A journal of narrative writing.
After the Hunt
Page 2

What happened in the days between that night and Friday was an inescapable, buzzing babel for Ramón. The creaking of unsteady trees, the strange thump of a heartbeat, and of course, the fur shrouded racket night after night after night. Ramón contemplated going to his cousin’s house, the one who had a vineyard and wife in Fuente Vaqueros. However, the thought of hearing them talk about family in between sucking on pig bones made him wait until Thursday, when he would need wine. Ramón busied himself during the days shopping for Loli, something Gloria never allowed him to do. He bought aged sheep cheese, loaves of pan de pueblo, slabs of salmon, and a chocolate tart with tiny glazed pears sprinkled on top, which he imagined in her mouth on her tongue, between her dark lips, making her say mmm. He bought a new shirt, a new pair of socks, and a new aftershave. He got a haircut. On Thursday morning he rang his cousin, brushed his freshly trimmed hair and drove to the vineyard.

“This for Gloria?” his cousin asked, as he led him to the back of his wine cellar.

“No, someone else,” Ramón said, marveling at the hundreds and hundreds of green bottles, some without labels, sitting, waiting to be opened.

“Always thought she was a nice girl. Real pretty.”

Ramón fluttered his fingers at the bottles. “What wine goes best with salmon?”

His cousin pursed his lips, let his eyes roam, and reached for one with a clean, white label that read: Familia Camomila. “This is good,” he said. “It’s a Tempranillo, a 2004.”

“Can I have more than one?” Ramón asked, stretching out his hand.

His cousin scratched his beard, tilted his head to the side. “You doing alright, hombre? The wife asked me to ask you.”

“I’m fine. Great.” Ramón puffed out his chest, straightened his spine. “I have a date tonight, don’t I?”

His cousin shrugged, and handed him two more bottles. “Yeah, but you were with Gloria for five years. That’s a long time.”

“Thanks for the wine, tío. I owe you,” said Ramón, and took out his car keys.

* * *

Ramón Camomila arrived early, and looked up at the hill he would have to climb. The Friday sun was low, casting an amber light on the caves, which were quiet and serious. With one hand gripping his bag of food and wine, the other extended for balance, he made his way up the hill, which had no path. Once at the top, he searched for a name, and realized he did not know Loli’s last name, nor were there any sort of markers on these bizarre homes, these homes of rock, where there were probably pre-historic paintings, where people did not have television or microwaves, and maybe they all went to the bathroom outside. His chest felt like it was shrinking, like it would squeeze him to death; he swiveled his head around, confused, and wondered if it was all a trick—another lying woman. Then he saw the Alhambra.

Of course, Ramón had been in the palace many times as a boy, but never had he seen it from this side of town. The Alhambra was majestic in the yellow and orange tint,

the shadows from the white towers a deep smoky blue. There were tourists the size of ants down below, and tiny buses moved as if pulled by an invisible string. Only the Alhambra retained its size; large and white and magnificent, the windows carved with fine tools, the gardens lush, the memory of sultans and kings still alive in every room, under every tile, between each step, at home. A bellow rang out; Ramón was surprised he could hear it from this side of town. He set his bag down and perched on a rock, admiring the marvel of architecture. Another deer cried out; its voice traveled over the dusty hills toward the palace, jumped through an open window into the dining hall which was empty today, but had once held a large olive wood table polished with cold pressed olive oil.

Once, in the middle of that table, on a gold serving dish lay the head of a deer, glazed with rosewater and honey, a roasted pear in its docile mouth. A knife was poised over its neck, ready to dig and carve the pink, soft meat for the sultan, then for his guests, then for his courtesans, and finally for his servants, who licked the bones and threw them to the silky haired dogs. After dinner, the sultan and his guests retreated to the smoking room, inhaled strong hookah, and passed a dish of sugar coated green almonds to one another. They reposed cross legged on silk pillows from Asia, blinked and smiled at the honeycombed ceiling which was painted blue and white and carved with pictures and the words Allah Allah Allah. Astonished by the skill and their full bellies, they lowered their heads onto the pretty womens laps, reached up and touched their smooth, white, sweet smelling skin. If they did not fall asleep, they allowed the women to caress their flushed and fat bodies.

“You’re here.”

Ramón started, looked down to see a dark hand on his shoulder, the nails chipped and uneven in length. Loli sat next to him and lit a Fortuna cigarette.

“You have a beautiful view,” he said.

Loli spoke and exhaled smoke simultaneously. “What’s in the bag?”

Ramón opened the bag and removed the items one by one, arranged the dishes carefully, offered everything to her, everything for her enormous eyes and soft lips and dangerous tongue.

“Hungry?” he asked.

With both hands she picked up the food, and ate as if she hadn’t eaten for days, ate everything with the same desire, not bothering to wipe away crumbs from her mouth, letting bits of cheese and fish and vegetables fall to her chest and lap.

“Open a bottle,” she said, and he uncorked the Familia Camomila.

They ate and drank until they were surrounded by darkness, and when the last of the chocolate tart with the tiny glazed pears had been consumed, Loli stood up and walked into a cave, her cave. Ramón assumed he was supposed to follow, so he gathered the trash in his bag and went inside.

“Do you live alone?” he asked, taking in the barren home, the ribbed walls of rock, the floor scuffed from wooden furniture, a lone guitar by the water basin.

“I live with my brothers,” she said, her teeth stained.

“Where are they?” he asked.

“Hunting,” she said, and pated the rug she was sitting on. Ramón crouched down, ran his fingers clumsily through the short hair of a wild, dead deer. As if feeling this

touch in the afterlife, a deer moaned in the distance, then descended underground. Loli widened her eyes and embraced him tightly; he touched her bare knee and pushed his fingers up higher, under her skirt, up to just below the thick curve of her hip, where his skin suddenly met cold, smooth metal.

“My navaja,” she whispered. “You never know when you might need a knife.”

“Do you think I'm going to hurt you?” he asked.

“You couldn’t hurt me,” she said. “But I could hurt you.”

He looked at her, smaller when not on stage, less ferocious. “I have never seen anyone dance like you. You must be famous here.”

“I don’t make any money from that. Just change, to buy drinks for me and my family.” She paused and unstrapped the holder from her thigh. “Do you know how I make money?”

He glanced at the guitar, then at her face, the dark chicory skin, the deep circles under her eyes. “Do I want to know?”

She leaned into him, he smelled the Familia Camomila on her breath. “What I do, what I really do for money, is I let the tourists come into my home and see how real eastern European gypsies live—for ten Euros a head.” She leaned back. “It was my brothers’ idea. They said it would work better with a woman.”

“What do they do?” he asked.