Please note – this short story collection was kindly provided to me by Martha Bátiz.
What would Father say now, seeing himself in bronze, his name on a plaque, flowers adorning our flag placed at his feet? Did he like birds? I don’t know. But he’ll be surrounded by them in the park. They’ll defecate all over his statue. In this country, even the most sacred things become shitty.
When it takes seventy-two bullets to kill a man it is clear that perhaps the death of an ordinary man has birthed a Great Man, one whose deeds will resonate throughout history, or at least for a little while. But Great Men have wives, and children, and what happens to them when they are dead and gone, immortalised in increasingly cloying tales and songs?
Martha Bátiz’s short story, Still Watching; Watching, Still, is a story about the young daughter of a man who glimpsed immortality through the lens of guerilla warfare and dissent. When she was very young he was absent, returning only rarely, and exhausted, his breathing ‘devoid of peace’. Her mother kept the house running though she, too, was a rebel.
What were they rebelling against? It doesn’t matter. The government, I suppose. This isn’t about the heroics of a populist struggle but the damage it, and any military retaliation, leaves in the wake of their battles. The adults choose death and conflict, the children suffer and die. So it goes.
The majority of this story is set decades later, with the daughter grown now, her young son with her. She remembers. She can’t help it – the legend of her father has grown, and invariably she will see his face on the television. A revolutionary becomes part of the government institution, and the wheels that grind, grind on. She remembers. She wants the best for her child but is constantly on the run, unable to set down roots, unwilling to relax and breathe. The trauma of her childhood has poisoned herself as a woman, and nothing will ever be good or feel safe.
Her father – dead from seventy-two bullets. Her mother – disappeared. Her guardian – beaten for her silence and courage in the face of violence. She can’t trust anyone, and knows that she has been broken beyond repair.
But, at least, there’s a statue of him now. The filthy revolutionary has become the celebrated Great Man of contemporary history, helping pave the way from a violent Then to a peaceful Now. Good enough substitute for a living, breathing father, no? No.
Other stories from this collection include:
|Author||Martha Bátiz (Twitter)|
|Title||Still Watching; Watching, Still|
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