Read “The Dreadful Mucamas” by Lydia Davis

“The Dreadful Mucamas”


Lydia Davis

They are very rigid, stubborn women from Bolivia. They resist and sabotage whenever possible.

They came with the apartment. They were bargains because of Adela’s low IQ. She is a scatterbrain.

In the beginning, I said to them: I’m very happy that you can stay, and I am sure that we will get along very well.

This is an example of the problems we are having. It is a typical incident that has just taken place. I needed to cut a piece of thread and could not find my six-inch scissors. I accosted Adela and told her I could not find my scissors. She protested that she had not seen them. I went with her to the kitchen and asked Luisa if she would cut my thread. She asked me why I did not simply bite it off. I said I could not thread my needle if I bit it off. I asked her please to get some scissors and cut it off – now. She told Adela to look for the scissors of la Señora Brodie, and I followed her to the study to see where they were kept. She removed them from a box. At the same time I saw a long, untidy piece of twine attached to the box and asked her why she did not trim off the frayed end while she had the scissors. She shouted that it was impossible. The twine might be needed to tie up the box some time. I admit that I laughed. Then I took the scissors from her and cut it off myself. Adela shrieked. Her mother appeared behind her. I laughed again and now they both shrieked. Then they were quiet.

I have told them: Please, do not make the toast until we ask for breakfast. We do not like very crisp toast the way the English do.

I have told them: Every morning, when I ring the bell, please bring us our mineral water immediately. Afterwards, make the toast and at the same time prepare fresh coffee with milk. We prefer ‘Franja Blanca’ or ‘Cinta Azul’ coffee from Bonafide.

I spoke pleasantly to Luisa when she came with the mineral water before breakfast. But when I reminded her about the toast, she broke into a tirade – how could I think she would ever let the toast get cold or hard? But it is almost always cold and hard.

We have told them: We prefer that you always buy ‘Las Tres Niñas’ or ‘Germa’ milk from Kasdorf.

Adela cannot speak without yelling. I have asked her to speak gently, and to say señora, but she never does. They also speak very loudly to each other in the kitchen.

Often, before I have said three words to her, she yells at me: Sí . . . sí, sí, sí . . . ! and leaves the room. I honestly don’t think I can stand it.

Read the rest of “The Dreadful Mucamas” at Granta (or in Davis’s collection Can’t and Won’t).

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