5.14.2014 Journal Prompt

Photo by Nacho Lopez
Photo by Nacho Lopez

May 14, 2014: He said it was the measure of a man.

One Reply to “5.14.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. Alejandro shrugged his shoulder. He made a small amendment to something he had written in his book and he showed it to me, knowing I could make no sense of what he had written. It was a trust thing. I nodded and he closed the book and put it into his back pocket. The stub of pencil he tucked behind one ear.

    Now I come to think of Alejandro, I cannot picture him without the stub of a pencil behind his ear or the bulge of a notebook in his back pocket. Always his brow wore a furrow, too, as if he was every moment making some small and difficult calculation in his head – which he probably was. In the town they say he was the richest man that ever walked or lived, and there’s money in death, they also say.

    Alejandro was the coffin maker. Oh, and he could make you a fine and strong table, or a set of chairs to sit around that table. And he made bookshelves for the professor who had new books sent to him every week from the city and small caskets with hinged lids and locks for ladies to keep their jewellery in. But Alejandro’s main business was making coffins. He took orders, too, and in that way he was sometimes the bank of our small village.

    Twice a year he took my measurements. Just to be sure, he said. And he reassessed the amount of wood it would take to make my coffin and he gave me revised prices for the different woods. If I had enjoyed a good portion of luck with the cards at Gerardo’s, taking a few pesos from the doctor and the priest and from Ernesto, the teacher, then I paid Alejandro for a change in my order. He made a note in his book that it was not pine I had paid for but cedar or imported oak from Europe. He said the wood of a coffin was the measure of a man.

    If, however, the corn in my fields had suffered the pest and the Queen of diamonds was not smiling or showing me her tits, then Alejandro gave me back a small piece of the money I had paid and changed my order again, from red cedar to pale and bloodless pine, and he removed the brass handles and replaced them with waxed rope.

    Alejandro is dead now and because he was not blessed with sons, his business has passed to his daughter, María de los Ángeles. She is as wide as a door, and she has gaps in her teeth, and she keeps Alejandro’s old order book, tucked into her bodice. She smells of habanero and she moves a little unsteady on her feet, like she is always dancing and the music in her head is staccato and broken.

    María de los Ángeles has a pencil tucked behind one ear, which is just like her father, and she runs the business just as Alejandro did, too. Everything the same, except for one thing. María de los Ángeles does not regard the wood that is ordered and paid for to be the measure of the man. In the back of Alejandro’s notebook she keeps a record of all the men she has ever fucked, and the size of their cocks recorded there, too. That she says is the real measure of a man, and she laughs when she says it, and her laugh sounds like the voices of crows when they are disturbed.

    And today she takes my hand and pulls me into the back of the shop where there is a soft and unmade bed. For this service she charges only ten pesos, and that money does not pass through Alejandro’s book. I go to María de los Ángeles when the pockets of Ernesto and the priest and the doctor are a little lighter and mine a little heavier. I go to be measured a man.

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