Tía Miseria, Aunt Misery
Once there was an old woman known only to the people as Tía Miseria, Aunt Misery, who lived outside a small village. Tía Miseria was poor but happy. She had a garden with large vegetables, two big chickens, and most of all, she had her pear tree.
Oh, how she loved her pear tree! She would pick a pear and feel its smooth form. When she would bite into the pear, she´d sigh and say, "Ah, how delicious, how marvelous, how sweet!"
Tía Miseria was a proud woman who walked through the village with her back straight and her hair pulled back in a bun. Although she was very old, her skin was smooth except for a few wrinkles around her eyes.
But Tía Miseria had a problem with the children in the neighborhood. These children were the great-grandchildren of the ones who had named her Tía Miseria. Indeed, her life had been miserable for a long time. The children would run right through her garden, step on all of her vegetables, and taunt, "Tía, Tía, Tía Miseria."
They would climb her tree, pick some pears, and bite into them. With the juice running down the sides of their mouths, they would say, "Tía, Tía, Tía Miseria."
Poor Tía would get very upset. She would go under the tree and say to them, "Come down from my tree right now!"
But the children would just look down at her and laugh: "Tía, Tía, Tía Miseria!"
Only when the children were good and ready would they climb down the tree. Then they would run through the garden calling out, "Tía, Tía, Tía Miseria!"
Poor Tía! She had to replant her garden because the children had stepped on everything. Then she had to go look for the chickens in the bushes because the children frightened them so much. Worst of all, they were eating up her sweet, delicious pears.
One night as she was cooking supper, she heard a knock at the door. When she went to see who it was, there stood a short, thin man with friendly brown eyes. He wore a straw hat. "Can I please stay the night?" the man inquired. ´´It is so cold outside!"
"Of course," said Tía Miseria. "Come in, come in."
Tía served him a fine meal of rice, beans, and codfish.
In the morning the man said, "Tía, I am a magician, and because you have been so generous, I will give you a wish."
"A wish—let´s see, what can I do? Maybe I will wish for silver; no, maybe I will wish for gold." Then she stopped and smiled a very big smile. "I know what I want. Once someone is up my tree, they can´t come down until I say the magical words."
"Fine," said the magician. He said goodbye and went walking down the road.
That day the children came to the house. As usual, they ran through the garden taunting, "Tía, Tía, Tía Miseria!" They climbed the tree and picked some pears. They bit into the pears and then threw the uneaten portions at the cats and chickens. They threw the pears all over the garden.
But Tía did not react as she usually did. Instead of standing under the tree and yelling at them, she went into the kitchen and brought out a cup of coffee. She stood on the porch and drank her coffee with a big smile on her face.
The children knew something was very wrong. She never acted like this. So they did the one thing they knew would make her mad. They said, "Tía, Tía, Tía Miseria!"
But she just smiled and sipped her coffee and said, "Children, come down from the tree."
"No, we are not ready," they replied.
Finally the children were ready to come down from the pear tree. But as they tried to climb down, they found they couldn´t. The magic spell was working.
"Tía, Tía, please, let us down," the children cried out to her. "It is very late."
Tía sipped her coffee, looked at the children, smiled, and said, "No!"
"Please!" they called out to her again. "Let us down! It is getting late!"
Tía was enjoying this very much. She looked at the children, took a sip of her coffee, smiled, and said, "No!"
Oh, the children cried, begged, and pleaded. Finally Tía went under the tree and said, "If I let you out of that tree, will you promise me never to come back?"
The children responded immediately, "Sí, yes."
So she said her magic words, "Come down, come down, come down from my tree."
The children came down the tree as fast as they could. They ran around the garden instead of through it, and they did not return.
Now Tía was very happy. Her garden was quiet, her chickens were safe, and now she had her precious pear tree to herself.
One afternoon, when she was cooking supper and thinking about what had happened, she heard a knock at the door. She thought, Oh, my friend has returned.
She went to the door. A man stood there, but he was not her friend. He was a tall, thin man, and when he looked into her eyes, she felt as though she were falling into a deep, dark hole. She felt a shiver come over her body and she stepped back.
The man moved toward her. He looked her in the eyes and said, "I am Death, and I have come for you!"
Tía Miseria thought quickly. "Well," she sighed, "I knew you were going to come. Before we go, though, can we pick some pears to take with us?"
"No, no," said Death. "I have a long list of people I have to get tonight. I don´t have time!"
But Tía continued to talk about her pears, how wonderful and delicious they were to eat. Finally Death could see he wasn´t ever going to get out of there unless he yielded. "Go and pick some pears," he said. "I want to leave."
"Me?" Tía said. "I am a little old lady. Look at you. You are tall and young—and besides, you look like you could use a pear or two."
Death was so exasperated that he said, "Fine. I will pick some pears."
So he climbed the tree and picked some pears. He picked a few here and a few there, and then he was ready to climb down. But he could not go anywhere. He was caught in the magician´s spell!
Oh, he called her the most terrible things you have ever heard—and probably some other things you have never heard.
"Old lady, let me down now!" But she did not obey. She just said to him, "Throw me a pear, please."
She left him in the tree for a day, a week, a month, a year! Finally the village priest came to her. "Please let him down," he pled. "No one is coming to church because they know they are not going to die!"
Tía just shrugged her shoulders.
Then the undertaker came by. "Please let him down," he said. "I have no work and my children are hungry."
Tía looked at the undertaker and said, "Change your trade."
Finally, her very oldest friend came and spoke in a slow, halting voice. "Please ... let him down. I am very tired and I want to go ... Everything hurts me. Please ... I want to die."
Tía could not refuse the request of her oldest friend. She went under the tree and said to Death, "If I let you down, will you promise never to return for me?"
"Yes, yes," Death replied. He was tired of being in that pear tree.
She said the magic words, "Come down, come down, come down from my tree."
Death came down, leaned over her old friend, gently, swooped her up in his arms, and went running down the road.
Death did keep his promise. So Tía lives on and on. And that´s why some say that as long as Death keeps his promise, there will be misery in this world.
Momentos Mágicos, Magic Moments