New York, scheduled for eleven in the morning, 
left at eight that night. By the time I managed to board, the other first- 
class passengers were already in their seats, and a flight attendant led me 
to mine. My heart stopped. In the seat next to mine, beside the window, 
Beauty was taking possession of her space with the mastery of an expert 
traveler. "If I ever wrote this, nobody would believe me," I thought. 
And I just managed to stammer an indecisive greeting that she did not 
hear. 

She settled in as if she were going to live there for many years, 
putting each thing in its proper place and order, until her seat was 
arranged like an ideal house, where everything was in reach. In the 
meantime, a steward brought us our welcoming champagne. I took a 
glass to offer to her, but thought better of it just in time. For she wanted 
only a glass of water, and she asked the steward, first in incomprehensible 
French and then in an English only somewhat more fluent, not to wake 
her for any reason during the flight. Her warm, serious voice was tinged 
with Oriental sadness. 

When he brought her the water, she placed a cosmetics case 
with copper corners, like a grandmother's trunk, on her lap, and took 
two golden pills from a box that contained others of various colors. She 
did everything in a methodical, solemn way, as if nothing unforeseen 
had happened to her since her birth. At last she pulled down the shade 
on the window, covered herself to the waist with a blanket without 
taking off her shoes, put on a sleeping mask, turned her back to me, and 
then slept without a single pause, without a sigh, without the slightest 
change in position, for the eight eternal hours and twelve extra minutes 
of the flight to New York. 

It was an ardent journey. I have always believed that there is 
nothing more beautiful in nature than a beautiful woman, and it was 
impossible for me to escape even for a moment from the spell of that 
storybook creature who slept at my side. The steward disappeared as 
soon as we took off and was replaced by a Cartesian attendant who tried 
to awaken Beauty to hand her a toiletry case and a set of earphones for 
listening to music. I repeated the instructions she had given the steward, 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 29 



but the attendant insisted on hearing from Beauty's own lips that she 
did not want supper either. The steward had to confirm her instructions, 
and even so he reproached me because Beauty had not hung the little 
cardboard "Do Not Disturb" sign around her neck. 

I ate a solitary supper, telling myself in silence everything I would 
have told her if she had been awake. Her sleep was so steady that at one 
point I had the distressing thought that the pills she had taken were not 
for sleeping but for dying. With each drink I raised my glass and toasted 
her. 

"To your health, Beauty." 

When supper was over the lights were dimmed and a movie was 
shown to no one, and the two of us were alone in the darkness of the 
world. The biggest storm of the century had ended, and the Atlantic 
night was immense and limpid, and the plane seemed motionless among 
the stars. Then I contemplated her, inch by inch, for several hours, and 
the only sign of life I could detect were the shadows of the dreams that 
passed along her forehead like clouds over water. Around her neck she 
wore a chain so fine it was almost invisible against her golden skin, her 
perfect ears were unpierced, her nails were rosy with good health, and 
on her left hand was a plain band. Since she looked no older than twenty, 
I consoled myself with the idea that it was not a wedding ring but the 
sign of an ephemeral engagement. "To know you are sleeping, certain, 
secure, faithful channel of renunciation, pure line, so close to my 
manacled arms," I thought on the foaming crest of champagne, repeating 
the masterful sonnet by Gerardo Diego. Then I lowered the back of my 
seat to the level of hers, and we lay together, closer than if we had been 
in a marriage bed. The climate of her breathing was the same as that of 
her voice, and her skin exhaled a delicate breath that could only be the 
scent of her beauty. It seemed incredible: The previous spring I had read 
a beautiful novel by Yasunari Kawabata about the ancient bourgeois of 
Kyoto who paid enormous sums to spend the night watching the most 
beautiful girls in the city, naked and drugged, while they agonized with 
love in the same bed. They could not wake them, or touch them, and 
they did not even try, because the essence of their pleasure was to see 
them sleeping. That night, as I watched over Beauty's sleep, I not only 
understood that senile refinement but lived it to the full. 

"Who would have thought," I said to myself, my vanity 

30 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez 



exacerbated by champagne, "that I'd become an ancient Japanese at this 
late date." 

I think I slept several hours, conquered by champagne and the 
mute explosions of the movie, and when I awoke my head was splitting. 
I went to the bathroom. Two seats behind mine the old woman with 
the eleven suitcases lay in an awkward sprawl, like a forgotten corpse on 
a battlefield. Her reading glasses, on a chain of colored beads, were on 
the floor in the middle of the aisle, and for a moment I enjoyed the 
malicious pleasure of not picking them up. 

After I got rid of the excesses of champagne, I caught sight of 
myself, contemptible and ugly, in the mirror, and was amazed that the 
devastation of love could be so terrible. The plane lost altitude without 
warning, then managed to straighten out and continue full speed ahead. 
The "Return to Your Seat" sign went on. I hurried out with the hope 
that God's turbulence might awaken Beauty and she would have to take 
refuge in my arms to escape her terror. In my haste I almost stepped on 
the Dutchwoman's glasses and would have been happy if I had. But I 
retraced my steps, picked them up, and put them on her lap in sudden 
gratitude for her not having chosen seat number four before I did. 

Beauty's sleep was invincible. When the plane stabilized, I had 
to resist the tempation to shake her on some pretext, because all I wanted 
in the last hour of the flight was to see her awake, even if she was furious, 
so that I could recover my freedom, and perhaps my youth. But I couldn't 
do it. "Damn it," I said to myself with great scorn. "Why wasn't I born 
a Taurus!" 

She awoke by herself at the moment the landing lights went on, 
and she was as beautiful and refreshed as if she had slept in a rose garden. 
That was when I realized that like old married couples, people who sit 
next to each other on airplanes do not say good morning to each other 
when they wake up. Nor did she. She took off her mask, opened her 
radiant eyes, straightened the back of the seat, moved the blanket aside, 
shook her hair that fell into place of its own weight, put the cosmetics 
case back on her knees, and applied rapid, unnecessary makeup, which 
took just enough time so that she did not look at me until the plane 
door opened. Then she put on her lynx jacket, almost stepped over me 
with a conventional excuse in pure Latin American Spanish, left without 
even saying good-bye or at least thanking me for all I had done to make 

Fugitive Survivors of a Celestial Conspiracy • 31 



our night together a happy one, and disappeared into the sun of today 
in the Amazon jungle of New York. 

(1982) 



32 • Gabriel Garcia Marquez