OPINION

A whiff of gasoline

Daniel's parents had lost their house late last year after months of desperate struggle with the bank that gave them the mortgage

The maid was the first to notice it; but she didn't want to take it seriously - not because the girl was Ukrainian, but because she was a bundle of nerves. She didn't tell her husband until he noticed it too.

"Have you smelt gasoline around here lately?"

Then he told her that Marcos, a neighbor and father of one of her elder son's best friends, had come to see him. "You know what those kids are up to?" he had said. That morning at breakfast his daughter had fought with her brother and threatened him that if he ate all the chocolate cereals, she would tell about the tin can under the bed. "My wife pretended not to hear, but when the children were gone she looked under Marco's bed, and guess what she found?"

So it was true, she thought. Gasoline.

Her son Pablo had always had the same friends, three boys of his own age, from the same housing development, who went to the same school. The four had learned to ride bicycles together and had gone to the same summer camp together. Not any more - only three were left.

The gasoline is for making Molotov cocktails. So what? It's easy, we found it on the internet"

Daniel's parents had lost their house late last year after months of desperate struggle with the bank that gave them the mortgage, with the real estate agencies that couldn't sell it, with the court that finally ordered the eviction, with the police who pushed past four children and a crowd of adults who had stopped them other times, but not this. For Pablo it was a drama. For Daniel, a tragedy. Since then Pablo and his friends had been behaving oddly.

"I'm the last to know," said Marta, Felipe's mother. Marcos and the other parents didn't know yet that her job was in jeopardy. Poor woman, they all thought, what bad luck. Her husband had disappeared more than a year ago. She had told them nothing, but everyone in the neighborhood knew he had been depressed since he lost his job, a highly paid one in a multinational that packed up and left Spain. He had not found any job remotely like it, and one day he just walked away. And now, she admitted, at the office they were firing people, and "I don't know if I'm on the list."

Well, yes - that night, Marcos junior was the first to confess - but he said it aloud, in a tone so decided, so defiant for a boy of only thirteen, that the five adults at once felt it had been a bad idea to hold this meeting in a pizzeria. "The gasoline is for making Molotov cocktails. So what? It's easy, we found it on the internet."

"I told them there was no need for it," Felipe explained. "That if it was on account of me... Dani has already gone, right? Well if now I have to go, because if they fire my mother and all that, well... It's unfair to do it for me and not to have done it for Dani, right?"

"No, no, Felipe," Pablo concluded the amazing confession. "No, because when it happened to Dani we didn't know how to make the cocktails, so we couldn't throw them at his bank. But now that we have learned, well..."

"Just a minute, just a minute." Marta had her face in her hands, rubbing her eyes, peering at each of them as if she didn't know them. "You're stocking up on gasoline to make Molotov cocktails, and throw them at my bank if they evict me? Is that what you are saying?"

"Well of course. What did you think?"

"But why are you staring at us that way? I just don't get it. Don't you all go around saying every day that somebody has to do something; that it's incredible how this obscene eviction situation doesn't explode; that you can't believe how people are just sitting and taking it lying down?"

"Yeah. And don't you go around saying that somebody has to start? You ought to be proud of us, right?"

 

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