Señor Wences II

Chapter 2

Wenceslao travelled through the country working various oddjobs while honing his talents as a plate-spinner and voice-thrower, earning small bits of money here and there by choreographing duels to the death with the statues on old bridges for the entertainment of passersby. Meanwhile, his right fist had gone off to train in oil portraiture under a renowed master and his left fist was beginning his first year in medical school. The two hands had never gotten along particularly well and decided to part ways the summer before in 1914. By the time they had finished their training and returned, they discovered that Wenceslao had become a young man, and was in desperate need of his hands again for masturbatory purposes.

Despite not being directly part of The Great War, Spain had suffered an economic downturn due to the rest of Europe losing its god damn mind for four years, and after the hostilities ceased and job opportunities became more widespread, Wenceslao applied at a local circus that was hiring. They asked what relevant experience he had and for references, of which he had neither, and they told him he was not what they were looking for at the moment, but they would put his application «in the files», whatever that meant, and get back to him if there was ever an opening.

Dismayed, Wenceslao went to the docks to drown himself and encountered the most enormous ship he had ever seen in his life. It was even bigger than the Titanic, he presumed, having never seen it. He asked a man in glasses standing near the gangway if it was a military vessel. The man, who happened to be the captain of the ship, bellowed and said, «No, young man! This is a cruise ship. Now that the war is over we take thousands of Germans around the coast so they can broaden their horizons and make passive-aggressive jokes abroad. They disembark for a few hours, spend vast sums of money on land while being culturally sensitive to their hosts and learning a thing or two about other peoples, and then return in the afternoon or early evening for some fine dining and restrained frivolity. It’s going to revolutionize the tourism industry, I tell you!»

Wenceslao was sold. He wanted aboard this ship and offered his services. «Take me with you, Captain!»

Maese Pedro as a young man

A portrait of the ship’s captain as a young man by Ramon Casas (conserved at MNAC in Barcelona)

«My crew call me Maese, young man. And what can you possibly offer me that I don’t already have?

Wenceslao told him about the spinning plates, and the thrown voices, and that he could talk to all manner of animate and inanimate objects. The maese stroked his pointed beard.

«Inanimate objects, you say? Well, now… Once in awhile we take on English aristocrats whose chartered passage is unavailable and who have to travel a few ports further to continue their journeys. It would indeed be nice to have some way of communicating with them in case of emergencies.»

Anticipating his assent, Wenceslao jumped in the air and began shaking the maese’s hand. The old man laughed through his teeth and no longer had the heart to say no. Wenceslao ran back to the place on the dock where he’d dropped his belongings and his suicide note, took the former, and ran back to the gangway.

As he set his foot on the ramp, an earnest voice spoke. «Wenceslao. We need to talk.» It was his left fist, who’d now begun insisting that everyone, including Wenceslao himself, address him by his proper title of «Doctor.» «I’m not going with you,» Doctor Fist continued, «I’ve fallen in love with a girl named Helena.»

«Wait, wait, wait.» his right fist interjected. «My Helena?»

«First, she’s your cousin. Gross. Second, we’ve spoken about it and are going to be married next month. I was going to wait until after the two of you’d drowned to crawl back ashore and avoid this conversation,» Doctor Fistus shrugged his shoulders. «…but here we are.»

Wenceslao’s right fist lunged in anger at his nemesis and the two began struggling. Concerned at both Wenceslao’s behavior as well as his preventing passengers from using the gangway, the maese asked if everything was all right. «Sure, sure, Boss,» Wenceslao replied, «they do this often. They’ll tire themselves out soon.» And indeed they did. Doctor Fistus landed one final blow with his single arm and the two of them collapsed at Wenceslao’s waist. It was a bitter farewell, but Wenceslao had been through so much with Doctor Fistus that he was unable to say goodbye without kissing his lifelong friend on the cheek and wishing him and his bride-to-be all the best.