:: Article


By Fawzy Zablah.

Manuel Zamur married a girl of ill repute. His mother, Irma Zamur, warned him three times: when he brought the girl home, five seconds after announcing their engagement, and the evening before the wedding, which was held at the cathedral in San Vicente.

Manuel was the eldest of nine, and the third to be married. He was his mother’s prize possession. After Manuel’s father, Eduardo Zamur, was killed in a carriage accident in los planos, their mother looked to Manuel to lead the family business, a store, that everyone called the galleria, in San Vicente. The Zamur galleria grew into being one of the most popular department stores in El Salvador.

When Manuel Zamur was a boy in school his long-term goal was to become a doctor. He was such an excellent student that he won a scholarship to study in Spain. His father was strongly against it. He believed Manuel had studied enough and it was time to work full time at the Galleria. “For what is a man without work,” he would say to his son.

“I don’t know,” Manuel replied at six years old made to watch the store.

“That’s right, nothing, a man is nothing without work. So let’s work.”

Manuel Zamur stayed in El Salvador to please his father and avoid an argument. An argument with Eduardo Zamur was like a spider building a web around you. You never ran into the spider web but it sprung around you until all chance of escape had diminished and the victim reached a point of regret. Manuel learned in time to foresee his father’s webs.

After Eduado Zamur passed away in the tragic carriage accident at los planos, it was only logical for Manuel to disobey his mother and marry Sofia Olivar. Some people say that a man should have no regrets in life. Manuel Zamur had two regrets: his first regret was not studying medicine in Spain, his second was Sofia. He only came to regret Sofia when it was too late and by then she had broken him.

Sofia Olivar was from San Vicente. Her mother, Mercedes, had been a whore when she became pregnant by one of her customers, a gringo from Montana who had been backpacking through Central America. Mercedes eventually ran off to join a brothel in Mexico leaving her daughter at seventeen to fend for herself. From her mother, Sofia learned that money was the only thing that was respected in the world. By eighteen she was hustling secretly for money and pleasure. Sofia was a lazy girl that felt that work would only ruin her. You could say she was the opposite of Eduardo. She had long brown hair and big, blue eyes. The day she met Manuel, she fell for his brown eyes and orally pleased him behind a church for free. It was his third sexual experience.

Everyone in San Vicente knew that any girl to marry Manuel would be well off for the rest of her life. Business at the Galleria in that fateful year was the best it had ever been and the family was already searching for new locales in San Salvador. Sofia was an ignorant girl that only learned of Manuel’s status in the community the day after their encounter. Once she’d heard of his family’s deep pockets she meticulously planned the seduction and entrapment of Manuel Zamur. She wore the sexiest clothes she could find, which were really not sexy but trashy, and threw her-self on Manuel every chance she could. By the time Manuel’s family found out she was four months pregnant; he had already proposed marriage.

Only Manuel’s siblings and uncles attended the wedding. Irma stayed home, wept and prayed all in the same order the entire day. In six months she gave birth to their first child, a girl they named Carolina. Carolina grew up sullen and wild and constantly at war with her parents. She saw her father’s pain, from her mother’s actions. Carolina Zamur was as beautiful as her mother and more of a rebel. When she reached adolescence, she began experimenting with drugs, and became sexually active with a hoodlum from San Sebastian. There were times when Carolina didn’t come home, and her nanny, Lorena Escobar, was sent out to search of her.

The last time Carolina went missing was on the eve of the birth of a baby brother that blew the top of the kettle that had been brewing for a good long while. Their second child was born sixteen years apart from the first. The child was named Diego and the rumor on the streets was that Manuel was not the father. Manuel tried to ignore the gossip and the snickering behind his back as he walked past his employees at the Galleria. But deep down he knew the rumors were true. There were many reasons why Manuel could not be the father but the most apparent to everyone was that the baby’s skin was dark. The infant was mulatto. At first Manuel denied the obvious to himself, and then he grew embarrassed, and ultimately he became very angry.

He approached his wife on a Monday, a week before their wedding anniversary. Sofia knew that the truth came with the child. She decided to stop running and simply sat in their living room watching novellas and weeping.

“It is late and your daughter still hasn’t gotten back from school.”

“She had done this before. She will return when she gets tired of the boy.”

“She has run away because of you.”

Manuel stood behind the gray leather sofa where she sat. She never looked away from the television and this made Manuel angrier. His hands were in his slacks and he wore a light blue shirt. He stared at the back of his wife’s head; she wore her hair short and big at the top. She dyed her hair a very dark red that overshadowed her eyes. It was a strange looking bob that resembled an over sized red wig. Manuel remembered how beautiful and long her hair used to be, and now it seemed like a whole red mess.

“Is it true?” Manuel said. “What people have been saying?”

“What have people been saying? People say all kinds of things. People should just shut their mouths.”

“Yes, you are right. People do say all kinds of things. People have been saying things for a long time. Since before we were married. But apparently, people have been saying the right things, and more importantly, true things. True things over shadow people’s intent in gossip. If it is true then it cannot be a lie. If something is true it is like a sword. When one is cut down with this sword that is truth, one no longer exists. I am disappearing Sofia, because of the truth.”

“Truth? What truth?”

“The truth that you are a whore running around with Colonel Lopez causing scandal! The truth that I am not the father of that baby!”

Sofia began to cry but never looked away from the television. The television showed a couple kissing.

Manuel Zamur went inside his right pocket and took out a small revolver. He aimed it at the back of his wife’s head. His hand trembled, trying to aim at the red target. He held his breadth and closed his eyes.

“Manuel, my love, please, forgive me.”

He opened his eyes struggling for almost a minute. He placed the revolver back in his pocket, fell to his knees and wept, “Yes!”

Sofia turned her body towards Manuel, and with blue mascara running went to him. They held each other’s faces. When they cried long enough, and their well of tears had dried up, they slept on the sofa. Manuel Zamur opened his eyes after an hour and looked at his wife’s face. He could not recognize her. It was a black spot. He kissed her forehead, and then his arms gently tried to escape her embrace like a pair of snakes fleeing the ruins of a Mayan temple. He stood above her and looking down at the visage, realized it was dirty like the clouds of an incoming storm.

Manuel Zamur left the living room and went out to the garden. It was late in the evening and the moon was full. He did not see the starry night when he fired the revolver in his mouth.

Nor did Manuel Zamur’s ghost acknowledge his own bloody corpse, but instead went into the house, past the living room and into the baby’s room. He snatched the mulatto infant and walked out to the garden and through an open gate that lead to ten acres of land deep into a jungle. The ghost walked for miles with wailing baby in arms. When he reached a barren field before the trees that began an uphill trek to a mountain, he stopped and put the baby down. The ghost then got on his knees and started digging in the earth with his bare hands. The ferocity of his digging intensified as moon and stars traveled through the night sky. When he had dug a hole that was deep enough he grabbed the baby and placed him at the bottom. The child’s crying grew louder as the ghost of Manuel Zamur dumped more earth in the hole. When the wailing stopped, the infant was almost buried half way until the final handful of earth that should seal his fate. Then the crying began again. It did not come from the grave or the sky or from a remote distance.

When the ghost of Manuel Zamur saw the mulatto infant beside him, unharmed and clean like if he hadn’t been buried at all, he started digging another hole. After he finished a hole that was deeper than the last he placed the baby at the bottom. And again he dumped large handfuls of earth until the baby announced his escape again.

For the third hole, the ghost made sure it was also the deepest yet. The ghost of Manuel Zamur dug a hole so deep and wide that a full-grown man could fit. When he finished burying the child, and as he stood on top of the grave, proud of his effort, the siren-like wail pierced the ghost’s ear once more.

Through out the rest of the night Manuel Zamur’s ghost dug hole after hole until the sun of a merciful universe arose from the horizon and his time had run out.

When daylight came, a girl on the way to a river found the infant and took him to the caretaker of the ranch where she lived with her family. The girl told the caretaker, a man named Miguel, that she found him crying and hungry among a field full of graves without markers. Since Don Miguel’s wife was unable to bear children they adopted the infant and raised him as if it was their own. The child grew up to become a rancher and was a man that everyone in San Vicente cared about.

Fawzy Zablah was born in El Salvador and raised in Miami. His work has appeared at Litvision, Muslimwakeup.com and Girls With Insurance. He also wrote a short story book called Ciao! Miami.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, March 28th, 2007.