Jim Vogel

Primo y Cerdo

Oil on canvas panel in antique wood frame (frame collaboration with Christen Vogel), Image: 22"h x 20"w; Framed: 25"h x 24"w x 4.75"d, Item No. 17547,

Dirty Stinking Drunk

Short Story by Sage Vogel

 

“Oye. Premitivo.”

“Don’t waste your time. He can’t hear you. Está asota’o, look at him.”

“He might have seen something.”

“Andaba embola’o anoche también. Even if he saw something there’s no way he’ll remember.”

“He might.”

“No way. Borracho perdido.”

“You never know.”

“Parrandero.”

“…”

“Acirgüela’o.”

“What else?”

“Bien bien pedote. Todo pisto. Dirty stinking drunk. You know what they say.”

“I don’t. What do they say?”

“Como mi abuela siempre me decía:

“El que con cerdos se acuesta, pronto apesta.”

He who lays with pigs soon stinks.

“De deveras. Bueno. This smell makes me sick. Let’s go before it sticks to us too.”

Through his closed eyelids Premitivo listened to the two men’s departing footsteps. When they’d gone he cracked his eyes open. It was very early in the morning. The sky was gray and there was a cold breeze blowing.

“Too early,” Premitivo muttered, closing his eyes again.

He sniffed the air but didn’t find it particularly malodorous, so he shrugged and snuggled up closer to his hulking bunkmate. She was still fast asleep and snoring loudly. Premitivo’s head was leaning against her enormous stomach and soon her body’s warmth and the rhythmic up and down motion of her breathing lulled him back into a deep sleep. His last thoughts were dim appreciations of how comfortable he was. If he dreamed, he did not remember. 

When he awoke some time later, roused by the burning, blinding light of the midday sun, it felt as though no time had passed.

“Ay… Como me duele la cabeza. My poor, poor head. And it is so hot… And what is that horrible smell? Que feo jiede, Dios mío,” Premitivo grumbled, covering his eyes with one hand and rubbing his temple with the other.

His mouth was dry and tasted horrible. His entire body ached and was damp with sour sweat. He looked down and saw that his clothes and skin were caked with filth. Countless flies buzzed about in the stinking, stagnant air.

Premitivo struggled to piece together his memories of the night before, but it was all a feverish blur. Suddenly, a most disgusting sound was emitted from behind him, out of the body that he had used as a pillow. The horrible odor that filled the air worsened in an instant, and his surroundings seemed to grow even hotter and more humid. Premitivo gagged, sat up and looked behind him.

“I don’t know which end of you that came out of, cochina, but you should have warned me.”

The sow oinked in response, still blissfully asleep.

With great effort, Premitivo managed to stand up, using his walking stick and the wall of the pig sty to support himself. His legs were shaking and his head pounding. He stood there for a while with his eyes clenched shut, taking shallow breaths and waiting for the worst of this ordeal to pass. Despite his patience, his sorry state abided.

“This is punishment for my sins,” Premitivo realized. “Un castigo merecido.”

He forced himself to open his eyes and look back at the place where he had slept.

There was a depression in the foul mud and straw where his body had been, right up against the sow’s bulky, grimy belly. Nearby, flies dancing on its smudged surface, was his trusty brown bottle, with about an inch of liquid left inside it. Despite his weakened state, Premitivo was drawn over to it, taking small, unsteady steps. Very carefully, leaning heavily on his walking stick, suffering as he did so, he bent over and retrieved the bottle, moaning loudly as he straightened his aching back again. 

“Just a little left… Pero entre poco…”

Moving quickly, trying to get ahead of his own thoughts, he unscrewed the bottle’s cap and brought it to his lips. Just as he was about to tilt it back and take a swig, he looked down at the pig laying before him. She had her eye open and was looking at him. Premitivo froze for a moment, paralyzed by the swine’s unnerving yet impartial gaze. She grunted, closed her eyes, rolled over onto her back and fell asleep again.

Premitivo sighed, took the bottle away from his mouth, closed it and put it in a front pocket of his filthy jacket. Thus unimpeded, his thoughts caught up to him in a sobering rush. His brain reminded him of recent events, then his heart fluttered, reminding him of what was to come.

“Secundino… muerto. Cornelio… muerto. Y yo… volviendo loco y, poco a poco, muriendo también. Oh, Premitivo… What am I going to do with you? What can be done, in the short time that remains?”

Though he had ignored them earlier, the words of his early morning visitors began to echo in his ears.

Él que con cerdos se acuesta… Él que con cerdos se acuesta… Pronto apesta… Apesta… Apesta…

Feeling very dirty, disgraced and dried out, Premitivo reached an obvious conclusion.

“I need a bath.”

 

Far too soiled and ashamed to ask one of the more charitable villagers for the favor of bathing in their home, Premitivo decided he would have to go to the river instead. With as much haste and stealth as was possible given his weakened state, he left the pig sty and followed an arroyo down to the water. 

“Por favor, Dios, que nadie sea testigo de este viaje vergonzoso. Let there be no witnesses to this disgraceful journey.”

Despite his sins, his desperate prayers were obliged and he did not encounter another soul during this pilgrimage to sanctification.

Once he arrived at the riverbank, Premitivo simply walked right into the water, fully clothed. He waded out to a deep, calm part of the river. He scrubbed his hands clean first, using a rough stone in lieu of soap. Once certain of their relative cleanliness, he cupped some water in his palms, brought it to his mouth and drank deeply, repeating the ritual a number of times until his thirst was quenched. Then he lay on his back to float and soak. He stayed like this for a while, drifting about, letting the water seep into his clothes, into his skin and all the way through to his weary soul. It took a while, but gradually he began to feel refreshed and relieved. 

When he had the strength to do so, Premitivo placed his feet on the riverbed again and began to remove his garments, one by one. He dragged them through the water again and again, forcing out the filth, then wrung them out and lay them on rocks in the sun.

Once naked, Premitivo sought out a suitable area of the riverbank, stooped down, scooped up handfuls of smooth mud and clay and covered every inch of his skin with it. Once completely anointed, he entered the water once more, fully submerged himself and scrubbed his body clean. It took several repetitions and the process was laborious. By the time he was finally clean, Premitivo was out of breath. He waded out of the water one last time and sat on a boulder to dry out.

Vulnerable and alone, Premitivo looked down at his own body, the body that had served him so dutifully for so many years. He breathed deeply with his hands on his chest until he was calm again. Then he moved his hands over his skin, finding his pulse in his feet, his ankles, his knees, his wrists, his temples and his throat. Silently, he thanked each part of his body for their decades of devotion to his fallible soul. As this gratitude coursed through him, it washed away his grief and guilt. He embraced himself and gently wept as he processed and accepted his own forgiveness.

His emotions ran their course, leaving Premitivo in a placid state once they had passed. His natural, mischievous humor was the first of his intrinsic traits to reappear. He sniffed at his own body, checking for traces of pigpen perfume. He smelled nothing. He was clean. He laughed aloud then, acknowledging the comedy of this ordeal.

Satisfied and sanctified, Premitivo lay in the sun and waited for his clothes to dry. His mind felt sharp again, sharper than it had in a long time. He made several promises to himself, and made a plan for the evening. Eventually, the judgmental words he’d heard that morning echoed in his mind again, but his own voice answered them, silencing them for good.

El que con cerdos se acuesta, pronto apesta…

“Pero con un poco de agua, y mucho amor, 

hasta a ese desgraciado, se le va el olor. 

 

A man who lays with pigs soon stinks.

But with a little water and a lot of love,

Even he, of this stench, can be cleansed thereof.