Issue 219, Winter 2016
The train arrived at about six o’clock on a cold, wet November morning. The fog was so thick it was almost impossible to see. I was wearing my coat collar up and my hat shoved down around my ears, but still the fog penetrated all the way to my bones. The apartment where Leonidas lived was in a neighborhood far from the center of town, on the sixth floor of a modest building. Everything—the staircase, the hallways, the rooms—was invaded by the fog. As I climbed the stairs, I thought I was approaching eternity, an eternity of mist and silence. Leonidas, my brother, when I reached your door, I thought I would die of grief! I had come to visit you the year before, during my Christmas break. “We’ll have turkey stuffed with olives and chestnuts, an Italian Spumante, and dried fruit,” you said, radiant with happiness. “Moses, Gaspar, let’s celebrate!” Those days were always so festive. We drank a lot and talked about our parents, about the apple pasteles, the evenings by the fire, the old man’s pipe and that absent, downcast gaze of his that we couldn’t forget, the winter sweaters that Mama knitted for us, that aunt on our mother’s side who buried all of her money and died of hunger, the professor of mathematics with his starched collars and bow ties, the girls from the drugstore we took to the movies on Sundays, those films we never watched, the handkerchiefs covered in lipstick that we had to throw away . . . In my grief, I had forgotten to ask the concierge to unlock the apartment. I had to wake her; she climbed the stairs half asleep, dragging her feet. There were Moses and Gaspar, but when they saw me they fled in terror. The woman said she’d been feeding them twice a day; and yet, to me, they looked all skin and bones.
“It was horrible, Señor Kraus. I saw him with my own eyes, here in this chair, slumped over the table. Moses and Gaspar were lying at his feet. At first I thought they were all asleep—they were so quiet! But it was already late and Señor Leonidas would always wake up early and go out to buy food for Moses and Gaspar. He ate downtown, but he always fed them first; I suddenly realized that . . . ”