“I can’t go to the chicken coop or the greenhouse or the workshop,” the little girl lamented to her grandfather in the kitchen of her grandparents’ house, where she spends her days while her mother is at work. On the outskirts of Gijón, the house is more country than city. Her grandfather had built her a playhouse big enough for two people, and had recently added a playground, with a slide and swing and a sign that said El Parque de Julia. When tired of labors with her grandfather, she revives on her bench, just outside her front door. But now she was telling her grandfather she couldn’t even go to her playhouse.
“Why not?” he asked. He’d come from outside to see if she’d finished her breakfast yet. Usually she enthusiastically followed him back out, calling to her grandmother that she was off to do cositas, little things. But that day she wore a big frown. Her voice was petulant when she answered. “Because I’ve been punished.”
“Who punished you?”
“Papá,” she said, adding it was because she didn’t let her parents cut her pimientos, her peppers, as she calls her toenails. Where did that name originate, I asked on hearing the story, but no one knew.
Her grandfather had already heard from the girl’s mother how she’d turned into a demon, kicking wildly to prevent her nails from being trimmed. Now, in the kitchen, the little girl looked mournfully at her feet. “But when I woke up, they were all cut,” she said sadly. She pulled off her slippers and socks to show her toes to her grandfather.
Before he had a chance to count her toes to make sure they were all there, the little girl was struggling to get her socks back on. “Let’s go to see the chickens first,” she said, fully recovered from her sadness.
“But aren’t you being punished?”
She lowered her voice, put her finger to her mouth, and leaned close to her grandfather. “It’s a secret.” She stood up, held out her hand. “Papá’s in Avilés,” she said, just managing to pronounce the city where her father works. “Papá’s not here.”
“And you took her to the chickens?” I asked.
Of course. It was almost summer. Hens were laying, peas were ripening, grass was growing. It wasn’t only the little girl’s peppers that grew and had to be cut. So off they went together, grandfather and granddaughter, to do their cositas.
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