English translation of “Los Chicos” by Ana Maria Matute
(anything in  are my notes, not part of the story. [?] means i’m not sure if the word/phrase that comes before is translated correctly.)
They were only five or six, but like that, in a group, coming along the road, they appeared to us like fifteen or twenty. They arrived almost always in the late hours of the afternoon, when the sun fell the full length against the dust and the gravel of the old road, where no cars or trucks, nor vehicles of any kind yet circulated. They arrived in a cloud of dust, which they raised with their feet, like the hooves of horses. We saw them arrive, and our hearts barked at us to hurry. Someone, in a low voice, said: “The boys are coming…!” In general, we hid ourselves to throw rocks or we fled.
Because we feared the boys like the devil. In reality, they were one of the thousand forms of the devil, to our understanding. The boys, ragged and evil, with dark eyes that shone like the heads of black pins. The boys, barefoot and calloused, that threw rocks with a large reach, with great aim, with blows drier and stronger than ours. Those that spoke a difficult, unknown language of words like the cracks of a whip, whose laughter was like the spattering of mud. At home we had been completely prohibited from establishing any relationships with those boys. In reality, we were prohibited from leaving the meadow under any circumstances. (Although there was nothing as tempting, to our eyes, as jumping the wall of stones and going down to the river, that, on the other side, fled green and gold, between the rushes and black poplars.) Farther over there, passed the old road, where they arrived almost always those distinct, prohibited boys.
The boys lived in the surroundings of the penitentiary. They were the sons of the prisoners of the penitentiary, who redeemed their pains in the work of the marsh. Between their mothers and them, they had constructed a strange village of shacks and caves, back-to-back with the rocks, because they could not pay the lodging in the village, where, on the other hand, they were unwanted. “Riffraff, thieves, assassins…” said the people of the place. No one would have rented them a room. And they had to be there. Those women and those children followed their prisoners, because in that manner they lived of the wages that the sufferers earned for their work.
To us, the boys were terror. They insulted us, they stoned us, undid our stone gardens and our toys, if they pillaged by hand. We saw them as beings of another race, half monkeys, and half devils. Just seeing them a great tremble came to us, although we wanted to disguise it.
The oldest son of the administrator was a kid of some thirteen years, tall and robust, that studied in secondary school in the city. That summer he returned home for vacation, and after the first day he captained our games. His name was Efren and he had some red fists, heavy like war clubs that imposed great respect. As he was much older than us, audacious and a braggart, we followed him wherever he wanted.
The first day that they appeared, the boys of the shacks, in a mad rush, with their cloud of dust, Efren was surprised that we threw ourselves to running and jumping the wall in search of refuge.
“You are cowards,” he told us. “They are small!”
There was no way to convince him that they were another thing: that they were something like the spirit of evil.
“Foolishness,” he said. And he smiled in a twisted and particular manner that filled us with admiration.
The next day, when it was the time of the siesta, Efren hid himself among the rushes of the river. We waited, hidden behind the wall, with our hearts in our throats. Something was in the air that filled us with terror. (I remember that I bit the chain of my medal and that it felt on my tongue a rare, cold pleasure of metal and that I heard the crisp song of the cicadas among the grass of the meadow.) Thrown on the ground, my heart beat against the earth.
When they arrived, the boys scrutinized the river, to see if we were searching for frogs, like we used to. And to provoke us they began to whistle and laugh the way they always did, opaque and humiliating. That was their game: call us, knowing that we would not appear. We remained hidden and silent. At last, the boys abandoned their idea and returned to the road, climbing the embankment above. We were gasping and surprised, but we didn’t know that which Efren wanted to do.
My older brother got up to lock through the rocks and we copied him. We saw then Efren slithering through the rushes like a giant snake. Stealthily he climbed up the embankment, where the last of the boys went up, and he threw himself on top.
With surprise, the boy was left trapped. The others had already arrived at the road and grabbed rocks, yelling. I felt a great tremble in my knees and I bit hard on the medal. But Efren was not left intimidated. He was much older and stronger that that dark, little devil that he restrained in his arms, and he began to run, dragging his prisoner to the refuge of the meadow, where we waited. The stones fell around him and in the river, splashing water burnt that hour. But Efren jumped agilely over the stepping stones, and dragging the boy, that twisted furiously, he opened the fence and entered with him in the meadow. At seeing him lost, the boys of the road turned halfway and began to run, like young rabbits, to their shacks.
Only thinking that Efren brought one of those furies, I was sure that my brothers felt the same terror as I did. We got close to the wall, with our backs stuck to it, and a great coldness rose to our throats.
Efren dragged the boy some meters, in front of us. The boy struggled desperately and tried to bite the legs, but Efren raised his enormous, red fist and began to hit the face, the head, and the back. Time and time again, Efren’s fist fell, with a dull sound. The sun shone thick and big, over the grass and the earth. There was a great silence. We only heard the panting of the boy, the blows of Efren and the sound of the river, sweet and fresh, indifferent to our backs. The song of the cicadas seemed to have stopped. Like all the voices.
Efren passed much time hitting the boy with his great fist. The boy, bit by bit, was giving in. At last, he fell to the floor on his knees, with his hands supported in the grass. He had dark meat [? skin], the color of a dirty floor, and very long hair, of mixed blonde with black veins, as if burn by the sun. He said nothing, and stayed there on his knees. Later, he fell against the grass, but lifted his head, to not completely faint. My older brother approached slowly, and later us.
It seemed a lie how small and thin he was. “On the road they seemed much taller,” I thought. Efren was on his feet by his [the boy’s] side, with his large, solid feet separated, feet covered with thick boots of suede. How enormous and brutal Efren seemed in that moment!
“Have you had enough?” He said in a very low voice, smiling. His teeth, with prominent eye teeth, shone in the sun. “Take, take…”
He gave him a kick in the back. My older brother retreated a step and was on top of me. But I couldn’t move: I was like nailed to the ground. The boy raised his hand to his nose. He bled, I didn’t know if it was from his mouth or where.
Efren watched us.
“Let’s go,” he said. “He has already gotten his.” [Note: he has gotten what he deserves]
And he kicked him again.
“Get lost, you pig! Get lost now!”
Efren turned, big and heavy, slowly, towards the house. Very sure that we would follow.
My brothers, as if reluctant, as if scared, obeyed him. Only I couldn’t move, I couldn’t, from the side of the boy. Suddenly, something rare occurred inside me. The boy was there, trying to get up, coughing. He did not cry. He had very intoxicated eyes, and his nose, wide and squashed, vibrated oddly. He was stained with blood. From his chin fell blood, that soaked his rags and the grass. Suddenly he looked at me. And I saw his eyes of round pupils, that were not black but of a pale topaz color, transparent, where the sun fell they became gold. I lowered mine, full of a painful shame.
The boy got on his feed, slowly. He had hurt a leg, when Efren dragged him, because he limped toward the embankment. I did not dare to watch his back, blackish and undressed between the rips. I wanted to cry, I did not know exactly why. I only knew to say to myself: “He was only a child. He was no more than a child, just like any other.”