Días Contados
(Numbered Days)
Chapter 1 & 2

Translated by Matthew Cornetta

Días Contados is a modern Spanish novel set in Madrid. I read this novel for the first time in 1992 when I was traveling in Spain. It’s author, Juan Madrid, is famous throughout Spain for his incisive and sensitive journalism which has captured the spirit of change in his country since the death of Franco. Indeed, Spain is a country of great change, especially the changes that took place during "la movida" in the late seventies up through the mid eighties. Días Contados is particularly graphic in capturing life in Madrid at the end of "la movida." I have chosen to translate this book and serialize it in 256. I will put out two chapters per month. Herein is the first installment.                        -Matthew Cornetta, Editor.

Chapter 1

It was only a matter of seconds before he felt the warm rush of well-being.... He knew that feeling. It was like an old friend who wrapped him in confidence and security. And it was no ordinary shot--of this he was sure--the heroin was top qualitv. He bent to fix his sock and to re-tie his white addidas running shoe. When he rose he smiled at himself in the filthy mirror framed in graffiti.... He took a pen from his leather jacket and on the bathroom wall he wrote: I SWEAR I'M GOING TO BE RICH. In the Cafetería Oriental there was a table so well situated that the plaza could be seen from the table but not the table from the Plaza. This is where Ibraín liked to sit... "Really good, Ibraín, really good shit, it went into me like the Holy Spirit, really good good shit, and....I was itchin' for it like you wouldn't believe-- what caballo!...." The kid raved-- "The balls buddy! I'm flying....If you could see the stuff they deal in the joint—garbage!!...The dealers, the informers, they jerk you around all day....Assholes!.." After saying his piece the kid yawned and stretched, scissoring his arms over his head and deeply arching his back.... "Well anyway, what do you say about this work?" Ibraín asked. "Did you understand or should I start over?" "No, no, it's cool. What do you want me to say? Your wish is my command. Just tell me what I have to do and that's it. But remember one thing. I go back to lock-up every night... Lights out at ten or else...Isn't that a fuckin' joke?" Ibraín nodded in understanding....0n the Plaza, women of the neighborhood passed back and forth, their arms laden with shopping bags. And wandering through this activity was the typical collection of idlers vagrants and kids cutting school... "That doesn't worry me--in fact it's better--at night I lay low too. We'll do our business during the day.

Yes, that's better all around. I'll tell you where to get the product—understand? Everyday a different place.... "Yeah, yeah... I understand man. I understand..." The kid then lowered his voice and drew near Ibraín. "And what's in it for me boss? Eh! What kind of cash are we looking at here?" Ibraín shook his head. "No paper. You get ten percent of what you deal... You move ten grams-- you take a gram...You should pick up three or four grams a day easy.... Hey! But if you move more, then you get more." "Smack too?" Ibraín shook his head again and looked out the window on to the plaza-- "Listen. Caballo is for the walking dead. I only work coke--a lot of coke--that's what people with money are buying...Caballo brings nothing but trouble 'cause you're selling to worthless junkies... With the rich kids there are no problems... They buy without haggling and the cops leave them alone....Listen--I need someone reliable..." Ibraín said this last thing seriously and he looked straight into the eyes of the kid who then lowered his head and began to rub his foot-- "Are you alright?" "Nothing...Ahh! It's just that I can't shoot myself up in the arms...We got a psychologist in the joint.....Well I gotta be clean if they're gonna keep turning me out...That’s why not in the arms--That fuckin' psychologist is right on my back--Yeah! I think he really likes me-- the jerk off! .........Those are the ones who control prisons nowadays, you know—the psychologists!! Just start makin' eyes at the right psychologist and Bang!

They up your classification....They go with the whole you're a victim of society' horseshit and right away you're getting another hearing in front of a parole judge..... I tell you, before I went in the joint I thought that it was different inside from out... But it's the same. There are masters and servants and--or better-- if you have no money you're the patsy and you get kicked around for the rest of your life.... Yeah, but the ones with money live like kings! They get their hash, caballo, good food and nice lawyers in suits....You gotta have money in prison or you're fucked--just like on the outside." "Well, I'm not fucked and I'm not going to be fucked... They don't catch me. Never! You understand? They only get the scum, the riff-raff-- the small timers and the walking dead. I never have anything on me and I keep clean under a nice blanket of cover ups... Listen, I know this business. You work with me and you're safe... We're not selling to junkies on the street!! Naah... We fill special orders--all high end." "It's true, Ibraín, only the walking dead get caught." "Ha! When I think of how they tried to pin something on me." Smiled Ibraín, "They had their best rockheads interrogating me for three days in a row. Then in comes my lawyer and--snap!-- I walk away." "That's why I want to work for you, man. You're smart. No way I'm going back to the old shit--Ahh! What a fuckin' mess that was!..... I don't know man, I think I'm on the up-- I think I'm good for something better—I don't know..." "Sure! You want to move up and so does everyone. You want to make money and get a car, maybe even your own business-- then, a nice house, fine food... Maybe a little respect?

That's what we both want, isn't it? That's what everyone wants, isn't it?" "Jesus...... It's been a whole year... A whole year in there spinning my head around thinking, and maybe even going crazy..." "Listen! If you work according to my rules, it won't be long before you'll have your own bar or café And later.... Well... Then a car and a house. Just remember-- you do as I say-- if not.... Well...." "Whatever you say goes-- Ibraín." "Okay then. First off, you don't cut anything. Everything has been cut and cut fine already! You just distribute it and carry off your commission. Understand?" "Eh, just a minute... I'm on the level, alright! What the hell do you think? If I say this is how it is, then this is how it is.... If I distribute, I distribute and that's all... And I take my commission that's fine, that's perfect." "Then listen carefully. On some days there's going to be a kilo or sometimes even more and....This is for professionals, eh! No bullshit." With that, Ibraín smiled, his big white teeth, offsetting the compact devil's beard that circumscribed his mouth-- Then he added-- "And if there is any bullshit, I'll cut you open." "Ehh... Chill.... Chill man." "Oh I'm fine-- real cool-- I just wanted to let you know beforehand. Now that we know where we stand there shouldn't be any misunderstandings between us." "I told you. Be cool... I'm straight-- Fuck!-- Yes means yes. Alright? You don't have to try to scare me anymore." "I just thought that you should know..." "Alright already." "Have a coffee then; I'm buying. And..... bring me one too."

The kid nodded in tranquil silence. As he sat next to the window overlooking the Plaza, he gathered up the strength to raise himself in order to walk over to the counter where a handful of people were sipping coffees and eating pastry. Outside, a girl in long black stockings ran through the street, stopping suddenly at the corner by the cafetería Oriental and shouting, "¡Agua!" Instantly, the Plaza began to clear out. On a nearby bench, three young men and a girl sprung to their feet and began walking quickly down la calle Velarde. Others went their own separate ways....And, suddenly a motorcycle cranked into a roar and quickly beat it up the narrow street that led to the Bilbao neighborhood... "Are you holding?" Ibraín asked the kid. "No. Nothing. I'm clean." "Well, get to the counter already and be cool about it. I don't want them to see you with me." The girl with the black stockings entered the cafe without looking at anybody. She passed close by Ibraín and repeated, "Agua." She then moved to the counter and, rubbing her hands together, she ordered a cream puff and a coffee. Everybody else remained silent and still.... Ibraín calmly pulled a rolled newspaper from his pocket and spread it out over the table.... Rafa was on the Plaza now. He had come up suddenly from la calle San Andrés. He kept his hands in his pockets and walked deliberately. He passed right in front of La Oriental without looking in-- then he turned and walked toward Paco's kiosk. Ibraín continued reading the paper. The girl was balled up on the stoop of the narrow doorway and she appeared to be sleeping. Her denim miniskirt rode high above her thighs showing the beginnings of her firm buttocks. She wore no panties and the kinky black hair down there was visible to all on the street. The young man stopped by her side almost holding his breath.

Chapter 2

He couldn't get over how perfect and white her ass was. He looked at the twisted little black hairs which seemed to him like an army of ants climbing up a hillock of sugar. He shook her shoulder and she suddenly jumped to her feet, opening up her face with a broad smile. "I fell asleep," she said...."Do you live here?" "Yes. This is my building." "Then we're going to be neighbors. Me and Vanesa are renting the attic apartment. I'm Charo, and you?" "Antonio." "Vanesa is pretty clueless, you know....She's got the key and she must have forgotten I was waiting....Uh-- What time is it? I've been sleeping here all morning and..... Do you know how to pick locks?... Well anyway I think mine will be easy to open." "It's twelve o'clock and I have no idea how to pick a lock-- I've never done it before. Why don't you call a locksmith?" "Locksmiths cost money--and besides-- I want to take a bath right now.... I neeeed a bath-- with hot water." She trembled as she pressed her little brown handbag close to her body. Her black hair was cropped short like that of a young boy. Antonio had seen hundreds of movies where locks were easily opened with a credit card and so he ended by telling her that he would give it a try. While he was struggling to get his card in the little groove of the door frame, Charo didn't make any effort to stop talking... "My husband always did it with a metal wire--he would stick it in and then push it up...We used to get in anywhere we wanted." "Well, I'm sorry. I don't have a metal wire. I'm doing what I can-- I'm just a beginner you know." "My husband was the best in the whole neighborhood for break-ins. There was nobody like him. He never forced anything--you'd shit if you could see how he picks a lock.... That's the key-- you gotta get in without breaking anything--when you break you're fucked 'cause then it's breaking and entering-- otherwise it's just simple theft--you know?" "So why don't you call your husband?" grumbled Antonio as he continued frustrating himself over the lock....."Well?..... Why don't you call him?" "I can't. He's in prison, in Nanclares de Oca.

But pretty soon he's going to be transferred to Carabanchel with a grade three"-- She bit her lips and grew more nervous-- "Anyway with a grade three he'll be able to stay with Vanesa and me--but just in the daytime,'cause at night he has to go back and sleep in prison." "Oh no! I'm so sorry!" "Eh! Don't start thinking that when he did his break-ins, he wrecked the places like some of them do. He just took the goods: sometimes records, videos--sometimes the appliances: television, stereo.....But nothing else.... One time he scored ten grams of caballo in a ritzy apartment on la calle de Goya--Eh! Whaddya think of that! He's really good looking too-- You'll meet him soon enough-- His name is Alfredo." "Well I can't open this goddamned lock--Jesus, you must be amazed..." "I really neeeed a bath-- I don't feel good." "Yeah? What's the matter?" "Nothing.....But I gotta take a bath, really." After fumbling with the lock for a while longer, Antonio saw that the credit card was bent to the point of almost breaking. So, he quit the lock and invited the girl to wait for her roomate in his studio. She took off her shirt and left it on the toilet seat. Under that shirt were large breasts--large enough that they even sagged a bit under the weight. Her nipples were so black that they stood out like dates on a plate of whipped cream.... "Do you have any bath gel? You know, the kind that makes suds?" He nodded and entered the bathroom. He turned on the hot water and the tub began to fill. Then he grabbed the bottle of bath gel and dumped half of it into the collecting water... The steam rose quickly and already began to bead on the tiles. She opened her handbag and took out a brand new syringe, wrapped in a sterilized plastic bag. She continued foraging in her bag and one by one she produced: a little bag, a curved spoon, a lighter, a small bottle of water, and a wedge of lemon. She left everything on top of her balled up clothes.... Her trembling suddenly grew more intense. She put the heroin in the spoon, adding some drops of water and a small squeeze of lemon-- she flashed the lighter and applied it to the spoon. The whole mixture was soon boiling..... On the back of her hand she traced the lines looking for a good vein. She was patient, as she wanted the mixture to cool a bit.... Then she introduced the needle. "Just in case you're wondering, I'm not a junky....It’s just that I've gotten the cold shakes because I'm a bit nervous right now....I can take it or leave it whenever I want. I know plenty of people that can't leave it--they're hooked... But I'm not hooked--you see, that's the difference. When I want to, I shoot up, and when I don't want to, I don't. He added aromatic lilac salts to the water while she went on, smiling and squeezing the heroin in very slowly. Little by little, she began to loosen and relax.... "I like to do it without any hurry. The slower the better.

Do you want to shoot one. I'm clean eh! No AIDS. Well, if you want, I can lend you the needle but I'm all out of caballo. Do you have any--caballo?" "No doll. I don't have any and I don't use it... I did shoot up once but that was a long time ago. Nowadays, I pass." Charo slowly lifted her shoulders in a graceful shrug--still with the needle stuck in the vein-- suddenly her head poured back and she began to purr and moan as if she were making love... "Oh! Oh! It's coming on-- It's coming-- It's coming!! Ohhh! that's sooo good!!" She pulled the needle out and put it-- blood and all--on her pile of clothes. Then she began to rub the back of her hand which had swollen a bit. "After shooting I like to smoke a 'J'-- it relaxes me totally. You have any hash?" Antonio went to look. At the back of a drawer in his file cabinet he found an empty pack of Winstons. Inside there was a small lump of hash. .......It was what remained from a week before's party in celebration of his new job. Three or four friends had come and they brought some girls-- he figured that one of the girls must have brought the hashish--It really wasn't a very substantial party--they drank a few bottles, smoked a few joints and were careful not to have too much fun... He crumbled the hash up into a plate and then heated it with a lighter. Then he mixed it with blond tobacco and packed the blend into the white whalebone pipe which his wife had given him for fathers day the year before. He returned to the bathroom where Charo was splashing the water like a little girl--she was completely covered in foam.... "Hey, what's that? A pipe? What's the matter--you don't roll joints!" "I don't know how to roll a joint. I like it better like this. And anyway, in Morocco they smoke it through a pipe." They began smoking, he sitting on the side of the tub and Charo from her comfortable perch in the warm bathwater. They smoked for a good while, constantly relighting the pipe, as it would often die out. "So you've been to Morocco?" "Yeah, plenty of times. I've been in Alhucemas, Tanger, Rabat, Fez, Marrakech, the desert. It's one of my favorite places in the world." "And Ketama? Have you been there! It must be fantastic! My friend Rosa spent a whole summer in Ketama." "Yeah, I've been in Ketama too--but that was a long time ago. Back then you could smoke anywhere without a problem--on the streets, in the cafés-- wherever. Nowadays it's impossible--they're really cracking down." "Cooool! It's gotta be too much to spend the whole day zoned out on herb! Right? At least, well, I like herb a lot more than hashish." "Me too." "My friend Vanesa likes Morocco too. We are both saving so that we can go." She moved about in the water, her nipples poking up through the suds. "I love the water when it's just warm enough..... aaa-ggg-- sooo goood!" He gave the pipe one last suck and then he left it among the clothes on the toilet seat--By now he felt the dizzying effects of the hashish. "You know. You're very pretty... and...

Well, I like you a lot. I'm glad that we're neighbors and I just want you to know that I have plenty of hot water--all that you could want. I like looking at a pretty girl when she bathes." She smiled. "What do you do?" "I'm a photographer." "Yeah? Why don't you take a picture of me?... Wouldn't you like to?" "You really want me to take a picture?" "What's the matter--you don't like me? Look at these breasts—eh!" She sat up lightly. Her breasts floated--as if filled with air; but her nipples remained hard and erect.... "I know I got nice breasts--my husband used to always compliment me on them...." "Your tits are marvelous--big, full-- I love 'em! Your husband's right." "Well, take a picture then--come on-- hurry up!" He went for his Leica and quickly returned to the bathroom. He shot pictures from above-- clic, clic, clic... from the side-- clic, clic, clic.... close ups-- clic, clic, clic...... Charo moved herself around in the soapy water—all the while smiling and posing.... "I like it when people watch me." "And I like to watch you." "And this? Do you like this?" Pressing her legs against the side of the tub, she forced her hips into a rise-- and her sex surged from under the water--looking like a bushy black haired rodent.....The kinky hair covered her entire groin and braided its way up almost to her navel.....Antonio put the Leica in the sink and tore his clothes off....He was suddenly naked and dipping his first foot into the bathwater-- "Heyl!" She shouted-- "Wait a second!-- No touching! You can look at me if you want, but that's all!" "Hold on.... Are you trying to say that we're not going to have sex?" He withdrew his foot from the water. "I don't like it inside--No sex.... Ehhhh! You're little dicky's getting bigger!" She giggled, "I can see it getting bigger--Ehhh, it's pretty big!" "He grabbed his penis and began shaking it-- "Look at how I got it. Look at it, woman-- C'mon-- let's get to it right now!" "Huh?! No, no... I already told you, no. Just, let me watch you..... Touch it-- like that-- come on!!-- like that, like that...." She rubbed her sex--up and down, up and down... Then she stuck her middle finger in, without taking her eyes off his penis-- which was now fully erect... "Do you like what I'm doing? Ehhh? Go on! Talk to me! Tell me that you like what I'm doing!!" "I-- I like it--yeah. I like it.... There, keep touching yourself....Put your finger in again...."

He began to masturbate, leaning his other hand on the side of the bathtub--In the meantime she fondled her breasts and pinched her nipples—and occasionally she would drop her hands down in the water and grope her sex.... "For me it's the best when someone's watching me--Oooh-- I could spend hours like this..." "Eh... Turn over....Uhh,... If you want to." "What?... Do you like my assl" "Yes! Oh yes! I like it.....Come on, show me your ass!" The fantasy continued, as she spun herself around, letting her ass stick high out of the water....It was bright and glossy-wet, as it surged amidst countless soap bubbles....... There was a knock at the door and Antonio answered. In the hall stood a bleach blonde and she was accompanied by a tall heavy set guy, wearing some sort of message service uniform. "Is Charo here?" The blonde asked, "I'm Vanesa." "Yes, she's here. We`re watching TV." "TV! You got a TV dude?.... Coool!" She entered and sat down on the bed next to Charo. The guy offered his hand in silence and Antonio shook it. Then he told Antonio that he was Ugarte, Vanesa's boyfriend. Ugarte's face was smooth--not even any peach fuzz; he looked like an oversized kid. "Yo man, it's so cool that you got a TV"-- shouted Vanesa from the bed...."We don't have one--" she continued, looking toward Charo-- "Eh? have you seen our house--it's scary..... Uhh... It's like this one, only a little smaller and there's no furniture. But it'll be alright." "No furniture? Don't tell me!.......Then what.....?" "Maybe I was exaggerating.... Uhh... There's a bed and a closet—I think-- oh, and a kitchen..... And two chairs--I think...." Antonio closed the door behind Ugarte and motioned him to make himself comfortable. "I can let you guys have some sheets and blankets," said Antonio-- And some plates and glasses if you want-- I have extras 'cause I never eat at home." "He's a photographer," explained Charo, "His name is Antonio and he's already shot some precious photos of me!" "Yeah? Photographer?..." Ugarte queried-- "That's great... That's really great!" "Yeah, well no pictures of me, ehl" Sneered Vanesa-- nada of nada-- no nasty and no plasty-- Okay? I'm not too big on portraiture....." "What kind of camera you have?" Asked Ugarte. "I have a few, a Leica, a Nikon.... But I like to work with a Leica--it's quiet, smooth, and since it's not a 'reflex', it allows for good luminosity and resolution-- it's also very durable.... You like photography?" "I guess I would," Ugarte replied, "But cameras cost a lot. Right now I'm saving to buy a Yamaha 6,000-- They start at a million and a half pesetas.* And that's stripped eh! Have you ever seen one? They're the balls!" (*$12,000) "No, I'm not familiar with that bike, but there are camera systems that can cost that much or even much more......Well, at least with micro-lenses and under water gear....." On television they were repeating a program from the day before; it was a question and answer game show about the towns of Spain.

This particular program was dedicated to Andalucía.... Somewhat uninterested in Andalucía, Vanesa passed her eyes around the studio--One entire wall was covered with sheets of colored canvas, which served as a contrast background for photos. Distributed throughout the room, were various posters advertising famous photo exhibits from abroad-- and along with these were some old portraits of Man Ray, Robert Capa, and John Coplans. Thumbtacked to the wall behind the television set, there was a large poster on which Vanesa particularly fixed her eyes-- It was a photograph of two dead bodies thrown down, half mangled and lying in the street over a vast pool of blood. It was a powerful image especially since one of the corpses was an infant. "What's that?" Asked Vanesa. "Antonio-- tell Vanesa about the girl that jumped off the viaduct with her baby--Go on tell her," urged Charo. "It happened last year," Antonio began, "I was down below-- I had just left a local place called Tolderías-- Do you guys know it? They specialize in South American music..... Anyway, I saw the girl above, sitting on the rail and hugging her baby. In one of her hands, I noticed that she was holding a sweater--then suddenly-- she put the sweater over her head and she jumped. I saw the whole fall but I don't know what the hell came over me, because I didn't take a picture.... I don't know, I must've froze...Afterward, when they had already hit the ground, I got some pictures which were published in all the papers. But... If I had gotten them when they were still in the air..... Well..... Then they would have definitely given me a prize." He looked over to the table where there was a huge pile of newspaper clippings and a photo album filled with the realistic shots that he'd been taking in the neighborhood--there were also some close-ups of people he had interviewed.... "I wanted to be a journalist," interrupted Ugarte. "Ever since I was little, it's been my favorite profession--well-- that and being a 250cc competition rider like Angel Nieto." "Oh? You just keep one up on everything, don't you?" Chimed Vanesa, "One day you're doing this, and the next day, that..... I've already heard you say that you want to be a mechanic, a doctor, a..... You got no fuckin' personality--that's your problem man." "I have no personality? You must be fuckin' kidding!! I wouldn't talk, honey-- 'cause I got plenty of personality.... And when I was little I really did want to be a journalist." Then he continued, looking at Antonio, "I swear-- it's true." Charo pointed at the girl in the photo-- "Poor thing--she had her baby in her arms-- you see that Vanesa?" "What a smash. Vanesa commented, and she looks pretty, although it's a little hazy-- How old was the baby?" "Eight months," replied Antonio. "I bet it was because of an unhappy love affair," murmured Charo. "I tell you, If I would have gotten it while they were in the air.....Ahh.... I'd be rich.... I couldn't react; I just froze." "I'd take a bottle of pills--it's much safer--a bottle or two of valium and it's all over," snapped Vanesa. "Don't say that sweetie, don't even joke about it," returned Charo, and then looking at Antonio, "Why did she kill herself? Did you ever find out? You know, I think the majority of girls kill themselves because they are unhappy in love." "No, the only thing I know is what I read in the paper the other day: she was a single mother and she was only nineteen." "Well, when I was a kid, somebody from my hometown hanged himself," interjected Ugarte-- "We all went out there to see him swinging from the oak. His tongue was all black and he had pissed and shitted his pants.....I think he was crazy--I remember that we used to call him Bocapiedra--I don't know, the whole thing really affected me." "I've never stopped thinking of that girl," Antonio continued, "I saw her up on the rail and then how she jumped..., I often think that it was the opportunity of my life and that I'll never get another like it...." "She must have been real mush, no?" asked Ugarte.