Variante XXI (English translation)

By Carlos Esteban Cana

Translated to English by Iris Monica Vargas
Category: Short Story, Fiction

It could have been a normal day for Ramón Noriega, but it wouldn’t be. He was going about his daily routine at the trauma operating room extracting bullets, sealing broken arteries, suturing organs.

Today, at approximately two in the afternoon, he had been informed, a patient waited for him to receive an emergency surgery because a bullet — “another one”, Dr. Noriega said to himself as he repeated by heart, as a litany, the information he was fed constantly throughout the day — had perforated one of the main arteries. He did not finish listening. He walked away thinking about the moment when he would finally return home to his daughter, whom he had promised to take to the park and play with for as long as she wanted.

At the operating room he found his patient: a little girl. She had already received the appropriate liquids, and machines had been installed on her body. Thus, he began. “Scalpel.” “Forceps.” “Suture.” Everything was quick to arrive. He was sweating. “Her heart, doctor,” he heard. Come on! Answer me! he whispered as his hand pressed and released, pressed and released, pressed and released the small heart. Wake up! Wake up! Come on, wake up,  for goodness’ sake! 

For the next few minutes his team watched as he insisted on massaging that heart even though the high pitched shrieks of the monitor had grown longer. Around him, everything was being disconnected but he continued, in silence, to regard the little girl over the operating table. I wonder who the motherfucker was who did this. She was the same age as my Emily, and his thoughts were interrupted. He was being summoned to operating room C, where a man in his forties needed a similar intervention on his jugular.

Upon arrival, the scene looked as usual, machines everywhere, everything was ready… except him. Doctor Noriega was sweating. He allowed each drop to run down his forehead, to blur his sight, with the hope that the little girl’s image would dissipate from his mind. He made an effort to focus. This is a life I just have to save, he told himself. “Forceps” “Scalpel.” “Gauze.” “Suction.” He prayed to God once more.

This time he didn’t fail.

Doctor Noriega’s shift ended. He arrived home, and now he kisses his little girl, the memory of the other little girl lingering.

Tomorrow, Doctor Noriega will not go to work. He will fix his tie, and he will grab the newspaper in an attempt to read while he eats his breakfast. At that moment his desire to go to work will vanish; he will have no strength to walk or to talk with anyone. This will happen after he sees, on the front page of the newspaper, the story about a burglar who shot a little girl yesterday, and who was hurt, too, while escaping, but was luckier than his little victim.

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