He couldn't kill it. He circled around a pig hanging upside down that just kept squealing. I imagined tears trickling from its beady eyes. My mother had warned me to stay away from the window, saying that it was a man's business out there. She sprinkled herself with perfumes, called my brother, and they went out into the street. I stood by the window, my nose pressed against the glass. She was like that, giving orders and never making sure they were fulfilled. My father came and went through the patio with a rod in his hand, without making up his mind.

It had been Mama's idea. She prodded him where it would hurt most.

"Your father was from Matanzas and taught you everything you need about slaughter. You kill it," she said. "Don't tell me you're scared."

We would save lots of pesos if slaughter was done at home, if everything was cooked there: a big party to celebrate Mama's birthday. He didn't want to be afraid, so he got what was needed. But he couldn't. He had been pacing for a while, lighting up and putting out cigarettes. He just couldn't.

I smoothed my dress and went out to the patio, as if it were nothing, just trying to see what was going on out there. He greeted me with a smile of relief. The pig was shaking, heavy, hideous with its shrieking snout. As I went closer, I saw its yellowish teeth and the teats hanging down: it was a sow!

"Why don't we tell Mama we don't kill her because she has piglets?" I suggested.

"What piglets? The man who sold it to us had already sold the piglets."

The sow started to drip milk. It stopped shrieking for a few moments as if that relieved it.

"So?" I grabbed the rod he had left on the ground.

I saw the huge dark pot where the sow was supposed to be cooked. Everything was ready. We had to kill it.

"Why don't you tell her you don't remember how to do it? At school, this is what I tell my teacher: I don't remember..."

He ran his hand through his hair. He had accompanied his father a thousand times in situations like this. His voice trembled:

"I would close my eyes. I hated the sound of a pig dying."

We remained silent. The sun plummeted and the sow shrieked again.

"It's just that if you don't kill it, well, her, Mama..."

"I know, Andrea. I know." He turned his back to me.

In an unexpected turn he snatched the rod from me and plunged it once into the sow's chest. It must have struck right at her heart, because the animal bellowed with all her might. My father fell to the ground and blood began splashing everywhere. He had turned pale and looked in horror at the gush of blood shooting out of the wound. I leaned over him to cover his ears with my hands so he would not hear the sow that kept shrieking until the end of the day.