The bright morning sunshine caused Robin to squint as it dawned on him that it was already tomorrow; something he inherently knew, but which his mind had somehow, and for some reason, masked; it has a habit of doing that! He had had a great night with his lady love, but was now eager to get home and sleep. He grasped his girlfriend’s hand firmly in his own capacious palm and together they strode, somewhat merrily, in the direction of their bus stop.
A hot dog stand, strategically positioned between them and their destination, demanded their immediate attention. Obviously, this savvy saveloy salesman knew that there was profit to be made from offering his wares to the early morning crowd who were still wanting the night before to continue as if the truth of the morning were nothing more than a bald faced lie.
It was as if she read his mind;
– Come on, let’s grab a hot dog! – she suggested animatedly, pulling him in the direction his feet had already mapped out and were aiming for anyway.
Hot dogs in London had no pretension to be other than what they were advertised to be: bread roll, frankfurter, ketchup and mustard, and, if you were lucky, onions – fried or otherwise. In Brazil, a cachorro quente, was something else altogether; they always came with at least one quail egg, one olive, Parmesan cheese, sweet corn, tinned peas, raisins, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and chip sticks – a Brazilian specialty oft enjoyed liberally sprinkled over chicken or beef stroganoff. Robin ordered one with linguiça – sausage – instead of – salsicha – frankfurter – as all the franks he had meticulously read the labels of were made from mechanically separated meat, a nasty chemical soup, whereas the chance still existed that the ingredients from which the sausages were made were a little closer to what he considered to be real food, whilst his lover, as one would expect from a vegetarian, ordered one without meat, but, bizarrely, said yes when offered the sauce in which the sausages had been happily marinating. Robin, accustomed as he was to the idiosyncrasies of his one true love, thought nothing of this apparent inconsistency. After all, even when he had revealed that rennet, essential in the manufacture of cheese, to which both she and her equally vegetarian mother were particularly partial, was produced from the enzymes of a suckling calf, which bravely gave its life for this blessing, neither she nor her mother had changed their dietary habits one whit, whilst both vociferously condemned the heinous practice.
As the merry couple made their way upon the mosaic footpath, hot dogs disappearing rapidly and messily down their enthused throats, a rather rough looking baixinho, a little chap, who looked as if he lived on the street, approached them pushing a battered shopping trolley containing what, sadly, was certainly all his worldly possessions and tried to engage them in conversation. It could just as well have been, good morning, you beautiful couple, for all Robin, newly arrived to Brazil and with almost no grasp of the local language at all, knew and was therefore forced to rely on his namorada to translate what was said so he could understand.
Arriving at São Paulo international airport and finding himself feeling like Gulliver, his solid 6 ft frame standing head and shoulders head above the average Brazilian, Robin very quickly realised that the average Brazilian stood at less than average height and, therefore, the height, or lack thereof, of this scruffy unwashed fellow was nothing out of the ordinary for him.
– He says he is hungry and has a starving wife and family, – his darling translated for him.
Robin stifled a laugh! How many times had he heard a similar story, he thought, from those vicarious Gypsies in Golders Green who hired the babies they bore on their hips to garner more sympathy from the generous and gullible passersby, yet who left their “job” at the end of their working day in a fully paid up Mercedes? But this beggar looked as if he really walked the walk and Robin was certain that his shopping trolley was surely no pumpkin that would magically transform into a bright and sparkling carriage at the end of his “working” day. He did, however, doubt the existence of the starving wife and children.
Although he understood nothing of the conversation taking place between his namorada and the mendigozinho, Robin was not too inebriated to notice that the wee man was starting to become somewhat agitated and irate in his behaviour.
– He says to give him money, sweetheart, – she told him resolutely and it seemed as if she seriously expected him to do just that.
The bandit seemed so innocuous and tiny and nonthreatening to him that the idea of giving him money under duress seemed completely ridiculous and comical. The diminutive urchin became more animated and despite understanding not one word of what he was saying, Robin clearly understood that he was actually threatening them. This funny little man was threatening them?
– He says he has a gun in his pocket, honey, – she translated and looked as if she actually believed this, but Robin seriously doubted the veracity of this.
– Just give him some money, honey, – she implored, reacting to this man’s menacing behaviour as she had been conditioned; Brazil’s middle class were fed a constant diet of fear mongering through the media, whose fingers were firmly imbedded in so many different pies that they constantly had to conjure up ever more and ingenious ways to feed their insatiable appetites.
Robin looked at the unassuming and, in his opinion, quite harmless runt and hummed and hawed over his response; obviously not wanting to give in to this daylight robbery, but also wanting to ensure that his namorada felt safe and secure as well; this was man’s primary mission after all; a very delicate balancing indeed and he felt a little miffed that she didn’t have the confidence in him to protect her.
– Just give him some money, for fuck’s sake, – she insisted, the stress of the situation manifesting in her response.
Again, Robin looked at this little man and dithered; he had no desire to give a free ride to anyone, least of all this little hobgoblin. Why should he freely hand over his hard earned cash just because it was demanded?
His girlfriend perceived his reticence yet her fear was palpable.
– Just give him some fucking money, for fuck’s sake, – she reiterated, her fear augmenting the volume of her plea, but, even still, Robin was reluctant, however, that notwithstanding, he still slowly pulled his wallet from his back pocket nonetheless; there are times, even when we don’t agree, that the lady must be obeyed, and Robin decided that this was one of them.
R$12, about US$5, was all that stared back at him after their morning splurge when he opened up his wallet: a R$10 note and a R$2 note were all that remained after their impromptu breakfast feast. Although he was still feeling merry after their evening outing, he was still lucid enough to know that they needed almost R$6 for the bus fare home and vacillated over the contents of his wallet. This mini robber obviously saw what the wallet contained and didn’t react too favourably when Robin’s fingers picked out the crisp new R$2 note and proffered it in his general direction. The street urchin barked his discord at Robin’s choice. It didn’t take a linguist to figure out that the brigand was demanding the R$10 note in preference over the two.
This was more than Robin could bear; There was no way he was walking the five or so kilometres home just because he’d given his bus fare to this little runt. Despite, maybe even in spite of, the beverages that had lubricated his evening, he snapped and allowed his true feelings to surface.
– Fuck you, you little piece of shit, – he snarled angrily at the little thief, – you take the fucking R$2 note and fucking like it or fuck off!
Obviously, the minuscule menace had never had the wherewithal to learn English, even the poor excuse for same taught in Brazil, but Robin’s response transcended the linguistic boundaries and this dirty little street person clearly understood what Robin was saying even so and happily accepted the proffered R$2 note.
If Robin had had his way, this pathetic little creature would have received nothing! Not one centavo, but he was clearly not prepared for the reaction of this repulsive rodent. The modest would be mugger grasped his hand in gratitude and planted numerous kisses upon it as proof of his thanks. WTF? would probably best describe Robin’s response as he shook his head in disbelief at the situation and, wrapping one arm around his now becalmed namorada, re-embarked on his homeward journey, comfortably secure in the knowledge that he still had change to pay for their bus journey home and reflected, with a smile, on his first ever mugging.