Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CHAPTER I

“Shit!” His heart skipped a beat as he stopped the car. He’d almost run over a stray dog. Back to square one. Time and again he just couldn’t shake the lingering presence of his own dear departed dog. Curro knew he’d done the right thing, of course, putting Trasto’s best interests first, wishing him a decent end, without him having to suffer endlessly. Wanting his death to be like his life, dignified, like a champ.
Where was the dog he’d slammed on the brakes for? Was it just his imagination – had it actually looked like Trasto? He thought he’d seen a flash of tawny coat, a certain distinction, like his dog. A proud, elegant vagabond that had come into Curro’s life. No, not like Trasto, of course not.
Curro was driving back home after a weekend at a country house in Toledo, a guest of his friends the Aguirres. He and Pepe and Matilde Aguirre had been pals forever. Once a classmate, Pepe now ran the bank his grandfather had founded decades earlier. Life had sent Pepe and Curro down different paths. One spent his days focused on business, traveling the world, lecturing on the management of financial institutions like his own. Curro, on the other hand, traveled whereever fashion led him, partied non-stop, lost himself again and again in backrooms and underground clubs. Matilde had been Curro’s first crush, a teenage passion on the Marbella coast, back when their families used to vacation together every Easter. She’d been a beautiful sapphire-eyed blonde, unusually demure for her generation. God, what he’d gone through just to steal that first kiss on the beach outside the hotel Marbella Splendor.
Once he’d reached their place the day before, he’d pretty much kept to himself. That Friday night, feeling unsociable, he’d gone straight to bed: they were all good enough friends, his hosts understood him.
Saturday dawned brightly enough to prove that spring had arrived for real. He was still in too much of a withdrawn mood to believably appear to enjoy himself, but he made an effort and stayed for lunch. Pepe and Matilde deserved that much. They tried to draw him out, recalling pleasant memories from their pasts together, anything to take his mind off of his troubles, but it had done no good. Despite the good intentions of hosts and guests, Curro’s apathy was plain to one and all. The whole scene bored him, his mind wandered. In the months since Trasto’s passing, his friends had grown increasingly worried about him. He wasn’t himself. Once the life of the party, the most gregarious of them all, he’d become snappish, easily irritated. They’d tried to be understanding but were losing patience. Actually, they were getting fed up. What a drag he had become! He wasn’t the only one who’d ever had a pet that died. Why didn’t he just buy another one?
Pet! The very word, or what some people took it to mean, outraged Curro. What exactly did they mean by pet? A toy? A passing fancy, a pastime? A dumb animal? Not for him. Trasto had been, was, part of the family, and one of its most beloved members, in fact, if not the most; his best and most loyal companion. Unique and irreplaceable. How was it that no one could understand this?
Seated at the right of the lady of the house, he tuned out the table talk. What a load of bull, he thought – society life sucks the big one. Aloof from the banter, Curro sullenly proffered monosyllables until one of the guests, a not particularly clever upstart, shared his thoughts about the finance minister in the Spanish president’s cabinet.
Curro snapped, spurred by other frustrations.
“What nonsense! How can you possibly think he’s the right man for the job? He doesn’t have a fucking clue, he’s just gonna sink our economy even faster than we are going down already. You ought to get out more, pal, try reading a paper sometime.”
Curro’s aggressive retort surprised the rest of the guests, but they were inclined to overlook it – except for the man Curro’d spoken to, a heavyset developer who’d made a fortune building cheap housing. The man stood up, gesturing towards Curro with his cigar.
“I don’t know who you are, but nobody talks to me like that.”
Curro stood up too. People who were that full of themselves really rubbed him the wrong way.
“I’ll talk to you however,” he glanced at his hostess and checked himself, “the heck I want. And put that cigar out when you’re at the table, you hick. Hasn’t anyone ever taught you any manners?”
The table erupted in alarmed chatter: the women were gobsmacked, the men were each weighing whether or not to hold Curro and the developer back. The developer came around the table towards Curro, who stepped out to face him – lard-ass, he thought – while Pepe stood up and came between them, raising conciliatory hands.
“Curro, please,” he chided, “get a grip. Don’t put me in a...