In Ronda

Wade Bell

Translation text: "En Ronda "

Artwork by Josée Dubeau @

 In Ronda, the shoe store didn't have the soft, yellow leather boots in a size large enough but, after seeing them in the window, he wanted them badly so he bought a pair a size too small, the largest there was, and walked in them painfully in the hot streets of the town hoping they would stretch. They were good boots, though he didn't wear them often as they never did fit comfortably. A dozen years later he sold them to a friend in another country.

        When he bought them he was in Ronda with a woman from Madrid. They were staying in the Hotel Reina Victoria overlooking the gorge. A floor above their room was the Rilke room, a little museum, a sort of shrine kept the way it was when Rilke lived there for a while. Some Duino Elegies were worked on in that room. The man and the woman from Madrid were certain the poet's ghost spent time there overlooking the gorge and the quiet farmland beyond where fighting bulls were bred.

         In the Rilke room, the woman took his picture as he lay naked on the bed with his legs stretched over the end of it, his soft, yellow boots on. The woman also took his picture in the ancient bullring, the oldest in Spain. It was small and quaint, empty that day. For that photograph he wore the bullring custodian's tricornered hat.

         It was an interesting period because the man thought the woman was falling out of love with him and he thought he was falling out of love with her, though he did not want her to leave him and go back to Madrid. He enjoyed her knowledge of the land and its history. He liked her imagination and he liked their sex, though recently there were overtones of a desire to cause pain, and in the mornings they often ate their rolls and drank their cafe con leche in a silence that was not enjoyable.

         One afternoon when the heat was too much for him and he was in a very bad mood, she left him alone, sweating on the bed in his underwear. Some hours later, when he thought she might not return at all, she came in with another pair of boots. They were black and scuffed, very old but still good. They were the boots of a man who had died just a week before, she said. She said Rilke might have worn such boots.    

         She told him to remove his underwear and put the boots on. She got her camera.  The Nikon at her eye, she said Rilke's ghost would approve of what she was doing, and so would the dead man who followed her to the hotel to see the feet that could fill his beautiful black boots. She said they were probably sitting at the little table by the window right now, watching and remembering that life had been good.

Wade Bell
Wade Bell is the author of two volumes of short stories, the most recent being A Destroyer of Compasses. His stories have appeared in magazines and literary anthologies in Canada, Japan, Spain and the U.S. He lives in Calgary. This story was originally published in A Destroyer of Compasses by Guernica in 2003 and has been reprinted with the permission of the author and publisher.