Nicolás Maduro became aware that a little bird was talking to him. At first, he thought it was the Chogüi bird, a usually friendly and chatty creature, but because he is a shrewd person, trained by the Cubans in the various types of warbles, he quickly realized that it was Hugo Chávez.
Maduro, an educated, sensitive and spiritual gentleman, a disciple of Sai Baba, an Indian mystic and spiritual figure, replied to the little bird. Maduro knows onomatopoeia better than anyone. He can imitate the sounds of birds, donkeys, people even. In any case, there was a sonorous and profound exchange of whistles, filled with emotion.
The conversation was long and wide-ranging. Nicolás is a good-natured fellow and a talker. So was the bird. It was loquacious, like Chávez. If Chávez is reincarnated into a bird, he won’t become a terse and circumspect one but a creature capable of trilling for hours, as if it were at the United Nations denouncing former President George W. Bush, that sinister “Mister Danger.”
The last time Maduro spoke with Chávez, more or less in real life, their conversation lasted five hours. The same may have happened this time. After all, it was more difficult (and cruel) to talk for five hours with a dying person, in a coma, with his throat perforated by a tracheotomy, than to communicate with a healthy, air-worthy bird eager to chat.
I am not surprised that Maduro speaks with the little birds. It warms my heart. It isn’t the first case I know. Near my house in Madrid, in Santa Ana Park, there was a fellow who spoke with the pigeons. People called him “Pepe the Pigeon Fancier.”
Pepe threw bread crumbs to the pigeons and, while they surrounded him, delivered to them long speeches about the monarchy. The pigeons didn’t leave until the bread ran out, which meant that they responded better to material rewards than to ideological arguments. (It seems they were Chavist pigeons, or at least corrupted by a basic variety of neopopulism.)
Occasionally, while Pepe the Pigeon Fancier talked to the pigeons, I tried to break into the conversation. Pepe insisted that he had been a friend of King Alfonso XIII, which was unlikely because Don Alfonso left Spain in 1931, before he was born. (Before Pepe was born, not Alfonso, dear reader, don’t try to be funny.)
When I made that objection, Pepe the Pigeon Fancier answered with crushing logic: “Those of us who speak with birds are capable of any miracle.” Then he lowered his voice, looked around and made a moving confession that I’ve never forgotten: “I am a pigeon, reincarnated into a man.” (In other words, the same thing that happened to Chávez, but the other way around.)
That interesting phenomenon of the transmutation of men and birds didn’t last long. One evening in winter, Pepe the Pigeon Fancier disappeared before our very eyes. He was taken away by an ambulance.
To avoid a ruckus, one of the orderlies - while slipping on Pepe a white canvas jacket with extra-long sleeves so he couldn’t hurt himself - told him that he, too, was a pigeon disguised as an orderly, personally trained by Alfred Hitchcock to play that role. Pepe would be taken, the orderly said, to a beautiful pigeon coop where he would be able to talk with many creatures just like him.
Pepe seemed happy. He bade me goodbye with a wave of the hand, like a politician at a campaign rally. The orderly-pigeon (or pigeon-orderly), standing behind Pepe, made circles over his temple with his index finger, more in melancholy than in mockery.
I recall he also mouthed a word, without uttering it. It looked like “schiz-o-phre-nia.” I didn’t quite get it.