Chapters 3 & 4
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. Its 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 in 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."
Here is the second installment of our serialization.
-Matthew Cornetta, Translator.
Later on Ugarte had to leave for work and Antonio offered to treat his neighbors to a potato and onion tortilla. He took them to El Maragato, a cool quiet place with good food at low prices. Afterward, they had coffee out on the terrace in front of Paco's kiosk. As they drank their coffees, a tall gangly guy in a blue leather jacket, began to approach their table. Antonio remembered having seen this guy on the plaza before. The tall stranger kissed Vanesa on the lips and then he sat down with them. He introduced himself as Lisardo. "Eh! See that building?"-began Lisardo, tipping back on his chair and pointing to a nearby apartment house-"That's my father's building.... He bought the whole thing-inside out-and he's letting it run to shit so that the city will condemn it.... Then he'll renovate it from top to bottom, making nice apartments that'll sell for twenty million* (*$170,000) apiece... The only catch is he's gotta wait for some old people up there to die-Ya know what I mean? They'll give their relatives new places and some small change compensation"-He chuckled- "A nice fat business scam-man what a lynx my father is!!" "Hey! Why don't we have a party tomorrow to celebrate our cool new house," Vanesa suggested, "Whatta you guys think?.... We could get some caballo, some drinks...Yes?" "Antonio, you're invited," said Charo. "I'll bring some whiskey then," he replied. "Make sure you bring the TV," interjected Vanesa, "I promise if you bring the TV, I'll let you take some pictures of me, okay?" "Eh, speaking of parties girls..." interrupted Lisardo-"I've found one for the both of you this Saturday." "A party!! Coool!! We'll get to dance!! That's so great!!" "Listen. This guy's a friend of my father's-He's a VIP and he's loaded... So it'll be a full spread-food, open bar, dancing-it'll be incredible... But, they want three girls.
That means you two and someone else. And remember, it's for Saturday night-at around twelve or so." Vanesa clapped her hands in excitement. "And how much are they giving us?" asked Charo. "Twenty thousand* (*$170) each-oh, you also have to bring five grams of coke with you-- but no caballo-- these people don't go for caballo." Vanesa kissed Charo on the cheek-"Did you hear Charo? Twenty talegos!*" (* talego= 1,000 pesetas)-"twenty taleguitos each is pretty sweet-with that much I may even get bored!" "Not so fast honey! Don't forget that you have to give me my commission. I figure, five talegos between the two of you.... That's what I get for finding you a party." "Five talegos!!" Charo protested-- "Forget about it-we'll give you two each and that's plenty!" "One each!" chimed Vanesa. "C'mon! Two each or you can both go to hell and I'll get someone else... Don't even try to fuck with me!" "Okaaay, Okaaay, man-two each... But after we get paid," answered Charo. And then turning to Vanesa she said, "Hey, we could get Rosa to come-she's cute-and she knows how to mingle. What d'ya think?" "Fine," Vanesa replied. "You know we're probably going to meet some really happening people at this party, so we're gonna have to buy something to wear... We're gonna have to talk to Ibraín too, eh! If we want five grams of coke in one shot, he's the one-Eh Charo, I almost forgot-I saw Ibraín a couple a hours ago and he told me that he's seen Alfredo. They've given him a grade three and they're transferring him to Carabanchel..." Charo seized Vanesa by the shoulders-"What? What did you say?? Alfredo got transferred?" "That's right, girl. He's in Carabanchel." "Did you hear that, Antonio? My husband's coming to see me!" "Also, Ibraín told me to tell you that Alfredo sends his love." "What? ...What did he really say?? C'mon Vanesa, tell me!" "Okay, okay-he said that he's been dying to fuck you." "Ahhh! And me too! I've been dying for it too!!" Charo collapsed, hugging Vanesa in emotional exhaustion-for a good while they continued to embrace with Charo alternating between laughter and tears.... Vanesa, now happy with her new house and the Saturday party, said she would pay for the coffees as well as a round of anisette... Besides, she had already spent a profitable morning at the taxi stop in the Glorieta de San Bernardo. She made fifteen thousand pesetas ($120) and with that she scored some caballo and some pills-and still there was enough left to buy this round of coffees and drinks.... Vanesa told them about how she had gotten into the taxi, proposing to suck the driver off-and how the driver said yes and drove into El Parque del Oeste....
Later, when they were finished, the driver took her back to the taxi stand where he looked for some more customers among his buddies... Vanesa explained: "They all came right away and I just had to wash my mouth out with a little 'Odamina' and that was that... But one of them took me all the way to la Rosaleda and on the way he kept stroking his cock-and there I was, thinking, 'That's right, that's right, play with yourself-this way you'll come even faster-" She clapped her hands in a fit of laughter.... "But the fuckin' asshole didn't want to take me back. While he drove, he fingered me, complaining that five thousand pesetas ($40) was a lot of money for such a quick blow job... And that's just what I was saying!! Whose fault was it?-Ha, Ha, Ha!!!......" Vanesa laughed to the point of tears. She dried her eyes and then reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of red and white pills... "I just scored these... Go on, take 'em. They're for everybody. We'll save the caballo for later." Everybody grabbed a few-Antonio swallowed two reds and a white, while Charo was chewing on them like candy-then she turned to Vanesa, saying, "Tell them about the guy who wanted you to piss on him-Go on, tell them!" ".....You know why I'm on the street?" interrupted Lisardo, "because that's where the good people are-the real people-I'm a fuckin' modern day pirate-an adventurer-and I'm goin' to live fast and buy it pretty soon, 'cause I'm a reeeal junky." "Don't start talking about death," said Charo, "You're scaring me." "Yeah....." said Vanesa, "He was a little rich kid with a sweet car-I don't remember which kind-A Volvo or something.... And all he wanted was for me to piss all over him..." "Those are the safest cars in the world," interjected Lisardo, "Ahhh, but personally, I'd go for an Aston Martin..." "Let her tell the story," insisted Charo. "It's hilarious....." In the afternoons it was uncomfortably hot on the terraces in front of Paco's kiosk... Whole families would be drinking horchata or other refreshments... One of the walking musicians was singing Only You with a harmonica accompaniment.
He wore his long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail and he appeared to be American or English.-Vanesa thought him very good looking. A while later, Jesús, the "walking" photographer of the neighborhood, approached their table in order to ask them if they wanted to take a "memento" picture... But as soon as he recognized Antonio he began to relax and chat about the photography class they had both taken some years ago... After Jesús left, Antonio told his new friends that Jesús was a good man who probably made out alright, shooting photos in the street... "And when I'm short on cash I'm goin' to do the same thing," he laughed-"Jesús and I will be partners..." By this time, Lisardo had moved to another table so he could talk with some friends... They were a well dressed young couple and the girl looked especially tanned and fresh. Charo remarked that the two appeared to be very much in love-something that nobody can ever fake. "Yeah, it's like a current," agreed Vanesa-"Electricity." "With me and Alfredo it was just like that," recalled Charo-"Whenever I was with him-even in the middle of a crowd-it was like the two of us were all alone in our own room... Right now he's probably in his cell thinking about me, and since I'm thinking of him, it's like we're together." "Love.... What a bunch of shit!" Sneered Antonio... "I guess it's alright for the ones who still believe it exists, but.... All people really want is just a little bit of company." "Fine... Sex is one thing and love is another," explained Charo-Alfredo just had to touch me there and-I would come-It was incredible... I still believe in love!" "This is getting reeeally boring!!" Shouted Vanesa. "Look. Animals get excited when they smell the female in heat," Antonio insisted, "then they fuck, without complicating their lives." "Well you're not going to fuck me." Answered Charo. At the table nearby, Lisardo and the couple suddenly left without saying goodbye-Vanesa then stomped her foot, shouting, "Did you see that asshole? He wants me to beg for it and then he blows..." Then she turned to Antonio-"Hide that fuckin' camera already-You're just complicating our lives." "Vanesa! Please. He didn't do anything." "Forget it, forget it already.... No pictures of me-now you know! If you really want a picture of me you're going to have to send your TV over...
Until then, I'm not your girl." Antonio put the miniature Leica in his pocket and seeing the bulge it made, Charo replied, "Look Vanesa. It's like he's got a hard-on... Reminds me of that guy, remember? They used to call him 'Smurf'-He would come to the school entrance and open his underpants and pull out his dick-and he had it painted all blue-Imagine that? A blue dick! And I've never seen such a big dick in my life-not even Alfredo's." "They finally caught him though," recalled Vanesa. "And they gave him a beating too-kicked him in the balls lot's of times-Pili told me about it... It was the Association of Students' Parents. They had a meeting and two or three fathers went looking for 'the Smurf' and when they found him, they just about killed him-busted one of his testicles and they had to take him to the hospital.... Did you know 'the Smurf,' Antonio?" "I never knew anybody with a blue dick." "Well, if we could only tell you... We've seen some things-right Charo? Haven't our lives been canned lightning-You remember that queer-the one who said he was Jesus Christ?" Charo broke into laughter... "He was in love with Vanesa.. He said he was too old to be a virgin and he wanted to marry her, oh my God! What a jerk-off!" "His breath smelled like a rat omelette," added Vanesa, "and all he ever wanted me to do was to stick my finger in his ass." "That was right after we got out of the reformatory. Remember? We lived in Tirso de Molina with Pili... That's when I met Alfredo." "Those were some great fuckin' days," sighed Vanesa.... Lisardo was returning and Vanesa made believe she didn't notice.
"Hey man. Buy us a snack," interrupted Lisardo, "get us some pastries and I'll let you take some pictures." "Nobody here on the Plaza wants their pictures taken," replied Vanesa. "It's better to keep the camera hidden 'cause people might get pissed." Lisardo then pointed to a guy reading a paper on a bench at the other side of the Plaza. He was tall with an almost chocolate complexion-and his beard was the shape of a padlock which seemed to secure his mouth... "See girls... Over there is Ibraín, the Arab. Ask him about the coke for the party." "He's not an Arab," said Vanesa, "He's Iranian." Then she sprung to her feet and Charo tried to restrain her saying, "Hold on!" But Vanesa went on toward the character. She made sure to draw close and speak with intimacy. Meanwhile, Charo wrung her hands in nervous agitation-"This place is full of cops. Once they see you talking to Ibraín, they mark you and you're screwed." ...Lisardo looked to the right and left. He was nervous too. "For the last fuckin' time, let's get some pastry-I smell narcs-yeah, what a bunch a shit-suddenly this place is fulla fuckin' narcs." Within minutes, Vanesa returned and grabbed Charo by the arm, saying, "it's all set. Ibraín's gonna come over to our place to talk about those five grams." "Watch out honey," whispered Charo, "This place is surrounded by narcs." "I'd like to take a picture of you shooting up," said Antonio to Lisardo-"You think you have the balls to do it right here in the Plaza?" "How 'bout right in my jugular?" "Wherever you like, loser." * * * At the pastry counter of La Oriental, Lisardo ordered a whole tray of the biggest chocolate cream eclaires. There were twenty in all.
While they sat at the counter, Lisardo began to scratch himself furiously. Unable to relieve himself, he then opened his shirt, revealing a chest and neck full of red pimples. "Does it really itch?" Asked Vanesa. "What a bitch! They must have sold you pure shit, no? C'mon who sold you that caballo?" Lisardo pulled a pistol from under his jacket, growling "Some fuck from Morocco sold me this shit-Some fuck who I never saw before! But I swear on my mother, if I catch this bastard, I'm gonna put a bullet in his eye!" Suddenly, Charo lunged and threw herself over Lisardo-"Don't be an idiot man! Hide that thing!" Then she wrapped her arms about his chest, saying-"Are you lookin' for a real mess? Answer me!-- Do you wanna be seen with that?" "That's what he's gonna use to kill that Moroccan sonofabitch," interjected Vanesa sarcastically, "Man, I don't even wanna know..." "Put it away now, Lisardo. C'mon, put it away." Charo insisted. Lisardo, finally put the revolver away, murmuring, "I'm still goin' to kill him... Yeah I'm carrying this to make sure that he never cuts his caballo with shit again." Still he continued to scratch his chest and stomach and now some new red pimples were beginning to bloom on his face. Seeing this, Charo turned to Antonio and said: "You have to watch out for what you shoot up. Sometimes they cut the caballo with talcum powder or powdered milk or even worse things that can kill you.
See, it can poison your blood. That's why a lot of people will only smoke caballo. But I still think it's better to shoot it-I mean there's no comparison." Antonio, nodded and nonchalantly grabbed an eclaire and took a good bite. Vanesa and Lisardo began laughing, as they tried to eat as many eclaires in as little time. "There are those that smoke it," said Lisardo, his mouth full, "but they're assholes. They're not fuckin' kiddin anybody-Fuck, I love eclaires!!" "I got some uppers," said Antonio, showing off a little bottle filled to the brim, "You guys want any?" "Ahh!" groaned Charo, "Those pills don't do anything." "Well, they do perk you up a bit," added Vanesa, "but that's the only thing they do.... Still, if you take a lot of them you can buy it pretty quick... I don't know, the best thing is to take a few with some sweet wine or a forty ouncer-- it gets you through the cold shakes." "Ah! Those candies won't get me through a withdrawal," sneered Lisardo, "Shit, these eclaires are the balls!-- Eh, photo man-what's up with you? You know, you kinda piss me off.... No joke man, you do." "I take pictures-and what the fuck do you think about that?" Lisardo broke into laughter-"Don't fuck with me 'cause you don't know me. Yeah.... I could waste you without losing much sleep." * * * In the bar where Rosa worked, the beer distributor finished drinking his glass of water and continued telling his story: "I saw how he took that eye out with his chivas. It was too much, I swear... And the character just stood there, looking at his own eye in his hand... Then he howled and tore out of there, running.... You couldn't picture all the commotion. And that poor bastard was a buddy of mine too back in the army... Jeez, it's like they just took his eye out for fun-there couldn't have been any other reason... Still, I don't understand 'cause my old buddy didn't do anything-he was just leaning on the bar, talking to his woman and minding his own business. I don't know, I think the other guy must have been on some kind of a bad trip or.... Well, I got in there just in time to see his eyeball in his hand-oh and people were screaming....Man, one girl even had a nervous breakdown-have any of you ever seen a popped out eye?" "No," answered Antonio. "Well it was like a fried egg.... and it hung by a thin thread, like a long string of mucous-it was pretty impressive. I think it happened in that place, Niobe-anyway it's on la avenida de Daroca... And the cops came down and everything, but by that time I was outta there.... Man, there are a lot of people out there crazy off of bad drugs, don't you think....?"
Rosa finished putting the beer shipment away and closed the cooler. Then she started cleaning the bartop. When she motioned to the beer distributor and began talking, her open mouth revealed lots of gums and a few teeth which were blackened around the edges- "You want more water?" "No. I gotta go. Tomorrow the same, six cases right?" "Yeah, six." After the beer distributor left Vanesa spoke up: "Hey, cutie, on Saturday we got another party. Everything's set. And they're throwing us twenty bills apiece-guaranteed. I already spoke to Ibraín about the five grams of white that we have to bring along." "This is a party for high end people," interrupted Charo-"Ibraín told me that he'd sell us five grams. Then we'll cut it into fifteen grams and sell it to the guys at the party. How does that sound? Oh!! I almost forget. Did you hear about my husband? He's coming to see me! He's already in Carabanchel-a long way from Nanclares. This is what Ibraín told us"-Charo clapped her hands in delight-"And the party's being thrown by some friends of Lisardo's father-guys with a lot of dinero- you know, high end people." "You chickies are gonna have a fuckin' blast! My father's friends are the balls-You'll see. The three of you'll definitely hook up." Lisardo pinched Vanesa's ass and she gave a start saying: "Me and Charo are gonna buy a special cream that makes your whole body as smoothe as silk-Do you want us to buy you some too Rosa?" "No. Let me take care of my own silk creams.... Well then, what time are we supposed to be there?" "Around eleven or twelve," interrupted Charo-"But it's better that the three of us go together, no? Lisardo still doesn't know the address." "Yeah, I can't remember the address, but I know that it's a house in Miraflores. I'll get the address for you, girls... Hey, Rosa, sweetie, you got to chip in on my commission, eh? These two are also paying me." "How much?" Asked Rosa. "Three talegos." "One talego and that's all your getting, Lisardo." "Two." "One and a half." "Fine." "And at the end we'll leave, the three of us together," insisted Charo, "I don't want it to be like the other times, with Vanesa always wanting to stay longer." Vanesa responded by elbowing Charo in the ribs, saying, "and what if I'm having a little fun, honey?- Listen, the only thing I need to know is the address and when we should get there. Then I'll leave whenever I feel like it-and it's all the same to me whether you guys want to stay or go." "Then make yourself pretty, eh!" said Charo to Vanesa. "C'mon Rosa, let's get some beers over here!" shouted Lisardo, while motioning to Antonio-"This one here is buying, so that we'll let him take our pictures!" Antonio responded with an exaggerated bow. When Rosa turned around to go for the beers, Charo suddenly stuck her mouth to Antonio's ear and whispered, "One day I'm going to tell you Rosa's story-She was married to Ibraín... Well, not married, but she was his woman," Charo lowered her whisper even more, "Rosa's got more balls than anybody-one night she fought a guy right in this place and she stuck him three times in the gut-she wanted to kill him and she almost did...."
Pascual motioned for his brother to quit talking and told him: "She's making the noise again. Don't you hear it?" Antonio paid closer attention, but all he could hear was the traffic's far away murmur, which steadily filtered itself through the glass of the large French windows. "She does it on purpose. I tell you, one day I'm going to-" Pascual made a gesture of cutting his throat-"She wants to make me go crazy-as if I didn't have enough problems already!" Antonio remained attentive while Pascual leaned further over the table and continued his story-"She'll start scratching her floor with one nail.... Then she'll make these really weird noises. She knows it gets on my nerves and I'm telling you, she does it on purpose. One day I'm going to kill her for making it impossible to get my work done... She's really provoking me; do you know what I mean? I don't know, I think she wants me to fuck her, you know? Yeah, she wants me to go right up there and give it to her... Her name's Esmerelda and she's a widow-The fat cunt probably poisoned her husband... She's got rotten blood in her... Well, she's alright looking..... Anyhow-I bet she's got a good lay or two left in her." "Then go up there and give it to her and stop fucking around." "Listen, listen-at first I couldn't tell where the noise was coming from, you know? But eventually, I began to realize that she was the one doing it. Ah! She's a fat pig-and another thing-- she always dresses in black.
Then she spends the whole fuckin' day at the sink. You see, her bathroom is exactly over this table"-- He pointed up to the ceiling and then concluded-"I think I'm going to have to move to another office..." Antonio stood up from his chair. The pills he had been taking still persisted in their effects: body cramps, dilated pupils, and a hollow buzzing in his head. But he seemed to feel less fatigued; he was more or less awake and alert "......And the worst part is that this disgusting bitch always smiles at me in the elevator. It's like she's saying, 'Around here you're pretty much fucked you asshole and you're not going to get any work done, because I'm not going to stop screwing with your head.' And I always say to her 'Goodbye, Esmerelda I wish you the best' but I'm really thinking, I hope you crash and burn you vulgar bitch!" "Uh.... Off the subject, have you seen my photos? Some of them are pretty good-especially the one of the city councilor-oh, and also the one of those punkies under the Pentagram gate. Yeah... I think that one would be good for the front cover, uh, if that's alright with you..." Antonio proceeded to point out some slides that were on the table in front of Pascual. Then Pascual suddenly swooped down and grabbed all the slides, shouting: "Eh! I know how to do my fuckin' job! What do you think? That you can dictate the front cover to me? For your information, I know a thing or two about photography." Pascual began to flip through the negatives now and he continued to talk, "Your job is not to worry about anything, Antonio, the book and its design are my affair. Okay?" "Look. I've been taking pictures of the bars, cafés, and almost all the restaurants....." Antonio hoped that his gestures and words were not betraying his poor physical state-"And I think that the book is pretty much done-Eh! When are you going to pay me anyway?? I've had lots of expenses for materials and the use of the photo lab." "I guess I could give you twenty-five thousand ($200) on account." "For all of them?? You're going to give me only twenty-five thousand for more than forty transparencies? With that I can't even pay for the film!" "I told you to keep expenses down. You may be my brother, but this is a business we're running here and I'm not going to make any special exceptions for you." "Wait a minute, Pascual, I'm going to be out a lot of money if you only give me twenty-five thousand for all those transparencies.
Twenty-five thousand is about what one of them is worth!!" Pascual passed his hand across his lips and replied, "Let's make a little deal then-We'll come up with a price for the photos later... For the moment, take twenty-five thousand as an advance... Later on we'll do the accounting, agreed? And look. Between you and me there shouldn't be any problems... Oh, by the way, did everything go alright with the city councilor's interview?" "I plugged the tape recorder in and asked some questions-It wasn't too difficult." "Okay then, listen up. I've decided, I mean, we've decided to expand the scope of the book. The idea of putting in some interviews has been well received. They give the book a touch of class. Now, since you know all about the social scene, well, it shouldn't be too hard for you to get three or four more interviews." "And how many photos?" "Don't even worry about all that. I'll tell you what we'll be needing as we go along-the important thing right now is the overall layout and design, so let's not make any hassles. Right now, I want you to concentrate on getting interviews-that is-interviews of people in the film world. Remember too, this book is directed at the Community, so I don't want any seedy, lowlife shit. Next year, Madrid is hosting the Capital of European Culture exhibit, so it's important that we give it a chic image. That's what they're paying us for." "I know that. I'm not stupid, Pascual." "-And if this book turns out well, we're sure to get some more. You already know that I have some important friends in the Ministry of Culture-and there are tons of upcoming projects... And you'll be in on this, Antonio. You're going to have work-well for this year at least." Pascual suddenly looked toward the ceiling and concentrated his attention as if he were again hearing the strange noises from the apartment above. Antonio tried to listen as well, but no noise seemed to enter his ears. And through the huge French windows of Pascual's office, the dark masses of faraway skyscrapers could vaguely be seen... "Ah! Sepúlveda is a must," exclaimed Pascual suddenly-"An interview with him is crucial.
You and Emma know him, right? Yeah, a guide to La Movida without an interview of José Sepúlveda would be an absurdity." "Uh... José Sepúlveda is, right now, the hottest filmaker around, Pascual... And it's very difficult to get close to him-I mean, everybody wants an interview with him-and anyway-he might be out of the country, in Los Angeles or New York-- so I don't know if I'll be able to...." "But you know him, right? You constantly used to tell me about your little adventures with him when you were doing that Rock Kola thing." "Yeah, yeah, we were close. But now I don't know if he'll even remember me. On the other hand, I could definitely get you an interview of Belén Zárraga." "Belén Zárraga? Who's that?" "C'mon! She's the muse of La Movida. She had a famous gallery called, Tres por tres and she married Gonzalo Huete-who happens to be a good friend of Emma's." "She married Gonzalo Huete? Is he by any chance related to the Huetes in construction?" "Yeah, he's the son." "They're millionaires." "It would appear so." "Okay then, that will be fine. But look for another one too... For example, Luis Dávila, the owner of La Luna. I've been there a few times for drinks and he's a good friend and a really nice guy-although, it's been at least six months since I've gone out at night.... We are up to our necks in work.. And then upstairs I got that lowlife bitch who doesn't leave me a moment of peace..... Well anyway, the most important one of all is Sepúlveda... He's a smart cookie-a real eagle out there, and he's getting rich at it. So there it is: with this Belén, Dávila, and all importantly, Sepúlveda, we can conclude our guide to La Movida." "You told me that this book was going to be a piece of cake and now you come to me with all this interview business." "Listen. The guide to La Movida don't mean diddly, but we still have to make it look nice. So don't start screwing me, Antonio. They're thinking about marketing it to the well heeled tourists and VIP's that will be coming to Madrid '92. Now, stop fucking around and get the interviews done!" "I guess I'll talk to Emma then.
Maybe she could get me an appointment for an interview with Sepúlveda." "Yeah-you do that. Talk to Emma. We really need an interview with this guy. He's basically the inventor of La Movida-- so we have to get that in the book." "I'm not making any guarantees, Pascual. Remember, I'm a photographer, not a journalist. Oh, and when are you going to throw some money my way? Because right now, I'm pretty much broke." Pascual began to laugh, opening his mouth wide and flashing his perfect white teeth and his big thick tongue. When he laughed he closed his eyes and his face crinkled as if he were suffering from an intolerable stomach ache. After some moments, the laughter stopped suddenly-- "Broke? Listen, you're in no minority. Everybody's broke. We're in a crisis you know." Pascual then reached into his pocket and took out a big leather wallet. He counted out five 5,000 peseta bills and handed them over to Antonio. "Later on we'll do the books. Right now, I want to see what you did with the city councilor..." Pascual clicked on the tape recorder and listened to the raspy hoarse voice of Gerardo Madrazo, Counilor of The Central District..... "My friend here, Rufino, also has to be in the interview-here everybody talks-Rufino is the President of The Association of Residents in our neighborhood and he knows a lot about the issues." "Yes, yes indeed-I have a store in la calle del Pez, but I don't go out at all-right Gerardo?" "Mr. Councilor, what are the problems with this neighborhood?" "Wow! I'm glad you have asked me that question! ....The hand of God has abandoned this district... It's like the jungle-here everybody does whatever they want: the bars close when they feel like it, the drug pushers pass by your house like any other Pepe, the whores-I mean to say-the prostitutes, terrorize the schoolkids... .. Oh, and all the thieves of Madrid liked to get together here and..." "What's your opinion on La Movida in Madrid, Mr. Councilor?" "La Movida?.... Let's see.... Yes, I believe in La Movida.... But I'm an old fashioned purist when it comes to Madrid-I was born and raised on these very streets-well anyway, on streets that were a little different then... I'm all for good clean fun.... But clean is the key word here eh! All that may be called fun: jokes, games, bars-that's all well and good.
What I can't stomach are the drug addicts and hooligans... Already we've closed four bars for not complying with ordinances and we've created a police precinct here in la calle de la Ballesta, an especially dangerous street, as everybody knows." "At this moment and time, Madrid has been declared the partying-est city in Europe, Mr. Councilor. Is it also the most dangerous? Are the citizens unsafe?" "Excuse me. Can I speak?... Can I really speak?? The only thing I want to tell you is that they have robbed my store thirty-three times in ten years, or better, since 1980... But this year there hasn't been one incident. There must be some reason for this, no? Well, anyway, that's what I think." "This is what I think about public safety. It is the priority issue in City Hall-Priority!! Because of this, we will soon see a safe city." "Mr. Councilor, what would you like to say to the young people who come to your neighborhood in search of a good time?" "Well, I'd tell them-go ahead, have a good time. After all that's what it means to be young-but it should be a clean good time-no drugs... Drugs are poison-lethal poison... And they shouldn't be raising a hell and commotion in the late hours, because there are many hard working and respected residents living on these streets... These are the people who, like the rest of us, have to wake up early and work long days. I also want to say that...." The office door suddenly opened and a man stuck his head in, asking, "Do you have much longer to go, Pascual?" --The man was Germán Ripoll, the publishing company's attorney- "Because I want to remind you that we have an appointment with the works committee and we have to do a little briefing before we go in there..." Suddenly he noticed Antonio in the room- "Eh, how's it going with the photos? Are you holding your own or what?" "Everything's fine," responded Antonio. Pascual shut off the tape recorder and stood up, saying-"Yeah, we're all finished here." Then he motioned to his brother and added, "Make sure you get Sepúlveda-and then stop by here on Saturday... Ah, say hi to Emma for me... Maybe we'll all get together for dinner one of these days." Antonio left and Germán Ripoll entered the office. He lit a cigarette and walked over to one of the large windows. "They are already prepared to see us in the committee room? Asked Pascual. "Steady yourself. You just leave the committee room to me-I know how to work the cape with them.
You'll be good cop and I'll be bad cop. I'll tell them that the company cannot support an increase of more than three percent. And then you... You tell them that with a little luck, you can get four-four and a half and maybe even five... I don't care if they think I'm a sonofabitch because all lawyers are supposed to be sonofabitches. But you are the director and it's important that they think you're Mr. Wonderful." Pascual stared at the cigarette his lawyer had just lit. And he continued to watch as Germán drew near the table and crushed it out in the ashtray. "I don't know, Germán. This time I think they are really going to strike and that's going to seriously damage our image with respect to publicity and our competitors-not to mention the boys down at the EEC." (European Economic Community) "Let them have their strike.. I already know what we're going to do-We'll let them have it with the butt end of the rifle." ".....There are eleven of them, don't you forget that, Germán. Do you have any idea how much compensation money we'll have to fork over for eleven improper dismissals-besides we'll be left without any employees." "Listen. Next time we do the contracting for six months with an option for renewal-no more of these indefinite contracts. That's all in the past. People with six month contracts don't do strikes... Leave all the acting to me, okay? I can't see the eleven of them supporting a strike anyway. But if they do organize it, they'll be in for a surprise." "Then??" "For now, tell them what I told you to tell them, you know, four-four and a half... No wait.. Only tell them that you can get an increase-yeah, tell them that you have had a clash with the board of directors-that you are only a worker just like them and that you understand how they are underpaid and deserve an increase.... Just say increase. Don't mention any specific quantity-give them a little rope, understand?" Pascual fixed the cuffs on his shirt and straightened his tie-"You think this is the first time that I've had to fend off a strike, Germán?" "Not at all man, not at all," he replied patting Pascual on the shoulder-"I'm telling you all this only because I want to coordinate us, get it? Pure strategy... Oh and remember that on Saturday we're having the meeting at the house-We'll have lunch with the Americans and then we'll sign the limited partnership. And later on... The party." "Great, but right now we have to work the cape on these people," Pascual replied. He then began to walk away, but suddenly he spun back and looked directly at Germán Ripoll, adding-"Let's go in there and fuck these guys over." Next month: chapters 5&6 .