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SIETE MINUTOS (THE NOVEL) by Ismael Camacho

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SEVEN MINUTES the novel by Ismael Camacho and Maria Camacho (This is a novel in progres. You might see it changing from day to day)



Dear Apollo

I think this has all finished. I’m leaving this last letter under the earth, for you to read after the party. I never thought the world would go so quickly. A few earthquakes have destroyed most of civilisation.

I have seen or I’m still seeing the greatest spectacle of all times, and I haven’t paid one penny.

Man has become rational for the first time. A few people found a box full of dollars not long ago. They picked up some pieces of bread, while looking at the money with indifference. The sun had to get fat for that miracle to happen.

It’s the first time I’ve seen men acting like animals. An earthquake has left them without nationalism, money, Gods, millionaires, generals, popes, economists, skyscrapers, nationalities, footballers, clothes, fashion, morals, communists, and all of those other things we thought were eternal. The last seven minutes of mankind have redeemed all of that.

We might hear this advice at any time: WE ONLY HAVE SEVEN MINUTES.

I’m sitting on the first seats by now, and I don’t want to miss the spectacle. It must be the last act, because the other one has been superb. I think we might expect something even better.

I had not understood the beauty of living up to now. I needed a few general cataclysms and most of humanity buried under the mud to understand the importance of life. They called us Homo sapiens.

What did he do all of this time? He built temples to imaginary Gods. He adored myths, and lived only for them.

I think this is a good thing. This planet has finished and it must be erased from the universe. They must immunise all the other stars in the universe against stupidity, because it’s dangerous. It can produce an infection again.

I want to send luminous messengers to the stars and all the planets. The earth has exploded, they should say: careful with the human contamination. All electrons should be vaccinated before they travel through space and pregnant molecules should be sterilised. Photons have to wear aprons against stupidity and any protons getting near Jupiter have to present a carnet of health. Contaminated starts have to become comets. They must hang in the telephone posts of the Milky Way.

It will be forbidden to drink milk for the next 40.000 light years. The twins will be fed by Ursa Major.

We must take advantage of the last few minutes to tell the nearest constellations to stop nasty surprises. An angel can dress as Beta radiation and make a paradise in Centaur. The sun might not explode. Then they’ll rebuild the White House, the Kremlin and St. Peter in Rome.

Man will be civilised and the sun’s work vindicated.

I had never seen anything more evil than Homer’s yacht. The bathroom had golden taps and silver toilets with pictures of dancing nymphs. I have the only good thing it had. I’ll tell you later what it is.

Homer’s actions changed history. He was born to exploit the weak and make lots of money.

I researched much of Homer’s story from newspapers and magazines. I’m leaving it here along with other information for future civilisations to see it.

Forever yours

Mario



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CHAPTER ONE

GENESIS


Two and two are seven. By Homer’s imagination filed an army of green soldiers, who looked like green dollars. The sea seemed like an unending pile of green dollars. What about the clouds? He would have a rain of green dollars if he sold them.

A slight rain, lasting half an hour, should produce a three thousand dollars profit. A two hour thunderstorm would cost a small fortune. Whoever couldn’t afford it would die of thirst. Homer imagined his employees trying to solve the water problems of New York, the dry weather of Morocco or the need for beautiful sunsets in Bombay.

He looked at the sea and saw it full of green dollars. Green dollar was his favourite colour.

What about the waves? They should be used to move turbines and lift tractors. It was a waste of energy to have them just rolling around. They had to be classified by their size. The small ones would be worth one hundred dollars and the big ones fifteen hundred dollars. The froth should be included in the price with different colour to suit diverse tastes.

The world is crazy, Homer thought while sipping his favourite scotch. Chickens should lay their eggs in boxes and sardines ought to grow in tins. The air must be bottled and whoever can’t pay for it has to die. People without any money shouldn’t live. They’re bad for society.

They contaminate the air with their dead bodies and waste much needed food. We’ll get rid of the unemployed, when the air is controlled by a worldwide association of proletarians. They contaminate the planet with their bodies and their rubbish.

That control should have another positive effect. People who can’t buy the air, should die in special sanatoriums and their organs used for transplants. The poor things would get money for something they don’t need anymore.

Homer’s anguish trebled as he thought of the passivity of matter, people’s laziness and the indifference of galaxies.

Nasa spends billions of dollars sending humans to the space station and probes to the moon and Mars. Half of that money would buy Manhattan and part of the Hudson River to charge the toll, or a fleet of ships to look for oil in the seven seas. They could purchase The Vatican and convert it into the biggest museum in the world, or rebuild the Chinese wall with neutron bombs. Homer would build his home inside there and empty the yellow sea to fill it with dollars. Why did they have to go to the moon?

He felt that anguish again. It had to be a sign of superiority. Some men were under God’s tutelage while others had bad luck.

Homer had been born poor by accident but was guided by divine inspiration since his birth. He didn’t remember his father. He had been a man without limits, a man without space. His mother on the other hand had acquired a profile as vigorous as that of Washington in the dollars.

She had told him a funny anecdote. One day he had flown. He remembered that event with mixed feelings. As he started to crawl, he saw a dirty dollar that had fallen from somewhere. It whirled around the patio propelled by the wind.

The dollar went up and down and span around. Baby Homer looked as the piece of paper flew like a butterfly and was entangled in the branches of a tree. The child couldn’t take his eyes away from the money. He flew up there to rescue the dollar and put it in his wet nappies. Everybody thought he had God’s blessings. He must be an angel because the wings of angels had been invented to rescue money from trees.

He wanted to tell his mother how he felt about dollars but she wouldn’t listen.

Homer didn’t know why his parents never exploited his qualities. They let him walk like anyone else and never put dollars by his eyes or his wings.

They didn’t see the money anymore after the incident. Confusion reigned in the region and it became part of another country.

Nobody knew where she or he had been born. More than three countries disputed the honour to have been Homer’s place of birth. He was a hero and in some ways greater than his Greek counterpart.

The chain of his existence might have been interwoven by a benevolent God who wanted him to gain glory. The fact that he had no country was an advantage in his life. If you don’t have a country, you can be a citizen of anywhere in the world and without any inhibitions.

Homer thought as he finished his glass of scotch. Schools should finish. Why did they teach children so much rubbish? I never learned anything and most of the wise men in the world are my slaves now. Many documents accredit my relationship with the best universities while hundreds of papers signed by the pope and his dignitaries show that I have bought a place up in heaven.

Homer had never been to school. His parents had gone to South America some time ago. It looked from afar as a place full of gold and fools. The first was a lie but the second one turned out to be true.

He didn’t have time to learn his own language and never spoke Spanish properly. He said a mixture of things but everyone managed to understand him. He seemed as ignorant as his Greek counterpart.

He trained himself in the business of exploiting human ingenuity. He had learned all about intuition as he lived with his parents in a small house at the edge of the city.

He had never played with the other children. He stayed at home helping his parents in their shop. They sold an assortment of things. He remembered his mother leaning over the counter as she spoke with the customers.

She used to send him to buy food or other things. He didn’t remember much of those years of his infancy. He used to seat by himself in the backyard and look at the birds trying to find worms or flies. He marvelled at the way animals exploited each other for their own gains.

The miracle of his youth had not happened again. He didn’t fly after money now but he found it appealing. He wanted to have huge amounts of money when he grew up.

His father died of a heart attack in his sleep. He had shut the shop early complaining of pain in his chest and arm. He had passed away in the early hours of the morning.

Homer had to get the undertaker. They buried him in a small plot of land at the edge of the city. His mother didn’t look very well after that. Homer found her dead in her bed a few months later.

He felt empty. The two people he had ever loved had gone from his life. He had a shock as he received the letters from the creditors. Homer’s parents had left him destitute. He had to sell the shop to pay his debts.

He used the few pesos left to him by his parents to buy cheap merchandise and two suitcases.

As he sat on a box in his room, he organised the few items of clothes. Then he made a cup of tea before going to sleep. He dreamed that night of all the money he would make. He should live a life of luxury.

Homer remembered the first few times he had appeared in public. He had gone to the ugliest part of the city with a suitcase in each hand. He sold his merchandise on easy terms to men who were hungry, had syphilis or tuberculosis. He reminded his customers of all the pain, suffering and sweating his goods had cost him. He had paid for them in cash but they could do it on credit and without any interest.

Homer thought he shouldn’t give anything free to poor people. That had been one of the strongest pillars of the economy. Rich people looked after their money, while the poor liked to pay their debts. That’s the reason they remained poor.

Homer’s business improved. He hired a boy to pull a cart with a few battered suitcases while he marched in front of it. Homer sold brassieres, trousers, table cloths, woven textiles from exotic places and colourful beads against bad luck. He would go from house to house selling his things. He knew how to convince the unemployed of the finery of his shirts.

He told the poor people who opened their doors that his merchandise was the best in the world. The family used to crowd around him, as he talked.

They listened to all the tales of the silk shirts imported from Japan or the wrist watches brought from Switzerland. That always worked.

“You can’t find anything cheaper than this,” Homer said, as he opened his suitcases.

He patted children’s heads as he went on talking. Everybody looked at the foreigner who tried to sell them magic potions and wonderful clothes. They had to buy his stuff even if they didn’t have much money.

People would queue to buy clothes, toys for the children or even shoes and everything at a very good price. Some of them would pay for their purchases over the following weeks.

Then he went onto the next house where he found more customers for his goods. Half naked children would listen as he tried to convince their parents how their life might change with his magical beads.

He had them in every colour and they worked against all kinds of illnesses and infections. He wore them on his own wrists and they looked nice next to his tanned skin.

They protected infants against the bad eye. It was endemic in these parts of the city. He had never been afflicted by these deceases thanks to his magic beads. They really worked wonders on all kinds of people.

Homer waited for the audience to ask questions. He convinced them of the potency of his beads and potions. He wrote down in his book every time someone purchased something. He used another book for people who would pay over the next few weeks and without any interests.

He used a bicycle to collect the money his poor customers owed him. He cried if they didn’t pay, and his laments would soften the hardest person. Engineers should use them to build better roads.

Homer saved money. He hardly ate anything and never bought any new clothes. As time went past, Homer looked half starved. He wore rags but the notes grew in his purse.

He counted his money every night in the dilapidated room he shared with other people. It had a strict timetable. A man, his wife and four children lived in it up to eleven o’clock in the evening. They had to look after a factory afterwards. At three o’clock in the morning it was a cafeteria for the bus drivers and at three in the afternoon the workman and his family came back again. Homer slept for four hours in the room. He didn’t have any trouble falling asleep and counted money in his dreams. He sold his food for the rest of the night and slept on his seat when he didn’t have many customers.

One day Homer had a shop. He called it: El Baratillo. It was between a café in the central market playing tangos and rancheras twenty four hours a day, and a drugstore where nonqualified doctors prescribed medications. A fish shop in front of it had a smell of putrefaction that stuck to the clothing. It gave Homer an additional advantage. He didn’t have to spend any money in water and soap.

“El baratillo” became an institution. A neck tie that cost forty pesos was sold on credit at fourteen pesos and fifteen cents. A dress of four hundred pesos could be reduced to one hundred and twenty and the same with everything else.

Homer visited the houses of his customers in his bicycle and collected the weekly quotas. He swept and tidied his small bedroom and paid himself a tiny wage. He drank a cup of tea with a bit of cheese on Sundays and sometimes switched his light on before he went to sleep.

One day something happened that changed Homer’s life. It started in a simple way like all the great things in the world.

An Indian with high cheek bones, long black skirt and his hair in a pony tail had come in the shop. He looked like one of the figurines of San Agustin, as he stood against the dirty white wall. He remained there until the last client had left the shop.

He invited the businessman to the darkest corner of the room after checking they were alone. Then he opened a greasy bag.

Homer saw an Indian’s head reduced to the simplest expression. It had its eyes shut and its mouth had been sewn. The head was cleanly cut whilst the hair went down to what had been its shoulders. Homer felt attracted and repulsed at the same time.

The head looked like its owner and anyone would think it was his son. It seemed like a transistorised man’s head. Homer thought he had discovered something never imagined. Balboa must have felt like that as he set eyes on the Pacific Ocean, or Columbus when he shouted “Land” for the first time. In a moment of generosity he invited the man to a cup of tea.

The Indian accepted the invitation. Homer marvelled at the similarity between the Indian and the small head.

Children should play with reduced men instead of artificial toys, Homer thought as he sipped his insipid tea.

He tried to obtain more details from the Indian, but the man hardly spoke. Homer’s questions were answered by the Indian’s silence. They agreed by gestures, on a price for the head.

Homer gave him a few bits of cloth he had been unable to sell. He promised an Inca treasure if the man came back again.

The Indian finished with his tea and left the room. Homer saw as he disappeared down the road. He hoped the man would bring him some more heads.

He admired the head in the privacy of his room. The skin of the face felt rough as the black hair crowned around it. He wondered how the head had been reduced to that size. It had to be magic.

Homer imagined the Indians invoking their gods as they reduced the size of the heads. Perhaps they used magical spells along with some other strange processes. Homer dreamed of riches that5 night.

He put the small head in a padded envelope and mailed it to a friend in the USA the next morning. He hoped that the postman would be gentle with the packet.

They received it with deserved honours in the great country of the north. One of the most respectable houses of the Fifth Avenue asked for ten thousand more heads and they would pay a good price for them.

The Indian’s second visit to the shop happened a few weeks later. Homer led the man to his private room and gestured to his only chair.

As the Indian opened a parcel, another head appeared. It seemed almost identical to the first one. Homer gave a bag to the Indian. The man looked inside and his eyes widened.

He stood up and hopped around the room. Then he put the bag in his satchel. Homer offered an infinite quantity of coke in exchange for heads. He sounded logical. The Indians could be rich in coke if they wanted to.

“Where can I meet you?” Homer asked.

The man remained silent. He looked at him impassive. His eyes didn’t betray his emotions. As Homer showed him a map of the country, the man pointed somewhere in the jungle.

Homer had never been to the jungle. He imagined tigers coming to get him but he had to find more heads.

“When can we go there?” he asked.

The Indian shrugged. The clock on the wall ticked while Homer waited for an answer. He studied the place in the map where the heads were supposed to be. It was miles away from civilisation.

The Indian had to know how to get there. He must have used some form of transport to travel through the jungle otherwise he wouldn’t be here.

The man moved towards the door. Homer wondered if the man spoke another language. That’s why he kept his silence.

He watched as the little man disappeared down the street. He had to find out about the Indians.

He went to the library the next day. He didn’t like shutting his shop in the middle of the day but this was an urgent business. He had to find out about the indigenous population in the jungle.

He had never been to a library in his life and looked with owe at the rows of books. How could anyone write so much? He had never been fond of reading or writing. He didn’t need so much culture to earn his money.

The girl behind the counter looked at Homer with suspicion. He wore his usual old and dirty clothes and looked more like a tramp. Homer went straight to the section about the Amazonian jungle.

He saw book after book of the region with its animals and people. They spoke a few languages. He had never heard of them in his life.

Homer wrote down a few words of the languages. They might help him to communicate with the Indian the next time he saw him.

He sent the new head to the shop in the Fifth Avenue in New York. They would GIVE him a cheque for a few hundred dollars. He had intuition to make his money rather than knowledge.

He mentioned his wish to visit the jungle to a journalist friend. Homer’s name appeared in the newspapers for the first time: Foreign businessman wants to visit savages. The article said how Homer would take civilisation to the hidden corners of the country.

Homer’s career as a hero in this country had started.

The Indian came to the shop a few days later and waited for Homer to finish doing business.

“Are we going away now?” he asked.

The Indian nodded.

Homer packed a few things in a suitcase. He shut the shop and followed the man. They boarded a bus. Homer sat next to a woman with some chickens. They made his journey interesting as they flapped their wings and scattered their droppings about.

The Indian slept for a long time while homer fought with the chickens and argued with the woman. He rested outside when the driver stopped for lunch. He felt exhausted by the time they arrived at a town at the edge of the jungle.

As the bus stopped, Homer looked with curiosity at the undulating plane full of trees.

“Will we go by car?” he asked

The Indian gestured to a few mules munching the grass. Homer had never ridden on a horse or a mule before.

After they got off the bus, the man put the cases on one of the beasts and helped Homer to get on his animal.

They left the town and moved along the plain. The Indian rode in front while Homer tried to make his mule move. His body hurt with every step the beast took.

They went through the jungle at a slow pace. Homer didn’t care about the mosquitoes or the snakes. He had his mind set on the Gringo’s dollars.

He lost count of the days they moved through the jungle. They slept in a tent during the nights and the Indian made tea on a fire in the mornings.

Homer only saw trees, snakes and a few other animals as he galloped on his mule. Sometimes the tall trees went up the sky and they rode through the dense vegetation. They must have been the only human beings for many miles.

Homer imagined the head hunters coming to get him in his sleep. He liked his head the size it had. He didn’t want to finish as the trophy of a few salvages.

“We are near,” the man said one day.

It was the first time he had spoken a whole sentence. Perhaps the jungle made him talk. He helped Homer to get down and they rested amidst the flies and the trees.

Homer’s bottom was black and blue and he walked like a cowboy. He had to sleep on his back in the evenings. He felt like a conquistador trying to bring the light to the wild parts of South America.

They arrived at a clearing a few hours later, where a small man waited by a hut. He vowed in front of Homer.

“The chief is pleased to meet you,” the Indian said.

Homer dismounted from his mule and staggered towards a seat as the two men spoke in another language. They looked at him.

“He wants to talk about business now,” the Indian said.

As Homer wiped the sweat off his forehead, the chief offered him a cup filled with a clear liquid. Homer almost choked on it.

“It’s the chief’s liquor,” the Indian said.

Homer had forgotten the words he had learned in the library but the Indian spoke a good Spanish. The interview took place amongst the trees. It was between Homer, the Indian, the chief, three snakes and thousands of mosquitoes.

Homer opened his case and put the bags of coke on the floor. The chief mumbled something after smelling the powder.

“He thanks you for God’s mineral,” the Indian said.

“Where are the ten thousand heads?”

The Indian translated and the chief gestured to a bag on the floor. Homer opened it and saw three heads. The Indians could only count up to one and anything over such a figure didn’t exist.

Homer had to teach them how to count. He explained to the two men that other numbers existed apart from one.

He put a finger up and said, “One.”

They did the same thing and Homer tried with the number two. The chief put two of his fingers up and said, “Two.”

Homer smiled. “It’s good.”

“It’s good,” they said, with three of their fingers up.

“No,” Homer said.

The chief showed four fingers, “No.”

Homer had to start with number one again. Two hours later the men had learned to count up to ten. He told them that ten thousand would be many times ten.

He gestured to the coke. “I’ll give you ten thousand bags if you bring me the same amount of heads.”

“We don’t have so many Indians,” the Indian said.

Homer gestured to a depression on the jungle floor. “If you fill all of that with heads, I will bring as much coke.”

They seemed impressed with the amount of coke Homer had promised them.

The Indian boiled some water and Homer treated them to a cup of tea. The chief sipped his drink and looked at the coke in the bag.

“The chief is pleased,” the Indian said

Homer needed many heads. All the heads they could find had to be sent to him. They would get a similar quantity of coke. He slept that night in the chief’s hut and dreamed with the heads. They chased him all over the place, while muttering something through their sewn lips.

He woke up to the sounds of the jungle and under a cloud of mosquitoes. After a bit of breakfast the chief had prepared, Homer got ready to go back to civilisation.

“The chief’s town is a few minutes away,” the Indian said.

Homer frowned. A town meant many heads and they would bring dollars to his pockets.

“Can I see it?” he asked.

The man conferred with the chief and nodded his head. They led him through the vegetation until Homer could see more huts. A few children appeared while dogs barked.

As Homer looked at the naked people, his eyes widened. He could sell them his merchandise but the heads were more important for the moment.

A beautiful girl stepped forwards. She didn’t wear anything. As she moved towards one of the huts, Homer admired her young body.

“She’s the chief’s wife,” the Indian said.

Homer imagined her wearing one of the dresses he sold. She’d be the best looking girl in the world.

He had to stop thinking in carnal pleasures. He had come here to do business and not to admire women. They invited him to eat. Homer sat outside a hut while the women prepared the food nearby.

They killed a pig in his honour and spent a few hours cooking the meat. He caught glimpses of the beautiful girl as the women prepared lunch. The children played by his side talking in another language. He admired this people who didn’t know the value of money.

They brought some more of the chief’s liquor.

“To our host,” the Indian said.

Homer sipped his drink. It went to his head very quickly. He saw from within a cloud how the women put a big plate of food in the middle of the floor. He remembered eating the meat and drinking some more liquor.

He must have passed out. He awoke in the morning in the chief’s hut. A few more people slept in the hut and his wife slept by his side. Homer’s head hurt. He had never drunk so much in his life.

A boy brought him a cup full of tea. The Indian must have told them of his favourite drink. Homer had his breakfast outside next to the place where the women had cooked dinner the night before. He had never eaten so well and free of charge.

He wished to stay in the Indian town when he could have a life of luxury without working but he had to make money with his business. The chief and the Indian conferred with each other in a corner.

“We want to give you many heads,” the Indian said.

Homer smiled. “I promise you a lot of coca in return.”

A woman brought the mules. The Indian helped homer to get on his animal and then he climbed on his mule. The chief and the rest of the town saw as they moved along the path on the mules.

They started the trek through the jungle as the sun went up the sky. The tall trees provided shade against the hot tropical sun. The Indian chose a spot by the shores of a river to camp for the night.

The man woke him up in the early hours of the morning.

“We have to leave,” he said.

Homer struggled out of his sleeping bag. As he helped to pack the tent, he heard the faint noise of drums. The Indian looked nervous as Homer tried to get on his mule.

“Enemy tribe will cut our heads,” the Indian said.

Homer understood the reason for the man’s anxiety. They left in the semi darkness. The Indian didn’t let Homer use his battery operated torch.

He had to trust its animal as it trotted through the path. They had moved out of the thick jungle by dawn and the undulating plain greeted them once more.

Homer saw big ants eating an animal’s corpse. They camped that evening in the open plane. The Indian didn’t let Homer make a fire to keep the mosquitoes away.

Homer heard the sound of drums in his dreams that night. He woke up in the morning as the Indian boiled some water to make a cup of tea.

Homer wanted to befriend the other tribe to have a larger supply of heads. He looked at the jungle as he sipped his tea but only saw the trees and heard the cries of animals.

“Who is the other tribe?” he asked.

The Indian pointed to the right. “They live by the other river.”

Homer didn’t know what river he meant. His whole body hurt as he tried to go back on his mule. He promised to himself never to ride a mule through the jungle again. They arrived at the bus station later on that day.

The Indian accompanied him to the bus station.

“I’ll be sending the heads,” he said.

He disappeared as Homer stumbled into the vehicle. He had pain in all his muscles. He sat next to a woman and a baby. She breast fed the child and changed his nappy for most of the time.

Homer went straight to bed as soon as he arrived back home. He slept on his boxes for the next few days. He suffered a lot of pain every time he moved and had bruises all over his bottom and hips.

The papers spoke of the young foreigner. The citizens of the country didn’t care about the jungle, while Homer had gone to meet the indigenous population.

The heads arrived at the shop and the coke travelled through the rain forest to the chief. Homer had mailed two thousand heads to the US by the end of the year. They belonged to a neighbouring tribe where only two hundred people had escaped with their lives.

Homer was angry. The country had earned money with the Indian’s effort, now they said the heads had finished. A foreigner sacrificed his life to better the country while the citizens slept.

He heard the sound of the drums in his dreams but the jungle was a long way away. Homer went back to serve in the shop a few days later. He had lost a lot of money during his jungle adventure. He hoped it would be worthy.

He forgot about the heads and the drums as he made his customers buy things they didn’t want. A customer showed one of the newspaper articles.

Homer stood next to a Colombian map. Foreigner conquest of the jungle, it said. The article spoke of Homer’s spirit of adventure. He wanted to triumph over the world.

Homer remembered all of the food he had eaten at the Indian town. It had not cost him any money, just like paradise. After he served the customers, he studied the article. He must have given to Jaramillo the picture with the map.

He had to go back to jungle to get more of its mysteries. It had given him money with the heads. He remembered how nervous the Indian had been with the sound of the drums. He heard them again in his mind. They seemed to bring bad news from the Gods, talking of bad things to come to the world. He was brought back to reality with the arrival of another customer.

Homer felt ashamed of himself. He had wasted time thinking of stupid things. It would never bring him money. People who thought rarely went anywhere. Selling his stuff and taking advantage of the poor should bring him lots of money.

A few days went past and Homer didn’t get a new supply of heads. The chief had promised him the heads every two weeks. Homer couldn’t phone him as they didn’t have telephones in the jungle. He had to wait while serving the customers in his shop.

He had started to bark in his backyard. He did it when he felt agitated or nervous. He had to stop drinking his cup of tea while he waited for the tribe to get in contact with him. He needed the heads more than anything else in his life. They have brought him wealth and happiness.

He phoned Jaramillo. The journalist had been busy with his work and had not heard from the Indians.

“We could fly to the jungle in a helicopter,” Jaramillo offered.

Homer didn’t like aeroplanes or helicopters. He thought about it while he turned over all night in his boxes. Perhaps they could fly over the other Indian town where people played their drums all the time. They might have a few heads kept as trophies.

The Indian appeared in the shop again. Homer took him to his private room and gestured to his only chair.

“Did you bring any heads?” Homer asked.

“No one has died.”

“Couldn’t you kill a few enemies?”

“We don’t have any wars,” the Indian said.

Homer thought the Indians had to steal the neighbour’s cows or their women. That might start a war. The man left the shop in silence as his tribe would suffer if the coke stopped.

Homer heard the sound of drums in his dreams again. They spoke of wars where heads rolled on the ground. WARS- HEADS- WARS- HEADS.

He awoke bathed in sweat. He put the few dirty blankets away and stretched his body on the boxes that served as his bed. The Indians were far away in the jungle. Nothing would happen here.

The heads kept on coming. Homer earned money from the shop and the heads gave him dollars. He acquired fame as an exporter while earning his rights as an importer.

He didn’t see the Indian again. A man with a basket covered in a cloth came to see him one day.

Homer finished serving his customers and shut the shop. As the man pushed the cloth away, he saw two small heads and a piece of dirty paper with something written on it: Mr. Homer. We send you the last two heads of our tribe. They are the chief’s and my own. Bye.

Homer recognised the Indian who had made him happy. The man’s lips had been sewn together. It looked superfluous. He had not spoken much during his life.

Homer gave a few pesos to the man and shut the door. The business had come to an end. Nothing is eternal and the Indians only had one head.

He was in a shock. How could all those people have disappeared? He remembered the Chief’s girlfriend. That young woman had died just to please him. That night he heard the noise of the drums in his dreams.

Dam, dam, dam, the drums said as he ran through the jungle. Then he saw his own shrunken head hanging from the chief’s hut. As he ran through the trees, he heard the Indians laughing.

He awoke on the floor. He had fallen down during his nightmare. He wanted to go to the jungle to find the chief’s town. He didn’t believe all those people had died to please him.

He phoned his journalist friend and invited him to an adventure through the jungle. Jaramillo appeared a few hours later. He was a young man wearing a shirt with bright colours.

He listened as Homer told him of the chief’s town in the jungle.

“The Indian must be lying for some reason,” Homer said.

“He sent you two heads.”

“I heard the sound of drums in the middle of the night. There are more Indians in the jungle.”

Jaramillo didn’t want to lose his head for the sake of a few dollars.

“You could write the story in one of your articles,” Homer said.

Jaramillo thought about it. The story of the Indian tribe who died victim of their love of coke seemed interesting.

Homer invited him to a cup of tea while they discussed the best way to go to the jungle. Homer never wasted his tea but he had to convince the journalist to go with him.

“Where is the Indian village?” Jaramillo asked.

Homer opened the map on the boxes he used as a bed.

He showed Jaramillo where the village was. They would have to fly over the jungle to arrive at the town.

As Homer spoke about his wishes to find other tribes, he marked the trail to the town with a pen. He remembered all of his suffering aboard the mule.

“I had pain in my whole body for a long time,” he said.

Jaramillo thought Homer had been cursed by the Indian. If they went to the town, they would find the souls of the Indians waiting for retribution.

“I have heard of the curses these tribes use,” Jaramillo said.

Homer didn’t believe in curses. Christopher Columbus had not listened to people who told him the earth was flat. He had started the business with the Indians and he wanted to finish it his own way.

Fate didn’t exist in his case. He had been doomed to failure when his parents had left him destitute. He had not listened to the advice of a few people. He had gone his own way and had done something of his life.

Jaramillo finished with his tea and put the cup on the box that served as a bedside table.

“I have to go now,” he said. “I’ll be in touch.”

Homer barked that night before he went to sleep. His room smelled of failure. He had the taste of doom in his mouth. The Indian town called him in his dreams that night. A river of heads ran through the jungle as he tried to catch them

“Failure,” they shouted.

Jaramillo phoned him the next day, as he served the customers in his shop.

“Homer,” he said. “I’ve decided to go with you to the jungle.”

Homer had been trying to convince a woman to buy his magic beads. He gestured for the woman to wait as Jaramillo talked to him. .

He had organised for a helicopter to take them to the chief’s town. Homer thought it might be better than the mule he had ridden through the jungle. He put the phone down with a smile on his face.

The woman had left the shop and he had lost a few pesos but good luck was on his side. He barked that night for a couple of hours. He went to sleep thinking of his journey to the jungle.

He woke up early the next morning. As he sipped his coffee, he imagined the helicopter moving over all the trees. He didn’t like aeroplanes or helicopters. He had read the reports of airplanes crashing in the papers.

He summoned enough courage to pack his clothes and wait for Jaramillo. They drove towards the airport as the sun shone in a clear sky.

Jaramillo had been quiet as they drove through the countryside. The man didn’t understand of goals in life like Homer did. The sight of the airport reminded him of his phobia of planes.

Homer greeted his teeth as the helicopter took off later. The pilot followed the marks Homer had drawn in the map. They flew over miles of trees until they saw the Indian village.

The tops of the trees swayed as the helicopter went down amidst the grass. They waited until the blades stopped moving. Then Jaramillo opened the door.

As Homer stepped out of the craft, he encountered an empty village. Dogs slept in the huts as pigs roamed in the narrow streets.

Homer remembered the people moving around as the chief had shown him the town. He walked around the few streets followed by Jaramillo.

He stopped by the river. Homer could see the children swimming while dogs barked.

“I see this river in my dreams,” Homer said.

He had told Jaramillo of his dreams of the village. Then they heard the sound of drums.

“Let’s go now,” Jaramillo said.

Homer nodded. As he moved back to the helicopter, he saw a few papers on the floor. He picked them up and put them in his bag.

He moved towards the helicopter as he heard the sound of the drums in the distance and smoke drifted up the sky.

“What are you waiting for?” Jaramillo asked.

Homer motioned to the distance.

“Can you hear them?”

Jaramillo nodded. “I don’t want to lose my head.”

As Homer went in the helicopter, he thought he saw shadows by the trees. They had to be hallucinations. All the people had died according to the man who had come to visit him. Only ghosts inhabited this part of the jungle.

The helicopter rose in the air and flew above the town. The streets were still empty. Jaramillo told the pilot to go back to the city. Homer admired the green canopy of trees that went on for miles.

He couldn’t believe he trekked through all of this with the Indian. The papers he had found rolled down onto the floor.

Homer picked them up and noticed the strange smell. They were old with yellow stains. They had been written in another language.

“I found this by the huts,” Homer said. “They are written in another language.”

“What do you think they mean?” Jaramillo asked.

“Homer shrugged. “I don’t know.”

The helicopter flew over the rolling planes now. A river went across the landscape and disappeared in the horizon.

“These Indian tribes are supposed to predict the future,” Jaramillo said.

“How do you know?” Homer asked.

“I have heard rumours.”

“The world might end when you decipher them,” he said.

He laughed as he saw Homer’s face.

“I’m only joking.”

The helicopter had landed outside the heliport. Homer put the papers in the bag as the man opened the door. The airport was full of people waiting to board their flights. Jaramillo invited Homer to have a cup of tea while they discussed their trip.

Homer examined the papers under a better light. They had been written in another language but the word, seven appeared across the page. It might be seven people, or books or days or minutes. He could give the words so many interpretations.

Jaramillo spoke about his work as Homer sipped his tea and thought in the words.

“It will be revealed to us some day,” he said.

Homer awoke from his reverie. “What is it?”

“We’ll learn whether our trip to the jungle has been productive. People will want to know what happened to the Indians,” Jaramillo said.

“Will you tell them?” Homer asked.

“I won’t say they sold you their heads, if that’s what you want to know.”

“What about the shop in the Fifth Avenue?”

Jaramillo smiled. “They don’t want to know what happened to their merchandise. It’s just business.”

Homer finished with his tea in silence. He had the Indian papers by his side. The strange letters danced under the light of the cafe.

Jaramillo pointed at the papers.

“They might decipher them in the museum.”

“They’ll want a lot of money,” Homer said.

They were quiet. Jaramillo read the newspaper as Homer mused about the Indian hieroglyphics.

“Don’t worry too much,” Jaramillo said as the taxi left homer by his shop.

Homer nodded. He had to look after his business from now on. The adventure in the jungle was pushed to the back of his mind as he charged high prices for his merchandise.





He carried the bag with the heads and the papers with one hand while pressing the handkerchief against his face with the other one. He went to the back of his shop and unlocked the door of his room.

Jaramillo waited outside as Homer put the bag with the heads on the boxes that were his bed. The Indians lived better than Homer.

“Do you want me to tell the press of the mistake?” Jaramillo asked.

Homer shook his head. “They’ll forget about it.”

“I’ll be in touch,” Jaramillo said.

Homer shut the door and was alone in the small room. He examined the heads after opening the bag. He had to send them to New York to get some money. He had to recover the money he had lost by shutting his shop to go to the jungle.

The papers fell down to the floor. He wanted to throw them away. He didn’t want something written in another language. He couldn’t understand it and it wouldn’t give him money.

The first line caught his attention. He thought he could understand it. It seemed to be normal language written by a child learning to read and write. He was interested in the meaning of the strange words. He took a pencil and paper and wrote on another paper what the first sentence could be.

Seven minutes, he scribbled on the paper. Seven minutes to what? He put the pen and paper aside. He didn’t have time to translate all the gibberish on the page.

He moved his head up and down as he growled. A few minutes later he walked around his room while barking. It relaxed the tension in his body. After he had barked for a while, he lay down on the boxes.

Why seven minutes? He asked himself just before he went to sleep. He had a strange dream that night. The Indian had come to see him. He had been waiting amongst the shadows of his room.

Homer had seen his face amidst the shadows. Then he had spoken.

“You’ve finished with my people. You’ll pay.”

Homer had covered his face with the blanket. The man seemed to be really in the room.

“You must decipher the scrolls,” the Indian had said. “Seven minutes is all you have.”

The voice echoed in his mind. Homer recalled his dream as he woke up later. No one was in the room with him and the door was locked.

Dreams never turned real, Homer thought as he looked all around the room for signs of the Indian. The bag with the heads was on the floor, while the papers lay on a box.

“Seven minutes,” Homer said to himself. “I wish I knew what it meant.”

He switched his small cooker on and boiled some water for his cup of tea. He didn’t have to pay attention to his dream and the silly papers. They meant nothing. He put them in a suitcase with the rest of his things.

He might tale them to the library or the museum. Those old things should be worth a few hundred pesos or dollars. He forgot all about the papers as he phoned his employee from a phone in the corner. He had to open the shop or Homer would lose some more money.

Homer looked at the pages before he went to sleep. The hieroglyphics looked less threatening now. He had a look at the old book in the loneliness of his room. The only thing he understood was the number seven. Everything else didn’t make any sense.

“Seven what? Homer muttered to himself.

He wanted to know the answer to that question. Seven was an important number for whoever had written the papers. Homer felt that anguish again.

He went down the room while barking. He moved a few steps while howling like a real dog. An hour later, he felt ready for bed. After putting the papers in his bag, he slipped under the rags covering his boxes.

Homer was up early the next day. He had lost money during his Indian adventure. His shop had been shut and he had spent money in silly things. Jaramillo had paid for the helicopter but Homer had bought coca colas one day.

The problem with the heads had left Homer drained of all energy. The mosquito bites might have made him ill. He slept all day on his boxes.

He summoned enough energy to go back to his shop by the market. .

He fired his employee and took charge of the shop. As he served his customers, he heard a faint sound in the background. It could have been the old fridge in the corner or a car in the street.

He served in his shop during the day and barked in the nights. He did it for a short period of time in the beginning. He looked at the pages sometimes and deciphered another line of the writing.

Making money had been his purpose in life, until he met the Indian. He had made business with the heads until the tribe had finished. Then he had found the papers.

He put the book away before drinking his tea the next morning. It distracted him from his main purpose in life: to make money.

Life in the shop went as normal as ever. Homer sold his merchandise to poor people, who couldn’t afford to feed themselves.

He kept the papers in his bag. He would shut the shop at lunch time and have a look at the hieroglyphics.

Homer went back to the library. This time he had a mission to accomplish. The girl filed her nails as Homer went past the desk and straight for the foreign language books.

The writing in the papers didn’t belong to any human language in the known world. He couldn’t be defeated by an old Indian letter. It could be worth lots of money. He wrote the characters on his notebook. Then he wrote down the symbols most used in the document.

They could be a word most in use by the inhabitants of the town. Homer had a few words in mind like jaguar, pigs, dogs days and nights. He saw money in his mind as he tried to decipher the words and he barked.

The librarian stopped filing her nails as a few people looked at him.

“Quiet,” someone said.

He awoke from his daydream. Had he gone mad? He was in the library trying to decipher silly things. The papers wouldn’t give him money. He had to forget the Indians. He shut the book he had been reading and got up from his seat. The people looked at him once more as if he had clowns on his face.

The librarian stamped some books as he moved towards the door. He hoped never to see her again. This madness couldn’t come back.

He had a good look at the library building before he left. It stood aloof next to the park. He still had the papers in his bag. He wanted to keep them to remember his moment of madness. He barked again.

A couple crossing the square turned to look at him. Homer didn’t mind. The whole world had conspired against him to bring this weird idea to his head. The Indians had gone. They had killed themselves to please the god of coke.

He had done nothing to accelerate their destruction. He stopped his wish to bark again. As he moved through the streets, he saw how the world needed his enterprise. The Indian papers with their hieroglyphics were a bad thing.

Homer didn’t want to know what the word seven meant. It had belonged to the dreamers who once lived in paradise. It had no meaning for the world.

Homer had arrived at his shop. He saw his assistant selling to the customers. The man muttered a quick greeting before turning his attention to the young lady he served.

Homer went to a wardrobe. After unlocking it, he put the Indian papers inside. He wanted to forget about them. He didn’t want to think in the number5 seven ever again.

The girl paid the assistant and left the shop. The young man put the money in the cash machine,

“How was the jungle, Mr. Homer?” he asked.

Homer shrugged. “It was hot and full of mosquitoes.”

“Did you find the Indians?”

“We only saw a few dogs and pigs.”

The man was silent. He took his bag and moved to the door.

“You have violated their land,” he said.

“We didn’t see anyone.”

“Did you find anything anywhere?” he asked.

Homer looked to the wardrobe. “No.”

The young man opened the door.

“Bye, Mr. Homer.”

Homer wanted to tell him not to come back again. He could take charge of the shop on his own if he wanted. He didn’t believe in silly superstition.

He opened the back door and stepped in his hovel. It had been the store room in the past. The floor had dirt while cobwebs adorned the walls. He lay down on the boxes in the middle. He didn’t feel the sharp edges of the wood as he covered himself with the rags. He couldn’t afford a bed. He lived worse than a dog but he didn’t care.

He switched the lamp off and went to sleep. He didn’t dream with the Indians this time. He woke up early the next morning. He lay on his boxes for a while as he meditated in the Indian adventure.

It had finished. He had to concentrate in his life now. He had to think in other ways of making money.





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SECOND CHAPTER

LEVITICUS







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Heroes never give up. Homer had seen the sea in his dreams whenever he went to sleep. It could be an ancestral calling as his forebears had sailed the seven seas. The Indian adventure had earned him respectability amongst the business community.

Homer borrowed a suit. Then he gave a talk in the library about the importance of the sea.

“We used to have two large coasts filled with maritime treasures. I love the sea,” he said with tears in his eyes.

A few people in the audience also cried. They thought he remembered his country. Homer promised to have the best ships in the world. He finished and people applauded.

Many articles in the newspapers spoke of the foreign businessman travelling in the back of a truck to the nearest port.

He slept in between a sack of potatoes and another one of plantains. The flies and other insects annoyed him but he didn’t have to pay any money. He arrived at lunch time as the shop owners slept their siesta.

Homer went straight to the port. He clutched his wallet full of money as he looked at a few ships. He didn’t want anything special. He saw a notice on a small boat. It cost one hundred pesos.

He waited for the owner to come back in the afternoon. Homer had gone to sleep in between the fishing net, when something licked his face. He opened his eyes to find a big dog on him.

“Stop it, Neron,” a voice said.

Homer saw a man wearing short trousers and a vest.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I want to buy the boat,” Homer said.

Neron barked while jumping around Homer. He barked and the dog paused. He seemed to like Homer’s deep voice because he licked his face.

“The boat is not for sale,” the man said.

Homer looked for his wallet. “I give you two hundred pesos.”

“I have two other old boats,” the man said. “Do you want them?”

As Homer followed the man’s finger he saw them by the pier. They seemed to be old and rusty. He paid one hundred pesos for each one of them. It was a small price for someone who loved the sea.

He gave them exotic names: Atenas, Esparta and The Termopilas. The sailors put fish oil all over the ships. They would smell like proper fishing vessels, even though they never caught anything. Homer had the aroma of fish from the shop near El Baratillo.

Homer never set foot in one of his own vessels. They were not safe and defied death by immersion. That’s how doctors without a degree call death by drowning.

Homer’s boats didn’t go fishing. He had good international relations because of the business with the heads. The boats brought contraband along the river to be sold in his shop.

He lived the same way as before. He slept on a few boxes and drank his cup of tea with a bit of cheese on Sundays. He woke up during the nights and barked, while walking around his room. He acquired a lot of practice and sounded like a pedigree German shepherd.

Homer punished himself if he forgot to sweep the room. He reduced the amount of tea in his cup. It played havoc with his health and he nearly fainted sometimes.

Homer worked very hard. He was his own boss, secretary, and accountant. He had to do his own cleaning, cooking and guard the premises as a dog.

Just before he went to sleep, he would move around the room as waves of sound left his lips. His deep voice flowed through the damp room. He would see the walls brightening and his boxes transforming themselves into a beautiful bed.

All his worries disappeared while he marched throughout his domain growling and howling, his feet sinking in the plush carpet stretched across the room. He felt totally exhausted an hour later and fell on his boxes, while mice appeared under crack on the walls to chew at the few crumbs they found on the floor.

Homer stopped eating. He had to save money if he wanted to be a millionaire. He served his customers most of the time. His employee only came for a few hours every week. Homer took advantage of this time to count his money. He avoided the papers he had kept in the safe. They had to wait for the appropriate time or until Homer found someone willing to pay money for them.

Homer’s face grew longer and bony while his ribs stuck out of his flesh. He started to look like a concentration camp survivor. The people delivering merchandise couldn’t believe the skinny man who opened the door.

He didn’t feel well. He went to see a doctor who treated poor destitute orphans for free. Homer was also an orphan.

The doctor said Homer suffered from bad nutrition. He had to eat but food cost money and he couldn’t afford it.

Homer wrote a letter to himself and asked for a substantial increase in his own wages. He didn’t have an answer as he had to travel to the port that afternoon in one of his trucks full of merchandise. He always travelled on the boxes. He would admire the view and could have a free shower if it rained. He absorbed great quantities of free vitamin D, if it was sunny.

He had good luck this time. Somebody who travelled in the driver’s cabin had a dog. The man gave Homer some of his lunch to feed the animal. Our man ate everything. He had not had such a nutritious lunch for a long time.

He felt much better that afternoon and had an erection while trying to sleep in the back of the truck. He masturbated.

It’s cheaper than doing it with a prostitute, Homer thought as the sperm ran over the boxes. Why didn’t he marry himself? Then he might increase his own salary.

Homer’s Industries answered in an unexpected way. He wrote a long declaration of love and proposed marriage to himself. He thought about it for a whole week but the hunger made him answer yes.

The ceremony was solemn given the circumstances. One of his sailors brought two salted fish from the port and bread with cheese for his wedding party. The recently married man went to the doctor complaining of stomach pains.

“You were starving yourself,” the doctor said. “You have to eat slowly at first.”

In the process of cleaning himself Homer had gone too far. He had to start eating before he starved himself to death.

Jaramillo appeared in the dilapidated room one evening. He had sold the shares created by the heads in the international market. They had sold at very good prices but something didn’t let the money grow.

“It must be the curse,” Jaramillo said.

Homer scratched his head. He didn’t want to think in the Indians again. That episode in his life had ended some time ago. He had to look to the future now.

“We must forget about it,” he said.

Jaramillo frowned. We can blame the extinction of those people in their own behaviour in the papers. That should push the price up.”

Homer shrugged. He only wanted to make money. The dishonour of extinct races didn’t concern him. He had learned to ignore the voices in his head accusing him of being evil.

Jaramillo had a last look at Homer’s room before leaving. He couldn’t understand why the man didn’t get somewhere else more decent. He couldn’t bring his business associates to meet the man who had sold the inhabitants of the jungle.

Homer shut the door after Jaramillo left and went into the shop. He opened the safe and looked for his papers. He, as the owner of the shop, authorised himself to open a few tins of food.

He had a good dinner last night. Then he barked for a short time before retiring to his boxes, where he dreamed of dollar bills raining down from the sky.

He also authorised himself to eat another piece of bread for breakfast the next morning. He had to look for his other half now that he was a married man.

The situation of our young executive improved after his marriage. He ate fish, meat or even eggs three times a week. He looked healthier and masturbated often.

Homer made a lot of money. Taxes had also gone up in spite of all the tricks he used. He could feed himself for ten years with the money he spent in tax.

His brain started to work. Up to now he had lived following the right path. He said he would go to the jungle and everyone supported him. He had sent the heads to the US. He noticed the sea and now his boats sold contraband.

He looked nervous as he served the few customers who ventured into the shop that morning. Then a beautiful girl came in.

Her long black hair went down to her waist and she wore colourful clothes. Homer had never had anything to do with women as his entire life had been spent making money.

She was a widow. Her husband had been killed in the violence the country had been experiencing.

She bought silk stockings. Homer imagined her trying them within the confines of her own room.

“I wish someone did something to end our poverty,” she said before leaving the shop.

The image of the woman stayed in Homer’s mind. She was young and beautiful but she needed help. That evening he authorised himself to open a tin of sardines before retiring to his boxes. As he reflected in the business of the day, he remembered the poor young widow.

The country went through a bad patch. Every day men, women and children appeared dead and nobody cared. Genocide became one of the national industries just as football and politics.

Widowers with a lot of children were numerous. Why didn’t anybody help them?

Homer’s eyes filled with tears. He had another ingenious idea. The woman had not left her name. She had only wanted to buy stockings.

He had to help people like her to have a better life. As he cruised the poor parts of the city in his old bicycle, he wanted to find land to build houses. They would be called: “Poor Widow’s Housing.”

He found a cheap place to buy. It lay in a low plain without any water, light or sewer. He paid for some houses to be built while the weather was good. Each unit had three rooms with a muddy floor and no toilet.

Homer stood by the houses while the work was carried out. He didn’t want the workers stealing the bricks or charging him for the work they had not done.



























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