Posted: October 27th, 2022

Story time

I need some one to read these short stories and answer this question. 

What view of marriage is portrayed in the story? Can this view still apply today?

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The hills across the valley of the Ebro’ were long and white. On this side
there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of
rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm
shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads,
hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and
the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very
hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It
stopped at this junction for two minutes and went on to Madrid.

“What should we drink?” the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and
put it on the table.

“It’s pretty hot,” the man said.
“Let’s drink beer.”
“Dos cervezas,” the man said into the curtain.
“Big ones?” a woman asked from the doorway.
“Yes. Two big ones.”
The woman brought two glasses of beer and two felt pads. She put the

felt pads and the beer glasses on the table and looked at the man and the
girl. The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun
and the country was brown and dry.

“They look like white elephants,” she said.
“I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer.
“No, you wouldn’t have.”
” I might have,” the man said. “Just because you say I wouldn’t have

doesn’t prove anything.”
The girl looked at the bead curtain. “They’ve painted something on it,”

she said. “What does it say?”
“Anis del Toro. It’s a drink.”
“Could we try it?”
The man called “Listen” through the curtain. The woman came out

from the bar.
“Four reales.”
“We want two Anis del Toro.”
“With water?”
“Do you want it with water?”
” I don’t know,” the girl said. “Is it good with water?”
“It’s all right.”
“You want them with water?” asked the woman.

1. River in the north of Spain.

Ernest Hemingway 229

“Yes, with water.”
” I t tastes like licorice,” the girl said and put the glass down.
“That’s the way with everything.”
“Yes,” said the girl. “Everything tastes of licorice. Especially all the

things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.”
“Oh, cut it out.”
“You started it,” the girl said. ” I was being amused. I was having a fine

“Well, let’s try and have a fine time.”
“All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white ele-

phants. Wasn’t that bright?”
“That was bright.”
” I wanted to try this new drink. That’s all we do, isn’t it—look at things

and try new drinks?”
” I guess so.”
The girl looked across at the hills.
“They’re lovely hills,” she said. “They don’t really look like white ele-

phants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees.” “Should
we have another drink?”

“All right.”
The warm wind blew the bead curtain against the table.
“The beer’s nice and cool,” the man said.
“It’s lovely,” the girl said.
“It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,” the man said. “It’s not

really an operation at all.”
The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on.
” I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let

the air in.”
The girl did not say anything.
“I ‘ l l go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in

and then it’s all perfectly natural.”
“Then what will we do afterward?”
“We’ll be fine afterward. Just like we were before.”
“What makes you think so?”
“That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us

The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of

two of the strings of beads.
“And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.”
” I know we will. You don’t have to be afraid. I’ve known lots of people

that have done it.”
“So have I , ” said the girl. “And afterward they were all so happy.”

“Well,” the man said, “if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t
have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.”

“And you really want to?”

230 Short Fiction

” I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you
don’t really want to.”

“And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and
you’ll love me?”

” I love you now. You know I love you.”
” I know. But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like

white elephants, and you’ll like it?”
“I’ll love it. I love it now but I just can’t think about it. You know how I

get when I worry.”
” I f I do it you won’t ever worry?”
” I won’t worry about that because it’s perfectly simple.”
“Then I’ll do it. Because I don’t care about me.”
“What do you mean?”
” I don’t care about me.”
“Well, I care about you.”
“Oh, yes. But I don’t care about me. And I’ll do it and then everything

will be fine.”
” I don’t want you to do it if you feel that way. ”
The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the

other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. Far
away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved
across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.

“And we could have all this,” she said. “And we could have everything
and every day we make it more impossible.”

“What did you say?”
” I said we could have everything.”
“We can have everything.”
“No, we can’t.”
“We can have the whole world.”
“No, we can’t.”
“We can go everywhere.”
“No, we can’t. It isn’t ours any more.”
“It’s ours.”
“No, it isn’t. And once they take it away, you never get it back.”
“But they haven’t taken it away.”
“We’ll wait and see.”
“Come on back in the shade,” he said. “You mustn’t feel that way.” ” I
don’t feel any way,” the girl said. ” I just know things.”
” I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t want to do—”
“Nor that isn’t good for me,” she said. ” I know. Could we have another

“All right. But you’ve got to realize—”
” I realize,” the girl said. “Can’t we maybe stop talking?”
They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills on the

dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table.
“You’ve got to realize,” he said, “that I don’t want you to do it if you

Ernest Hemingway 231

don’t want to. I’m perfectly willing to go through with it if it means any-thing
to you.”

“Doesn’t it mean anything to you? We could get along.”
“Of course it does. But I don’t want anybody but you. I don’t want any

one else. And I know it’s perfectly simple.”
“Yes, you know it’s perfectly simple.”
“It’s all right for you to say that, but I do know it.”
“Would you do something for me now?”
“I’d do anything for you.”
“Would you please please please please please please please stop

He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the

station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent

“But I don’t want you to,” he said, ” I don’t care anything about it.”
“I’ll scream,” the girl said.
The woman came out through the curtains with two glasses of beer and

put them down on the damp felt pads. “The train comes in five minutes,” she

“What did she say?” asked the girl.
“That the train is coming in five minutes.”
The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her.
“I’d better take the bags over to the other side of the station,” the man

said. She smiled at him.
“All right. Then come back and we’ll finish the beer.”
He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to

the other tracks. He looked up the tracks but could not see the train.
Coming back, he walked through the barroom, where people waiting for the
train were drinking. He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people.
They were all waiting reasonably for the train. He went out through the bead
curtain. She was sitting at the table and smiled at him.

“Do you feel better?” he asked.
” I feel fine,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.”


A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings: A Tale For Children 
Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his 

drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and 
they thought it was due to the stench. The world had been sad since Tuesday. Sea and sky were a single 
ash­gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had 
become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming 
back to the house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it was that was moving and 
groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, 
lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impeded by his 
enormous wings. 

Frightened by that nightmare, Pelayo ran to get Elisenda, his wife, who was putting compresses on the 
sick child, and he took her to the rear of the courtyard. They both looked at the fallen body with a mute 
stupor. He was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very 
few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great­grandfather took away and sense of 
grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half­plucked were forever entangled in the 
mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise 
and in the end found him familiar. Then they dared speak to him, and he answered in an incomprehensible 
dialect with a strong sailor’s voice. That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of the wings and quite 
intelligently concluded that he was a lonely castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm. And yet, 
they called in a neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death to see him, and all she needed 
was one look to show them their mistake. 

“He’s an angel,” she told them. “He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old 
that the rain knocked him down.” 

On the following day everyone knew that a flesh­and­blood angel was held captive in Pelayo’s house. 
Against the judgment of the wise neighbor woman, for whom angels in those times were the fugitive 
survivors of a spiritual conspiracy, they did not have the heart to club him to death. Pelayo watched over him 
all afternoon from the kitchen, armed with his bailiff’s club, and before going to bed he dragged him out of 
the mud and locked him up with the hens in the wire chicken coop. In the middle of the night, when the rain 
stopped, Pelayo and Elisenda were still killing crabs. A short time afterward the child woke up without a 
fever and with a desire to eat. Then they felt magnanimous and decided to put the angel on a raft with fresh 
water and provisions for three days and leave him to his fate on the high seas. But when they went out into 
the courtyard with the first light of dawn, they found the whole neighborhood in front of the chicken coop 
having fun with the angel, without the slightest reverence, tossing him things to eat through the openings in 
the wire as if weren’t a supernatural creature but a circus animal. 

Father Gonzaga arrived before seven o’clock, alarmed at the strange news. By that time onlookers less 
frivolous than those at dawn had already arrived and they were making all kinds of conjectures concerning 
the captive’s future. The simplest among them thought that he should be named mayor of the world. Others 
of sterner mind felt that he should be promoted to the rank of five­star general in order to win all wars. Some 
visionaries hoped that he could be put to stud in order to implant the earth a race of winged wise men who 
could take charge of the universe. But Father Gonzaga, before becoming a priest, had been a robust 
woodcutter. Standing by the wire, he reviewed his catechism in an instant and asked them to open the door 
so that he could take a close look at that pitiful man who looked more like a huge decrepit hen among the 

fascinated chickens. He was lying in the corner drying his open wings in the sunlight among the fruit peels 
and breakfast leftovers that the early risers had thrown him. Alien to the impertinences of the world, he only 
lifted his antiquarian eyes and murmured something in his dialect when Father Gonzaga went into the 
chicken coop and said good morning to him in Latin. The parish priest had his first suspicion of an imposter 
when he saw that he did not understand the language of God or know how to greet His ministers. Then he 
noticed that seen close up he was much too human: he had an unbearable smell of the outdoors, the back 
side of his wings was strewn with parasites and his main feathers had been mistreated by terrestrial winds, 
and nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels. The he came out of the chicken coop 
and in a brief sermon warned the curious against the risks of being ingenuous. He reminded them that the 
devil had the bad habit of making use of carnival tricks in order to confuse the unwary. He argued that if 
wings were not the essential element in determining the different between a hawk and an airplane, they 
were even less so in the recognition of angels. Nevertheless, he promised to write a letter to his bishop so 
that the latter would write his primate so that the latter would write to the Supreme Pontiff in order to get the 
final verdict from the highest courts. 

His prudence fell on sterile hearts. The news of the captive angel spread with such rapidity that after a 
few hours the courtyard had the bustle of a marketplace and they had to call in troops with fixed bayonets to 
disperse the mob that was about to knock the house down. Elisenda, her spine all twisted from sweeping up 
so much marketplace trash, then got the idea of fencing in the yard and charging five cents admission to see 
the angel. 

The curious came from far away. A traveling carnival arrived with a flying acrobat who buzzed over the 
crowd several times, but no one paid any attention to him because his wings were not those of an angel but, 
rather, those of a sidereal bat. The most unfortunate invalids on earth came in search of health: a poor 
woman who since childhood has been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers; a Portuguese 
man who couldn’t sleep because the noise of the stars disturbed him; a sleepwalker who got up at night to 
undo the things he had done while awake; and many others with less serious ailments. In the midst of that 
shipwreck disorder that made the earth tremble, Pelayo and Elisenda were happy with fatigue, for in less 
than a week they had crammed their rooms with money and the line of pilgrims waiting their turn to enter still 
reached beyond the horizon. 

The angel was the only one who took no part in his own act. He spent his time trying to get comfortable 
in his borrowed nest, befuddled by the hellish heat of the oil lamps and sacramental candles that had been 
placed along the wire. At first they tried to make him eat some mothballs, which, according to the wisdom of 
the wise neighbor woman, were the food prescribed for angels. But he turned them down, just as he turned 
down the papal lunches that the pentinents brought him, and they never found out whether it was because 
he was an angel or because he was an old man that in the end ate nothing but eggplant mush. His only 
supernatural virtue seemed to be patience. Especially during the first days, when the hens pecked at him, 
searching for the stellar parasites that proliferated in his wings, and the cripples pulled out feathers to touch 
their defective parts with, and even the most merciful threw stones at him, trying to get him to rise so they 
could see him standing. The only time they succeeded in arousing him was when they burned his side with 
an iron for branding steers, for he had been motionless for so many hours that they thought he was dead. 
He awoke with a start, ranting in his hermetic language and with tears in his eyes, and he flapped his wings 
a couple of times, which brought on a whirlwind of chicken dung and lunar dust and a gale of panic that did 
not seem to be of this world. Although many thought that his reaction had not been one of rage but of pain, 
from then on they were careful not to annoy him, because the majority understood that his passivity was not 
that of a her taking his ease but that of a cataclysm in repose. 

Father Gonzaga held back the crowd’s frivolity with formulas of maidservant inspiration while awaiting 
the arrival of a final judgment on the nature of the captive. But the mail from Rome showed no sense of 

urgency. They spent their time finding out in the prisoner had a navel, if his dialect had any connection with 
Aramaic, how many times he could fit on the head of a pin, or whether he wasn’t just a Norwegian with 
wings. Those meager letters might have come and gone until the end of time if a providential event had not 
put and end to the priest’s tribulations. 

It so happened that during those days, among so many other carnival attractions, there arrived in the 
town the traveling show of the woman who had been changed into a spider for having disobeyed her 
parents. The admission to see her was not only less than the admission to see the angel, but people were 
permitted to ask her all manner of questions about her absurd state and to examine her up and down so that 
no one would ever doubt the truth of her horror. She was a frightful tarantula the size of a ram and with the 
head of a sad maiden. What was most heartrending, however, was not her outlandish shape but the sincere 
affliction with which she recounted the details of her misfortune. While still practically a child she had 
sneaked out of her parents’ house to go to a dance, and while she was coming back through the​ ​woods 
after having danced all night without permission, a fearful thunderclap rent the sky in tow and through the 
crack came the lightning bolt of brimstone that changed her into a spider. Her only nourishment came from 
the meatballs that charitable souls chose to toss into her mouth. A spectacle like that, full of so much human 
truth and with such a fearful lesson, was bound to defeat without even trying that of a haughty angel who 
scarcely deigned to look at mortals. Besides, the few miracles attributed to the angel showed a certain 
mental disorder, like the blind man who didn’t recover his sight but grew three new teeth, or the paralytic 
who didn’t get to walk but almost won the lottery, and the leper whose sores sprouted sunflowers. Those 
consolation miracles, which were more like mocking fun, had already ruined the angel’s reputation when the 
woman who had been changed into a spider finally crushed him completely. That was how Father Gonzaga 
was cured forever of his insomnia and Pelayo’s courtyard went back to being as empty as during the time it 
had rained for three days and crabs walked through the bedrooms. 

The owners of the house had no reason to lament. With the money they saved they built a two­story 
mansion with balconies and gardens and high netting so that crabs wouldn’t get in during the winter, and 
with iron bars on the windows so that angels wouldn’t get in. Pelayo also set up a rabbit warren close to 
town and have up his job as a bailiff for good, and Elisenda bought some satin pumps with high heels and 
many dresses of iridescent silk, the kind worn on Sunday by the most desirable women in those times. The 
chicken coop was the only thing that didn’t receive any attention. If they washed it down with creolin and 
burned tears of myrrh inside it every so often, it was not in homage to the angel but to drive away the 
dungheap stench that still hung everywhere like a ghost and was turning the new house into an old one. At 
first, when the child learned to walk, they were careful that he not get too close to the chicken coop. But then 
they began to lose their fears and got used to the smell, and before they child got his second teeth he’d 
gone inside the chicken coop to play, where the wires were falling apart. The angel was no less standoffish 
with him than with the other mortals, but he tolerated the most ingenious infamies with the patience of a dog 
who had no illusions. They both came down with the chicken pox at the same time. The doctor who took 
care of the child couldn’t resist the temptation to listen to the angel’s heart, and he found so much whistling 
in the heart and so many sounds in his kidneys that it seemed impossible for him to be alive. What surprised 
him most, however, was the logic of his wings. They seemed so natural on that completely human organism 
that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too. 

When the child began school it had been some time since the sun and rain had caused the collapse of 
the chicken coop. The angel went dragging himself about here and there like a stray dying man. They would 
drive him out of the bedroom with a broom and a moment later find him in the kitchen. He seemed to be in 
so many places at the same time that they grew to think that he’d be duplicated, that he was reproducing 
himself all through the house, and the exasperated and unhinged Elisenda shouted that it was awful living in 
that hell full of angels. He could scarcely eat and his antiquarian eyes had also become so foggy that he 

went about bumping into posts. All he had left were the bare cannulae of his last feathers. Pelayo threw a 
blanket over him and extended him the charity of letting him sleep in the shed, and only then did they notice 
that he had a temperature at night, and was delirious with the tongue twisters of an old Norwegian. That was 
one of the few times they became alarmed, for they thought he was going to die and not even the wise 
neighbor woman had been able to tell them what to do with dead angels. 

And yet he not only survived his worst winter, but seemed improved with the first sunny days. He 
remained motionless for several days in the farthest corner of the courtyard, where no one would see him, 
and at the beginning of December some large, stiff feathers began to grow on his wings, the feathers of a 
scarecrow, which looked more like another misfortune of decreptitude. But he must have known the reason 
for those changes, for he was quite careful that no one should notice them, that no one should hear the sea 
chanteys that he sometimes sang under the stars. One morning Elisenda was cutting some bunches of 
onions for lunch when a wind that seemed to come from the high seas blew into the kitchen. Then she went 
to the window and caught the angel in his first attempts at flight. They were so clumsy that his fingernails 
opened a furrow in the vegetable patch and he was on the point of knocking the shed down with the 
ungainly flapping that slipped on the light and couldn’t get a grip on the air. But he did manage to gain 
altitude. Elisenda let out a sigh of relief, for herself and for him, when she watched him pass over the last 
houses, holding himself up in some way with the risky flapping of a senile vulture. She kept watching him 
even when she was through cutting the onions and she kept on watching until it was no longer possible for 
her to see him, because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon 
of the sea. 

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