4. Part 6 Seven-days-of-coincidences-and-the-incidental-guide-dog-sete-dias-de-coincidencias-e-o-cao−guia-incidental

Day 6. Money from heaven – Dinheiro do céu

Kris was awake when Tanja awoke the next morning and his face told the whole story. He was still pissed at her from the night before and his mood seemed ugly as sin. He acknowledged her with his squinted eyes but nothing more.

“So, are we still going to Dois Rios today,” she asked trying to break the heavy and pregnant air.

“Sure,” he replied curtly with no hint of humour in his voice. “Why not?”

“I just wanted to check because I can see you are still pissed from last night,” she told him frankly.

“Don’t worry about it,” he responded icily. “Shit happens, or as they would say in Brazil if they used the same expression, merda acontece.”

Although his words sounded warmly humorous on the surface, his voice was icily cold.

“I told you I’m sorry about last night,” she told him, trying to cut the heavy air between them. “It really was out of my hands and I’m sorry I had the keys with me and you couldn’t get back in the room.

“Forget it,” he said frostily. “As I said, shit happens.”

She decided to drop it. What else could she do? And she really was upset about the situation she had put him in.

Breakfast was a similar affair to the previous two mornings only this time Kris didn’t sit with Tania, instead taking his black coffee outside with him to go with his cigarette. Tanja tried her hardest to reconcile things with Kris, but he was being obstinate and stubborn, so she broke her fast alone until Isabella came in the room and joined her with a plate full of bread, cheese and fruit.

“I don’t blame Kris for being pissed with you,” Isabella exclaimed after Tanja had told her the tale. “I’m sure if I had a boyfriend and the same thing happened, he’d be pissed too.”

“But he’s not my boyfriend!” Tanja exclaimed exasperatedly.

“If you say so,” Isabella responded sarcastically. It was obvious to her that they were a couple.

Tanja told her how she had met Kris and described their platonic relationship. Isabella eyed her somewhat suspiciously, but decided she had to be telling the truth. There would be no reason for her to lie to her that she could think of, but you never know.

“Even still, I don’t blame Kris for being pissed at you. Leaving him waiting on the beach was bad enough, but keeping the key with you as well …”

“I know, I know; I feel rotten enough as it is, you don’t need to rub it in,” Tanja bemoaned. “As I said, I didn’t do it on purpose.”

At that moment, Kris walked into the dining room in search of another cup of coffee and noticed Isabella sitting with Tanja.

“Morning,” he called out to her, seeming more cheerful than he had been earlier.

“Morning,” she replied waving at him.

Once he had poured himself a cup of coffee, Kris wandered over towards them.

“She’s right you know,” he said by way of an opener. “We’re not a couple. We only met a few days ago.”

With that, he turned and made his way out of the door, coffee in hand.

Isabella looked at Tanja with a baffled expression on her face.

“Was he listening to us talking?”

“I really don’t think so,” Tanja said shaking her head doubtfully. “We’d finished talking by the time he came in and I really don’t think he would have been able to hear us.”

That guy is spooky,” Isabella said shaking her head, but she didn’t mean it in a negative way. “How do you think he does it?”

“I have no idea and neither does he, but I want to know,” she said. “He said he’s been looking for an explanation his entire life and still has no clue, so what chance have I got?” she asked rhetorically.

Kris came back in the dining room a few minutes later, empty coffee cup in hand, and his entire bearing was completely altered; he was obviously not the same person who had crawled out of bed that morning  all surly and churlish. His entire mien now radiated peace like the pale morning sun radiated its gentle glow. It was as if he had resolved some internal issue that had been bothering him.

“Hi,”  he said to the girls, with the familiar grin that Tanja had grown accustomed to in the short time she had known him.

“Hi,”  she responded with equal warmth, glad that the dis-ease that had blighted their night and early morning now appeared to be behind them.

“So, what time are we hitting the trail?” he asked with a gleam in his eyes.

“Steady on cowboy,” Tanja responded playfully, smiling cheerfully at him. “Can I just finish my breakfast first?” she asked rhetorically, although her plate was already empty and her coffee cup drained.

“Take your time; I’m only doing nothing,” he responded cheekily, his lantern jaw stretching into a mischievous grin.

Isabella smiled at the easy rapport between the two and again wondered if they were being honest with her; they seemed like the perfect couple. It was almost inconceivable that they had only known each other less than a week. It was if they had known each other for years and years. As she pondered this thought, her mind wandered to the possibility of past lives. She could offer no other explanation for the easy and effortless grace between the two. Her belief in reincarnation was not a subject she had shared with anyone else before, secretly harbouring it until a soul mate sailed into her life; it simply wasn’t a subject you could publicly talk about without the glazed look of ridicule in people’s eyes. One day, she thought, sighing to herself.

“Well, I’m gonna leave you two, erm, friends to it,” she said impishly, further enhancing her pixyish appearance.

Tanja frowned at her, but only playfully, with mock indignation.

“Have a great day with your friend,” Tanja said, all trace of her previous negative mood now as apparent as the stars in the bright blue skies.

“I will,” Isabella responded, waving at the reconciled couple as she left the dining room.

“Ready?” he asked when he was ready.

“Almost,” she responded,” but there’s one thing before we go.”

“Really?” he asked, but his cheeky grin suggested he knew exactly what it was she was referring to.

“Really!” she said with finality.

“Oh, ok then, come here,” he said, opening his arms wide like Cristo Rentor atop Corcovado.

“Thank you,” she said simply, wrapping her arms around him in a strong affectionate embrace.

“Think nothing of it,” he said, a huge grin on his face. “As I said, merde acontence!”

They remained entwined in each other’s arms for what seemed an eternity, although neither of them feeling anything more than the joy of pure friendship; this was certainly the most powerful platonic relationship either of them had ever shared. This again set Kris’ mind to pondering the purpose of their partnership as the energy of their bond coursed through him; something powerful and palpable.

“Right, well let’s go,” she said finally, disengaging herself from his strong arms, again at one with him, life and all its beauty and glory.

The sun had already removed the chill from the crisp morning air and was shining down brilliantly from the clear blue sky. The day promised to be warm and the tough trail through the dense forest promised to be sweaty, hot and arduous and the pair were dressed accordingly in light summer tops and shorts, although their feet were encased in thick socks and good hiking boots.

Kris and Tanja, with their foreknowledge gained from their previous hike, decided to stop at the closest store to stock up on things they thought they might need to sustain themselves throughout their day’s hike. They chose plenty of carbohydrates in the form of bananas and savoury crackers to provision their backpacks; the potassium from the former and the sodium from the later chosen to alleviate the problem of cramping due to mineral loss from excessive sweating, and they both doubled up on the quantity of water they had brought the first day. Not that Kris was bothered about drinking the fresh mountain water, but he was not certain he would find any today. Kris was somewhat bothered by the mineral water in the supermarket – every single one had fluoride added. He could find not one without added fluoride! What was this all about? Was this the same throughout Brazil?

He had a friend whose father was a dentist back in Canada and specialised in the treatment of dental issues in communities with a high concentration of native peoples. Obviously, these were poorer areas and the regular cost of maintaining dental hygiene was comparatively high and the poorer people suffered severely from poor dental health. His friend’s father had told him the incidence of fluorosis was very high; a consequence of high levels of artificially added fluoride in the local drinking water. He had also read of the link between fluoride and the pacification of the human brain; something that had been studied and implemented in Nazi concentration camps according to some sources. Why was it that he was unable to buy bottled water that was unfluoridated? He assumed that the town drinking water was fluoridated as well, and for this reason he avoided it, but why would they insist on adding fluoride to bottled mineral water? Was it because the poor people drank the town supply and the wealthier drank bottled mineral water and the government wished to have all the population receiving the benefits of fluoride? And Kris, due to his connections with current dentists, was aware that it had nothing to do with the stated objective of reducing caries! He had seen studies showing that the incidence of caries differed not one iota statistically in areas where the town water supply was fluoridated and those where the water was not.

With their backpacks fully loaded, the newly reconciled couple set off for their day’s adventure, both with no idea what the days exploits would bring and both glad of that. That was what made life so interesting for the intrepid duo – no 9 to 5 routine for this pair. These two craved different experiences, not content to simply sit in front of their computer screens to experience the world, but to actually go out there and experience it for themselves first hand – unfortunately, a rare and dying breed amongst their modern day peers.

Providentially for them, the heavy canopy of the forest kept the sun well and truly off them as the trail they traipsed was fully in the shade, but they paid a price for this with the humidity that the selfsame canopy not only generated, but also retained and they had soon worked up a sweat; Kris more than Tanja due to his inherent lack of fitness, but the torturous trail to Lopes Mendes had lifted his fitness level a few notches and he found even the steepest climbs on this track a touch easier and less arduous than similar stretches on the way to Lopes Mendes.

There was an easy, comfortable silence between the two as they hiked. Not a silence born of the need to conserve energy and breath, but a silence born of the comfort of being able to retreat into the mind and reflect without having to worry about the need to be constantly talking. Tanja’s brow however, was knitted as though wrestling with some inner turmoil when she suddenly broke the silence.

“Hey Kris, I’ve been thinking about all these weird things that you’ve been talking about and the crazy coincidences that I’ve seen for myself,” she said.

Kris was intrigued, wondering what was coming next.

“Uh huh,” he muttered simply, waiting.

“Well, from what you’ve said and what I’ve seen, you never seem to benefit from this, right?” she asked, trying to understand the whole scheme of things.

“Wrong!” he responded, much to her surprise.

“Wrong? What do you mean wrong?” she asked.

“Well, let me give you a few examples,” he started simply. “I already mentioned the episode with the rain; I certainly benefitted there by not getting wet, but let me tell you another story. Once, when I was in first year at university, I was so broke I had no money for food, cigarettes, beer, nothing and I refused to sponge off my parents, and was wondering where on earth I could get some money, I was standing outside the university, and I kid you not, I saw something falling gently from the skies, like a leaf dropping from the trees, and it landed right between my feet. I bent down and picked up a $50 note…”

“You cannot be serious,” she said, eyes and mouth open wide.

“Yep, totally serious. I looked around to see where it had come from and I have no idea. To this day I don’t have a clue where it came from. It was just there exactly when I needed it and, to top it off, it fell right between my feet!”

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Tanja said.

“Yea, but I think it manifested because I asked for it,” he explained.

“Asked? Asked who, God?”

Kris shrugged his shoulders.

“Hmm, that I don’t know; I don’t believe in God per se, at least not in the traditional sense, and it’s not as if I was praying with a religious fervour. But I have found that if I just vocalise a desire it seems to somehow manifest itself, although not always in the way I expect. I just have no idea who I’m asking – God, a god, Gaia, Mother Nature? I have no answer!”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” Tanja insisted. “That’s just an old fashioned belief in magic.”

Kris laughed. “Well, it may sound like that, but it works. All I know is that we are the ultimate creators. What we think, we create,” He told her.

“How so?”

“Well, it’s like that story I told you of the guy who said he was gonna fall when abseiling and created that reality.”

“Yeah, but that’s different, that’s with his own belief system. To create something out of thin air is something totally different,” she stated.

“I didn’t say I created the money, but perhaps I created the conditions for it to happen.”

“Bullshit!” She spat sceptically. “Ok, prove it to me. Make some money appear right now,” she insisted.

Kris sighed heavily.

“I don’t think it’s quite that easy. Back then I had a real urgent need and my mind was totally focused on the necessity,” he tried explaining. “I don’t have the need right now.”

“That’s what I thought; totally untestable; fails scientific analysis every time.”

She was getting very haughty and self righteous and Kris likened her to James Randi, the arch Skeptic, and drew a deep draught of air into his lungs to calm himself.

“Ok, I will try and believe that I really want it, but I can’t guarantee anything,” he told her.

He stopped in the middle of the path, closed his eyes and focused his mind for a few minutes in total silence. Tanja merely looked on observing silently. He then opened his eyes and raised his arms heavenwards.

“I really need some money,” he said to the skies in a clear and calm voice.

“So, how long do we have to wait? Does it happen instantly like in the movies?”

Kris wasn’t sure if she was playing with him or being serious, but he tended towards the former.

“It usually takes some time, but that time I had the money fall between my feet it was virtually instantaneo…” he stopped mid word and laughed, a huge smile breaking out on his face.

“What?” She asked, wondering what could have caused his change of mood so suddenly.

“You are so not gonna believe this, in fact even I’m struggling,” he told her.

“What, what?” She asked becoming impatient.

“Look,” he said pointing to the ground just behind her feet, where she had moments before trod, and bent down and picked up a fifty real note.

“Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to fall for that. You just threw it there. I’m not stupid you know,” she said, more than a hint of exasperation evident in her voice.

“Have a look at it if you don’t believe me,” he said handing here the note, which was folded and damp, the heavy morning dew beading on its surface.

Her mouth moved as if to say something, but only strange, strangled sounds  came out. Kris noticed this, a triumphant look on his face, but said nothing, having no desire to rub it in. If Tanja’s world view had been somewhat rocked by some of the previous things she had seen and heard from Kris, it was now completely shattered. This latest demonstration would irrevocably change her and she would need to construct new paradigms by which to live her life.

Even Kris could not explain what had just happened. Surely it would be too much to just put this down to coincidence; that would be stretching the odds far too much, but if not coincidence then what? Thoughts of the non linear nature of time came to mind. In the past he had believed in the nature of cause and effect, but many things had happened to make him re-evaluate this position including the latest discoveries in quantum physics. As ever, he simply admitted he didn’t know and left it at that.

The pair continued on the trail in silence, but it was a different silence than before. The silence was now heavily charged and pregnant with many unspoken and half-formed thoughts as Tanja struggled to comprehend the world anew.

The quiet  air was gradually being invaded by a noise that grew steadily louder and louder. It was the sound of people; lots of people. The source of the sound soon became apparent when the two friends rounded a bend and almost walked straight into a large group of young people. They bid good morning to the group and squeezed past them on the narrow trail.

“There’s a research station from the Federal University of Rio here on this part of the island,” Tanja explained, which obviously accounted for these people. They had the look of biology students, Kris thought.

Shortly after the hubbub of the students disappeared, the end of the trail became visible and both were surprised by what lay at its end. There, beyond the clay surface of the trail, lay what appeared to be a small town, obviously military in nature and obviously in serious need of some repairs as there was peeling paint on many of the buildings and some even had broken windows with rotten wooden frames and tiles missing from some of the rooves. They passed a sentry box with a military policeman stationed inside.

“Bom dia,” they both said to the sentry as they passed.

He wished them both good morning and called them back to him.

Com licence, vocês precisam se cadastrar,” – Excuse me, you need to register yourselves − he informed them.

This was typical of Brazil. People need to register themselves to enter many places, including some shopping centres. Brazil likes to regulate everything and even has rules for its rules.

Quais são os seus nomes?” – What are your names? – He asked them genially enough, however they both found the pistol at his side a little disconcerting.

“Tanja Radic,” Tanja told him and Kris noticed that he simply wrote Tania on the sheet on the clipboard in his hand.

“John Person,” Kris told him and Tanja gave him a sharp look, but said nothing and the policeman simply wrote João.

The officer started giving them information, but Kris struggled to understand everything that was being said and simply nodded and smiled, offering the occasional where he thought appropriate and the two were soon on their way again towards the beach.

“What did he say?” Tanja asked. “I couldn’t understand him properly.

No, idea,” Kris replied laughing, “neither could I.”

“And what’s with this John Person?” she asked, hands on her hips, a sharp expression creasing her features.

Again he laughed.

“I hate giving my information out if I don’t have to and John Person was the most anonymous name I could think of.”

She shook her head disapprovingly at him, but said nothing further on the subject and they wound their way around the short streets in the direction of the beach.

Despite being further from the pousada than Lopes Mendes, the pair had covered the distance far quicker and arrived in  much better condition. The trail had been nowhere near as torturous and rigorous. Once they reached the beach, they received a double dose of disappointment; the beach was incredibly narrow, only about 3 feet wide and there was a cold howling gale blasting along the beira. There would be neither swimming nor sunbathing for the two today.

By silent mutual consent, the pair drifted along the narrow shore, their backs protecting them from the biting wind that blew, whipping the sand up like a sandblaster. Presently, they arrived at one of the rivers for which the place was obviously named. The dark orange brown water wound its way to the sea where the two waters mingled. There was a flock of ugly urubu – vultures – feasting on the carcass of something at the water’s edge and Kris wandered towards them to have a closer look. Although he found the birds physically repellent, he found himself conversely at the same time attracted to them. What the fascination was he couldn’t say.

The urubu continued feasting on the carrion as Kris approached, but they kept a very watchful eye on him as he did so. When he was within ten feet, their courage finally failed, or was it hunger and greed that kept them there so long? and they lifted off into the air with heavy and slow flaps of their wings. Kris investigated the carcass to see if he could identify the species, but the carrion eaters had ripped the creature to pieces, scattering bones all around, and torn the fur and flesh off making identification very difficult. He then noticed that Tanja had joined him and seemed to be equally interested in the remains.

“Any idea what it is?” she asked bending down to have a look, not seeming in the slightest disgusted or revolted by the remains.

“It’s a bit hard to tell,” he said, “but I would guess that it was probably a gambá – opossum – I can’t be sure, the greedy bastards have done a great job on it.”

“How do you know what they’re called in Portuguese?” she asked, a puzzled expression on her face.

“That’s easy,” he said with a gentle laugh. “I did some research on what species I could expect to find in Rio.”

The urubu had settled on a nearby monolith and were keeping a close eye on the pair and their lunch and were eagerly awaiting their departure so they could return to their meal. Not wishing to keep them waiting any longer, the two ambled away, Kris wading in the warm dark water of the river and Tanja treading the pale sands on its side. Without either being consciously aware of it, their trajectories diverged until they were some distance from each other; each though, perfectly comfortable with this.

In his own thoughts, Kris found his mind drifting back to Tahlia again and questioning as to how come, in light of the events of the past week with his knowing and the coincidences, he didn’t have an inkling that she had been betraying him? The answer, he finally concluded, was that his premonitions and associated paranormal phenomena had been in abeyance until he had met Tanja. Only then had they returned as strong as they had ever been, and perhaps he had been too blinded by his feelings for her to pick up on the subtle cues.

The individual paths of the pair again crossed and the urubu had settled back onto their midday feast anew now that the duo were no longer threatening to steal their meal; the sun was warm on their bare flesh, but the wind was still whipping up the sand along the beach. Kris suggested that they seek shelter from this howling gale behind the row of trees that had obviously been planted as a wind break and where some grass had also been planted and was well maintained.

After laying out their respective towels, eating a simple meal of fruit, cheese and biscuits, they stretched out in the glorious sunshine, sheltered from the harsh, howling wind and Kris found his thoughts drifting to his newly encountered buddy, Chris and wondered how he was getting on with his Brazilian babe. He felt an ominous knot grow in the pit of his stomach and thought that things were perhaps not going too well for him. He felt convinced that their relationship had suffered the same fate as his own and thought it decidedly odd how their lives had paralleled each other’s and he pondered the significance of this, but didn’t dwell on it because he was sure he would never find out.

Feeling an overwhelming urge to call Chris, he took out his cell phone. Although his Canadian phone was roaming enabled, it was useless without a signal. It was no real surprise that there was no signal in his remote island hideaway and he put the cell phone away vowing to give Chris a call at the earliest opportunity.

As the sun disappeared behind the trees and hills, Kris and Tanja decided to hit the trail and return to their pousada. The guard in the sentry box, asking the pair their names, checked them off on his list.

“I wonder what he’d do if we didn’t come back past here today,” Tanja mused.

“Probably send out the search dogs and hunt us down,” Kris responded with a laugh, but he was only half joking.

They had not seen a single dog since leaving Abraão that morning, when suddenly, out of the blue, two dogs came bounding around the bend almost crashing into them a few minutes later. The two dogs were very well kempt, but bore no collar around their necks; too well groomed to be strays, Kris thought as he reached down to give them a stroke when they came to a halt and graciously allowed him this boon.

“Now, where the heck did they come from?” Kris asked rhetorically.

“No idea,” Tanja answered with a shake of her head, reaching down and stroking them as well. “Perhaps they were kept ready to hunt for us,” she ventured.

The two dogs were of indeterminate breed, both medium sized, but both very friendly like the other dogs they had encountered on the island. After a few moments of affectionate playing, the four travellers continued on their hike back to Abraão, the air thick and humid beneath the dense forest canopy,  the thin clothing of the two humans sticking to their skin, soaked with sweat. The canines, on the other hand, showing no indication of the sultry conditions, merely panting and lolling their tongues as is the wont of their species.

“I wonder if they have toucans here,” Kris suddenly asked rhetorically.

“I have no idea,” Tanja responded.

“I know they have them in the city of Rio, but I’m not sure if they have them here, but you have to wonder about them though.”

“What do you have to wonder?” she asked.

“Well, I’m a firm believer in biological and evolutionary adaption to the local environment…”

“Yeah, me too,” she said interrupting him.

“Well, take the hummingbird for example. Its long, thin curved beak is perfectly adapted to reach down into the bottom of the deepest flower to drink of its nectar, but what of the bill of the toucan? Why the heck is it so huge?”

“All the better to eat you with,” she said with a playful grin.

“Indeed,” he responded wryly.

“In Croatia, we have a story about the bad wolf…”

“Yeah, we’ve got the same story,” he said interrupting her.” In fact, I think the whole world has the same story.”

Both of them quickly turned to the dense canopy as something large, dark and heavy disturbed the foliage.

“What’s that, a monkey?” Tanja asked excitedly.

“Knowing my luck this week, it’s probably a damned toucan,” Kris rejoined wryly.

A dark shape could be seen hidden behind the uppermost branches and it suddenly leapt from one branch to another and then one tree to another. A bright, colourful flash of orange was suddenly visible through the leaves.

Courtesy Teja Muha

“Fuck me, I don’t believe it,” Kris said shaking his head. “Well, I do believe it, but you know what I mean.”

Clearly visible in the upper branches was a magnificent black toucan with an enormous bright orange/yellow and black bill. Suddenly, like two fighter jets engaging in a dog fight, two smaller birds swooped on the hapless toucan, barely missing its flanks. The toucan hopped to another branch and the two aerial fighters launched another attack. This time the toucan took to the air, begrudgingly flapping its huge wings as it departed, thwarted by the midget invading air force.

“What the hell, I don’t believe I just saw that,” Tanja exclaimed exasperatedly.

“Saw what, the toucan as I was asking about it, or the smaller birds attacking it?

“Well, both actually,” she answered honestly, “but more so the two small birds attacking it.”

“That is far more common than you might imagine,” he informed her. “It’s usually a defensive/aggressive reaction from the smaller birds. I read somewhere that although mainly frugivorous, toucans will also eat insects, small birds and eggs and those smaller birds have obviously developed the tactic of ganging up on the toucan to protect their nests.”

“Makes sense,” she said, “but those little birds seem so brave.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said with a short laugh, “but it’s a big bad world out there; eat or be eaten.”

The rest of their trek on the trail back to Abraão passed without further incident, the two humans accompanied by the two guide dogs at their side, and they arrived back at the main beach with still about another hour of light left in the late afternoon sky.

“So, that is Pico Do Papagaio,” Tanja told Kris, indicating the rocky crag rising high above the green blanket of trees.

“Looks more like a dog’s head,” Kris said dryly, “and bearing in mind what’s happened with our inadvertent guide dogs so far on the island, I’d say that would be a better moniker – Dog’s head mountain – montanha de cabeça de cão,” he said rolling the words around his mouth, reaching down to stroke the pair of guide dogs at his side.

“So, are you climbing up there with me tomorrow?” she asked hopefully.

Courtesy Teja Muha

Kris was not sure; such physical exertion was not really his thing. Sure, he had spent a lot of time on the ski slopes of the Rocky Mountains, but most of that had been on the way down and the way up had always been made easy, travelling by the cable cars and ski lifts. This would be something wholly different altogether; this would involve real physical exertion and his hike to Lopes Mendes had been sufficient to prove that his fitness level left a lot to be desired.

“I’m not sure,” he said finally. “Let’s see in the morning.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” she replied stubbornly before softening her tone a little. “I’m going up there with or without you, but I’d like your company though.”

They reached the sand and the couple removed their shoes and stepped onto the shore, paddling in the shallow water of its edge. The two guide dogs accompanied them, splashing happily in the cool clear water.

Absent mindedly, Kris bent down, scooped up a stone and skimmed it across the slick surface and was somewhat taken aback when one of the dogs charged into the water after it. He was further surprised when it dived below the surface and retrieved a stone from the bottom and brought it back to him, dropping it at his feet. Kris was unsure if it was the exact same stone, but it certainly seemed to be. He picked up the stone and another besides, with which he scratched an X across the
surface of the other and again hurled it out to sea.. Again, the now soaking wet dog leapt after it, again diving beneath the surface and retrieving a stone and dropping it at his feet again. Kris scooped up the stone and was pleasantly satisfied to see the X scrawled across its surface.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiHPcAugBtQ&feature=endscreen&NR=1

“Well I’ll be damned,” he said shaking his head. “These damned dogs continue to surprise the hell out of me.”

Tanja said nothing, just simply stood there shaking her head in silent shock and awe as well. After a few minutes, Kris finally tired of the game and, much to the dog’s disappointment, finally left the stone on the wet sand. The dog, in an effort to encourage him to continue, picked it up again in his slobbering mouth and dropped it at his feet. Kris merely kicked it a short distance, nonetheless the dog still chased after it excitedly, but realised the game was over as Kris walked off and it gambolled after him, shaking the salt water from its fur in a big spray, wetting disgruntled beach goers in the process.

A few minutes later, as they were passing an orelhã0 – big ear – as the local public phone shells were called, the phone within began ringing. A cheeky, childish grin grew on Kris’s face as he ran over to answer it. He loved to answer public phones when they rang, especially in foreign countries, and confuse the hell out of the person at the other end of the line.

“This is Kris’s phone,” he muttered mechanically. “I’m sorry; Kris can’t come to the phone right now. Please leave your name and number and he will get back to you at his earliest possible convenience,” he finished pompously.

“Kris, stop being an asshole,” the voice on the other end said with obvious irritation. Kris let out an almost girlish shriek and practically threw the handset away.

“What’s the matter?” Tanja asked, eyes wide with concern.

“I’ll tell you in a minute, but you ain’t gonna believe this,” he said, shaking his head, disbelieving his own ears.

“… you stop being an asshole, Kris,” he heard as he brought the receiver back to his ear.

“Chris, is that you?” He asked, although it was patently obvious that it was.

“Of course it’s me, who else would it be?” Chris responded, a serious note of irritation in his voice, but with a darker undertone.

“You know where I am, buddy?” Kris asked, still not believing the evidence of his own ears.

“I assume you’re still on that damned Island,” he responded tersely.

“I’m in a fucking public phone booth,” he yelled incredulously.

“What are you talking about?” Chris asked, wondering what all the confusion was about.

“I was walking along the beach when I heard the phone ringing in a public phone booth, picked it up and you’re on the other fucking end!” He was still struggling to come to terms with the sheer magnitude of this current coincidence; the odds against it were just so staggeringly small as to be beyond comprehension.

“For fuck sake, Kris, now is not the time to be fucking with me.”  He was rapidly losing patience with Kris’s bullshit and was just not in the mood for this crap.

“I called your cell phone, now will you shut the fuck up and listen to me.”

“Buddy, I am not shitting you, I swear,” Kris responded desperately.

He managed to get Chris to read back the number he had dialled and Chris finally accepted that he had indeed dialled incorrectly and by a billions to one chance had reached him at exactly the same moment he was walking past the very phone booth he had accidentally called.

“So, what’s up?” Kris asked once the shock had finally worn off and he realised that his friend was not in a good way.

Chris told him!

He finally replaced the receiver in the cradle and recounted what had just happened to Tanja who had been eagerly waiting for him to hang up the phone and tell her just what the hell was going on. He told her everything, from his meeting with Chris to the way their lives had eerily paralleled each other’s, down to the similarity of their girlfriend’s name and ultimate betrayal.

This was yet another blow to her former way of thinking and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that she would be spending a very long time searching for some explanation for the things that had happened, just as Kris had had to do. She wondered if she too would have to resign herself to never knowing, never finding an answer, but she knew she would start searching as soon as she could.

“Come on, let’s go get a drink. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell could use one,” Kris told her, leading her to the nearest bar, not even waiting for a response.

She followed meekly, suppliant to his will.

They sat at a slatted, rickety table on the calçada and a waiter promptly arrived, cardápio in hand. Kris had a quick look through it and ordered two double aged cachaças and a garrafa de cerveja. Again, Tanja made no comment, simply allowing him to order for the two of them, sitting there composing her thoughts.

The drinks arrived in good time and Kris asked the waiter to leave the menu as he would order some food in a while.

“Here’s to high end weirdness and coincidences,” he said raising his glass.

“To complete and utter total weirdness,” she responded, raising her own glass.

Kris swallowed half of his drink in one draught whilst Tanja merely sipped at the fiery golden liquor.

“Get it down you,” Kris urged her. “I’m sure you could use it.”

She took a much larger swig as he finished the rest of his glass with a noisy expulsion of air. A fly chose this moment to circumnavigate Tanja’s face and her attempts to shoo it away were totally ineffective.

“What the hell,” Tanja shrieked as Kris lunged across the table, swiping the air in front of her face.

“Just getting rid of the fly,” he said with a grin, shaking a closed fist at her.

“You’re not trying to tell me you caught it, are you?”

“No, I’m not trying to tell you I caught it, I did catch it.”

Although he was grinning mischievously like a naughty child, his eyes were deadly serious.

“Care to make a little wager?” he asked, eyes gleaming.

“No way,” she said laughing. “I know better than to never make a bet with you.”

Kris beamed at her and opened his fingers one by one and the fly, sensing freedom, took advantage and flew away in search of other faces to pester.

“So, tell me, you must have some idea how all these coincidences and such like work,” she said after a few moments thought. “Why is it that they never happen to me?”

“I guess you’re just not receptive to them,” he stated simply.

“I mean that quite literally. I do have a pet theory if you are interested.”

“After what I’ve seen this week, I’m willing to listen to anything,” she told him frankly.

“Right, well, have you never thought of someone you hadn’t seen for a while and then they suddenly ring you?”

“Sure,” she said, “but that’s just coincidence.”

Um, maybe, but I have a different theory and you said you were willing to listen to almost anything, right?”

She nodded her head in guarded agreement.

“Ok, as far as we know, our thoughts are little electrical sparks in our synapses, brain waves, which then transmit their message to the body, agreed?”

“Agreed,” she said nodding concordantly.

“Ok, so imagine if we liken these electrical signals to radio waves; you have a transmitter that transmits the signal, and like radio waves, these brainwaves can travel freely through the air until they are picked up by a receiver, but like a radio has to be tuned into a certain radio station to pick up the signal, so we too have to be tuned into another person’s wavelength to be able to receive their signal; the stronger the connection, the greater the harmony between the transmitter and receiver, the better the reception.”

“Hmm,” she said mulling this new idea over in her mind. It did sound like quite a feasible explanation and he had couched it in terms she could accept.

“Take the situation with Chris today,” he said by way of an example. “I was thinking so strongly about him and his situation and I believe that I was receiving his transmissions, because he told me that Talita finally confessed her infidelity around the same time that I had been thinking so strongly of him back in Dois Rios.”

“Ok, let’s assume that you’re correct, that you were receiving his transmission, as you put it, how then do you explain the phone call?” She asked, trying to make sense of things.

“Ah, you’ve got me there,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I have no rational explanation for that at all,” he said with a smirk and a small shrug.

“But you know we give off other types of signals too.”

“Mm, such as?” she asked, wondering where he was going.

“Well, you know that they say that 70% of our communication is non-verbal, right?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard the same, but it’s not something I have looked into.”

“Well, it’s something I’ve looked into and studied quite extensively,” he said emphatically. “You know when you watch a politician and he says he is going to do such and such as he shakes his head from side to side,” he told her mimicking the gesture, “well, you can pretty much guarantee he’s lying, but it’s not always as blatantly obvious as that, but we each also give off micro expressions that we are unaware of and have no control over.”

“Really? That’s fascinating. It’s not a subject I’ve heard much about.”

“Ah, body language, what a wonderful and valuable tool. As I told you, I’ve always been fascinated by the mind and the body goes hand in hand with that.”

“And how is this useful?” She asked him.

“Well, I can consciously tell when people are lying to me, whereas we are usually only aware subconsciously, when we get a feeling we shouldn’t trust someone for no apparent reason. This is when you read the body subconsciously. I always prefer to do it consciously, but it takes effort. You have to focus.”

“You mean you can tell if I’m lying or not?”

“Yep, wanna try me?” he dared her with a smirk stretching his broad cheeks.

Tanja could not resist a challenge and readily agreed.

“Ok, take the menu and go to the wine list,” he instructed. “Choose four wines from the list, tell me what they are and how much they cost, but don’t give the real price for one of them and I’ll tell you which one you were lying about.”

She liked this game and was certain she would not be discovered, not because she thought herself a good liar, but she doubted his abilities.

“Deal,” she said leafing through the wine list. “Ok, here we go: Concho y Toro Merlot, R$42.00. Santa Helena Cabernet Sauvignon Reservado, R$ 48.50, La Casita Reserva Shiraz …”

“Right, stop there,” he ordered suddenly, interrupting her.

“But I haven’t finished yet,” she complained.

“You don’t need to, you lied about the second one, the Santa Helena, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right, but you’ve seen the wine list and probably remembered the prices, so that proves nothing,” she said sceptically.

“Ok, point taken. It is possible, although I didn’t,” he said leaning back in his chair, clasping his hands behind his head. “Alright, let’s try something different; something I could have no way of knowing.”

He was pensive, hands still clasped behind his head, eyes closed for a moment before continuing.

“I know, I’ve got it, pick four people you went to school with, then tell me their names and say whether you liked them or whether you disliked or even hated them. This time you can lie as often as you like, ok, is that good enough for you?”

“Yeah, that’s ok with me, you can’t know that,” she conceded. “Alright, let me think for a minute,” she said. “Ok, I got someone: there was Antonija, I hated her,” she said.

“Right, that’s true. It’s funny how we often remember the negative much more and much clearer than the positive,”

She nodded her head in confirmation and thought about his words a moment. It was true. Her strongest memory from school was that bitch Antonija; she hated her more than she had ever hated anything in her entire life.

“Alright, then there was Lucija, I didn’t like her much either.”

“Nope, you’re lying,” he said confidently and he was correct. She had tried to trick him, but he had read her correctly;  Lucija  was one of her friends.

“Then there was Andrija, I simply adored him.”

“Nope, you’re lying again, but you didn’t hate him either,” he added and again he was spot on, she didn’t hate him, but liked him well enough.

“Ok, then there was Jelka, I really liked her a lot.”

“No you didn’t, you’re lying again, I think you were pretty neutral about her, right?”

She nodded her head once again. Again, she had tried to trick him, figuring that he wouldn’t think she would lie three times in a row.

“Ok, one more,” she said. “Just to prove it’s not just luck.”

He nodded his consent and this time she really tried to focus on keeping her expression as neutral and deadpan as possible.

“Ok, finally there was Goran. I liked him well enough,” she said as blandly as possible.

“You’re lying again. You were crazy about him, weren’t you?”

She nodded her head with a smile, thinking of sweet, sweet Goran, her mountain boy, her first childhood love.

“So, 5 out of 5 correct, right?” He was smiling in a very self satisfied manner.

“Right,” she said shaking her head in disbelief. “But how did you do it? I tried my hardest to keep my face straight, expressionless.”

“As I said,” he explained, “you can’t help yourself; micro-expressions, your body gives you away every time,” he told her, “but it’s a mixture of psychology as well. I was fairly certain that your first thought would be negative, then next you would try and trick me… you were, or should I say we all are, quite predictable creatures.”

As he said this, he slumped slightly and his face dropped as he thought about Tahlia. He was certain that if he had seen her, he would have known if she had been cheating on him, even if she hadn’t told him. He was right, the body can’t lie.

Oi garçon, “Kris said, calling the waiter over, trying to distract his mind from the memory of her and what she had done. “Vê mais duas chachaças e uma porção de bolinha de bacalhau, mais uma porção de batata fritas com quejo pra nos, por favor – Could you bring us two more cachaças and a portion of salted dried cod balls plus a portion of chips with cheese, please.

Mais uma coisa, senhor?” the waiter asked.

Só, mas vocês têm molho de pimenta?” – Just that, but do you have chilli sauce?

Tem,” the waiter replied, letting him know that they did.

Again, Tanja didn’t react to him taking charge and ordering for the pair of them. Kris was secretly very pleased about this as he now felt secure and safe being in the position he had grown accustomed to. He knew it was simply due to the fact that her head was reeling and she was not able to digest what she had experienced, and he wondered if she would be back to her bossy old self tomorrow.

As they were discussing the many mysteries of life that Kris had experienced, and their possible scientific explanation, a bee buzzed around his face before settling on his forehead. Tanja let out a little shriek and Kris firmly, but calmly, told her to sit still and not to worry; to make no sudden moves.

“But it will sting you,” she said, eyes wide obvious concern.

“No it won’t, unless you scare the crap out of it,” he told her sternly. “The bee has no desire to sting me. They only sting when either they or their colony are attacked. I’m sure they know they will die if they do and I believe they use that ultimate weapon judiciously.”

“But loads of people get stung,” she said.

“Yep, and it’s their fault 99% of the time. They usually panic and try and flick the bee away or otherwise threaten it; that’s when they get stung,” he explained.

She stayed in her seat, chastened as she knew what he was saying was true.

Kris’ faced screwed up into a frown.

“That is, unless they’re Africanised bees,” he added. “Then they will attack in great numbers to protect the queen and can even kill you.”

“Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about them, well how do you know that’s not an Africanised bee?”

“Elementary, my dear Tanja, it’s too small. Africanised bees are larger.”

She was just about to ask how he knew it wasn’t just a young one, but thought better of it.

“Did you know that the Africanised bee was created in Brazil?” he asked.

“No, really?”

“Yeah, they were created in São Paulo in an effort to try and increase honey production and escaped into the wild in the 1950s,” he told her.

“Human beings are always playing Frankenstein,” Tanja responded wistfully.

“You said it, and these bees have reached down to Argentina and as far north as Utah, Tennessee and Georgia in the US. Fortunately, they don’t like the cold so will never be able to establish colonies in Canada,” he added, pleased at this thought.

“Hey, you know I’ve been stung twice in my life, and coincidentally both times on the same day,” he continued, “and fortunately they weren’t Africanised.”

“Really? What happened?”

“Well, the first time I got stung, I was in the forest and had taken my shirt off after some tom foolery or other and the bee had obviously climbed inside my shirt as it lay unattended, because I got stung when I put it back on. Obviously, it felt threatened in the confined space and felt it had no other option left, and the second time was later that same day when I got home; I was changing shoes when I felt this searing hot pain in the sole of my foot. Again, the poor thing was trapped.”

“But you only got stung twice before, and both on the same day? That’s a bit strange,” she said.

“Actually, People say things come in threes, both good and bad, but for me, things seem to happen in twos.”

“How so?”

“Well, I have been done for speeding twice, both on the same day, but 400 miles apart. I have split my brow open twice, both on the same day,” he said indicating two almost identical scars, one on each of his eyebrows. “I’ve won a good amount of money on scratch lotteries twice, both on the same day; the list goes on,” he said wistfully, trying to remember all the fortuitous and not so fortuitous pairings he had experienced.

“And what’s your explanation for that?” she asked, intrigued and more open than she would previously have been. Her curiosity had been lubricated by the events of the past few days as well as the double double doses of cachaça she had consumed alongside the beer chaser.

“Attraction, I think!” He said simply.

“How so?” she asked curiously

“Well, it seems to me that what we focus on, we attract,” he told her.

“But that’s just more mumbo jumbo hocus pocus,” she said. “I’m not buying it. That’s not scientific at all.”

“Nope, that as may be, but it seems to be true. It’s as if we send out a signal of some sort and somehow or other the universe finds a way to respond, to fulfil our thoughts. It’s kinda like that story I told you earlier about the guy who was convinced he was gonna fall and his mind found a way to make it come true, except on a much larger scale.”

“But through what mechanism?” She asked.

“Ah, good question; that is something I’m not quite sure about, but if we take Jung’s collective unconscious as a given paradigm, that we are all connected, but expand it to include every living creature and, just for the sheer heck of it, every living thing, then perhaps our brain waves approximate radio waves and propagate through this network.”

“Hmm, and in what way could we all be connected?”

“Again, very good question and again I’m not too sure, but it would work if we consider each and every one of us as individual cells within the greater body of humanity. Through what mechanism do the cells in our body communicate?” He asked.

“No idea, that’s not my field,” she said shaking her head.

“No, it’s not mine either.”

They finished their drinks and bolinhos de bacalhau and Kris called the waiter to settle the account. Tanja reached into her back pack for her purse to pay her share of the bill.

“No, don’t worry; this one’s on me,” Kris informed her, putting a staying hand on her arm.

“No, no, I pay my own way. I don’t want to be indebted to anyone for anything,” she told him firmly.

“Sure, sure; I understand, but let’s just say that we are both paying the bill, remember the R$50 we found this morning?”

You found,” she said splitting hairs, “but alright,” she conceded.

As they were making their way along the compacted clay road they bumped into Marlon. His face immediately split into what Kris deduced was a fake smile; the mouth had moved into the correct gesture, but he had no idea that the eyes also have to match. When someone is genuinely smiling, their eyes crinkle around the edges and they seem to sparkle. Kris had practiced recognising the difference by covering the faces on hundreds of photos, leaving just the eyes exposed. From this, it soon became very obvious who was genuinely smiling.

“Hi,” he called as he saw them and leant forward to kiss Tanja on both cheeks and to take Kris by the hand. Reluctantly and half-heartedly Kris returned the gesture.

“We have party on beach tonight,” he told them. “You come?”

Kris shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly; he really wanted nothing to do with this big phoney, but Tanja was very enthusiastic.

“Excellent,” she beamed, “what time and where?”

“Oh, you know, about 11, on the beach behind the pousada,” he said looking at Tanja, perhaps sensing Kris’s enmity. “There is lots of drinking and music and fire,” he told them eagerly.

Kris wondered what was in it for Marlon. Maybe he would charge an entrance fee, he thought cynically. Tanja promised that they would be there and the couple continued back to the pousada.

After the day’s exercise and the alcohol they’d consumed it was not too long before the pair of them were quietly napping on their respective bunks.

~ ~

Refreshed after her sleep, Tanja went in search of Marlon to find out more details about the beach party, leaving Kris to compose himself in the room. She found Marlon in the rec room playing pool with Melinda, the orange English girl from Essex, giving her his cutest smile. Her boyfriend was on the sidelines looking none too happy about the situation, but saying nothing, just glaring sourly at Marlon, who was either too used to this to care or else too self absorbed to even notice.

“Hi Marlon,” Tanja said as she approached the table.

“Hi,” Marlon responded turning his dazzling smile onto her and she felt her cheeks flush.

“What do we need to bring to the party tonight, some beer, cachaça?”

“No, no, you don’t need bring anything,” he told her shaking his mane of curly dark hair, held in thin braids. “I have everything we need.” He looked at his watch, a fake Rolex, and noting that it was already 11, let everybody know that they would be going soon.

By the time Kris entered the rec room, he found Tanja chatting with Isabella and her friend and then Marlon announced that he was ready to hit the beach. The revellers, many of whom were obviously Brazilian and island residents, were toting assorted instruments from guitars, cavaquinhos, pandeiros to a great assortment of percussion instruments including a plastic bottle partly filled with rice and were ready to party. For Kris, 11 o’clock was late to start a party, for the Brazilians it was early and Marlon was trying to satisfy both the locals and foreigners alike.

“You can help me?” Marlon asked Kris, indicating a large polystyrene cooler full of ice and beer.

“Sure,” he answered obligingly.

Otímo,” Marlon responded with his usual fake smile and turned and walked away leaving Kris standing there.

“Come on, let’s go,” Marlon commanded and led the group out the door. Kris shook his head in disbelief. The bastard had asked for his help and then just dumped the task of carrying the cooler on him. There was no way he could carry it himself, it was too heavy, so he was forced to seek help from one of the other guests in turn.

The beach was only a short walk away, but nonetheless, Kris was extremely glad to get there as his muscles were burning from the shared weight. He felt he had really earned a beer so he reached in a rummaged through the ice and retrieved a cold can. Marlon saw this and strode towards him purposefully.

“5 reais,” he said insistently, thrusting his hand in Kris’s direction.

“What?” Kris asked incredulously.

“The beer,” he told him. “It’s 5 reais for one lata.”

Kris glared at him for a moment, this was over four times the regular retail price and he had no intention of lining the pockets of this wannabe used car salesman.

“Go fuck yourself,” Kris said coldly and calmly, staring into Marlon’s shocked eyes and threw the can at him in disgust and wheeled on his heels in the damp, soft sand. Marlon caught the can easily and began to protest.

“No be like that; I buy the beer and ice and need pay to use the …” he struggled to find the name for the cooler in English so ended up sticking to Portuguese, “caixa. I just get my money back,” he concluded.

Kris stopped, turned around to face him and again stared directly into Marlon’s deep dark eyes.

“I told you, go fuck yourself,” he spat and walked off.

Tanja came running over to intercept him.

“Kris,” she said sternly. “What was all that about?”

He drew a deep breath before explaining the situation and letting her know that he was not going to pay 5 reais for a can of beer. She agreed that it was a bit pricey, but told him she thought he was over reacting.

“I figured he’d pull a stunt like that; I don’t trust the fucker as far as I can kick him and I refuse to be ripped off by him,” he reiterated. “I’m gonna go to the shop to get my own. Do you want some?”

She tried to convince him to change his mind, but Kris was as stubborn as a mule and refused to change his position. She didn’t want to upset Marlon, but she too didn’t want to pay 5 reais per can so asked him to pick her up a six pack.

Kris could have easily found his way back to the beach blindfolded as the party was now in full swing with a roaring fire and the seductive sounds of live samba filling the air, accompanied by the gentle breaking of the waves on the shore. The musicians were very skilled and used the rhythm of the breaking waves as a background for their own rhythm.

The spat he had had with Marlon left a bad feeling in Kris’ stomach and he found it very hard to shake it off and get into the party spirit. The other revellers, Tanja included, seemed to have little trouble and were drinking and dancing and singing happily. Kris kept to himself and alternated between swigs of beer and swigs of neat cachaça from the bottle he had purchased.

His mood was further soured when Júlio arrived, dressed in his Sunday best, hair parted and plastered to one side, and began to fawn over Tanja anew.

“Sorry about the other night,” Júlio said to Kris when he finally spotted him in the shadows. “You know how it is,” he said with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, “It’s hard work rowing all the way out to the boat …”  he concluded and went back to talk to Tanja.

In no time at all, the air was thick with the acrid smell of cannabis smoke as a number of baseados floated around the group, passing from hand to hand. One found its way into Kris’s hands and he took advantage of it as eagerly as a school child accepting candy from its favourite aunty. The smoke was harsh and tasted unpleasant, with a faint ammonia taste, but the effect was pleasant enough, but did little to enhance his sociability, if anything, it further added to his desire for solitude.

After about an hour of his own company, shared only with the beer and cachaça, Kris decided it was time to go. He didn’t even bother to say goodbye to anyone and made his way unsteadily back to the pousada. He was asleep almost the moment his head hit the pillow.

~ ~

Day 6. Money from heaven – Dinheiro do céu

Kris was awake when Tanja awoke the next morning and his face told the whole story. He was still pissed at her from the night before and his mood seemed ugly as sin. He acknowledged her with his squinted eyes but nothing more.

“So, are we still going to Dois Rios today,” she asked trying to break the heavy and pregnant air.

“Sure,” he replied curtly with no hint of humour in his voice. “Why not?”

“I just wanted to check because I can see you are still pissed from last night,” she told him frankly.

“Don’t worry about it,” he responded icily. “Shit happens, or as they would say in Brazil if they used the same expression, merda acontece.”

Although his words sounded warmly humorous on the surface, his voice was icily cold.

“I told you I’m sorry about last night,” she told him, trying to cut the heavy air between them. “It really was out of my hands and I’m sorry I had the keys with me and you couldn’t get back in the room.

“Forget it,” he said frostily. “As I said, shit happens.”

She decided to drop it. What else could she do? And she really was upset about the situation she had put him in.

Breakfast was a similar affair to the previous two mornings only this time Kris didn’t sit with Tania, instead taking his black coffee outside with him to go with his cigarette. Tanja tried her hardest to reconcile things with Kris, but he was being obstinate and stubborn, so she broke her fast alone until Isabella came in the room and joined her with a plate full of bread, cheese and fruit.

“I don’t blame Kris for being pissed with you,” Isabella exclaimed after Tanja had told her the tale. “I’m sure if I had a boyfriend and the same thing happened, he’d be pissed too.”

“But he’s not my boyfriend!” Tanja exclaimed exasperatedly.

“If you say so,” Isabella responded sarcastically. It was obvious to her that they were a couple.

Tanja told her how she had met Kris and described their platonic relationship. Isabella eyed her somewhat suspiciously, but decided she had to be telling the truth. There would be no reason for her to lie to her that she could think of, but you never know.

“Even still, I don’t blame Kris for being pissed at you. Leaving him waiting on the beach was bad enough, but keeping the key with you as well …”

“I know, I know; I feel rotten enough as it is, you don’t need to rub it in,” Tanja bemoaned. “As I said, I didn’t do it on purpose.”

At that moment, Kris walked into the dining room in search of another cup of coffee and noticed Isabella sitting with Tanja.

“Morning,” he called out to her, seeming more cheerful than he had been earlier.

“Morning,” she replied waving at him.

Once he had poured himself a cup of coffee, Kris wandered over towards them.

“She’s right you know,” he said by way of an opener. “We’re not a couple. We only met a few days ago.”

With that, he turned and made his way out of the door, coffee in hand.

Isabella looked at Tanja with a baffled expression on her face.

“Was he listening to us talking?”

“I really don’t think so,” Tanja said shaking her head doubtfully. “We’d finished talking by the time he came in and I really don’t think he would have been able to hear us.”

That guy is spooky,” Isabella said shaking her head, but she didn’t mean it in a negative way. “How do you think he does it?”

“I have no idea and neither does he, but I want to know,” she said. “He said he’s been looking for an explanation his entire life and still has no clue, so what chance have I got?” she asked rhetorically.

Kris came back in the dining room a few minutes later, empty coffee cup in hand, and his entire bearing was completely altered; he was obviously not the same person who had crawled out of bed that morning  all surly and churlish. His entire mien now radiated peace like the pale morning sun radiated its gentle glow. It was as if he had resolved some internal issue that had been bothering him.

“Hi,”  he said to the girls, with the familiar grin that Tanja had grown accustomed to in the short time she had known him.

“Hi,”  she responded with equal warmth, glad that the dis-ease that had blighted their night and early morning now appeared to be behind them.

“So, what time are we hitting the trail?” he asked with a gleam in his eyes.

“Steady on cowboy,” Tanja responded playfully, smiling cheerfully at him. “Can I just finish my breakfast first?” she asked rhetorically, although her plate was already empty and her coffee cup drained.

“Take your time; I’m only doing nothing,” he responded cheekily, his lantern jaw stretching into a mischievous grin.

Isabella smiled at the easy rapport between the two and again wondered if they were being honest with her; they seemed like the perfect couple. It was almost inconceivable that they had only known each other less than a week. It was if they had known each other for years and years. As she pondered this thought, her mind wandered to the possibility of past lives. She could offer no other explanation for the easy and effortless grace between the two. Her belief in reincarnation was not a subject she had shared with anyone else before, secretly harbouring it until a soul mate sailed into her life; it simply wasn’t a subject you could publicly talk about without the glazed look of ridicule in people’s eyes. One day, she thought, sighing to herself.

“Well, I’m gonna leave you two, erm, friends to it,” she said impishly, further enhancing her pixyish appearance.

Tanja frowned at her, but only playfully, with mock indignation.

“Have a great day with your friend,” Tanja said, all trace of her previous negative mood now as apparent as the stars in the bright blue skies.

“I will,” Isabella responded, waving at the reconciled couple as she left the dining room.

“Ready?” he asked when he was ready.

“Almost,” she responded,” but there’s one thing before we go.”

“Really?” he asked, but his cheeky grin suggested he knew exactly what it was she was referring to.

“Really!” she said with finality.

“Oh, ok then, come here,” he said, opening his arms wide like Cristo Rentor atop Corcovado.

“Thank you,” she said simply, wrapping her arms around him in a strong affectionate embrace.

“Think nothing of it,” he said, a huge grin on his face. “As I said, merde acontence!”

They remained entwined in each others arms for what seemed an eternity, although neither of them feeling anything more than the joy of pure friendship; this was certainly the most powerful platonic relationship either of them had ever shared. This again set Kris’ mind to pondering the purpose of their partnership as the energy of their bond coursed through him; something powerful and palpable.

“Right, well let’s go,” she said finally, disengaging herself from his strong arms, again at one with him, life and all its beauty and glory.

The sun had already removed the chill from the crisp morning air and was shining down brilliantly from the clear blue sky. The day promised to be warm and the tough trail through the dense forest promised to be sweaty, hot and arduous and the pair were dressed accordingly in light summer tops and shorts, although their feet were encased in thick socks and good hiking boots.

Kris and Tanja, with their foreknowledge gained from their previous hike, decided to stop at the closest store to stock up on things they thought they might need to sustain themselves throughout their day’s hike. They chose plenty of carbohydrates in the form of bananas and savoury crackers to provision their backpacks; the potassium from the former and the sodium from the later chosen to alleviate the problem of cramping due to mineral loss from excessive sweating, and they both doubled up on the quantity of water they had brought the first day. Not that Kris was bothered about drinking the fresh mountain water, but he was not certain he would find any today. Kris was somewhat bothered by the mineral water in the supermarket – every single one had fluoride added. He could find not one without added fluoride! What was this all about? Was this the same throughout Brazil?

He had a friend whose father was a dentist back in Canada and specialised in the treatment of dental issues in communities with a high concentration of native peoples. Obviously, these were poorer areas and the regular cost of maintaining dental hygiene was comparatively high and the poorer people suffered severely from poor dental health. His friend’s father had told him the incidence of fluorosis was very high; a consequence of high levels of artificially added fluoride in the local drinking water. He had also read of the link between fluoride and the pacification of the human brain; something that had been studied and implemented in Nazi concentration camps according to some sources. Why was it that he was unable to buy bottled water that was unfluoridated? He assumed that the town drinking water was fluoridated as well, and for this reason he avoided it, but why would they insist on adding fluoride to bottled mineral water? Was it because the poor people drank the town supply and the wealthier drank bottled mineral water and the government wished to have all the population receiving the benefits of fluoride? And Kris, due to his connections with current dentists, was aware that it had nothing to do with the stated objective of reducing caries! He had seen studies showing that the incidence of caries differed not one iota statistically in areas where the town water supply was fluoridated and those where the water was not.

With their backpacks fully loaded, the newly reconciled couple set off for their day’s adventure, both with no idea what the days exploits would bring and both glad of that. That was what made life so interesting for the intrepid duo – no 9 to 5 routine for this pair. These two craved different experiences, not content to simply sit in front of their computer screens to experience the world, but to actually go out there and experience it for themselves first hand – unfortunately, a rare and dying breed amongst their modern day peers.

Providentially for them, the heavy canopy of the forest kept the sun well and truly off them as the trail they traipsed was fully in the shade, but they paid a price for this with the humidity that the selfsame canopy not only generated, butn also retained and they had soon worked up a sweat; Kris more than Tanja due to his inherent lack of fitness, but the torturous trail to Lopes Mendes had lifted his fitness level a few notches and he found even the steepest climbs on this track a touch easier and less arduous than similar stretches on the way to Lopes Mendes.

There was an easy, comfortable silence between the two as they hiked. Not a silence born of the need to conserve energy and breath, but a silence born of the comfort of being able to retreat into the mind and reflect without having to worry about the need to be constantly talking. Tanja’s brow however, was knitted as though wrestling with some inner turmoil when she suddenly broke the silence.

“Hey Kris, I’ve been thinking about all these weird things that you’ve been talking about and the crazy coincidences that I’ve seen for myself,” she said.

Kris was intrigued, wondering what was coming next.

“Uh huh,” he muttered simply, waiting.

“Well, from what you’ve said and what I’ve seen, you never seem to benefit from this, right?” she asked, trying to understand the whole scheme of things.

“Wrong!” he responded, much to her surprise.

“Wrong? What do you mean wrong?” she asked.

“Well, let me give you a few examples,” he started simply. “I already mentioned the episode with the rain; I certainly benefitted there by not getting wet, but let me tell you another story. Once, when I was in first year at university, I was so broke I had no money for food, cigarettes, beer, nothing and I refused to sponge off my parents, and was wondering where on earth I could get some money, I was standing outside the university, and I kid you not, I saw something falling gently from the skies, like a leaf dropping from the trees, and it landed right between my feet. I bent down and picked up a $50 note…”

“You cannot be serious,” she said, eyes and mouth open wide.

“Yep, totally serious. I looked around to see where it had come from and I have no idea. To this day I don’t have a clue where it came from. It was just there exactly when I needed it and, to top it off, it fell right between my feet!”

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Tanja said.

“Yea, but I think it manifested because I asked for it,” he explained.

“Asked? Asked who, God?”

Kris shrugged his shoulders.

“Hmm, that I don’t know; I don’t believe in God per se, at least not in the traditional sense, and it’s not as if I was praying with a religious fervour. But I have found that if I just vocalise a desire it seems to somehow manifest itself, although not always in the way I expect. I just have no idea who I’m asking – God, a god, Gaia, Mother Nature? I have no answer!”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” Tanja insisted. “That’s just an old fashioned belief in magic.”

Kris laughed. “Well, it may sound like that, but it works. All I know is that we are the ultimate creators. What we think, we create,” He told her.

“How so?”

“Well, it’s like that story I told you of the guy who said he was gonna fall when abseiling and created that reality.”

“Yeah, but that’s different, that’s with his own belief system. To create something out of thin air is something totally different,” she stated.

“I didn’t say I created the money, but perhaps I created the conditions for it to happen.”

“Bullshit!” She spat sceptically. “Ok, prove it to me. Make some money appear right now,” she insisted.

Kris sighed heavily.

“I don’t think it’s quite that easy. Back then I had a real urgent need and my mind was totally focused on the necessity,” he tried explaining. “I don’t have the need right now.”

“That’s what I thought; totally untestable; fails scientific analysis every time.”

She was getting very haughty and self righteous and Kris likened her to James Randi, the arch Skeptic, and drew a deep draught of air into his lungs to calm himself.

“Ok, I will try and believe that I really want it, but I can’t guarantee anything,” he told her.

He stopped in the middle of the path, closed his eyes and focused his mind for a few minutes in total silence. Tanja merely looked on observing silently. He then opened his eyes and raised his arms heavenwards.

“I really need some money,” he said to the skies in a clear and calm voice.

“So, how long do we have to wait? Does it happen instantly like in the movies?”

Kris wasn’t sure if she was playing with him or being serious, but he tended towards the former.

“It usually takes some time, but that time I had the money fall between my feet it was virtually instantaneo…” he stopped mid word and laughed, a huge smile breaking out on his face.

“What?” She asked, wondering what could have caused his change of mood so suddenly.

“You are so not gonna believe this, in fact even I’m struggling,” he told her.

“What, what?” She asked becoming impatient.

“Look,” he said pointing to the ground just behind her feet, where she had moments before trod, and bent down and picked up a fifty real note.

“Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to fall for that. You just threw it there. I’m not stupid you know,” she said, more than a hint of exasperation evident in her voice.

“Have a look at it if you don’t believe me,” he said handing here the note, which was folded and damp, the heavy morning dew beading on its surface.

Her mouth moved as if to say something, but only strange, strangled sounds  came out. Kris noticed this, a triumphant look on his face, but said nothing, having no desire to rub it in. If Tanja’s world view had been somewhat rocked by some of the previous things she had seen and heard from Kris, it was now completely shattered. This latest demonstration would irrevocably change her and she would need to construct new paradigms by which to live her life.

Even Kris could not explain what had just happened. Surely it would be too much to just put this down to coincidence; that would be stretching the odds far too much, but if not coincidence then what? Thoughts of the non linear nature of time came to mind. In the past he had believed in the nature of cause and effect, but many things had happened to make him re-evaluate this position including the latest discoveries in quantum physics. As ever, he simply admitted he didn’t know and left it at that.

The pair continued on the trail in silence, but it was a different silence than before. The silence was now heavily charged and pregnant with many unspoken and half-formed thoughts as Tanja struggled to comprehend the world anew.

The quiet  air was gradually being invaded by a noise that grew steadily louder and louder. It was the sound of people. Lots of people. The source of the sound soon became apparent when the two friends rounded a bend and almost walked straight into a large group of young people. They bid good morning to the group and squeezed past them on the narrow trail.

“There’s a research station from the Federal University of Rio here on this part of the island,” Tanja explained, which obviously accounted for these people. They had the look of biology students, Kris thought.

Shortly after the hubbub of the students disappeared, the end of the trail became visible and both were surprised by what lay at its end. There, beyond the clay surface of the trail, lay what appeared to be a small town, obviously military in nature and obviously in serious need of some repears as there was peeling paint on many of the buildings and some even had broken windows with rotten wooden frames and tiles missing from some of the rooves. They passed a sentry box with a military policeman stationed inside.

“Bom dia,” they both said to the sentry as they passed.

He wished them both good morning and called them back to him.

Com licence, vocês precisam se cadastrar,” – Excuse me, you need to register yourselves − he informed them.

This was typical of Brazil. People need to register themselves to enter many places, including some shopping centres. Brazil likes to regulate everything and even has rules for its rules.

Quais são os seus nomes?” – What are your names? – He asked them genially enough, however they both found the pistol at his side a little disconcerting.

“Tanja Radic,” Tanja told him and Kris noticed that he simply wrote Tania on the sheet on the clipboard in his hand.

“John Person,” Kris told him and Tanja gave him a sharp look, but said nothing and the policeman simply wrote João.

The officer started giving them information, but Kris struggled to understand everything that was being said and simply nodded and smiled, offering the occasional where he thought appropriate and the two were soon on there way again towards the beach.

“What did he say?” Tanja asked. “I couldn’t understand him properly.

No, idea,” Kris replied laughing, “neither could I.”

“And what’s with this John Person?” she asked, hands on her hips, a sharp expression creasing her features.

Again he laughed.

“I hate giving my information out if I don’t have to and John Person was the most anonymous name I could think of.”

She shook her head disapprovingly at him, but said nothing further on the subject and they wound their way around the short streets in the direction of the beach.

Despite being further from the pousada than Lopes Mendes, the pair had covered the distance far quicker and arrived in  much better condition. The trail had been nowhere near as torturous and rigorous. Once they reached the beach, they received a double dose of disappointment; the beach was incredibly narrow, only about 3 feet wide and there was a cold howling gale blasting along the beira. There would be neither swimming nor sunbathing for the two today.

By silent mutual consent, the pair drifted along the narrow shore, their backs protecting them from the biting wind that blew, whipping the sand up like a sandblaster. Presently, they arrived at one of the rivers for which the place was obviously named. The dark orange brown water wound its way to the sea where the two waters mingled. There was a flock of ugly urubu – vultures – feasting on the carcass of something at the water’s edge and Kris wandered towards them to have a closer look. Although he found the birds physically repellent, he found himself conversely at the same time attracted to them. What the fascination was he couldn’t say.

The urubu continued feasting on the carrion as Kris approached, but they kept a very watchful eye on him as he did so. When he was within ten feet, their courage finally failed, or was it hunger and greed that kept them there so long? and they lifted off into the air with heavy and slow flaps of their wings. Kris investigated the carcass to see if he could identify the species, but the carrion eaters had ripped the creature to pieces, scattering bones all around, and torn the fur and flesh off making identification very difficult. He then noticed that Tanja had joined him and seemed to be equally interested in the remains.

“Any idea what it is?” she asked bending down to have a look, not seeming in the slightest disgusted or revolted by the remains.

“It’s a bit hard to tell,” he said, “but I would guess that it was probably a gambá – opossum – I can’t be sure, the greedy bastards have done a great job on it.”

“How do you know what they’re called in Portuguese?” she asked, a puzzled expression on her face.

“That’s easy,” he said with a gentle laugh. “I did some research on what species I could expect to find in Rio.”

The urubu had settled on a nearby monolith and were keeping a close eye on the pair and their lunch and were eagerly awaiting their departure so they could return to their meal. Not wishing to keep them waiting any longer, the two ambled away, Kris wading in the warm dark water of the river and Tanja treading the pale sands on its side. Without either being consciously aware of it, their trajectories diverged until they were some distance from each other; each though, perfectly comfortable with this.

In his own thoughts, Kris found his mind drifting back to Tahlia again and questioning as to how come, in light of the events of the past week with his knowing and the coincidences, he didn’t have an inkling that she had been betraying him? The answer, he finally concluded, was that his premonitions and associated paranormal phenomena had been in abeyance until he had met Tanja. Only then had they returned as strong as they had ever been, and perhaps he had been too blinded by his feelings for her to pick up on the subtle cues.

The individual paths of the pair again crossed and the urubu had settled back onto their midday feast anew now that the duo were no longer threatening to steal their meal; the sun was warm on their bare flesh, but the wind was still whipping up the sand along the beach. Kris suggested that they seek shelter from this howling gale behind the row of trees that had obviously been planted as a wind break and where some grass had also been planted and was well maintained.

After laying out their respective towels, eating a simple meal of fruit, cheese and biscuits, they stretched out in the glorious sunshine, sheltered from the harsh, howling wind and Kris found his thoughts drifting to his newly encountered buddy, Chris and wondered how he was getting on with his Brazilian babe. He felt an ominous knot grow in the pit of his stomach and thought that things were perhaps not going too well for him. He felt convinced that their relationship had suffered the same fate as his own and thought it decidedly odd how their lives had paralleled each other’s and he pondered the significance of this, but didn’t dwell on it because he was sure he would never find out.

Feeling an overwhelming urge to call Chris, he took out his cell phone. Although his Canadian phone was roaming enabled, it was useless without a signal. It was no real surprise that there was no signal in his remote island hideaway and he put the cell phone away vowing to give Chris a call at the earliest opportunity.

As the sun disappeared behind the trees and hills, Kris and Tanja decided to hit the trail and return to their pousada. The guard in the sentry box, asking the pair their names, checked them off on his list.

“I wonder what he’d do if we didn’t come back past here today,” Tanja mused.

“Probably send out the search dogs and hunt us down,” Kris responded with a laugh, but he was only half joking.

They had not seen a single dog since leaving Abraão that morning, when suddenly, out of the blue, two dogs came bounding around the bend almost crashing into them a few minutes later. The two dogs were very well kempt, but bore no collar around their necks; too well groomed to be strays, Kris thought as he reached down to give them a stroke when they came to a halt and graciously allowed him this boon.

“Now, where the heck did they come from?” Kris asked rhetorically.

“No idea,” Tanja answered with a shake of her head, reaching down and stroking them as well. “Perhaps they were kept ready to hunt for us,” she ventured.

The two dogs were of indeterminate breed, both medium sized, but both very friendly like the other dogs they had encountered on the island. After a few moments of affectionate playing, the four travellers continued on their hike back to Abraão, the air thick and humid beneath the dense forest canopy,  the thin clothing of the two humans sticking to their skin, soaked with sweat. The canines, on the other hand, showing no indication of the sultry conditions, merely panting and lolling their tongues as is the wont of their species.

“I wonder if they have toucans here,” Kris suddenly asked rhetorically.

“I have no idea,” Tanja responded.

“I know they have them in the city of Rio, but I’m not sure if they have them here, but you have to wonder about them though.”

“What do you have to wonder?” she asked.

“Well, I’m a firm believer in biological and evolutionary adaption to the local environment…”

“Yeah, me too,” she said interrupting him.

“Well, take the hummingbird for example. Its long, thin curved beak is perfectly adapted to reach down into the bottom of the deepest flower to drink of its nectar, but what of the bill of the toucan? Why the heck is it so huge?”

“All the better to eat you with,” she said with a playful grin.

“Indeed,” he responded wryly.

“In Croatia, we have a story about the bad wolf…”

“Yeah, we’ve got the same story,” he said interrupting her.” In fact, I think the whole world has the same story.”

Both of them quickly turned to the dense canopy as something large, dark and heavy disturbed the foliage.

“What’s that, a monkey?” Tanja asked excitedly.

“Knowing my luck this week, it’s probably a damned toucan,” Kris rejoined wryly.

A dark shape could be seen hidden behind the uppermost branches and it suddenly leapt from one branch to another and then one tree to another. A bright, colourful flash of orange was suddenly visible through the leaves.

Courtesy Teja Muha

“Fuck me, I don’t believe it,” Kris said shaking his head. “Well, I do believe it, but you know what I mean.”

Clearly visible in the upper branches was a magnificent black toucan with an enormous bright orange/yellow and black bill. Suddenly, like two fighter jets engaging in a dog fight, two smaller birds swooped on the hapless toucan, barely missing its flanks. The toucan hopped to another branch and the two aerial fighters launched another attack. This time the toucan took to the air, begrudgingly flapping its huge wings as it departed, thwarted by the midget invading air force.

“What the hell, I don’t believe I just saw that,” Tanja exclaimed exasperatedly.

“Saw what, the toucan as I was asking about it, or the smaller birds attacking it?

“Well, both actually,” she answered honestly, “but more so the two small birds attacking it.”

“That is far more common than you might imagine,” he informed her. “It’s usually a defensive/aggressive reaction from the smaller birds. I read somewhere that although mainly frugivorous, toucans will also eat insects, small birds and eggs and those smaller birds have obviously developed the tactic of ganging up on the toucan to protect their nests.”

“Makes sense,” she said, “but those little birds seem so brave.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said with a short laugh, “but it’s a big bad world out there; eat or be eaten.”

The rest of their trek on the trail back to Abraão passed without further incident, the two humans accompanied by the two guide dogs at their side, and they arrived back at the main beach with still about another hour of light left in the late afternoon sky.

“So, that is Pico Do Papagaio,” Tanja told Kris, indicating the rocky crag rising high above the green blanket of trees.

“Looks more like a dog’s head,” Kris said dryly, “and bearing in mind what’s happened with our inadvertent guide dogs so far on the island, I’d say that would be a better moniker – Dog’s head mountain – montanha de cabeça de cão,” he said rolling the words around his mouth, reaching down to stroke the pair of guide dogs at his side.

“So, are you climbing up there with me tomorrow?” she asked hopefully.

Courtesy Teja Muha

Kris was not sure; such physical exertion was not really his thing. Sure, he had spent a lot of time on the ski slopes of the Rocky Mountains, but most of that had been on the way down and the way up had always been made easy, travelling by the cable cars and ski lifts. This would be something wholly different altogether; this would involve real physical exertion and his hike to Lopes Mendes had been sufficient to prove that his fitness level left a lot to be desired.

“I’m not sure,” he said finally. “Let’s see in the morning.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” she replied stubbornly before softening her tone a little. “I’m going up there with or without you, but I’d like your company though.”

They reached the sand and the couple removed their shoes and stepped onto the shore, paddling in the shallow water of its edge. The two guide dogs accompanied them, splashing happily in the cool clear water.

Absent mindedly, Kris bent down, scooped up a stone and skimmed it across the slick surface and was somewhat taken aback when one of the dogs charged into the water after it. He was further surprised when it dived below the surface and retrieved a stone from the bottom and brought it back to him, dropping it at his feet. Kris was unsure if it was the exact same stone, but it certainly seemed to be. He picked up the stone and another besides, using the second one he scratched an X across the surface of the other and again hurled it out to sea. Again, the now soaking wet dog leapt after it, again diving beneath the surface and retrieving a stone and dropping it at his feet again. Kris scooped up the stone and was pleasantly satisfied to see the X scrawled across its surface.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiHPcAugBtQ&feature=endscreen&NR=1

“Well I’ll be damned,” he said shaking his head. “These damned dogs continue to surprise the hell out of me.”

Tanja said nothing, just simply stood there shaking her head in silent shock and awe as well. After a few minutes, Kris finally tired of the game and, much to the dog’s disappointment, finally left the stone on the wet sand. The dog, in an effort to encourage him to continue, picked it up again in his slobbering mouth and dropped it at his feet. Kris merely kicked it a short distance, nonetheless the dog still chased after it excitedly, but realised the game was over as Kris walked off and it gambolled after him, shaking the salt water from its fur in a big spray, wetting disgruntled beach goers in the process.

A few minutes later, as they were passing an orelhã0 – big ear – as the local public phone shells were called, the phone within began ringing. A cheeky, childish grin grew on Kris’s face as he ran over to answer it. He loved to answer public phones when they rang, especially in foreign countries, and confuse the hell out of the person at the other end of the line.

“This is Kris’s phone,” he muttered mechanically. “I’m sorry; Kris can’t come to the phone right now. Please leave your name and number and he will get back to you at his earliest possible convenience,” he finished pompously.

“Kris, stop being an asshole,” the voice on the other end said with obvious irritation. Kris let out an almost girlish shriek and practically threw the handset away.

“What’s the matter?” Tanja asked, eyes wide with concern.

“I’ll tell you in a minute, but you ain’t gonna believe this,” he said, shaking his head, disbelieving his own ears.

“… you stop being an asshole, Kris,” he heard as he brought the receiver back to his ear.

“Chris, is that you?” He asked, although it was patently obvious that it was.

“Of course it’s me, who else would it be?” Chris responded, a serious note of irritation in his voice, but with a darker undertone.

“You know where I am, buddy?” Kris asked, still not believing the evidence of his own ears.

“I assume you’re still on that damned Island,” he responded tersely.

“I’m in a fucking public phone booth,” he yelled incredulously.

“What are you talking about?” Chris asked, wondering what all the confusion was about.

“I was walking along the beach when I heard the phone ringing in a public phone booth, picked it up and you’re on the other fucking end!” He was still struggling to come to terms with the sheer magnitude of this current coincidence; the odds against it were just so staggeringly small as to be beyond comprehension.

“For fuck sake, Kris, now is not the time to be fucking with me.”  He was rapidly losing patience with Kris’s bullshit and was just not in the mood for this crap.

“I called your cell phone, now will you shut the fuck up and listen to me.”

“Buddy, I am not shitting you, I swear,” Kris responded desperately.

He managed to get Chris to read back the number he had dialled and Chris finally accepted that he had indeed dialled incorrectly and by a billions to one chance had reached him at exactly the same moment he was walking past the very phone booth he had accidentally called.

“So, what’s up?” Kris asked once the shock had finally worn off and he realised that his friend was not in a good way.

Chris told him!

He finally replaced the receiver in the cradle and recounted what had just happened to Tanja who had been eagerly waiting for him to hang up the phone and tell her just what the hell was going on. He told her everything, from his meeting with Chris to the way their lives had eerily paralleled each other’s, down to the similarity of their girlfriend’s name and ultimate betrayal.

This was yet another blow to her former way of thinking and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that she would be spending a very long time searching for some explanation for the things that had happened, just as Kris had had to do. She wondered if she too would have to resign herself to never knowing, never finding an answer, but she knew she would start searching as soon as she could.

“Come on, let’s go get a drink. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell could use one,” Kris told her, leading her to the nearest bar, not even waiting for a response.

She followed meekly, suppliant to his will.

They sat at a slatted, rickety table on the calçada and a waiter promptly arrived, cardápio in hand. Kris had a quick look through it and ordered two double aged cachaças and a garrafa de cerveja. Again, Tanja made no comment, simply allowing him to order for the two of them, sitting there composing her thoughts.

The drinks arrived in good time and Kris asked the waiter to leave the menu as he would order some food in a while.

“Here’s to high end weirdness and coincidences,” he said raising his glass.

“To complete and utter total weirdness,” she responded, raising her own glass.

Kris swallowed half of his drink in one draught whilst Tanja merely sipped at the fiery golden liquor.

“Get it down you,” Kris urged her. “I’m sure you could use it.”

She took a much larger swig as he finished the rest of his glass with a noisy expulsion of air. A fly chose this moment to circumnavigate Tanja’s face and her attempts to shoo it away were totally ineffective.

“What the hell,” Tanja shrieked as Kris lunged across the table, swiping the air in front of her face.

“Just getting rid of the fly,” he said with a grin, shaking a closed fist at her.

“You’re not trying to tell me you caught it, are you?”

“No, I’m not trying to tell you I caught it, I did catch it.”

Although he was grinning mischievously like a naughty child, his eyes were deadly serious.

“Care to make a little wager?” he asked, eyes gleaming.

“No way,” she said laughing. “I know better than to never make a bet with you.”

Kris beamed at her and opened his fingers one by one and the fly, sensing freedom, took advantage and flew away in search of other faces to pester.

“So, tell me, you must have some idea how all these coincidences and such like work,” she said after a few moments thought. “Why is it that they never happen to me?”

“I guess you’re just not receptive to them,” he stated simply.

“I mean that quite literally. I do have a pet theory if you are interested.”

“After what I’ve seen this week, I’m willing to listen to anything,” she told him frankly.

“Right, well, have you never thought of someone you hadn’t seen for a while and then they suddenly ring you?”

“Sure,” she said, “but that’s just coincidence.”

Um, maybe, but I have a different theory and you said you were willing to listen to almost anything, right?”

She nodded her head in guarded agreement.

“Ok, as far as we know, our thoughts are little electrical sparks in our synapses, brain waves, which then transmit their message to the body, agreed?”

“Agreed,” she said nodding concordantly.

“Ok, so imagine if we liken these electrical signals to radio waves; you have a transmitter that transmits the signal, and like radio waves, these brainwaves can travel freely through the air until they are picked up by a receiver, but like a radio has to be tuned into a certain radio station to pick up the signal, so we too have to be tuned into another person’s wavelength to be able to receive their signal; the stronger the connection, the greater the harmony between the transmitter and receiver, the better the reception.”

“Hmm,” she said mulling this new idea over in her mind. It did sound like quite a feasible explanation and he had couched it in terms she could accept.

“Take the situation with Chris today,” he said by way of an example. “I was thinking so strongly about him and his situation and I believe that I was receiving his transmissions, because he told me that Talita finally confessed her infidelity around the same time that I had been thinking so strongly of him back in Dois Rios.”

“Ok, let’s assume that you’re correct, that you were receiving his transmission, as you put it, how then do you explain the phone call?” She asked, trying to make sense of things.

“Ah, you’ve got me there,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I have no rational explanation for that at all,” he said with a smirk and a small shrug.

“But you know we give off other types of signals too.”

“Mm, such as?” she asked, wondering where he was going.

“Well, you know that they say that 70% of our communication is non-verbal, right?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard the same, but it’s not something I have looked into.”

“Well, it’s something I’ve looked into and studied quite extensively,” he said emphatically. “You know when you watch a politician and he says he is going to do such and such as he shakes his head from side to side,” he told her mimicking the gesture, “well, you can pretty much guarantee he’s lying, but it’s not always as blatantly obvious as that, but we each also give off micro expressions that we are unaware of and have no control over.”

“Really? That’s fascinating. It’s not a subject I’ve heard much about.”

“Ah, body language, what a wonderful and valuable tool. As I told you, I’ve always been fascinated by the mind and the body goes hand in hand with that.”

“And how is this useful?” She asked him.

“Well, I can consciously tell when people are lying to me, whereas we are usually only aware subconsciously, when we get a feeling we shouldn’t trust someone for no apparent reason. This is when you read the body subconsciously. I always prefer to do it consciously, but it takes effort. You have to focus.”

“You mean you can tell if I’m lying or not?”

“Yep, wanna try me?” he dared her with a smirk stretching his broad cheeks.

Tanja could not resist a challenge and readily agreed.

“Ok, take the menu and go to the wine list,” he instructed. “Choose four wines from the list, tell me what they are and how much they cost, but don’t give the real price for one of them and I’ll tell you which one you were lying about.”

She liked this game and was certain she would not be discovered, not because she thought herself a good liar, but she doubted his abilities.

“Deal,” she said leafing through the wine list. “Ok, here we go: Concho y Toro Merlot, R$42.00. Santa Helena Cabernet Sauvignon Reservado, R$ 48.50, La Casita Reserva Shiraz …”

“Right, stop there,” he ordered suddenly, interrupting her.

“But I haven’t finished yet,” she complained.

“You don’t need to, you lied about the second one, the Santa Helena, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right, but you’ve seen the wine list and probably remembered the prices, so that proves nothing,” she said sceptically.

“Ok, point taken. It is possible, although I didn’t,” he said leaning back in his chair, clasping his hands behind his head. “Alright, let’s try something different; something I could have no way of knowing.”

He was pensive, hands still clasped behind his head, eyes closed for a moment before continuing.

“I know, I’ve got it, pick four people you went to school with, then tell me their names and say whether you liked them or whether you disliked or even hated them. This time you can lie as often as you like, ok, is that good enough for you?”

“Yeah, that’s ok with me, you can’t know that,” she conceded. “Alright, let me think for a minute,” she said. “Ok, I got someone: there was Antonija, I hated her,” she said.

“Right, that’s true. It’s funny how we often remember the negative much more and much clearer than the positive,”

She nodded her head in confirmation and thought about his words a moment. It was true. Her strongest memory from school was that bitch Antonija; she hated her more than she had ever hated anything in her entire life.

“Alright, then there was Lucija, I didn’t like her much either.”

“Nope, you’re lying,” he said confidently and he was correct. She had tried to trick him, but he had read her correctly;  Lucija  was one of her friends.

“Then there was Andrija, I simply adored him.”

“Nope, you’re lying again, but you didn’t hate him either,” he added and again he was spot on, she didn’t hate him, but liked him well enough.

“Ok, then there was Jelka, I really liked her a lot.”

“No you didn’t, you’re lying again, I think you were pretty neutral about her, right?”

She nodded her head once again. Again, she had tried to trick him, figuring that he wouldn’t think she would lie three times in a row.

“Ok, one more,” she said. “Just to prove it’s not just luck.”

He nodded his consent and this time she really tried to focus on keeping her expression as neutral and deadpan as possible.

“Ok, finally there was Goran. I liked him well enough,” she said as blandly as possible.

“You’re lying again. You were crazy about him, weren’t you?”

She nodded her head with a smile, thinking of sweet, sweet Goran, her mountain boy, her first childhood love.

“So, 5 out of 5 correct, right?” He was smiling in a very self satisfied manner.

“Right,” she said shaking her head in disbelief. “But how did you do it? I tried my hardest to keep my face straight, expressionless.”

“As I said,” he explained, “you can’t help yourself; micro-expressions, your body gives you away every time,” he told her, “but it’s a mixture of psychology as well. I was fairly certain that your first thought would be negative, then next you would try and trick me… you were, or should I say we all are, quite predictable creatures.”

As he said this, he slumped slightly and his face dropped as he thought about Tahlia. He was certain that if he had seen her, he would have known if she had been cheating on him, even if she hadn’t told him. He was right, the body can’t lie.

Oi garçon, “Kris said, calling the waiter over, trying to distract his mind from the memory of her and what she had done. “Vê mais duas chachaças e uma porção de bolinha de bacalhau, mais uma porção de batata fritas com quejo pra nos, por favor – Could you bring us two more cachaças and a portion of salted dried cod balls plus a protion of chips with cheese, please.

Mais uma coisa, senhor?” the waiter asked.

Só, mas vocês têm molho de pimenta?” – Just that, but do you have chilli sauce?

“Tem,” the waiter replied, letting him know that they did.

Again, Tanja didn’t react to him taking charge and ordering for the pair of them. Kris was secretly very pleased about this as he now felt secure and safe being in the position he had grown accustomed to. He knew it was simply due to the fact that her head was reeling and she was not able to digest what she had experienced, and he wondered if she would be back to her bossy old self tomorrow.

As they were discussing the many mysteries of life that Kris had experienced, and their possible scientific explanation, a bee buzzed around his face before settling on his forehead. Tanja let out a little shriek and Kris firmly, but calmly, told her to sit still and not to worry; to make no sudden moves.

“But it will sting you,” she said, eyes wide obvious concern.

“No it won’t, unless you scare the crap out of it,” he told her sternly. “The bee has no desire to sting me. They only sting when either they or their colony are attacked. I’m sure they know they will die if they do and I believe they use that ultimate weapon judiciously.”

“But loads of people get stung,” she said.

“Yep, and it’s their fault 99% of the time. They usually panic and try and flick the bee away or otherwise threaten it; that’s when they get stung,” he explained.

She stayed in her seat, chastened as she knew what he was saying was true.

“Hey, I’ve been stung twice in my life, and coincidentally both times on the same day,” he told her placatingly.

“Really? What happened?”

“Well, the first time I got stung, I was in the forest and had taken my shirt off after some tom foolery or other and the bee had obviously climbed inside my shirt as it lay unattended, because I got stung when I put it back on. Obviously, it felt threatened in the confined space and felt it had no other option left, and the second time was later that same day when I got home; I was changing shoes when I felt this searing hot pain in the sole of my foot. Again, the poor thing was trapped.”

“But you only got stung twice before, and both on the same day? That’s a bit strange,” she said.

“Actually, People say things come in threes, both good and bad, but for me, things seem to happen in twos.”

“How so?”

“Well, I have been done for speeding twice, both on the same day, but 400 miles apart. I have split my brow open twice, both on the same day,” he said indicating two almost identical scars, one on each of his eyebrows. “I’ve won a good amount of money on scratch lotteries twice, both on the same day; the list goes on,” he said wistfully, trying to remember all the fortuitous and not so fortuitous pairings he had experienced.

“And what’s your explanation for that?” she asked, intrigued and more open than she would previously have been. Her curiosity had been lubricated by the events of the past few days as well as the double double doses of cachaça she had consumed alongside the beer chaser.

“Attraction, I think!” He said simply.

“How so?” she asked curiously

“Well, it seems to me that what we focus on, we attract,” he told her.

“But that’s just more mumbo jumbo hocus pocus,” she said. “I’m not buying it. That’s not scientific at all.”

“Nope, that as may be, but it seems to be true. It’s as if we send out a signal of some sort and somehow or other the universe finds a way to respond, to fulfil our thoughts. It’s kinda like that story I told you earlier about the guy who was convinced he was gonna fall and his mind found a way to make it come true, except on a much larger scale.”

“But through what mechanism?” She asked.

“Ah, good question; that is something I’m not quite sure about, but if we take Jung’s collective unconscious as a given paradigm, that we are all connected, but expand it to include every living creature and, just for the sheer heck of it, every living thing, then perhaps our brain waves approximate radio waves and propagate through this network.”

“Hmm, and in what way could we all be connected?”

“Again, very good question and again I’m not too sure, but it would work if we consider each and every one of us as individual cells within the greater body of humanity. Through what mechanism do the cells in our body communicate?” He asked.

“No idea, that’s not my field,” she said shaking her head.

“No, it’s not mine either.”

They finished their drinks and bolinhos de bacalhau and Kris called the waiter to settle the account. Tanja reached into her back pack for her purse to pay her share of the bill.

“No, don’t worry; this one’s on me,” Kris informed her, putting a staying hand on her arm.

“No, no, I pay my own way. I don’t want to be indebted to anyone for anything,” she told him firmly.

“Sure, sure; I understand, but let’s just say that we are both paying the bill, remember the R$50 we found this morning?”

You found,” she said splitting hairs, “but alright,” she conceded.

As they were making their way along the compacted clay road they bumped into Marlon. His face immediately split into what Kris deduced was a fake smile; the mouth had moved into the correct gesture, but he had no idea that the eyes also have to match. When someone is genuinely smiling, their eyes crinkle around the edges and they seem to sparkle. Kris had practiced recognising the difference by covering the faces on hundreds of photos, leaving just the eyes exposed. From this, it soon became very obvious who was genuinely smiling.

“Hi,” he called as he saw them and leant forward to kiss Tanja on both cheeks and to take Kris by the hand. Reluctantly and half-heartedly Kris returned the gesture.

“We have party on beach tonight,” he told them. “You come?”

Kris shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly; he really wanted nothing to do with this big phoney, but Tanja was very enthusiastic.

“Excellent,” she beamed, “what time and where?”

“Oh, you know, about 11, on the beach behind the pousada,” he said looking at Tanja, perhaps sensing Kris’s enmity. “There is lots of drinking and music and fire,” he told them eagerly.

Kris wondered what was in it for Marlon. Maybe he would charge an entrance fee, he thought cynically. Tanja promised that they would be there and the couple continued back to the pousada.

After the day’s exercise and the alcohol they’d consumed it was not too long before the pair of them were quietly napping on their respective bunks.

~ ~

Refreshed after her sleep, Tanja went in search of Marlon to find out more details about the beach party, leaving Kris to compose himself in the room. She found Marlon in the rec room playing pool with Melinda, the orange English girl from Essex, giving her his cutest smile. Her boyfriend was on the sidelines looking none too happy about the situation, but saying nothing, just glaring sourly at Marlon, who was either too used to this to care or else too self absorbed to even notice.

“Hi Marlon,” Tanja said as she approached the table.

“Hi,” Marlon responded turning his dazzling smile onto her and she felt her cheeks flush.

“What do we need to bring to the party tonight, some beer, cachaça?”

“No, no, you don’t need bring anything,” he told her shaking his mane of curly dark hair, held in thin braids. “I have everything we need.” He looked at his watch, a fake Rolex, and noting that it was already 11, let everybody know that they would be going soon.

By the time Kris entered the rec room, he found Tanja chatting with Isabella and her friend and then Marlon announced that he was ready to hit the beach. The revellers, many of whom were obviously Brazilian and island residents, were toting assorted instruments from guitars, cavaquinhos, pandeiros to a great assortment of percussion instruments including a plastic bottle partly filled with rice and were ready to party. For Kris, 11 o’clock was late to start a party, for the Brazilians it was early and Marlon was trying to satisfy both the locals and foreigners alike.

“You can help me?” Marlon asked Kris, indicating a large polystyrene cooler full of ice and beer.

“Sure,” he answered obligingly.

Otímo,” Marlon responded with his usual fake smile and turned and walked away leaving Kris standing there.

“Come on, let’s go,” Marlon commanded and led the group out the door. Kris shook his head in disbelief. The bastard had asked for his help and then just dumped the task of carrying the cooler on him. There was no way he could carry it himself, it was too heavy, so he was forced to seek help from one of the other guests in turn.

The beach was only a short walk away, but nonetheless, Kris was extremely glad to get there as his muscles were burning from the shared weight. He felt he had really earned a beer so he reached in a rummaged through the ice and retrieved a cold can. Marlon saw this and strode towards him purposefully.

“5 reais,” he said insistently, thrusting his hand in Kris’s direction.

“What?” Kris asked incredulously.

“The beer,” he told him. “It’s 5 reais for one lata.”

Kris glared at him for a moment, this was over four times the regular retail price and he had no intention of lining the pockets of this wannabe used car salesman.

“Go fuck yourself,” Kris said coldly and calmly, staring into Marlon’s shocked eyes and threw the can at him in disgust and wheeled on his heels in the damp, soft sand. Marlon caught the can easily and began to protest.

“No be like that; I buy the beer and ice and need pay to use the …” he struggled to find the name for the cooler in English so ended up sticking to Portuguese, “caixa. I just get my money back,” he concluded.

Kris stopped, turned around to face him and again stared directly into Marlon’s deep dark eyes.

“I told you, go fuck yourself,” he spat and walked off.

Tanja came running over to intercept him.

“Kris,” she said sternly. “What was all that about?”

He drew a deep breath before explaining the situation and letting her know that he was not going to pay 5 reais for a can of beer. She agreed that it was a bit pricey, but told him she thought he was over reacting.

“I figured he’d pull a stunt like that; I don’t trust the fucker as far as I can kick him and I refuse to be ripped off by him,” he reiterated. “I’m gonna go to the shop to get my own. Do you want some?”

She tried to convince him to change his mind, but Kris was as stubborn as a mule and refused to change his position. She didn’t want to upset Marlon, but she too didn’t want to pay 5 reais per can so asked him to pick her up a six pack.

Kris could have easily found his way back to the beach blindfolded as the party was now in full swing with a roaring fire and the seductive sounds of live samba filling the air, accompanied by the gentle breaking of the waves on the shore. The musicians were very skilled and used the rhythm of the breaking waves as a background for their own rhythm.

The spat he had had with Marlon left a bad feeling in Kris’ stomach and he found it very hard to shake it off and get into the party spirit. The other revellers, Tanja included, seemed to have little trouble and were drinking and dancing and singing happily. Kris kept to himself and alternated between swigs of beer and swigs of neat cachaça from the bottle he had purchased.

His mood was further soured when Júlio arrived, dressed in his Sunday best, hair parted and plastered to one side, and began to fawn over Tanja anew.

“Sorry about the other night,” Júlio said to Kris when he finally spotted him in the shadows. “You know how it is,” he said with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, “It’s hard work rowing all the way out to the boat …”  he concluded and went back to talk to Tanja.

In no time at all, the air was thick with the acrid smell of cannabis smoke as a number of baseados floated around the group, passing from hand to hand. One found its way into Kris’s hands and he took advantage of it as eagerly as a school child accepting candy from its favourite aunty. The smoke was harsh and tasted unpleasant, with a faint ammonia taste, but the effect was pleasant enough, but did little to enhance his sociability, if anything, it further added to his desire for solitude.

After about an hour of his own company, shared only with the beer and cachaça, Kris decided it was time to go. He didn’t even bother to say goodbye to anyone and made his way unsteadily back to the pousada. He was asleep almost the moment his head hit the pillow.

~ ~

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