LITERATURE: The Life of Geronimo Sandoval – Imagery & Setting

Ersinghaus is extremely adept at finding the perfect simile to express an image.  In his choice he may be taking into account not only the item but the setting or environment of story, as it adds to the scene by its tone:

(Ham on Cervantes)

We met at my office. Washington asked and listened through the interview, periodically reaching over to run his fingers over the ears of a Chuihuahua he’d brought.  The dog, he called it Miguel Villa, sat on my desk staring at me with its black insect eyes, unperturbed by field science.  I thought I saw accusation there. The dog would sneeze often and lick its small pink nose. One eye would snap shut and open slowly like the door of a garage.

The dog becomes the focus of the scene, the playing field and umpire as the two men sit and talk. You already get the feeling that Washington has set the dog between them on the desk for this very purpose, whether to put Ham at ease or to distract him into letting down his guard.  The movement of the dog’s eye, snapping shut, opening slowly like the yawning entryway of a garage, ready for admittance.

(Ham on Mexicanos)

"Stop calling me ‘Washington.’ My name is Cervantes.  Call me Mr. Cervantes." He put the pencil and pad down and sat straight and prideful in the chair. He patted Miguel Villa between the ears and the dog’s eye closed, rose slowly, like something oiled.

The interviewer is adamant that he be called by his preferred name of Cervantes, an affiliation with his people, as is his dog in both breed and name.  He is upset by Ham’s indifference, having come to expect, I think, an ally.  He shifts position, pats the dog, reaffirming his space.  Ersinghaus then brings our attention back to the dog and in particular, his eye, opening slowly, "like something oiled."

That bit of detail, that subterfuge, keeps tension within the scene.  It diffuses it from the two men and leaves the dog as a bubble of translation between them, the talk going in and out through that opening and shutting eye, which also, by its slow pacing appears wise, unagitated, a symbol perhaps of political correctness that filters reality.

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