Life and Other Trifles

The Almeida Lima lived on a second floor in the middle and the two things that I inevitably received on December 25 at dinner, after an oppressive lunch in Lobo Antunes and a huge bag full of expensive trinkets, was a small paper carton with colored pencils (I will never forget the Viarco brand)

Susa Monteiro

The person who gave me the least attention in my life died at about sixty, when I was twelve. Very old, therefore. He was my mother’s father, he was deaf, and unlike the whole family, who adored me, he did not care. She never told me, I do not remember a smile of hers, more of a party or a kiss, and it did not make any difference that she did not call me because I did not call her either. The eldest son of two older children, handsome, blond, blue-eyed, received endless attention from all my father’s sisters, from all my mother’s brothers, from my grandparents, of course, attentions and care for everyone , in short, less of it, and paid him with pleasure in the same coin. I remember that when I said one of those silly little kids, my grandmother, my grandfather’s wife, asked me to say it louder for him to hear, as I remember perfectly repeating lower on purpose, while my grandfather leaned toward me with a cupped hand to his ear. My grandmother insisted

Say harder son, have patience

and I dismissed the phrase in a murmur, already half back to him, leaving him, literally, with a faded ear. Unlike the Lobo Antunes, who had money and gave gifts of fuckers at Christmas

(they lived in a house and pears, with a garden and a farm)

the Almeida Lima lived on a second floor in the middle and the two things that I inevitably received on December 25th, at dinner, after an oppressive lunch at Lobo Antunes and a huge bag full of expensive trinkets, was a small carton with colored pencil

(I will never forget the Viarco brand)

According to, the end of which led to life, and a battery-operated flashlight that was useless

(Viarco pencils were also useless because the beak spent time breaking up, which prevented me from becoming a Velázquez)

except for illuminating illuminated rooms and making mats to grown people who always ended with the phrase

– O son ends up there with the patetices

and with me tossing the lantern to the floor, with piles coming loose and rolling under the sofa from which the maid, stretched out on the boards, tried to pull them in vain with the handle of the broom. I now think that all the furniture in my parents’ house had piles underneath, because at night, vague blue hoops, indecisive and trembling, vaguely traversed the dormant compartments.

My grandfather, when he was not working, was reading the newspaper or staring at the wall with a vacant Buddha dish smile. There it was animated when someone died, because my grandmother was a fan of wakes and dragged him to various chapels, full of chairs leaning against the wall where they whispered old, around a prism of wood lying, surrounded by flowers, where it was distinguished, imprecise, a pair of yellow hands handcuffed in a third. Before entering my grandmother, she advised my grandfather to keep quiet. He generally did not speak, but in the wake he was attacked by an access of monumental gases that made the ceremony a place of horrible scandals. For example, and to name a few less serious cases, in trying to console a widower, depressed by the passing of his wife, stretched out in the center of a cone of ribbons and flowers,

“Do not think about the heifer’s death any more.”

or when she greeted a lady who had her handkerchief in her face, she pressed her fingers

– My feelings

the Lady

– There

my grandfather

– Is life

Continuing to tighten her phalanges and the lady

– There

my grandfather, determined to help her, continued to comply

– Courage, courage

and managed to cheer her up because she finally let out a scream of deadly wounded calf

“It’s not that, it’s hurting me.”

and, as regards wakes, a third, where he, sitting beside the table on which the name was signed on a leaf, drummed on the tabletop, murmuring

– But what a great misfortune

spent a little bit

– But what a great misfortune

after another little bit

– But what a great misfortune

then starting to get on with the rhythm

– But what a great misfortune

with more energy

– But what a great misfortune

not said, almost singing

– But what a great misfortune

passing, little by little, from singing to screams

– But what a great misfortune



until they had to drag him to the outside of the burning chamber where he continued to scream


reaching the churchyard, where he finally realized his musical astonishment and fell ashamed, with my grandmother already clutching his hands out to strangle him on the street. A little later he died. My mother did not introduce us to the wake, perhaps in fear that my brothers and I, by genetic inheritance, would untie to scream


and the Viarco pencils and the flashlights of cells disappeared from our existence. The nights were stripped of blue halos, the days of random scratches on the walls, and no one else ever asked us to tell off comic strips with more lungs.

My grandmother became a happy widow, full of amiguetas, who spent the weekends on excursions to Fatima, whispering secrets, eating pastels of tender mass, sighing, very happy

Oh, daughter.

Praying, right now, your little bit in the divine sanctuary and finding the driver of the truck that a good-looking young man strolls over, you’ll notice, Teresa, you can not even look ugly.

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