Nilton Resende – The Crack

“Sky-blue,” the boy hears, as he sweeps the yard and feels the broom come to a sudden halt. He looks to one side with a start, then behind him, then up, and sees his cousin clutching the handle as she crouches down. She takes his face, cupping it with her hands. She pulls back a little as she looks at him, taking his face out of the shade and thrusting it into the sun. He closes his eyes, but she asks him to open them. He obeys, slowly, his eyelids trembling, as the woman in front of him, half her body silhouetted against the light, arms outstretched and stroking his head, says, “Like an angel.” She then returns him to the zone of shade and rest as she kisses his forehead. “Your eyes are sky-blue.”She looks towards the porch. “He’s such a beautiful boy.”

[private]“And a handful,”says his mother and comes down the steps to hug her. She points at the man with his back turned, unpacking the car trunk, “He’s big.” The cousin runs to the man and hugs him from behind, turning him around. “Meet my cousin.”He smiles, shoulders the gallon of wine and heads for the steps. “Drink wine. Our Lord sheds blood and we drink wine,” he says with a smile. The cousin slaps him on the back then laughs. He stops on the top step and looks over his shoulder. “Do the looks run in the family?”The two women hoot with laughter and go fetch things from the car. They go into the house.

The whole morning is spent in preparations in the kitchen. At lunch, the boy drinks grape juice. “That’s all you can have for now,”says the man placing his arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Later you’re going to try other things, cause there’s lots of good things in the world for those who know how to appreciate them,” and he takes a deep breath and winks at the women.

“You guys should spend the night here,” the boy’s mother says. The cousin says the man has to work Saturday morning. “But Holy Saturday?”The cousin says watchmen don’t have public holidays; there are burglaries on Holy Saturday too. The mother understands, then adds immediately afterwards that at any rate it’s a shame, because no one ever makes the drive out, and it’s sad being alone there.

“But we’ve got all afternoon to have fun,”says the man, getting up and taking off his shirt. He goes into the kitchen and comes back with a bottle of wine. “This is a little stronger.”The mother downs the rest of the wine in her glass in one gulp and holds it out. “Then I’m a goner.”She laughs. “No you’re not,”says the man, filling her glass. “That makes two of us,” says the cousin, laughing. “In vino veritas!”says the man, raising his glass to his mouth. “Wine tells the truth,” he explains to the women.

The mother pulls out the boy’s chair, telling him to go gather up the fallen mangoes, take the soft ones to the chicken coop, and put the firm ones in the basket. And then go see if any breadfruit has fallen from the tree on the other side of the stream. And leave them on top of the stone, covered with leaves, for them to go fetch later. “Just bring back two.”She says this and coughs, choking on her laughter because of the dance the man is doing now, imitating the cousin’s hairdresser. He goes into the bedroom and comes back with a sheet wrapped around him like a skirt, a towel rolled up on his head. The mother chokes and spits the wine at the wall. She tells her cousin off because she gets up to clean it. “Not today!”She points at the man. “Dance.”She looks at the boy. “Back already?”

He leaves, amidst their laughter and yelling. He collects the mangoes and doles them out between the chicken coop and the basket. As he crosses the stream, he chooses an angle in which he sees the reflection of his face and stops to study himself for a moment, trying to see in his eyes the same colour as the sky behind his head. The light shows itself in speckles through his hair, his golden locks.

He gets up and goes over to the fallen breadfruit. He runs his palms over the fruit’s bumpy surface, rubs it, pushing down when it’s in the centre of his palm. He presses harder and the base of one of his hands sinks into the rotten side of the fruit, moist and brownish, that was facing the ground. He gets some sand, rubs the back of his hands, his palms, and wipes them in the grass. He picks up the fallen fruit and places it on the stone at the foot of the hill, in a pyramid that soon collapses. He gives up this undertaking and arranges them next to one another. He covers them with green leaves, which he picks from bushes. He covers them slowly, trying to hide all of their green bumpiness. He lays pieces of branches over the leaves, a twiggy fortress covering the treasure.

On his way back, he squats in the stream again, but now there is a red-streaked sky, with tongues off fire cutting through the clouds, a bonfire behind his hair, as if the boy himself is in flames. He rises and quickens his pace.

At the house, climbing the stairs, he hears laughter, but softer now, coming from the bedroom. He stands on tiptoes and peeks through a crack in the window. The man kisses and runs his tongue over the knee of a woman whose legs are spread, while his hand touches the flesh amidst the hair, rubbing it with his fingers and forcing them in. Still moving his fingers, he runs his tongue up to her breasts and sucks them. He lies down and the woman puts her hand on his thing, which is hard. The boy leans against the wall, pressing his body into it and rubbing himself. The man lies down and the woman bends down to touch his thing with her tongue. It is the cousin who touches the man’s thing with her tongue and takes it in her mouth, sucks it. “Have you no shame?”he hears someone say, at the same time as he feels something hit him on the head. Something hard and cold that leaves his forehead moist and now warm. A warmth spreads across his face, as he receives blow after blow, very hard, conjugated with his mother’s voice, who alternates between yells and whispers, stops the blows and presses her elbows into his back, forcing them further as she grabs his hair and pulls it, then goes back to shouting that he should be ashamed of himself and that he didn’t even bring what she asked him to, then he tries to say that he forgot, but his face pressed into the sand, because he has rolled down the stairs, doesn’t allow him to articulate the words, and in his mouth the sentence is limited to just the sibilance of the syllables, managing to open in a gasp when the pressure lets up at the same instant that he hears the cousin yell, “You’re going to kill the kid!”

He rests his arms on the ground and turns his face to the side as he lets the saliva fall out with the sand that gathered in his mouth, scratching his teeth when they ground against one another under the pressure. He squints as he tries to focus. His mother staggers around to the side of the house, and all that can be seen is her curving over, one hand on her belly and another apparently going to her mouth, her body shaking. She comes back relieved. The man comes down from the house bringing a bowl of water, a towel over his arm. The mother looks at the two of them. “Sorry, guys. Sorry.”She goes into the house. The man sets the bowl on the ground in front of the boy. He takes some water in his cupped hands and splashes it on his face. He washes it. In the bowl, the boy tries to see his eyes and the sky, but he opens them with difficulty, and now, in the water dirty with sand, he, the cousin, the man, everything is the same red-streaked colour. The man rinses his face, takes him into the bathroom, takes off his clothes. He undresses too and bathes him. As the boy dries himself off the man showers. He is big and strong, and his thing has lots of hair and isn’t hard like when his cousin put it in her mouth. He quickly wraps the towel around himself. He watches the man. “Go lie down,” he says.

As he is dressing, he hears his mother complain because they have to go, and they say they have to go. He hears the sound of the car driving away, the sound of his mother closing doors, turning off lights, and heading for the bedroom. He walks and stops short in front of her room. She notices him and, as she lies down, tells him to go to bed. He doesn’t move. “Close the door!” she yells and gets up, brusquely slamming it shut. He lowers his eyes. A short while later, he leans his swollen face against the lock, peering through it. Silently, he presses his body against the door.[/private]

Written by Nilton Resende and translated by Ailson Entrekin.
Nilton Resende is a literary professor, researcher and actor. His books include O orvalho e os dias (poetry) and Diabolô (short stories). Recent work includes a stage adaptation and production of Thomas Mann’s story “Mario and the Magician”, under the title The Magician, for his theatre company Ganymedes. He comes from Maceió, a state capital in North-Eastern Brazil.
Alison Entrekin has translated many Brazilian works into English, including City of God by Paulo Lins, The Eternal Son by Cristovão Tezza and Budapest by Chico Buarque, which was voted one of the 10 best books published in the UK in 2004 and a finalist in the 2004 Independent Foreign Fiction Award.

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