Ángel Rodríguez Rivera

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Abuelo Angel & Abuela



“Ah, well look at this picture of your grandpa, Alfredo, and me. And that’s your Aunt Carmen

in my arms. She was like a little angel,” said my grandmother holding the photograph with both hands. “So many memories come to my mind, both charming and dark.”

“Dark memories?” I asked.

She was staring at the picture with a blank expression on her face. It was rather frightening

because it was as if she had been hypnotized by the old photo.

“Abuela?” I said finally. She snapped out of the hypnosis. “When you say dark memories, what do you mean?” I asked.

“Well Ángel, there are stories regarding your grandfather that no one knows, except our inner family, of course,” she sighed.

“What stories? Please tell me. I want to know,” I told her with an air of desperation.

“Ok, but promise me you won’t tell anybody.”

“Ok, I promise,” I replied even though knowing that I might not keep the promise. It seemed to me that this secret was not just hers but that somehow it was part of my own life too. Memories are the chapters of the “Book of Life” lingering in our lives and the lives of our children. It did not just belong to the dark past, but was there to shed light on the questions of our lives right now. I had to know what happened.

“It was a hot day in summer in 1975. I was in the hospital visiting Alfredo. He had his head covered with white bandages. I was anxious, I didn’t know if he would remember me or not when he awakened. The doctor told me that he had suffered a serious head injury while working. I was half-scared, half-mad, because I always told him to use a helmet while working on those construction sites. But he was so stubborn.

Two weeks after the accident he was back home. Alfredo looked recovered. He remembered

Me and the whole family. I was happy that everything was back to normal.  Of course, I was wrong.

One night a few months later I heard a voice coming from the living room. I moved my arm to reach Alfredo, but he was gone. I rose from bed and went slowly to the living room. The voice was louder with each step I took. When I got to the living room, I saw Alfredo murmuring.

‘Alfredo, who you are talking too?’

‘What, who’s there?’ said Alfredo.

‘Alfredo it’s me. What are you doing here at this time of the night?’ I asked him. I took him to bed and lay beside him until he fell asleep. I was confused and worried over what had happened that night.

Days later, while I was making breakfast, Alfredo told me that our neighbors, Rafael and Elsa, had some machines that made a loud noise and wouldn’t let him sleep.

‘Machines? They don’t have any machines.’ I told him.

‘They do have machines I tell you, I can hear them, even right now they are using them!’ Alfredo told me menacingly. ‘Someone has to do something about it, or I will do it myself,’ he said seeming to speak to himself.

‘Alfredo what is wrong with you, you are scaring the girls, and me’ I said.

Ay na’, no me pasa na,’ ‘he said storming out of the kitchen.

I knew that something unusual was happening to him, I even could see dark circles beneath his eyes. I gave breakfast to the girls, and when I sat down to eat, your five-year-old uncle, Freddy, came running to tell me that Alfredo was walking toward Rafael’s house with a tin of gasoline. I froze; a chill was running through my back. I rose, throwing the plate to the floor and ran to the balcony.

‘Alfredo!’ I shouted. ‘What are you doing! ALFREDO!’ I shouted louder but this time I was crying. I saw him pouring gasoline onto the house. I went down the stairs as fast as I could, but by the time I got down a burst of flame erupted from the house.  I stopped dead. I was in shock. I could hear the children shouting in the balcony and I told them to stay there. I ran to Alfredo finally reaching him. He was staring at the fire very amazed, as if he had never seen fire in his life.

‘Alfredo what have you done!’ I told him crying.

‘Those machines will not bother me anymore,’ he replied with a smile.

I took him swiftly to our house. After that, I went running to my brother who lived nearby and asked him for help. He called the police and the fire department and I told him everything that had happened. My brother told me not to tell anybody, not even the police.

After that event we took your grandfather to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with schizophrenia. We all believed it was due to the head injury, but we were never sure,” said my grandmother still holding the picture and with watery eyes.

“And what happened to Elsa and Rafael?” I asked her still shocked.

“Ah, well fortunately they were not in the house at the moment, but they lost everything in the fire,” answered my grandma, still with watery eyes. “They thought they left a candle lit,” she said staring into nothingness, with a guilty voice.

I rose and hugged her very hard, feeling great compassion for her shame.



  1. Wow I’m still shocked! Great work narrating the story because i imagined it all as if i was there witnessing all. This story lets the reader to think and draw our own conclusions because, what if it was not schizophrenia? What could have been? I hope nothing bad happened to his own relatives or other people around after that. It is clear that your grandmother was never the same after that event. Having to say nothing about what really happened, seeing their neighbors lose everything and them feeling guilty if something would have happened to their children for “their fault” (candle).

  2. Wow… this was very powerful… I could totally imagine the whole scene, your grandfather in the middle of the night, your grandma yelling after him… excellent job with your dialogs, I was totally transported into your story. I feel so sorry for what your grandma went through, and for her neighbours… Thank you for sharing this story

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