Summer holiday conversations over lunch in this house are not what they used to be. Through the years, while sitting here in the pergola’s shade, Manuel and I have heard our children and grandchildren debate their ideas loud and fiercely. From those heated discussions what remains now is their sitting on the patio looking lugubrious and speaking to each other in whispers. Apart from that, one hears nothing but the buzzing of the flies.
‘The family has been speaking in soft voices for hours. If they don’t want us to know what they are saying, only one subject can be in their minds. I imagine they must now have agreed on what they will do,’ I hear Manuel say.
We should have paid more attention to the circulating rumours at the peak of this new pandemic caused by the Amazon armadillo that destroys our digestive systems. How blind and deaf we were not noticing that an unusual number of people over eighty were being isolated after called for health check-ups. I can only compare it with quality control in a factory: it works, it stays; it doesn’t work, it’s out. We will be annihilated as if we were flies. The worst is that if both parents are alive, their children will need to agree on which one of the two is to depart first.
‘Angelina, are you still thinking that their decision is that I go before you?’ Manuel asks me.
‘Yes, Manuel. With my death, the family will say that you cannot take care of yourself. They will send you who knows where, and soon they will conclude your turn to go has arrived. I know you well and I fear you will die of loneliness after my death. The family recognizes that. They also realize that if I remain alive, they may have a mother for a while longer because I will not be made to disappear without some resistance.’
‘How inconvenient it is to have somebody deciding the moment we should die!’
‘Yes, it has made knowing what to do a little difficult.’
We remain in silence until Manuel says. ‘At least by deciding that you go now, and on the assumption that I will die of loneliness, the family would have one dead body only on their hands, even if these decisions are official.’
‘After one dead body, two or ten more won’t make any difference. The difficult one is the first one.’
‘You always had wonderful ideas, Angelina. It was so clever of you to remember we still had in the cellar that pesticide we spread on the vines years ago. I had forgotten that it gave the animals just the same symptoms as the ones caused by the armadillo virus, and not one survived.’
‘That reminds me I must get the tea ready. Come with me to the kitchen. Since the doctors keep telling us to avoid anything sweet at our age, the cake I made for tea can be all for the family. I will make one suitable for you and me another day, Manuel.’
As I walk towards the kitchen, I say in a loud voice, ‘My dears, it is tea time’. As soon as I take the cake out of the fridge, one of those hot-summer nuisance flies arrives from nowhere and sits on the cake. I let it stay there while I look at it. It doesn´t move again. I throw it into the rubbish, take the cake to the table and I serve tea.