The Red Butterfly, Part Eight – I Danced With Duende
“I danced for El Cuadillo,” Anna said, bringing me out of my dark thoughts. “I danced for him. And I made a bargain with him.”
“When was this?”
“A long time ago,” she said, “not in years, or the way people think of time when one says a long time ago,” she added, seeing my puzzled look. To me, she looked much too young to have the phrase A Long time Ago in her vocabulary. “I am older than I look, but in years it was not very long ago at all that I danced for him. But I was younger than I am now and had already been dancing for many years. And he asked me to dance for him and I said that I did not want to. He insisted, he is El Caudillo, and no one in this country can say no to him. Even though he was- is very old. So I said to him, ‘I will dance for you but you must do something for me.’”
“And?” I asked
“He laughed at me. He said, ‘Niña, I do not make deals with little girls.’ I said ‘I am not a little girl and if you do not do this thing, then I will not dance for you.’ ‘Bien niña,’ he said, ‘what is it that you want?’” I said to him, if you release my father, who is in the prison on Montjuic, then I will dance for you.”
“I though your father was in Sevilla,” I said
“No, es mentira, that is not true. He was taken in Sevilla, but they moved him along with thousands of other republican soldiers to the castle in Barcelona.”
“I heard bad things happened there.”
“Yes, many bad things,” she said and was silent.
“What happened?” I asked.
“He said, ‘What is your father’s name?’ When I told him my father’s name, El Caudillo’s face turned white and sweat appeared on his big head, for my father was a great soldier and killed many fascists and was the most feared commander in the republican army. I do not boast, this is true.”
“I believe it, if he’s anything like you.”
“Que va? I am just a flamenco dancer. He was a soldier and a leader of men.”
“What did El Caudillo say?”
“He said, after wiping his head with a dirty pañuelo, ‘Niña, this is not a problem, for your father es un anciano and no longer a threat and he has served his time.”
“So he really knew who your father was?”
“Yes,” she said, “He did. He said, ‘Niña this is how we will do it. You will dance for me at the Palace and then I will release your father, de acuerdo?.’ ‘Yes, we have a deal,’ I said though I did not like these terms. A week later, I danced at the Palacio Real. With just Juan with the guitar and Pablo con las palmas and who also sang though he does not sing anymore even though he was once a great singer. He does not sing because it hurts this throat too much. I danced for El Caudillo, I danced like I never have before, and have not since. I danced with duende.”
“And your father, did El Caudillo release him?”
“No,” she said, “My father is dead. He was executed by firing squad at the end of the war.”
next chapter: The Red Butterfly, Part Nine – Go, Dog!
previous chapter: The Red Butterfly, Part Seven – I Hope It Hurts
all chapters: The Red Butterfly
more by SERGIO REMON ALVAREZ