Daniel puts the bottle of Chivas on the table and maneuvers his wheelchair into the living room. He takes one more anxious look around the house to see that everything is in order: no pizza boxes, no empty bottles on the floor. He has a drink to ease the knot in his stomach, a clenching that he attributes to the fact that his only brother will come to see him today. They haven't seen each other for many years.
He clearly remembers that letter from Adolfo back in '83—Adolfo and his good fortune. As soon as he escaped this miserable village, Adolfo said his luck changed. Soon he would have enough money to marry a girl he adored. Adolfo had enclosed a photograph, Adolfo and his fiancée embracing, smiling at the camera, the sea in the background.
What had he done with that photograph? Probably tore it to pieces at the same time that he tore up a similar photograph of himself with Fernanda in his arms. He wanted no reminders of those times, before she left him, before his legs were reduced to stumps. All around you the world teaches the lesson that shit happens. The difficult thing is accepting it when it happens to you, Daniel muses while arranging the sheet that covers his amputated limbs, hiding them even from his own sight. He finishes his whiskey, except for those last few drops you can never get, aren't allowed to get.
Since his wife left him, television has provided a torpor that keeps him from thinking about happiness or sadness . . . anchored in the eternal now, with no thoughts of the future or the past. Daniel likes programs with chatty hosts accompanied by scantily clad assistants who fill the screen with their monumental buttocks. He often masturbates while leering at their firm bodies. He gets hard just thinking that they must know, and yet not care, how many viewers imagine abandoning themselves in their abundance of flesh. He spends his time immersed in games, soaps, and cartoons—the false reality of television which makes him think that the long anticipated reunion of brothers is something that could happen in real life.
The knot, the cramp in his stomach, gets worse. He pours another drink. For weeks he has dedicated days and nights to anticipating the banal questions and carefully crafting his responses. Adolfo mustn't realize that he is desperate for help. He trembles from head to toe, imagining a stupid "How are you?" or, a "How have you been?" could ruin everything. No! He will lead the conversation on a bit before he confesses that he refilled the crown-shaped Chivas bottle with a cheaper whiskey. Though that shouldn't matter to his brother. In his mind's eye, he imagines Adolfo producing bottles of real Chivas and together they would celebrate their reunion until dawn! The years and distance would give them a lot to talk about. Moved by his own inner visions, he gestures as if to embrace his successful brother, and the sheet covering his legs drops to the floor, leaving his amputated legs exposed. He picks it up and hastily covers himself. "Until the end," he murmurs.
Daniel is certain that as a businessman his brother respects other people's time. An important man like Adolfo must have his days well organized and scheduled in advance; that is why he thinks Adolfo cannot have forgotten his promise to get together with him this hot June evening.
This visit unnerves him. He feels as if his legs had miraculously grown back. He is even conscious of the hairs on his calves standing on edge and he can feel the dirt lodged between his toes. That's it, he smiles, time to stop drinking!
Daniel puts his hand to the crude bandage covering a wound on his forehead—it throbs under his fingertips. He draws the incident from his memory. He went out for a drink and the curb had played a malevolent trick on him, tipping his wheelchair over and throwing him bodily on the ground. Now he smiles a little, but the smile is nothing more than an attempt at self-delusion. What he felt was shame and humiliation as he lay there, flat on his face, tangled in the chaos of the half-folded wheelchair. Lying there, a spectacle for the astonished glance of the nocturnal pedestrians.
He had never felt quite so helpless before, not even in the hospital when he tried to touch his legs and discovered only damp bandages beneath the sheets. Now what he feels is savage hatred. Images of the people who "helped" him march past his mind. What did they think he was going to do? Sprout legs, for crying out loud? At that moment he thought of Adolfo—Adolfo living in style somewhere—and he felt even more ludicrous. He clenched his hands into fists. The fact is that he was in this chair, in this condition, because he had spent so many years of his life looking for Adolfo. Daniel followed false clues, rumors, went from place to place by bus—until the statistics of highway accidents caught up with him and left him with no legs. Over and over again Fernanda told him that what he was doing was worse than useless. If Adolfo was such a big shot, what was to stop him from coming home to see his brother?
His heart felt torn . . . what if Fernanda was right? He didn't know what he would do if his brother had really forgotten his promise to get him out of that miserable village! For a long time, he placed all of his hopes on the return of his triumphant brother. The sheer size, the scope of his brother's success sustained him in the hospital. The promise of the good time to come when he and Adolfo were reunited allowed him to survive Fernanda's words. She waited at the hospital just long enough for him to come out of the coma. In those first lucid moments, she spat in his face, "I'm through with you! You will never see me again!" Still, in that moment, when the clumsy good Samaritans heaved him back into the wheelchair, he hated Adolfo. He hated the thought of Adolfo on some paradisiacal beach while he, Daniel, lay amidst the unbearable stink of ether and illness. He hated Adolfo for his success, his money, and his forgotten promise.
The doorbell rings twice, briskly bringing Daniel out of the tangle of the past . . . back to the present. A final glance around the house confirms that everything is in its place. Well, there are only a few pieces of furniture adrift like islands on an empty sea. He sees that the bottle of Chivas and the two glasses are in their appointed places, and checks that the sheet is securely in place. He feels as if his legs had grown back. The ringing repeats insistently. Outside it is a sultry June evening; the hot air rushes over his face and fills his lungs as he opens the door. Framed by the doorway, a pale woman stands behind a wheelchair. Adolfo is cradled, no, collapsed in it. Paralyzed from the neck down, he moves neither his legs nor his arms. His throat struggles to form words, but the sounds are unintelligible. His eyes are glassy, dull, and listless.
Daniel wheels backward and invites them in. He rolls forward, grabs the bottle, and hides it. He asks them to excuse him and rolls into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. He feels as if his legs are ablaze. He opens the crown-shaped Chivas bottle and begins to empty it. He feels hot tears on his cheeks while the cheap whiskey, the phony Chivas, goes down the toilet. "Adolfo, he's too fat and bald!" he gabbles as he flushes the toilet and throws the bottle into the trashcan. He tears off some toilet paper and dries his eyes. He doesn't want his brother to know that he was crying.