Página número um - sobre o alto da página, soando como ameaça. O escritor se repreende, vamos, é hora de começar. Também a ocasião de uma ironia travessa, demasiado óbvia embora ele por um momento possa se considerar esperto por isso: não sabendo como iniciar a obra, o escritor vinga-se de seu bloqueio criativo elegendo-o como tema.
Então não vamos falar de nada, e não quero ninguém depois reclamando que o que leu não tinha assunto nenhum. Mas qual a real importância de algo ter sentido? Palavras, gestos, ruas têm sentido, mas a maioria das coisas nesta vida não tem sentido nenhum. Então Deus deve ser tudo, jardineiro, polícia, professor, modelo fotográfico, tudo menos escritor: as coisas que faz não precisam senão existir, tenham ou não razão de ser, existir consiste em não precisar ter sentido.
Não fosse essa ressalva, havia que dar algum prazer ao escrivinhador brincar de Deus... Mas o leitor espera beleza e sentido no que lê, enquanto as obras do demiurgo raramente exibem esses atributos. E quando o fazem, temos então plena razão em falarmos em milagre.
Mas há ainda o vazio inescapável da página um e prosseguindo na metáfora da criação divina "ex nihilo", um Deus minimamente responsável tentará criar o melhor dos mundos possíveis. E o melhor romance ou livro de contos ou a grande coleta de poesia possíveis? pierres menards como nós continuarão tentando escrever essa obra arquetípica, a um tempo irreal pois irrealizável, a outro mais real que qualquer outra coisa que já tenhamos de fato lido ou escrito, uma vez que é essa quimera o que nos instiga a prosseguir preenchendo páginas um ou abrindo um livro numa delas.
Ler, por sua vez, requer um grande investimento de tempo, e por isso ler é cada vez mais difícil nestes dias. Já ouviu falar em "novelblank"? É como se diz quando você chega ao fim de um romance de 500 páginas e já não lembra do que aconteceu até a página 490. Dissem que para a pessoa média, sete dias depois da conclusão de um romance, o "novelblackout" é total. Então todo aquele tempo lendo o livrão foi jogado no lixo, e é melhor mesmo você se ater às informações sobre ele contidas na à sinopse da Wikipedia.
Com um livro breve de contos, penso que o mesmo não ocorrerá: nem o volume de informação é tão grande que ultrapasse nossa capacidade de retenção, nem o tempo dispendido será tão longo para que, sobrevindo a desmemória, se tenha perdido muita coisa. Então me veio a idéia: tenho sete contos a meio escritos, se os completo em sete dias terei um livro composto de sete peças para o leitor ler à razão de um por dia, até que, chegado ao fim, terá lido meu livrinho em uma semana, sem hercúleos esforços.
Resta saber se será possível reescrever tanta coisa em um período tão curto. O Kerouak conseguiu, mas relatando experiências que tinha vivido, trocando nomes aqui e ali, sem precisar queimar os fosfatos criando enredos críveis ou consistentes, e essa, descenessário dizer, é a parte árdua do trabalho. Penso por outro lado em certos romances, cuja complicada escritura reclamou décadas inteiras. Tudo somado, me servirei da dupla abordagem: falarei tanto de gente e lugares que conheço como de quem e onde nunca conhecerei, e ,é claro, deixarei igualmente que falem por si.
HEAVEN'S BRASS BAND
Since people abandoned their former hunt-gathering life-style and started living on agriculture, there started to sprout cities as commercial centers for farms surpluses. Cities are therefore agglomerations of man and women, who share a small space and hence have to establish rules and paths meant for their circulation. In modern cities, automobiles have precedence in transport planning so much so that ours is the civilization of the car. After streets were constructed, there began to appear routes allowing higher velocities to get to other cities, as well as expressways, built to make transportation even more rapid by doing away with sluggish pedestrians and irritating traffic lights.
Our hero is a young man in his early twenties or late teens, who was traversing by running one such expressway (don’t try that at home, our hero was only, as always, distracted by the accords that kept on swarming around his head, and so had not notice, as he could if only he had look up ahead, a huge traffic sign pointing just 50 yards afar to an underground pedestrian passageway heading to the opposite side of the road), when his flute fell off his moving hand and tumbled to the asphalt.
Again, without crossing his mind the shadow of a thought, he automatically bent over in order to grab his instrument and a pair of nickels he found their by chance and counted as a sign of good fortune, then soon went back to his sprint over the busy street. Suddenly, he was violently caught by a double-deck bus, but don’t worry: the shock was so overwhelmingly hard that he died painlessly, almost instantaneously, as they say good people die. Definitely unlike my aunt Eunice, who had such a bad temper that she would merciless ridicule me all the time in front of my cousins as I was a kid, calling me a chubby roaring little pig, just because I was a little overweighted and would snore when sleeping. Then she repeat in a false condescending tone that if I kept like that I would only find a wife in a zoo or aquarium, probably in the elephant’s enclosure or in the form of a whale, which would spare me the costs of living on a trailer, since I could well find lodging inside it... We all know things as obesity and loud sleep are not vices but disasters that befall innocent people on account of intricate genetical heredity reasons, so the experts, and should not be used to bully children. As to her curses on my marriage, it eventually happen that I married a really really big woman, in character as well as physical constitution, but I reassure you my dear Gretchen was nor fat nor old on the occasion I met her, growing that much and much and much only with the passing of time. If we don’t eat junk, so would she repeat, it is going into the trash just as the name says. Think of all poor children in the Third World who got nothing to eat! I don’t have to add that she was not particularly bright nor attractive nor sober, but our love endured and we remained married nevertheless, came hell or high water, whereas my aunt Eunice died of a tough salmonella infection, when the kids decided on my 30-year anniversary party to play a prank on her, consisting of a substantial rain of fresh eggs, one of which unfortunately happened to be infected. Bad thing happens, they say, just all the time, that is why we should try to be on the safe side and refrain from arousing kids’ anger by denying giving them slices from the wedding cake, so they wouldn’t go even chubbier, avoiding the dire consequences of what could turn out to be a harmless practical joke. We had a good laugh that day, it was a pity all the salmonella thing prevented us to remember later the scene with equal joy.
Where was I? Oh, yes, I was telling you how our flutist was smashed by a speeding bus, whose driver was late to arrive at destination and casually decided, after a vote among the passengers, to change course and take an expressway. I should add that he was a particularly dedicated musician, who practice the flute at least six hours a day and also gave lessons to beginners at least five evenings per week, apart from daily rehearsals and weekend presentations with the local orchestra. All said and done, he barely had the time to develop bad habits or to do wrong onto other people. The only thing able to irritate him was cigarette and cigarette smoke, but those dislikes after all count scores these days. I bet with you my last pennies that he went straight to heaven!
In fact, after a hasty process that seemed pretty like the a prosecutor and a defendant screaming to each other positions of selling or buying, his judgement was announced by a voiceover, one single time, hadn’t he got rained years, he would surely have lost it and completely misunderstood the continuation of the scene. The soul’s exchange market suddenly opened its roof and a celestial chart scooped in his direction. He began to run for his soul scared of all the noise and cracking ceilings, but was soon hooked by a human fishing rod thrown from above, which hauled him by his collar onto the heaven’s-yoke-of-horses, so it read from both sides of the carriage, driven by a winged creature, as pallid as a clown doing work, who he concluded was an angel charged with the mission to fly him to heaven by his own forces, since horses, as we know, can’t fly, and so were there only for the decor. The angel was already all covered in sweat and gasping as he unsteadily flittered away. The boy wondered about the rapidity of judicial procedures on the other side as compared to man’s justice, not only his to-and-froing by the brokers (euphemism for continuous and painful pulling and pushing) had been so quick, he hadn’t had the opportunity to throw in a word, but it also only a few seconds until, not farther than 50 yards from the setting of his abrupt rapt, he could make out from the heights another decision being immediately accomplished, the seller having this time having struck the best deal. The ground beneath began breaching and tilting, the brokers had to get hold of riveted leg tables and door knobs not to be engulfed, a similar yoke now self-entitled hell’s-yoke of horses, pulled up the damned soul by a hook applied on his underwear and similarly briskly began going down an obscure, red-lit and bumpy road into some remote rocky region. From the distance, he could hear the voice of a woman extolling the virtues of her soprano pop-singer’s voice. Vanity is the shortcut for disappointment, my aunt Cellina used to say. Or was it Angellina? I lived so many things and heard so many names that my memory is vaporizing gradually. I can even smell the fumes of a brain cell burning helplessly to ashes every now and then. One day I will become empty-headed, which will make my life easier: all names and stories will be easily retrievable, echoing inside my skull. But going back to our scene, the conductor this time had a long tail instead of the wings, and whipped with this extra limb his roaring raging horses. Not a blink afterwards, the crack disappeared and all brokers went immediately back to work. Time lost, money lost. But which money?
Well, people get paid in heaven both for things they do as for things they were going to do but wisely gave up, because they were considered by the competent authorities, prudential decisions to thwart potential recipes for catastrophe of physical or even easthetical nature. The bell-trousers, for instance, never turned out to be worn in heaven. Notwithstanding their failure in taking part of the history of heavenly mode, which included cheesier episodes like eye-boggling Cinderella’s paillette dresses and the tunics of the Evangelists before the invention of underwear, the bell-trouser’s inventor has been earning ridiculous sums of money for keeping the design forgotten on a wardrobe. When people get jobless or need extra money to make bathe their pet, they simply file a patent with an original project, designing the formula of a reality-show, or proposing the construction of an airport on the top of our tallest building in order to shorten the access to an airplane, or then they state the intention of setting up a dolphin’s safari. All suggestions will be roundly dismissed for endangering our afterlives or our aftercospecies, or then will be refused and lamented for sheer bad taste, menacing to turn heaven into a less worthwhile place to live in.
When he was beginning to find the chariot couch pretty comfortable and stretched his legs and arms and started to massage his neck bruised by the hook push, the yoke stopped inadvertently in mid-air and the angel dropped him on the soil below. Fortunately, he fell on a hay stack, because the horses were famished from the course and also land on the vicinity to get fed. In vain he shouted dirty words, the horses not only ate in the speed of light, but also flew away beyond the barrier of sound, so much so that his words were distorted by Doppler-effect (the sound frequency diminishing as the source gets farther away) into a grave ouch! which could be easily confounded with a scream of pain, shortly interrupted by the bossa-nova melodies coming from all directions, presumably that was the ambient music in Heaven, and he would have to get used to it.
He painfully got up and noticed a building not far apart inscribed in neon with the phrase: Department of Work for Newcomers. What did you expect? How can one preserve his mental sanity where all functions smoothly and there are no distressing things as rarifying hair or pimples or exhilarating things as soap-operas and pillow-fights? In heaven, killing time is an extremely difficult endeavor. So everyone has to consecrate his time every day for ever and ever to the same serious and diligent work routine, for only a tough long-hours work could divert one from an impossible suicidal thought, since they are all there dead already. And as they say, an empty mind is the house of the Devil.
But salaries grew lower and lower since a nurturing State began to be built. Because in principle you don’t give away the things you produce, you don’t work for the community nor for yourself, but for the corporation you work for. And corporations don’t need to be fed or schooled or housed. So the right solution would to be to raise taxes to provide people with such essential needs. But to strike a balance showed tricky, even in heaven. Taxes were sent soaring and were added by the companies to the price of non-essential products. And that despite the fact that all companies were heaven-owned... As a result, lower wages waning day by day and hyperinflation triggered by the easy gain by non-doing nasty things, now command heaven’s economy. Everyday, bills are issued by the Central Bank with an extra zero on the right. Now coins are rare antiques and are kept in extremely safe museums.
At Work Department, he was received by my aunt Urania or Celina what the hell, with her usual broad smile and solicit air (his face was paralysed due to a thermal shock at the age of 31, and she had that magazine-smile glued on her face on a permanent basis):
- So, I see in your resumé that you have been a musician since your early teens. Well, are you sure you never worked with horse-shit disposal? It is so much useful, mainly these days when there are more and more souls being brought in...
- No, Mam, never really tilled in the area.
- You will, they fall from the sky just everywhere. On your own roof every other day. Hope they do any good for greying hair... -she added, caressing her flocks, and arching her eyebrows for an admonition - didn’t you notice, my dear, that people here act, how could I say it, a little freakish? They say it is hay fever. Anyway, none reaches wisdom without having been a fool first. I read it this morning in an almanac. And so do the Angels too, those snob fellows, they think they are birds and have the right to do their things in the skies. It resembles dove’s excrement, but multiply the bulk one thousand times. Jesus! But turning back to your job prospects, well, well, what a waste! Anyway, I have a position for you in probation period by our Brass Band. I just warn you that our conductor is a little bad-tempered, so please just do what he says, he takes suggestions as an intrusion into his authority. He died as a soldier and never recovered from military traumatic disorder.
He came light-hearted from the bureau. Splendid!, he thought, at a band he would be able to keep on improving his fluting. One day he could eventually reach perfection itself! Then he would be able to soothe the beasts and cheer up bad-humored people, but those things certainly did not exist in Heaven, he pondered. It was working time when he was dismissed from the Lodging Department with a new address in hands, thus the streets were still empty. He entered his room and took his rest from the eventful day. He couldn’t suspect that he would have a completely different impression from heaven the morning after.
He did not notice that his alarm clock had stuck at the time of his death and needed to be rewinded. He woke up and left the house in a hurry, without the time to take a bath or get dressed more properly. Worried to be too late, he stopped a passer-by to ask politely for the time. The man got all flushed with rage and shouted infuriatedly:
- You petulant comedian! How dare you interrupt my trajectory? Don’t you know people adjust their clocks by the time I pass in front of their houses on my way to work? And that everyday I have to take a different pace in order to induce them into error? Do you want me be known the neurotic perfectionist in town? - then he removed a glove from his hand and slapped with it on his face. He turned on his ankles and went ahead without even murmuring a response to his enquire.
He remained a while astonished on the spot where the raging man had left him unanswered. He would have done better if he had kept on moving, for not too long thereafter he was washed by a whitish sort of plasma, which he immediately identified, by its conspicuous stink, as angel’s crap. He was too pressed for time, so he had to resort to a fountain he could hear nearby in a square, he took a plunge and tried to remove as much of the white excrement as he could, hoping his haste would soon make him look less soaked by the time he had reached the brass band centre.
Then, as he had some trouble finding his ways, for ways into and out of heaven are never straight and zigzag strenuously after returning the walker to the same place, he decide to ask a more amiable-looking creature, an old lady, if she could help him find an address. She promptly excused herself:
- I probably know where your destination is, young man, but if I explain it to you I will end up forgetting mine, see, I am 8,000 years old, there are more things in my head than it can hold, therefore I have only got at present a limited RAM memory of eight pieces of information which compose my immediate memory.
- Excuse me, my lady, it never occurred to me providing you damage, I will ask where The Brass Band is of someone else. Good morning - he tilted his hat and retreated.
- Hey, young man - the old woman asked behind him confused. Did I mention where I was heading too? You mentioned you were looking for the brass band center and my destination zoomed out of my memory.
- Let’s do the following, there must be a phone number on your purse, we go to the brass band and call your relatives.
Thanks to the latter incident, he finally manage to arrive at the brass band in company of the old lady, who was informed by her sister on the phone of her initial aim and regained her course. He was invited into a waiting room in order to have an interview with the conductor.
- Come over, boy, demanded a voice rather familiar. When he entered, what a shock he had: the small authoritarian man who had refused to tell him the hour was right in front of him, standing behind the table and leafing through his résumé. He had binoculars on and began to ask him the usual questions about age, formation, previous practices or scholarships, without at any instant showing a sign of recalling their discussion only a quarter of hour ago. The boy concluded, with relief, that he was hopelessly myope and, since he had met him on the street without glasses on, he would never be recognized as the man who had diverted him on his daily trajectory to the music institute. The man explained that the motto of his band was semper discendo, i.e., always learning, and that he would not insist on a perfect execution but on the sincere attempt at one bettering himself.
He had always had difficult relationships with conductors, they normally formed a nasty breed of perfectionists who liked nothing better than to steal a flutist of all of his breath and still not declare themselves satisfied. But this time it seemed it was all going to be different. In continuity, he would probably ask for a demonstration on the flute and would be so ravished by his playing that he would engage him right away.
- I see you are pretty tense, one can notice by the transpiration on your clothes. Relax, my son. All you have to do now is take out your flute and show me your talent. At one, at two, at three!
He took a deep breath and began playing the most beautifully executed notes he had stricken all through his life and afterlife. But no sooner he began the third accord, the little man jumped on his desk and began stomping and growling and ask for security.
- Beg him to stop with this torture! This ceaseless harangue is drilling a crater through my tympanum! It will earn me a damage, it will turn me incapable to go on working!
The secretary rushed in with a couple of pills and a glass of water. The man took them, sat down, loosened his tie and put both feet on the table. When the man finally reassumed composure, he began with his reprimand:
- Hmm... I am not used to hear such presentations, sorry for my cranky behavior but I had not been so much tortured since Saigon 1968. No doubt your piece was technically unreprochable, but I am afraid you don’t have one single artistic bone in your corpse, my fellow. Listen, do you know what art is all about? It is the celebration of life in all of its richness. Life is not only beauty and joy, correctness and confidence. Art is also sorrow and the ugly, it is also the mishaps and the error. I will take you on a probation, since my heavenly statue-like beautiful friend Urania wholeheartedly asked me so, and she is a woman whose hunches one cannot leave unheard, but I doubt very much whether you are eventually going to prove yourself deserving of the post.
The young man felt indignant. According to that tyrannical hick, a soldier’s brass band conductor, who had never ever dreamt of a musical serious carrier and played only as a hobby, he, who had been third flutist of one of the most important Orchestras on Earth, could not even be regarded as an aspiring artist! For him the pursuit of perfection, to which he had dedicated all his living years, had been just vain! Every soul would have the long eternity to overcome each and every tiny flaw, it was pointless to look for perfection once anyone would reach it in the end, so we had better let the spontaneity and chance also play their role in music, as they so often do in nature. And that was good, or else God would have created us as predetermined machines, instead of letting us gradually build our talents and virtues with the influence of other people and the stimulus from a chaotic outward world.
He had a tough time the first week. He would be continually scorned by his conductor and fellows who would always exclaim after his exercises: - More interpretation!.
- All your inept slips and blanks, is that what you call interpretation? I would called it misinterpretation!- he would retort in anger and subsequently be shown the door by the chief. And the same would happen sooner or later every rehearsing day during several months.
One Sunday, the Heaven’s Brass Band would present on a special venue set to celebrate the 5th millennium of the Union of the Angels from the Eighth Order. The conductor pompously arranged the musicians in rows, as if they were a sort of military cohort prepared for a parade, and before the performance began he shouted with vehemence his famous devise: “Always learning!”. However, our hero (I cannot mention fully authentic names, you understand, I am a man of meagre resources and fear that I might be sued by one of my characters for a share in my thin copyright awards) was so genuinely proud of performing before such angelical audience that he could not help giving his very best. He also considered that angels were superior creatures, who would presumably fully appreciate his quest for perfectionability. During rehearsals, he had tried now and then to commit errors and slipped some off-key notes in his playing, so as to frein the conductor’s fury, but that evening he felt so carried away that he ended up producing a meticulously untarnished presentation. By the end of the venue, the air was already thick with impending trouble.
After leaving the stage, he was immediately addressed by the conductor. He coughed and shivered with indignation and distaste, he would no longer admit that one of his musicians could so shamelessly disobey his directions. After another long and embarrassing lecture on the value and beauty of imperfection, which nearly lasted for eternity, he was officially expelled from the group.
The prospect of an endless season in heaven without his flute-playing or any other occupation whatsoever (unless he ventured into the flowering business of angel’s or horse’s feces removal) seemed to our musician as a totally unsettling vision into his near future. In despair, he tried to drink. But the only thing for sale that could provide you with a high in heaven was camomile tee. I mean, some tons of. In an uncontrollable fit of impotence, he set off right away, carrying only his flute case inside a pocket, aiming at no destination, letting his weary thoughts grow tired as his heavenly body would gradually approach physical exhaustion. Nevertheless, it was difficult to lose focus on those nagging derisive looks and commentaries, since landscapes would take turns without changing fundamentally their all too usual aspect: all there was to see were the same sweet meadows, covered with recently mowed grass and now and then a couple of hills, so smooth and repetitive you would always feel surprised when you found out you happened to be on the very top of one of them...
In sum, all of heaven seemed like an infinite series of golf courses, and every time you got the impression that you were coming to the end of one of them, a brand new one would deploy before your tired eyes. During those wandering days, he did not happen to bump into another soul, probably on account of the fact that even today, after the birth explosion on Earth and the introduction of vaccines and medicines meant either to reduce infant mortality or to prolong the average lifespan, heaven is still a very very underpopulated place, as on Earth Arctic regions still are these days. So there was nobody to whom he could tell about his misfortunes and ask for a sheltering shoulder.
Eventually, one day, shortly after Sun hid beneath the horizon, and a bunch of beams still stretched from between the mounds, as the fingers of a drowned man before being engulfed by the waters, he listened to this steady sweet fizzling coming from some place to his left. It sounded like it stemmed from some sort of river or stream. He tried to follow the hissing music, picking his way through a thick shrubbery, until he reached a peaceful brook, that seemed to distend up and down, encircling the whole firmament. The landscape on the other side looked astonishingly different: first there was a windy beach, with tall coconut palms gracefully disheveled in front of a row of simple houses, as those of fishermen. And behind them there were just this dense forest, followed by a grey, cloudy or smokey backdrop. It dawned on him the fact that he had reached the barrier between Heaven and Hell.
I got tired eyes and will not bother you telling how they grew so, so if my memory does not fail me, it was him who saw me first. I was where I have always been: there on the deck by the narrow swiveling river, on my modest raft, waiting for the arrival of passengers who want to cross it from one to the other side. At more glorious times there would be huge mobs of people waiting on the opportunity to be transported to one side or to the opposite one, and hundreds of demons and angels controlling the boarding passes, but recent developments in afterworld’s economies sent the search for migration or visit to its lowest since record. Which means: as far as I can remember, for I have been living here as far as I can remember, never people tended to prolong their stay in hell and avoid a carrier flop in heaven.
- What a huge stream! - he noticed, trying to get a conversation kick-started. Where does it come from and where will it ever end?
- Well, the water sprouts from the rocks, it is warm if you feel it - the young man it with the hands and agreed. “As for its end, well, there had been a long controversy, but our wise have now settled for the theory that the river just keeps going on and on, though finite, and however it gets ever larger an larger, to the extent that we could not possibly keep pace with it, it will never ever reach into infinity”.
- And who lives on the other side?
- You mean, on the beach? Pagans like me, who happened to live before the establishment of the common era. It is a nasty place, full of bards singing their ceaseless sagas and philosophers discussing if the world is a particle or a wave instead.
- That can be a pain...
- So you say, kid! That is why I prefer to be here on my own, on the other side, listening to the stream hissing its music and so soothing my nervous thoughts.
- Just what I need at the moment, Sir...
- And behind it, well, you can call it hell, we prefer to call it the Bingo District. There are good dancers and gigs too. I can see you are a musician yourself, or is that case just a smuggler’s packet? What the hell you think you could smuggle into hell that they don’t have there already, at best price and of top quality?
- It is just a flute, Sir - he took it off the fake leather cover.
- Please play something that touches my old, stiff heart, please play something that could make me cry!
The young man set by my side. He was so distressed that he finally let all his feelings of fear and unhappiness flow into the melody. Tears began rolling from my face, picking their way throw the labyrinth of my wrinkles till falling on the river’s torrents. We noticed that his playing began to be accompanied by a sweet feminine voice that the wind drifted onto us from the opposite rim. Never had he heard such a mellifluous singing, so resolute and at the same time mild, maybe like honey, if honey made some sound.
- Please, my old man, could you drop me on the other side? I need to hear her singing closer to my ears!
- It would be a pleasure, but you have to drop a nickel. I mean, it is supposed to be so, you give me a coin and I fare you over.
He remembered having gathered on the ground a pair of coins before being overrun by the double-decker, took one from his pocket and paid for the ride. He proceeded playing his flute, so the voice would keep on singing along, but we had already been afloat for some ten minutes now and could not as yet find the source of such marvelous song.
Finally, we noticed a bustling from behind a bush and a figure stand in full sight standing on the shore. She was a median-sized young woman, her skin was soft as a morning breeze, her eyes bluer than supernovas, her hair furled like the waves of a swelling ocean, and all in all so full of life she was that it seemed to keep awake whatever surrounded her. Her limbs were sound and reposed, like the columns of a temple, and her neck mounted above the shoulders like a tower, on top of which a soft tongue tolled her songs, as if trying to elevate her fair complexion into the Milky Way.
She told us her own story. On Earth she used to be a very successful pop-singer, who had slipped from the stage during a specially endeavoring salsa number, and lost her life some hours later. She was a beautiful woman and used to have a pretty high opinion about her looks and her talents, so, when she was judged, she was accused of vanity and tossed by the Angel’s chariot into hell’s downtown centripetal ring. From the clothes she wore we could tell she was a poor soul too. She was sentenced to six months, six weeks and six days, and her due time had elapse while she was working as a maid in a boarding house for newly-arrived vain girls and had had to cope with the nasty clientele and a modest waning wage. I should explain that wages wane over time in hell, for the system is structured after a social redistributive frame, based on higher rates for every extra dollar you make.
I tried to console the whining girl by saying:
- There is nothing to be ashamed of about having self-love, it is also a form of love and it normally teaches how to love other creatures too. Justice just can’t use its eyes anymore after so many centuries being kept blindfolded, and it is now as blind as Chance! And so clumsy and helpless it could not sever a cabbage’s head with that sword.
Of course those were prefabricated formulas I had already used many a time, and I didn’t believe a word myself. She must have been a whimsical bimbo when singing her sugary ballads, but apparently her season in hell had done her much good. That was the idea, anyway.
Since the expiration of her time, she had been involved in a long and unmanageable bureaucratic procedure to be granted her permission to emigrate to heaven. Unlike other people, she preferred emigration to having a carrier in hell, for she felt there peculiarly out-of-place and gloomy. She was supposed to hire a lawyer to do the work, but she found out that her employer, a certain Ms. Eunice, had not properly registered her work contract, in order to avoid paying the corresponding levy and kept the sum for herself, and on account of that now she did not have the right to ask for the services of one solicitor from the Union of Former-Nasty-Maids.
- Eunice, I said out. I know the old hag. She happens to be a relative. When we arrived in limbo, for she is as old as the hills and was born before the invention of tyre, I mean, of wheel, Satan himself was so appalled that she would debunk him and kick him with her ruses and constant bad-humor off the throne of Hell that he offered her half of the Company’s share in exchange of an agreement that she would never run for satancy. Of course she is as economical as a top-model breakfast plate and did not spend a dime she earned, and so moved into Hell to open a chain of boarding-houses to exploit and torture beautiful young women like you, my dear. But tell me, didn’t you denounce her?
- I tried, Sir, but as you mentioned yourself, she has good ties with the Governor, and the file was closed because, since my time in Hell had finished, my proofs were also deemed as untimely. Then there were these pelting attacks on the D.A.Department building by revolted citizens and it was closed for window repairs and remained so until today, for the D.A. can’t just decide between green or blue shades, he is afflicted with protanopia, I should add.
- And did you offer her money? There is nothing my aunt Eunice would not do for money!
- Yes, I did give her all I had managed to spare from my low tips and wages. But the next day she appeared with a nose job and said she was up to her nose with my complaints. Now, Sir, all Imy earnings run out and I am unemployed, living here in the bushes the imps avoid because they dislike greenery in general, and feeding at MMc-Hellgrub’s with coupons I collect from The Subway News issues I pick on the streets. That is probably the reason why my dress looks so grimy: it is the mustard and the ketchup from the combos.
- Honey mustard? asked the boy - cause you smell distinctively of honey - he added, kind stutteringly.
Oh my, the boy was in love! And that lady had really suffered enough wrong. I had to think of some solution and move my crampy ass to get that story straight!
- I tried to make some pocket money by singing on the mall entrance. You know, my voice, it is an undeserved gift, now I know, and when I start singing I feel so transported by its beauty that I can’t help delivering a particularly lively performance. The devilkins would just keep on laughing at me, and all people would toss were eggs and tomatoes, not a single coin. I should again apologize for the grimy state of my dress. I have given up singing since then but, after wandering around in despair and approaching the shore, i could not refrain from singing to that sad melody you played with your flute, which seemed to express all my distress and pain - then she restarted crying.
- That is outrageous!!! - the young man exploded in fury. If I were to toss anything on you, it would be... it would be - he had difficulty striking the right note- roses, no, roses got thorns, it would be violets instead, to go with your eyes...
The girl looked down a little abashed, thanking for the compliment with a blushed face. I could hear little bells resounding, I who am as deaf as a post and have the intelligence of a mule of plush.
He experienced a deep empathy for her. So much perfection was certainly a dangerous thing, difficult to master and, once achieved, rather envied than admired. And just like her in Hell, he had been feeling particularly unhappy since he had lost his life.
- Boy - I said. Sorry for my indiscretion, but when you emptied your pocket to give me the nickel for the crossing, I could not help noticing you had another left. Give me that. We will buy this beauty’s liberty with it!
The three of us made our way into hell. After the thick bush, a huge metropolis surged, filled with babel-towers rocketing into the sky and scary roller coasters, which would run lethally upside-down and were used as a fast means of transportation with torture in an overcrowded and chaotic landscape. When we arrived at aunt Eunice’s boarding house, the woman invited us to seat without pronouncing a word. As we tried to take our seats, the couches made a noise, as if we three had farted. That should be one of the devilkins’ practical jokes, she explained, then asked for us to sit on the floor, declaring she was particularly bad humored that day. She was watching her favorite afternoon gossip show and would only allow to be addressed during the intervals.
- Speak of the Devil! I was just chatting with my sister Urania on the phone and we were remembering when you got a prize at a hot-dog-eating record-breaking competition! Oh, my little Barker. Why did you come to visit your favorite aunt? It has been ages, I mean, eons, since we have last seen each other. And time seemed to have passed you twice faster. Must be your diet. Is that obese woman you call a wife still cooking you fried fish with chips every day? No wonder you have so ballooned! Why don’t you get her to frequent gourmet lessons, as everyone does today? Oh, I see, there is always the wine degustation lessons, if only she could stay sober! And why did you bring along this grimy young lady, who has pestering me with her yelling singing and work complaints for months on end? What is your name again, my little angel?
- It is...
- Oh no, not now, the show is restarting. Shush! Why am I so bad-humored today? It feels like I am going to see the Devil... Let’s hear the news!
Another interval was announced.
- Aunt Eunice, as you know, the time of this little lady in hell has expired and we thought you could help us strike a bargain with your friend, the Governor.
- Offer me money. I will have to bribe him with some dough.
- Well, we have here a dime. Do you think it can do the trick?
- A dime? Are you kidding me? I am not for practical jokes today! This girl’s case is not ten a penny, why all the song and dance on the topic?, but since you offered, I will take the dime anyway. For two pennies there is nothing the Creature is not capable to do. I get the Satan’s permission to dispatch the prima donna in the first bark out of Hell. And will also keep the remaining eight for my pay. That is music to my ears! I can already hear the tinkling. And then I can profit to take home some books from the Company’s to audit. I can always find a breach and run for satancy! - she added excitedly. But her good disposition was soon undermined by her tripping over a little leg a devilkin had stretched in front of her way and landing nose-first on the ground.
- For Hell’s sake, live my new nose alone you imps! Go get a life and get the hell out of here!
Ways in Hell are definitely bumpy and irregular. As we were returning to Limbo’s beach, the two young people were so excited that he began to play joyfully his flute while she committed her singing, both dancing and waltzing at times, until he bumped into a stone and his flute fell off his hand into a lava stream. I took a reed from my fisher’s bag and tipped it into the stream, perforating holes with my teeth and, after it had stiffened, I hand it to him, as a sort of rudimentary flute. I explained that with that new flute he would not be able to issue from then on not a single perfect note anymore, and thus he was certain to be readmitted with her goofy virtuosic singer into the Heaven’s Brass Band, having the possibility to make out of their very imperfections a nearly perfect life for ever and ever after. They rejoiced and thanked me for my intervention and words of broken wisdom...
And they would in fact manage to lead almost perfect lives for ever and ever, were it not.. Well, as we arrived at my bark, I had to charge them my due coins for the traverse. But the cent the boy had already spent for his first crossing. And the dime had being shared by Hell’s tycoons. I told them I could lend them the coins myself, but was sure that they would not come back, so by the end of the month I would not be able to make ends meet and my wife would get me the hell! And so they found themselves literally between the devil and the deep blue stream! But that is a whole new story, if you send me a coin, I will be most glad to tell you. You guys already know the address and where I lead people to, don’t you?
Posted by CHRISTIANO VALOIS firstname.lastname@example.org