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To read my short – ultra, ultra, ultra short! – story Vanquished please go to:


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To read my story Kay, please go to the link below for a free pdf download of the full issue of Gold Dust (issue 35) in which it appears:


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The Shorn Parrot (Translation of Quiroga story El Loro Pelado)

Once upon a time a flock of parrots lived in the mountain. From early in the morning they ate corn on the cob grown on a farm and later oranges. They made a huge row with their cries and one of them always remained on watch in the tallest trees to see if anyone was coming.

The parrots do as much damage as the locusts, because they open the corn on the cob and peck at it, and afterwards the stem rots in the rain. At the same time the parrots are delicious in stews and the farmhands try and shoot them.

One day a man shot a parrot on sentry. The bird fell and fought a good battle before allowing itself to be taken. The farmhand carried it to the house, for the boss’s children, who nursed it back to health because it had only sustained a broken wing.

The parrot got much better and became completely tame. They called him Pedrito. He learned to dance and liked positioning himself on people’s shoulders and tickling their ears with his beak.

He lived free and passed almost the whole day among the garden’s oranges and eucalyptus trees. He also liked to have fun at the expense of the hens. At four or five o’clock of an afternoon, the hour when tea was taken in the house, the parrot also entered the dining room, climbed the tablecloth with his beak and feet, and ate bread dipped in milk. He was crazy about tea with milk.

Pedrito spent so much time with the children, and they said so many things to him, that the parrot learned to speak. He would say: “Good morning, little parrot…!” “Delicious potatoes…!” “Pedrito’s potatoes…!” He said many other things that cannot be repeated, parrots being like children in that they quickly learn bad words.

Whenever it rained, Pedrito curled up and said a number of things to himself, in a low voice. When the weather became composed all over again, he flew off, crying like one crazed.

He was, as it has been seen, a happy enough parrot, who besides having his freedom – something that all parrots desire – had his five o’clock tea, like rich people.

Tea at five in the afternoon.

Anyway, in the midst of this happiness, it happened that one rainy afternoon the sun broke through after five days of storms. Pedrito flew off, crying out:

“What a lovely day, little parrot…! Delicious potatoes…! Pedrito, the feet…!” He flew far, until he saw below him, very far below, the Paraná River, which looked like a far-off, wide white band. And he continued, continued flying, until at last he sat in a tree to rest.

Suddenly, he saw shining on the ground, through the branches, two green lights, like two enormous lights of a small animal.

“What is it?” the parrot asked himself. “Delicious potatoes…! What could that be…? Good morning, Pedrito…!”

The parrot always spoke like this, like all parrots, mixing the words without rhyme or reason and at times it was difficult to understand him. Because he was very curious, he jumped down from branch to branch until he drew close. Then, he saw that those two green lights were the eyes of a tiger that was bent over, gazing fixedly at him.

But Pedrito was so pleased with the lovely day that he felt no fear.

“Good day, tiger!” he said to him. “Pedrito, the feet…!”

And the tiger, with that terribly deep voice that he had, replied:


“Good day, tiger!” replied the parrot. “Delicious potatoes…! Delicious potatoes…! Delicious potatoes…!”

And he said the same thing so many times, “delicious potatoes!” Because it was already four o’clock in the afternoon and he was looking forward to taking tea with milk. The parrot had forgotten that the mountain animals don’t take tea with milk and so he invited the tiger.

“Delicious tea with milk!” he said to him. “Good day, Pedrito…! Would you like to take tea and milk with me, friend tiger?”

But the tiger became furious because he believed that the parrot was laughing at him, and, besides, as he was hungry too he wanted to eat the talkative parrot. So he answered:

“Go-od! Come a lit-tle closer because I’m deaf!”

The tiger was not deaf; he wanted Pedrito to draw nearer so he could take him in his claw. But the parrot could think of nothing but the pleasure they would feel in the house when he came to take tea with milk with that magnificent friend. And he flew toward another branch nearer the ground.

“Delicious, potatoes, in the house!” he went on crying out as much as he could.

“Closer! I ca-n’t hear you,” said the tiger, in his deep voice.

The parrot came nearer still and said:

“Delicious, tea with milk!”

“Clo-ser ye-t!” repeated the tiger.

The poor parrot drew even nearer and right then the tiger made a tremendous leap, as high as a house, and reached Pedrito with the point of its claws. He did not manage to kill him but he tore off all the feathers on his back and the tail in its entirety. There remained not a single feather on the tail.

“Go!” roared the tiger. “Go and take tea with milk….”

The parrot, crying out with fear and pain, flew off, but he could not fly well in the absence of the tail, which is like a rudder for the parrots. He drifted in the air from side to side and all the parrots that encountered him on his path kept out of his way, frightened by the sight of that strange animal.

Finally he arrived at the house and the first thing he did was look at himself in the kitchen mirror. Poor Pedrito! He was the strangest and ugliest parrot that could be found, completely shorn, without a tail, and trembling with the cold. How was he going to appear in the dining room looking like this? He then flew to the hollow he had made in a eucalyptus trunk. It resembled a cave and he hid himself in the bottom, shivering with the cold and a sense of shame.

But meanwhile, in the dining room, everyone found his absence perplexing:

“Where could Pedrito be?” they said. And they called out: “Pedrito! Delicious, potatoes, Pedrito! Tea with milk, Pedrito!”

But Pedrito did not move from his cave, nor responded to anything; he remained still and silent. They looked for him everywhere, but the parrot failed to appear. Everyone believed he had died and the children began crying.

They were reminded of the parrot every afternoon at teatime and remembered too how much he liked to eat bread dipped in milk. Poor Pedrito! They would never see him again because he had died.

But Pedrito had not died, but continued on in his cave without allowing himself to be seen by anyone because he was so ashamed to be seen shorn like a rat. By night he went down from the tree to eat, climbing back up at once. In the mornings he descended again, very swiftly, and went and looked at himself in the kitchen mirror. He was always very sad because the feathers took so long to grow back.

Until one day, one afternoon to be precise, the family were sitting at the table at teatime when they saw Pedrito enter very quietly, holding himself as if nothing had happened. They almost died, died with pleasure when they saw him looking so well and with such lovely feathers.

‘Pedrito, little parrot!” they said to him. “What happened to you, Pedrito! What shiny feathers the little parrot has!”

But they did not know that they were new feathers and Pedrito, very serious, did not say a word. He did nothing but eat bread dipped in milky tea. But as far as talking goes, not a word.

So, the master of the house was very surprised when the parrot flew down to his shoulder, chatting like a crazy thing. In the space of two minutes he told him what had happened: the flight to Paraguay, his encounter with the tiger, and the rest. And he sang at the end of each segment:

“Not a feather left on Pedrito’s tail! Not a feather! Not a feather!”

And he suggested to the master that they both hunt the tiger.

The master of the house, who at precisely this moment was on his way to buy a tiger skin for the heater, was very happy with the thought of being able to obtain it for free. After going back into the house for his shotgun, he started for Paraguay with Pedrito. They agreed that when Pedrito saw the tiger, he would distract him with chat so that the man would be able to slowly draw near him with the shotgun.

And so it happened. The parrot, perched on a branch of the tree, chatted and chatted, and at the same time looked all around for the tiger. And finally he became aware of the sound of branches being split and saw all of a sudden beneath the tree two green lights fixed on him: the tiger’s eyes.

Then the parrot began crying out:

“Lovely day…! Delicious potatoes…! Delicious tea with milk…! Do you want tea with milk…?”

The tiger became very angry when he recognised the shorn parrot that he thought he had killed but that again had lovely feathers. He swore that this time he would not escape and from his eyes there flashed two beams of rage when he replied with his deep voice:

“Co-me nearer! I’m de-af!”

The parrot flew to a closer branch, chatting all the while:

“Delicious, tea with milk…! He’s at the foot of this tree…!”

Hearing these last words, the tiger roared and rose with a leap.

Who are you speaking to?” he bellowed. “Who have you told that I’m at the foot of this tree?”

No one, no one!” cried the parrot. “Good day, Pedrito…! The foot, little parrot…!”

And he went on chatting and jumping from branch to branch, and drawing nearer. But he had said: he’s at the foot of this tree to advise the man, who came forward stooped over and with the shotgun at his shoulder.

Finally, the parrot could not draw any nearer, because if he did he would fall in the tiger’s mouth, and then he cried:

Delicious, potatoes…! Attention!”

Closer st-ill!” roared the tiger, bending over and preparing to leap.

Delicious, tea with milk…! Careful, he’s about to jump!”

And the tiger jumped, in effect. He made an enormous leap, which the parrot managed to avoid when he launched himself like an arrow in the air at the same time. Also in this moment the man, who had the barrel of the shotgun resting on a trunk so as to steady his aim, pressed the trigger and nine buckshot the size of chickpeas penetrated the tiger’s heart like a shaft of light. The creature bellowed with such force that the entire mountain trembled. He then fell dead.

But the parrot, how he cried out with happiness! He was beside himself with contentment because he had avenged himself – and what vengeance! – on the nasty animal that had plucked his feathers!

The man was very happy too because killing a tiger is no easy thing and, besides, he had his skin for the dining room heater.

When they arrived at the house everyone understood why Pedrito had hidden so long in the hollow of the tree and congratulated him for his exploit.

From then on they lived very happily. But the parrot never forgot what the tiger had done to him and every afternoon when he entered the dining room to take tea he went over to the tiger skin, spread out in front of the heater, and invited him to take tea with milk.

Delicious, potatoes…!” he said to him. “Would you like tea with milk…? Potatoes for the tiger!”

Everyone died laughing. Pedrito too.

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Noise and Rage

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5

Man is the sum of his misfortunes, opines Jason Compson 3 (Tim Blake Nelson) to his son Quentin (Jacob Loeb) at a relatively early stage of The Sound and the Fury (2014), James Franco’s adaptation of William Faulkner’s notoriously difficult to read novel of the same name. There is good reason for the jaundice. The once proud Compson family, of which the alcoholic Jason is the latest in a long line of patriarchs, have truly fallen from grace since their mid-19th century heyday.

To interrupt a moment, it bodes pointing out what a radical step it is to adapt / condense a novel to the screen. They are distinct mediums and much will inevitably be lost from the get-go in the mere fact of adaptation / compression. Of course that has not stopped, and may never stop, many film-makers from trying. During his prolific career, the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder used literary works as sources for his films on multiple occasions, sometimes with stunning success. His final film Querelle (1982), from the Genet novel Querelle de Brest (1947), was widely regarded as a failure. And yet for all its flaws the film is true to the spirit of the French novel. The problems associated with rendering in the language of another medium will be compounded when the source is as renowned in literary annals (and, at first glance, unfilmable) as the Faulkner Southern classic.

Back to the 2014 production, throughout a delicate balance is struck between keeping faith with the literary progenitor and serving the unique needs of the audio-visual medium. James Franco and his screenwriter Matt Rayer have made a ‘literary’ adaptation of the novel. The period leading up to and covering the dissolution of the hapless family’s fortune is pithily narrated in voiceover. The dialogue is pictorial. The film’s title in full, as it appears in the opening credits, The Sound and the Fury: A Film in Three Chapters, serves as another pointer to the makers’ intent. Yet the translation to the screen is never too literary or too reliant upon devices commonly wielded by writers. The multi-talented Mr Franco is an assured helmsman, unlikely to fall into that trap.

The director himself plays Benjy, the focus of the film’s first chapter and another of Jason’s three sons. He is profoundly disabled and innocent, but tuned into what is happening in his midst. He adores his sister Caddy (Ahna O’Reilly) and is never quite able to forget the promise she made him when they were both little, ie, that the pair of them would always be together. He suffers on her behalf when she is banished from the wider family for giving birth to a child out of wedlock, a child she is forced to leave in the care of her brother Jason (Scott Haze) and the Compson’s diminishing retinue of black servants.

The pills Quentin must swallow are equally as bitter. They are glaringly depicted in the chapter bearing his name. With his mind already poisoned by his father’s despairing outlook on the lot of men, he must also deal with the added burden of expectation. His Harvard education has been bankrolled by the selling of a pasture that by rights would have gone to Benjy had the latter not been born an ‘idiot’.

In his way, he is as devoted to and / or smitten with Caddy as Benjy. But his attempt to stand up to the one who has left his sister with child results in a humiliating loss of face. The tragic spiral of his life, the sense that the gods have aligned against him whatever he does, is further underscored when his well-meaning efforts to come to the aid of a lost deaf girl are brutally misinterpreted by the girl’s ask no questions brother.

To the third chapter and the figure of Jason. The angry, embittered child sprouts into an angry, embittered man. Not even the unfortunate Benjy is spared his odium. He construes Benjy’s pursuit and ham-fisted embrace of a young girl walking by the Compson mansion guilelessly mistaken for, or associated with, the departed Caddy as a malicious attack that must be dealt with by castration.

Jason gleefully watches over the crude medical procedure and also masterminds the in-house ostracism of Caddy’s bastard daughter, also named, in a fateful echoing, Quentin (Joey King). But the young girl possesses a resilience wanting in her namesake and refuses to take lightly her bitter uncle’s controlling efforts. His particular brand of ill luck at times borders on the comedic. Mr Haze does a great turn flipping his wig in these scenes.

James Franco’s poignant direction is greatly enhanced by Timothy O’Keefe’s score, with its overtones of tribulation and mischance that only varies by degrees among the family members. Perhaps anticipating ambivalence on the part of Faulkner tragics convinced their ‘darling’ should forever and a day be left well enough alone, the film gained no more than a limited release that also incorporated video on demand. Nevertheless, their game, low-budget adaptation does go partway to doing justice to the tone of the novel – arguably the best that can be hoped for when talking chalk and cheese.

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Bird (A Guatemalan Story)


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The Flamingos’ Stockings (Translation of Quiroga story Las Medias de los Flamencos)

One time the vipers held a great dance. They invited the frogs and the toads, the flamingos, the alligators and the fish. The fish could not walk let alone dance, but as the dance was held at the shore of the river the fish appeared on the sand and applauded with their tails.

The alligators, so as to dress well, had hung a necklace of bananas around their throats, and smoked Paraguayan cigarettes. The toads had stuck fish scales to all parts of their bodies and swayed as they walked as if they were swimming. And every time that they passed, so seriously, by the shore of the river, the fish cried out and made fun of them.

The frogs had perfumed their whole bodies and walked on two feet. Besides, each one carried, hanging like a small lantern, a glow-worm that kept them balanced.

But the most beautiful were the vipers. All of them, without exception, were dressed in dancers’ outfits, of the same colour as each viper. The red vipers wore a little skirt of red tulle; the green, a green one; the yellow, another of yellow tulle; and the yararás, a little grey skirt with stripes the colour of brick powder and ash, this being the yarará’s colour.

And the most splendid of all were the coral vipers, which were dressed with abundant red, black and white chiffon that fluttered like streamers. When the vipers danced and turned, balanced on the tips of their tails, the invited applauded wildly.

Only the flamingos, who then had white legs and, as much now as then, very thick and crooked noses, only the flamingos were sad because not being very intelligent they had not known how to adorn themselves. They were jealous of the others’ outfits, above all that worn by the coral vipers. Every time that a viper passed in front of them, flirting and making the chiffon streamers flutter, the flamingos died of jealousy.

A flamingo then said:

“I know what we can do. We’re going to put on red, black and white stockings, and the coral vipers are going to fall in love with us.”

They took to the air, crossed the river and knocked at a village store.

“Knock-knock!” they tapped with their feet.

“Who is it?” replied the proprietor.

“We’re the flamingos. Do you have red, black and white stockings?”

“No, there aren’t any,” answered the proprietor. “Are you crazy? You’re not going to find stockings like that anywhere.”

The flamingos then went to another store.

“Knock-knock! Do you have red, black and white stockings?”

“What are you saying? Red, black and white? There are no stockings like that anywhere. You’re crazy. Who are you?”

“We’re the flamingos,” they replied. And the man said:

“Then without doubt you’re crazy flamingos.” They went to another store.

“Knock-knock! Do you have red, black and white stockings?”

The proprietor cried out:

“What colour? Red, black and white? Only big-nosed birds like you would ask for stockings like that. Get out of here at once!”

And the man threw his broom at them.

The flamingos called at all the stores similarly and everywhere they were taken as crazy.

Then an armadillo that had gone to gather water at the river decided to make fun of the flamingos and said to them, giving them a big greeting:

“Good evening, flamingos! I know what you’re looking for. But you’re not going to find stockings like that in any store. There might be some in Buenos Aires, but you would have to request they be sent by parcel post. My sister-in-law, the owl, has stockings like that. Ask for them and she’s going to give you the red, black and white stockings.”

The flamingos thanked him and went flying toward the owl’s cave. And they said to him:

“Good evening, Owl! We’ve come to ask you for the red, black and white stockings. Today the vipers are holding a great dance, and if we put on these stockings the coral vipers are going to fall in love with us.”

“With pleasure!” replied the owl. “Wait a second and I’ll return with them.”

Taking to the air, he left the flamingos alone and moments later returned with the stockings. But they were not stockings, rather the skins of coral vipers, lovely skins that the owl had recently removed from the vipers he had hunted.

“Here are the stockings,” the owl said to them. “Don’t worry about a thing except this: dance the whole night, dance without stopping, dance on your sides, on your beaks, on your heads, however you want, but don’t stop because then you’ll cry.”

But because they are so stupid, the flamingos did not understand well the danger they were running in this and mad with happiness put on the coral viper skins, as if they were stockings, inserting their legs in the skins, which were like tubes. Very pleased they went flying to the dance.

When they saw the flamingos with their beautiful stockings, everyone was jealous. The vipers wanted to dance only with them and because the flamingos did not stop moving their legs even for an instant, the vipers could not see well what the precious stockings were made of.

However, little by little, the vipers became mistrustful. When the flamingos danced to the side of them, they bent toward the floor to see well.

The coral vipers were the most anxious of all of them. They did not remove their gazes from the stockings and also bent down and tried to touch the flamingos’ legs with their tongues, viper tongues being like people’s hands. But the flamingos danced and danced without stopping although they were tired and already on the verge of quitting.

The coral vipers that were aware of this at once asked the frogs for their glow-worms, which were little bug lights and everyone waited together for the flamingos to fall over with tiredness.

Precisely a minute later, a flamingo that could not continue collided with an alligator’s cigarette, staggered and fell on it side. The coral vipers at once ran with their glow-worms and shone them full upon the flamingo’s legs. And they saw what those stockings were and emitted a whistle that could be heard on the other side of the Paraná River.

“They’re not stockings,” cried the vipers. “We know what they are! They’ve tricked us! The flamingos have killed our brothers and have put on the skins like stockings! Those stockings are coral viper skins!”

Hearing this, the flamingos, frightened because they had been found out, wanted to fly away. But they were so tired that they could not even lift a foot. Then the coral vipers threw themselves upon them and twisting upon their feet bit apart the stockings. Furious, they tore them into pieces and also bit the flamingos’ legs so that they would die.

The flamingos, driven crazy with pain, leapt from side to side, but the coral vipers continued twisting upon their feet. Until finally, seeing that there remained not even one piece of stocking, the coral vipers left them alone. Tired out, they tidied up their chiffon outfits.

Besides, the coral vipers were sure that the flamingos were going to die because at least half of those that had bitten them were poisonous.

But the flamingos did not die. Feeling great pain, they ran and threw themselves in the water. They cried out with pain and their legs, which had been white, were now red with the vipers’ poison. Days passed and the terrible pain in their legs never ceased. They were the colour of blood because they were poisoned.

This happened a long time ago. Now, the flamingos still spend almost the entire day with their red legs in the water, trying to relieve the pain in them.

From time to time they leave the shore and take some steps on the ground to see how they feel. But the pain of the poison returns at once and they run and put their legs back in the water. At times the pain they feel is so great that they contract a leg and remain thus for hours, being unable to stretch it.

This is the story of the flamingos, whose once white legs are now red. All the fish know the reason for this and make fun of them. But the flamingos, while they take their cure in the water, lose no opportunity to get their own back, making a meal of any tiny fish that draws too near to joke at their expense.

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