The Chance


The Chance

Automatic traslation from the original story in Spanish. Not checked manually

The shutter, rocked by the gusts of wind, hit the window pane tirelessly. He had been doing it for a long time and no one seemed to notice it… Well, no one would be exact either.

The city, still sleepy and impassive, lay at the feet of that endless pounding that the shutter was providing relentlessly.

The few passers-by who wandered through the streets, even more sleepy than the city itself, were either indifferent to it or simply did not hear that incessant beating.

Alone, among cardboard boxes, a homeless man had noticed it. That endless pounding over the last few hours had managed to disturb his drunken sleep.

Finally, pretty pissed off about it, he got up and felt an overwhelming desire to report it to the police. He directed his steps to the nearby police station, the one where he had been a guest so many times…

Just then, a flash of lucidity crossed his mind and he stopped his impulsive pacing abruptly. He had realized that, by going there, it was most likely that he would end up staying in that place again, without eating or drinking it.

Then he retraced his steps and returned to his corrugated cardboard pallet. He lay down again protecting his rest, with the makeshift cardboard walls that he neatly repositioned. And he groped the hard ground with his hand, until he found his inseparable Tetra Brik.

He took a long drink and settled back. Hopefully this swallowing would numb him to the unpleasant pounding or perhaps the wind would stop bothering him.

After a while, only the snores that emanated from that improvised cardboard hotel, altered for an instant, the impassivity of the hurried passers-by who, each time in greater numbers, swarmed through the already deserted streets of Morningside Heights, almost where they were. Circumstantially, it is twinned with Harlem.

Meanwhile, in another hidden spot in the Bronx, someone who didn’t know where he was, turned restlessly in the gloomy little basement where someone had confined him.

He had been there for two long days, his eyes had already gotten used to the gloom of that merciless place, where he barely had space to lie down on the hard ground.

After he tries to remember everything that happened… He had gone down to the street at night to throw out the garbage, it was a little later than usual and he had the bad luck of witnessing something he shouldn’t have seen. An instant later a strong blow, probably from the butt of a pistol, knocked him unconscious.

Though he hadn’t seen anyone’s face, he caught a glimpse of a tall, burly guy snapping the neck of a man in expensive clothes… Then the butt-slam and the darkness.

Suddenly he thought he heard a voice, he paid attention to the voice of his jailer who said: “I have to talk to the boss.” I need you to tell me what to do with the guy I captured two days ago.

A few moments of silence and he continued: —No, don’t tell me to do what I want! I want him to tell me. I don’t want any more problems.

Another silence, this time a little longer, and he continued: —Yes, I know he’s out. He’s been out since before we took out the jerk that was following him. He left to have an alibi, but he should have been back by now…

He had already realized that the guy was talking on the phone and that his life was hanging by a thread, when he heard his voice again: —How come you haven’t told him about this yet? Tell him the damn time! I can’t last forever here! Unless he calls me, there’s no need for me to come back…! —His voice trails off for a moment and he continues —Okay, I hope he calls me tomorrow, now I’m going to order a pizza and something to drink to give to that poor asshole I have locked up. I don’t mind killing him, but I don’t feel like starving him at all.


Ralph, in his lockdown, tries to collect his thoughts. If he can’t find a way out, he’s dead… He strains to try to remember, then hammering…a carpenter comes to mind, but he can’t quite come up with it.

While he continues to rack his brains, Rocky, his jailer, is also reminiscing about his last run-ins with the boss. Blame for these clashes, he hasn’t killed this wretch and, to top it off, he’ll have to buy him a pizza and then anyone asks the boss for pasta.

In his last job, he gave birth to him, the nicest thing he told him was that he was useless, totally because when he shot a guy who had to charge, he also shot an aunt who was passing by . It turned out that the cunt, although distant, was the mayor’s family and of course they turned everything upside down to find out who had done it…

The boss, I must admit, moved heaven and earth to make all the evidence disappear that, even if it had not been of much use, could have given me away, but the truth is that I think he did not do it for me, he simply thought that I could be also a loose end and that would end up screwing him too.

Of course, the anger was monumental, he told me that I was useless, that I was completely useless, that I wouldn’t stop screwing up and that, if I failed again in any assignment, he would give me some cement shoes.

She puts her musings aside and picks up the phone and calls Pizza Hut: “Good morning, please send me a Four Cheese.” —After listening to the employee, continue —Yes, send her to 60 Jerome Avenue, fourth floor, door C… Yes, exactly very close to Yankee Stadium.

Ralph has been paying attention to what he was saying on the phone and thinks this is possibly his last chance to try something. He has realized that he is not in a basement, that means that, possibly, the small crack of light that can be seen on the wall is not a reflection on the other side of the door…

“And if it were a window?” He, he whispers to himself, “This would justify the hammering of the carpenter from my dream.”

He instinctively approaches the light that penetrates through the tiny fissure and feels the area with his right hand… and in a low voice he blurts out: —Damn those are boards nailed to a window frame! That bastard blinded her so he couldn’t know where he was or call for help!

Shortly after he has already counted that there are eight boards that he has used to blind the window, each one of them fastened with three nails on each side…

Now his mind lights up and he realizes that in a semi-conscious state he saw the knave nailing them. He used some pretty long nails, maybe three or four inches. He spent a long time hammering without ceasing. Then he remembers that he seemed to see that he used a pack of nails from the Drugstore, they usually contain fifty… six by eight boards is forty-eight nails… 48 nails, I need the carpenter of my distorted vision…

He had two nails left over, I don’t remember seeing him take them away, when he left here I only saw him take the hammer… In a state of desperation, he runs his hands on all fours across the floor of the room… He can’t find them… he’ll try again …Suddenly the doorbell rings…

-Who is he? asks the criminal…

“Pizza Hut” is heard over the intercom.

Ralph realizes that there is no need to look any further. If he gives you the pizza, he will ask you to please turn on the light, at least while he eats. So, he can scan the room looking for the nails.

The doorbell is heard. Then the creaking of the hinges when it was opened.

“Here you are, sir,” says the delivery man.

“Here, boy,” Rocky says, giving him the money, “keep the change.”

The door is heard closing.

Just as Ralph had predicted after a moment, he opens the bedroom door and sees the guy wearing a ski mask, pizza and a bottle of water in his hands, in the doorjamb.

I’ll leave you pizza here. Him,” he snaps, closing the door again.

“Please, turn on the light for me, even if it’s while I’m eating…” Ralph implores, “this is very dirty and I’d like to see what I put in my mouth.”

—All right, I’ll leave it on for a quarter of an hour and then I’ll close it…

—If possible, when you come to turn it off, bring me a bucket or someplace where she can shit, I can’t take it anymore… until now I’ve peed on the wall.

-Fuck! I hadn’t anticipated it! He nods, puzzled. He closes the door and hits the switch. A dim light illuminates the room…

Quickly, Ralph, scrutinizing the corners and, just in the left corner of the window wall, he sees the crumpled Kraft paper, which had undoubtedly contained all the nails, he rushes over and, eureka! there are the two leftover nails.

As he had foreseen, they are about four inches long, it is almost impossible to use them as a dagger. He wonders how he could use them…

-That’s it! —He says to himself mentally —I’ll put them between my middle and ring fingers and with a closed fist, I’ll use them like Wolverine. And he tries putting one in each hand and thinks it will work, but maybe hitting that criminal’s neck might hurt his palm with the head of the nail.”

He tears off a few pieces of pizza and puts them in the palm of his hand to protect him from the impact of the head of the nail. And he tries to press the tip of the nail on the wall and sees that yes, it will be effective and it does not make it difficult for him to hold them well.

Eight or ten minutes have already passed and he must think of the strategy that will allow him to succeed. He trusts that he will turn off the light before opening the door to make it more difficult for her to recognize him. He, in turn, will wait for you located right on the side where he swings the door. When the guy comes in to drop off the bucket, he will pounce on him and drive the nails into his neck.

Praying that everything goes according to plan, he stands in the chosen place waiting for the arrival of the criminal. He does it with his eyes closed to get them used to the dark.

After a few endless minutes, the light goes out and the lock on the door opens. Ralph opens his eyes and just as Rocky walks in, he lunges at his neck and with incredible precision drives the spikes into his neck, piercing both carotids.

The guy shouts or as his blood begins to gush out and with his hands placed one on each side of his neck, he falls to the ground like a sack, where he continues to bleed out like a pig.

Ralph storms out of the room. His first impulse is to flee, but he prevails over his sanity and decides that he must first erase any vestige of his presence there. He has all the time in the world.

After about four hours he has cleaned everything with the bleach that he has found. His traces will have disappeared from the room. He has changed his bloodstained shirt for one he found in a closet. He has put his stained one in a garbage bag that he will take to his house.

Shortly after, filled with joy for having saved his life, he ventures into the streets of the Bronx, to go find the 167th Street Subway, then the M4 Bus to return to his house. It’s Sunday and, perhaps out of shock, he’s in no rush.

About forty minutes later he is in front of the dilapidated building in which he lives and feels the gusts of wind in his face… he thinks he hears the sound of a shutter hitting a window.

For the first time in his life, he is aware of the presence of the homeless man who begins to prepare his cardboard home and despite what has happened, he feels lucky… Also, the next day he will go to his dental clinic as usual.

Nobody has to know anything about these two fateful days. For a moment he feels a certain surprise at not feeling any kind of emotion for having killed that guy and he says to himself: —It was him or me…

He enters the portal of the building, crosses it and goes to the elevator and presses the button. Once in front of the door of his apartment, he thinks: “48th floor, 24th door, I didn’t think I would can to come back here again… I’m lucky, I already saw myself as dead.”

He takes a very hot shower and decides to lie down… the truth is that everything he has experienced has taken away his appetite. “Tomorrow will be another day,” he says to himself, then he hears the sound of the shutter moving in the wind and closing it.

The next day, after breakfast, he goes to his clinic, he arrives on time, although his secretary and his collaborator John are already there.

—His first patient of his is already in the waiting room.

“Thanks Liz, now I’ll let you in.”

He walks into his office, puts on his gown, and prepares to call the patient. He approaches the door and hears him talking on the phone. And he decides to wait for her to finish to call him… and accidentally hears what he’s saying: —How come you don’t know anything about Rocky? He can’t have been swallowed by the earth! You’ll tell me what the hell he does with a guy withheld! He must have loaded it by now! It’s almost better that he doesn’t show up and if he does get rid of him! This useless has me up to the balls!

Ralph takes off his gown, walks out into the waiting room, and says to the patient, “You’ll be seen now, I’m done.” He leaves the waiting room and approaches the secretary and in a low voice says to her: —Suddenly I felt very bad, tell John, that he takes care of him.

He goes out into the street excited, determined to celebrate it, chance has made him know that there is no danger, that he can rest easy… No one is going to look for him… He will take the day off to celebrate. He goes to his house, but not before giving the homeless a 100-dollar bill, who thinks: “today is my lucky day… on top of that, the shutter doesn’t stick in the ass anymore.”

The Chance – Short stories series – Copyright ©Montserrat Valls and Juan Genovés

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