On the Edge

On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes Read Free Book Online

Book: On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rafael Chirbes
Tags: psychological thriller
heaviest things that are easiest to move. Huge stones in the back of a truck, vans laden with heavy metals. And yet everything that’s inside you—what you think, what you want—all of which apparently weighs nothing—no strong man can lift that onto his shoulder and move it somewhere else. No truck can transport it. Loving someone you despise or don’t really care for is a lot harder than flooring him with a punch. Men hit each other out of a sense of powerlessness. They think that by using force they can get what they can’t get by using tenderness or intelligence.
    He must have absorbed these ideas from my grandfather, who read them in the Russian novels he borrowed from the community library in Misent (there was no library in Olba at the time); he would cycle there wearing his best clothes, with his carefully pressed trousers folded into his bicycle clips, just as my father used to do on Friday afternoons, years later, although, by then, the community library had gone and there probably weren’t a lot of Russian novels in the municipal library. The men in my family liked those books. We kept them in the house until the war ended (and with it, my grandfather’s life), gospels of a code that was about to impose itself, the violence of the masses, the chronicle of the workers’ epic struggle. Russia came to mean the Soviet Union, the mother of all the world’s workers. Francisco and I have often remarked on how the bright light of all things Russian inspired a couple of generations of Spaniards (although Francisco’s uncles, grandparents and parents experienced it more as a blinding threat). Now, when you say “Russian,” you think the worst: extortion, mafias, the trafficking of women and of human flesh in general, flesh, which, as with herds of animals, seems so dull and undifferentiated when seen from a distance, and yet so magnificent in the one individual you have before you, in those bodies in roadside brothels that can be yours for forty or fifty euros. Soviet Russia. The class struggle. My father always refused to expand the workshop. We take on just enough work to keep us busy. And that’s that. We don’t live off other people’s work, but our own. We don’t exploit anyone. Apart from Álvaro, that is. But Álvaro, he would say, is family, his father helped me when I was in prison with him and stuck by me when I came out. For my father, Álvaro was a son, a relationship I’m not sure I could presume to claim for myself. I was take this , pick that up , carry this , assemble that . He never once called me by my name, never used any term of endearment—my dear, sweetheart, sweetie—as I so often have with Liliana: Why buy lightbulbs in the hardware store for two euros, when you can buy them in the Chinese shop for just thirty céntimos? Why buy garbage bags in the supermarket, when you can get twice as many at the Chinese shop for less? I’ll buy the bags next time, because all you’re doing is paying more for the same thing. You’re right, Liliana, you’re a much better shopper—you’re more careful with money. You notice prices, add up the céntimos, work out distances—how much you’d save or what you’d waste on gas, how much you get in a package, twelve or fifteen, you sniff out bargains, clip coupons, accumulate points on your loyalty card.
    We sometimes caught a wild boar, which we finished off with the shotgun my uncle kept hidden beneath a trap door in the workshop. My uncle could never get a gun license: he was too young to have been in the war, but was paying the price for his family’s political allegiances. When he got married and left home, he gave the gun to me (I’ve caught my deer now, I just hope she doesn’t stick a pair of antlers on me, he said, beaming and kissing his new wife) as well as his fishing tackle so that I could catch fish in the marsh, possibly easier to catch than the fish in the sea, and they were the best we could get at the time, given that we

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