The following is a translation of Section 6 of “Mexico 1998. Above and Below: Masks and Silences,” from which “The Story of the Cougar and the Mirror” is taken.
Originally published on July 17th, 1998.
VI. Viejo Antonio versus Outdated Maoism
Important warning, that is to say, urgent warning, or however you say it: The Seahorse’s Tales section arbitrarily interrupts this verrrrry serious political analysis and, just like that, leaves us dizzy like the tide which dizzies the sea. As medicine, the hippocampus prescribes us a tale (what else could it be!).
Viejo Antonio tells that when he was young his father Don Antonio taught him how to kill a cougar without firearms. Viejo Antonio tells that when Antonio was young and his father was Viejo Antonio told him the story that now he dictates to my ears so that the sea may know it from my lips. Viejo Antonio tells it to me just like this, but I call it
The Story of the Cougar and the Mirror
“The cougar first tears apart its victim, then it drinks the blood eating the heart and leaves the remains for the buzzards. Nothing can compete with the strength of the cougar. There is no animal that confronts it nor man that does not flee from it. The only thing that can defeat the cougar is a force equally brutal, bloody, and powerful.”
The then old Antonio of the then young Antonio, formed his cigarette with a roller and, pretending to pay attention to the logs that converged into the luminous star of fire in the bonfire, looked at young Antonio from the corner of his eye. He did not wait long because young Antonio asked:
-And what is this force great enough to defeat the cougar?
The old Antonio from then handed young Antonio from then a mirror.
-Me? –asked the then young Antonio looking at himself in the little round mirror.
The old Antonio from then smiled to himself with pleasure (says the young Antonio from then) and took the mirror from him.
-No, not you –he replied.
“By showing you the mirror I wanted to say that the force that could defeat the cougar was that of the cougar. Only the cougar itself could defeat the cougar.”
-Ah! –says the then young Antonio who said it to say something.
The then old Antonio understood that the then young Antonio had not understood anything and continued telling the story.
“When we understood that only the cougar could defeat the cougar we began to think about what to do so that the cougar would confront itself. The oldest of the old in the community said that it was necessary to understand the cougar and they named a young man to go understand it.”
-You? –interrupts the then young Antonio.
The then old Antonio says yes with his silence and, after rearranging the logs in the bonfire, continues:
“They put the young man in the heights of a ceiba tree and at the base of it they put a bound calf. They left. The young man had to observe what the cougar did with the calf, wait for it to leave, and return to the community to tell what he had seen. That’s what he did, the cougar arrived and killed and tore up the calf, then it drank its blood eating the heart and left when the buzzards circled waiting for their turn.
“The young man went to the community and told what he had seen, the oldest of the old thought a while and said: ‘May the death that the killer gives be its death,’ and they handed the young man a mirror, some nails for ironwork, and a calf.
“Tomorrow is the night of justice,” said the old ones and they returned to their thoughts.
“The young man did not understand. He went to his hut and was there for a good while looking at the set. He was there and his father arrived and asked him what had happened to him; the young man told him everything. The young man’s father remained in silence together with him and, after a while, talked. The young man smiled while he listened to his father.
“The next day, when the afternoon was already turning golden and the gray of the night let itself fall over the tops of the trees, the young man left the community and went to the foot of the ceiba tree carrying the calf. When he got to the foot of the mother tree, he killed the calf and took out its heart. Then he broke the mirror in many little pieces and stuck them in the heart with the blood, then he opened the heart and put in the ironwork nails. He returned the heart to the calf’s breast and with stakes made a framework to keep it standing up, as if it were alive. The young man went up to the top of the ceiba tree and waited there. Above, while the night let itself fall from the trees to the ground, he remembered the words of his father: ‘The same death with which the killer will kill itself.’
“The night was already complete in the time of below when the cougar arrived. The animal approached and, in one leap, attacked the calf and tore it up. When it licked the heart, the cougar doubted whether the blood was dry or not, but the broken bits of mirror wounded the cougar’s tongue and made it bleed. So the cougar thought that the blood from its mouth was that of the calf’s heart and, excited, bit the entire heart. The ironwork nails made it bleed more, but the cougar continued thinking that the blood that it had in its mouth was the calf’s. Chewing and chewing, the cougar wounded itself more and more and bleed more and chewed more and more.
“The cougar was like that until it bleed to death.
“The young man returned with the cougar’s claws as a necklace and showed it to the oldest of the old in the community.
“They smiled to themselves and told him: ‘The claws are not what you should keep as a victory trophy, but the mirror.’
Like this Viejo Antonio tells that the cougar kills itself.
But, in addition to the little mirror, Viejo Antonio always carries his old flintlock rifle.
“It’s in case the cougar does not know history,” he says smiling and with a wink. On this side, the sea adds, “In case the cougar or the Orive .”
And speaking of ex-Maoists and ex-left-wing ex-radicals, today resplendent advisors of the right-wing criminals (who began talking like cockatoos and now, to conceal themselves, imitate the ostrich), Viejo Antonio had his own version of that revolutionary and the masses and the like with the fish in the water, in addition to the counterinsurgency strategy of “draining the pond” which today the flustered governmental advisors recommend:
The Fish in the Water
Viejo Antonio tells a story that the oldest of the old in his community told him. The story tells that once upon a time there was a very beautiful fish that lived in the river. They tell that the cougar saw the fish and was tempted to eat it. The cougar went to the river but saw that it could not swim in the river and attack the fish. So the cougar asked the opossum for advice and it said: “It’s very simple, the fish cannot live without water. The only thing that you have to do is drink the water in the river, and like so the fish will be left motionless and then you will be able to attack it and eat it.” The cougar expressed satisfaction with the opossum’s advice and rewarded it with a position in its kingdom.
The cougar went to the riverbank and began to drink the liquid.
It died of water poisoning.
The opossum was left unemployed.
New important warning, but no longer that urgent of a warning: the seahorse’s interruption has finished, unlike the dizzied dizziness. Maybe its persistence is owed to what is shown and talked about in…
VII. The Seventh Mask and the Seventh Silence
English translation copyright © 2014 by Henry Gales. All rights reserved.