The Idol

The Idol
by Fanny Carrión de Fierro

Translated by Donald N. Flemming


It all began, Dr., when my brother took it into his head to take the kids to the Central Bank’s Museum. As you know, besides painting, he teaches drawing classes in a high school here in this neighborhood. That gives him enough income to keep his head above water until he manages to sell one or another of his paintings.


Well, as I told you, he began to be obsessed by a few clay bottles which, or so he told me, were made thousands of years ago by a group of coastal Indians who for some reason that’s beyond me are called the Chorrera people. Perhaps it’s because in the Daule River, near to where it is said they lived, there was gushing water.


My brother used to tell me that the most captivating of the bottles they made are in the museum and that they have the shape of animals or fruits or birds and things like that. I suspect that the reason he took the kids to the museum as not so much so that they could make drawings of the figurines but rather because he was already obsessed with the figurines themselves.


It isn’t true, Dr., as the gossip-mongers have implied, that it was marijuana that brought on this insane behavior.


I admit that I am uninformed and therefore clueless about doctors and crazy people, but I can tell you that my brother was already quite flipped out before he began to get stoned.  In short, as far as the pot goes, I believe it was something akin to a symptom. What do you think? Besides, he didn’t smoke it a lot. It’s not easy to get hold of pot, and it’s not as cheap as the cops seem to believe. You ask how he got it? Well, at times he bought it in Alameda Park, or on Amazonas Avenue. Other times a Colombian guy came right here to the boarding house and conducted business.


No, Dr., I never had any desire to try it — not because I was afraid of the cops because even when they catch you, they don’t do anything or after you give them a little squeeze of the hand with a ten dollar bill inside, they send you home without batting an eyelash — but rather because I have never been fond of experimenting. In that regard I’m like Daddy who was a practical man, not like my brother who was wild and uptight just like my Mom, may she rest in peace.


I work at the factory, for example, and I’ve completed my tenth year there. You see I began to work as a seventeen-year old teenage. In contrast, hardly a year has gone by when my brother hasn’t quit his job, so that he can spend his time wandering around like a hobo. Last year he travelled all over Colombia, and I think he got as far away as Panama.


But as I was telling you, my brother’s craziness began with his obsession for those little clay figurines in the museum. For some time he was totally consumed by his obsession. He spent his days glued to the glass case containing the exhibit of the artifacts of the Chorrera culture.

There were times when I had to go and drag him out of there forcefully so he would go to teach his classes. You know, I was embarrassed when they kept calling him from the school all day long, and since he wasn’t at home, they ended up yelling at me!


The museum gard knows me well. He told me that one time he had to really get tough because my brother was insisting that they let him take the figurines out of the case so that he could blow on them like whistles and listen to the sounds that each made. Did you know that each one makes the sound of the animal or bird which it represents? Just imagine!


In my opinion, those Chorrera Indians were pretty sharp. I mean just look at the complexity of the figurines! Well, even so, it’s a long way from that to believing, as my brother got it into his head to do, that the bottles are magic and that they have captured the spirit of the creatures they represent so that the poor animal remains a prisoner of the owner of the bottle. At least that’s more or less what my brother read in one of those way-out science books which are on the market these days. To me this seems like little more than witchcraft.


The thing is that the poor guy, who has always been very superstitious and has always tried to protect himself from bad luck by using all kinds of medals and amulets, became convinced that he had to get a hold of the figurine of the jaguar because in that strange book I mentioned he had read that some animals, like snakes and jaguars, are sacred objects, sort of like idols which protect their owner by giving him, you might say, immortality or at least long and happy life.


It’s not that he wanted to steal the figurine to sell as the gossip-mongers have implied. No, Dr., my brother and I have always been poor, very poor. You see we were orphaned at a very young age. Of course, we have done lots of things to survive, but we are not thieves. No, sir! We even dealt in contraband for a while, but we are not thieves, Dr.


Well, you know the rest. What a shame! My poor brother became convinced that some enemy of his, in order to do him dirt, blew on the figurine of the jaguar to release the spirit that was trapped inside which from then on has been pursuing my brother in order destroy him. You see, he thinks that because he stole the figurine from the museum, he is now the spirit’s owner.


Ay, my good Dr. , God’s sake do something! It’s going on three days that my brother does not nothing but eat, sleep and roar like a jaguar.


Here’s the figurine, Dr. I found it in my brother’s bureau where he had it hidden. You can see I’m returning it in mint condition. But you know I’m thinking it won’t cost us anything to give it a try. Don’t you agree? Don’t you think we should blow on it to see if in that way the evil spirit will leave my poor brother alone?