The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 13, No. 1

Insular Menu

by Ronaldo Menéndez

Translated by Janet Hendrickson

The hot March morning they officially announced, after imperious rumors that never succumbed to sentimentality or fear, that bread and eggs were to be rationed, I noticed the shops had updated their advertised specials with signs that stated emphatically BREAD AND EGGS, ONLY WITH RATION BOOKLETS. This fact pained me, because I understood that the fading socialist sphere was abandoning us, and that this change would be the first in an infinite series. The socialist sphere will change, I thought with a forlorn vanity, but I won't. I confess my enthusiastic devotion had, from time to time, exasperated my skeptical colleagues. With socialism dead, I could dedicate myself to evaluating it, without hope, but also without exasperation. I decided to follow what, from that point forward, would be our Insular Menu. I considered that Sunday, March 10, was my daughter's birthday, and a visit to the Twenty-Sixth Street Zoo would be an irreproachable, perhaps unavoidable paternal act. That would be the last time we'd see, in his unwarranted, caged felicity,


the ostrich at the zoo. He tended to be so docile that each morning at the same time he would stretch his periscope neck outside the cage until he reached the director's pepetually open window. The director would offer him crusts of stale bread and plantain peels. Ah, Pancho! Never had such an ugly bird been the pretty pride of a zoo director. But one day the ostrich disappeared without a trace. After some inquisitorial sleuthing, chance hit unerringly upon its answer: At school one of the neighborhood girls remarked, completely off topic, that there was nothing to eat at her house, and then her father cooked a chicken leg like this for dinner. With this last comment, she opened her arms as wide as she could. The teacher pressed further, and the proud girl confessed that the chicken's neck was also like this, and the heart and the wings were like this. And so it was discovered that the zoo director had fattened Pancho and served him on his familial table, as the girl just happened to be the director's daughter. The bad example proliferated, and little by little the community of crocodiles was decimated, as were the collections of certain species of monkeys, all the birds, a few camelids, and other herbivores. In the end the zoo was reduced to hyenas and wolves, which tried to eat each other since there was no food for them.

To read the rest of this story, both in English and in its original Spanish, and others from the Spring 2009 issue, please purchase a copy from our online store.