Stories in English

‘House of Chirimías’

Drawing by Juan B. Olalla Rodríguez

With one sip, the sky drank the red wine of La Sabika. The sunset shattered into pieces like the embers of a dying fire. While her fingers danced on the keys of the oboe, her feet, in her battered old shoes, hung high above the river, away from the stone wall where she was sitting. Quenco moved his head to the rhythm of Granada and, cuddled against her, his beloved owner, he idly looked at the tourists passing by. Majestic, the Comares Tower raised its haloed head among the dark trees. From under its petticoat, the Reúma Hotel leant out, modest and chipped, a doll’s house drawn on its façade. Memories slipped down its scaly dome and a little suitcase full of dreams rang with voices from the past.

The girl breathed in a faint perfume of mint and moss and she flew towards her childhood, riding on the notes of the music. She remembered the Piojo School, those children who were as poor and raggedy as herself. She had read that one day the monks departed and the school went silent and the children and their songs fell into oblivion. When the murmuring subsided, she squinted at the bridge and scanned the stone pavement until her eyes reached the House of Chirimías, a small brick tower, shy and mute. She stared at the bay windows at the top where, long long ago, musicians had played for the pleasure of authorities. «It’s really funny that noblemen never changed the name of this house» ―she thought. «This is our home». And she caressed the oboe and kissed Quenco on his wet nose. They climbed the tower together.

The hornpipe sounded up there, or at least she heard it. Memories tumbled in her eyes, memories evoked by the little balcony at the doll’s house. The twelve windows suddenly opened to the rhythm of music and the barking of the dog. Children, smiling, ragged, appeared at the open windows of the hotel and they sang their songs to the city.

The oboe trembled in her hands.

Gerardo Rodríguez Salas

* The hornpipe (‘chirimía’) is a single-reed wind instrument consisting of a wooden or bone pipe with finger holes, a bell, and mouthpiece usually of horn, of about 70 centimetres long. It is the ancestor of the oboe, of common use in Europe since the 12th century.

** ‘House of Chirimías’ (‘La casa de las Chirimías’) is a story included in the programme for the 47th International Conference of the International Double Reed Society (page 183), held in Granada (28th August-1st September). This English translation is the result of a collaboration between myself and the 2016 Patrick White Award for Literature, Carmel Bird.


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