The Company – 17

The components of The Company were rusty and faulty. What were we, compared to the massive exuberance of the City Hall across the lake? Three mangy bears without teeth, our wounds accumulated one on top of another. We were three lumps of custard, even if we wrapped ourselves with delusion and thought otherwise. And delusion was one of our few strengths. We could make ourselves believe anything. I could imagine that my shape was that of a faun, and that I had been invited to City Hall by the Major himself, and that after peacefully slumbering under perfumed bed sheets I had left City Hall during the middle of the night, with a shiny pair of horns on my temples, and I had been dancing and prowling until falling exhausted on the grass where I was now seating. Imagining was easy, at least for me. I could see myself jumping into the water and becoming a carp, then leaping into the sky and hitting with my tail the moon as if it were a tambourine.

That carp image seemed to accumulate a real weight and plunge into the lake, as I could see now waves on the water moving towards me. There seemed to exist no reason for those waves to be so well defined, as there hadn’t been any breeze that could generate them. But the waves were there, real, separated by ample spaces, progressing with certain weakness. The epicenter where they were being produced had to be around the island in the middle of the lake.

I gave a quick look at my two comrades, to make sure they were not monkeying around and throwing pebbles at the lake. But it wasn’t them, both of them continued to be rapt in their respective realities: Turd philosophizing about the stars, and OldThrown possibly impaling his daughter in some hidden nook of his lucubrations. So it wasn’t them. And the waves persisted, new ones were being generated. If anything, they were even more visible now, several successions of waves intercrossing each other.

This was a momentous time, I could tell. I could smell a big event jumping on us like a ferocious bear and dragging us with it whether we wanted it or not. I could have yelled  a deservedly colored exclamation of surprise, something along the lines of ‘cow balls’, which is a favorite of mine, as I am a sucker for paradoxes. Cow balls indeed, because the source of the waves was getting closer to the edge of the lake where we were camped. It was approaching The Company! I had to open my eyes even further when I caught a glimpse of an iridescent shadow. No distinct contours, just an uncertainty ready to be materialized. I could have doubted my eyesight, because darkness was too thick and nothing could stand out, but there was not such an excuse a few seconds later, when the bulk became a creature, alive, with a purpose, a beast that crawled effortlessly over the water, along a slow but implacable path, emitting a shower of glistening iridescences. Moving towards The Company without fear, as if flaunting that lack of fear at us.

The beast, with that exasperating slowness, kept nearing The Company for the longest time. I tried so hard to discern its features that my imagination painted a succession of fanciful creatures, to the point that when the beast clearly appeared in front of my eyes it took me a while to understand that I was no longer envisioning. And there it was the snake-like neck, the green and purple reflections stolen from a hundred hummingbirds, the body simply drawn as an oval, and I then figured out the reason why someone had gone through the trouble of putting an islet in the middle of the lake. I was also all of a sudden imbued with a desire to hunt.

The green head rose. The two eyes stared at me, defiantly.

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The Company – 16

“There aren’t many stars,” Turd said. “When I was a kid,” he added, but then he fell silent.

“Yes, only the odd one, I’m afraid,” I said, and then I threw in some words intended to be like kindling for the fire that I knew was already racking up within Turd. “Merely a sad collection of feeble hearts dying in the dirty grey of the night.”

“A sappy way to say smoke and shit coming out from the cars of the fucking rich, isn’t that what you mean? Fucking dirty grey!” he yelled. Regulating his anger was one of the few stratagems I had to enhance his health. A well placed valve stuck here or there to let some rancid steam escape from his already putrescent body. The least I could do for him.

“But, oh, the stars…” Turd went back to his rapt contemplation. He could transition from anger to lameness to the rhythm of his breathing, as if two neurons in that gruyere-like brain of his were frequently shortcircuiting and with each sparkle his mind were thrown in an alternate direction. “They are so pretty, the stars.” Turd’s face was a blotch of stupidly placed admiration.

“I don’t know. I guess,” I said, just enough words to kick his volcano into another short-lived eruption.

“Don’t fuck me over, CrazyEye!” Turd spat, shrouded in indignation. “How are you going not to know? Everyone knows that stars are pretty.” He deflated a little. “They just are. That’s just something that everyone knows. Don’t be stupid. You are just embarrassing everyone.”

“I must have forgotten,” I said, all of a sudden tired of stars and wanting to kill that line of conversation.

“Do you know what I would do if I were made out of chewing gum?” Turd asked, assuming I cared.

“How could I know? Eat yourself?” I guessed, only adding a small tinge of malevolence to my tone of voice.

“No, I wouldn’t eat myself. If I were made out of gum, I know it’s difficult to imagine such a thing, but I would stretch my arm towards the sky and I would snatch one of those stars over there, pull it from the sky, and I would bring it to my mouth, and I would devour it. I wouldn’t care how hot or hard it could be. That’s what I would do. If I were made out of gum, of course, which is a little complicated, you know.”

After throwing such stupidity into the open, Turd returned to his silence studded with stars. OldThrown, totally unaware about Turd and I, looked onto the ground instead, as if he were pretending to count the blades of grass, or using some alternative sense to locate insects crawling around. He hadn’t said anything for days. Not even a word. It seemed he had decided to definitely close his mind behind a door of his own invention. His way to say goodbye to the world the rest of us still decided to try for a little longer, day after day.

The Company – 15

I will say, before I briefly describe the developments of that memorable night, that parks are much more secure at night than during the day, at least for creatures of our condition. The reason is that during the dark hours anything and anyone that moves is poisonous or life-threatening. One will encounter the already mentioned different varieties of police, fascists, sour vagabonds, junkies in bad shape, drunkards, as well as many other typically nocturnal beasts, and when in the midst of such zoological assortment, all toxin and bad intentions, one will know what to expect from everyone, one will simply need to distrust anything with legs, and just by running away from any moving shadow one will maximize his impression of safety. During the daytime things aren’t so straightforward. You have people everywhere and going in all sorts of unpredictable directions. Too many bodies, and it’s impossible to run away from all of them. Most will be neutral, just like decorative automatons, whereas the murderous ones will be few and far between, and it’s difficult to tell them apart, and the hostile ones know too well how to camouflage themselves among the decorative ones and jump at you all of a sudden and gift you four punches to the face before you have a chance to see them.

Things are simpler at night. That’s why adventures and resolutions have a tendency to occur when most people are sleeping.

So there we were, then, immersed in a mid-summer and full-moon night, the three of us, Turd, OldThrown and CrazyEye, at ease, sprawled on the low slope that descended to the largish artificial lake, our feet almost touching the water. After a while the illumination coming from the other shore and whatever light the Moon could add was good enough to see our surroundings. Bats flew in repetitive loops over the lake, their silhouettes clearly defined any time the City Hall was their background. The City Hall stood as impersonal as a diamond. It was made with a resplendently white stone. Shining by itself, it was also illuminated with many spotlights directed to its walls. It was really like a bloated bug sucking all the light in the environs, forcing all the area around it to be submerged in darkness. As white as chalk, perforated with lots of windows, and possibly lots of empty rooms that could have easily been transformed into guest rooms. Each room with a bed, and each bed covered with clean sheets, and each clean sheet a guaranteed travel to placid dreams. Meanwhile we were outdoors, as delicacies openly displayed for our enemies to have their choosing, our clothes getting soaked because we had to rest on the recently watered grass. Wasted beds, warm and clean, even if they weren’t real, wasted beds on which nothing but the air slept.

It was difficult for me to avert my eyes from the City Hall. But I did so when a rustling noise raised and then diminished right behind us, on the path that ran around the lake. Possibly not the sound of an enemy, but one could never be sure. One could so easily imagine a drooling and open mouth, the tongue prodding the air, the eyes shining with a desire that wasn’t the friend of our wellbeing. I grabbed my walking stick and got up. From where I stood I could see the path. Two tiny dots shone several meters away, but then they disappeared.

“What’s up with you, now?” Turd asked, sprawled and lazy on the grass, his attention on the few stars that were visible that night.

“False alarm,” I answered, relinquishing my walking stick and letting it fall to the ground. “It was just a cat, I think. Nothing to worry about.”

“I wasn’t going to worry,” Turd bragged.

“Sure…” I sat down on the grass again, and immediately remembered the wetness on my ass.

There was this lamppost at the edge of the lake, right in front of me. I could have spat on it from where I was. There was no light coming down from it. The other lampposts circling the lake were also dead. Then, in the center of the lake stood this small islet, something ridiculous of barely two meters in diameter. In the islet a few bushes surrounded what resembled a doghouse.

Turd muttered something. I looked at him and saw him pointing to the sky with an extended and trembling finger.

The Company – 14

Animated by such seductive distance, so welcoming to our fossilized joints and dried-up  muscles; and animated even more by our recent memories of what we had hunted in such a lovely park, during the next days, and quite regularly from that time on, we became habitual tourists to its interconnected paths. Not as frequently as we would have desired, though, as we couldn’t neglect our dominions and properties during prolonged periods of time, since we are as likely to be robbed as anyone else. And we also tried not to stay for too long during each one of our visits, because getting too comfortable in that park wasn’t safe. The park was a very lavish and giving place, and as a consequence it was battlefield after battlefield once you became aware about that rough dimension, which perhaps common folk were able to ignore.

The park was then the stage for a succession of battlefields and undesirable encounters. Our best strategy consisted on setting up and breaking camp with speediness and randomness, not giving to our butts the time to get too acquainted with a comfortable bench, a dry patch of lawn, or the collapsed and restful segment of a column in a purposely laid set of ruins. Always in search of the least troubled areas in the park, these ever changing with the unpredictable tides of our enemies. For example, it was a good idea to avoid any contact with other vagabonds armed with more teeth than us. Doing so didn’t tarnish our pride in the slightest. There is nothing wrong with surviving. Similarly we turned around and walked in a different direction if we saw any druggie coming out from their high, any despaired robber meandering with an erect knife or clenched fists, any drunkard in the mood to throw rocks or empty bottles of wine, not to mention the terrifying hordes of spoiled children hunting for whatever could be turned into a prey or a game. All of them were serious enemies and deserved our scurrying away as soon as we saw them. All of them however were merely soaked and discarded puppets compared to the police officers and the fascists.

In theory, one expected that the police would concentrate their efforts on their meaningful fight against the different colors and shapes of fascists. After all, the fascists were the noisiest and most despicable creatures in the land. And one still saw from time to time some policemen chasing down a herd of fascists, catching some, treating them to quite harsh treatment. And in consequence the fascists held some substantial amount of resentment against the police. It was a well established war, without an end in sight. A conflict that over the years had accumulated animadversions, cunning tactics and a sense of purpose that fulfilled both parties. The only problem is that, despite such mutual and fierce confrontation, we were right in the center of their fighting pit, because the police and the fascists hated us in equal measure, and in such a passionate way that both killing machines always preferred persecuting us than bothering to play enemies between them. Conjunctures like these had to be taken with considerable equanimity.

One night, traveling like nomads across the park to make it more difficult for our enemies to sniff our presence and hunt us down, we ended up by the lake that partly encircles City Hall. We surveyed the area and saw nobody. There was a secluded spot behind a bench, with a short patch of lawn descending towards the lake, City Hall standing on the other shore. White and potent lights were pointed at the neoclassical building, the immense columns as guards who would never fall asleep. On our side of the lake there weren’t any lights, as the park was closed to the public and officially deserted. Our hideout was thus pleasantly dark, the only illumination irradiating from City Hall and painting the surface of the lake with wavery strings of light. The darkness that shrouded us was sweet and would protect us. We could lie down and let go of our fears for a while. Regain ourselves, place ourselves in a state of mind in which we could approach greatness again.

The Company – 13

Lost, then.

In an unsuccessful attempt to retrace our arduous and intricate journey, we got even more lost, although we also met by chance with the park that I already mentioned, the dense park of our dreams, almost a forest, a receiving heaven for our maltreated bodies. We went into this park not knowing about its possibilities, only wishing to appease our overworked and infuriated legs, and to find a nice spot in the shade of a mature tree where to gobble down our remaining pilfered sausages. We didn’t anticipate finding anything else in that park, we would have been pleased with a restful moment of calmness and little birds jumping from one place to another, just a short-lived but uneventful oasis where to get a breather. And that’s partly why the discovery of what actually awaited us became even more intense for us, because we were not expecting much and suddenly we got it all. We were punched by goodness square on the face without knowing that that was even an option.

I tell you that it was a paradise. Sandy trails were edged with bins that had their mouths wide open, and instead of thrash they seemed free-for-all supermarkets. All of them were filled up to the rim with treasures. And it’s not only that those bins overflowed and that in just ten minutes we satiated our sacks, it’s also the case that what we collected was of extreme quality and variety: all kinds of food in good condition; objects that someone had believed were completely used but had merely had time to catch some dust on them; empty glass bottles of high price and sonority; pornographic magazines; dry and interesting newspapers; a pack of cigarettes that was missing only one piece; half a tablet of dark chocolate; you name it. Life was suddenly so good that as soon as we were crammed with riches we decided to go quickly back lest the favourable situation transform itself into an enemy and turn on us in foreign lands.

We spent long hours in our return, many recalcitrant detours, the humiliation of asking to passersby and being ignored. Many hours until we met again with the bridge that brought us here, the conduit that could take us again to the aroma of our territories. Once safely on the bridge, one felt more capable to reason as a human being, to use the bridge and other monumental buildings as points on an imaginary map, and then you were only a few calculations away (or I was, to be more exact, for CrazyEye is the only member from The Company versed in science) from determining that the forest of fertile bins and soothing greenery was actually surprisingly close to the bridge, only about ten minutes east. Our return trip to the bridge, which had required so many hours, had thus been a quite horrible yarn tangle. A tangle that now we could ignore. Next time we would go straight to that park and The Company would flourish there.

The Company – 12

Despite the fact that cemeteries are generally some of the places most tranquil and conducive to meditation that one can think of in this crazy world of ours, and despite the fact that this particular cemetery that was having us excelled in that regard, we had to consider very seriously the danger of any misplaced hatred from the vicar and his undoubtedly despicable minions. They were likely watching us through their stain glass barricades, snorting and plotting. One could feel that danger growing larger and larger with every second, increasingly becoming more real and threatening us from all directions of our fears. We couldn’t delay ourselves in that peaceful corner of the city even if that was exactly what we wanted to do.

We propped OldThrown up and dragged him to an adjacent garden where we weren’t supposed to enter. There was an ongoing but unattended barbecue, and in almost no time five long and perfectly cooked sausages were transferred into one of my bags. We got out of that garden before anyone complained about our presence there, and we found ourselves in another garden, weedy and depressing. There was a hole in the fence and beyond it an empty parking lot. Turd got a good feeling for a boxy, three-story building at one end of the parking lot, so into there we went. The only possible escape that we found was through a window that led us to the precarious roof of a neighboring building. Somehow we were able to cross that roof without sliding down to our deaths, arduously reaching a wall with some emergency stairs. At this point, besides retracing our steps and returning to the parking lot, we didn’t have any other option than to climb up the stairs, which went straight up several stories. We were unsure that OldThrown could complete the ascent.

“I could rename him Goose and he could fly to the top, but I don’t want to,” Turd said.

“I thought that geese cannot fly,” I replied with a very obvious touch of sarcasm, so that it wouldn’t go unnoticed.

“Just because you have never seen one flying doesn’t mean that they cannot fly, does it?” He was clearly annoyed, and possibly correct in his argument, so I was ready not to insist on the matter and go back to discussing alternative solutions, when I noticed that OldThrown had started to make his way up the stairs, having dealt already with a few rungs.

“There he goes,” I said.

Turd turned around, assessed the situation for a few seconds and then sat down.

“Can I have one of those sausages, please?” he said.

“Shouldn’t we follow him?” I asked, pointing at the struggling OldThrown. I was a little surprised by Turd’s decision to resort to laziness in such a moment so clearly requiring mindfulness and determination.

“You can go ahead. I’m going to wait until he makes it to the top. Going up those stairs is shitty enough, I don’t need the added stress of thinking that he’s going to fall on me and take me down with him. Can I please have that sausage?”

I produced one sausage, split it in two, gave the longest piece to Turd and ate the other. I followed OldThrown progression for a while. Every rung seemed to be a huge endeavour for him, and I could see how he would have to take longer and longer with each new one. I made some fancy calculations in my head. By the time I had thoroughly licked the sausage juices from all my fingers I was very happy with my estimate of twenty minutes as a minimum.

I sat down next to Turd and we shared another sausage. We talked about the usefulness of cats but we didn’t reach an agreement. At the end of our conversation I looked up again. OldThrown had completed more than half of his climb. I was not only surprised that he had made it that far, I also felt proud of him. From where we sat it almost looked like he had some special ability, some spidery tendencies that glued him to the stairs and allowed him to move upwards with ease, even if at an infuriatingly slow pace. And the more I looked at him and the more he advanced, the clearer it became that he was going to reach the top without any issues, and at the same time the more I doubted that I would be able to even get where he was now. Turd must have felt the same way, as he got up and without saying a word started to climb up the stairs, no longer worried about the possibility of OldThrown smashing him down, approaching each rung quite aggressively, as if having to prove something to someone. I followed Turd and my fear of falling transitioned very quickly in the immediacy of the pain in my arm muscles and the sweat running into and burning my eyes.

When I got to the top I was exhausted and ready to lay down and let my numbed muscles melt into a puddle around me. I was glad to see that OldThrown and Turd were still recovering from their own ascents and in no rush to get up and move on.

“… hard,” I was able to mumble. I stretched my body on the hard concrete and fell asleep.

In the darkness there were some soft fish floating around me and a lightless light that disappeared to produce an ajar door. I didn’t need to approach the door to know that there was a monster on the other side. A monster that would devour me or at least slash my flesh with sharp, metallic nails. I got closer to the door and I could already hear a resounding succession of thumps accentuating disturbing screams. I placed my hand on the door, ready to push it open, and the yelling on the other side increased. There was more light now.

“CrazyEye! CrazyEye!” I heard. There was some fluff around my eyes that dissolved into light. I opened my eyes and I saw Turd’s face too close to mine.

“We should be going, I just remembered I don’t like highs that much,” he said.

I muttered something but Turd was already on the move and OldThrown followed him as if leashed by an invisible rope. I had to make a huge effort to get upright, although after a couple of steps it became easier to trudge along.

We went down some stairs covered with dry leaves and shards from beer bottles. The stairs led to a locked door. Turd spent a long time fumbling with a piece of wire, convinced that he knew how to unlock the door.

“Have you ever been able to pick a lock?” I asked. Turd gave me an annoyed look and threatened to name my penis either Ant or Slug. Childish as usual. I didn’t say anything else, brushing one of the steps with my shoe and sitting down on it, wishing I had a book I could read or throw at Turd’s nape.

When Turd announced that this particular lock was trickier than he had anticipated and that he didn’t have the appropriate tools in his person, we retraced our steps, found the safest route to another terrace, and this time the door leading into the building was wide open.

We took stairs down and stairs up. We crossed yards and gardens. We jumped walls and squeezed through bush parapets. We were persecuted by a variety of inhabitants from that neighborhood so violent.

When progressing over the top of the buildings we had to attend not so much to any sense of orientation but to all of our restrictions. We couldn’t jump between any two roofs if there was any distance between them. We couldn’t afford OldThrown jumping feebly and not reaching the target, or landing on dislodged roof tiles, or otherwise doing something that would send him falling seven floors down, pointlessly fluttering in the air like a wingless pigeon and with his legs so thin.

After many comings and goings we came upon an ajar door to no matter which terrace in a well landscaped extension of thousands of terraces arranged at different levels. We stood in awe under the sun, observing for the first and last time those private and serene spaces, most of them currently deserted. In one distant terrace there was a mosaic with the colors of a summery prairie in fire. In a closer one there was an improvised barbecue made up with a shopping cart. There were flags, weeds taking hold where potted plants wouldn’t go, rusty fences, swimming pools for children, and sparrows playing around as they pleased.

When we thought that OldThrown was nearing a sunstroke we started our long descent towards the street level, with the idea of remaining there. The streets is what we know and where we live, although it’s also where our enemies roam. And sure enough, our next persecutor was the doorman of the building that we had descended. At least he didn’t care that much about us and stopped his pursuit once we turned around the first corner.

Later we sat on a concrete bench to recoup our breath. We looked around and couldn’t recognize any of our surroundings. We had never been here before. We were horribly lost. We could have been in a different country that we didn’t understand. Some kids stopped in front of us, and seemed ready to start doing something stupid with us as their target, the typical stuff, until we scared them away. The buses were green, not red as in our territories. Even the pigeons seemed different, wilder creatures with beetle faces.

The Company – 11

Looking back I saw the two beasts getting closer and closer at an accelerating rate. In their eyes there was eagerness. They weren’t advocates for mendicity, they clearly stated that with each one of their strides. Their bulky bodies would faithfully serve their ideologies. Simplicity is a weapon in itself.

I led my team into a side street. It would have been a mistake to retrace our steps along the avenue, thinking of the bridge as our salvation, because our assailants would have catched up with us at the beginning of the bridge, bit us senseless, and then dropped us down into the abyss, our bodies just lumps smashing against the dry banks with a final thump.

Turd also looked back and understood that the fascists would close in on us very soon. They were relentless and hungry hyenas, and we were a bunch of impaired prey items. The street was narrow, the sidewalks only wide enough for one person, and the cobblestoned pavement just able to accept one small vehicle at a time. OldThrown was now one meter in front of me. I had to start each one of my strides by launching my right hip forward and then rotating the rest of my body. And even doing so, my hip joint was burning with pain. The boots of the fascists were stomping against the cobbles, that drumming bouncing from wall to wall. Every second they reduced in half the distance that separated us. Every second we were seconds away from being trampled down and then dealt with.

“You pieces of shit,” one of our prosecutors interjected. His voice had sounded so close behind me that it didn’t seem to be much of a point in keeping my sluggish escape. The only result of my painful effort was going to be a ridiculously short postponement of my beating. Turd was right behind me. The hand of the predator would snatch Turd first, or the assailant foot would kick him out of balance and then Turd would be in their arms. Then I would keep running for a few more seconds until my turn came, or I would stop running at that point, because it wouldn’t make any difference anymore.

I glanced over my shoulder again. The main fascist was looming over Turd, the gigantic hand already starting its descent to land on Turd’s shoulder. Turd must have correctly read my panicked expression, understanding the immediacy of the hunting strike, for he took action.

“Turtle and snail,” he said, like nothing of relevance were carried out by those words. Months before he wouldn’t have done anything so blatant to save his own butt. But this was a new Turd.  This was The Company’s Turd. Riding the surf, even if he didn’t know how, not afraid to fall and be submerged under the raging wave.

Turtle and snail, then. Of thousands over thousands of possible combinations, he chose and launched those two words.

The two fascists had gotten to a mere meter of their target. They only had to outrun us that much to take us down. But they were now unable to do so. Second after second they remained behind us, that last meter still separating us. The Company kept running at a sad speed. The fascists ran at the same speed, although their young and buffy bodies were not slowed down by arthritis and years of inactivity. It was more like they were characters in a slow-motion movie. They were clearly baffled. It must have been surprising for their minds to be more active than their bodies. Their brains so accustomed to lag behind their animalistic actions, now suddenly having the time, the privilege to play with their thoughts between step and step.

We turned a corner and the new street was even narrower. Horribly steep. Too steep for The Company to run uphill. I was the first one to transition from trotting to walking fast, and then just walking. Turd and OldThrown were now ahead of me. The two fascists seemed to be trudging through a river of mud. One almost wanted to feel sorry for them. It was clear that every one of their steps was an arduous endeavor. A huge effort was required for them to simply pull a leg up, then an extra exertion to move it forward and to gather the motivation to start all over again with the other leg.

I didn’t stop walking, even though it was difficult for me to breathe and there was a pain punching on my breast. At some point I was able to increase my distance from the fascists, but I couldn’t stop. If I stopped I wouldn’t be able to go again, I would kneel down and collapse, and the fascists would only need to move their legs several times to get to me and dispatch me, even if that took them several minutes.

I glanced again at my predators. They seemed less dangerous in their confusion. They kept looking at their legs, flabbergasted by their inefficiency, worried that such a condition should be perpetual.

“What the fuck?” the subordinate fascist complained, frustrated by being so limited by his own body. He stopped, too puzzled by his current situation to cope any longer.

“Don’t know,” the dominant fascist said, also coming to a halt. “Must be drugs, mate,” he added, although his limited brain must haven’t been too assured with that concept.

We took the first passage to the right, and I felt more at ease, as if by putting those two out of sight they became less of a threat, a distant memory. In reality, after a quick break they could regain their full speed and reach us in no time. And their fury would be accentuated by their recent frustration.

It was a narrow passage, but we were going downhill now and I resumed my running. OldThrown was ahead, trotting like a discombobulated pony. I doubt he remembered what he was running away from. He didn’t seem to need a reason, though. His joy emanated from the act of escaping. In a close second position, Turd wobbled, an obese penguin threatening to topple sideways at every step. I wasn’t too far behind my comrades.

The labyrinth unfolded as we advanced, and we spent no time choosing a direction at each crossroads, one way was as good as any other. No surprise then that we ended up dragging ourselves through a street with dirty walls and putrescent air, hung-up clothes over our heads a ceiling dripping on us. A doorway was open and in we went, because if our enemies were following us we had to trick them, get ourselves so stupidly lost that they would never have a chance to find us. The corridor beyond the doorway contained a flight of stairs, some apartment doors, no need to check if they were locked, and at the end of the corridor a window overlooking an enclosed courtyard. OldThrown didn’t stop running until he reached the end of the corridor, and then, without looking at us to seek our approval, not even noticing that there was a one-meter drop, he just squeezed through the window and landed on uncut grass scented by stray cats. As if he were the king and us his jokers, we scurried to follow suit. The unattended courtyard had developed the air of a jungle. There were trees of several denominations protruding from the sea of grass, a group of cats across the courtyard observing our advances, and an open gate beyond which we ran again along a filthy street.

We turned on the least promising corners, getting lost in such a manner that nobody could have logically deciphered our whereabouts. We closed doors behind us. We went up and down stairs and artificial promontories. We confused our bodies in the tangle of alleyways, patios, staircases and canals. Now we were in a run that we didn’t longer understand. We had to cross some private gardens, more than once hearing the imprecations of those stupid hulks that hated us, wasting their precious time telling us what they thought of us, returning to their sunbathing or barbecuing as soon as our bodies climbed up to their fence and fell to the other side. Over one of those fences we went and we landed on a small cemetery. There were dandelions and sparrows welcoming us. The steeple launched a sense of protection on us. The slates on the roof of the church, the same color as the tombstones, seemed to reflect away the sights of our enemies, making us invisible. Time to rest.

The three of us laid our backs on erect tombstones. The ground was wet but I couldn’t care. I stretched my legs and enjoyed my stillness. It took a while, but eventually I was able to breath normally again. I could have closed my eyes and dozed off. I turned my head and contemplated Turd’s serious face.

“Why Turtle and Snail?” I asked.

Turd looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

“I mean, it worked alright, so thank you very much, but why not call them Rock and Brick?” I insisted.

Turd didn’t respond for a while. I could see how throwing names as a defense mechanism was something dirty to him. Not something to reminisce about. But I understood and appreciated that sometimes one had to take the uncomfortable path. Doing the wrong thing in order to do the right thing.

He looked at me again and smiled.

“They didn’t look like their names were Rock and Brick, nor Anchor and Anvil, you know,” he said. “Turtle and Snail is the best I could do given their faces.”