Red April

Free Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo

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Authors: Santiago Roncagliolo
Children?”
    With his glasses bent over the folder, the commander looked back and forth from his papers to the prosecutor, who seemed to grow smaller in his chair.
    “No. I believe that was another reason she left.”
    “That doesn't constitute grounds for divorce.”
    “I did not ask for one. I thought that … there was no need. I did not want to marry again. Ever. Excuse me, Señor. Am I authorized to ask why … ?”
    He did not want to say more. The commander removed his glasses and gave him a father's smile. What probably was a father's smile, at least.
    “I'm sorry to ask you these personal questions. Believe me, they're necessary. But I don't need to know any more. I thinkyou're perfect for the work we need. You have no family, and so you can travel. Further, you're a man who loves his home and respects the family, an honorable man.”
    The kind of man who dies with no survivors, thought Chacaltana. He asked himself who would smooth his sheets after he died.
    “Will it be necessary to travel, Señor?”
    “You'll see, Chacaltana. The elections are on Sunday and we need qualified personnel committed to the defense of democracy. Do you understand?”
    He did not understand anything.
    “Yes, Señor.”
    “In the villages that will be visited by reporters we'll need electoral prosecutors we can trust.”
    Chacaltana reviewed mentally the electoral laws and the statutes of the Ministry of Justice. He found a contradiction.
    “Commander, the electoral prosecutors do not belong to the Ministry of Justice. They are functionaries of the National Election Board or the National Office of Electoral Processes …”
    “Yes, of course. But we don't want to get involved in titles and words. That's for the politicians. After all, a prosecutor is a prosecutor, Chacaltana, for whatever his country requires of him. And you are perfectly qualified.”
    “It is a great honor … I do not know if I have time to take the corresponding training course or prepare myself … Besides, I have to speak to my superiors …”
    “We have confidence in your ability, Chacaltana, forget about training courses. I'll attend to all the details: you can take a paid leave for granted, and don't worry about bureaucratic obstacles. The high command of the armed forces will take care of all the paperwork.”
    The commander took out another file. Inside was a signed accreditation as an electoral prosecutor with Chacaltana's photograph, some money for travel expenses, bus tickets, a booklet onelectoral legislation, and other papers. Chacaltana felt like a privileged individual.
    “It is an honor that you have thought of me to …”
    “You absolutely deserve it, Prosecutor Chacaltana.”
    “Where will you send me, and when?”
    “To Yawarmayo. Your bus leaves in two hours.”
    “That soon?”
    “The nation has no time to lose, Señor Prosecutor. And the elections are on Sunday. Any questions?”
    “No, Señor.”
    “You can leave, then. I hope this is the start of a promising career, Chacaltana.”
    “Thank you, Señor.”
    He left the building with a quiver of emotion in his jaw. For the first time in many years he felt euphoria. He wiped the perspiration from his brow with his handkerchief. At last, his work was being recognized. He felt he had to share his success with someone before he took the bus. Almost unconsciously, he found himself at El Huamanguino. He greeted the waitress with a big smile.
    “I bought some
mate
for you. And today there's a spicy
puca,”
she greeted him in return.
    “I did not come in for lunch. I …”
    “The tables are for eating lunch. If you don't have lunch, you can't sit down.”
    “Bring me one, then.”
    He waited the prescribed length of time, longing to speak. A soap opera was playing on television, and a woman was weeping copiously for her man. This time, on the plate Edith served him, there were cracklings, a pig's foot, and warm potatoes.
    “I am being sent on a trip,” Chacaltana said

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