My Father's Letter 

homeward bound



My father's letter was still in my pocket, unopened. Soldiers gripped rifles in front of painted trees. I crossed the cobbled street, bumping into Robert. "Oh, wow!" he said, or perhaps, "Oh, ow!" Military music burst out in the square.

Suddenly it rained. In minutes the street was flooded and it was impossible to see, but the music continued, I think. I ran to the shelter of a recessed doorway. The rain stopped. I removed someone's hand from my pocket and continued along the street. Robert was staring at a pig on a leash. "What are you doing here?" he said: to me, evidently.

A naked woman bathed in the street. I decided to try the national drink. A man was having his hair cut in the cantina, while others played pool on a torn table. A file of girls in school dress -- maroon skirts and white blouses -- passed before the window, following a man in a grotesque mask with a twisted nose. Smoke rose from the snow-covered cone at the end of the street. A woman sang of return in a low rough voice. Someone was dying. I chewed a matchstick and fingered my father's letter.


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