ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2015
issue/numero: # 07

The Adventures of Glauber and Hilda

Author | Autor: Índigo

Translated by Ana Cristina Araujo Ayer de Oliveira Illustrations by Caco Galhardo

Glauber and Hilda are the worst kind of parasite. He is a dust mite. She is

a flea. The Health Department is constantly campaigning against them. If

you rummage through the cleaning products in your home, you will surely

find a can of spray capable of exterminating them in a single squirt. Sound

over the top? Well… it isn’t. We humans have plenty of reasons to be wary of dust

mites and fleas. The destructive power of these creatures dates back to the fourteenth

century! Believe it or not, fleas are to blame for the Black Plague that wiped out a large

chunk of humanity. Fleas like Hilda. And mites are no better. They are responsible for

that disgusting mange that causes our dear pets so much suffering.

But Glauber and Hilda know how to take advantage of the fact that they are

parasites. It is in their nature to take advantage of everything. They don’t feel diminished,

on the contrary. They are proud of what they are. They survive all manner of

attacks. And if they are still here, it is due to their great love for one another. Glauber

and Hilda have been married for many years, and, as is bound to happen, they have

become dependent on one another. Of course parasitism has also had a hand in this.

Glauber and Hilda in:

Monga, the Ape Woman

Glauber and Hilda hated moving house. It was always hard to find a place that

met both their needs. Glauber needed human interaction while Hilda could go

without. She preferred to live among animals.

In recent times they had lived on stuffed animals, livestock, household draperies,

teenagers’ hair and pop stars’ fur coats, until the day they ended up on Monga,

the Ape Woman. She was like a mother to them.

Monga lived in Zé Malaquias’s circus. It was no Cirque du Soleil. It was pretty

shoddy but, like all circuses, it was home to a troupe of extravagant types, some

human, some not.

Parasites are highly influenced by their environment, and, a few days after

they moved to Monga, Hilda began to feel a secret urge to become an artist. She

would watch the family of jugglers and ponder on how unfair the world was.

The jugglers weren’t even a real family, but Zé Malaquias believed that – as

a family – they would generate more interest, so he made up family ties among

the artists. He attributed parenthood to those who had no children and married a

man to a woman just because they were more or less the same age. The only true

likeness among the artists was that none of them was afraid of death. When they

launched themselves from the trapeze, spinning as if they had the proper anatomy

for it, it was for complete lack of better judgment. This explains why the mother

didn’t go into a tizzy when her son flew off. He wasn’t hers to begin with…

Hilda, however, had been biologically conceived to jump 150 times her own

height. One hundred and fifty times! Not even at the Imperial Circus of China can

they do that. But what good was it? She had no teats, and without teats you are

worth nothing in the artistic world, no matter how high you jump. The audience

wants mammals.

Glauber did his best to console his wife.

“It’s just a matter of identification, Hilda.”

“But I have so much to offer.”

“I know, sweetie. I know…”

Hilda felt belittled.

Glauber didn’t share her dilemma. In this sense, he was more independent

than Hilda. Every night, as soon as the audience arrived, he would race up to Monga’s


“Come on, Hilda. Just look at this! It’s awesome!”

Hilda would make up an excuse not to go.

“I’ve seen this act a thousand times.”

But as soon as her husband left, she would go take a look.

Glauber became more and more audacious with each performance. First he

would cling to a strand of Monga’s hair. He would twirl and shimmy, rubbing himself

like a shameless cobra. He would poke his tongue out at the audience and

insinuate that he was going to strip.

“Oh my! Thank goodness he is microscopic,” Hilda told herself.

Later on, when the circus lights began to flicker, Glauber would let go of the

hair, stand with his legs apart, throw his arms up and wiggle, jumping and yelling at

the same time. You would think he had suffered an electric shock.

“That is my husband...”

Poor Hilda. Although she nearly died of shame, she couldn’t take her eyes off

him. She would watch until the end, just to see how eccentric Glauber could be. He

could be very eccentric.

Glauber would adopt Monga’s rhythm. When she turned into an ape he became

a super tick. It seemed to Hilda that he grew bigger, sprouted claws and

drooled with pure delight. At this point she would walk home and do some breathing

exercises to cool off.

One fine day Hilda was hopping here and there, taking a lift on the back of a

trained monkey when she ended up on the shoulder of the popcorn vendor’s son.

The boy was a typical human, extremely cruel. This day he was playing at toasting

ants with the help of a magnifying glass.

At first, Hilda was perplexed. Then she had an idea.

The next day she returned and brought Glauber along. The boy was playing

the same game as the day before. Glauber was horrified. He could not understand

why his wife insisted on showing him such a brutal thing. Neither of them was

particularly fond of ants. Parasites, in general, get antsy just in seeing them toil

endlessly, always so hurried and focused. But that didn’t mean they thought they

should be wiped off the face of the earth. Anyway, Glauber didn’t understand what

they were doing there.

“I have a plan,” Hilda said. “Follow me!”

The flea and the mite hopped off the monkey’s shoulder and entered the boy’s

field of vision.

Under the optical effect of the magnifying glass, Hilda became a huge star.

She performed a spectacular repertoire of flips, aerials and somersaults. She outdid

herself. The boy was amazed. He summoned his little brother to come and see.

Hilda showed an admirable combination of impulse, coordination and creativity. At

the end, she finished her act with a flourish that the brothers understood at once.

It was the gesture that announces the next act. Glauber came on stage.

The popcorn vendor’s sons had never seen such an exhilarating act. Glauber

hopped onto the little brother’s thumb, bit off a chunk of skin and devoured it like a

hungry cave-man, beating his fists on his chest, roaring and smearing himself with

the piece of flesh from the audience. To tell the truth, there was nothing new about

this number. Yet, for the first time ever, someone was able to see it!

The little brother ran away bawling his eyes out and calling for his mother.

When the older brother saw the effect of the performance he got excited and

asked Glauber and Hilda to return the following day, at the same time. He would

bring more spectators.

It was a time of great glory for Glauber and Hilda. Every afternoon, five to

eight speechless boys would applaud the Flea Circus. They began calling Hilda

“Magniflea.” Hilda’s self-esteem had never been better.

Motivated by his newfound stardom, Glauber came up with new ways to scare

his loyal audience. He improvised a pair of vampire fangs which sent the kids wild.

Glauber became known as Monster Mite. One of the kids started coming to the show

in long-sleeved shirts with buttoned cuffs. He endured the heat, in the name of art.

The popcorn vendor’s son was making good money with Glauber and Hilda’s

show when, one fine day, they failed to show up for work.

They came two days later, but then took the next day off. They showed up

again on the fourth day, then skipped three days in a row.

The boy was annoyed by their irresponsible behavior, and decided to do

something about it.

The following week, the popcorn vendor’s son patiently waited for the artists.

He placed a matchbox under the magnifying glass. The open lid resembled the

mouth of a famished crocodile. The plan was perfect. The next time Glauber and

Hilda showed up they would fall into the trap of employment law.

Everything seemed to point to a tragic ending.

But the popcorn vendor’s son overlooked one tiny detail. Parasites are extremely

lucky creatures. Nature blessed them with this gift as a way of making up

for all their other shortcomings.

This being so, seconds before Glauber and Hilda hopped off the monkey’s

shoulder, a strange three-legged dog hobbled past and bumped into the monkey,

sent the matchbox flying and ran off.

Glauber and Hilda never returned to collect their belongings from Monga’s fur.

They also never regretted the abrupt ending of The Flea Circus and Monster Mite.

They were not used to working, to having a routine and to assuming responsibilities.

Their lifestyle was way too carefree for that. They had acted on impulse. Just

as easily as they taken to the idea of becoming circus artists, they grew bored of it.

As for the popcorn vendor’s son, he might have learned something from the

episode, but he didn’t. He went back to killing ants.

Monga, the setting for this adventure, never suspected a thing. She remained

oblivious to it all. She still works at Zé Malaquias’s circus, as monstrous and insensitive

as always.

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