Archive for July, 2011
The boy who became God – O menino que se tornou Deus
Dionathon’s mãe, Divair, had seemed to age 20 years in the six weeks or so since her filho único – only son – had been struck by lightning and death had so unexpectedly and unequivocally tried to extinguish his life force. Her hair, previously with traces of white, was now more white than dark and her palpable pain had been etched onto her face; even her posture had sagged and dropped to that resembling a sixty year old. She had wept bitterly when she had first lain eyes on him at the beira do lago; the grapevine had alerted her to the plight of her son within minutes, and she had managed to arrive there at his side before the ambulance and had even managed to accompany Dionathon to the unidade de tratamento intensivo – intensive care unit – at the Pronto Socorro; he had looked so pale, so fragile, so lifeless, had suffered burns to a greater part of his body and the médicos on the scene had told her that it was unlikely that he would survive such massive trauma.
Even in the ambulance, against the strongest of objections of the médicos, she had forbidden them from doing anything at all to her filho, beyond administering oxygen. Maybe she was just being a typical mother, but she was convinced that she could offer a better option than the medical system could ever offer, even if she didn’t yet know what it was; she simply had no faith in the Sistema Único de Saúde – the Brazilian free medical system – and so many stories had reached her ears which only served to further reinforce this belief. The médicos battled furiously with her in the ambulance, desperate to apply their knowledge of modern medicine to their patient, but she staunchly and resolutely refused everything.
Once at the Pronto Socorro, Dr. Paulo Ferreiro Flores dos Santos was quickly on hand, barking orders and instructions about the treatment of the patient. Diva stood resolutely by her son’s side and refused point blank to allow any of the orders to be carried out. Dr. Ferreiro Flores dos Santos sighed loudly, his frustration evident.
“Senhora, eu entendo que você está transtornado, mas eu realmente tenho que insistir,” – Madam, I understand that you are distraught, but I really must insist – he informed her as patiently as he could.
“Sou diretor de cirurgia, você sabe,” – I am the head of surgery, you know. “Agora, por favor, afaste-se,” – Now, please, move aside.
Divair refused to be moved. “Eu não quero que tu faça qualquer coisa a ele sem a minha permissão, e eu insisto, como mãe dele,” – I don’t want you to do anything to him without my permission, and I insist, as his mother.
Dr. Paulo Ferreiro Flores dos Santos stared at her in disbelief; in all his forty years of medicine, not once had someone spoken to him in such a fashion, insulting him like that to his face; what was this poor common woman doing refusing his advice? What did she know? Had she studied at a world famous university, graduating with honours? Of course she damn well had not.
“Senhora, eu não tocaria no seu filho mesmo que você me pagasse um milhão de reais,” – Madam, I would not touch your son if you paid me a million reais, he replied angrily and stormed off, refusing anything further to do with the case.
Doctor Marko de Souza Hoffmeister, the assistant head of surgery assumed control and tried to pacify her, but his bedside manner was little better than his predecessor and he was dismissed in a similarly summary manner.
Finally, in frustration he pleaded: “A senhora, pelo menos nos permita examiná-lo, fazer alguns testes” – Madam, at least let us examine him, do some tests. Divair conceded to this, concluding that this could not hurt, but insisted that she accompany her son throughout.
“Isso é altamente inortodoxo …” – This is highly unorthodox… – he started to argue, but lacked the back bone to sustain his argument and, finally, allowed her wish, but insisted that the hospital rules were strictly adhered to; she had to scrub and dress in sterile garments etc. the same as the doctors. To this, she agreed, but only to this.
Once the battery of tests was complete, Doctor Hoffmeister took her aside and pleaded with her.
“Senhora, por favor, você viu o resultado dos testes, se nós não operarmos, seu filho vai morrer, isso é certo,” – Madam, please, you have seen the test results, if we do not operate, your son is going to die, that is certain.
Diva refused to accept his advice at this moment; instead, trying to placate him, she told him she would give her decision in the morning.
“Mas senhora, se nós não operarmos imediamente, seu filho vai morrer, isso é certo,” – But madam, if we do not operate immediately, your son is going to die, that is certain, he again reiterated.
Not only did Dionathon have extensive burns covering his entire body, it appeared that his internal organs had been par cooked as well. Doctor Hoffmeister warned that even if he did ever regain consciousness, he would be a vegetable; the heat from the lightning bolt had boiled his brain fluids and broiled his cerebellum.
“Na verdade, é inútil esperar qualquer coisa dele, simplesmente seria melhor planejar o funeral dele, se nós não lhe prestarmos atenção imediata,” – In truth, it is futile to hope for anything from him, it would simply be better to plan his funeral if we don’t give him immediate attention – he tried as a final gambit, but was nonetheless firmly convinced of the veracity of his words.
Unlike many of her peers, who lived their life in perpetual fear, implicitly trusting the authoritative voice of those claiming greater reason, Diva was different. She trusted in a higher faith than that, plus, after surviving the ditadura – dictatorship era, she had learned that the authorities had their own best interests at heart, not that of the people. She forbade Doctor Hoffmeister from doing anything, beyond keeping her filho alive until she had consulted her “group”. He was livid, fit to burst, but had no option other than to accede to her demands; he could not legally do anything without the parent’s formal consent.
Diva’s group, well, not technically her group, as she was not a member, but a few friends of hers were, was known as “As Bruxas da Mata” – The Witches of the Forest, and she had far more faith in them than she had in the médicos. In her opinion the doctors only prescribed the medicines that the pharmaceutical reps bribed them to. And as for the pharmaceutical industry itself well, they were only interested in patients using their products for as long as possible to maximise their profit potential. As for curing people, why would they want to do that when they could have lifelong customers? The bruxas on the other hand practiced and kept alive folkloric remedies that worked and had been handed down from the indigenous people for generation after generation until there were virtually no indigenous people left to hand them down to. Fortunately, there were sympathisers and these few retained the ancient wisdom and it was to these that Diva would turn.
The first thing Dona Neusa advised was not to let them put anything on the burns; instead, to plaster the affected area with honey. Divair was dubious, not about the efficacy of the treatment, she had no doubt about that, but about the hospital system allowing her to do this and her doubts were well founded.
Doctor Marko Souza Hoffmeister was adamant. No, no and on no account, would they allow the practice of witchcraft in a public hospital. Divair had no option other than to discharge her filho and care for him at home herself. The administration was aghast, informing her that it simply was not possible. Divair was steadfast and refused to budge from her position; she was a mother and would do the very best for her filho; it was her duty, her obligation as a mãe, no one else had that same responsibility and no one was going to take that right away from her.
After many hours of desperate phone calls back and forth between the hospital administration and their legal advisor, it was finally resolved that the pais had the final say in such matter and they were powerless to stop her.
Such an unprecedented action required many hours of patient waiting and an interminable parade of legal documents to be signed, predominantly absolving the hospital of any legal obligation for Dionathon, but finally the process was complete and Diva was free to take her son. The hospital staff was horrified to see their patient transferred from the sterile environment of their hospital to the filthy horse and carroça parked outside the front door of the hospital.
Under the watchful care of Dona Neusa and her faithful bruxas, Dionathon’s exterior had slowly and almost miraculously healed; where the burns were once so livid and ugly, pink, fresh, unscarred skin had taken their place. It was the interior that worried Diva the most; he had not opened his eyes or uttered a word in almost six agonisingly long weeks and she was well aware that his insides had suffered far worse damage than his exterior, but he was alive and still breathing and all the while he did that, hope burned strong in her breast.
What was that? Had she heard something? She was convinced she had heard something and her eyes shot to her son. His eyes were still as firmly shut as they had been, but there was something new.
“Mãe, vá pegar Veronika, agora!” – Mum, go get Veronika, now! Dionathon murmered in a low, shallow voice.
She had heard right! He was awake at last!!! Her prayers to all the saints had been at last answered.
“Meu filho, meu filho, eu soube que daria certo,” – My son, I knew you would be alright. “Eu rezei a noite e dia aos santos pra ti,”– I prayed night and day to the saints for you!
His eyes opened wide and she got the second shock of the moment; his once dark, almost black eyes were now a bright, vibrant green; they weren’t the eyes of the son she had known, but she didn’t care, she threw her arms around him, smothering him with kisses and hugs and gratitude that he was alive.
“Calma, calma, mãe; tem bastante tempo pra isso,” – Calm down, calm down, mum; we have plenty of time for this. “Mas, primeiro, eu tenho que falar com Veronika,” – But first, I have to talk with Veronika.
“É uma questão de vida ou de morte, entendeu?” – It’s a matter of life and death, understand?
His seriousness caught her aback and stopped her expressions of gratitude in their tracks; this was so unlike her Dionathon; he never back-chatted her, let alone gave her orders.
“Mas querido, Veronika, não tá aqui neste momento,” But, darling, Veronika’s not here at the moment, she replied soothingly, regaining her wits, trying to relax and calm him.
“Mãe, Veronika tá fora de casa agora,” – Mum, she’s outside the house now, – he explained calmly, in a way she was not accustomed to.
“Não, não,” she started to say, remembering that Veronika had told her that she wouldn’t be back until nightfall, but, thinking of what her son had been through, she thought better of it and stopped herself.
“Confie em mim mãe, ela tá lá; por favor, diga a ela para entrar e me ver, é super importante” – Trust me mother, she is there; please send her in to see me, it’s very important.
“Isso é por que eu escolhi me acordar neste momento,”– This is why I chose to wake at this moment.
Diva, not wishing to upset her son at this auspicious moment, decided to humour him and forced herself to leave his sickbed. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she spotted Veronika coming in the gate, but quickly collected her wits and called her over and ordered her to see her brother immediately.
“Mãe, por favor, nos deixe a sós por alguns minutos,” – Mother, please leave us alone for a few minutes, – he ordered tersely when they both entered his sick room.
She was shocked. How could her filho único talk to her this way after the way she had nursed him back from the dead? But the look in his eyes was enough to send her scurrying out of the room in compliance.
Seeing Dionathon awake, with his eyes open for the first time in nearly two months, Veronika rushed to his bed and threw her arms around him, burying him with her hugs and kisses and then she noticed his eyes.
“Irmão, o que aconteceu com os seus olhos?” Brother, what happened to your eyes, she asked incredulously.
A smile flickered over his lips and his now green eyes twinkled as he responded.
“Eu quis algo diferente, então eu decidi mudá-los verde, gosta deles?” – I wanted something different, so I decided to change them to green, you like them?
“Gosto, mas…” – I like them, but.., – she answered feeling flustered; this was not the answer she expected and she had no idea how to react to this.
“Não tem importância, irmã,” – It’s not important, sis, – he responded before adding with a note of urgency: “Mas o importante é que você diga para o Zecão e o Lucas virem me ver,” – But what is important is that you tell Zecão and Lucas to come and see me.
At the mention of those two names, Veronika visibly stiffened; what could Dionathon possibly want with these two? And why would they agree to come and see her brother? As if hearing her unspoken question he continued, his voice dark and deadly serious.
“É uma questão de vida ou de morte; deles, e eles virão,” – It’s a matter of life and death; theirs, and they will come.
He explained in great detail exactly why they would come and also where they could be found: Zecão was at the house of his namorada and was preparing for a shipment of pó – cocaine – which was due to arrive from Colombia via Paraguay later that day, and Lucas was finishing lunch at home with his mãe and would be leaving the vila as soon as he finished, so he counselled her to fetch Lucas first.
Veronika eyed her brother sceptically; he had no way of knowing any of this, but, humouring him all the same, she left her brother’s sick bed to carry out his wishes nonetheless, totally lacking confidence in her mission.
The moment Veronika left the room Diva pounced on her son again, wrapping her arms around his shrivelled, puny body.
“Mãe, mãe, calma, calma; tô melhor, o que pensa que eu estava fazendo durante as últimas seis semanas?”– Mum, mum, relax, relax; what do you think I have been doing for the last six weeks? He said soothingly, running his hand tenderly and affectionately through her near white hair.
“Hein? O que? A puzzled frown added further creases to furrowed forehead.
“Mãe, estava me curando,” – I have been curing myself, – he continued, trying to assuage her fears, “mas as poções das bruxas, também me ajudara imensamente,” – but the potions from the bruxas helped me immensely as well, – “ainda que tivessem gosto horrível,” – even though they tasted horrible, he added with a gleam in his green eyes and a cheeky smile on his face.
Diva was incredulous, how could he know about that? Then it dawned on her that it was obvious; he was her son after all; it was obvious that she would seek their aid.
As if reading her thoughts he added: “Mãe, posso lhe contar tudo o que aconteceu nas últimas seis semanas, desde o momento que você chegou na beira e voltou comigo na ambulância para o Pronto Socorro,” – I can tell you everything that has happened in the last six weeks, from the moment you arrived at the beira and went with me in the ambulance back to the Pronto Socorro, – he told her seriously.
A smile lit up his mischievous features when he noticed her reaction; he had never seen he slack jawed and lost for words before and he revelled in his triumph.
The vila was a war zone; a war zone with many fronts. It could be argued that the primary front was between the wretched residents and starvation and sickness and poverty itself, but the most deadly of all battlefronts was between the two quadrilhas – a bala nas costas – the bullet in the back – and os diabos vingativos – the vengeful devils, – who vied for control of the drugs which were the heartbeat of the economy of the vila, but they themselves faced an even more dangerous enemy than each other: the various police forces and Denarc, O Departamento Estadual de Investigações do Narcotráfico, whose combined might was waged against the vila with one united aim: the suppression of drugs and dissent and the oppression of those who opposed the tyrannical system of order which protected honest, wealthy, law abiding, docile citizens who accepted their lot in life and who did as they were told, at least within tolerable limits.
Lucas was the leader of the bala nas costas and had assumed command shortly after reaching his nineteenth birthday. The position had become vacant when O Gavião, – The Hawk – the former leader, had mysteriously passed away after his head had disintegrated under a hail of gunfire during a dawn raid by the brigada militar at the start of operação cidadão seguro – operation safe citizen. During this operation, twelve residents, equally split between the two quadrilhas of the vila had also mysteriously died; all riddled with an assortment of bullets fired from pistols to automatic weapons. The deaths were mysterious insofar as there was no official record of their deaths or even their bodies, which had been summarily removed upon their untimely demise; and there was nothing any of the relatives could do to find out anything about what had happened or even to inter their loved ones; they simply ceased to exist.
Lucas was 19 years old, a veteran of the internecine guerra das quadrilhas that had plagued the vila for as long as anyone could remember, and considered himself tough and ruthless – the gun was a powerful tool. The average life expectancy in either quadrilha was around 21, but the average life expectancy of the leader of the quadrilhas could be counted in months; they usually met their demise at the hands of either one of the police forces or the opposing quadrilha, but there was still no shortage of applicants for vacant positions, for the position commanded vast wealth and, above all, power.
Veronika made her way to the front door of the house of Lucas and his mãe and gave a sharp rap on the rotting wooden door. Immediately, the sound of a chair scraping across a bare floor and heavy footsteps treading the short distance to the door could be heard. Veronika was then confronted by Lucas’ mãe; she was almost as round as she was tall and resembled a multicoloured beach ball with a round face topped with tight grizzled hair. The bright look on her face dropped the instant she recognised Veronika and her guard immediately went up, instantly wary of this crack addicted puta.
“O que você quer?” – What do you want? She hissed sharply.
“Quero falar com Lucas,” – I want to talk with Lucas – she replied with dignity, straightening to her full height, towering over the suspicious old woman.
Looking Veronika up and down, her lips curling into a snarl of disdain, she turned and called for her last remaining son, sitting at the table finishing a plate of arroz e feijão.
“Tem uma puta aqui que quer falar contigo,” – There’s a whore here who wants to talk to you, – she sneered, not hiding her derision for the unwelcome visitor, closing the door in her face, but not completely, leaving it slightly ajar, and ambling back to her frugal meal.
Veronika was surprised to discover that Dionathon had been right about Lucas’ whereabouts and activity; how the hell had he known? He hadn’t left his bed since their mãe had brought him back from the hospital and surely no one would have passed that information on to him.
Lucas was obviously asserting his dominance as he left her waiting outside the door until he was ready to see her. She had no option but to wait and, as she waited, she eyed the exterior of the house without interest, appraising the shack. It was little different to most other homes in the vila; roughly built of unrendered bricks, topped by browning corrugated fibre boards, irregular pieces glued over it’s surface to patch the holes that had formed over the years. There was a large square patch where a window had once existed on the front wall of the house, now roughly bricked over, its edges sealed with mortar. There was obvious signs of the damaged caused by the cupim – termites – which infested the vila, and the rest of the country for that matter, ravenously eating their way through any untreated timber.
After what seemed ages, she heard the lazy sound of a chair sliding across the bare wooden floorboards inside, then foot steps padding around the house before finally approaching the door.
“O que?” – What? – He snarled at her, clearly trying to intimidate her, but she was beyond such childish games, beyond fear; she had seen far too much in short life!
“Meu irmão quer falar contigo,” – My brother wants to talk to you, – she stated flatly and without emotion, simply relaying her message.
“Ele ainda tá vivo?” – He’s still alive? He retorted, feigning surprise.
“Eu ouvi dizer que ele estava vegetando, consumindo recursos valiosos,” – I heard he was no more than a vegetable, consuming valuable resources, he sneered at her, but she refused to be baited.
“Ele se acordou esta tarde e pediu para falar contigo,” – He woke up this afternoon and asked to talk with you, she replied in a steady voice.
“Porque eu haveria de me preocupar com aquele bichinha?” – Why should I care about that little faggot? He asked pretending disinterest, but curious nonetheless; he had had nothing to do with him in the past.
“Ele me disse que lhe falasse que tem R$3.759 e 55 centavos escondidos dentro de uma lata atrás de um tijolo solto na churrasqueira,” He told me to tell you that you have R$3759 and 55 cents hidden inside a can behind a loose brick in the churrasqueira.
With this, Lucas’ mouth dropped open stupidly. “Como aquele enfezadinho poderia saber isso? – How could that little runt know that? He searched his mind for an explanation, but could find nothing to account for it except treachery; he had counted the cash right before lunch and that was the exact figure that the can contained.
“Aquele filho da puta vai morrer!” – That son of a bitch is gonna die. With that, Lucas stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him with nary a word to his mãe, who had been listening behind the door, and charged off to see Dionathon, rage boiling in his blood.
Dionathon was a cunning graxaim – pampas fox; he knew that money was power and was one of the commodities most lacking in the vila; he had banked on this to lure Lucas to his side and he counted on the same ruse to work with Zecão as well.
When Lucas arrived at Dionathon’s home, he didn’t even bother knocking and nearly ripped the hinges off the door as he stormed into the small, simple abode. His gun was held directly in front of his face as his head swivelled round trying to locate Dionathon; it didn’t take too long; it was not a large house. He found him sitting up on his rough cot, a smile creasing his face, but looking, if possible, half as skinny as he remembered him.
“Guarde a arma, Lucas,você não vai usar,” – Put the gun away, Lucas; you’re not going to use it, – Dionathon told him with an air of authority.
“Deixe-me decidir por mim mesmo, bichona,” – Let me decide that for myself, faggot, – he snapped, scowling at him.
Dionathon proceeded to explain in minute detail, exactly why he had called him to his bedside and Lucas did indeed put his gun away.
As Lucas readied himself to leave, fear was inscribed on his features; his once dark complexion now pallid and ghost-like. He looked deep into Dionathon’s now green eyes and spoke from the bottom of his heart: “Meu irmão, eu não tenho como lhe agradecer; minha vida é sua,” – My brother, I cannot thank you enough; my life is yours!
He then wheeled on his heels and gratefully made his way out the door, stopping dead in his tracks as his boots hit the waterlogged, red clay street, for striding towards him, large as life, his face uglier and meaner than Lucas could ever remember, was his mortal inimigo, Zecão! Instinctively, his hand reached for his pistol and, quick as a flash, swung it forward, pointing it straight into Zecão’s face. Unfortunately for him, Zecão had already spotted him and his pistol was already in the same position.
The two enemies approached each other warily; circling like wolves, cautiously seeking a moment of weakness, then, Lucas broke the still and pregnant atmosphere.
“Agora não é hora, amigo, neste momento, a gente tem uma briga maior que isso em nossas mãos” – Now is not the time friend, we have a bigger fight than this on our hands at the moment, – he said, trying to ameliorate the situation.
“Não sei o que você tá falando, mas tenho um menino para silenciar,” – I don’t know what you are talking about, but I have a kid to silence, – he retorted, his lips twisting with hate.
Their physical positions had reversed 180 degrees, so that now Zecão was closer to Dionathon’s door and it became obvious that this was a stalemate, but neither side was prepared to give an inch as they retreated, slowly, cautiously, steadily from each other, both pacing backwards, stretching the distance between themselves.
Zecão’s back met the door and he blindly fumbled for the handle, not daring to take his eyes off Lucas for a solitary second. He backed his way vigilantly through the door, slamming it shut the moment he had crossed the threshold and heaved a big sigh before hunting his more immediate prey.
A small yet powerful voiced called out from a room.
“To aqui, entre,” – I’m in here, come in.
Zecão needed no further invitation and strode purposefully into the room, pistol at the ready; ready to assist this little mongrel in meeting his maker.
“Você tem cinco segundos, fala,” You have five seconds, talk. So Dionathon did.
The early morning air was cold, moist and dark as thirty five assorted vehicles, ranging from brigada militar squad cars to grey buses, all without number plates or means to positively identify them, purposefully headed for the vila in convoy. Each vehicle crammed full of heavily armed men, all wearing the uniform of the particular force to which they served. All in all there were over two hundred and fifty men.
This was the start of Operação Proteja o Povo, – Operation Protect the People, – the largest and most complex Police operation ever mounted in the state and its scope had ruffled more than a few feathers. This was the first operation ever to combine the forces of the Brigada Militar, Policia Federal, Policia civil and the Departamento Estadual de Investigações do Narcotráfico (Denarc) and it was this that ruffled the feathers, for each organisation wanted to, and believed that they should, head the operation, but after much gesticulating, posturing, arm waving and foot stamping it was finally agreed that tenente-coronel Menenes of BOE, Brigada de Operações Especiais, would head the operation.
The primary objective of Operação Proteja o Povo was to decapitate the quadrilhas of the most infamous vila in the city; to take out not only the leaders, but their tenentes – lieutenants – as well. They had been given explicit orders to queima os relatórios ¬– burn the reports, in other words, there were to be no files kept, no official records of the operation.
The convey circled the vila with all their lights doused, blockading every rua, every beco, every boca, sealing it tight, allowing no avenue of escape.
The men had been well drilled; they had studied aerial photographs and maps of the vila; their targets clearly identified; each man knew exactly what was expected of him and was confident that his objective would be achieved.
Surprise was the name of the game and silence was paramount. Fortunately, the rough avenues and streets of the vila were no more than soft, moist clay which aided in the suppression of noise, but everyone did whatever they could to keep the noise to the minimum, opening the doors of the vehicles as cautiously as possible and leaving them open. There was no need for words, hand signals were sufficient to direct the squads as they silently moved into position.
The still, quiet morning air was suddenly rent by the sound of shattering timber and gunfire as door after door was kicked in and the interior of each building sprayed with covering fire; the occupants within standing no chance.
Dionathon sat upright in his cot, tears falling from his wide eyes as he listened to the sounds of death and destruction filling the air. He had known exactly what the outcome of this would be, but nonetheless had felt duty bound to try and avoid it and he cursed the arrogance of human beings; at least it had not all been in vain!
As the sun rose in the murky sky, the air filled with the smoke of hundreds of rounds of ammunition, tenente-coronel Menenes cursed loudly; they had failed in their objective; over half of their targets had managed to escape, their houses mysteriously empty when the squads had entered. Now this was deeply worrying him; someone had tipped them off and that meant he had a traitor in the ranks, there was no other logical explanation, but who? This would be almost impossible to discover, but he fully intended to try. Someone was going to pay for this. But no matter, the missing ladrões and traficantes would be found. If they were in the vila they would soon be ferreted out, if not, well then they would have to return sooner or later and his men were going nowhere in a hurry; a barracks was to be erected and the men would stay there as long as was necessary, guarding every entrance, checking the I.D. cards of everyone trying to enter or leave the vila.
The police blockade lasted almost two months and caused a great deal of conflict between the residents of the vila and the brigada militar. The human rights of the residents disappeared with the invasion and encampment and they were searched and I.D’d both on their way in and out, disrupting their usual way of life. The brigada felt completely justified in their actions having been indoctrinated into a general consensus that the residents were all criminals and thus their lives were forfeit. As a result, forty two people had been shot dead for “resisting arrest” and a further 78 arrested for crimes ranging from not holding a valid identification to possession of maconha – marihuana, but there had been not one sighting of Lucas or his tenentes; they had mysteriously disappeared. The decades long war appeared to be over; the backs of the two quadrilhas had been broken, the polícia had won their war. For now at least!
This tale began life as one story, but as I was writing it it just kept growing and growing. I became stuck at one point and had no idea how to continue. It then occurred to me that I already had an entire story with a perfect conclusion, but the story still had so much more to tell, so it became two stories and then three and who knows, maybe even four.
I suspect that I will eventually novelise this in the not too distant future, adding greater detail and complexity to both the characters and storyline, but for now, enjoy this and please read The boy who saw God, The boy who became God and the man who was God in the order they should be read, even though I have gone to great pains to make sure they are self-contained units and can be read separately.
The boy who saw God – O menino que viu Deus
Lunch was served and Dionathon came to the table with the same enthusiasm, or lack thereof, as the case may be, as he always did. This was hardly surprising as it was the same lunch that he ate every day, except Sundays, of course, when he had churrasco. Now, let’s not fool ourselves too much; churrasco, for he and his family, was usually galeto – barbecued chicken, and the worst and cheapest cuts of chicken at that, but at least it was something different, something to break the monotony.
He still held fond memories of the day his pai had discovered a great hoard of batteries on the side of the road, heavy with their precious content of lead, and the result of this bonanza was that his pai had splurged and they had feasted on a real churrasco for the first and only time in his memory: vazio, maminha, salsichão, coração de galinha. He would never forget the way his mouth had watered uncontrollably as he had watched it and smelt the delicious aromas rising and permeating the air as it cooked, and then the moment when his teeth had actually bitten into that salty, succulent feast…. ah, his mind, and his stomach, had dwelt on that banquet for many months, no, years and, to be honest, he still remembered it with more fondness than anything else to this day. But that was many years ago! Dionathon had heard whispers and rumours of other delicacies that accompanied the churrasco of other people outside the vila: provolone, picanha, and even filé, but those choice cuts and delightful morsels were no more than stories to him; fantasies; things that only the rich could afford; forever pipe dreams for him, but dream he still could, and dream he did. For Dionathon had dreamt that he would escape the bondage of his birth, as did many of his fellow villains, but his dream had been literal and he had total faith in it; more sure of the reality of this dream than he had ever been of anything else in his life; he just didn’t know when or how he could or would escape the vila, but escape he would; he was 100% certain of that.
The rest of the family gathered at the rough wooden table: his mãe and pai and his seventeen year old irmã, Veronika. Dionathon held mixed feelings about her. Maybe all brothers have mixed feelings about their sisters; maybe that’s just the way of siblings. Dionathon loved her; that much was true, she was his sister after all, but there was also a dark side to his feelings; he also felt pity and a deep resentful anger towards her. He could see what crack had done and was still doing to her, even if she couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge it; and his pais merely seemed to turn a blind eye to it; little did he know of the silent suffering they underwent over her. He knew that many of the people in the vilas smoked crack and, for him, it was little different to the way some people used cachaça, maconha and pó to escape from the wretched misery and poverty; to find some release; to forget their miserable plight, but crack was different, it not only destroys the mind, it destroys the body and soul too.
Veronika was so thin and emaciated that her face was cadaverous and her sharp bones protruded through her tight skin; she looked as if she had already died and someone had dug up her mortal remains and reanimated her; she also displayed as much joy as a corpse! But it wasn’t just the physical effects that bothered Dionathon, it was the psychological effects too; without doubt, these bothered him more so; she was just not the same fun-loving person he had known throughout his childhood. Even worse than that, she couldn’t be trusted anymore; he daren’t leave anything of any value around their room; not that he ever had much, but even the few coins he had managed to scrounge and save would always disappear. But even worse than that, he had heard what people were saying in the vila about her: she could be bought, and very cheaply at that. It was this that hurt and angered him the most; not only was she a ladra, a thief, but she was now also a puta bem barata, cheap whore, as well! She sold herself to anyone with a few reais or pedras of crack and had sold her soul to o Diabo for life into the bargain – no matter how short that may now be!
Divair, his mãe, asked him to say grace before their meal of arroz e feijão – rice and black beans – but he found it hard to be enthusiastic, mechanically mouthing the mantra that he had heard muttered every mealtime of his life. Once he had finished the prayer, everyone crossed themselves and helped themselves to the scanty offerings. As usual, his stomach growled for more when he had finished, but he had no alternative other than to resolutely ignore it and rein in the ravenous beast of hunger within, as he did every day.
With lunch finished, he announced that he was going to take the carroça out and collect the recyclables, as he did every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon. As usual, his mãe and pai barely noticed; this was his job and had been for almost five years now; after all, he was 13 years old now; a man!
Duda, the chestnut mare, had been furtively chomping on the thin and short scrubby grass where she had been tied; her bony ribs clearly showing through her thin hide and various pressure sores were plainly visible where the harness and furniture had brutally dug into her delicate and gaunt flesh. In many ways Dionathon saw Duda in much the same light as he saw Veronika, but he had, if he was honest with himself, more love and sympathy for Duda; she was not responsible for her own condition! He lovingly ran his hand over her head and opened his hands to reveal some beans which he had secreted within from his meagre lunch. The mare spread her thick lips with an almost human smile, exposing her browning teeth and snaffled them down gratefully.
Dionathon, like so many other crianças his own age and younger, was required to work to support his family and, like so many others, this included helping to pay for the cachaça that his pai drank every night of the week, drinking himself into oblivion, washing away the despair that swept over him and would crush his soul if ever he allowed himself to contemplate it without the anaesthesia and, once the intoxicating power of the liquor freed this despair from the constraints of the cage that contained it, it was brutally manifested. And then, when the dust and angry words had subsided, his pai would collapse onto the rough cot next to his mulher, his faithful wife. Dionathon thought nothing of this; this was normal for him and normal for almost everybody he knew and he knew to stay well out of the way of his pai when he was like this, railing against the injustice of it all. He only wished that his pai didn’t get so nasty when he had had a few. But again, this was normal for him and his friends; they all complained about the same thing, it’s just that the pais of some of his amigos had the good judgement, or maybe it was merely the good luck, not to leave a reminder of where their fists, in desperation, had struck their esposas or crianças.
Dionathon fixed the horse to the carroça – the once elegant blue and white swirls of paint that patterned its wooden sides now dull, faded and peeling – and set off down the rua, hopeful that he would find something extraordinary and valuable in the lixo that day. In the back of his mind – well back in his mind, for this was something he daren’t think about – he was already rueing the day when he would not be able to make his rounds, as the local prefeitura had already announced that the carroça would be banned from the street; they were nothing more than a menace to the cars on the ruas and disrupted and slowed the traffic; but he still had until the end of this year before that ban would take place, but then what? The quaint, old fashioned symbol of the struggle of the desperate poor would forever vanish from the modern cityscape. Leaving what? He shuddered and dreaded to think of that and quickly pushed that thought even further to the back of his mind as he gave Duda a slap on the flanks and the horse pulled away.
As the iron shod beast clopped on the uneven cobbled surface of the rua, shortly after leaving the soft, muddy, clay road of the vila, he spotted o inglês. Dionathon liked o inglês, not just because he gave him money, occasionally, but because he treated him with respect, as a fellow human being, laughing and smiling and playing jokes on him, the antithesis of the other wealthy in the city. The Portuguese o inglês spoke was terrible; Dionathon understood that he had not been in Brasil long and accepted this, but took particular delight in the way his foreign tongue uttered familiar words in such an unfamiliar, awkward, alien fashion, enjoying the way o inglês tried to communicate with him nonetheless. O inglês was rich; he had to be; he was an estrangeiro and lived in an apartment, but it never occurred to Dionathon to ask for more than he received or even the nothing he sometimes got, instead accepting things with good grace!
“O inglês!” He shouted, when he spotted him; a huge smile lighting up his tawny face.
“Oi Dionathon, tudo bom?” – Hi Dionathon, everything ok? He replied, waving at him and coming over and patting the flanks of the chestnut mare before warmly shaking Dionathon by the hand.
“Amigo, to com fome; pode me ajudar?” – I am hungry my friend; can you help me? – he asked, his speech exaggeratedly slow and plaintive, his almost ebony eyes wide with an expectant, hopeful expression.
“Amigo, eu acho que tu ta sempre com fome,” – My friend, I think you are always hungry, o inglês said looking at him and a deep and heartfelt smile split his features, before he rummaged around in his pocket and fished out some coins.
His hand dragged out fifty centavos in mixed coins and handed them to Dionathon gladly who thanked him profusely and, spotting some of his amigos on the rua, invited them over to join him at the mercadinho.
This was one of the things o inglês loved most about helping Dionathon: he always included his friends in his windfalls. O inglês was curious to see what Dionathon would buy and studiously watched him and his group of friends. Without wishing to seem as though he was checking up on them, he followed them across the rua to the shop, with the pretext of buying some cigarettes, although he had almost a full packet in his pocket.
“Tenho cinquenta centavos comigo; quantas laranjas posso pegar com isso?” – I have fifty centavos with me, how many oranges can I get for this? – he asked expectantly as his small fingers clung onto the iron bars that protected both the shop and shopkeeper from ladrões who would surely be tempted by the wealth of goods in the small shop.
This was one of the first things that o inglês had noticed upon his arrival in Brasil – the steel cages everywhere, often surrounded by electric fences, protecting innumerous shops, bars and domestic dwellings from the evil without, but, he had often wondered, were they locking the ladrões and malandros out or simply locking themselves in, prisoners to their own fear?
The shopkeeper took a handful of laranjas umbigo – navel oranges – and weighed them, returning to the metallic grill covering the entire shop front and part of the roof too, where it was vulnerable.
“Pra te amigo, pode levar três,” – For you my friend, you can take three – he responded smiling at the menino, even though three would have cost seventy centavos, and Dionathon cheerfully nodded his acceptance of the offer. With his prize in hands, he handed two to his amigos and began to peel the one in his own hands; the sharp, sweet/acid smell of the skin perfuming the air. The only problem was that he had four amigos with him now and only three oranges. He pulled off two thirds of the orange he had peeled and handed the other third over to his amigos. The boys counted the segments seriously and methodically, carefully ascertaining that each would have an equal share and, after many recounts, until everyone agreed on the number, they were all happy.
O inglês noted this with satisfaction; the children he knew in his homeland would have behaved totally differently to this. They would have run to the closest sweet shop and bought a handful of sweets and, more than likely, not been as generous with their friends, instead keeping them all for themselves. But this wasn’t England, this was Brasil and everything was vastly different here, he reminded himself. But this behaviour fit with what he had observed during his global travels; be it the outback of Australia, the shanty towns of South Africa or even the Kampongs of Asia; the world over, there seemed to be a general rule: the less possessions the people had, the more generous they were with what little they did have. Perhaps the poor understood the true value of wealth; wealth doesn’t exist in the hands of a single person, instead it lay in the hands of the many, ready to be shared when times became tough for one individual or group of people. That was true wealth; an antidote to starvation!
He called Dionathon over.
“Oi amigo”, he said in a conspirational whisper, “tome isso também”, – take this as well – and handed him another fifty centavos, “mas mantém isso pra ti, ta bom?” – but, keep this for yourself, ok? – he added, winking at him and ruffling his hand through the tight, black curls of the menino.
Dionathon smiled and agreed readily, but o inglês noticed that he couldn’t restrain himself from whispering into the shell–like ears of his amigos, bringing a broader smile to their faces too, and they all assiduously ignored the gaze of o inglês, hoping and pretending he wouldn’t notice. Chuckling to himself, o inglês left the store front and Dionathon and his amigos to their own devices and sauntered off, forgetting completely about the cigarettes he had intended to buy.
Considering that it was now April – early autumn – unusually, it was oppressively hot. Normally, at this time of year, the sun was insipid, barely bringing any warmth at all to the city, but the winds were from the north and the arctic chill of the Minuano that would blow unimpeded across the vast, flat pampas was being held at bay. Dionathon hated this heat as he desperately sought some relief from the long Indian summer the city had been experiencing. He usually had no way to find relief from it, especially at night, when he sweltered under the tin roof of his shack as it reflected back its stored energy.
He had heard talk that the rich headed to the praia for the summer and hot weekends – this he could believe as the city became like a ghost town in the summer – and just idly relaxed on the golden sands and cooled themselves off in the cool turquoise ocean, not a care or worry in their hearts, but he could only picture that in his mind; in all his thirteen years, he had never seen the ocean, but he had seen pictures; instead, he would just have to comfort himself with the cool brown waters and the beira of the massive lake that lay to the west of the city – for surely that would be the closest he would ever get to the ocean.
It was said that the water was dirty, polluted with everything from sewage to industrial effluent, and Dionathon could not argue with this as it smelt awful. It was huge and refreshing nonetheless and had tiny waves that washed the shore, but, best of all, it brought welcome relief from the relentless heat. But Dionathon knew that the heat would be fleeting; already there had been nights that he had needed to pull his thin, holey blanket over himself to keep warm. Today, however, was hot, very hot, without a breath of air stirring the leaves that remained on the deciduous trees, let alone those hanging lifeless on the more numerous evergreens.
Winter, with its biting cold wind blasting across the plains, was coming and he felt in his bones that it would be exceptionally bitter this year, but for now he merely wanted to escape this fierce and oppressive heat. He knew that he would not be able to do so for many hours; there were many lixeiras to forage through, gleaning what little treasures he could from other people’s waste, before he could finally relax, but, if he timed things right, he would just make it to the massive lake before the sun set and the possibility of the chill of an autumnal night returning with the shadows, especially with the rain that looked likely.
As he made his way from lixeira to lixeira, street to street, the sky darkened ominously, filling with thick, roiling black, heavy, almost liquid looking pendulous mammatus clouds, reminding Dionathon of ‘as tetas’ – the tits – monument on the outskirts of the great lake, which, to him really looked like a mass collection of breasts with exquisitely long nipples, of which he was just beginning to fantasise about; although the monument was not really meant to represent tetas, intended instead to represent the traditional Gaúcha cuia – the gourd used by so many Gaúchos in their daily chimarrão ritual, from which they sipped the hot and bitter caffeinated erva mate beverage. The heavy and sultry clouds only served to further increase the oppressiveness of the day as the humidity built, combining fiercely with the stifling heat.
The huge uva japonesa brought a welcome smile to his face and a hungry rumble to his stomach as he eyed it standing, sentinel-like, over the final lixeira of his route. Dionathon could never understand why it was called uva japonesa, for the fruit neither looked nor tasted anything like the grapes he had, on more than one occasion, surreptitiously pilfered whilst out shopping with his mãe. The uva japonesa however was the strangest fruit imaginable, resembling a bunch of small, fat twigs writhing and twisting at right angles to each other, its skin the colour and texture of nashi pears and the fruit inside soft and deliciously sweet, reminiscent of a very sweet pear, but the skin adding a sharp, tannic after taste.
Dionathon only knew of the taste of pears because he had discovered a pereira in a long abandoned terreno, but unfortunately for him, the fruit had never stayed on the tree long enough to reach full maturity and approach the sweetness of the uva japonesa; he wasn’t the only menino to have discovered it, and he and none of the others seemed bothered by the endemic blight which affected it and so many other trees in the city!
Around the base of the tree, small bunches of the sweet and once succulent fruit had been trodden underfoot and Dionathon cursed those that could waste this delicious food. He optimistically scoured the calçada for any that were un-trampled, but his luck was out, they were all crushed and bruised beyond redemption. He lifted his large, round, dark eyes to the lowest branches to see if he could find a bunch within his reach, but the lowest bunch hung cruelly beyond his eager fingers. Gauging the distance between himself and the much sought after fruit, he concluded that he would need the aid of his trusty carroça.
He pulled Duda to the side of the rua; carefully positioning the carroça beneath the fruit laden branches, quietly and politely asked her to remain still while he performed this act and then eased himself into a standing position on the seat. He tentatively reached up to the nearest bunch and, just as his fingers were greedily wrapping around them, a speeding car screamed around the corner behind him, its horn blaring at him and the horse and carroça obstructing the rua. Duda’s eyes shot wide open in shock, her ears twitched furiously and pointed heavenwards then she streaked off in a blind panic.
Dionathon’s precarious footing gave way as the cart disappeared beneath him and he fell face forward, smashing his head painfully on the deck of the cart and then tumbled head over heels; the rotting timber framework at the back, eaten hollow by termites, unable to withstand the sudden shock, disintegrating as he crashed through it and fell painfully to the rua, first landing on his scrawny bunda before tumbling, excruciatingly, onto his face again.
He stared in painful, dumbstruck horror as he watched Duda galloping away at full pace, dragging the carroça behind her. Gingerly, he tried to get to his feet, but a wave of nausea and weakness washed over him and he thought better of it and remained lying on the rua until he could once again regain his senses.
After resting for a few moments, his head spinning less and less, suddenly conscious of his precarious prostrate position on the rua, cars pelting past him, passing perilously close, he unsteadily scrambled to his feet and assessed his injuries; his head hurt like hell and he could feel a huge galo on his forehead. His hand came away from the lump bloodied, at which he was not the least bit surprised, but fortunately there was not too much. His whole body was stiff and aching, marred by innumerous scrapes gently oozing blood, and he discovered he had worn some fresh holes in his threadbare clothing. Concluding that there was no major damage, except maybe to his pride, his mood now as black as the threatening sky above, he lumbered off after Duda.
Fortunately, she had not gone too far, maybe 500 metres, before hauling herself and the damaged cart over the kerb and onto a patch of lush, verdant grass. By the time Dionathon reached her, she was greedily chewing great mouthfuls of the luxuriant grama, seemingly none the worse for her scare.
He surveyed the damaged carroça, cursing loudly: “Caralho!!! Porra!!! Puta que pariu!!!!”
His pai was going to be furious with him. He had better see if he could find some timber to repair it on his way home, he thought, but knowing that any dressed timber he found would be as rotten and worm eaten as the shattered timber that still remained, he climbed back into the seat after giving Duda a friendly, reassuring rub on her neck. Fortunately for him and his bunda, the sacks of aluminium cans, PET bottles and other assorted valuable recyclables were still safely wedged onto the steel frame of the cart and his bamboo fishing pole had been left undamaged, he noted gladly, for he was even hungrier than before, his sweet treat cruelly denied him but, with any luck, he could snag himself a nice pintado, which he could then roast on the beira of the great lake, where numerous cooking fires had already previously been prepared.
The atmosphere was now even thicker and heavier, almost cloying; the roiling, fluid clouds hanging heavily in the sky, even darker and more threatening, the air still, pregnant and alive, charged with electricity, oppressively hot. Dionathon was eager to reach the lake, primarily to cool himself down, but secondly to rinse the crusting blood from his fresh wounds as he flicked Duda’s flanks and trundled towards it.
The air around the colossal lake was somewhat cooler, with a slight breeze blowing over its surface, but still not enough to ripple it as he pulled the carroça up onto the beira.
Dionathon spied some meninos he knew already playing boisterously in the deliciously cool water and he stood up in the carroça and called out to them. They were splashing around and obviously having so much fun, doing the sort of things children loved best behind a bright yellow sign. He had no idea what it said; the letters and words were so familiar to him after seeing them so often, but they were meaningless all the same; he couldn’t read. His time at school had been very sporadic, and since he had been obliged to collect the recyclables, there had never been a single thought of returning, even though he missed the companionship of his friends there.
“Oi caras,” he cried out, waving excitedly and impatiently at them. They just managed to hear him over the sound of their splashing in the water and gestured for him to come and join them. Dionathon hurriedly stripped down to his cuecas so he could do just that as quickly as possible; he was hot, grubby and sore as hell and the cool water looked so inviting.
The air was at that instant suddenly rent by an almighty explosion of electricity, heat, light and noise, but Dionathon was totally oblivious to this as he was blasted from the carroça, landing flat on his back some five or six metres away; his shoes landing even further away; a thin grey wisp of smoke coiling from the burnt ragged holes in the ends of them as they settled onto the sand at the edge of the lake like fallen guns after a savage gunfight
As the pressure wave from the blast expanded outwards, enveloping first the exotic frangipani tree to the left of the carroça, then the one on the right, it stripped the creamy, scented, yellow centred flowers from both. The air rushed back to fill the vacuum created by the blast wave, sucking the blossom in to fill the void, falling on and around the collapsed child and cart like exotic frenetic snow flakes.
Dionathon gawped at his friends, a puzzled frown creasing his features as he wondered what was wrong with them; they looked totally shocked and horrified about something as they raced out of the water as fast as their little legs could carry them. They were shouting and gesticulating wildly; obviously interested in something behind him. He turned to look behind himself to see what had so excited them and was somewhat surprised to discover that the carroça was below him, lying on its side, but he was not standing on it; in fact, he was totally unsupported, simply suspended in mid air!!!
Bamboozled and bewildered, he took stock of his surroundings and noticed a menino lying flat on his back, covered by a colourful cloak of petals, a smoky haze rising from his skin and clothing. This was really bizarre; how had he not noticed him before? But not only was there a boy lying on the ground next to the fallen cart, but Duda was also lying down, motionless enshrouded by blossom, as well. He had never once seen her lying down in his life!
As he studied the boy, he was struck by an overwhelming feeling of familiarity; but who on earth was he? He noticed that the boy, beneath his funereal mantle, was wearing similar clothes to him, but his dirty brown feet were bare. It then suddenly dawned on him that that boy was him!!! Was that how he appeared to other people?
He became confused, not quite knowing how to feel about this, finally deciding that an ambivalent indifference best summed up his feeling; it just didn’t seem to be too important to him.
“Oi Zé, Paulo,” he called out to two of the bigger boys when they had finally reached the carroça, their chests heaving, breath coming in short gasps, but they simply ignored him. What the…?
“Oi caras, tó aqui,” – hey guys, I’m here, – he cried louder, frustration creeping into his voice, but again they just simply ignored him. What the hell was going on?
He thought about moving towards them and the thought alone was enough for his wish to be fulfilled and he glided effortlessly in their direction. He tried to tap Zé on the shoulder, but his hand simply passed straight through him. Zé reacted to this nonetheless, straightening upright in an instant, a shiver running through him and his skin erupting in pele de galinha – goose bumps, and rotated his head around repeatedly, looking for what, he didn’t know, but it had felt as though someone had walked over his grave. His gaze passed straight through Dionathon as though he wasn’t there. Seeing nothing to account for this strange feeling, he shook his head and returned his attention to the body of his amigo on the sand.
Noticing his reaction, Dionathon’s cheeky nature was too strong to suppress, so he decided to have some fun with his friends who, by now, had all gathered around the boy and horse lying motionless on the beira. He started softly singing the happy songs that he had sung with his friends and family ever since he could remember, reflecting the light mood that had settled over him and danced in the air above and around his friends, occasionally swooping down and passing right through them. He laughed an impish, cheeky little laugh to himself as he watched them react, each in turn, as he did this, but he soon grew tired of this game and simply drifted away, bored by their lack of attention, leaving his friends to fuss over the other boy on the ground who was not really him anymore.
Surveying the rapidly darkening sky around him, the occasional flash of lightning illuminating the air above the city behind him as if caught in a massive photographer’s flash, he noticed, with a perverse sense of propriety, that the heavens above the lake had now become almost hellish looking as the last rays of the pôr do sol set the clouds ablaze and fire burned above and on the surface of the lago.
Never having been to any other city in his life, he was totally ignorant of the fact that his city had the most incredible sunsets in the whole world; unaware that the subtle interplay between the water of the largest lake in the southern hemisphere and the atmosphere was responsible for this phenomenon. This was nothing more than normal for him, but that still didn’t diminish his appreciation of the spectacle that had become almost as routine and regular as a metronome.
Dionathon was somewhat different to other meninos his own age; he had taken a very deep interest and pleasure in all that nature had to offer, from the humblest of insects to the incredibly powerful fury of a tempest and now he suddenly felt freer than at any other time in his life; free from the physical constraints of his mortal body, free from the pangs of hunger that had plagued him nearly every waking minute of his life, free from the bondage of the ever present pull of gravity, free of everything and he resolved to take full advantage of the new found freedom to soar and dive across the blazing surface of the lake, feeling truly alive for the first time in his life.
As he bathed in the spectacle surrounding him, his mind began to wander, wondering exactly what had happened and was happening now. He had no idea that the iron frame of the cart had sustained a direct hit from a lightning bolt, discharging over one terawatt of energy through the vehicle and, consequently through him and Duda as well. His spirit, and Duda’s too for that matter, had departed their earthly bodies at the very moment the gargantuan surge of power had raced through them and stopped their biological motors. But except for the sense of freedom coursing through him, he felt no different to the way he had felt when he had been imprisoned in that selfsame fragile shell; he still had the same thoughts and the same feelings.
Was this ‘him’, flying and swooping over the water, the true ‘him’ instead of that lifeless biological cage back there on the beira? Such a question had never crossed his teenage mind before, but if it ever had, he would have been unable to answer it and probably would not have cared one iota, but he thought about it now and also had the answer now: this ‘him’, detached from his corporeal self, was the real, true ‘him’.
His pais had often spoken of his soul, as had the pastor in his local church, but it had all seemed somewhat abstract to him, totally removed from any context that he could believe in or even associate with anything he knew. Now, at this moment in his “life”, it all made sense to him. This ‘him’, here and now, was his true essence; his true core being; his true soul!
He spent many delicious moments wheeling over the cool, darkening water, diving like one of the yellow bellied bem-te-vi, – a native flycatcher bird – who would occasionally break the surface, snatching up a wriggling fish in its beak, but one difference between it and he was that his hunger had finally abated; it was no longer important or even relevant. For the first time in his memory, he couldn’t feel hunger gnawing like an untamed, ravenous beast at his stomach; the thought of catching and roasting a pintado was so far removed from the thoughts that now occupied his mind. For that matter, nothing seemed to hold any importance at this moment in his “life”.
Watching the bem-te-vi flitting above the water and plunging beneath the surface gave him a bold idea. He climbed an immense distance upwards, not feeling the cooling air as he soared through the cloud layer then, turning himself around, he steeled himself for his return journey and dived straight down towards the ever darkening surface of the brown lake. He braced himself for the impact; his “body” rigid, waiting for the delicious coolness that would surely envelope him. His thoughts then became scrambled and confused as his vision blurred and darkness enshrouded him and he wondered what on earth had happened. Rising up again, his sight suddenly clearing, he realised that he had broken the surface of the water, and was now breaking it again, but had felt nothing! This was no fun, he thought. Had it been brighter and clearer under the water, he would have enjoyed exploring the underwater depths of the lake, searching for the sunken treasure he was sure must be buried somewhere beneath the surface, but as it was, it remained a hidden, murky, unknown landscape; his eyesight, apparently, not evenly slightly improved by the change in his circumstances.
At that moment, things unexpectedly became even more confusing. The sky and earth began to blur and together they slowly started to rotate, building up speed until there was nothing left beyond an omnipresent rotating blue vortex surrounding him. Inexorably, Dionathon felt himself being drawn, faster and faster towards the epicentre of this airborne eddy; totally powerless, helpless as he was sucked into its gaping belly.
There was an immense, incredible, awe-inspiring glowing light, at the very centre of the tunnel, brighter than anything he had ever seen or could ever even imagine in his entire thirteen years; it was like a hundred suns burning in the sky, yet it did not hurt his eyes to look, in fact, it was almost as if the blazing light wanted, nay demanded the attention of his vision. There was no fear as he was relentlessly drawn inwards, only positive expectation, although expectation of what, he didn’t know as he sped towards it.
His ascent slowed until he felt an overwhelming sensation of peace, love, tranquillity and supreme greatness settle over him as he approached the lustrous core of the spiral and he knew beyond a shadow of doubt that he was in the presence of God.
As if in answer to his unspoken thoughts, a warm, mellifluous voice filled his mind. It wasn’t masculine and it wasn’t feminine either and Dionathon would have found it almost impossible to describe the transcendental beauty of that sexless, inhuman voice; all he knew was that love poured forth from it and filled his entire being at the very sound, and he felt a hitherto unfamiliar serenity and joy in the very presence of this “being”.
“Meu Filho, todos os minutos, de cada dia, você está sempre na presença de Deus. Você esqueceu tão logo?” – My Son, every minute of every day, you are in the presence of God. Have you forgotten so soon?
Forgotten so soon? What did this mean? Forgotten what?
“Meu filho, não faz muito tempo que você estava abraçado comigo depois de sua última vida, mas claro que sua mente ainda é embaçada por sua encarnação terrestre,” – My son, it was not so long ago that you were as one with me after your last life, but of course, your mind is still clouded by your earthly incarnation.
“Mas não se preocupa, você se lembrará logo,” – But don’t worry, it will all come back soon enough, the voice continued in its soothing, androgynous tones.
With these words, Dionathon suddenly remembered that he wasn’t Dionathon, in fact he wasn’t Madalena, his previous incarnation either. For that matter he wasn’t even Captain Mark Johns of the British royal dragoons, his incarnation prior to that one either, or any one of the hundreds of his other previous incarnations, both male and female, which he had inhabited and was only now becoming aware of; he just was and always had been!
“Ai, eu vejo que está começando a voltar,” – Ah, I see it is starting to come back, the voice continued warmly, “mas você já se lembra de seu propósito último?” – but do you remember your ultimate purpose yet?
But Dionathon, Madalena, Mark, he, she, it, couldn’t quite remember this, no matter how hard she tried to wrestle with this question; it seemed to be dangling in front of his face, taunting and teasing herm.
“Tenha paciência, meu pequeninho; você vai, você vai,” – Have patience my little one; you will, you will.
The soul that humbly “stood” before the ultimate creator had no doubt of this and wasn’t even slightly concerned about it; it knew that everything was/is/will be exactly as it should.
“Você sabe por que hoje eu o trouxe aqui?” – Do you know why I brought you here today? The voice asked and a broad, loving smile could almost be heard behind the question.
Now this seemed to be a question which the soul that was once Dionathon did know the answer to.
“Porque eu me esqueci de meu último propósito,” – Because I forgot my ultimate purpose! It was a statement, not a question and was stated with the full authority of absolute truth.
“Exatamente, meu filho,” – Exactly, my son, the compassionate voice responded warmly, tenderly, lovingly. “Mas você se lembrará, você está se lembrando, não é?” – But you will remember; you are remembering, no? The voice continued.
And it was true; the soul that was once Dionathon, once Madalena, once Captain Mark, once a thousand others, was remembering and he gave herself a metaphorical kick in his metaphorical bunda for being so forgetful, so stupid. In the divine presence of God, the soul at last remembered that it itself was God. Its soul/sole purpose was to be conscious of this one fact, and to bring each and every soul that it came into contact with back to the memory that it too was God, the ultimate creator, whose very actions created the present and the future, in fact created the entire universe.
Each and every action, of each and every God soul, has an impact on every single thing that follows; it is ultimately responsible for every tiny little thing that happens as a result of its very actions, words and thoughts. There is no good, no bad – these are merely human constructs – only consequences which may be perceived as either good or bad depending on your perspective.
The divine purpose of Dionathon, that one soul, was to reunite God; to bring every single aspect of God back to that one realisation, that one understanding that it was God. How could it possibly have forgotten such a monumentally important task as this?
The loving energy that was God beamed with an air of almost self satisfaction and the glow of divinity winked out of existence before the soul that was once Dionathon and was now once again God.
Never judge a book by its cover – Nunca julgue um livro por sua capa
João eyed the red light staring balefully at him and increased the pressure on the accelerator in anticipation of roaring across the intersection. He hated this one cruzamento – crossroad – above all. This one crossed the arroio dilúvio; the putrid remnant of the once sweet river that bisected the city, now merely a conduit for the sewage and assorted detritus that was easily and conveniently disposed of in the massive lake on the edge of the city. But it wasn’t the putrid smell emanating from it that João hated, nor even the inherent physical ugliness of the rift, the forgotten beauty now marred by floating plastic, polystyrene, fish-belly white used condoms – historical records of fleeting love – cast off clothes and the occasional bloated animal decaying in the foetid waters. No! It was something far more insidious; something that reached into his primal soul, twisting and turning in his belly like a knife disembowelling him every time the necessities of his daily life dictated that he should pass it.
The denizens of this place were the dregs of society: the unwashed, the wretched filthy poor, the homeless, the criminals and the crack-heads. And worst of all, if you were caught at the traffic lights, these desperados would descend upon you, hands out-stretched in front of them, pleading and beseeching you – the unfortunate occupant of the vehicle – for some small change or even some food. These were the filthiest mendigos – beggars – of the entire city; the bane of good, honest, hardworking folk such as he. He had often asked himself why they couldn’t simply just get off their lazy bundas – backsides – and get a job, and he was certain that he would never find a decent explanation, or at least one that could satisfy him sufficiently; some people are just too lazy, too comfortable taking from those who do the real work to even consider working up a sweat themselves, he had concluded.
Almost too late, he noticed that the eager drivers at right angles to him had already restarted their ritual commute.
“Merda!” – Shit! – he cursed, as he slammed his foot on the brake pedal; the tyres of his new Mercedes squealing in protest, quickly followed by the sound of further tyres registering their own protest behind him.
He glanced apprehensively into the rear-view mirror, bracing himself for the impact, but fortunately, the car behind pulled up a whisker short of ruining the gleaming silver paint of his precious new car. Not that that would have been too much of a problem; his insurance would cover that, but imagine the wasted time, the inconvenience, the interminable bureaucracy.
As expected, the red light signalled the onslaught of the drug addicts and social refugees and they descended upon the hapless drivers trapped at the junction. João averted his eyes from the one approaching him; adopting an ‘if I can’t see you, you won’t see me’ attitude. Fixedly, he stared ahead, avoiding the shuffling mound of rags approaching him, heavily wrapped despite the fact that the early morning air was already hot, heavy and humid, but the shuffling mound of rags refused to be deterred so easily. The mendigo tapped on the driver’s side window.
“Me ajuda, por favor,” – Help me, please, “só uma moedinha,” – just some small change.
João stoically ignored the annoying creature, keeping his gaze glued on an imaginary horizon. It did not even occur to him for one minute that this was the most polite mendigo ever to accost him. Unperturbed, the mendigo persisted and again tapped gently on the window.
“Tenho uma mulher e três filhinhos passando fome,” – I have a starving wife and three small children – he added in a desperate, plaintive voice.
Unable to ignore this hideous apparition any longer, João turned his head quickly and angrily barked at the mendigo:
“Fode-se!” – Fuck off! To which the mendigo, seemingly reluctant, complied, but there was something about his eyes that was far removed from simple acceptance of this rebuff.
Had João been able to really look at this miserable wretch on the street, he would probably have been surprised. The mendigo, besides being dressed in mismatched grimy rags, encrusted with all manner of filth, food, innumerous unidentifiable stains and full of holes, had eyes that were intelligent, bright and alert, and shining with a mischievous twinkle, with an almost cheeky smile that illuminated his emaciated face, revealing the blackened stumps of what used to be teeth. But João noticed none of this, merely seeing the irritating excrescence of a sub-human being trying to scrounge a free lunch.
Fortunately for João, the lights then changed and he gratefully planted his foot to the floor. The tyres, as if unable to take in this sudden influx of energy, merely rotated rapidly on the spot, sending an oily, acrid blue smoke into the air, disturbing it with a screech of complaint before they finally seemed to comprehend the inflow of power and the car lurched forward. João tried to dismiss the mendigo from his mind, which he managed easily enough, but he was unable to wipe the stain from his psyche and his stomach roiled and this nausea persisted unpleasantly for the remainder of his drive to his office.
When he arrived at work, the security guard, recognising his Mercedes, activated the electronic portão, which slid to the side with a gentle hum and allowed him ingress to his private parking bay. On the bustling street behind, a flanelinha – so called because of the filthy flannel rag they waved at approaching cars on the street – was trying to catch the eye of passing motorists and direct their cars into the sparse vacant spaces awaiting, where, for a fee of course, he would watch their cars and keep them safe all day; safe from ladrões such as himself, who, if unpaid, would inflict their own damage, even if only verbally.
Had João had the perspicacity to acknowledge this pathetic creature’s very existence, he would have realised that it was the same man who had baled him up at the traffic lights on his journey to work and he would certainly have wondered how on earth this filthy creature could have possibly arrived there before him; perhaps he might even have recognised the mischievous glint in his eyes. But João, like tens of thousands of his fellow citizens, would never have noticed such a thing as this; these people were nothing more than a blight on the face of this modern city, an inconvenience, an eyesore and a menace to law abiding folk; they were beneath noticing, beneath contempt even. The sooner the Policia Militar finally did something about this scourge, the better!
João swiped his crachá across the card reader at the main door and the electronic lock opened with a metallic click. He glanced at his Rolex and realised that he had made good time on the hectic roads this morning and was a little earlier than usual. Normally, the cleaning staff had already left the building by the time he arrived, but today, he noticed with irritation, they were still there, obstructing him as he tried to navigate the corridor to his office. He never once noticed the immense sad, bright eyes in their negro faces as he aggressively forced his way past them; never once even deigning to meet their eyes with his own. Why should he? They were nothing more than mere cleaners!
Once seated in his comfortable leather swivel chair, the uncomfortable gnawing in his stomach fading like a bad dream, he turned on his P.C. and set about his important tasks of the day – contracts to be signed, meetings to be arranged with important clients and the like; the sound of other people filing into the building passing unnoticed as he engrossed himself in what he was doing and, as the day progressed, the mild discomfort of the morning was soon forgotten.
A lunch time meeting at an up-market churrascaria with a very important client – he was on the verge of signing a multi-million Real deal, taken from right under the noses of his competitors – meant that João had to leave the office around midday. As his Mercedes glided out through the portão, he again failed to notice the flanelinha on the rua, but the flanelinha noticed him and the same gleam in his eyes illuminated his cadaverous, tawny features. He made no effort to follow or interfere with João, merely watched him portentously as he drove away.
The churrascaria was in the centre of the city, at least a 30 minute drive from his office, but João made it in good time and pulled up without incident. He briefly noted the dishevelled and filthy flanelinha on the rua outside the restaurant, extorting money from the honest folk who were forced to park on the side of the rua due to the limited number of safe, sheltered parking spaces, and was thankful that the restaurant had its own parking, with a reliable valet. He got out of the car and wordlessly handed his keys over to the parking attendant, confident that his car was in good hands, or at least covered by the restaurant’s insurance, and made his way to the front door of the restaurant, his mind full of the business deal he was sure to conclude today; he was nothing if not confident of his negotiating skills; he hadn’t got where he was today for nothing.
The outside air was redolent with the smoke and aroma of the churrasco as it slowly poured forth from the short, narrow chimney at the side of the restaurant. That smell was comforting for João; it made him feel at home, for he was a Gaúcho and this smell was as intertwined with his soul as was the entire southernmost state of Brazil for him. Every Sunday, all over the whole state, the air was filled with the same smell of barbequing meat and the smoke that emanated from virtually every house, even in the vilas, where the poor exchanged their staple daily diet of arroz e feijão– rice and beans – for the luxury of the churrasco or, for those even less fortunate, the galeto – barbecued chicken.
The client, Anthony Burgland, senior sales manager for the Americas South and Central with one of the large international software companies, housed in a technology park at one of the local universities, was already waiting in the restaurant and, although an estrangeiro – foreigner – from the US, greeted João warmly in typical Brazilian fashion, grasping his hand firmly with his own whilst his other arm wrapped around him, enveloping him in a warm, brotherly embrace, which João returned equally warmly.
The restaurant was in full swing; the majority of the neat tables were already occupied by well-to-do customers, while the waiters, dressed in immaculate white shirts and borboletas pretas – black bow ties, pirouetted from table to table, sword-like espetos in hand, laden with their bounty of succulent treasures: picanha – the top piece of rump steak, a cut unique to Brazil, and highly valued for the flavour the fat imparted to the succulent meat – with its crust of creamy, toasted fat, the most prized cut of beef in the whole country, cooked to perfection; costela, with rib bones cheekily peeking out from the fat, juicy meat surrounding it; coração de galinha – small, salty chicken hearts, oozing savoury juice down the length of the espetos, only to be caught in the tray at the point of the spear; provolone, elongating and desperately trying to escape its quasi-solid, smoky cheese form as the heat from the charcoal penetrated it, and various other delicacies, all being delivered in an elegantly choreographed ballet.
The salad bar was sumptuous and luxurious, laden with all manner of different dishes; the cuisine heavily influenced by the Italian and German immigrants who had made this State their home. All in all, a meal fit for an executive such as himself and his equally worthy client João thought, as his eyes appreciatively passed over it.
As the waiter expertly sliced a piece of medium rare picanha and delivered it to his plate without one single drop of meat juice despoiling the immaculate crisp white table cloth, João fleetingly wondered how the waiter’s uniform could remain so spotless, but the thought was soon dispelled as the pair toasted their business venture with a cool and refreshing caipirinha; the limes expertly muddled with sugar and mixed with aged cachaça and crushed ice.
João was oblivious as Burgland eyed him with pupils nearly popping out of their eye sockets; João held his fork in the palm of his left hand, with the tines facing to the right which he used to stab the object of his carnal desires, but who was he to judge the manage and customs of others?
The meal continued and Anthony Burgland studiously avoided looking at the manner in which the eating utensils were utilised until the meal was concluded and business was successfully negotiated and he and João had eaten and drank their fill. With negotiations concluded, their belts pleasantly tight and their heads warm and fuzzy, João settled the bill – equivalent to about half the monthly salary of at least half of the population – with his gold credit card, he again embraced his important client and then bade him farewell. Burgland’s driver was waiting at the gates and he was soon disappearing down the rua.
João was very pleased with his business lunch; he had signed a deal worth over a million Reais and had further enhanced his ties with a very useful contact in the US as well. All in all, a very successful lunch, he mused as he waited for the valet to bring his car. When the valet arrived, João silently slipped him a ten Real note, five times what the flanelinha would have expected from a typical motorist, but perhaps only twice what he would have expected from someone driving a Mercedes.
Brazil had recently introduced a zero tolerance for alcohol and driving, which was somewhat inconvenient for most people at first, as the Brigada Militar was duty bound to enforce it, but for João it was no inconvenience at all thanks to O Jeitinho Brasileiro or The Brazilian Way, a concept that went far beyond mere bribery and corruption, but also encompassing QI – Quem Indica – who recommends you? Or, who do you know? – Known in the West as the old boy network – and for João, the list was pretty impressive indeed, for he had dined and dealt with the highest of this small city’s high society. Being an executive, and an extremely successful one at that, João was as used to O Jeitinho Brasileiro as an alcoholic is used to alcohol; second nature and not even meriting a second thought. Therefore, the drive back to the office, with his head glowing warmly, was not something that occupied even a single neuron of space in his skull as he slipped into the driver’s seat and eased the Mercedes through the portão, cursing loudly at some stupid, scruffy individual who, obviously, had no right to be in this exclusive bairro, let alone on this calçada – footpath, and who had foolishly tried to traverse the pavement in front of him. Blasting his horn furiously at this idiot and casting aspersions on the occupation of this man’s mother, he drove onto the rua with an angry screech of tyres and directed his car back towards the office.
Had he been even slightly observant, he would have recognised the scruffy individual as the mendigo from the traffic lights that morning, but why would he? Obviously, this mendigo, this ladrão, was a criminal and, therefore unworthy of attention!
The sun beat relentlessly on the roof of the Mercedes as João cruised the ruas of the city, insulated from the merciless heat and rapacious humidity of the powerful southern summer by the efficient air conditioning breathing cool, dry air into the cabin space. The brand new suspension of his executive car easily absorbing the cruel jostling of the rough cobbled small streets he was obliged to take to reach the smoother asphalted arterial roads on his way back to the office. Even when these ruas were first built, they were certainly as bone rattling as they currently were, as the very surfaces of the individual stone blocks, pieced together like an immense jigsaw puzzle, were themselves somewhat less than smooth, but time and the unrelenting onslaught of the rains and years of traffic had served to undermine the foundations and dangerous pot holes had opened up, increasing the demand for the services of suspension mechanics.
His mind was not evenly slightly perturbed by the thought of his least favourite intersection as he neared it. The pleasure and satisfaction of a lucrative and successful meeting, coupled with a pleasantly tight belly and an equally pleasantly tight brain, anaesthetised by the caipirinhas he’d consumed during lunch, driving away all negative thoughts.
As with his morning journey, the traffic lights had just turned red as he approached the dreaded intersection, but his heart was light and he was relaxed; comfortable and self satisfied. With a quick glance to the left and, seeing nothing approaching, he noted the red light, gently squeezed the accelerator and sped towards the bridge that spanned the putrid arroio dilúvio. His brain then suddenly registered something, but it was too slow and fuzzy to comprehend exactly what. Then it struck him: there was a car careening into his lane and accelerating towards him!
“Mãe de Deus!” – Mother of God! –his mind had time to think, “Aquele maluco vai me bater!!!!” – That crazy guy is going to hit me!!!!
His mind switched over to auto pilot and he wrenched the steering wheel to the right to avoid the impact. With nowhere else to go, the Mercedes was forced to smash into the ornate red granite sides of the bridge and the oncoming car ploughed into him, shunting his precious new car through the shattered wall and, as the hard stone gave way under the impact, the once gleaming Mercedes plummeted towards the raging torrent below.
Unfortunately for João, the summer had been particularly wet and the arroio dilúvio was at virtually peak capacity, with tens of thousands of litres of esgoto – sewage – and rainwater runoff, polluted with paper and plastic and who knows what, rushing through its constricted channel per second.
João didn’t even have time to think as the front heavy Mercedes plunged the five metres or so into the contaminated rancid flow below and the lights went out for him.
The executive vehicle, with its windows sealed shut, air conditioner still purring, slammed into the raging mass of water, and its front-heavy end smashed into the concrete surface of the bottom, buckling the entire front end beyond redemption before it bobbed to the surface, becoming entrapped in the rotting, relentless rush of the river. But slowly, ever so slowly, the rapacious water seeped through the rubber seals around the door and engine bay and the unstoppable leak grew, leisurely, inexorably, resolutely filling the car as it was inevitably swept away.
João was oblivious to all this; his consciousness had been extinguished by a savage connection between his face and the steering wheel; a livid bruise marring his face with a deep purple welt and a crimson tide washed down his features from a deep slash on his forehead sustained in the impact.
As the car slowly filled, becoming heavier and heavier, its buoyancy, little by little diminishing, its charge towards the great lake was slowed, but his journey to oblivion ruthlessly marched on as the Mercedes sank lower and lower in the grey water.
The cold liquid roused his senses and his eyes tried to blink open, but failed to achieve their objective, merely bridging the gap between blindness and vision, though unable to comprehend his situation: his eyelashes were constricted by a thick viscous, gluey mass and he could not make head nor tail of what little was visible through them. His nostrils detected a foul, stomach wrenching aroma, but his brain was unable to comprehend what it was. His lower body was soaked not only by the inflow of water, but also by his own pollution; between smashing into the bridge and plunging into the water, he had soiled himself in every conceivable way. In any case, instinctively, no matter what, he understood, his brain knew that he was in dire straits.
With a herculean effort, he wrenched his recalcitrant eyes open, tearing out many of his eyelashes in the process, but still his brain couldn’t fathom what it perceived. He could just discern the foam of whitewater, now splashing around the outside of the windows and some jagged red teeth above. His brain was unable to decipher that these jagged teeth were the crumbling taludes – the local red sandstone paving slabs that shored up the embankment above.
The stinking water continued rising within the interior space of the car, the surface occasionally being disrupted by massive bursting air bubbles and renting the air in the cab with putrescence. João didn’t have either the wits nor the comprehension to be scared as the water rose to chest level. It continued climbing steadily until finally it reached his mouth. He gagged and spluttered as this foetid greywater passed over his lips, and breathing became virtually impossible as his nose was now nothing more than a mass of jellied tissue and blood clots and the putrid water and detritus inevitably filled his mouth and percolated down to fill his stomach and lungs.
The angels began to gently call his name as his dazed, confused eyes slowly drifted shut and darkness began to envelop him. It was so surreal: as his consciousness slowly ebbed away, the light and life being stolen from him, paradoxically, at the same time, he was almost grasping for and welcoming the comforting blackness willingly offering his life in the process. And then indigo, blackness, nothingness, oblivion, peace!
“Puta que pariu!” The filthy words exploded from his mouth along with the filthy water and excrescence that had filled his lungs as the pain hit him square in the face at the same time as his encrusted eyes forced their way open. Gagging, gasping and spluttering, he found himself in a very uncomfortable position: the front of the car facing southwards, dragged down by the weight of the engine, and he found himself bobbing on the surface of the water that filled the cab, not being restrained by the seatbelt which he had always eschewed, the lack of which being responsible for the cuts and contusions on his face. João felt, but couldn’t see the pair of grimy hands, caked with dirt and filth, ragged nails topping the end of the stubby fingers, pulling at him, clawing at him, dragging and heaving him through the grey water and out of the now shattered window.
The gushing water had helped to unglue his eyes, but nonetheless they were still filled with a blood-red haze of pain and dark crimson, but, even so, behind the brilliant glare of sunshine, João could just about discern a hideous, corpse-like face smiling benevolently at him.
His car had become lodged behind a fallen tree which had snagged itself in the river and someone was pulling at him, obviously trying to rob him whilst he was incapable of defending himself. The face was repugnant! Lank and greasy black hair framed the skull-like face, the colour of age-darkened bone; the open maw filled with blackened, broken teeth and, Meu Deus, it was smiling almost serenely at him. A wave of repulsion washed over him until his befuddled brain finally managed to take in the situation and then pure, unadulterated anger flooded through him. What right did such a worthless excuse of a human being have of laying a hand on him, João Telles? Then, understanding finally smashed into him like a punch to the solar plexus: this repellent individual was actually saving his life, not robbing him and this realisation went against everything that João Telles knew about life!
The mendigo finally managed to drag João free from the car and then had the arduous task of trying to get him to the safety of the bank. Now, this was no easy task as the Mercedes was wedged in the middle of the heaving river and the flow of water was not so much a flow as a seething torrent and João, after many years of good living, was somewhat portly, but finally the mendigo breathlessly succeeded in pulling him up onto the bank of red sandstone slabs about fifty metres downstream of the car.
Both the filthy mendigo and João were saturated, filthy and exhausted after this was accomplished and it took them both many minutes to catch their breaths. João was the first to try and speak, but all that came out of his mouth were incoherent phrases: half formed thanks and, conversely, at the same time, recriminations and vicious curses. The mendigo put a gnarled and filthy finger to his cracked and scabbed lips as if to silence such nonsense, and then smiled at João in way that João had never experienced in his life. The closest he could come to describing it later was that it was a benevolent, almost angelic smile.
The erstwhile guardian angel uttered just one simple phrase with a tranquillity that João had also never previously experienced:
“Nunca julgue um livro por sua capa, senhor,” then smiled a gappy, toothless, black stumped grin, turned and scrambled up the crumbling bank of the foetid arroio dilúvio, not once looking back as the water streamed forth from his rag-tag assortment of torn and mismatched ill-fitting clothing, and disappeared from the life of João Telles, content in the knowledge that his work was finally done with this now Earth-bound fallen angel who, as punishment for his sins, had been transformed into an Earthly mortal, forever bereft of the knowledge that he too had once soared the heavenly heights alongside his brethren.
So, what is Bizarre Bites of Brazil? In a nutshell, Bizarre Bites of Brazil is a veritable smorgasbord of bite sized tales of Brazil which offers a taste of the diverse cultural and social flavour that this enormous country has to offer, seasoned with a touch of the unusual and bizarre.
Before arriving in Brazil, I knew little of its rich and complex society. Of course I had seen images of the indulgent hedonistic carnaval, with its delicious, scantily clad coffee coloured women and exotic colourful costumes; I knew that girls wore dental floss bikinis, highlighting their golden peaches, and cavorted on the golden beaches; I had seen a documentary about the Police of Rio de Janeiro and their war against the drug traficantes and human life appeared to have little or no worth; from what I’d seen, football was placed on an equal if not superior footing with religion; and I was aware that there had been a military dictatorship in the not too distant past, but beyond that I had little knowledge.
Whilst these tales and the characters that populate them are purely fictional, there is a kernel of truth in many of them and I have tried to mirror Brazilian society as viewed through the eyes of a foreigner brought up on a different cultural diet, but who now feasts from the same table as the local inhabitants.
I think here is an appropriate place to thank those who have helped correct my terrible Portuguese. Jean Marie Désir and Dani Rocha, I am truly indebted for your assistance and friendship. Abraços e beijos para vocês!
I haven’t yet figured out how to display these in the reverse order of posting, but I strongly urge you to read them in the numbered order.
After speaking to a few people, they mentioned they had trouble navigating this site. If you go to the top of this page you will find a navigation bar on the right hand side that displays the numbered tales.
And so we now come to the first instalment from Bizarre Bites of Brazil. If you enjoy reading these twisted tales please leave a comment or a rating and please pass it on to your friends to share.
Just a little addendum.
If people find this post through the tags I have used, I just want to say that the tags relate to the entire collection, many of the tales still only written in my head, not on this page.
A commentator asked when I will update and I hope to update at least once a month, but it is tough because Rio has given me so much inspiration that I can’t keep up with my brain and work is consuming a great deal of my time and energy. If you subscribe, you’ll be notified of updates, so please subscribe and please, please comment, even if to criticise!!!!