Read the first chapter of "In between dogfights and pigs slain" in english.
In between dogfights and slain pigs
“No man should be allowed to be the
President who does not understand hogs.”
Harry Truman, former U.S. President
You shouldn’t stick it in pigs
who ain’t yours
As he bides time for pigs, Edgar Wilson sighs for the eighth time in this sultry Friday. By his listless gaze, it would seem like he wouldn’t mind waiting as long as required, but in spite of his enduring aloofness he does fret, in his very own way. It was the second time the cargo was late in four days and he’d have no choice but to tell his employer about it.
He had planned on leaving early to go to Cristovam’s bar, place a few bets on Jackal – a devil’s reject of a dog, that once tore off the head of Geppetto, a mutt twice his size –, and then meeting Rosemary, his fiancée. No big news about all this, every Friday is the same and in no way Edgar Wilson’s daily grind bothers him. Here, in the hot, stifling, forsaken, neglected outskirts, in the backyard of a grocery that smelled of cockroaches, there is no bigger disappointment than the pig cargo running late and no bigger expectations than seeing them all hanging from hooks in the cold-storage room.
Edgar Wilson knew that, under that kind of new moon, Jackal’s guts would be boiling out and his claws would be glistening. He would certainly win three times more than his bet; it could even be enough to propose Rosemary – she demanded a new fridge before they could tie the knots for good. Trouble is, he had been questioning Rosemary’s fidelity, because lately she had been constantly claiming a need to sleep in her employer’s house, who had been demanding a very early start for her cleaning routine Tuesdays and Thursdays. But not to give a lot of thought to anything at all comprises his character. He had always believed that Divine Providence took care of burdens that were too heavy, and in Divine Providence Edgar Wilson keeps his faith. “Why to become anxious if this won’t add a cubit to your height, or make a white strand of your hair turn black?”, as Father Guilhermino Anchieta used to say.
In between dogfights and slain dogs, Edgar Wilson doesn’t bitch about life.
The remote growl of an engine makes him put out a cigarette on a bunch of ants that gathers around his latest spittle. He notices a reddish hue on it and fears some kind of disease. He checks his watch, puts on his rubber boots, then stands up. He watches the pickup as it comes near while he walks to the phone behind the desk to call Gerson, his helper, who claims to be having kidney trouble.
— Didn’t you just give your sister a kidney?
— That was last year.
— Right... that’s right. Cargo’s late again.
— Second time this week.
— Gotta tell the boss about it.
— I’m sorry, Edgar, but this kidney has got me good.
— I see...
— I can send you Pedro.
— Can he bone at all?
— Just a sec.
Gerson, in cold sweats and in pain, shuffles around on the couch finding the best possible position to yell the question: “Pedro, can you bone stuff?”
Pedro takes a while to show up in the living room, a red towel wrapped around his waist, holding a wooden spoon:
— What are you making? — Gerson asks.
— Did you go out and bought some wheat flour?
— No. I’m using the one from the blue pot.
— Did you forget what I told yoou, Pedro?
— About the flour in the blue pot.
Pedro glances at the wooden spoon he’s holding and licks off the remainder of the filling that’s threatening to drip off. He chews it for a second, sighing. This filling is scrumptious and Pedro seems to be proud of his nice job.
— And what about it? — he asks, after swallowing.
— It’s got worms on it. I told you to throw it out.
Pedro scratches his head, then replies:
— I sifted out the worms.
Gerson displays no reaction to his reply.
— I sifted them all out, I swear.
Gerson turns back to the turned-on TV. Pedro stands still holding his wooden spoon and both laugh of the laughter broadcasted in a cooking show. He notes the phone in his brother’s hand.
— Gerson, did you call me? — he says, pointing to the phone.
— Oh... can you bone stuff?
Pedro gives it some thought.
— Don’t know. Not really sure.
— Edgar’s asking.
— You mean, like, sorting out the guts, the liver, the...
— The meat from the bone... that kind of thing.
Pedro gives it some more thought. He goes back to the kitchen with no further words. Then he returns.
— Remember Matilda’s dog, Tinho?
Gerson seems rather lost, but he promptly answers with a nod. The towel drops off Pedro’s waist.
— These boxers are mine — says Gerson. Pedro doesn’t answer and goes back to the kitchen.
— Edgar, do you remember Matilda’s Tinho?
— I do.
— That was Pedro’s doing.
— Then tell him the cargo’s just in.
— And what about your kidney? I mean the good one, the one inside your sister.
— I think it’s doing fine.
— Ever consider getting it back? I mean, when you gave it to her, you didn’t need it, you wouldn’t miss it, but now it’s different.
— Yeah, I know. Looks like she’s got cancer.
— Then she won’t be needing it much longer, will she?
— I think not. Listen, did I leave that Chuck Norris vid at your place?
— M.I.A. III.
— I only got M.I.A. II. Not III.
— I think I lost that video. It’s going to be such a gap in my collection.
— Are you going to let your young, healthy kidney get eaten away by your sister’s cancer?
— Seems like she’s starting that balding procedure soon.
— Right... it’s radiation who’s going to be killing your kidney, then.
— Do you really think so?
— I think your kidney’s history.
* * *
Pedro squats at the back of the grocery, caressing the pig that awaits his turn to get slaughtered, while Edgar Wilson, leaning through the pickup’s window, sorts out some troublesome issues:
— Tenth time I’m going to repeat this: I ordered two hogs —says Edgar to the pickup driver.
— But this pig counts as two.
— No way. I need two hogs. That was the deal. My boss’ not gonna be happy at all.
— We’ve lost one of the hogs on the way here. The road here is way too potholed.
— What do you mean you’ve lost a hog? A pig’s not a trinket you could just lose. I can’t account for it. I need two hogs.
— I brought you a pretty big porker. Make use of it.
The guy rapidly drives off, leaving Edgar Wilson’s eyes full of dust.
* * *
— Pedro, quit smooching this pig and get me that knife over there — says Edgar Wilson, who soon mutes as he thinks about the two guys’ swindle. If he can’t find a reasonable solution to his plight, he’ll have to bear the loss. With his wages, there wouldn’t be much left by the end of the month.
Pedro points to some giblets in a bowl over the table.
— When I cut Tinho open, there was less stuff inside of him.
— Those came from a robust hog, not skinny Tinho. I bet all he had inside that belly was wind. — grumbles Edgar, gathering some hooks on the table.
— And a frog.
Edgar faces Pedro for a few seconds, pensive.
— Yes sirree, a frog. And a living one, too. — pinpoints Pedro.
— Now what world are we living in?
Edgar Wilson picks up the axe lying on the floor.
Pedro brings him the knife and stands by.
— That fucker was carrying a live frog inside his stomach, that damn dog.
— What did you do to the frog?
— I decided to raise Gilda in captivity.
Edgar commands Pedro to put down the knife and hold the animal. Pedro approaches the pig, which slips through his hands.
— Don’t let him run away — yells Edgar.
— That blade scared him — replies Pedro while chasing the pig.
The animal scrambles and scampers in distress, tipping over the giblet bowl which falls to the floor. One of the hooks Edgar left over the table falls on him, nailing into his pink skin, into one of his ribs. Yet, the animal successfully reaches the barbed wire fence, even though he’s cutting himself while forcing himself in; but just before he’s on the other side, the hook is caught in the fence, and his grunts of pain and distress grow louder and louder. Gently, Pedro tries to free him from the fence; the hog, though, feels Pedro’s heat on his back and becomes even balkier. He finally sets himself free from the fence as the hook tears his skin, exposing a juicy rib. Both Edgar Wilson and Pedro have to climb over the fence and trespass into the neighbor’s backyard. The pig runs to the chickens which scamper around it clucking, and Edgar Wilson freezes as one of them darts towards him. He screams while throwing out his arms and climbs back the wire fence, tearing his pants in the process. Pedro catches up with the protesting swine and hauls him back, laughing at Edgar’s flee from the chickens.
— What’s this, Edgar... are you chickening out?
— Shut up and bring me that damn pig! — he answers as he puts himself back together.
— I’ve never seen an animal that desperate — Pedro remarks.
— I have — Edgar replies.
Edgar Wilson suffers from a rare kind of irrational, disproportionate, morbid, persevering aversion to chickens. Since it makes him so embarrassed, he keeps it secret.
Pedro firmly holds down the pig while Edgar Wilson picks up the axe.
— Don’t you let it go again — grumbles Edgar, lighting a cigarette, to soon lift up the axe. He halts as his brow becomes a questioning frown. Letting is arms fall, he purses his lips with an inquisitive look on his face.
— Why did you keep the frog for?
— ‘Cause Gilda’s a survivor. Such amazing amount of will to live inside such a tiny creature. She’s an inspiration — Pedro replies musingly.
The answer seems to satisfy him. Once more he helds the axe high, then slices off the animal’s head, who topples over on its side while letting out a terrible, consummate groan and squirting out a trail of blood into Pedro’s left eye. He leaps back at once.
— Did you know your brother’s noticed that that Braddock tape’s missing?
For a few seconds Pedro’s vision is blurred and, so, he lumbers to the washtub to clean his eye. That mean pig, he mutters times without end. While still bent over the tub he questions back:
— M.I.A. II?
While he’s standing up, Edgar Wilson skygazes, wondering that if the new moon isn’t good enough, maybe Jackal won’t have much of a winning chance.
— You’d better retrieve it from your friend — says Edgar.
— But he’s out of town — replies Pedro, leaving the tub with his eye clean and his vision restored.
— Bring me that knife — says Edgar Wilson who wipes the sweat from his brow and puffs deeply before leaning over the animal.
— I can’t tell when he’s coming back and he’s not from around here. I’d nearly have to cut across the town.
—You’ll have to sort this out. He’s looking for his tape. He really cares about this movie.
The knife mightly tears the hog’s heart, that spurts out a little blood from pressure. The phone rings again. Edgar thinks of how lame this Friday’s turning out. He cleans his hands on his dingy apron and stands up.
— He’s still alive!
— He’ll bleed to death, the fucker. Five minutes at most. Then we’ll slit him open — says Edgar Wilson.
— What do I do?
— You pick up those giblets.
* * *
— Edgar, I think you’re right.
— I think that kidney should go back into the place it belongs to.
— Do you really think so?
— No question.
— I agree with you.
— Then we coincide.
— Yeah — Edgar Wilson waves away some flies who land on his face.
— Is everything alright?
— I need to go back.
He rings off and sips coffee along with a piece of yesterday’s bread. He munches it for a while, then goes back to the shop – that’s how he calls the makeshift slaughterhouse at the back of the grocery store. On the floor, the animal’s blood; in the air, a ferrous tang. Against the wall, a leaning Pedro relieves himself into the animal he calls Rosemary in between dragging moans. As he porks the pig, a yellow liquid flows off his ripped chest.
— Rosemary — whispers Edgar Wilson.
Pedro mildens his pig-banging and finally puts his pants back on.
— Rosemary? — persists Edgar Wilson.
Crestfallen, Pedro is speechless. Edgar coldly orders Pedro to fetch him a alcohol glass behind the counter.
Silent, he drenches the animal in alcohol, then sets it on fire. A bonfire splits Edgar Wilson from Pedro as the pig rapidly crackles. Edgar’s eyes glare at the red-hot animal. Pervaded by the fire, his look shifts to Pedro.
— I think you shouldn’t get into pigs who don’t belong to you.
Pedro looks back at Edgar Wilson in fear and stammers:
— There’s no need for your boss to hear about it.
Edgar picks up a water bucket and quenches the sizzling animal. It’s a woeful smell. A grave Pedro firmly stands on the opposite side of the rising, stinging grey fumes. With his blade, Edgar Wilson starts to scrape off the hog’s hide. He stops, pointing the knife at Pedro.
— Just scrape it off.
Pedro takes the knife from Edgar’s hand and, leaned over the hog, scrapes off its scorched skin with a whimper stuck in his throat. Edgar Wilson goes into the grocery store and calls Gerson.
— Is that Braddock tape really so important to you?
— Yeah, but I guess I can get my hands on another one. Sure its sentimental value counts, but what’s a man to do?
— That’s all I needed to know.
Edgar Wilson goes back into the shop as Pedro quietly scrapes off the pig’s skin. He picks up the axe off the floor and approaches the young man. He lights another cigarette, puffs it very deeply and feels invigorated. He stares at Pedro thinking about Rosemary. He raises the axe and drops it on his head, which quickly spins to the right. Pedro falls down, squirming. Perhaps she’s fond of fruity magnets. He could get her some, no hassle. But he can’t remember her favorite fruits. That makes him a bit vexed. Pedro’s still squirming.
— What’s her favorite fruit?
Edgar stoops over Pedro and repeats the question.
While touching his destroyed left ear, he looks pitifully at Edgar, who sternly awaits an answer. His demanding look extracts a whisper of an answer.
— Wild strawberries.
— What’s this damn fruit? I never heard of it.
— Her employer’s influence.
Now Pedro’s holding his own ear and shaking with fear. He notices a hole in his head, a hole that wasn’t there before.
He touches the moist mass and it’s like if he had touched upon his thoughts.
— What’s her second-favorite fruit?
— Peaches — he answers, whimpering.
Edgar murmurs to himself, “Peaches”. He needs to take a note before he forgets it. He repeats it on and on as he reaches the grocery counter. He writes it down and ponders that he never took the trouble to learn Rosemary’s favorite fruit. He thinks about the wild strawberries and they had thorns. At least that’s the way he pictured them. Lip-chafing berries. He goes back to the shop and Pedro drags himself on the floor, moaning, smearing himself with the pig’s tepid blood. Edgar approaches.
— You shouldn’t stick it in pigs who ain’t yours.
Pedro closes his eyes when he notices the second blow, which takes his face apart into a shapeless goo, which immediately reminds Edgar Wilson how Gerson’s kidney is going to get if he doesn’t take some immediate action. It was very upsetting.
Edgar Wilson opens up the hog from snout to tail and extracts his organs and guts. It was a real wonder being allowed to peer into those entrails. A stuffed belly which would make some good Reals. But he grumbles about how little a man’s work is worth. That porker’s belly nearly makes up his salary, but just after being done he feels content, for his life’s really good.
Out of sheer curiosity, Edgar Wilson tears Pedro in half, removes his organs and marvels at his weight. Pedro’s as worthy as most hogs, and his guts, paunch, lungs would make up for the other pig’s loss. That guy had deceptive looks about him. People would never suspect him of having an affair with Rosemary, much less of carrying a fortune in guts inside his belly. Edgar Wilson is amazed of having ever underestimated Pedro. He’d grind his remains in the meat grinder along with the bone bag contents, then sell it for the making of dog food.
Once the job’s done, he has two beers at Cristovam’s and wins three times more than the bet he had placed on Jackal. The damn mutt seemed possessed today. In the sky, the moon was high and the Divine Providence again took away his too-heavy burden. Overtaken by so many feelings, he realizes he’s a very lucky man for not having money deducted off his wage and for having asked Rosemary’s hand in marriage. Tasting the peaches he gave her, she says yes, misty in the eyes, as Edgar promises to give her a new fridge, complete with fruity magnets, the bitch.
(tradução de Simone Campos)