‘Get up, vieja, and see what you can heat me up for breakfast. Come on, get going. Look at her! She looks half dead.’

‘Eh? Eh?’ she says, opening her eyes.

‘Didn’t I tell you last night I was going to Carrera to sell shirts and I have to get up at seven?’

‘Yes, but. . .’

‘Oh, carajo! Are you going to begin with your buts! On your feet.’

My wife, Maria, got out of bed reluctantly and groped in the dark for the electric light bulb hanging from the ceiling. She stumbled over Carmela and Carlota, two seventeen-year-old girls who were asleep on a mattress on the floor. These girls were in need of a home and were staying with us. Maria turned on the light and went into the kitchen to struggle with the kerosene stove. Lolita, our three-year-old daughter who slept in the bed with us, had become uncovered and I pulled the blanket up over her. I resisted leaving the warm bed, but I knew that the good locations in the market get taken early and I wanted a place right on the corner. That’s where you can really sell. So I got up and went straight to the laundry tub next to the toilet in the kitchen.

Jijo! vieja, this water is cold! Say, did you count the shirts last night?’