Short Story · The Hunt

By Graciela del Percio

Translated by Victoria Pehl Smith, Ph.D.


—After dinner we’ll go hunting—Garrido said in a mysterious way.

Since I kept going with my gaze fixed on the piece of steak, he leaned over the platter of French fries and I couldn’t help but pay attention to him. He lowered his voice a little:

—Do you remember the little square that’s about two blocks from here? The one that ends on an alley?

I said that I did. I remembered the place well; it was the triangle against the railroad tracks. The first date with my ex had been there.

—Saturday nights it fills up with couples who are going to fuck.—Garrido continued—I choose the fanciest car and burst in on them; I show them signs of hauling them in and they’re scared so shitless they give me everything they have.

During the entire meal, he didn’t let up goading me to go with him. When the waiter brought the flan, he insisted again and I accepted his proposal just to shut him the fuck up. After coffee, he asked for the bill and we left the pub. I turned up my collar, a wind had started up. We took Rosetti, the street where the bananas are, which at that hour was almost deserted.

Since they had let me go a few years ago for being unfit for duty, Garrido had insisted on becoming my protector. Every now and then he would show up to give me some gig. Sometimes it was working as a security guard, other times following the wife of some cuckhold. Also, more troubling offers that I tried to avoid. But lately it was all the same to me; insomnia had me hemmed in and, if I managed to sleep, the nightmares returned, making off with what little lucidity I had left.

Before crossing the first intersection, he took out the cigarettes and offered me one. We were silent the rest of the way. We stopped at the intersection of Rosetti and the tracks; the little square began on the other side.

Garrido started out on the gravel road. I followed him. When we arrived at the end he pointed out the back of a truck. He slapped the hood with his hand. He turned on the flashlight and focused it on the windshield. The light exploded against the glass and the people inside raised their hands to shield themselves. He yelled at them to get out. The boy got out first; Garrido signaled to me to take charge while he walked around the vehicle. He knocked on the window on the other side to get the girl to hurry up.

I asked the boy to show me his ID. He leaned against the fender; he had trouble getting his hand into his pocket.

—What do you want?—he stuttered.

—Calm down, this is a routine matter—I assured him. Then I told him to tell me his name and address so I check it against the one on his ID. I thought about asking him what he was doing there, but I stopped myself, it was a dumb question. I leaned over to look through the glass. The girl was jammed up against the other window.

—Everything’s in order here—I yelled to Garrido, regretting not having returned to the boarding house. He didn’t answer, but I managed to hear something of what he was telling the boy:
—Look, you’ve got to understand, if you don’t behave…

I didn’t need to hear any more to imagine him acting like the expert, waving around the regulations like a little flag. I had forgotten that he might be armed.

I looked at the boy. He still hadn’t put away the wallet from which he had taken out his ID. I told him to give me everything he had. When he extended his hand he seemed to be in doubt because he didn’t hand over the money. I snatched it from him and felt the damp bills.

—Garrido!—I yelled. The boy here gave me something for us.
—This won’t be resolved by just a little bit, this Don Juan is corrupting a minor—he answered.
—Stay quiet—he told the boy; I went to the other side of the vehicle and I saw Garrido: his hands on the roof; with the left he gripped his revolver.
—We already have enough; let’s go before it all turns to shit.
—She’s just a kid—he said without taking his eyes off of her—I wonder if her folks know she’s been fucking this idiot?

Then he lowered his arm and left it hanging by his side; the pistol aiming towards the ground.
—I bet they think she’s at one of her little girlfriend’s house—he continued.
—That’s enough, Garrido. He’s her boyfriend— I lied. The girl looked at him disdainfully.
—Look, she’s getting all haughty. —Garrido raised the revolver and used the barrel as if it were an extension of his fingers; he opened up her blouse. I could see, barely, the curve of her breasts. Enough to imagine them under her clothes. A gust of wind blew her hair and a few strands stuck to her lips.
—Please let us go— begged the boyfriend, who had followed me.

I did not turn to look at him. Nor did I answer him. Then he made a mistake: he grabbed my shoulder. At that point I turned around and gave him a fierce look:
—What are you touching, you little punk?

Garrido laughed out loud, something turned inside of me. Out of pure instinct I patted my side looking for the shoulder holster. And even though I found nothing, I blurted out:
—Do you think you’re the only one that gets to eat this bonbon?