1 Danny swears to proteger the homeless

About how Danny, back from la guerra, finds he has inherited and how he swears to proteger the homeless



When Danny came back from the army he found out that he had heredado and was the owner of una propiedad.  The old man – that is, the grandfather – had died leaving Danny the two little houses, las casitas en Tortilla Flat.

When Danny found out he felt un poco overwhelmed by the responsabilidad of being a propietario.  Before going to see his posesiones he bought himself una garrafa de red wine and he drank most of it.  The weight of la responsabilidad vanished and the worst of his naturaleza came to the surface.  In a rampage, he broke un par de chairs in the billiard room on la Calle Alvarado and he got into un par de short but gloriosas fights.  Nobody paid Danny too much atención.  Finalmente, his shaky legs took him to the dock, where, at that early hora the fishermen italianos, wearing their botas de rubber, were getting ready to set out to la mar.


The prejuicios raciales clouded the good sentido de Danny.  He threatened the fishermen.  “¡Bastardos sicilianos!”, he shouted, and “¡Scum of the garrison!” and “¡Sons of dead bitches!”  He shouted: “¡Fuck your madre, louse!”.  He made rude hand gestures and moved his hips obscenamente, grabbing his partes with his hand.  The fishermen se limitaron to smiling and waving their oars and saying:

  • Hola, Danny, ¿when did you get back?  Come round tonight, there will be good vino.

Danny felt outraged.  He screamed:

  • ¡Stick a condom on your head!

They shouted:

  • ¡Adiós, Danny, see you tonight! – and they jumped into their botes and raised their oars and started their motores and they set off, laughing.

Danny felt ofendido.  He turned back to the street Alvarado, breaking a few windows on the way, and on la segunda block un policia told him to stop.  El tremendo respeto that Danny felt for la ley made him calm down.  If it hadn’t been because he had just left el ejercito after la victoria against the Germans, they would have sentenciado him to six months.  En esas circunstancias, the judge gave him sólo thirty días.

El juez

So Danny spent the next month sentado on a bench in the prison of Monterrey.  Sometimes he did drawings obscenos on the walls and sometimes he thought about his carrera in the army.  El tiempo weighed heavy on the hands of Danny in that celda de la prisión.  From time to time they put in a drunk to spend la noche but, mayormente, el crimen had stalled in Monterrey and Danny estaba solo.  At first the bedbugs le molestaban un poco but when they got used to his flavour and he se acostumbró to their nips, they got on perfectamente bien.

He started to play a game satírico.  Atrapó a bedbug, squished it against the wall, drew un círculo around with the pencil and escribió: “Mayor Clough”.  Then atrapó otras and baptised them with todos los nombres of the Council Municipal.  En poco tiempo he had a whole wall decorada con squashed bedbugs, bautizadas con nombres de dignatarios locales.  He drew on ears and tails, he gave them big noses and moustaches.  Tito Ralph, the jailer, was escandalizado but no protestó because Danny had not incluido none of the justices who had condenado him nor anyone from la policía.  He felt un inmenso respeto por la ley.

Un par de botellas de vino

Una noche when there was nobody else in la cárcel, Tito Ralph apareció in the cell of Danny with un par de botellas de vino.  Una hora later he went out to look for más vino y Danny le acompañó.  The prison was too boring.  They went to the bar of Torrelli, where they drank vino until Torrelli threw them out.  After that, Danny went into los pinos and fell asleep, while Tito Ralph staggered back to report the escape.

When the brillante luz of the sun woke him up about midday, Danny decidió to hide para escapar a la persecución.  He ran and scampered behind the bushes.  He climbed into the branches like a worried fox.  And, at night, as the rules dictate, he came out to see to his affairs.

The affairs of Danny were perfectamente claros.  He went to the back door de un restaurante.

  • ¿Do you have a trozo of bread for my dog? – he asked the cook.  And while that trusting man wrapped the food, Danny robó two slices of jamón, four eggs, a leg of lamb and a fly-swatter.
  • I’ll pay you as soon as I can – dijo.
  • You don’t need to pay me for a few crusts.  Si tú hadn’t taken them, I’d have thrown them out.

That made Danny feel better.  If that was how they went on he was less culpable.  He went back to the bar de Torrelli, he exchanged the four eggs, the leg of lamb and the fly-swatter for a big glass of grappa and he retired to the wood to prepararse la comida.


La noche was dark and húmeda.  The fog hung like a frayed gas among the dark pinos at the edges of Monterray.  Danny lowered his head and hurried to find refugio in the wood.  In front of him he could make out otra silueta fugitiva and, as he got closer he reconoció the furtive gait of his old amigo Pilón.  Danny was un hombre generoso, but he remembered that he had sold all the comida excepto the two slices of ham and the paquete of stale bread.

“I’ll let him go”, decidió.  “He has el aspecto of a man who has grown sick of roast turkey and things like that”.

But suddenly he noticed that Pilón held something lovingly in the breast of his chaqueta.

  • ¡Hey, Pilón, amigo! – shouted Danny.

Pilón hurried his pace.  Danny ran behind him.

  • ¡Pilón, old amigo!  ¿Where are you going so rápido?

Resigned to the inevitable, Pilón stopped.  Danny drew near, suspicious but his voice was entusiasta.

  • I was looking for you, the most beloved de mis ángeles de la guarda.  Look.  I have here two good pork chops from God’s own herd and a bag of the softest bread.  Let’s share el banquete, little kitten.

Pilón shrugged.  “If you say so”, he mused, almost savagely.  They went into the woods together.  Pilón was estupefacto.  After a while he stopped and looked a su amigo.

  • Danny – he asked with a sad voz-, ¿how did you know that I was carrying una botella de brandy under the chaqueta?
  • ¿Brandy? – exclamó Danny – ¿You have brandy?  Maybe you were taking it to some sick Grandma – dijo ingenuamente.  Maybe you were keeping it for la próxima coming of Our Señor Jesús.  ¿Who am I, oh amigo, to decidir el destino de ese brandy?  I am not even sure that you have it.  Also, I am not thirsty.  I will not touch ese brandy.  I agreed to share este enorme roast pork that I bring, but as for the brandy, it is yours.

Pilón respondió severamente:

  • Danny, I wasn’t thinking of sharing half the brandy with you.  I only have to make sure that you don’t drink it entero.

Danny let the thing run.

  • Here, in this clearing, I will cook the pork and you will toast those two sugar cakes from the bag.  Put the brandy here, Pilón.  Better aquí, where we can both see it.

They made a fire and roasted the ham and ate the hard bread.  El brandy disappeared rápidamente de la botella.  After eating they snuggled up near the fire taking delicados sips from the botella like little honey bees.  And the fog came down over them, soaking their chaquetas.  The wind whispered sadly entre los pinos.


And, after a while, la soledad innundated Danny and Pilón.  Danny thought of his lost amigos.

  • ¿Where is Arthur Morales?  – he asked throwing up his hands.  Dead en Francia – he answered himself, lowering his hands and letting his arms fall in desesperación -.  Fallen for la patria.  Fallen on foreign soil.  Strangers go together to his tomb and they don’t know that Arthur Morales lies there.  – He threw up his hands again with his palms up -.  ¿Where is Pablo, that good man?
  • In prison – said Pilón-.  Pablo robó a goose and hid it in his bag.  And the goose bit Pablo and Pablo screamed and then he was capturado.  They gave him seis meses.

Danny sighed and changed el tema, realising that he had wasted his recursos oratorios.  But the solitude still weighed on him and demanded to be expresada.

  • Here we are … – he stared to say at last.
  • … the broken hearts – added rítmicamente Pilón.
  • No, esto no es un poema – said Danny-.  Here were are the homeless.  We gave our lives por la patria and now we don’t have a roof over our heads.
  • We never did – added Pilón.

Danny drank noisily until Pilón le toco on the arm to recuperar la botella.

  • That reminds me – dijo Danny – of the historia de un hombre que poseía two houses.  – He opened his mouth wider and wider -.  ¡Pilón! – he shouted – ¡Pilón, my dear fat goose!  ¡I had forgotten!  ¡I inherited!  ¡I own dos casas!
  • -¿Whore houses? – asked Pilón hopefully-.  You are a lying drunk – he concluded.
  • No, Pilón, I am telling the truth.  The old man murió.  I am el heredero!  I was his grandson favorito.
  • You were his único grandson – dijo el realista Pilón-.  ¿Where are these houses?
  • You know the house of the old man in Tortilla Flat, Pilón?
  • ¿Here, in Monterrey?
  • Sí, aquí, in Tortilla Flat.
  • ¿Are those casas worth anything?

Danny sank down, exhausto de la emoción.

  • I don’t know.  I forgot they were mine.

Pilón sat deep in thought.  Su expresión seemed distressed.  He threw a handful of pine needles on the fire y miró how the flames flared up to then die away.  For a long time he looked at the face of Danny with profunda ansiedad; then he sighed loudly and turned to whisper.

  • Now everything has finished – dijo with sadness-.  The good tiempos have gone.  Your amigos will be distressed but nothing will really erase the aflicción.

Danny put down la botella and Pilón picked it up, putting it in his lap.

  • ¿What has finished? – inquirió Danny-.  ¿What are you trying to say?
  • It’s not the first time – continued Pilón-.  When one is poor one thinks: “If I had money I would share it with mis buenos amigos”.  But let the money come and adiós to charity.  This is what will happen contigo, ex amigo mío.  You have elevado above your amigos.  You are un hombre próspero.  You will forget the comrades who have shared everything with you, incluyendo su brandy.

These words hurt Danny.

  • ¡No! – exclamó-.   I will never forget you, Pilón.
  • That is what you think ahora – said Pilón fríamente-.  But when you have dos casas to choose where to sleep, you’ll see.  Pilón will continue to be a poor paisano while you eat with the mayor.

Danny got up hesitantly and kept himself upright with the aid of a tree.

  • Pilón, I swear that what I have is yours.  While I have una casa, you will have una casa.  Give me un trago.
  • I have to see it to believe it.  Tengo que verlo para creerlo – dijo Pilón without mucho ánimo-.  The world would be maravilloso it it was like that.  People would come in their thousands to contemplar el fenómeno.  And what is more la botella is empty.