One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 10


   Jos?Arcadio Segundo, in the meantime, had satisfied his wish to see a shooting. For the rest of his life he would remember the livid flash of the six simultaneous shots-and the echo of the discharge as it broke against the hills and the sad smile and perplexed eyes of the man being shot, who stood erect while his shirt became soaked with blood, and who was still smiling even when they untied him from the post and put him in a box filled with quicklime. “He’s alive,?he thought. “They’re going to bury him alive.?It made such an impression on him that from then on he detested military practices and war, not because of the executions but because of the horrifying custom of burying the victims alive. No one knew then exactly when he began to ring the bells in the church tower and assist Father Antonio Isabel, the successor to “The Pup,?at mass, and take can of the fighting cocks in the courtyard of the parish house. When Colonel Gerineldo Márquez found out he scolded him strongly for learning occupations repudiated by the Liberals. “The fact is,?he answered, “I think I’ve turned out to be a Conservative.?He believed it as if it had been determined by fate. Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, scandalized, told ?rsula about it.
   “It’s better that way,?she approved. “Let’s hope that he becomes a priest so that God will finally come into this house.?
   It was soon discovered that Father Antonio Isabel was preparing him for his first communion. He was teaching him the catechism as he shaved the necks of his roosters. He explained to him with simple examples, as he put the brooding hens into their nests, how it had occurred to God on the second day of creation that chickens would be formed inside of an egg. From that time on the parish priest began to show the signs of senility that would lead him to say years later that the devil had probably won his rebellion against God, and that he was the one who sat on the heavenly throne, without revealing his true identity in order to trap the unwary. Warmed up by the persistence of his mentor, in a few months Jos?Arcadio Segundo came to be as adept in theological tricks used to confuse the devil as he was skilled in the tricks of the cockpit. Amaranta made him a linen suit with a collar and tie, bought him a pair of white shoes, and engraved his name in gilt letters on the ribbon of the candle. Two nights before the first communion, Father Antonio Isabel closeted himself with him in the sacristy to hear his confession with the help of a dictionary of sins. It was such a long list that the aged priest, used to going to bed at six o’clock, fell asleep in his chair before it was over. The interrogation was a revelation for Jos?Arcadio Segundo. It did not surprise him that the priest asked him if he had done bad things with women, and he honestly answered no, but he was upset with the question as to whether he had done them with animals. The first Friday in May he received communion, tortured by curiosity. Later on he asked Petronio, the sickly sexton who lived in the belfry and who, according to what they said, fed himself on bats, about it, and Petronio, answered him: “There are some corrupt Christians who do their business with female donkeys.?Jos?Arcadio Segundo still showed so much curiosity and asked so many questions that Petronio lost his patience.