no one writes to the Colonel.
The action takes place in Colombia in 1956, when there was a fierce struggle between political groups in the country and a climate of violence and terror reigned.
On the outskirts of a small provincial town in a house covered with palm leaves, with peeling walls, the old married couple who had fallen into poverty lived. The colonel is seventy-five years old, this is a “hard-screwed dry man with eyes full of life.” On a rainy October morning, the colonel feels worse than ever: faintness, weakness, pain in the stomach, “like the insides gnawed wild animals.” And his wife had an asthma attack at night. Bell ringing reminds that today in the town of a funeral. Bury the poor musician, the same age as their son Agustin. The colonel wears a black cloth suit, which after marriage was worn only in exceptional cases, lacquered shoes – the only ones that remained intact. Look, dressed up, his wife growls,
as if something unusual happened. Of course, unusual, retorts the colonel,
The colonel goes to the house of the deceased to express his condolence to his mother, and then along with the others accompanies the coffin to the cemetery. Don Sabas, godfather of his deceased son, offers the colonel shelter from the rain under his umbrella. Kum is one of the former colleagues of the colonel, the only party leader who escaped political persecution and continues to live in the town. The half-naked alcalde from the balcony of the municipality demands that the funeral procession roll to another street, it is forbidden to approach the barracks, they have a siege position.
Returning from the cemetery, the colonel, overcoming malaise, cares for the cock, which remained from his son – a lover of cockfighting. Nine months ago, Agustin was killed for distributing leaflets, riddled with bullets during a cock-fight. What to feed the cock, the old man breaks his head, because he and his wife have nothing to eat. But we must hold out until January, when the fighting begins. Rooster – not only the memory of the deceased
son, but also the hope for the possibility of a solid win.
On Friday, as usual, the colonel goes to the port to meet the postal boat. He does this regularly for fifteen years, every time experiencing excitement, oppressive, like fear. And again he does not have any correspondence. The doctor who receives the mail gives him fresh newspapers for a while, but it is difficult to read anything between the lines left by the censorship.
Once again, the cracked bronze of the bells sounds, but now it’s the bells of film censorship. Father Angel, who receives an annotated index by mail, blows the bell with the bell, informing the flock of the moral level of the films going to the local cinema, and then spying on the parishioners. Visiting the sick old people, the doctor gives the colonel leaflets – illegal summaries of the latest events, printed on the mimeograph, the Colonel goes to the tailoring shop where his son worked, hand over leaflets to friends of Agustin. This place is his only refuge. Since the party comrades were killed or expelled from the city, he feels oppressive loneliness. And on sleepless nights he is overcome by memories of the civil war that ended fifty six years ago, on which his youth passed.
The house has nothing to eat. After the death of his son, the old people sold a sewing machine and lived on the money they received for her, and the broken wall clock and the picture of buyers was never found. To the neighbors do not know about their plight, his wife cooks stones in the kettle. Most of all in these circumstances, the colonel cares about the cock. You can not let down friends of Agustin, who save money to put on a rooster.
Next Friday comes, and again there is nothing in the mail for the Colonel. Reading newspapers suggested by the doctor provokes irritation: since censorship was introduced, they are written only about Europe, it is impossible to find out what is happening in their own country.
The colonel feels cheated. Nineteen years ago, Congress passed a law on retirement to veterans. Then he, a participant in the Civil War, began a process that was supposed to prove that this law extends to him. The process lasted eight years. It took six more years for the colonel to be included in the list of veterans. This was reported in the last letter he received. And since then – no news.
His wife insists that the Colonel change his lawyer. What a joy if money is put in their coffin, like the Indians. The lawyer persuades the client not to lose hope, bureaucratic red tape usually lasts for years. In addition, during this time, seven presidents changed, and at least ten times changed the cabinet of ministers, each minister changing his officials at least a hundred times. He can still be considered lucky, he got his rank at the age of twenty; age, but his older fighting friends died and did not wait for the solution of their question. But the colonel takes the power of attorney. He intends to file a petition again, even if for this he must again collect all the documents and wait another hundred years. In the old paper, he searches for newspaper clippings of two years ago on the law firm, which promised active assistance in preparing a pension for veterans of the war,
November is a hard month for both old people, their illnesses are exacerbated. The colonel supports the hope that a letter is about to arrive. The wife demands to get rid of the cock, but the old man stubbornly stands his ground: by all means it is necessary to wait for the beginning of the battles. Wanting to help, the son’s comrades take care of the feeding of the cock. Sometimes the Colonel’s wife pours a maize from him, to cook a little porridge for himself and her husband.
One Friday, the colonel, who came to meet the postal boat, is waiting for rain in the office of Don Sabas. Kum persistently advises to sell the cock, you can get nine hundred pesos for it. The thought of money, which would have helped to hold out for another three years, does not leave the colonel. For this opportunity, his wife also tries to grab, trying to borrow money from his father Angel for wedding rings and got a turn from the gate. For several days the colonel mentally prepares for a conversation with Don Sabas. To sell a cock seems to him sacrilege, it’s like selling a memory of a son or himself. And yet he is forced to go to the godfather, but he is now talking only about four hundred pesos. Don Sabas is an amateur to profit by someone else’s good, he observes, who learned about the forthcoming deal, because he was informing the mayor about the opponents of the regime, and then bought for a pittance the property of their party comrades, who were expelled from the city. The colonel decides not to sell the cock.
In the billiard room, where he watches the game of roulette, there is a police raid, and he has in his pocket leaflets received from friends of Agustin. Colonel for the first time is face to face with the man who killed his son, but showing self-control, is selected from the cordon.
Memories of militant youth are warming up the Colonel’s midsummer December nights. He is hoping to get a letter with the nearest boat. It is supported by the fact that training fights have already begun and his cock does not have equal. It remains to suffer forty-five days, the colonel convinces the desperate wife, and to her question that they will eat all this time, resolutely answers: “Shit.”