The game of cards was over and everybody thought that once they had their coffee, the men would walk towards the town hall balcony that overlooked the main square round the church. In the summer it used to be covered with a thick dust cloud of chaff’ often stirred up in whirls by the unbearable hot wind from the east. The wind, according to the villagers, came from Castuera; it was also said to be not a good town to marry people from that town. At sunset the country labourers, in white sleeveless underwear soaked in stinking sweat and black corduroy trousers, were coming into the dry dusty square from the four lanes at each corner. With their straw woven hats in their hands you could see their brown skinny faces burning in the summer sun rays, from which two tiny stars of eyes sparkled a lively beam of light under two dark lashes covered in ‘chaff’. Most, in canvas sandals, had bleeding feet after a long day scything large patches of wheat crops for twenty five pesetas. With hatred in their eyes they stared at the honourable men in the balcony; none of them made their living sweating from the long hours. Some hoped the civil war could start again for the socialism to settle down and country workers to be free. No-one was sure what to have for dinner or whether they could have anything, but nobody dared to speak up or confess their intimate feelings. The Barechest, so-called according to gossipers in town as he used to walk along with no shirt to show-off in front of the ladies, was aware of the muscular figure he shaped so well in the Russian front during the Second World War. Barechest was very popular not only for his courage during the war in Russia but also for his full dedication at work; many of the country labourers were so jealous of him that they used to nicknamed him “asshole” as he never lost a day job while some others stayed redundant, arms folded. The Fartcracker was also very popular in town for his skill in passing wind noisily whilst walking around, being the laughing-stock to the kids. He was also a brave labourer and was very employable – He was among the others who were going past before the “peers” sitting in the town hall balcony gossiping.
– No pain, no gain, pointed out Little Cat – the postman – in a sardonic way. His words were not welcomed by the rest of the party; clearly disappointed as Little Cat stood up for the reds during the civil war.
– No one had dared to express hatred to any of them despite some of their parents or relations having taken part crop-burning. Just at that very moment, the wheat heap had been loaded with carts to round pebbled squares to be trodden by the beasts’ hooves or a mechanical machine of four lines of grinds on which a square timber for a seat was available for the labourer to whip the mules in carrying on their task the sooner the better.
– I would put them down in revenge -some unknown croppers had born in mind while parading in front the town authorities- unable to forget their misery they had suffered in their own bones since Franco’s fascist party had taken office.
After eating for dinner whatever their wives begged from door to door , they would lead straight away to the Roman times public well to have a shower using tin buckets, splashing water over their naked bodies soaked in wet straw dust. Just a miserable small cool off after a long journey of slavery.
– I am aware my sweetheart is peeping at me over the stone wall of the olive tree orchard. She will be standing up on her toes and watch my muscular shape of my chest.
Barechest, ever anxious during darkness, was alone by the well. It was time for him to strip himself down to his knees and warm her up behind the orchard wall watching his nature gift of which he is so proud…Rosemary hidden behind the orchard wall could have felt his tenderness touching herself both breasts to pat her intimacy in a passionate delicacy.
Bare chest was also anxious meeting Rosemary at her parents’ door, where she was expecting to hug him good night.
Once the party of labourers had gone past by the main square, a school of kids had taken to the dusty Plaza de España where the war memorial was erected in the honour of Franco´s soldiers killed in the civil war; on top of which still remained a dry wreath of bay from April 1st in commemoration of his victory against the Spanish socialist Republic.
The kids seemed not to care much about who was sitting at the town hall balcony, or the labourers passing by, or the memorial monolith against the east façade of the church, or its meaning of hatred. They were both screaming and running around the church in wild way: their knee-length shorts were tied to their hips with a rough string made of hemp or with a ribbon across their chests, as was customary at the time.
Meanwhile a cloud of swifts were swirling by round the square defying the screaming of kids still playing wildly round the church, as if they said good night to the town in the dusk.