By Ginés S. Cutillas
Translation from the Spanish by Heather E. Higle
A SMALL PROBLEM
I stopped using a watch the day my left hand disappeared. It took me a while to get used to the idea of losing it, but I figured my right hand would be enough for day-to-day tasks.
The disappearance of my knees was more complicated, since although my feet were still there, they had no connection to the rest of my body, so I had to leave them in the shoe closet. The most logical place I could find.
The day I woke up without any hips, I thought about going to the doctor. He couldn’t find any explanation for what was happening to me. He prescribed painkillers and rest. But that didn’t work.
After my hips, my left arm followed, then my torso, my back, and my shoulders. Which caused my right arm to fall off, which still led to a hand. All by itself, the hand crawled to the shoe closet and crept inside, I guess it didn’t want to feel lonely.
And there I was, with my head and neck stuck to the floor like a wild mushroom.
The last thing I was able to think, before disappearing completely, was: “Maybe she’s forgetting about me.”
A DOMESTIC STORY
Discovering the plants was strange but pleasant when all is said and done. I always thought my bachelor’s studio could use a bit of a feminine touch.
It was less pleasant when I found used tampons in the garbage can in the bathroom. Not because it was an odd place to find them – I wouldn’t want to offend anyone with my words – but because I lived alone and, as far as I knew, without a stable partner or any other kind of partner for that matter.
It was rather disturbing when the wall color changed from one day to the next, but I quickly got used to it. It gave the apartment a certain feeling of warmth.
Soon, the furniture changed positions. That bothered me. Nevertheless, I had to admit that the new layout seemed to make sense. A new shower curtain followed, a rug in the living room, blinds on the windows, new dishes, but also long hairs in the shower, piles of panties in the drawers and makeup scattered all over the house.
By the time I started wondering what to do with the intruder, the romantic dinners began. I got home from the office and all I had to do was sit down and enjoy the music, the candles and the exquisite dishes I had no idea that my precarious kitchen was even capable of producing.
In gratitude, I started leaving sweet notes on the refrigerator and roses on the pillows, which later appeared in vases.
I work. She takes care of me. I’m sure we’re the envy of all our neighbors: they’ve never even heard us argue.
I don’t know her. And I think it’s better that way.
RETURN TO SENDER
Even though her name was in the return address, she couldn’t remember writing that letter.
When she opened it, she confirmed that it was her handwriting and that it was addressed to her brother. In the letter she told him everything she had never dared to say to his face. When she finished reading it, she was filled with a strange sense of relief.
The letter she found the next day had the same return address but a different destination. This time, it was addressed to her father. She reproached him for abandoning them when she was such a little girl, for how poorly he had performed his role… She freed herself from the burden that had been weighing on her for so many years.
The letter to her father was followed by more: one for her mother, others for her closest friends, relatives, ex-boyfriends and even a few old teachers.
They all had the same intentions. They all had the same effect on her state of mind. The more epistles she received and the better her arguments, the more she was convinced that her behavior had been impeccable in each of her relationships.
The last letter she received was addressed to her. She never opened it.
Ginés S. Cutillas (Valencia, Spain, 1973) has published multiple short story collections and one novel and has been invited to speak at various international flash fiction conferences in Germany and the U.S. His work is currently featured in Spanish language textbooks used in American universities and has also been published in various short story/flash fiction anthologies released by renowned Spanish and Mexican publishers. He has received numerous awards over the years for his short stories and flash fiction; “A koala in the closet” was a finalist for the 2010 Setenil Award for the Best Book of Short Stories in Spain.
Heather E. Higle (Stamford, CT, USA, 1979) is a freelance translator and interpreter based in Madrid, Spain. She has a degree in Spanish and English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, a Masters in International Affairs from the New School in New York City, and a Diploma in Translation from the Chartered Institute of Linguists in the United Kingdom. She has been living in Spain since 1999 and translating for over a decade, working with various award-winning contemporary Spanish authors in addition to Ginés Cutillas, including Ignacio Ferrando and Mercedes Cebrián, both of whom have been published in multiple languages.