The Summer of Chibo

Postado em: 9th outubro 2013 por Vanessa Barbara em Ficção
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Revista Machado de Assis
Year 01 Number 5

Authors: Vanessa Barbara and Emilio Fraia
Transl. by Katrina Dodson


Chapter 1

The boys are out there in the cornfield where the shooting begins. Bruno breaks out ahead, his stomach weak from laughing so hard, behind him comes Moptop, who’s always falling into the same potholes; he opens fire with colorful ammunition—I can swear, even from a distance, that the gumdrop blitz claimed the field and pierced the air like confetti. My brother, Chibo, was in the back seat. I was in front, on my knees, with my head hanging outthe window.

From the car, I kept sight of Moptop, who couldn’t manage to peg anyone, especially not in the middle of all that corn, and once again the Bulgarian spy would reach the neutral country’s border under a downpour of banana chews. Wounded in the back, possibly, he’d climb the hemp rope up to the tree house and call out you sissy you sissy. Moptop would say it didn’t count because the game wasn’t fun anymore and Her Majesty’s plans were encrypted or Bulgaria didn’t even exist (and he’d be right, for sure). Then he’d burst into the most decadent, overblown tantrum since our preschool days and start beating up on the younger kids. But not on Chibo, of course. My brother was the oldest of all; he’d just turned twelve, was strong, always stuck up for me, and—I looked in the rearview mirror. He was silent: my words faded away like a station gone off the air. When the car stopped, I hopped out on one foot, and Chibo, full of lightning, didn’t move a muscle. He just sat there, distant.

I tried to say something but got the hiccups as I slammed the car door shut (and I know everyone laughs whenever I start a sentence and then get stuck on a hiccup, cut off by a jolt that makes me lose my balance), so I kept quiet. I swallowed my breath and stood watching as the car got smaller and smaller, until it disappeared along the edge of the cornfield.

On the plantation, Moptop was headed in Bruno’s direction, arms flapping wildly. Bruno sped up hard (wrists firm), shot some clumps of vegetation over his shoulder—at that point I was running too, without really knowing why—and we collided at the midpoint between tree house and road. Actually, I was almost run over: he flew by me and spun me around like a turnstile, raising a cloud of dust and a sweltering southern wind. I coughed and hiccupped in alternating sequences and had just managed to open my eyes when (the hiccups stopped) out sprang Moptop at top speed and, plop, knocked me over. The ground was hot enough to fry your hands on; the plantation was starting to get scorched and would only get worse, but  a huge downpour fell that day, hard enough to hurt your back, the kind that ends after five minutes and leaves behind a mere trace of civilizations and a few submerged ants.

Without stopping, Bruno looked toward the sky with his mouth open and tried to swallow raindrops. He didn’t notice that the dirt was already slick, and the chances of slipping were as high as our tree house junk pile, so that he skid, skated, and lost a shoe. He muttered some curse that I didn’t catch and continued running in sock feet. Just behind him, Moptop stopped, picked up the artifact and classified it as Exhibit A of the Prosecution—but he didn’t exactly request the judge’s permission before swinging the sneaker by its shoelace and launching it into the distance. Plop: an insole and high-top projectile well-aimed at the Bulgarian spy.

Despite the size 5-5 ½ caliber wound in his back, Bruno kept running. He dragged himself along stumbling, imagining his glory as a national hero. The chase would be shown on TV in slow-motion, and afterward people would cheer for him as he rode down the street on a parade float. He’d show his great-great-great-grandchildren the mark from the sole at family barbecues and tell longwinded war stories, maybe even attend veterans’ reunions and stuff like that.

Bruno would’ve reached the tree house for sure, if it hadn’t been for the intervention of the Great Puddle, the mother of all mud puddles, which appeared all of a sudden while he was looking back. The spy sank all the way in and fell face first. A caramelized Bruno emerged from that mass of muck and saw that it was useless
to resist. Two steps away, Moptop’s silhouette was already reminding him of his right to remain silent, reciting the First Amendment off the top of his head and showing him (nonexistent) handcuffs. Two inches away, a dirty, circular piece of metal glinted up at Bruno, possibly a ring. He managed to pocket it without Moptop noticing and was subsequently detained by the authorities and imprisoned in the tree house.

Chibo wasn’t there either when Bruno told us about the dead man—a body on the other side of the wire fence, in a place on the plantation that, from the way he talked, sounded very very far away. He’d been a kind of traitor to the Bulgarian people, a guy who didn’t follow the law and didn’t pay taxes because, well, he was dead after all. It didn’t take long: in the middle of the cornfield, a whirlwind alive with secret circles, entrances and exits, Bruno suggested a game. Kneeling, he spread out the pages of a spiral notebook on the dirt floor(his entire cartography). He calculated distances and provisions, asked each of us to spin around on our own axis in order to throw off the enemy, and, finally, based on preliminary studies of the local geography and position of the clouds, pointed to the narrowest path where the leaves appeared to be stained with rust. That way, he said. His vague yet intensive directions (west corresponded to north and the center was next to the eastern border) led up to a tree that stood, all alone and very red, near some old persimmon trees, just past a rise where the trail branched off into one, two, three more. Then Moptop decided, just like that, that he’d seen the stiff too and to prove he wasn’t lying, pushed ahead eagerly without any more questions, clearing the way with his arm, gathering vegetation samples—“turn right or keep going straight because it all  ends up the same anyway”— and protected his face with his other hand. We kept silent and walked on, flicking here and there to scare off the weevils that stuck to our legs. Moptop seemed excited and walked quickly: “Now all we have to do is follow the colored lines on Bruno’s maps, go back twenty, thirty steps, and that’s it.” Once in awhile he’d stop short, look back and give some random order (we almost never understood). Ahead of me, Bruno, who was dealing well with these abrupt brakings, kept quiet—maybe he felt a stomach ache coming on. I just followed along, in the stern.

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