author bio


Félix Calvino



The car engine coughed, then died. Serafín let the car roll back to the roadside and turned off the headlights. Perhaps the motor had overheated. He would wait. He lit a cigarette. Outside it was raining hard. It had been raining hard for a month. The wind blew from the sea and carried the sound of waves crashing on the rocks below.
      He finished his cigarette and fumbled for the ignition key, turned it again and again. The engine didn’t respond. He crossed his hands on his chest and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes, opened them again, but it made no difference. He had no memory of such darkness, not even in his grandfather’s cellar where he and his cousins played ghost games when he was a kid.
      Five or ten minutes later, sparkles of light criss-crossed his windscreen. A lift, he thought, but at the last moment he decided against it. In the rear-view mirror he watched the car’s red taillights fading in the rain. It would be ridiculous to go backwards when he was in a hurry. There would be other cars going his way. He was not worried. Only annoyed.
      Serafín had often travelled this lone road before. He liked to detour from the new four-lane to admire the rock-faces sculpted by the relentless wind, to watch the big sea breaking and the white spray blowing high in the air. This part of the Galician coastline always released him from whatever concerns he might have in his mind.
      Despite the darkness and the rain he guessed where he was, and felt a little frustrated. It was not proper to question fate, but he felt disappointed about the place it had chosen. Why not on the headland, where the road turned sharply left next to the lookout? The point would still be made, yet from there he could let the car coast down the road into the town in the valley, have it fixed, or telephone to say that he was late.
      The thought of the telephone alarmed him. There would be questions. What was he doing on this stretch of the road on such a night? What could he say?
      Serafín turned the ignition key again. The motor made rasping noises that sounded like a cautious mouse gnawing in the dark. He turned the key off and fumbled for the button to lower the back of the seat to a near horizontal position. He lit another cigarette, lay back and listened to the rhythmic pelting of the rain on the car’s roof. Minutes later he felt a new urgency to watch for approaching cars. The direction was no longer important.
      He sat up and snuffed out his unfinished cigarette. The elastic in his new socks irritated him, and he pushed them down. With both hands on the dashboard he stared into the darkness ahead. Perhaps he should get out, lift the bonnet, look at the motor, poke and fiddle, get his hands greasy, swear loudly like he had seen countless times on the side of the road. But he saw no point in doing that in the rain and without a torch. Even in full daylight, what lay beneath the bonnet was a mystery to him.
      He could trace the beginnings of this mechanical malaise to a summer evening soon after he bought his first car. He was taking a girlfriend to dinner when a tyre blew out like a New Year’s balloon. After a few distressing moments he was able to stop, give a comforting smile to his now pale, but still delicious, companion and get out to fix the problem. However his positive attitude soon collapsed as flat as the tyre he was looking at, which he kicked with the toe of his immaculate light-brown shoe. Under the blue mat in the boot was the spare tyre, the tools in a black canvas bag, but he had no knowledge of how to use them. He had slammed the boot and returned to his seat. ‘The spare tyre is flat,’ he said.
      Serafín took out another cigarette. He was smoking too much, he thought. It wouldn’t do any harm to quit the habit. It would please Filomena. ‘I want you to live a long time,’ she said. He pushed in the lighter and waited for the familiar click, which never came. He got no response either from the headlights or radio, but it was the horn that finally convinced him that the battery was flat.
      He rummaged in the glove box, found a box of matches and lit the cigarette. He looked at his watch in the quivering flame. It was just after nine. Dinner was at ten. He felt perspiration breaking out on his forehead.
      With his handkerchief he wiped the steam from the rear-view mirror and the windscreen, and stared hard through the rain, half-expecting to see the bright eyes of an approaching car. But nothing intruded in the dark world around him.
      Time was running out, and so were his spirits. Why hadn’t he stopped the car that passed earlier? Why hadn’t he tried to walk back to the small town at the foot of the mountain instead of sitting here for over an hour, procrastinating, waiting for miracles to happen? He punched the passenger seat hard. Then told himself to be calm. There was enough violence outside.
      Who would blame him? No one in his right mind would ruin a pair of dark-blue trousers, silk-lined, twice fitted, made especially for the occasion. Not to mention the matching double-breasted jacket laid out on the back seat. The very best cloth, according to Ricardo the tailor. He would wait a little longer. A car was bound to come soon. In the end the world always returns to normal, he told himself.
      Serafín’s legs started to cramp and his mouth was dry. He pushed back his seat to stretch his legs, unbuttoned his shirt, took off his silk tie, then rolled down the window a little. Cool air and rain hit his face and he felt better. It would have been a very pleasant autumn night without the water-crazy clouds and howling wind. Perhaps it was still pleasant, far above the clouds, and for other people in other places. The world was big. Certainly bigger than his, now contracted to a lone, broken-down car wrapped in darkness. He shivered, wondering how it felt to be buried alive. He closed the window to shut out uninvited fears.


Between nine and ten o’clock, directly above where Serafín waited, a large chunk of the mountain gave in and slid effortlessly towards the dark sea below.
      Rumours abounded as to why Serafín did not attend his engagement party. As to his whereabouts, some said he fled to Venezuela. Others placed him in Canada. But all agreed that his character was ruined.

Author Bio

Felix Calvino photoFélix Calvino was born in Galicia on the northwest coast of Spain and grew up on a farm.  To avoid military service under General Franco, he went to England where he worked and studied English, his third language.  He migrated to Australia in the late sixties, settled in Sydney and worked in the travel, restaurant and wine industries.  In 1996 he moved to Melbourne and a year later, a long-held ambition for a tertiary education was fulfilled when he was admitted to the University of Melbourne. There he studied English and Spanish as components of his Bachelor of Arts degree.

See book review and another story, A Hatful of Cherries, in this issue of TBR