Waltz of the Fat Man by Alberto Rios

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Waltz of the Fat Man Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Noé is a middle-aged man who pays precise attention to the details of his appearance—his trim mustache and creased clothing—and the details of his house, which has blue trim and a blue door that will stand against spirits. Noé’s existence, however, is one of utter loneliness, with a complete lack of social and emotional contact with other human beings. His profession as a butcher brings him sadness, even though he chose this profession in an effort to do good things. Noé considers that the townspeople’s polite disregard of him might be because he is overweight, but he does not think of himself as fat. He considers his body as a heaviness that has come from the inside out. He attends wakes in the town simply for the opportunity for human contact, but he receives only obligatory common courtesy from others. He simply wishes to be part of the town.

To find a release from his loneliness, Noé dresses in a blue suit and dances outside of the town. Noé dances with the faceless wind and encircles his arms around the branches of black walnut trees; the trees are as unyielding as women’s arms, but they at least cannot leave to gossip about him. He feels free to let out his “thin girl”—a partner who will not ignore him. Together, they dance the dance of weddings through the night.

In an attempt to become more of a regular man and be in the mainstream of human relations, Noé begins to wear his blue suit to his butcher shop. He also devises a small plan to shake the hands of women vigorously in order to see some movement of their bodies—some indication that he is recognized as another human being. By attending wakes, he can kiss the cheeks of the bereaved, but even this clumsy attempt often meets with failure.

As a further antidote to his unwanted loneliness, Noé begins to collect clocks, even hanging them on his butcher shop walls. He collects the clocks because they have hands, “and in so many clocks was a kind of heaven, a dream of sounds to make the hours pass in a manner that would allow him to open up shop the next day.” He perceives of them as women—giving them women’s names—and imagines that they are beckoning and speaking to him. Despite the townspeople’s objections to this strange behavior, Noé is left alone. One winter evening, however, Noé hears the blue clock, his favored “Marina,” hesitate. He hurries to the clock that is calling to him as “a wife in pain.” Even though he tells himself that Marina is only a clock, he is disconcerted, and after examining her, he wraps her up in butcher’s paper like a piece of meat, an act that seems to bring him comfort.

As Noé quickly walks home in the darkness, cradling his precious Marina, he hears an oleander call to him as he passes by the stand of walnut trees where he has danced...

(The entire section is 776 words.)