Gibraltar Chronicle Logo

Short Stories Llanito Category Runner-up David Bentata with ‘The Kitchen Chair’

Dad was very much "un manita". All repairs at home we're done by him, ya sea electrical, mechanical, paintwork, carpentry and one he loved very much, wallpapering. Ever since I was a child, I would remember my mother commenting: "Esto se lo tengo que decir a Pepe que lo arregle!"

At the age of 80 the Big C caught up with him. He had been a 60 a day smoker till his mid-50s, que se podia esperar, y murio a los 86. But this story happened ten years later, when Mum was a widow and in her 90s.

I was working in Spain at that time, and Mum lived alone. Each morning, before crossing the Frontier, I would join her for breakfast. Each evening, before returning to my own home, I would call in and spend time with her. Some evenings I would find her having a snooze in what used to be Dad’s armchair. I once asked her why she swapped from her own, equally comfortable, armchair.

“Porque en este sillon aun huelo algo de la colonia ‘Florida Water’ que tu padre se echaba siempre … y es como si estuviera el todavia aqui conmigo”

They were married for over 50 years, a “chalk and cheese” matrimony that they worked at and made it a success, “no como estos días” as she always reminded me, mirándome a los ojos.

No, I will not get sentimental about this. Despues de todo the story is just about a kitchen chair isn't it?

One morning I walked in and found her crying at the table, breakfast half eaten. It was truly a heart-breaking sight. Ella solita en su dressing gown, el café enfriandose, el brique* medio comido. It showed me the loneliness that she was going through and it hit home.

"Mum, que pasa ? .... porque lloras????"

I hugged her, I kissed her and waited until the tears had run dry.

"Que paso, Mum? Why are you like this now?"

"Tu sabes the kitchen chair que te vengo podiendo ya hace meses to repair for me?”


"Si tu padre estuviera vivo he would have done it on the first day that I asked him"

She was right and I was duly chastised by her words. It was one of those chairs, a bit taller than normal ones, with retractable steps so as to reach the higher kitchen cupboards. Dad had repaired it a couple of times before. He would tell me, cigarette on one hand, screw driver on the other, y la silla desarmada en la mesa de su taller: “Tu generacion …todo disposable! Todo pa’ tirar y venga, buy a new one! La vida no es asi David!”

Bueno, back to Mum.

“Como yo sabia que tu no iba arreglarme la silla nunca...."

“Mum, tu me conoces, I am not like Dad ... I was actually going to buy you a new one. Esa tiene por lo menos 20 años ya!”

"Y que? Tu padre siempre me la arreglaba and it worked perfectly well!"

"OK, OK “ I knew I was on quicksand here.

“But what has this got to do with your tears?"

"Es que esta mañana I decided to fix it myself."


Mum was a great cook and an amazing home maker …. pero de ‘manita’…, nada!

"Fui al taller de tu padre and took a screwdriver, pliers and a hammer y desmonte el espaldar de la silla which is what was giving me problems ..... y mira lo que salio de dentro."

She showed me an old postcard. On it was this message in my father's spikey handwriting.

(I swear to you, readers, that even today, so many years later, se me ponen los bellos de punta remembering this.)

"Leelo … leelo" she insisted.

I started to read….

"My Darling, si estás leyendo estas líneas es porque ya no estoy a tu lado. Pero quiero que sepas que fuiste la única mujer para mí desde el primer momento que estuvimos juntos. Siempre ha sido tu a quien he amado. Con todo mi cariño, Pepe."

Dad had written this 15 years before he had even started getting sick.

He had slipped the card behind the vinyl cover of the back of the kitchen chair the last time he had repaired it.

No le dijo nada a nadie!

No wonder Mum was crying.

I felt tears in my eyes too.

But then I realised something!

"Mum, te das cuenta how lucky you are?"

"Lucky? Por que ‘lucky’? Porque estuvimos casado for over 50 years?"

"No, No .... Listen to me."

I wanted to share this amazing thought that had hit me como un rayo de luz.

"Mum, .... what's the date today?"

"It is.... it is ..” … se quedo pensando …. “ the anniversary of Dad’s death..."

"Si … lo vez? Lo vez?? Dad has just contacted you and is letting you know he is well and still close to you."

"Que habla ... no me venga with such tonterias a mi!"

Mum was a deeply religious woman, not given to anything smacking of espiritismo or anything like that. But I could see she was realising this was much more than mere coincidence. That Mum would go to Dad’s workshop to try and fix the kitchen chair herself was definitely not like her en san salud, y menos a los 90!

That Dad had hidden the message inside the chair was a curious thing for him to have done.

That he had done so even before he fell ill, more curious still.

Or perhaps he somehow knew he had cancer and its inevitable end?

Lastly that this message would reach her en el mismo dia del aniversario de la muerte de Dad..!

I leave it for you readers to think it all through.

You see, esto no es un cuentecillo.

This is a true story.

*Brique . the name of a type of bread roll from Amar’s

Adjudicator’s Comments:
This study of familial grief through the domestic lens captures an essential Llanito aspect of life that in many ways seems to be on the decline. The interweaving of Llanito through the prose is skilled, and the symbolism of sending a message through a piece of furniture like a kitchen chair, overlooked, sums up so much about the bonds of family and the Gibraltarian way of life.

Most Read

Download The App On The iOS Store