4 Jesús María Corcorán

About how Jesús María Corcorán, a good man, became an involuntario instrumento del demonio.

Life passed plácidamente para Pilón y Pablo.  In the mañana, when el sol shone over los pinos and the blue bahía rippled and sparkled below them, they got out of bed despacio and thoughtfully.

These are momentos de tranquila joy, these sunny mañanas.  When the glittery dew is on the weeds and every leaf is a preciosa jewel, although no valga nada.  This is no hora for hurry or bustle.  Thoughts are slow y profundos y golden por la mañana.


Pablo y Pilón, with their jeans and their blue shirts, walked in camaradería into the ravine behind la casa, y tras unos momentos, returned to sit in el sol en el porche, to listen to las voces de los pescadores, the fishermen on las calles de Monterrey hablando of this and that; the sleepy sonidos of Tortilla Flat.  Porque en Tortilla Flat there are a thousand rumores en el aire for every day the world wheels through.

They felt en paz, allí en el porche.  Only their toes wriggled on the warm boards when las moscas buzzed around them.

  • If all the dew fueran diamantes – dijo Pablo – , we would be ricos.  We would be drunk borrachos el resto de nuestras vidas.

But Pilón, who never lost el sentido de la realidad, added:

  • Todo el mundo would have muchos diamantes.  No valdrían nada but el vino would still cost dinero.  I wish it would rain vino for un día entero and we had a tank to catch it.
  • But vino bueno, – interjected Pablo-.  Not rotgut swill como el último que you bought.
  • I didn’t have to pagar por él – dijo Pilón-.  Someone had hidden it entre la hierba by the dance hall.  ¿What can you esperar de un vino you find?

They sat and waved their hands negligentemente to scare off las moscas.

  • Cornelia Ruiz cut up the mexicano negro yesterday – observó Pilón.

Pablo raised his eyes con ligero interés.

  • ¿A fight? – he asked.
  • Oh, no.  El negro didn’t know that Cornelia got a new man yesterday, and he tried to entrar.  So Cornelia cut him.
  • He should have known – dijo Pablo con aire virtuoso.
  • Bueno, he was en el pueblo when Cornelia got her new man.  What happened was el negro tried to entrar through the window when she locked la puerta.
  • El negro es tonto – dijo Pablo-. Is he dead?
  • Oh, no.  She just cut him up un poco on the arms.  Cornelia wasn’t angry.  She just wanted to impedir que el negro entrarse.
  • Cornelia no es una señora muy estable – dijo Pablo-.  But she still has masses sung para su padre, ten years dead.
  • He will need them – observó Pilón-.   He was a bad man pero nunca fue to jail for it, and he never se confesó.  Cornelia dijo que the priest was as white as wax when he came away from the deathbed of Ruiz.  But then el cura dijo that he didn’t believe even half of what Ruiz had told him al confesarse.

Pablo, with a cat-like stroke, killed una mosca that had landed on his knee.

  • Ruiz was always a liar – dijo-.  That soul necesitará un montón de masses.  ¿But do you think una misa sirve when the money for that misa comes out of men’s pockets while they sleep in wine a casa de Cornelia?
  • Una misa es una misa – dijo Pilón-.  Where you get los veinticinco centavos is of no interest al hombre who sells you a glass of vino.  And where a mass comes from no le interesa a Dios.  Simplemente le gusta, like you like el vino.  El Padre Murphy used to go fishing all the tiempo and then the Holy Sacrament tasted like mackerel, but that didn’t make it less sagrada.  These things are for las curas to explain.  They are not for us to worry about.  I wonder where we could get some eggs para comer.  Sería estupendo to eat an egg ahora.

Pablo tilted his sombrero over his eyes para protegerse del sol.

  • Charlie Meeler me dijo que Danny está con Rosa Martín, esa chica portuguesa.

Pilón, alarmado, sat upright in his seat.

  • Quizá esa chica will want to marry Danny.  Esas portuguesas always want to marry y les encanta el dinero.  Seguro que when they marry, Danny will bother us con lo de la renta.  La tal Rosa will want new dresses.  All women son iguales.  I know them.

Pablo also appeared molesto.

  • Quizá if we go y hablamos con Danny …- surgirió.
  • Quizá Danny has some eggs . dijo Pilón -.  Esas gallinas de la señora Morales are good layers.

They put on their shoes and walked despacio hacia la casa de Danny.


Pilón stopped and picked up a cap off una botella de beer and cursed and threw it down.

  • Some evil person left that there to trick la gente – dijo.
  • I tried it last night – dijo Pablo.

He looked into a yard where the green corn was growing, and made un cálculo mental de su madurez.

Encontraron a Danny sitting en el porche, next to the rose bush, wriggling his toes para espantar las moscas.

  • Hey, amigos – saludó negligentemente.

The sat down with him and took of los sombreros and the shoes.  Danny took out a little bag de tabaco y papel de fumar and passed them a Pilón.  Pilón was slightly sorprendido but made no comentario.

  • Cornelia Ruiz cut up the mexicano negro – dijo.
  • I heard about it – dijo Danny.

Pablo habló acidly:

  • Esas mujeres … they have no shame.
  • It is dangerous to lie to them – dijo Pilón -.  I have heard that there is una chica here on the Flat, una portuguesa, who is muy capaz of giving any man who messes with her something to remember her by.

Pablo tutted with desaprobación.  Extendió his hands.

  • ¿What is un hombre to do? – preguntó-.  There is not one of them you can trust.

Observaron a Danny and saw no alarma in his face.

  • El nombre de la chica es Rosa – dijo Pilón-.  I won’t say her apellido.
  • Oh, te refieres a Rosa Martín – observó Danny con indiferencia-.  Bueno, ¿what can you expect de una portuguesa?

Pablo y Pilón sighed with relief.

  • ¿How are las gallinas de la señora Morales? – preguntó Pilón con aire casual.

Danny shook his head tristemente.

  • Todas las gallinas are dead.  La señora Morales filled some jars with green beans and they blew up y las gallinas ate the green beans and they all died, every one.
  • ¿Dónde are those gallinas now? – inquirió Pablo.

Danny made un gesto de negación with his fingers.

  • Someone told a la señora Morales not to eat them or you’d get enfermo, but we cleaned las tripas bien and we sold them to the butcher.
  • ¿And no one has died? – preguntó Pablo.
  • No.  I bet all las gallinas estaban bien.
  • ¿Quizá you bought un poco de vino con el dinero de las gallinas? – preguntó Pablo.

Danny smiled at him con cinismo.

  • La señora Morales did last night and I went to her house.  She is una buena mujer in some aspectos and not as old como parece.

El sentimiento de alarma came back to invadir a Pablo y a Pilón.

  • My cousin Weelie dice que she is fifty years old – dijo Pilón ansiosamente.

Danny estiró his arms.

  • ¿Qué importa how old she is? – observó filosóficamente-.  Es muy animada.  She owns her own casa y doscientos dólares en el banco-.  Danny pareció a bit ashamed-.  Me gustaría make a present a la señora Morales.

Pilón y Pablo looked at their feet, and tried by enérgico esfuerzo mental to ward off what was coming.  But the effort fue en vano.

  • If I had money – dijo Danny – I would buy her a box de bombones-.  He threw a look full of significado at his tenants, but got no reacción-.  Sólo necesitaría uno o dos dólares – sugirió.
  • Chin Kee is drying calamares – observó Pilón-.  Quizá you could clean calamares for half a dólar al día.

Danny spoke pointedly.

  • It wouldn’t look good for un hombre que posee dos casas to be cleaning calamares.  But quizá if he charged a little renta …

Pilón got up angrily.

  • ¡Siempre con la renta! – he shouted-.  You will end up throwing us a la calle … to the ditch, while you sleep in your warm cama.  Vamos, Pablo – dijo Pilón enfadado-, we’ll find some dinero para este miserable, este judío.

Los dos de ellos walked off.

  • ¿Where will we get dinero? – preguntó Pablo.
  • I don’t know – contestó Pilón-.  Quizá he won’t ask us again – but the inhumana petición had destroyed his paz interior-.  We will call him “Viejo Judío” every time we see him – dijo Pilón-.  We have been sus amigos for years.  When he was hungry, we gave him de comer.  When he was cold, le abrigamos.
  • ¿When was that? – preguntó Pablo.
  • Bueno, we would have done if he hubiera necesitado algo that we had.  That is el tipo de amigos that we were para él.  And now he crushes our amistad on the floor for a box of sweets that he wants to regarlarle to an old fat woman.
  • Los bombones aren’t good para la salud – dijo Pablo.

So many emociones had left Pilón exhausto.  He sat down in the ditch, a un lado del camino, and held his head in his hands con aire desconsolado.

Pablo also sat down, but he only did so to descansar, as his amistad con Danny was not as antigua and bonita as Pilón’s was.

El fondo of the ditch was choked with weeds and bushes.  Pilón, staring at the floor in his pain and resentimiento, saw a human arm sticking out from a bush.  And then, next to the arm, media garrafa de vino.  He clutched Pablo’s arm and pointed.


Pablo miró también.

  • Quizá he is dead, Pilón.

Pilón había recuperado his breath and his clara visión of things.

  • If he is dead, el vino will do him no good.  You can’t take it with you.

The arm stirred, apartó the bushes y descubrió the sleepy, stubbly face of Jesús María Corcorán.

  • Ai, Pilón.  Ai Pablo.  What are you drinking?

Pilón jumped down the bank.

  • ¡Amigo, Jesús María!  ¡No estás bien!

Jesús María smiled dulcemente.

  • I am just drunk – murmuró.  He got to his knees-.  Take un trago, amigos.  Un trago grande.  There is still mucho left.

Pilón tragó four times, and after drinking una buena pinta he returned la botella.  Then la tomó Pablo, and he played with it like un gato juega with a feather.  He smelled el vino.  He took tres o cuatro sips preliminares and let a few drops run into his beard, to tantalize a sí mismo.  Finalmente:

  • ¡Madre de Dios, qué vino! – dijo.  He raised la botella y el vino rojo gurgled alegremente down his throat.

The big hand de Pilón was out mucho antes de que Pablo could get his breath back.  Pilón directed a soft y admirativa look a su amigo Jesús María.

  • ¿Have you found tesoro in the wood? – preguntó-.  ¿Has some great man died y te ha nombrado en su testamento, amigo?

Jesús María era un filántropo and his kindness was unending.  He cleared his throat and spat.

  • Give me un trago – dijo-.  My throat is dry.  I will tell you lo que ha pasado.

He drank noisily, like un hombre who has vino suficiente so he can take his time bebiendolo, and even spill un poco without remorse.

  • I was sleeping en la playa two nights ago – dijo-.  En la playa, on the shore of the sea.  In the middle of la noche the waves brought a little rowing boat with its oars y todo.  I got in and rowed hasta Monterrey.  It could easily be worth veinte dólares, $20, but el negocio was slow and they only gave me siete, $7.
  • ¿Do you still have some dinero left? – preguntó Pilón excitado.
  • I am telling you – dijo Jesús María con dignidad-.  I bought dos garrafas de vino and I brought them here al bosque and then I took a stroll with Arabella Gross.  En Monterrey I bought her un par de silk stockings que le gustaron mucho.  She loved them … so soft y tan rosas.  Then la invité a una pinta de whisky and after a while we met a unos soldados and she went off with them.
  • ¡Oh, the thief of el dinero de un hombre bueno! – gritó Pilón horrorizado.
  • No – dijo Jesús María con aire soñador and dreamy-.  It was time she went anyway.  And then yo me vine here and I lay down to dormir.
  • ¿So you have no dinero left?
  • No lo sé – dijo Jesús María-.  I’ll check.  – He fished in his pocket and sacó tres crumpled dólares and a coin de diez centavos.
  • Esta noche – dijo – I will buy Arabella Gros one of those things to lift up the top part.
  • You mean the little silk pockets on a string?
  • Sí – dijo Jesús María -, but not as small as you might think – he coughed to clear his throat.

Al instante, Pilón was filled with concern.

  • It’s the night air – dijo-.  No es bueno dormir out in the open.  Vamos, Pablo, we will take you to nuestra casa and cure this cold of his.  It has already attacked his lungs, but we can curarle.
  • ¿De qué hablas? – dijo Jesús Mariá-.  Estoy perfectamente.
  • That is what you think – dijo Pilón-.  That is what Rudolfo Kelling thought, and you yourself fuiste a su funeral a month ago.  That is what Angelina Vásquez thought and she died last week.

Jesús María was aterrado.

  • ¿What do you think it is?
  • It’s having slept outside – dijo Pilón con sabidura-.  Your pulmones have been affected.

Pablo ocultó la garrafa behind a bush, well hidden in case a passer-by felt consumido de curiosidad until he knew what the bushes contained.

Pilón walked next to Jesús María, touching his elbow de cuando en cuando to remind him que era un hombre muy enfermo.  They took him a casa and laid him on a bed and though el día era warm le cubrieron with an old blanket.  Pablo spoke movingly de los pobres diablos who had writhed and suffered de la tuberculosis.  And then Pilón filled su voz with sweetness and habló con reverencia of the joy of living en una casa.  Cuando la noche is avanzada y el vino y la conversación have finished and outside the deadly mists cling to the earth como el fantasma of a gigantesca leech, you don’t have to go out and lie down en la unhealthy humedad of a ditch.  No: you lie in your warm, wide y confortable cama and sleep como un niño.


Jesús María went to sleep en ese momento.  Pilón y Pablo had to wake him up and give him un trago.  Then Pilón habló movingly de las mañanas, when you lie in your warm, calido nido until el sol está high enough to be of some utilidad.  You don’t go shivering about in the dawn, rubbing your hands to stop them from freezing.

Finalmente, Pilón y Pablo moved in on Jesús María like two hunting dogs would do on their prey.  They rented a Jesús parte de la casa por quince dólares al mes.  Él, feliz, aceptó.  They all shook hands.  La garrafa fue recuperada from the bushes.  Pilón drank deeply because he knew his hardest tarea was before him.  Lo dijo very gently y casualmente while Jesús María bebía de la botella.

  • And you will only pagar un depósito de tres dólares on account now.

Jesús María bajó la botella and looked at him horrorizado.

  • ¡No! – explotó-.  Le prometí a Arabella Gross that I would buy her one of those things.  Pagaré the rent when it is time.

Pilón knew that he had blundered.

  • When you lay en la playa, junto al mar, God sent you that little bote.  ¿Do you think el buen Dios did it so you could buy silk draws for a cannery slut?  ¡No!  Dios lo hizo para salvarte from dying while you sleep out in the cold.  ¿Do you think a Dios le interesan the breasts of Arabella?  And besides, we will take un deposito de dos dólares – he went on-.  Con un dólar you can afford one of those things big enough for the udders of a cow.

Jesús María seguía protestando.

  • I’ll tell you what’s more – continuó Pilón-.  Unless we pay a Danny dos dólares, we will all be kicked out en la calle and it will be culpa tuya.  You will carry on tu conciencia that we sleep in ditches.

Under so many shots, coming from varias direcciones, Jesús María Corcorán sucumbió.  He gave dos de los crumpled dólares a Pilón.

With that, the tension desapareció del ambiente y la paz, la calma, y una cálida y profunda camaradería ocuparon took its place.  Pilón se relajó.  Pablo took the blanket back to his own cama y la conversación started to flow.

  • We have to take el dinero a Danny.

Having taken the edge off their appetites, they sipped ahora el vino from fruit jars.

  • ¿Por qué does Danny have tanta necesidad de esos dos dólares? – preguntó Jesús María.

Pilón adotó un tono confidencial.  His hands played as if they were two moths that only his wrists and arms impedían from flying about the room.

  • Nuestro amigo Danny is taking up con la señora Morales.  Oh, don’t think Danny es tonto.  La señora Morales has doscientos dólares en el banco.  Danny wants to buy a la señora Morales a box of bombones.
  • Los bombones no son buenos para la saludo – observó Pablo.  They ruin your teeth.
  • That is up to Danny – dijo Jesús María-.  If he wants to ruin los dientes de la señora Morales, es asunto suyo.  ¿Qué te importan a ti los dientes de la señora Morales?

A cloud de ansiedad had settled on Pilón’s face.

  • But – objetó severamente – si nuestro amido Danny takes bombones a la señora Morales, he will eat them too.  So it’s los dientes de nuestro amigo that will be rotted.

Pablo shook his head con ansiedad.

  • It would be muy lamentable que los amigos de Danny, en los que confía, provocaran that he rot his teeth.
  • ¿What do we do then? – preguntó Jesús María, although he knew exactamente, just like the others, what they were going to do.

Each one waited educadamente for someone else to make la inevitable sugerencia.  El silencio se prolongaba.  Pilón y Pablo felt that la sugerencia shouldn’t come from them, since, por diversas razones, they might be considered interested parties.

Jesús María kept silencio en consideración of his hosts but cuando el silencio made him realise what was expected of him, he came instantly into the breach.

  • Una garrafa de vino es un bonito regalo para una dama – sugirió in a musing tone.

Pilón y Pablo were astonished ante su brillantez.

  • We can tell Danny that it’s better for his dentadura to buy vino.
  • Pero quizá Danny won’t listen to our advice.  If you give dinero a Danny you don’t know what he will do with it.  He could comprar los bombones just the same and then our tiempo y preocupación will have been en vano.

They had made Jesús María their chain of transmisión, their opener en las situaciones difíciles.

  • Quizá if we buy el vino ourselves and then give it to Danny there will be no peligro – sugirió.
  • ¡Esa es la cosa! – shouted Pilón – You’ve got it!

Jesús María smiled with modestia in his approval.  He knew that, sooner or later, one of los presentes would have estableciso this principle.

Pablo poured las últimas gotas de vino in the jars, and they drank them, worn out after their efforts.  It was a matter of pride para todos que la idea had been arrived at con tanta lógica and in such a filantrópico cause.

  • Ahora I am hungry – dijo Pablo.

Pilón got up, went to la puerta and looked at el sol.

  • It is afternoon already – dijo-.  Pablo y yo will go al bar de Torrelli a por el vino while you, Jesús María, vas a Monterrey to look for something to eat.  Quizá la señora Bruno, in the dock, will give you a fish.  Maybe you can get a little bread en algún sitio.
  • Prefiero to go with you two- dijo Jesús María, as he suspected que otra secuencia tan lógica como inevitable was beginning to grow en las mentes de sus amigos.
  • No, Jesús María – dijeron con firmeza-.  It is now las dos, more or less.  En una hora it will be las tres.  Then we will meet here to eat.  Y para tomar un vaso de vino, maybe.

Jesús María partió para Monterrey very reluctantly, but Pablo y Pilón walked happily down the hill toward el local de Torrelli.