Three ultrashort stories by Virgilio Piñera
For originals, see Appendix of: Virgilio Piñera, Cuentista
by Dolores M. Koch
Translations by Daniel W. Koon
The man goes to bed early. He cannot sleep. Naturally he tosses and turns in bed. He gets tangled up in the sheets. He lights a cigarette. He reads a little. He turns out the light again. But he cannot sleep. At three in the morning he gets up. He wakes his friend by his side and confides in him that he cannot sleep. He asks for advice. The friend suggests he take a short walk to tire himself out a little. That he then drink a cup of linden tea and turn out the light. He does all these things but he still cannot manage to fall asleep. He gets up once more. This time he goes to the doctor. As usual, the doctor has a lot to say, but the man does not fall asleep. At six in the morning he loads his revolver and lifts it to his forehead. The man is dead but he still has not been able to doze off. Insomnia is a very persistent condition.
THE MOUNTAIN 
The mountain is three thousand feet tall. I have decided to eat it, bit by bit. It is a mountain like any other: vegetation, rocks, soil, animals and even humans beings that walk up and down its slopes. Every morning I throw myself upon it and start chewing on the first thing that crosses my path. I spend several hours at this. I return home with my body exhausted and my jaws distended. After a brief rest I sit in the doorway and gaze into the blue distance. If I told my neighbor about it he would surely laugh himself silly and take me for a madman. But being aware of what I am doing, I can very clearly see the mountain losing both heft and height. Soon they will be blaming geological disturbances. And that’s my tragedy: nobody will want to admit that it was I who was the devourer of the three-thousand-foot-tall mountain.
I have learned to swim on dry land. It turns out to be better than doing it in the water. There is no fear of sinking because you are already at the bottom, and by the same logic, you are already drowned beforehand. You also avoid having to be fished out by the light of a lantern or in the dazzling light of a beautiful day. Finally, the absence of water keeps your body from swelling up.
I am not going to deny that swimming on dry land resembles the agony of dying. At first glimpse one would imagine that you are in the throes of death. Still, it is quite different: at the same time that you are fighting off death you are quite alive, quite alert, hearing the music that comes in through the windows and watching the worm that is crawling along the ground.
At first my friends disapproved of my choice. They evaded my glance and cried secretly. Fortunately, that crisis has passed. Now they know that I feel comfortable swimming on dry land. Occasionally I dip my hands into the marble tiles and hand them a tiny fish which I have trapped in the underwater depths.
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