Quim Monzó

Sick of having the radio torn out of his car time and time again, Mr Trujillo had a removable one put in. That way he’d never have it stolen again.

He left the mechanic’s at the wheel of his car, lis­tening to the radio. It was a good car-radio. He decided that whenever he got home and left his car in the car­park, he’d take the radio out, put it under his arm and take it into the house with him. When he went to the office he’d do the same. Altogether, then, he wouldn’t have the radio under his arm very long. From the resi­dents’ car-park to the flat and from the office car-park to the office; both short trips in the lift. So he wasn’t very worried about having to carry his car-radio under his arm. If it had meant carrying it around in the street, he’d have thought twice about it. He had always laughed at people who went everywhere with their car­radio under their arm. It irritated him when he saw them sitting at a bar with the radio next to their glass. Or in shops, dragging it from counter to counter, never letting it out of their sight, even when the shop assist­ant put fifteen shirts on top of it.

That’s why, a week and a half later, he suddenly stopped as he was walking along the street, and looked down at his armpit. W hat was he doing with the car­radio under his arm? Why was it he hadn’t noticed it until he was fifteen yards away from the car? He’d gone into the centre of town to do some shopping, and after driving round and round in circles looking for a place to park and getting more and more exasperated, when he finally found somewhere he’d taken the car­radio out without thinking. The accumulated tension from the difficulty of finding somewhere to park had for one second made his brain, of its own accord, de­cide that his reticence about being seen in public with the car-radio under his arm was absolute nonsense. That was why he hadn’t noticed what he was doing until he’d gone fifteen yards. He felt a fool. He went back, opened the car and got in and sat down with the car-radio in his hands. Where could he leave it? Un­der the seat? Perhaps the prospective thief would see it through the back windows. In the glove compart­ment? He looked up and down the road to see if any­one was watching. All clear. He opened the glove compartment, put the car-radio inside, and closed it again. He got out of the car. He made sure the door was locked and went off to the first shop. There he bought some green shoes.

When he came back three-quarters of an hour later, loaded down with carrier bags, he found that someone had broken the offside quarter-light and stol­en his car-radio.

Next day he went to the mechanic’s again. He had a new window put in and a new radio. That afternoon he w-ent back to pick up the car and went home in

some doubt. What was he going to do from now on? If he was just going home or to the office, there was no problem. He’d take the car-radio with him and when he arrived he’d take it out and take it up to the flat or the office with him. But if he went anywhere else -to the shops or a restaurant- he wouldn’t leave it in the car, because if he did he’d have it stolen. That’s why he was driving along the following night without a car­radio. Which was something he hated doing. He loved listening to music as he drove. After all, why had he had a car-radio installed if he had to leave it at home? He decided that until he’d solved the problem he’d leave the car in the car-park and go by taxi.

And it was in a taxi, five days later, that he came to the conclusion that he was a fool to spend a fortune on taxis every day when he had a car gathering dust in the car-park. He thought of selling it. But he immedi­ately scrapped the idea: it was òut of all proportion, a result of his indignation. There had to be a solution: maybe he’d come up with something if he calmed down a bit. For the time being, what he’d do, as he resented getting taxis when he had a car in the car­park (so as not to have to take the car without the ra­dio, or with it if it meant he had to carry it around with him), he’d stay at home without going out. Anyway, if it was really necessary, he could always walk, to the bar, to the shops, to the restaurant, or wherever he wanted to go. But this decision severely limited his field of action; unless he was prepared to spend three hours getting somewhere and three hours getting back.

After a week of staying at home every evening get­ting bored, he got the television out of the junk room, where he’d put it when he started going out with that girl who thought that watching television addled the brain. He dusted it off. He plugged it in. There was a film starring Jean-Louis Trintignant. After a quarter of an hour, the screen went purple. He unplugged it and put it back in the junk room. He put his jacket on, went out into the street, walked to a bazaar there was three blocks away, bought a television (with an enor­mous flat screen), went home with the installer, con­nected it and looked for the channel where the Jean­Louis Trintignant film was on.

After the film had finished, there was a telefilm about the son of a policeman who helped his father solve crimes without his realising. Then, the news. Then, a word-guessing game. You had to send in a label from a well-known brand of tinned vegetables. in an envelope with your name, address and telephone number. They drew an envelope out of a pile. If it was yours, they phoned you and you had to answer (live) I a simple question. If you got the answer. you could take part in the game and try and guess letter by letter, the Word formed by the blank squareses on a panel. For each square, there was a letter and a photograph. The photographs were of different sums of money, an apartment by the sea, an assortment of electrical ap­pliances, a temple in Bangkok, a video camera, a bi­cycle, a car and a beach in the Caribbean. Each one showed what the prize was. The easier the letter, the smaller the prize. The more unusual it was, the bigger the prize. If the competitor went for vowels or easy consonants, he didn’t get much. If he went for unusual letters so as to win big prizes, he’d probably get them wrong and he wouldn’t be able to complete the word, which meant he couldn’t keep all the possible prizes.

The very next day he bought a tin of vegetables of the required brand, cut out the label and sent it in. A week later, he watched as his letter was drawn. They phoned him immediately. They asked him a simple question. Which of the following products did the sponsor brand not produce: peas, green beans, tuna fish or carrots? He answered correctly: tuna fish. The panel with the mystery word came onto the screen. Mr Trujillo said one letter after another. He completed the word: instability. The Ts had bundles of twenty-five thousand pesetas. The Is, bundles of fifty thousand. The A, a bundle of one hundred thousand. The B, a television set with teletext, and the N, an apartment by the sea.

It was in a three-storey building with a communal garden. His neighbour in the flat below was a bald Dutchman who spent the day gardening, one of these North-European pensioners who decide to spend the last years of their life in a warm country where the cost of living is lower and the pension money goes further. His neighbours in the flat above were a married cou­ple. He often met them on the stairs, or heard them moving around in the flat. They would arrive every Saturday morning and leave on Sunday afternoon. Mr Trujillo went there every weekend. He left the city on Friday evening -in the car, with the radio playing- ­and went back on Sunday when it began to get dark.

One Saturday, the people upstairs asked him to supper. He accepted. Her name was Raquel. His, Bplzznt. They had avocado pears with prawns and pink dressing and roast beef and gravy. They had two bottles of wine. They put some music on. The couple danced. Afterwards, while Bplzznt was fixing some whiskeys, Raquel, laughing, got Mr Trujillo to dance with her. The closeness of the woman excited him. When the song was over, he sat down on the sofa. The couple sat next to him. They told him about their work and how long they’d been married. They wanted to have lots of children. Mr Trujillo left at one in the morning. Before dropping off to sleep, he heard the couple talking for some time still.

At midday next day, someone knocked at the door. It was Raquel and Bplzznt, who were going to the beach. They asked him to come along. As he had nothing else to do, he accepted. They went to a little hidden cove that Raquel and Bplzznt knew, where there mere three large rocks in the water, at equal dis­tances from one another. There was no-one else on the beach. They lay dowm on the towels. The couple went for a swim. They went out to one of the rocks, about a hundred yards from the shore. Mr Trujillo dozed off. He was woken by someone shouting. He got up. A few yards from the rock, Raquel was waving her arms and shouting for help. Mr Trujillo dived into the water. He wasn’t a very good swimmer. When he got there he was exhausted, but he tried, unsuccessfully, to help Raquel find Bplzznt. On the way back to the beach, Raquel tear­fully explained to him that Bplzznt had started swim­ming towards the other rock, and halfway there he had started to call for help. Probably cramp.

The police found the body a few hours later. For three weekends in a row, the woman didn’t go to the apartment. On the fourth she did. When Trujillo heard footsteps in the flat above, he went up. The woman threw herself into his arms and burst into tears. The closeness of the woman excited him. From stroking her hair to console her they went on to kisses. They sat down on the sofa holding hands. Every now and then, one of them would let go of the other’s hand to wipe away the tears. That same evening they decided to get married. They were married the following Fri­day. Once they were married, they decided to sell one of the two apartments. They got rid of Mr Trujillo’s because if they got rid of Raquel’s to live in Mr Trujillo’s they might find that the new neighbours on the floor above were noisy. With the money from the apartment, they fixed up the flat Mr Trujillo had in the city. Two years later, they had a baby boy. They called him Bplzznt, in memory of the dead husband. One year later, they had a little girl. One of each! They called her Clara, which was Mr Trujillo’s mother’s name. The third child -two years later- was also a girl. They called her Chachacha.

Every weekday morning, before going to the office, Mr Trujillo takes his briefcase and his son in one hand and the girls in the other and takes them to school. Bplzznt is now six years old, Clara five and Chachacha three. First he leaves his son at the primary school. After that, he leaves the older girl at the kindergarten and the younger one at the creche. Then he goes down the stairs, says hello to any other parents he meets on the way, tickles some child he knows under the chin, and heads for the car-park. He gets into the car and takes the radio out of his briefcase, which he bought so as to hide it in when he takes the children to school. He fits the radio into place, turns it on, selects a radio station, covers his face with both hands, and tries with all his might to cry, but he never succeeds.


© Quim Monzó. All rights reserved