Baltazar’s Prodigal Afternoon
The cage was finished. Baltazar hung it on the overhang of the roof by force of habit, and when he finished his lunch it was said all over that it was the most beautiful cage in the world. So many people came to see it that there was chaos in front of the house, and Baltazar had to take the cage down and close the workshop.
“You have to shave,” Ursula, his wife, told him. “You look like a monkey.”
“It’s bad to shave after lunch,” Baltazar said.
He had a two-week-old beard, hair that was short, stiff, and wimpy like a mule’s mane, and a general boy-like expression. But it was a deceptive expression. In February he had turned 30 years old, he lived with Ursula for four years, without marrying or having children, and life had given him a lot of reasons to be alert, but no reasons to be afraid. He did not even know that for some people, the cage he had finished making was the most beautiful in the world. For him, accustomed to making cages since he was a child, that one had barely been a more arduous job than others.
“Then rest a bit,” said the wife. “With that beard, you can’t show your face anywhere.”
While he rested, he had to abandon the hammock many times to show his neighbors the cage. Ursula had not paid him any attention until then. She was displeased because her husband had neglected his carpentry job to dedicate himself entirely to this cage, and for two weeks he slept badly, jolting and spouting out crazy ideas, and he hadn’t gotten back to thinking about shaving. But the displeasure dissipated before the finished cage. When Baltazar woke up from his nap, she had ironed pants and a shirt for him, and had placed them in a chair next to the hammock, and had brought the cage to the dining room table. She studied it in silence.