The Fountains of Silence

He shakes his head. “We have bus service.”

Daniel thinks of his journalism project. Last year, the Dallas Transit Company announced its buses would be desegregated and the WHITE and COLORED signs would be removed. But they weren’t. Daniel documented the delay, taking photos and reporting each week to the national headquarters of the Associated Press. He received an A on his project, but his efforts displeased many.

“You have subways in New York City, though,” says Ana, interrupting his thoughts.

The train suddenly sways, jostling the passengers and pressing Ana against him. The feel of her so close, he nearly forgets to reply. “Yes . . . subways in New York.”

“Grand Central is a big station.”

“Oh, you’ve been to New York City?” asks Daniel.

Ana looks up, her nose nearly touching his chin. She shakes her head. “No, I’ve never been to New York. I’ve never left Spain, se?or.” She pauses, then looks away quickly.

The sudden change in her expression, he can’t place it.

Is it sadness—or is it fear?


“Ay, Julia. It’s just for a few hours.”

“Rafa, I told you, no!” Julia shakes her head at her brother. Why is he so impossible?

“Just ask Luis. He’ll understand. A torero can’t go into the ring without a suit of lights.”

“Torero?” Julia looks to the corner where a savage young man in rags is fast asleep across two broken chairs. He is barefoot, his face and arms covered with grime. Loud snores reverberate from his unhinged mouth.

“That miserable orphan is not a bullfighter. He’s a gravedigger.”

“Well, for now we’re gravediggers. And for now I work at the slaughterhouse. But believe me, that man is a matador, Julia. He was the bravest of all at the boys’ home. Do you know what they called him in Barcelona? They called him Fuga. ‘Escape.’ Each time he ran, the directors would drag him back and punish him. But he would escape again. He helped me find courage. He’s the reason I made it out and found my way back. He protected me. If I’d been alone in those fields, I’d never have survived.”

“Stop being dramatic,” says Julia, wringing a wet diaper over a wooden pail.

“It’s not dramatic. It’s true.” Rafa’s voice drops in volume. “We were all so hungry, but Fuga vomited his food in resistance. He would rather starve than be fed by the hand that beat him. All the boys, we idolized him. We chanted his name under our breath, encouraging him. His fearlessness kept our spirits alive. And then one day I found myself locked in detention with him. I will never forget his first words to me. He looked across that dirt hole, and do you know what he said?” Rafa pauses. “Voy a ser torero. ‘I’m going to be a bullfighter.’ He has been fighting his whole life. He is not infected like so many. He doesn’t carry the disease of fear.”

“It’s easy to be fearless when you have nothing to lose,” says Julia.

Rafa throws his hands in the air. “He has everything to lose. He has been given an opportunity. That is so rare. Do you know what he’s been fighting with? He has no red cape. He uses a blanket that he soaked with rusty bricks, and even so, I have seen him bewitch fifteen-hundred-pound bulls in a willow field. And now, after much pleading, Father Fernández has sent me to a man with connections. He is giving Fuga a chance.”

Julia pauses. “If he wins, will there be money?” She thinks of her handwritten ledger and the sum needed to move the family.

“He may get a handful of grapes.”

“A handful of grapes?”

“But, Julia, he will earn honor and the chance to fight again. This is a beginning. He must look like a torero, not a peasant. To rent a suit of lights would cost over five hundred pesetas. Every day you are surrounded by dozens of suits in the shop. Please, just ask Luis. Let us borrow an old suit. Just for a few hours.”

“Where is this bullfight?”

“Near Talavera de la Reina.”

“Rafa, that’s over a hundred kilometers from Madrid. How will you get there?”

“I’m not worried about that. We’ll walk from Vallecas if we have to.”

And he will. Julia knows that. Although energetic and sunny in public, Rafa is brooding. He is the bull. He watches, quietly gathers pieces, and puts things together. But many pieces are still missing. The Crows carry pieces of her brother in their pocket. And he is desperate to win them back.

“I’ll think about it,” she says. “But if I speak to Luis, you have to do something for me.”


“You have to speak to Ana.”

“Ay, there’s nothing to say to Ana. She’s the smartest of us all.”

“Rafa, she’ll listen to you. That hotel is an American business. Male and female employees work together without chaperones. She’s constantly looking at American magazines. She’s a gorgeous young woman surrounded by a fairy tale. That makes her vulnerable again.”

“What happened last year was not her fault,” says Rafa.

He’s right, but could they have protected her somehow?

“Trouble follows our sister wherever she goes,” says Julia. “She’s been so quiet lately. I’m worried she’s hiding something.”

Ripples of snoring cut through their conversation. The baby begins to cry. Julia turns away from her brother before he can state the obvious.

Of course Ana’s hiding something. This is Franco’s Spain. They’re all hiding something.


Ana points to a tiny, elegant shop. LA VIOLETA. Curved windows set in polished oak arch from the sides of a tall glass door. Tucked within clouds of purple tissue behind the display glass are bonbons, boiled sweets, and jellied candies. A little girl in faded clothes stands outside, admiring the candy. Daniel snaps a picture behind her.

“You must come in,” says Ana. “It’s something very special.”

Inside, the miniature shop smells of sugar. The shelves are lined with glass jars of purple sweets. Ana points to a crystal bowl on the counter with lavender-petal candies.

“Try one,” she insists, popping one into her own mouth. She then selects two small boxes. She asks the clerk to wrap them and put them on the hotel account.

Daniel takes one of the small violet candies. “It looks like a purple clover.” After a moment he grimaces.

“What do you think?” she asks.

“My mom will love it,” he replies.

“But you don’t.”

He shakes his head. “It’s like eating a flower.”

Ana smiles as the portrait materializes. Daniel’s jeans and boots, everything about him, clashes with the lavender interior of the shop. “May I take a picture, se?or?”

“Sure. It’d be fun to have another pair of eyes.” Daniel gives her the camera along with instructions, while the girl outside watches from behind the glass.

Ana looks through the viewfinder. “Okay, say, ‘Texas boys like violet candy.’”

“Wait, what?” Daniel laughs.

And at that moment, when his smile is wide and eyes uncomfortably shy, Ana snaps the picture. “We have to hurry. Miguel will be closing the camera shop soon,” she says, moving toward the door.

But Daniel is at the register, buying a candied chestnut wrapped in gold foil. “We’ll give it to the little girl outside,” he says, motioning to the window. “Do you think she’ll like it?”

Ana nods slowly.

Of course she’ll like it. Any girl would like it.

* * *

The camera shop is the size of a long closet. Room for one and cramped with two; a wooden counter divides the small space. Between rows of shelves that hold film and accessories hangs a black curtain. The acrid and wet metallic scent of photo-developing fluid exhales from the back of the shop.

“That smell, I love it,” says Daniel.


Miguel emerges from behind the curtain wearing a timeworn Panama hat. His darkroom hours give him a youthful complexion for a man in his late fifties, but his hair and eyebrows have tones of a black-and-white photo.

He greets Ana with a broad smile. “I was just about to close.”

“I’m sorry, Miguel. I have a guest from the hotel. He speaks Spanish, so we won’t be long.”

Miguel gives a wave of his hand, indicating that he doesn’t mind. His eyes shift to Daniel’s camera. “?Caray! That’s a serious camera for a young man. Do you know how to use it?”

“You’ll have to be the judge, sir.” Daniel removes a roll of film from his bag and winds a second from the camera.

“I’ve only seen a couple of these new Nikons. Both with American journalists. They told me they paid over three hundred U.S. dollars for that camera. I hope it’s worth it.”

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