The empanadas- by Juan M.S

I was walking one afternoon, as usual, to kill time until my wife came back home to dinner. She worked full-time so I was in charge of the household. I didn’t mind the cleaning because it was a small house. I loved cooking and I didn’t mind washing the dishes, so that wasn’t a problem either, and my wife helped with the washing and ironing of the clothes. However, I felt uncomfortable taking care of my child. He was a blond one-year-old angel with one eye blue and the other brown. I liked watching him play with his mother and smile at her, while he uttered some indecipherable sounds and clasped his little hands to her clothes and hand. However, whenever I held him in my arms, his eyes lost all their brightness and his smile faded. I even fancied that his eyes turned brown before me and became blue only in his mother’s presence, but whenever I told this to my wife, she just broke into laughter. 

The afternoon was calmer than usual. The empanadas were ready, waiting in the oven till my wife came back; I had cooked them on low heat so they wouldn’t lose their juiciness. For those who don’t know, empanadas are a salty pastry filled with various ingredients. That day I had chosen my favorite filling: red meat. I always seasoned it very well, so the different flavors would blend into an indiscernible pleasure on the palate. It would take at least half an hour till my wife came back and I didn’t like hanging around with food in the oven, because I was always tempted to open it and tax the dish with a mouthful that I took out of mere impatience and gluttony. So there I was, passing by the butcher’s and reading the promotions: 10 zl for a kilo of boneless pork seemed an offer no one would let pass by, but that day I didn’t feel inclined to consumerism. Besides, my wife didn’t like meat as much as I did, but I hoped that would change after that day’s meal. I’d always been afraid of vegetarianism sneaking into our home. 

I had walked for a while and I was passing by a park full of pigeons. I was a fervent carnivore and I had always thought that wherever there are pigeons, people can’t die of hunger. Sometimes I imagined shooting at them with a sling and bringing one or two back home, just to see if they tasted like chicken. But some people disabused me of this idea by telling me that urban pigeons carried many diseases. Thus, I gave up my hunting fantasies just to dedicate myself completely to domestic activities such as changing diapers and making sure the kid didn’t cry while my wife was sleeping. Of course, we took turns at these tasks, which was more than fair to me, but I still couldn’t get used to this ultimate act of civilization: caregiving. I always supposed that taking care of a child of mine would be a mere instinctive act that would kick in as soon as I saw my progeny in front of me, but it hadn’t happened as expected. The more I tried, the more awkward I felt in front of that child; it seemed that he could guess that I was making a fool of myself and he enjoyed humiliating me. The mischievous fiend would start crying as soon as I put a hand on him and finish only when I’d finished changing his diaper or cleaning him up. My wife had grown weary for this reason and she blamed it all on my carelessness and lack of attention. She’d showed me a hundred times how to hold the kid so he wouldn’t cry or how to play with him so he’d laugh, but my movements and gestures were just a pantomime of what they should’ve been, so in the end she’d taken upon herself all the tasks that were related to the child and I did all the cooking and cleaning to compensate. I was more than happy with the deal and I could at last enjoy the pleasure of watching from afar, with admiration and fearful respect, that small dictator becoming a human being. 

I was lost in my thoughts when suddenly my mobile phone rang. It was my wife; she was coming back from work and she was calling to find out how everything was going. “Everything’s in order.” I said “The food is ready already. I got anxious and cooked it a little earlier.” I turned towards the house at that moment and quickened up my pace because I had been wandering aimlessly and I was quite far from home. “Where are you?” She asked, “It seems like you’re outside the house.” “No, I’m just on the balcony,” I said, so as not to upset her. For some reason, I knew she’d be upset if she knew I was outside. “So I’m getting there in five minutes sharp,” she said, “and I’m hungrier than a wolf; I haven’t had breakfast this morning.” “I hope my dinner won’t disappoint you then,” I said, but I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t going to be the case. She always talked about the advantages of vegetarianism and the savagery of carnivorism, but she still ate meat out of consideration for me. I walked faster and faster till I found myself running back home; I hadn’t noticed that I’d walked in the same direction for twenty minutes and now I needed to get back in just five minutes. There were no tram lines that could help and it was no use putting myself at the mercy of a bus and its mysterious schedule. Therefore, I just ran and, to my surprise, I got home one minute before my wife. That gave me time to turn off the oven and display the empanadas as if in a floral arrangement. 

When she got back home she went straight to the kitchen. She just took her coat and boots off, but she was still wearing her scarf and beanie when she took the first bite from her empanada. “Mmmm,” she only muttered and “mmm” again; all her senses were evidently enthralled by the empanada. But as soon as she’d finished her first one, which was just three minutes after she’d taken it, and that was only because the steam coming out of it had prevented her from eating it faster, she got up and headed toward the bedrooms. I grabbed her almost violently by the arm; I couldn’t believe that she’d eat only one empanada and then leave, without showing any sign of wanting more. She stared at me and, as she understood my hurt feelings, she smiled at my naivety. She told me, “Please don’t eat them all; I’m just going to check on Johnny.” “Johnny,” I thought, “who could be so mean as to give such a name to someone.” But one second sufficed me to realize that that was my son’s name; I just hadn’t gotten used to it yet. “He’s OK,” I said. “Don’t worry; he won’t cry anymore. Just eat another empanada.” And she stared at me and I knew that at moment she’d become vegetarian.

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