The Devil’s Rosebush

The Devil’s Rosebush
(El rosal del diablo)
by Pedro Escamilla

– I –

If we are to credit old legends and local traditions, Germany is one of the countries the devil visits most.

This is not to attack the goodness of its inhabitants; the Spirit of Darkness no doubt has his preferences, which we need to respect.

Indeed, there’s hardly a German legend without the devil playing the protagonist. And it’s said that this is a country that holds to its traditions.

In some legends, he’s seen acting out a comedy with humble mountain people; at other times, an epic romance with the inhabitants of ancient castles.

The devil is everywhere.

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The Devil’s Catch

The Devil’s Catch
(La pesca del diablo)
by Pedro Escamilla

I

Gil was rightly considered one of the unluckiest fishermen on the entire Cantibrian coast. No one knew the cause of the misfortune that kept him imprisoned in its nets, since he was quite able to discern and appreciate the difference between an oyster and a turbot.

The silvery scales of the sardines, the speckled trout, the barbel and the slender elusive eels fled from his tasty bait and well constructed nets, only to break the nets of his companions with their weight. Gil gave himself over to all the devils known in the incantations of the Church, on seeing that while the novice fishermen were flush with money and enjoying themselves in the taverns of the port, he had hardly enough to buy the brown and bitter bread of the desperate, and to repair all the damage to his boat, which was always one of those that suffered the most in every storm.

It’s true that he had never once drowned, which perhaps would have been a blessing that would have saved him much sorrow.

This situation had a deplorable effect on his self-esteem: namely, that having reached the age of thirty there wasn’t a single young woman in the village who would accept his affection under such conditions, because then, as now, a fisherman was only worth as much as the fish that he caught.

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Lucifer

Lucifer
by Pedro Escamilla

I

There was in the village of … a poor young man named Antero, who was about to wed Marcelina, one of the comeliest girls in the region.

The event–I speak of the marriage–was taking place against the wishes of Auntie Ursula, a sort of village witch; for until quite recently all remote villages and sparsely inhabited neighborhoods enjoyed the odd privilege of a resident witch.

Auntie Ursula didn’t tell fortunes, or predict the future, or even give the evil eye. Yet she was considered a witch; everyone in the village thought so, because (and this is serious) she couldn’t remain in the church “while the missal was open,” an ailment peculiar to those caught in the flagrant offense of witchcraft.

Why did Marcelina and Antero’s wedding displease the good old woman? Who knows?

“Look,” Auntie Ursula would say when speaking to anyone about the matter, “that marriage, which seems so auspicious, will bring unhappiness to both parties. Marcelina, who is blonde, has a mole with black hair on the upper part of her throat; this is a contradiction, for in general the color of a person’s mole tends to match their hair color. And besides, Antero was promised to Lucifer by his mother; I know for a fact that she made this desperate vow so she could have a son. A marriage that takes place under such strange circumstances can’t have anything but a disastrous end.”

The vow by Antero’s mother was hypothetical; nobody except Auntie Ursula knew a word about it. As for the mole, that was true, but until then no one had ever noticed that blondes with black moles were doomed to misfortune.

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