Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Girl who Makes Guilts

In the 11th century, Sr. Don Jose adillo decided that he would be a money lender. As a young boy he had read in Voltaire's "Candide" that when you needed money you looked for a Jew because all money lenders were Jews. Suffering from dyslexia Sr. Don Jose adillo understood that to mean all Jews are money lenders. So being a Jew, Sr. Cadillo surmised that he must become a money lender. And that is what he did.
The modern reader knows that Voltaire wrote "Candide" in the 17th century. But Sr. Cadillo in the 11th did not know that, so he read it anyway.

Sr. Cadillo sired an heir: Pedro Cadillo de Marequena. Pedros mother died in childbirth. Like the father, the son grew up to be a money lender. But Pedro soon grew weary of keeping ledgers all day and doing the work of a notary. Add, multiply, subtract, divide--these tasks were a great boring burden to the young Pedro. He had two passions. First and foremost was literature. Second was his infatuation with Pilar the 15 year old daughter of Sr. Don Marco de Castellan, the poor textile manufacturer. Pilar worked for her father making quilts in their pathetic little factory at the edge of the village of Maraque.

Quilts sold well in Maraque because It was cold in the Andalusian region of the Spanish alps where the village was located. But Pilar was the only employee of the factory and she could only make 1 quilt per week so the family was quite poor. The father, being the manager of the factory, did what most managers do. That is, he did nothing.

Pedro tried for many months to catch the eye of Pilar whenever he saw her in the street or in the market. Being quite beautiful Pilar had lots of suitors. Being 15 years old she ignored most of them. Like the beauty in F. Scott Fitzgeralds first novel she just yawned in their face, stood them up for dates, yet the young boys kept coming back for more.

Pedro would not give up. Every time he saw Pilar walking he crossed over to her side of the street. Seeing Pedro, Pilar immediately crossed to the opposite side. Pedro thought to himself that this girl was just being coy. He imagined once that she looked at him and smiled when in fact she did not. This just inflamed his pained heart more, sent his thoughts soaring, and gave him hope.

Pedro sent Pilar gifts in the mail. Flowers, chocolates, all these came from Pedro. Pedro, being a lover of belles lettres, signed his gifts and the love letters that accompanied them Don Juan or Dox Quixote. He imagined Pilar his Dulcinea to his Don Quixote. She thought him a fool which is of course how toute le monde in the novel thought of the delusional knight. Pilar imagined that Pedro must spend his weekends fighting imaginary windmills on his imaginary horse Rocinante with his imaginary sidekick Pablo Sancho. But being a vain female she did in fact read his love letters and sonnets. They were quite good she thought.

Pilars father, Don Marco, could not help but notice Pedros vain efforts to woo his daughter and he hit upon an idea. Don Marco desperately wanted to expand his business. He thought if Pilar paid some slight attention to Pedro then Pedro and his father Don Carlo might loan him money to buy a loom where he could make a dozen quilts per week. After all, Don Marcos credit was not good and he had little to mortgage other than his pathetic little house at the edge of the village.

So with the encouragement of Don Marco, Pilar began to warm to Pedros advances. Pedro, being like the delusional Don Quixote, thought that it was his new hairstyle, his use of hair gel, and the silk shirts he bought in Madrid that was the reason for cracking Pilars walnut hard veneer. He also thought that his sonnets, written in the Shakespearean style and borrowing liberally from the play A Midsummers Night Dream, had had some effect on Pilar. Or maybe it was the love potion bought from the apothecary that, like the fairy Puck in Shakespeares play, he sprinkled onto the target of his affection when she walked close by one day.

A few weeks later Sr. Don Marco dragged his daughter into the notarys office. As fate would have it Sr. Don Carlo was not there. Only Pedro was present. He quickly agreed to loan Don Marco 5,000 pesos so Don Marco could by a loom. Even though he stared at Pilars brown curls, rouge lips, and elegant neck during the whole of his negotiations he did not forget to record Don Marcos debt in the company ledger and recorded a mortgage against Don Marcos pathetic little house at the edge of the village. Don Marco signed the mortgage then left the office. As Pilar trailed him out the door, Pedro rushed over an grabbed her hand. Excuse me se񯲩ta Pilar, he asked, could I take you to the cinema this afternoon or maybe you would like to share some coffee with me at the caf键 Giggling she said, silly boy I dont drink coffee but Ill share some wine with you. Ill meet you at the caf頷hen we close our shop.

Even though Pilar had been pushed into showing some attention to Pedro, the truth was she was beginning to warm to his advances. She liked the smell of his new cologne, his silken shirts that he bought in Madrid, the gel he put into his hair, and the steady stream of sonnets and essays that he sent to her. So she did not resent that her dad pushed her into this affair. After all he now had his money and she had a new plaything to toy with for a while until she cast him aside a few weeks hence.

Soon Pedro and Pilar were spending much time together. Pilar and Pedro would ride Pedro's mule together to the high meadow and have a picnic in the green grass in the shade of the mountain pine trees. Then they would walk by the rushing stream holding hands. They would talk of Pedro's favorite books. Pedro liked to talk about the "The Magic Mountain" by Thomas Mann. He imagined himself the literary humanist Herr Settembrini and Pedro his eager mentor Hans Castorp. Pedro read to Pilar long passes from Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" . This was one of his favorite books because it took place in his native Spain.

Occasionally he dashed off something more risqu頬ike this from A MidSummers Night Dream:

One turf shall serve as pillow for us both;
One heart, one bed, two bosoms and one troth.

Pilar blushed such that her rouge red lips and face took on the same hue.

Of course, neither Pedro nor Pilar realised that these books had not yet been written in the 11th century. So like Sr. Don Carlo they read them anyway.

This being the 11th century and Pilar being a devout Muslim, Pedro never imagined sexual relations with Pilar. Rather he was content to just be in her company and to steal the occasional kiss. Also she did not mind when he wrapped his fingers around the elegant curls of her brown hair. But one day as Pilar bent over to pick up a pretty stone she tossed her curly brown hair across her shoulder and in so doing knocked open her blouse. Her ample snow white bosom with it's upturned rosy red nipple fell completely out into the open. Pedro's heart was instantly cauterized. For the next three weeks he could not read a word of Shakespeare nor could he continue his work as a factor. Try as he might he thought that 2 plus 2 equaled 5 and he completely forgot how to multiply. To console himself he read the sexual musings of the Marquis de Sade and the heartfelt Confessions of St. Augustine.

Sr. Don Marcos business soon began to blossom with the help of the loom that he bought with the mortgage from Se񯲳 Don Carlo and Pedro Cadillo. Don Marco hired two Basques and one gypsy and put them to work making two dozen quilts per week. Sr. Marco tells Pilar that she no longer needed to make quilts by hand. Go and feel free to frolic with Pedro in the field. You need not labor any more here.

But rather than being happy Pilar is upset that she is replaced by the machine. She grows despondent that hand-made quilts are no longer needed and she is without the therapy by which the endless weaving of quilts soothes her mind. Her varied emotions are upended and she becomes quite distraught. But no one suspected anything the matter for Pilar begins to wear a Cheshire cat smile, from the cat in Alice in Wonderland who sports the ear-to-ear grin. Pilar wore this smile no matter what her emotions and thus she hid from the rest of the world the pain that was in her heart.

Pilar was still interested in Pedro and took comfort from his devoted attention. But without quilt making to sooth her heart she was no longer interested in listening to Pedro read from "A MidSummer's Night Dream", The Magic Mountain, or The Sun Also Rises. As Pedro read, Pilar yawned in his face again and wandered away to collect butterflies and gather flowers.

Pedro decided to try his favorite lyric poetry on her. After all these were the greatest pickup lines of the 11th century. First he reached back to an old standard from Edna St. Vincent Millay:

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends
It gives a lovely light!

Pilar rolled her eyes in agitation and blew air into the hair that had fallen across her face. Pedro thought it was time to use Robert Herricks appeal to all young virgins:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying.

Nothing. She frowned in agitation and ran down the mountain to her pathetic little house at the edge of the village.

Don Jos頧rew quite rich from the profits from his notary business. As his windfall grew to a considerable fortune he left running the business to his son, who of course cared little for the business and more for his books and Pilar. Don Jos頢ought a large estate that was teeming with game. Don Jos頴ook his son Pedro hunting deer there. But the deer were absolutely safe. They walked by without danger because Pedro never saw any deer at all. Rather he was too preoccupied in his thoughts of books and visions of Pilar to notice anything that happened to walk by his deer stand. He was upset that maybe Pilar was not interested in him anymore.

Pedros father, Sr. Don Jos鬠was similarly distracted from business and from hunting deer too. He was extremely ugly being fat and with a severely pockmarked nose and thinning hair. But as his wealth grew he noticed that the girls of the village began to flirt with him some quite openly. They enticed him with amorous glances or they bent over and pretended to be arranging their corsets and stockings giving Don Jos頦leeting glances of otherwise hidden ankles and shoulders.

Don Jos頷as quick to seize upon his new-found female fortune. He made his new vocation the unending pursuit of young women in the Andalusian village. He grew to like and accumulate many girls big and small, fat and thin, Spanish, gypsies, and Arab Moor. He was surprised how eagerly these girls fell into his lap. The more his wealth grew the more female admirers and hangers-on surrounded him. He too began to wear hair gel even though he had little hair to slick back. Don Jos頦ound that he preferred the women of the cigar factory with their tobacco stained hands and reeking of smoke. Since they were for the most part poor they were easy prey for this rich ugly man. Done Jos頬usted after their wide hips and swollen decoll鴡ge. Moreover the cigar factory was hot so the cigar girls usually walked in various states of undress. So Don Jos頷ent there in person to collect the interest on the mortgage the cigar factory owner made with Sr. Don Jos鮠Don Jos頷ould spend hours flirting with the partially clad cigar factory girls offering them chocolate, a wad of pesos, or wine from a flask.

Living a bacchanalian, bohemian life, Don Jos頢egan to drink too much wine. Moreover he began to smoke hashish after one of his lovers introduced him to this pleasure. In a perpetual haze of love, wine, and hash, Done Jos頣ompletely lost the ability to read the ledgers of his business. Further, he longer cared whether he had profits or losses.

At the quilt making factory everything was going swimmingly until disaster befell the entire quilt industry. A new, cheaper synthetic material, polyester, was discovered and quilts soon went out of fashion. Sr. Don Marco is soon on the brink of bankruptcy and unable to pay his bills. All the pressure from his situation causes him to sink into a funk and he began to lose the ability to think clearly. As the pressure mounted he sank into a sort of Alzheimers incapacity. Seeing her father become distressed his daughter Pilar snapped out of her own melancholy, became as lucid as Sir Isaac Newton, and started to wonder how to repair their fortunes. She asked Pedro what she should do.

Pedro had long known that Sr. Marco was falling behind on his debt. Now that his lover appealed to him for help he devised a plan and quit sending dunning letters to the decrepit factory at the edge of the village. Instead Pedro sent the old man a letter explaining that the Arab caliph had forbidden the Jews to collect interest on any loan. Usury was henceforth banned he said. At this point Sr. Marco no longer knew the truth from a lie so he believed every word. Pedro told him that he only could collect principal payments on the mortgage loan. Pedro hid this situation from his distracted father by making a few somewhat strange journal entries in his ledger.

Sr. Don Jos頷as still in his drunken, hashish, love distracted state most days but one day her thoughts were clear and lucid. He read about something new in the Madrid business newspaper called a management consultant who had a novel idea: an audit. He immediately engaged an auditor to come to his business and pour over his ledgers. Perhaps this would improve his cash flow. Don Jos頲ushed in to his son to tell him the good news. Pedro began to sweat because he knew that the auditor would discover that Sr. Don Marco was not paying his debt and that the son had covered up the whole affair. Indeed the auditor did discover this right away when he came to the village to do his audit.

Sr. Done Jos頷as still in his somewhat lucid state. The reality of his sons actions enraged him. He didnt feel like his son was stealing from the family business. Rather he understood that his son had fallen in love and was only trying to protect his lovers father. But he yelled at his son. We cannot let even one debt go unpaid. If we were so generous to one debtor then all the rest would quit paying their interest. What kind of money lender behaves like that. No this cannot stand. I insist that you foreclose on our mortgage with Sr. Don Marco, sell his factory, and try to recoup our losses.

Sr. Don Jos頲ushes out of the office seething with anger and heads off to seek solace from his latest mistress. Pedro is shaking at the scolding he received from his father and his hands are sweating at the prospect of ruining Pilar and her father. What to do now, he thought

In the same newspaper where he discovered the management consultant, Sr. Don Jos頦ound advertising for a new drug that would let him make love to his girlfriends for 4 hours at a time: Viagra. This being the 11th century Viagra was extremely hard to acquire and cost a bloody fortune. But Done Jos頢eing quite rich buys a whole box of them. In his haste to climb on top of his latest beauty he forgoes reading the directions and takes not one but six tablets.

Don Jos頩s quite happy with himself that his resultant erection that lasts not 4 hours but 4 days. He rings up all his girlfriends and engages in an orgy of lovemaking, wine drinking, and hashish smoking that lasts for several days. But the old man is not the young man he once was. After drinking, smoking, and fornicating for 4 days his last ejaculation coincides with the last beat of his strained heart. He dies in the arms of his voluptuous mistress a Cheshire cat grin etched permanently onto his face.

Pedro buries his father, dismisses the auditor, and charges Don Marcos debt to the bad debts account. Pilar converts to Judaism and she and Pedro marry and sire another money lender. Everyone lives happily until the Spanish Inquisition forces them to flee to the Lower East side of Manhattan where Pedro's son attends The City College of New York with Woody Allen, Irving Kristol, and other noteworthy peers. This being the 11th century no one had yet heard of Palestine. Rather the Sephardic Jews considered anyone not a New Yorker to be living in the Diaspora.

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