[one year later, the same venue. Dinner is being prepared]
Jose Enrique: I’m only saying you can’t leave the place in that condition. Everyone is complaining. They complain to me about your site and then they remind me that the elections for mayor are not far away. As if I didn’t know. People are asking why such a tall building was ever allowed in the first place and when it’s never finished it’s a complete pain to the eyes.
Tomas: Things are not so easy as you imagine. The builders got their estimates wrong. I’ve spent a lot of money already. More than I bargained for.
Jose Enrique: Well you need to spend the rest of whatever’s needed to get your place finished. Tell Guzman he will have to make you another advance.
Tomas: He hasn’t even released what we agreed in the first place. He’s started acting very funny lately; not taking my calls. When I did catch up with him, he started to tell me that maybe it would be better to sell the development as it is, or sell my old place at least.
Jose Enrique: I don’t see how you can sell the place without finishing it.
Tomas: That’s exactly what I told him. and I can’t move out of the old house until the new one can be used. But it’s no good talking to him, suddenly. And even if I could finish, who is going to buy a place like that and live there, apart from me? That’s what I said to him.
Jose Enrique: I’m sorry to hear about your problems, but you have to put the plate glass in the front at least. The building has been standing for months held up by those jacks that your men have wedged in where the big window should be. And they all look rusted away to me. I’m not sure the place is safe.
Tomas: That’s just it Don Jose; the glass is the most expensive part. And I can’t put it in till the end. I can’t afford the insurance.
Jose Enrique: But you have cover for the building generally I suppose? I mean, if it were to catch fire one night, you might be better off.
Tomas: I didn’t even have the money to keep the policy going. It’s like I told Guzman; making money is not the same as making sausages. With sausages, even if the meat is not so good you can always find something to stuff inside the skin. But with money, it’s either there or it’s not.
[enter Joaquin, whistling]
Jose Enrique: What are you so cheerful about Joaquin?
Joaquin: Me? Nothing. I’m just the same as always. Mind if I pour some wine? [pours]. The chicas say food will be ready in one hour.
Jose Enrique: With all due respect, I don’t think you can describe Maria and your wife as chicas.
Joaquin: They’re all chicas to me. I’ll take them any age. Well, maybe not Maria’s age.
Jose Enrique: You’re all talk where women are concerned.
Joaquin: I can’t help that. I think about it all the time, that’s all. As soon as Maria Elena found out we couldn’t have children, she lost interest. Spends so much time talking to Don Felipe about Jesus that she doesn’t have anything left for me. God, I hate priests. Do you think Ana Cristina and Elisa will join us later?
Tomas: Elisa said she would come later if she could make Laura settled.
Jose Enrique: Who knows what my wife will do? It’s the birthday of our daughter, who is in Paris I think. It was always a sacred evening for Ana Cristina that we have to celebrate even if Luz is not home, but now she makes her own rules. Usually it means spending her time in that bar of Nacho’s, staring into his deep brown eyes.
Tomas: She’s not in love with Ignacio, Don Jose. She only likes to hear his friends from Madrid talking about nonsense. In any case, Ignacio is not stupid enough to have designs on your wife.
Joaquin: Maybe, but she does spend a lot of time there. As you know, I don’t normally listen to stories, but someone was saying the other day…
Jose Enrique: What were they saying?
Joaquin: Well, nothing really. But you know there are people who are always on the lookout for another scandal. Like last year with that young schoolteacher. The one that Alfonso’s squinty son got pregnant.
Jose Enrique: That wasn’t a scandal. She gave up teaching and moved into the farm and now her backside is even bigger than it was before, like all the women of that family. They’re all completely happy as far as anyone can see.
Joaquin: That’s true, but a man like you has a public position to think about.
Jose Enrique: The public can kiss my behind, as long as they remember to drink at the Bar de la Constitution and vote for me as mayor. Let’s try some ham. We’re supposed to be celebrating my daughter’s birthday remember. Another year when she’s too busy to come home from her studies and spend time with her family. Filling her head with useless rubbish at my expense. Her mother encourages it of course.
Tomas: That pork was really outstanding Maria Elena. You must have done something special with it. I always say that if the cook is really good, there’s no need for those expensive cuts. Then you can taste what happens in the kitchen.
Maria Elena: It was nothing special really, just some cominos and a little pimiento
Tomas: No, I insist. It was outstanding.
[enter Elisa and Ana Cristina, the latter worse for drink]
Ana Cristina: I met this poor girl on the way here. She’s spent half the night trying to pacify your little brat Tomas.
Tomas: You mean Laura?
Ana Cristina: Sorry, take no notice. I’ve been drinking.
Elisa: I met Ana as I was passing Nacho’s place. She insisted on coming back with me.
Ana Cristina: Don’t put it like that Elisa. As if you were ashamed to be seen with me. I know we’ve never really liked each other, but we go back a long way.
Maria Elena: I’ll get some extra plates. Sit down both of you.
Ana Cristina: Not for me, I don’t feel like eating. I’ll have some wine if Joaquin has left any. Get it while it’s free, eh Joaquin?
Jose Enrique: Is something bothering you Ana?
Ana Cristina: Yes my dear. Something is bothering me a little. I’m rotting away in this little place, surrounded by the same people I’ve been around all my life, who secretly despise me and even envy me, because I’m married to a man who is supposed to be important on the scale of this place, which is not even a speck when you compare it to the world outside. I wanted my life to be gracious and large; and now look at us. When Luz comes home, I shall be so ashamed of my petty insignificant life that maybe it’s better she doesn’t come home at all.
My daughter Luz, you know. She’s going to be a PhD. A doctor of philosophy.
Tomas: Does that mean that she helps people with mental problems?
Elisa: No. Shh.
Ana Cristina: Well, what do you have to say?
Jose Enrique: I don’t have anything to say. I didn’t realize you were talking to me. I thought you were addressing the world in general.
Ana Cristina: I hate you Jose Enrique.
Maria Elena: Are you sure you won’t have something to eat Elisa? Joaquin, put that bottle down.
[mobile phone rings]
Tomas: Yes. That’s me. What do you mean? It can’t be. Oh, yes. Right away. I’m sorry everyone, we have to go. Come Elisa.
Joaquin: What’s the matter?
Tomas: It’s the development. They tell me that the front wall has collapsed. It’s supposed that those old props gave way. I have to see it. They say there are…
Jose Enrique: I’ll come with you. Joaquin, you wait here with the ladies.
[same scene, the next year. Luz and Maria are preparing the table for a celebration dinner]
Luz: You mustn’t make such a fuss about me helping, Maria. I like to do it. It reminds me of when I was a little girl. Do you remember, you would teach me how to do things in the kitchen? That was useful learning.
Maria: But now you’re a lady. They tell me you have a doctorate. I don’t know what it means, but the way they say it; you’re an important person.
Luz [laughs]: I’m nothing important. All those years of study and I don’t even have a job. I’m glad to be home at last to be honest. At least with father, I’m needed.
Maria: More than ever now that the Senora is gone.
Luz: My mother never liked it here. She always felt the place was too small for her. It was more important to her that I should get away than it was to me. In Madrid, she’ll have space to breathe, but maybe she’ll find that she misses home eventually.
Maria: The Senor says that she will not be back. She should be here for your birthday after so much time.
Luz: It’s only a day, like any other. We’ll see what happens. Meanwhile we have to get everything ready and talking won’t get it done. I’ll come round to see you on Sunday if you like. It would be good to see the herb garden again and you can tell me about everything that’s happened in the village.
[Enter Jose Enrique with Tomas and Joaquin]
Tomas: It’s good of you to invite us, Jose Enrique. You know that these days, I’m not quite the man of substance I used to be.
Jose Enrique: It’s my daughter’s birthday. We always celebrate a little. And besides we are partners in misfortune. I don’t have so many friends left myself and I can only stand so much gossip from my brother in law before he starts to drive me crazy.
Joaquin: You’re still mayor brother. Things are not so bad as they could be.
Jose Enrique: I’m only mayor now because no-one wants the job any more. If it wasn’t for the salary, I’d give it up myself. Nobody comes to the Bar de la Constitution these days and if they do it’s only to sit staring into space and spending nothing. The place is costing me money, not earning it. And at least when Tomas is the guest he brings meat for the dinner and something to drink.
Tomas: I’m sorry Jose Enrique, but tonight its only salchicon and a little morcilla with some table wine. Things are not good with me. It’s bad enough the development collapsing and no insurance. Thank god no-one was injured. But even then I thought, well at least I have the shop and I will get it all back in time. And then the new supermarket opens. I don’t know how you could let it happen.
Jose Enrique: Do you think I wanted that place where everyone buys cheap wine and goes back to their home to drink it? I told you before there was nothing I could do. The supermarket is outside the jurisdiction of the town.
Tomas: I don’t understand any of that. But the meat they sell is not meat. How can people eat that when my shop is just here?
Joaquin: The supermarkets are cheap.
Tomas: And they can borrow all the money they need to build more of them. Not like me. I’d like to have a word with that Guzman about it. I’d tell him what I thought about him and his bank. But it seems he’s disappeared.
Joaquin: They say he was sacked, or else transferred to another branch.
Tomas: The new manager is a boy not much older than your daughter, Jose Enrique. And when I start to explain to him about everything that has happened, he only says it was the past and nothing to do with him. What we have to discuss, he says, is how I am going to pay what I owe. You tell me, I said to him. You’ve seen the takings and you know what I owe. You’re a bright boy. Tell me how I can pay.
Jose Enrique: And I have to pay for Ana Cristina every month, so that she can stay in that flat in Madrid with the artist she met at Nacho’s place. Of course the artist hasn’t got a penny.
Joaquin: At least you have Luz at home just now. The fact is we are all ruined. Look at me: supplier to the construction industry and brother in law of the mayor. I should be like a pig in a field of acorns. But now no-one is building anything. I’m only thankful that I saved my money and that my wife only went crazy for Jesus, not for a painter. Where are the girls anyway?
Tomas: Maria Elena and Elisa are downstairs fussing over Laura. Luz and Maria are in the kitchen. Luz wanted to see how Maria cooked the lentils.
Jose Enrique: Lentils for a birthday dinner. Why would she want to know that when she’s a doctor of philosophy?
[enter Luz bringing in a cauldron of food]
Luz: Get the bread Maria, and set an extra place. I know you haven’t eaten yet. Uncle, call Elena and Liza. We don’t want it to go cold.
[tables and chairs are shifted Maria Elena and Elisa enter with Laura]
Luz: That’s it everyone sit down. Wait a minute. Maria won’t feel comfortable if we don’t say grace first.
Jose Enrique: I don’t believe it. Religion in my own house. It’s bad enough Maria Elena going on about Don Filippe without this.
Luz: For what we are about to receive, thank you. Amen. What’s so painful about that?
Joaquin: Lentils, with a little pork and plenty of salt.
Luz: And garlic.
Jose Enrique: Actually it’s very good.
Elisa: Look. Laura is eating hers.
Joaquin [pours]]: Old fashioned food. Really it’s better with a rough cheap red wine.
Tomas: Whatever happens we still have the sun and the wine. And the morcilla and salchichon.
Maria Elena: I brought some ham as well.
Luz: Then we have everything we need.
Joaquin: How long are you staying with us Luz? I suppose you go back to the university soon.
Luz: I’m not going back Uncle. I’m staying in the village now.
Maria Elena: Don’t you have to go back to finish your research?
Luz: There’s no money for my research. The project has collapsed.
Maria Elena: But that’s terrible. What will your mother say?
Luz: I’ll tell her when I see her. For myself I really don’t mind.
Elisa: How can you say that after all the years of work and the time you’ve spent away from home?
Joaquin: Someone who’s been out into the world like you won’t be happy trapped back here with the likes of us, believe me. Look what it did to your mother.
Luz: But it wasn’t time wasted. I got to see the world outside and I can tell you it’s not so different to here. Everything is falling apart just the same and things happen for the wrong reason or they don’t happen at all. The real difference is that at least here we have each other. I’ve got friends here that I’ve known my whole life. We should all get on. Maybe I can even persuade dad to make friends with Ignacio, who’s never done him any harm after all.
Maria Elena: But what will you do, Luz?
Luz: I should think I’ll start by getting father sorted out. This place is a wreck and he’s been letting himself go since my mother left. And then I guess that something will turn up. What’s the worst that can happen – a job in the supermarket? At least here we always have the sun.
Joaquin: And the wine too.
Tomas: And don’t forget the ham
Luz: What more could anyone need?