Nicolás Pili


Nicolás Pili is an Argentine-Italian journalist and translator from General Roca, a small town in northern Patagonia, currently living in London. The year of the rabbit tells the story of two women and their escape from the ashes of the eruption of Puyehue volcano in the village of Villa la Angostura in 2011.

The year of the rabbit


The hallway outside Beatriz’s room was dark, but somehow those plastic flowers managed to gleam from its place between the old furniture and the gauchesque paintings. She could hear a buzzing sound and at the end of that shadowless tunnel, a series of colored lights were reflected on the counter desk of the main entrance. The man who had checked them in earlier that night was now lying on a couch watching TV. As soon as he saw her walking in, he jumped up and asked if she needed anything.

“I’m fine, thanks,” Beatriz said. “I just wanted to watch some tv because I can’t sleep.”

“Sit down, please,” the man said. “Do you want to drink mate?”

O n the table by the sofa there was an open, smoking flask, and a coffee mug with yerba mate and metal straw inside. She nodded and sat down on an individual armchair besides him.

“Well, mate…” the man said as he began to pour hot water into the mug. “I couldn't find the thing anywhere, so I had to use this.”

The man insisted on trying to look into Beatriz's eyes, which came and went between the TV, the table, the door and his face. “You’re in the middle of La Pampa, and they serve you mate in a mug,” he went on saying. “So embarrassing, " he finally smiled and said nothing else.

“It’s fine, thank you,” Beatriz said. “Where are we?”

“Lihuel Calel,” the man replied.

“Lihuel-calel?,” Beatriz resaid. Despite all the miles they’ve done that day, she was still in Mapuche territory.

“What's your name?” the man asked.

"I am Beatriz," she said, and gave the mate back to the man, now, looking back into his eyes with confidence.

“You miss your family. Don’t you, Beatriz?”

“A lot. Yes.”

“And that’s why you can’t sleep, probably…”

“That's right, yeah. And all that travelling, I’m not feeling very well.”

“And where are they?”

“Villa La Angostura.”

On the tv, a news channel was playing the blurry images of the eruption of a volcano. The caption of the newscast warned that the storm of ashes would cover the region entirely in the coming days.

“Oh, of course. The truck…” the man said. “And how are they?”

“They are dead.”



Beatriz was crying. She was alone, sitting on the bed of that motel in the middle of nowhere, and she was crying. María had decided for them to spend the night in that last town that crossed their way when she felt she couldn’t keep on driving any more. That town in La Pampa that Beatriz didn't know -not that she did know any other town around- and which name she hadn’t been able to read from the Welcome to the city sign they passed by on the road. Not the few letters that remained painted there. "Lala needs to sleep too. We are staying here," Maria said and then stopped at the first hotel they saw off the main route.

Beatriz was  crying, sitting alone on that motel bed and holding a piece of an old newspaper in her hand. Then she stopped crying at some point, she put the clipping back in her purse and stared at the phone. Apart from the bed, the only thing in the room was a small table with a telephone and a bible, that seemed either newly bought or unopened. She felt the need to make a phone call. She thought about calling her sister but they would all be sleeping in the house. She felt the need to talk to her husband, but it was not too late, it was too impossible.

Beatriz tried to get some rest, lying on the bed, but the grey light from the ceiling lamp pointing at her would only kept her awake and more depressed. The switch was far by the door. She wouldn’t be able to sleep with the light on and the weight of that distance over her eyes. She put on a jacket over her nightgown and decided to go for a walk, even if it was just as far as up to the front desk. There might be a TV or radio that she could use to clear her head. Calm the nerves of the nighttime.


It had been five years since the fire. But from the moment she saw the ashes falling from the sky on that morning, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. The man was now staring at Beatriz but no longer waiting for the mug back, or even the look back, but thinking of ways to rescue her from that last word. “I'm so sorry, Beatriz, ” he said. “You know that people say that bad things only happen to bad people. Well, I think that’s a lie…”

The man realized that now he was the one that needed to be saved from what he’d just said. He finished drinking his mate, filling the room with the sound of the last sips.

“It’s OK. This was a long time ago,” Beatriz said, and held out her hand as if expecting another drink.

It had been five years since the fire burned down her house, while her husband and children were sleeping. When her sister called to tell her, Beatriz fainted and hit her head with the cement counter. She was in Chile at her mother's house. She had to cross the Andes in an ambulance, accompanied by Laura, a nurse who had been her neighbor when they were little girls.

The eruption of the volcano covered the sky with clouds, first. Clouds made of stone, that began to fall down over the town little by little but without stopping. Somehow, she felt that part of them could be suspended in the air, falling from that gray sky that had made them escape the town. So, just before leaving, she gathered a handful of the dust that had accumulated on Maria's truck and scattered it in her purse.




The shopping cart was filled with six large water bottles, paper towels, rice, dry pasta, and a bunch of cans with different images of fruits and vegetables printed on their labels. The generalized euphoria inside the supermarket was now aligned in the different queues attended by sleepy, anxious yet still efficient cashiers. Maria waited behind several more overloaded carts; checking the time and keeping an eye on her daughter, that was scouring the scrambled candy in one of the shelves next to the checkout boxes. But she couldn’t take it anymore. "Leave that. We're going," María said. She set the cart aside, grabbed her daughter's hand and dragged her to the exit.

María called back home from the road. "Yes, ma'am," Beatriz answered the phone.

“I’ve already told you not to call me that, Beatriz,” María said. “I'm coming home, I did not buy anything. Just pack Lala’s bags and we’ll go. Thank you.”

“Are you sure? I was listening to the radio and they haven’t said anything new…”

“I don't care, we're leaving... Don’t you feel that strange smell, too?”

On the other side of the phone, Beatriz inhaled deeply. “I can’t smell anything, Maria. Just the steak milanesas that are in the oven…”.

Maria smiled and insisted, "Don’t worry. Just put the girl's clothes in a suitcase and prepare your things. As soon as I get the there, we load up the truck and we’re leaving town”.

“Where are we going? So I can tell my sister,” said Beatriz.

“I do not know, to Buenos Aires. Far away. If you want to stay, it’s OK…” said María.

“Don’t worry, I’m coming with you,” said Beatriz and hang up.



When they got to the house, Beatriz was finishing Lala's suitcase upstairs. Maria went straight to the kitchen and found a tupperware full of hot milanesas on the kitchen table. She put them aside, stood on the table and lifted the wood panel from the ceiling. She stood on tiptoe, went into the hole in the roof with both of her arms, and brought down a briefcase and a plastic folder. "Ma’am!" Beatriz said when she found her.

“Stop calling me like that, Beatriz, please,” Maria replied with a smile. “Get all of these in plastic bags, thank you.”

Lala was by the window overlooking the lake and couldn’t understand what that thing falling from the sky was. It was definitely raining but again that thing didn’t really look like rain at all. She opened the laundry room’s door and the dog went in desperately. "Come," she said and stroked him to calm him down. Her hand was now filled with a kind of gray snow that didn’t melt on her skin. “Go get your toys backpack!”, Maria shouted from upstairs.

"He’s coming with us too, right?", Lala shouted worriedly.

"Yes!" said María, coming down the stairs. Beatriz was waiting for them sitting on the couch with Lala's suitcase on one side and a small handbag on her knees.



While filling up the tank at the gas station, María grabbed a large bag of dog food from outside the store. She then checked the oil level and when she was wiping her hands on her pants she noticed that she was wearing her ex-husband's jeans. "Let's go to Buenos Aires. We’ll stay at Lala's father," she told Beatriz, who replied by nodding, without moving from her seat. Lala was sitting in the back with her seat belt already on. The dog was staring out the window as Maria did the last checkups around the truck. The rain of ashes grew heavier and started piling up on the windshield.

© The Acentos Review 2018