Horchata - Luca Bolognese


Luca -

☕ 3 min. read

Here is a house on a hill over­look­ing the high­way. Behind that, the sea. The old cou­ple sits on the ter­race, watch­ing the traf­fic snake by. In all these years, they have seen a lot. There have been ac­ci­dents, a po­lice chase, a shoot­ing even. Once a horse wan­dered on the road.

I want a piece of all that life,” says the old man. His name is Pedro and he has the heart of a child. He goes down to the garage and builds a big wooden sign that says Horchata.” His wife rolls her eyes. Her name is Maite and she is very pa­tient.

The next day, they wake up early. Maite grinds the al­monds and mixes the sugar while Pedro puts up the sign. They wait.

People come—first fam­i­lies, then the big trucks. Word goes around and lines start to form. They are longer every day.

It’s not just the hor­chata. Maite sings some­times. She has the voice of a hum­ming­bird, but you have to coax it out of her. She is too shy. Pedro talks to the men about sports and pol­i­tics. He has a lot of opin­ions.

But it is mainly the hor­chata that does it. The sea air gives it fla­vor. A drop of whisky makes it unique.

The day batch fin­ishes in the early morn­ings. The cus­tomers don’t like that and honk their horns to tell the oth­ers back in the line. Pedro’s heart sinks. He goes back to the garage and builds an­other sign that says: se acabo” - it is fin­ished. They put the sign up every late morn­ing to avoid peo­ple get­ting out of the high­way for noth­ing.

The line of cus­tomers starts form­ing ear­lier every day. Some sleep the night in line. Pedro brings them cof­fee in the morn­ing. He feels guilty it has come to that.

They need to in­crease pro­duc­tion - he rea­sons. But Maite has just two hands and there is just one al­mond tree. So he puts more wa­ter in it. And then some more. He also low­ers the price be­cause he is an hon­est man. The lines get even longer. They still honk when the sign comes up.

Now Maite wants a va­ca­tion. She is tired of all the grind­ing. She does­n’t even like al­monds and she is get­ting ad­dicted to sugar and whisky. Her voice slurs when she sings.

Pedro has an idea. He gets a copy­right on the name Maite’s hor­chata” and goes and talks to all the bars in town. He lets them use the name and the recipe but takes a per­cent­age of the sales. Maite is a brand.

Sales sky­rocket. Some bars don’t fol­low the recipe, but Pedro is on their case and makes sure qual­ity is pre­served. The cou­ple still lives in the house on the hill, but now it is big­ger. It got a sign that says: The orig­i­nal Maite.” They have peo­ple mak­ing the hor­chata now. They get the al­monds from Marocco. Pedro does­n’t talk to cus­tomers any­more. Maite does­n’t sing. Her voice is not what it used to be.

And big money comes. They can go na­tional, but they have to change the recipe. You see, al­monds are too ex­pen­sive and whiskey is a no-no. They use caramel and more sugar in­stead.

Maite is a celebrity now. She got her face on all these cans. She is al­ways on TV. She tries to sing, but her voice comes out funny. It is all these par­ties she has to go to. The mu­sic is too loud and the smoke gets in her lungs.

Pedro en­joys the at­ten­tion. He buys a fancy car and dri­ves Maite around town to her ap­point­ments. He wears shoes made with croc­o­dile skin and they are very pointy. He talks loud and drinks a lot. Sometimes he falls asleep in the car parked in the dri­ve­way to their new villa.

The house on the hill is a mu­seum. They have pho­tos of how things were when it all started. The lines of trucks out­side; Maite grind­ing al­monds; Pedro build­ing the big sign.

One night they go to a movie pre­miere. In the car, they talk about their good luck. Sure there are prob­lems: they are busy, al­ways run­ning around. They are tired. They drink too much. But look at what they have!

And they look. And they look.

And find nothing of importance.

If you come up the road to the house, you bet­ter come up qui­etly. Don’t make a fuss of it. When you are up on the ter­race, don’t make a sound. You might catch Maite singing as she goes about her busi­ness. You might wake up Pedro. He will be happy to see you. He en­joys the oc­ca­sional chat about sport and pol­i­tics. He has lots of opin­ions.

In the gar­den, here is the al­mond tree. Down be­low snakes the high­way. Behind that, the sea.

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