By Pedro Mairal
Translated by Joanna Richardson


As the Sabrina Love Show had not yet started, Daniel zapped his way up and down the sixty channels of the illegally connected cable TV, letting the images flash past him. A newsreader, the bottom of the sea, some giraffes, a car chase, Venezuelan women talking, volcanic lava, the motorways at dawn in Spain, a man looking terrified, hands decorating a cake. Let us see th. You’ll never be able. Le plus belle du mon. Solute disaster. Allóra il vècchio. A great cut. The plains of. Stop it, Laura. A single story at full speed where the sun from the weather map shone on the documentary about lions in Kenya that were showing their teeth in exactly the same position as the American couple on the porn channel who were also showing their teeth and closing their eyes as though they wanted to forget the picture on the news of those Iraqis who were pointing their machine guns at the Argentinian goalie who fell to his knees and raised his arms because he knew he would be shot and saw his whole life in an instant starting with the cartoons he used to watch as a kid. A never-ending story that Daniel tried to speed up as though he could shorten the time until Sabrina Love’s programme. He only lingered over a couple kissing as they undressed in the blue shadow of a B movie, hoping to postpone the shot of the fireplace melting into the front of the building the next day where the actress was making a great effort to pull the sheets up to her neck.

The light from the television made the room look big, then small, then big again, it even gave the naked women in the posters on the walls strange expressions. The posters were all wrinkled and damp from the rains that had broken the banks of the Paraná River flooding the provincial highway that linked the city of Curuguazú with Buenos Aires. The heat of the night was like the breath of an immense animal. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Daniel swatted mosquitoes and switched channels pressing the buttons of the decoder with a knitting needle. When he got stuck into some programme he buzzed the knitting needle in the air like a pendulum, without looking away from the screen. In his other hand he held a piece of paper with a number on it: 2756. From time to time he stopped at the adult channel. Now two women were licking each other for ages by a swimming pool. He had seen this one before. There were still two more sex scenes to come, not to mention the dialogues in between and then, finally the Sabrina Love Show.
He left the room and locked the door with a key he kept in his pocket. He crossed the dark yard with his gangly teenage walk, as though his skeleton were two sizes too big. He could hear the dogs on the block barking in the hot darkness. He went into the kitchen, opened the fridge and held it open, feeling the cold, looking at the jars and the leftovers. He took out nothing more than a bottle of water and closed the fridge. Then he heard the short steps of his grandmother and the two-step of her Zimmer frame.
‘Daniel dear, is that you?’
‘Yes, Granny.’
‘What are you doing up so late?’
‘I was thirsty.’
In the shadow he saw her come slowly forward, with her bent over body and skinny arms that still had just enough strength to move the Zimmer frame.
‘D’you want me to get you something to eat?
No, Granny, I’ve got to go back to sleep.’ He said taking big gulps of water.
‘Are you working tomorrow?’
‘Yes, in a couple of hours, at five.’
‘Well, Daniel, you’re such a night owl, always up. Your mother used to say that you were born…’
‘…with my eyes open.’
‘Yes, with your eyes open. Try to sleep a little,’ she said and brushed his fringe to the side affectionately.
Daniel did not shrug her off, but said a hasty ‘good night’ and hurried back into the yard.
‘Daniel, dear, your sister’s coming to clean tomorrow afternoon, don’t lock your door.’
Daniel went back into his room and bolted the door from the inside.
He sat down on the edge of the bed. The Sabrina Love Show was about to start. The introduction, with bubbly music, gave a potpourri of different images of her in special get ups to satisfy the most diverse erotic fantasies. She was a tall blonde with hair like an electrocuted Danish woman, red lips bursting out of her face, generous breasts and wide hips that made her look like a voluptuous mare enjoying the sun when she lay down on the bed. Today she was hosting her programme from the Jacuzzi. Her guest tonight was the sex-symbol actor of the moment. She invited him to get in with her for an interview which would make him thoroughly uncomfortable with all sorts of innuendoes, outrageous reports from porn shops, sexologists giving their opinions, fragments of her in different porn films, answers to her mail with useful advice for the bedroom, all done in a tone of matchless innocence and cheer. “And now, my darling mammals,” she would say, pressing her breasts together with the her forearms, “Let’s get down to the business everyone is waiting for: the raffle to see who will spend one night here with me at the Keops hotel, just the two of us alone with the heat of our passion.” Then she crawled, in a suspender belt and black corset, over a mountain of pieces of papers that overflowed from a gigantic acrylic tank. “How many men …,” she said as she stirred the papers up, “ and from what they say in Production, women too, so this could be a surprise.” Daniel looked at his number.
He had rung a month ago when he had first managed to see her programme, after carrying out a clandestine operation. It had all started the afternoon he had gone up onto the terrace to fix the antenna for the local TV station and had seen a new blue cable on the neighbour’s wall going into the house next door : it was the cable TV that had only just arrived from Buenos Aires. Not many people in Curuguazú had it. That dawn he made an illegal connection with a coaxial cable and took it down to his room. All he needed now was a television set. He could not take his grandmother’s set, as it would deprive her of her only means of entertainment. He went to see Old Carboni who was well known for selling goods that had fallen off the back of a lorry. Near the allotments, in a warehouse full of old bits of cars and used household appliances, he bought a television with a loose tube and a decoder for half his pay packet.
‘Just tighten this up a bit, connect these couple of wires inside and Bob’s your uncle. The decoder’s almost new. There’s no remote control, though’.
‘Can I really watch all the channels with this? asked Daniel, with the set in his arms.
‘Yeah, you can watch the porn channel too,’ said Old Carboni. He sent him off, closed the warehouse door and outside on the dirt track Daniel heard him yell out mockingly:
‘You’ll go blind, kiddo!’
But he knew that wasn’t true. That afternoon he fixed the television set, took the decoder apart to see how it worked and put it back together again. That night, with everything plugged in, once he had recovered from the initial shock of the images on the adult channel, he realized that he would no longer need to feel ashamed about buying dirty magazines at the bus station newsagent, with photos of women that needed his imagination to make them move. From now on a continuous erotic current would bring all those bodies in all their positions, panting direct to his room, and he gave himself up happily to a summer orgy of masturbation which, far from making him go blind, for the first time made him see the most hidden secrets of his existence.
When he saw the Sabrina Love programme and heard about the competition, he rang the 0600 number on the screen and, after leaving his details, a recorded voice dictated the number he now held in his slightly trembling hand. He watched as Sabrina Love mixed up the pile of papers and said, “It’s a pity I can’t satisfy you all, my darlings. Now I’m going to ask the boys in Production to throw the papers in the air and the one that falls into my cleavage is the winner.” Two muscled guys helped her up and began throwing great handfuls of papers into the air that fell on her like a storm, while she wiggled her shoulders so that her breasts rose until, finally, a little piece of paper fell into her black lace bra. She waited for the other pieces of paper to settle. She looked down at the piece of paper, then at the camera, picked it up and said “Let’s see who this naughty boy is. Well. We’re going to spend an unforgettable night together, just the two of us at the Keops Hotel, fully paid. Me, Sabrina Love, the first Argentinian porno star and…” Daniel looked at his number: 2756. “Oh, how cute! I won’t say his name just in case there’s a jealous wife out there, but it is a man and his lucky number is two thousand seven hundred and fifty-six.” Daniel stood up, he thought perhaps that he had heard wrong. Sabrina Love celebrated dancing to the sound of a velvety sax and then she said: “The winner must get in touch with Production within the next 24 hours. We won’t call because perhaps the winner would rather it were a secret between the two of us. So, Mister Two thousand seven hundred and fifty-six, my darling, my sweet, I’ll be waiting for you to do everything you ever imagined and more. Meanwhile I’ll keep you warm right here.” She tucked the piece of paper back into her cleavage and closed the programme with her usual strip tease routine.
Daniel stood stock still, with his hands on his head. Then he looked around the room and smiled nervously. The credits of the Sabrina Love Show were rolling. He turned the television off. He got into bed fully dressed and pulled the covers up over his head. He could not believe it. He was silenced, scared. The distant crowing of a cockerel hinted at an end to the dark summer’s night.