Chapter 3: February 11, Last Year
Why four? That's how many brothers we are today. We try not to be way more numerous than that. Y'know how it is, four is more than enough. More would already bring trouble. We're lucky. This gang is very good. We can share things without much trouble. They're respectful and friendly people, y'know? There were times here that we couldn't even share food, let alone the booze, hehe! It was more complicated then. The fights we got into, good mother! They ran over each other toward the food, slapping and kicking whatever came in the way or whatever they got entangled at. And you know, at each slap or kick that hits the other, the reaction would come, hehe. It was a real mess, then a fuss, doc. Smart was the one who had taken a handful of food, because not even a grain of rice would last to tell the story. But nature itself was already taking these people away from us, and only the good guys stayed so now we're here. Each one has their own ways and places to try earning some bucks, some food even. But they all come and share with the others. Nobody asks anything. Who wants to tell something, does so, but it doesn't matter. We know the hardships and what we have to do to get things. What really matters is the brotherhood we have.
How long we've been together? Ah, we've been together for three years or so. Only the youngest has been here for about eight months. See, doc, "youngest" is not about age to us, but joining the brotherhood, hehe. I and two others who are the oldest and have been together for five years were the ones who stood still during the tempestuous times, hehe. And there's more, doc, it's not just the brawlers that influence the brotherhood: the places do, too. We've walked enough on these streets, we've slept in many dirty corners of this city, but here is where we settled by now - until someone pushes us away, hehe - and here we met the rest of the brothers that are with us. I'm really stunned, though, at how long we've been here with no one bothering so much. We're lasting here, hehe. It must be because of what I was saying: the brothers and the place. The brothers that are together are fine guys, they don't like to annoy others and are not filthy around here. We're used to look for our spots during the days. Each one has their way of handling it, that I already said. In the evening, by the end of the afternoon, we gather here to pile and share what we got, though always with patience and care not to annoy people's lives, y'know doc. Nobody should be forced to live with us and that we know very well - a nice brotherhood is that. Actually, nobody should be forced to live with somebody, but we know that with us is a little harder, and that's exactly what leads me to the other point I believe is the reason why us being still here works: the place. People here are good guys, too, the neighborhood is respectful and leaves us alone. Actually, a lot of them are friends with us, y'know, they call us by our names, bring us some treat to eat, a drag to share and some clothes to protect us. There's a brother of ours that every Tuesday helps that small lady there, Miss Mercedes, from the white little house going down the Caramuru, to the left.
That's right, doc, white and peeled painting, full of plants. It was a tangle of scrubs, hehe, but that same brother fixed it up. She's very good, but brittle and lonely, doc. She has no one left in her life. It looks like she was once married and had a boy, but the husband died of drinking too much after losing everything gambling, and the son vanished with a lady that he found and left the mother behind, to her own luck. Tough, isn't it? Oh yes, it isn't easy, oh yes. But one helps the other. He handles the plants, carries her shopping and even sweeps the backyard. Can you imagine, doc? Hehe! And she always gets him something to eat, and gives plenty for him to really share with us, lets him take the fruit in the backyard for us. Once or twice she gets him some bucks, and so it goes, doc. You know how it is, we go on like that: one helping the other, the other helping the one, little by little, oh yes.
You know, doc, we care for people. We know it's hard for the person to leave home neat, and stop to talk or give us something. It's already hard running into us in the way.
Of course it is, doc, no need to deny it, we just know that this is how things work and that's why even us value so much the littlest attention we get. For example you here, listening to me and wasting your time with me! It's ok, doc, I understand and note that this is natural in you, but you don't know how very rare this is. There are brothers here who would exchange a plate of food for two secs of chitchatting. Loneliness is one of men's greatest evils, doc. Specially that which happens amidst so many, oh yes. But it ain't going to be a thing. The important part is that we keep faith and friendship, y'know, one holds the other. There are tough things that happen here, doc. Having someone to chat is not so bad if considering how many people there are to curse and shoosh us, oh yes, don't even ask and I don't even want to talk about it, oh yes...
You see, just like there are nice people like Miss Mercedes that I told you about, and like you, doc, there's also bad people, and many more, oh yes. You know that store over there, turning left on that corner?
No, the other, in yellow, I think they sell fabric.
Yeah, that one. So, that store belongs to a foreign couple. Looks like they've been here for some time, but we see the funny way they talk, hehe. There are many words you can't understand, I don't know if it's the way they speak or a word in their language. It must be of their language because it gets hard to understand, even more when they get nervous, blushing, y'know, and that's easy. Looks like they have a full throat, you know, sore, hehe. But even not getting the words, doc, you can understand quite well it's anger. They don't like us, none of us, and I say none of us from the street. I can't tell you if somebody from the street once did them any harm. I know we didn't but I think someone did do it. They wouldn't get that angry easily for no reason. There must be some reason that we don't know, doc. We don't need to do anything, not even wake up at the front of their store; they just have to spot us and that's it, they frown, grit their teeth, start ranting and go back in or change sidewalks when they're on their way somewhere. But it's not only because of that that I say they're not nice people, doc. I say it because they've done some evil things to us from the street here. There are many stories, but the one that bugs me the most was the one that happened with a brother of ours who's gone already. Not gone because he passed away; gone to get another place to stay and it was because of them. I even get embarrassed to say it, doc, because it sounds like I'm gossiping, but it's our talk and you are a friend already, that I can notice, oh yes. But then, doc, in that time we had just gotten around here and still had no common place to sleep. We were starting the friendships we have today and slept one night at a place, another night at another place and so on. Y'know, that was so we could find a place around here that we wouldn't bother that much and would be less of a trouble. It's already difficult to stay up till late to get a place with some hood for us to lay back and sleep a short night. The tough part is when we wake up, because we slept very little and there are times the light of the day is not enough to wake us, so when the tradesman opens the business, he stares straight at a bunch of us laying on the front of the entrance. It must not be easy for them, too, doc, to start the day like that, with a bunch of people right at his front door, right at the beginning of the business day, all dirty and smelly. There are still people who hold back a little, doc, but there are some guys out there that just have a pee or take a dump where they sleep. Imagine you opening your store and facing all that sticky mess! It's no easy, oh yes. So, on that day, we slept in front of that store. They had a tarp top that remained lowered at night. We were in four brothers and gathered there. It was a very cold night, it was probably a heavy winter, and we gathered with pieces of carton and newspaper we managed to get. The sun hadn't even started to brighten the world and I heard some key noise turning and the door lock shifting - those of iron that shift up and are coiled - and some whispering on the other side. Everything was very quick, but there was time for me to jolt up and drag along another brother with me: the store owner rolled more than half of the door up in a single blow, giving us an animal yell, while his wife, with anger in her face, threw a bucket of boiling water right where we were. Yeah doc, that's right, you should drop your mouth open like that. She really threw water, not even letting it pour down; she threw it with such strength that even the bucket flew from her hands. I won't forget it, doc, that steaming water splashing over our brother. The other brother got scared at the noise and still managed to jump forth, still lying. He looked like a frog, and got some boiling water on his legs, but the other brother, doc, ah, poor thing. He was an elder already and couldn't do much more than bring his hands up to his face and splash! Everything came down on him. On his face, arms, chest, private parts, legs, only the shins were unharmed and the feet, but the face was where it splashed the most. It seemed on purpose, as if the man had told the woman, before opening the door: "Throw it right there where the bastard's face will be!" Doc, the man screamed, but screamed so much that hurt us. And I think that for his age and pain, he couldn't leave the ground. He stayed there, jerking himself like crazy and screaming like a pig before the stabbing. Smoke arose from all of him. The skin started to peel off. It looked like he was melting, y'know, and the man screamed and screamed. We didn't know what to do, doc; we didn't know if we should run, help him or argue. So we started screaming for help: "help, help, please help him, help him!". It was the other brother, the one who got boiling water on his legs, that did something because of the pain he felt, I think. He threw himself before the laid brother, as if protecting him from another of those baths, and tried to lift him up. But we noticed he screamed even more when the brother put his hands on him. Doc, such was the evilness and the suffering of the brother that the couple no longer had those faces of anger and satisfaction, but got terrified, froze and seemed not to believe in what they'd done. I can remember seeing the beginning of a cry in the woman's face, but the horror was such that she couldn't even cry. It was the man who, trembling, ran his eyes on us and also, on a single blow, lowered the door and locked it the way he could.
Come again, doc? Ah, the help? Hmpf! Nobody would come, doc, nobody! We screamed, the poor thing howled and nobody came. It wasn't all that early, there were people up already, there were people at the bakery across from us, but nobody would come, doc. After a long time the bakery owner came. I don't know if it took him long to hear, or if he was deciding whether to go or not, but he went. He was clumsy and didn't know what to do. After a while he went back to the bakery and called an ambulance. Then you can imagine, another lifetime has passed until the ambulance arrived - you may say what you want, doc, but when it is about assisting guys like us, nobody is in a hurry, not even the ambulance that came silent and only started yelling after it turned around the corner – I saw it myself. The result of all the delay, adding to the cold it was, made the water cool down and the brother, with all that flesh, started shaking. I think the man began to freeze, because he wasn't jerking himself anymore. He shook silent, tightly, y'know. Ah, doc, how sad! A man at that age in the situation we live in, going through that. The poor man had to pay for what wasn't his. Maybe others had soiled the front of that store so much that they riled the couple. The end of it all was that he was taken by the ambulance, the other brother made sure he was still alive because he moved and the doctors were doing a lot of things to take care of him, but I'll tell the truth: he looked dead, dear Lord! We heard a few days later, from the bakery owner, that he was still in hospital and getting better, but that was all we heard. I don't know if it was true or not, or if it was just not to anger us and relieve the couple's situation in relation to the hood, that could wish to skin them, or even to relieve their own guilt. What I know is that we haven't heard of that brother anymore, time went by and the couple acts as if nothing happened. They're still angry at us, grumbling and everything. What can we do, doc? That's life! People have no patience, no more kindness, they feel angry easily at anything at all, and think they're above others only because they have more than the others. But it won't be a thing!
And that's why, doc, I told you that you are a nice person and have no idea the good these talks alone do, hearing my silly things, hehe, oh yes! And you here, Miss Mercedes, Cidão, Mr. Nitwit, and so many others make here a good place for us to live in. The beauty of a place is made by the people that live there, doc. Believe me, I've seen pretty places that were ugly, and places that looked like dump but were good to live in. The world is difficult for everyone, doc. They say that as we're growing old we start complaining of things, but I don't know if it's really like that. I think things are really getting worse. Everything had its good times, even me, hehe, but now it seems that others' lives don't matter anymore. I’m not even talking of living together, close to one another, but at least respect their existence, y'know?
But it's okay, doc. I've already kept you for too long and it's late. You be good with your frostie there, I'll near my brothers there so we eat something.
Good night, doc, see you when I see you! God willing, oh yes, oh yes.