The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 13, No. 1

At the Table

by Inés Bortagaray

Translated by Idra Novey

The tablecloth is white. It covers all four corners of this large wooden table placed at the end of the yard, and is so long it brushes the floor. On top of the tablecloth are plates, serving dishes, spoons, ladles, knives, napkins, forks, bottles, jars, flowers, and bits of bread. We sit around it, the united family—everyone sitting along this giant table that extends across two plots of land, ours and that of the others, the relatives. We aren't as noisy as an Italian family, with no great scandals or anyone noticeably drunk, but we're drunk anyway. We're drinking wine. The table is broken, split in two, but nobody seems to notice. In the middle of the table is a divide, a few splinters poking through the tablecloth, tearing it beside the seam, the splinters emerging like thorns. We are on one side, the relatives on the other.
     The tiny wife of my tall cousin, the one with the wet mouth like a fish and ears brimming with wax, approaches from the other side with an air of boldness. (Beyond her thick glasses are the indignant eyes of the provincial girl, which are frightening even behind their enclosure; the girl is known for her acid mouth.) She stops in front of my seat to apprehend me: Why'd you say my aunt is a whore? I tell her: I didn't say anything. Hold on.

To read the rest of this story, both in English and in its original Spanish, and others from the Spring 2009 issue, please purchase a copy from our online store.