On a crest of one of the seven hills of Taxco in Guererro, the state of the warrior, El Jumil, the little restaurant named after the tasty fried grasshopper is nearly empty. I sit with Kevin and Berta and we try to learn her tongue, when footsteps come slow up the stone stairs from the darkening tarde, the fading afternoon.
Dressed in ratty, dusty white, a frayed straw sombrero, a small cloth string-sack hanging on one shoulder, an ancient, leathery someone with a white beard enters El Jumil.
He comes to our gringo table, tips his hat with an unsteady old bow, and makes his pitch. (Who knows, but Berta, what the pitch is?) He seems in earnest. His eyes fix on ours-- one of us at a time—and we are bewitched. We must read him, and we try.
Wrinkled brown hands gesture emphatically and softly, seem to float at us. But we are no wedding guests to this ancient mountain mariner. What does he mean? What must we do, if anything?
As though in answer, he reaches into his mysterious sack takes out a cloudy glass jar…. an old jar with an old liquid inside.
There are things in the liquid— strange brown and strange gray things. His gestures grow harder as he points out the floating mystery objects as support for what he says— whatever it is that he says.
Berta is polite and quiet and very bored. This amazes us, and we envy her for what she takes for granted.
“Of course!” whispers Kevin in a moment of light, “Gall stones! I’ve seen them before!” And now our respect for the withered visage grows, as we assume that he is giving us good health advice.
When he is through he covers the jar thanks us for listening and turns to take his leave. But before he can, full of lasting awe, we press some hard coins into his bony hand. He doesn’t look at them but pockets the centavos, the duros, with a few-toothed smile, tips his sombrero for the hundredth time, and goes.
We watch him walk slowly beneath our long stucco windowsill. He stops by a group of men whose peasant whites are dull candles in the gathering dark, who sit on a low wall, talking, ghosts of the long mountain day. The old man approaches respectfully, and soon he is waving his hands softly.
-art gatti 1963/2015
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