ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2015
issue/numero: # 07


Author | Autor: Fernando Bonassi

Translated by Zoë Perry

1. Initial Situation

It’s a historical moment of prosperity in a country accustomed to living in shit.

The climate is tropical, as it always has been, but today feels even more hot

and humid than before. Clothes stick to people, who stick to the upholstery

of motionless cars, stuck to the asphalt. Nothing and no one can move. No

way to escape. Never have so many been able to do so little, and the reproductive

force this has will make this summer the richest and muggiest in history, say climate

and government forecasts. Turbulent masses of air, in constant motion. The

frosty winds that issue from newly-completed buildings blow exhaust fumes back

into the middle of the street and the faces of passersby. Right now, the city’s last

remaining empty spaces are being occupied by stakes driven into a land poisoned

and reclaimed many times over, all in the name of progress, bridges and viaducts,

numerous apartment buildings, industrial warehouses, ten-story parking garages,

shops, offices, basements and annexes, in a precarious feat of engineering, that

attempts to multiply the same space, held in place.

The construction sites of these urgent works spill over onto the sidewalks and

potholed avenues, resulting in falls, pedestrian collisions, heavy traffic and a sandy

concrete dust that rises and falls in swirls, blinding anyone who tries to see what

is happening.

The secret is to close your eyes.

This is the best advice the old timers can give the younger generations now.

And to work. When in doubt, work some more. For the sake of working. If necessary,

undo and redo idly. As if they might turn into bums if they sit and think – even

for a moment – about the advantages and disadvantages of living with one another

that way.

Forget about it. It’s best to not think.

Also, there is no shade or trees for kilometers and kilometers of enclosures

and walls that rise straight up toward the sky, angering the dark clouds.

God bless us!

They know very well that the least they can do cannot be done in just one

week... But everything takes too long for their liking. Ever and always. From afar

the traffic appears frozen, in a satellite picture.


This is a living hell.


The paralysis is only an impression: the people sitting in these cars, for example,

are about to lose what little patience they have left, and lay on their horns as if

they were laying into each other’s necks.

It’s War with a capital “w”!

Graffiti warns of the class struggle and time wasted behind the wheel. The

radio repeats what it said yesterday. It’s a game of make-believe that takes place

every day. In one or two wasted hours, they will be locked up at home, those who

have a home, but it’s early yet. There is a lot to think about now. And the eyes wet

with drugs, fatigue, sadness and heavy metals drift from one side to another of

these lanes, interlinking as they funnel between billboards and grimy illuminated

signs, hoping to understand this uncontrollable desire they have – all of them – to

go in the same direction, at the same time.

For the time being, hanging in the air, you can feel the envy of the motorcyclists,

who flow unimpeded between cargo trucks. And the helicopter passengers,

who have enough money to fly right over these common problems.

The real problem is that nobody wants to be or seem common. Even if it is

their fate and, in a way, proof of the victory of this specie’s beings: these are the

ones who survived out of millions of others, identical in rights. And in modern democracy

what is common prevails. The majority, with all its might.

First Movement

It’s worth noting that it starts all wrong: the man this story is about was dismissed

early from the metal shop where he works, but under other pretexts: a headache

he had, some double vision in the street or by the machines, as if he had turned up

drunk; he tasted something bitter that came from his stomach, too…

And something stuck in my throat…

He doesn’t drink a drop. He hasn’t smoked in over five years and decides that,

for now, he won’t worry. He swallows it down. Soon the distaste comes back up

into his mouth. He takes a deep breath to make the thing go down. He thinks about

eating better, maybe, or more, at least, since he always leaves a good part of his

lunch on the brushed metal tray.

Each variety of food, on the tray, has its place.

The man in this story likes this order of things.

Makes things easier.

He gets his car, clocks out before the others. He enters the chaos of the elements:

out of hours, the traffic accelerates in a dangerous rush, when everyone acquires

the confidence common in his culture, and that consists of believing they can

accelerate, turn, speed ahead and stop whenever and wherever they want and that

there will be room for everyone. Not quite. Many are killed along the way, run over on

the asphalt, crushed inside cars. And the traffic builds with the passing ambulances.

For Christ’s sake!

Clearly the man should have gone home; enjoyed the rest granted him by the

company doctor. But that very day, and this very man, used to doing whatever

they tell him to, gets the idea to surprise his wife, who had gone across town for a

dentist’s appointment.

The dental insurance the factory offers is also slow to see you when you make

an appointment. So, despite all the traffic jams along the way, and long after the

scheduled time, our man manages to reach the office in time to find his wife still in

the waiting room, before her appointment, reading a magazine.

More magazines are strewn across the coffee table, whose top is cut in the

shape of a tooth, but his wife selects an architecture and construction magazine.

She is so engrossed with it she barely notices her husband’s arrival.

The walls of the reception desk and waiting room are covered with diplomas

and certificates, and the man understands that this makes it very clear who is to

be called doctor there.

It’s not his place, anyway, and the man continues waiting for his wife to get

distracted from her reading and turn her attention to him.


This does not happen. A bit cross, the husband sits beside his wife and places

his hand on her leg. She is so spooked she screams and, without wanting to, to set

things right, he is obliged to apologize.


And he gets upset. And like that, because of one of those stupid lovers quarrels

between two people who have lived together a long time, when she tells him “I

didn’t expect you”, it was no longer as someone having a pleasant surprise.

You should have gone home.

Then, to spoil what is already sour, the dentist comes out from inside the office.

In a gleaming white uniform, a vision of fineness.

Son of a bitch.

Beg your pardon?

“Hello, Doctor.”

The man hates him immediately. To him it seems the dentist is flaunting that

purity in an obscene manner, without the slightest shame; all while maintaining

an almost unbridled arrogance, as if to tell other mortals that, in addition to being

more educated and trained, he is also the cleanest and most famous in the business

of taking away peoples’ toothaches.

A pretty good business, no doubt.

His wife, for example, has a bad bite, or bites too hard on a certain weak spot,

a disease that wears away the jaw bones, day after day.

These headaches just kill me.

She comes to the dentist to correct the situation with some sort of harness,

operation or device that keeps her teeth inside her mouth, so they don’t gnaw

through one another.

I’ve always been a nervous type.

Her gums also bleed, her mouth doesn’t always smell nice, but these are not

the kindest of sentiments to tell in this story. He doesn’t always brush his teeth,

either. The man remains suspicious, but for sure the dentist’s arrogant manners do

not help to improve the situation.

Who are you, sir?

I’m with her.

What’s worse, the dentist calls another man’s wife as if she were his own,

shouting in the middle of the clinic waiting room with an audacity and a flippancy

that not even his capacity as her husband had dared violate: my dear!

Luckily it was late afternoon, no lights were on and there was no one in the

office to see the man’s face.

Let’s go in?

Our man would have liked to get an intimate look at the dentist’s work, together

with her and with him, but undercover, the size of an insect, or invisible,

to check the surgical methods he claimed to have, and to see if they weren’t also

indecent, but as a grown man he thinks that would be disrespectful to himself.

I’ll wait here.

Is that alright?


He stays behind with the fish in the aquarium. The aquarium is fogged. Threads

of shit hang from the asses of some of the fish. They all feel short of breath. And it

looks like they’re going to explode.

Fine, my ass!

He thinks every nasty thought possible of someone who feels excluded from

something he really wanted to know. To distract himself from this suffering, the

husband takes the magazine the woman read with interest: the cover story is on

the basic types of swimming pools available on the market; fiberglass, vinyl and

reinforced concrete.

Fiberglass swimming pools are the cheapest and easiest to install, just dig a

hole, position the pool and fill in the gaps with sand. In this case, the consumer

is restricted to the existing shapes and sizes. Vinyl pools have the advantage of

a wider range of shapes, since they are made of a masonry box with a liner that

adapts to any basin, in your choice of patterns and colors. The vinyl liner, however,

despite measuring between six and eight millimeters thick, risks getting punctured,

or tearing, even when observing rules of good use. So it’s the reinforced

concrete pool, for its tradition, structural characteristics and versatility of composition,

the most sophisticated, strong and desirable. Its construction and operational

care, however, are more complex, time consuming and expensive – leading people

to call it “a second family”.

The man thinks for a while about that and it could have stopped right there,

but this dentist, this trained medical professional, returns to the waiting room

with the same annoying manners, the same ostentatious kindness, the perma-grin

glued on his face, leading his wife by her contaminated hand.

What the hell?

This girl behaved herself very well, he, the dentist, says sweetly, as if she were

a child.

She’s a woman.

I know, he says, lustfully, maybe. To her husband’s chagrin, it is his own wife

who smiles immediately, feeling better with the cheap compliment given at the

end of the work day.

You spend all this time with them and then you realize you don’t know a thing

about any woman..., the man, the husband, thinks of saying right there, to her face,

but is ashamed, or afraid, or... Maybe even of the dentist... The dentist, on the other

side, sees the article in the magazine rolled up into the shape of a club in the man’s

hands, and commits an indiscretion, says it’s his “dream” to have a pool.


He’ll regret it later, but at that moment, this “dentist’s dream”...

This idea of grandeur this white boy son of a bitch has... And right in front of her!

That was inciting something in the man, a rage for the life he leads, a queasiness

because he is the one gets dirty every day, who crawls along, passes underneath.

As if, for want of something that would impress his own wife, he felt

poisoned and oppressed by the framed diplomas in that waiting room, by the

intimacy that the dentist achieves with others, by the cleanliness of the clothes he

wears, the “dreams” he has.


Here the man realizes he is still holding the magazine with the article about

swimming pools, inside his clenched hand, as if he were going to use it like club

on the dentist’s head, and, overcome with the rage of injustice he feels at this moment,

being sick of sight, his mouth somewhat bitter and with a slight headache,

just a touch, but that certainly does not help, he decides to lie, to say what he

shouldn’t – and what will destroy him, in a way: the unthinking bluster that he had,

himself, bought a swimming pool for their house.

It’s true!

The woman is more surprised than the dentist, undoubtedly, looking first at

him, the dentist, then her husband, but at both with a clear look of distrust.

In the backyard. It’s going to look great!

The husband still feels duty bound, but is also pleased to repeat and explain

that: yes, my dear wife, I was going to surprise you with it, on the day of our wedding

anniversary: a swimming pool in our backyard.

The dentist, embarrassed, tucks his tail between his legs and extends his hand

to his patient’s husband: congratulations.

After what is said and done, the man this story is about feels he is getting

even, and that he outshines the other man in some way, since now he can even

make his own dreams come true.

I have powers. Excuse us.

And he takes his wife’s hand from the doctor’s, and takes her home without

making a new appointment.

3. Easy Credit

This is the day when a military police cruiser was gunned down by an unknown

gang on a major avenue. The officers survived because they were drinking

coffee in a bakery nearby, but the car was completely destroyed. It happened

pretty far from where the couple is, but the chain reaction arrives at and chokes

the surrounding district.

The man reaches his neck out of the car and opens his eyes wide, as if he

could see through the cars lined up all the way to the ends of the earth.


He can feel his wife’s prickling gaze on his face. And he knows what she’s going

to say, even before she begins:

A swimming pool, huh?


The tone is friendly. And he can’t help but beam victoriously, looking in the

mirror, proud of himself.

What’s gotten into you?

Nothing. Everything.

She, making a point of seeming concerned, grips his leg. He, making a point of

seeming relaxed, is still stalled, but tense from pretending to be driving the whole

time. His neck stiff and straight, over there, and one eye over here:

Why? Can I know?

Why not? Can you tell me?

She thinks. And says what she says, more to sound out her husband than because

she’s worried about anything, since she doesn’t know how much he has, nor

how much he earns, much less how much a swimming pool might cost: because it

costs money, for example.

The man bursts into forced laughter, snubbing his wife’s pondering. That’s

when night falls suddenly, and brake lights burn as bright as fire on the darkness

of the asphalt.

It’s kind of pretty…

Isn’t the bank always giving out loans? Aren’t they saying our currency’s never

been so strong and there’s never been a better time to spend! The time is now!

He turns to look at his wife and is pleased to see her dumbstruck, truly astonished.

Maybe with the certainty he appeared to have. Who knows?

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