Baltazar’s Prodigious Afternoon
The cage was complete. By force of habit, Baltazar hung it on the overhang of the roof, and by the time he finished his lunch, word had spread all over town that it was the most beautiful cage in the world. So many people came to see it that a crowd had formed in front of the house, and Baltazar had to take the cage down and close the carpentry workshop.
“You have to shave,” Ursula told him. “You look like a capuchin.”
“It’s bad to shave after lunch,” Baltazar said.
He had a two-week-old beard, hair that was short, stiff, and bristly like a mule’s mane, and a wholesome boy-like expression. But it was a false expression. In February he turned 30 years old and had lived with Ursula for four years, without ever marrying or having children, and life had given him a lot of reasons to be alert, but none to be afraid. Little did he 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 tougher job than others.
“Then rest a bit,” said Ursula. “With that beard, you can’t show your face anywhere.”
While he rested, he had to leave his hammock many times to show his neighbors the cage. Ursula had not paid it any attention until then. She was displeased because Baltazar had neglected his carpentry job to dedicate himself entirely to this cage, and for two weeks he slept badly, tossing and turning and mumbling nonsense, and he hadn’t even thought about shaving. But her displeasure subsided upon seeing the completed cage. When Baltazar woke up from his nap, she had ironed pants and a shirt for him, placed them in a chair next to the hammock, and brought the cage to the dining room table. She studied it in silence.