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Listen to the 2018 WKMS SHORT Short Storytelling Contest Winner: Diego del Valle

Diego del Valle of Hopkinsville, KY is the winner of the 2018 WKMS SHORT short storytelling. Read and listen to his story below.

                                                A Certain Understanding

There was once a woman who loved her husband with all of her heart. This much of the story I can say with utmost certainty. Isabel Rivera-Guttierez loved her husband as if she had been created for that purpose. Don Pablo, as he was known in the village, owned a plot of land in the small valley called La Posita where he and his wife raised pigs and goats. Theirs was a meager existence but through years of much struggle and hard work they had reached a state of comfort and financial security. Isabel would awaken early in the morning and prepare her husband his cafe con leche with thick slices of warm pan de agua. The butter for the bread she made herself by shaking heavy cream in a masonry jar until it had thickened enough for spreading. She had done it the same way for all of their thirty-three years together. After breakfast was prepared she would awaken Don Pablo, run his bathwater, and go about her duties.

It should be said of Isabel Rivera-Guttierez that she was not a woman inclined to wear her emotions on her shirt sleeve. There were no kisses for Don Pablo. There were no hugs. There were no outward signs of affection for which to cause gossip. She kept her love for her husband private. There was a certain understanding which needed no pageantry. This was the same understanding that had carried them through some very difficult times together. The death of both of their parents and the loss of their only child Pablito, who had died on his ninth birthday from a fever. Throughout it all they had remained together. In love.

Don Pablo himself was a very quiet man known to drink only under the most extreme of circumstances. He had been Isabel’s first and only man and she his only woman, which is how it should be. He was a mild man who rarely spoke above a whisper and avoided any type of quarrel. Isabel, on the other hand, often spoke in the harsh tone of her mother. And if there was ever a misunderstanding or ever a disagreement between them, Isabel won hands down; often demanding Don Pablos’ abnegation which was provided without reluctance, for her husband had neither the strength nor the desire to compete with her. It was understood.

On the day of the incident Don Pablo had returned early from the market where he had taken thirty of his best hogs to be sold. A surplus of hogs at market forced Don Pablo to settle for a smaller price for each of his beasts. Upon his return Isabel was dumbfounded and demanded an explanation. This slight at the market would certainly cost them on feed and other incidentals that they had not planned for. Besides her nieces’ wedding was not far off and they had promised to help with the cost. An argument ensued in which the character of Don Pablo was questioned. The remark silenced her husband who through the remainder of the day and on through the next week spoke not a word. This behavior was foreign to Isabel and although not one to apologize, she showed her regret by cooking Don Pablo’ favorite foods. Mondongo with chickpeas on Monday, picadillo the day after, lengua de vaca with avichuelas coloradas. These, his favorites, were all plopped down in front of him heavily, for despite Isabels’ despair at her husband’s silence, she was not one to give in. In time she thought. In time this mood of his would end and things would be back to normal. However not a word did he speak for perhaps a month in which time Isabel became more and more desperate. Bistec empanada with sofrito and patitas de cerdo for lunch. Surely he understood. She had even gone as far as to wish him a good day as he left for market one morning and cheered dramatically at his business prowess when he returned that evening with the earnings. He smiled weakly and went out on the veranda to smoke his cigarro.

At night they lied together in silence touching only by accident. And only after she was sure that he had fallen asleep Isabel would watch her husband at peace, wishing that she were inside of him. Silently whispering her remorse; cursing her stubbornness.

This is the end of our story although I wish that I could give you a happier one. It is true however and due to this verity should end sadly. True stories often do. Don Pablo never spoke again to his wife and her apology never came. And when he passed on, three years before her, she kissed him gently on the forehead and cried for him as good wives will. Mirrors were permanently covered and Isabel was never seen wearing anything other than black. And in the village, for years afterwards, it was said of Isabel Rivera-Guttierez that she carried her love for her husband well.

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