Gestation / Fernando Dámaso

The tree began to spread its leaves on June 14th. First slowly and then more quickly. In the morning they began to cover the windows and towards noon they already reached the roof and had started to become intertwined. Their first effect was the dim light they let into the room. It seemed as if they took possession of everything and this would make them grow. By nightfall the room was a single entangled vine unable to be penetrated by any human being. On the fifteenth day the leaves began to extend under the door and broke the glass of the window, looking for new space. In three days the house was engulfed in full green leaves.Hundreds of birds came to the vine, filling every day of the week with their songs. As the hours passed, the leaves spread more and more. After the house, they covered the neighborhood and later the whole city. They grew on cars, on posts, illuminated advertisements and over shop windows. Everything went well and was acceptable until the moment in which they started to grow on people. The first one who noticed was García, a mason, when he was on his way to his work: leaves sprouted from his fingers. He ran screaming like a madman until a root set him into the ground next to the bus stop. The same thing happened to others. After one month, in the place where the city would have been there was a beautiful forest. This is how it remained for decades until one day when from a tree, a child was born.

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Translated by: Antonio Trujillo

The Hero / Fernando Dámaso

The small blue circle was widening and growing until it ended up totally enclosing him. At first his feet and hands remained outside of it, now his whole body was inside the circle. He barely managed to keep his head outside, in a tenacious battle that he knew, if he lost it, if would all be over. Bystanders watched, some sympathetically, others indifferent, but no one stopped to help him or to hurt him. So he spent two nights and two days. It was the afternoon of the second day. It was always easier in the morning, as long as he didn’t get too burnt by the sun, or find the air too thin. The circle stretched at times, giving the sensation that he might be able to break it, but it only lasted an instant, and then it would immediately contract, squeezing even harder, trying to take in even his head. It was a terrible battle.

It had all started suddenly. he was walking, like every night, returning home, when he felt something trap his feet. He tried to keep his balance but he couldn’t, as he fell to the ground. From that moment he never stood up again. The circle tied his feet, after covering his ankles and then his knees. He fought that night and all the next day, and kept the circle from advancing further. Only in the morning of the second day did the circle manage to capture his arms. He was dirty and his clothes were torn, but he held his head erect, outside the circle. He tried to fill his constricted lungs with air and to not close his eyes, convinced that if he did he would be defeated. Just then he saw a child come running. In his right hand was a carnation and his face was one huge smile, the greatest he had seen in all his forty-eight years. He tried to warn him with a gesture of his face, to show the danger, but he failed. The child kept coming, and when he was near enough, he kissed his cheek and then dropped the carnation into the circle. Everyone was shocked. The circle stretched in one sudden movement, but this time it didn’t contract again, but broke into pieces, which in turn fell apart and disappeared completely. The man felt that his body was free again and looked around for the child among the crowd that was beginning to gather, but he couldn’t find him. He saw, however, that all the people around him had a small blue circle on their left legs, reaching up to their ankles.

August 16, 2010

Of “Patriots” and Citizens / Fernando Dámaso

In my childhood and adolescence, personalities from the war of independence were the ones they called patriots and, in its most general sense, all those who took part in it in one way or another. With the passing of years, the word fell into disuse, and was sometimes applied, rather ironically, to some politician at election time.
<li>From the beginning of the sixties it was taken up again, and started to be used with athletes, artists, professionals, et cetera, who experiencing some success abroad, chose not to stay there and returned to their homeland.</li>
<li>Recently, different authorities in the field of education are proposing once again that the first job of education is to form ever more prepared patriots.</li>
<li>I beg to differ: I believe that the principle job of the family, of education, and of society, is to form citizens. When I write citizens, I am referring to people with moral principles, ethics and civics, capable of fulfilling their duties and exercising their rights. These people, unfortunately, are now in the minority, an important cause of the deterioration of our social existence.</li>
<li>In place of a country of patriots and heroes, I prefer one of citizens.</li>

August 13, 2010

THE IMMIGRANT / Fernando Dámaso

The cubicle was permeated with a strong odor of antibiotics. On the pole hung two hundred and fifty grams of blood plasma and two vials of serum, attached by thin plastic hoses that ended in his chest and arms. The oxygen cylinder was connected to his nose through a tube, trying to east his strangled breathing. His nose also had a drain hose discharging into a bottle hanging on the left-hand bar of the bed. Another hose coming from his abdomen drained urine into a bottle on the floor.

Every so often nurses checked on the jars and hoses and took his pulse, measuring his heart rate. In the next bed, an elderly man operated on for ulcers, emitted rhythmic moans from a state of drowsiness. The guy opened his glazed eyes and looked, lost in the morning of the accident between the crash and the screeching of brakes, searching the Asturian mountains for the wolves who preyed on the unsuspecting sheep. From time to time he raised his left arm, looking for his hand, and tried to scare away the hawk that, flying high, also searched for easy prey. The sheep pushed in around him, one against another, and he, the child-shepherd, stroked their woolly backs, giving them confidence.

The first heart attack surprised him in the morning. It was a hot blow tearing into his chest. He pressed against the sheep and merged with them. He wanted to avoid the wolves’ bites and raised his left arm again, fending off the sharp teeth. He felt the wolf move off, after biting him. The sheep stopped their bleating. The nearby olive grove wafted well-known odors his way, and the cold mountain wind ruffled his hair. He pressed the blanket against his chest. The nurse came and moved his arm.

“Careful,” she said, “you’ll disconnect the transfusion.”

Again the sheep surrounded him. He started to remember that old melody that, at night, when he returned home, he used to sing to scare the wolves away. From the church came the procession, carrying the virgin dressed all in white. María Isabel carried the ring and sat on the garden bench, stretching her legs. He looked at her and smiled. She hid her face.

The nurse felt his chest and again adjusted the drops falling from the bottles of serum.

In the distance was the roar of the guns. The sheep became frightened and ran from side to side. He tried to stop them. Then the second heart attack came. He felt his chest was on fire. He saw the doctor’s face bending over him. The boat rocked him on the waves and he was dizzy, feeling like he wanted to vomit. He clung to the railing. The doctor beat on his chest. The hawk launched itself at its prey. He raised his arm once more, trying to scare it, but he couldn’t. Then he began to feel like a speck of earth floating on the mountain air.

August 11, 2010

Other Steps / Fernando Dámaso

1. When we speak of solving the economic problems that overwhelm us, the road ahead appears complex and intricate. It has grown too much invasive marabou weed over the years and clearing it is no easy task. The solution is not to open narrow paths that, ultimately, are difficult to navigate and close up again with the first rains.

2. The solution is to open wide avenues where initiatives and work that will produce wealth for all Cubans can take hold, freed from the bureaucratic patronage that has produced nothing.

3. Public ownership in some key spheres, cooperative ownership, and small- and medium-sized individual ownership, without limitations, must become real factors in our development. The balance of each one will be determined over time.

4. It is time to abandon old and obsolete formulas that have failed everywhere, and face reality with ways and methods that correspond to the integrated and globalized world. It means taking no steps backward, only moving forward.

August 10, 2010