Blanca Elena Paz: Variation in Circle

(Translated from Spanish by M.J. Fievre)


He tried, in vain, to recognize the face of the man holding the rifle.

He shook his head. His heart raced as he sat on the bed. He was relieved to realize it had only been a nightmare.

A beam of light filtered through the doorway, illuminating the objects around him, including the rifle hanging from a nail above the bed. In the other bed, the stranger slept peacefully.

Trying not to make any noise, he got up to drink some water. He returned to bed, unease robbing him of sleep. He considered reading. He sighed: He could not turn on the bedside light; it was sure to wake up the gringo.  What was his name again? Right this minute, he couldn’t remember.

He thought about Nina—how she’d unapprovingly eyed the stranger as he approached in the park. “Here comes trouble. In dirty clothes and unkempt hair.”

After Nina had left, the stranger had asked for a cigarette. He’d given it to him and they both sat. The stranger said his name was James and that he’d just arrived in town. He shared the purpose of his trip, asked for the closest public shelter: he needed a bed for the night but had no money: On the train he’d been stripped of all his documents and cash.

After looking closely at the gringo, he had offered him hospitality. After all, why not? He had an empty bed. What was a night?

But now, he wondered.

After dinner and a bath, James went to bed and fell asleep almost immediately—or so it seemed.

“Maybe Nina was right, and this man is vicious,” he thought. “In this case, I know what to do.”

But the stranger, apparently asleep, snored softly.

Unable to resist, he rose and went through the man’s backpack. He smiled at his own eagerness to discover some new mystery and feel some new sensation. James had told him he belonged to the editorial staff of a major magazine. He said that, early in the morning, he’d go to the embassy to solve his problem. Without a passport, he had to register his entry.

The sudden silence gave him the creeps. He raised his head: no more sound came from the other bed. Surely the stranger was awake. Had he ever been asleep? Was he waiting for the appropriate moment to hurt him? Maybe steal from him, or even kill him? Yes, kill him. The stranger was going to kill him: there was no more doubt about it: he’d seen it in his dreams.

When the stranger awoke, he stared at his host, unable to comprehend why he held a shotgun. Unable to comprehend why he pulled the trigger.


Blanca Elena Paz is a writer from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

Blanca Elena Paz

Blanca Elena Paz


  1. […] Blanca Elena Paz: Variation in Circle […]

  2. […] by Maximiliano Barrientos, Magela Baudoin, Homero Carvalho, Liliana Colanzi, Saúl Montaño, Blanca Elena Paz, Giovanna Rivero, and Alejandro Suárez Castro. Nonfiction by Betty Jo Buro and Kaori Fujimoto. […]

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