Chapter 7: July 3, Last Year
Aside from all the cold, I'm fine, yes, and you, how have you been? You've been absent! Was it the cold, too, hehe?
Oh, vacation?! What a nice thing! Well deserved, aren't they, doc? And was everything ok? Did you go out with the missus and the kids?
United States? How nice, doc! You enjoyed a lot, then? The missus must've liked it a lot. Where have you gone?
Oh, Orlando is really cool, indeed. A lot of our people there, aren't there?
I know just from hearing, an old friend of mine has already been there... Yeah... Oh yes...
But tell me, doc! The kids had lots of fun there, didn't they?
They enjoy everything, what a nice thing! But, y'know doc, you’re right in pleasing the missus, see? Always do that, don't ever forget, even if a little or in a simple way, you have to please her. You know how it is: marriage is like a little plant that has to be watered everyday and by both parts, see? If you stop doing it, it starts to dry and no matter how much the other tries to pour more water on, oh yes! But I know you are a very good man to her and the kids, I can see it from the way you are good with us here. Mr. Nitwit speaks highly of you, too.
What does he say? Ah, he says that you are a good-hearted man. He commented on how you got worried in that time the brother left with God. Mr. Nitwit is a very experienced and suffering man, doc, he knows things!
Oh yes, he is very good, too. You see it soon enough, who would bother to give breakfast to a bunch of dirty old men like us? Mr. Nitwit is gold, doc! Not just him, but his whole family, and Cidão himself! A tough man like that, and looking like a child because of how good he is! God bless!
But tell me, doc, back to work already?
It's tough, isn't it? We have to jerk the engines again. But keep on going, doc: work is one of the greatest riches of man, because it is work that keeps men firm in their journey, even if there are hardships, work is men's strength, oh yes!
Oh, I'm sorry, doc! This cough is really naughty, it won't leave me alone! Yes, it's been some days I have it. But it's no big deal, it's just a faint but annoying cough, y'know? It won't let us forget about it, but it won't be a thing. It was worse, but it got better. It's all this cold, isn't it, doc?
Tell me about it, doc! This year, things are pretty bad, the cold came striking. It's been a while since the last one of these cold times. At least the rain has stopped because it was worse with it, the cold got even more painful. This weather thing has been crazy, everything's out of control, the times we had rain when it was raining season, heat when it was hot, cold when it was cold, are gone. Today, it rains in drought times, it's cold when it’s supposed to be hot. There are years it's hot the whole year, there are drought places that are all flooded, cold places where people are melting and being thirsty. And you know whose blame it is, don't you?
Yes, the animal-man! Nature is furious with what we did to her. Now, she's coming towards us to give us what for to our cough, hehe. We messed everything up, doc. We abused it! That's the right word, we abused of all the abundance we had, now that's it: we pay for what we did! And I don't know about you, but for me it can't be helped anymore. You can say they'll decrease pollution, do this and that; but the time to stop it is gone, now there's no turning back, there's no fixing anymore. You can write that down, doc! It's not from now that nature gives us signs, but we preferred to ignore them, so now it's gone, she doesn't give us signs anymore, she's doing what has to be done. And we didn't ignore her because we had to live, but simply because it was easier, more convenient... More comfortable, that's the truth. Now, we have to deal with this insanity, that's why they say the world will end soon... Oh yes!
Not at all, doc, I have to admit to you that it's not easy to face this cold here from the outside. We have to make do somehow. During the day we can cope with it, even more with no rain, so that we can at least walk a little without things getting tough. Especially because during the day we have to make some effort and gather paperboard, newspapers and what we can find to spend the night. And at night we pile all that, gather and stay close to one another - all of us true men, ok doc, hehe- because one helps warming the other. Oh, there are our rags and canvas, that we stretch and it's almost like a tent, hehe. It can't cover every part of all of us, but it's already something. But each night is a night, if you get what I mean. We can't count on what we had on the night before.
Oh no, doc! We have to clean everything up again for the new day. Only on weekends can we sometimes spend with the same things. What happens is that the businesses start early and we stay with a bunch of paperboard and newspapers piled up, and we have nowhere to keep it, so the people end up taking it to the trash. What we can keep are our rags and the canvas. But it's not people’s evil, doc. It's the filth! Imagine: who crosses a sidewalk full of newspapers and used paperboard to get into a business: it's trash. The problem is what I told you, we have nowhere to keep it. But the good thing is that here we have this cover that breaks the cold feeling a little bit, y'know? When it's damp, really damp, it's much worse! And the grass? Oh my, how cold it is on the grass...
Do you know what's really worse? It's not in the middle or in the dead of the night; it's when breaking dawn starts. Y'know, around five thirty, six o'clock, when the sun starts coloring the sky... Hmm, doc... That time is hard, it gets real tough. There's no one who wouldn't wake up with that cold. Y'know, that painful cold that feels like a needle being stuck into all sorts of nerves, all sorts of joints in us? And we're not young kids anymore, hehe, age has been coming for some time.
But the worst of all, doc, the worst of all is the wind! Dear Lord, does it haze! It has no mercy, doc. It cuts like a good knife, licks our backs so it feels like it is opening our flesh. It's the wind that brings this tough cold that makes us cold. Without the wind it would be easier to cope with it. You see, this year it's not giving us a break, not even during the day, and as the night falls, it grows, it seems like it comes from all sides. We cover here, it gets in from there. And that's how it goes. Nobody sleeps well, just naps.
More or less, doc, our canvas is of a fair size. Not that it covers everyone, but the problem is how to tie it. We support some slats, tie some wires, but a lot of holes remain open and the wind gets in. Aside from its own holes, right, doc, hehe, what a worn out canvas!
What a cough! What annoying thing, I'm sorry, doc! No, there is nothing to be, be carefree. Mr. Nitwit’s mistress has served nice and warm tea for us here at night, this will be fine soon... Just chill, nothing much, oh yes!
Of course you can ask, doc! C'mon, you don't have to be like that!
Yes, we get some bucks here, some there. Nothing that helps us with our needs, but it helps us out.
Oh no, doc, not to buy a blanket, no. We could even save it, but then food will be lacking. We earn something, snooping into the trash, but any buck that comes we try to buy things to eat. And there's more, doc, I'll tell you something that most people don't know. It's not that they don't know it because it's hidden or forbidden; they don't know because they think things are solved when they give us some bucks. What happens, doc, is that it very hard to spend the money, can you believe it? That's right, doc! It's not easy to earn it, that's the real truth, but spending it? Hmm... It's just as hard as earning it. I'll explain: who would want ugly, untidy, dirty and smelly people like us inside their business, sharing room with their clients? I'll answer that: no one!
Oh no, doc, even if they knew we're with the money, they don't like it. Some because they think what we want is to steal something; others because they think we'll annoy the customers asking them things, beg inside the store; and others simply for the looks and smell of people, that doesn't fit what's in there.
So, we try to buy things in places where people already know us, quite early or late in the afternoon, when there aren't many people. Mr. Nitwit already knows, we show the money and he already tells Cidão to assist us here in the corner. But this is such a holy man that it's hard for him to take our money, even harder than breakfast that is guaranteed to us, as you already know, hehe, God bless them all!
But that's what happens, doc. It's not enough to earn the money. You have to buy later and that’s when things get tough, too. Imagine: the guy is in need and when he earns some bucks to alleviate things, he can't spend it, why? Because he's in need, hehe, what a life! We even try to ask them to buy us food, but you know, the guy already comes with money for us and we're still asking for him to buy? He's likely to get angry and take the money, hehe, surely! And he must think: "I barely give them my hand and they want the whole arm!", hehe.
But do you know, doc, what I would buy first of all, if things got better? A bed, doc, a really cozy bed, quite soft and warm, with new soft, good-smelling sheets, that's it, for sure, oh yes! Oh my, doc, it's been some time since I last slept a night on a soft bed... Y'know, we get used to sleeping in the hard ground with only some rag or paperboard of lining for the cold once in a while. Actually, there are so many things we end up getting used to. The animal-man has this great difference, doc: he gets used to things. It's true that it's not easy and in the beginning the thing is very complicated and scaring. But the whole situation makes the thief, doesn't it? Oh yes, either the guy gets used to it or he gets used to it, there are no options. But getting used to doesn't mean forgetting, and there are so many things that we don't forget. Each one with their own wishes and in the end what comes to my mind the most is a cozy bed, like I told you. Ah, everything would be so much easier if sleeping was cozier.
Once I dreamed of it, doc, can you believe it? I don't remember quite well, but I had managed to buy a huge bed, very soft and with many pillows. It was all in a way that me and the brothers here could sleep in, with a lot of room, hehe. Dream stuff, you know. But it was nice, I could see the image of the huge bed with all of us sleeping with happy faces, oh yes. Of course it's not enough having the money to buy a bed, we would need a roof of ours to stay. Not just to sleep, but to keep it, too. You see how the situation is with our paperboards, we wouldn't miss a bed like these from a night to the other... Yeah... Well, who knows one day, right? Dreaming is good, doc. Dreaming keeps men alive. It's the dreams that make us go on looking ahead of us. The guy who has no dreams walks with his head low, looking for crumbs of others to try making sense of his own life. It’s very sad, the life of these people, and they are many, see? If you stop to notice you'll understand what I'm talking about, you can trust me! I know that even now you are already recalling a bunch of people that you know, mainly from work, aren't you?
So, I know indeed...
Yes, you are right, doc, I haven't lived my whole life like this. Yes, I had my better times, you know? At that time, sleeping in a bed like this was an every night thing. And the best was, doc, cuddling with my wife... Well, ex-wife... And I liked it, you know, it wasn't like other people who only treasure things when they lose it, because I already treasured it. Maybe I should have treasured more, yes, but I had never not enjoyed each moment with them.
Them? It was them, indeed: my wife, and my girl and my boy... We lived well, doc. It wouldn't lack a thing for them, I had a nice job, had a nice car, the kids studied well, we traveled every year and lived in a very cozy house in the countryside... Yeah... Good times that are not coming back anymore... The memories remain... And the guilt... Yeah...
What a naughty cough! The chest is loaded, hehe.
But that's it, doc... Nothing lasts forever in this life. It plays practical jokes, it trips us over and we end up falling face first, getting beaten up... And I got beaten up and I ended up beating up whoever was around me... I just hope they are all good and living well... I pray for it every holy day of my life... I think of them all the time... Every minute...
Yes, doc, I have never seen them again and I didn't even get news from them, but it's better that way, you know? Not that I don't care or don't want to know about them; it's that it hurts too much, it clenches my chest real tight, the stomach churns, you know? And the main part is that if notice comes around, it also goes around, and I didn't want them to know of the life I'm in, that's mine, a penitence of mine... And they don't want to know about me, either. So: this way's better...
I know that, doc, you really don't have to say anything, it's life's doing, we have to go through the way we can. That's why I tell you to take good care of your missus and the kids, but you are a good man and we see that you manage that just fine, oh yes...
Doc, will you excuse me, Cidão is calling. Telling by the time, it must be the soup of Mr. Nitwit's wife that's ready. What a nice thing! I already bugged you enough with these silly stories.
Hehe, that's right, doc. If you say so and insist, one day I'll tell you this whole story right. Only you would want to hear this nonsense, but I'll take it... You know, it does a little good, it relives a little the weight...
Thank you, doc, I'm the one who's thanking you for the company and patience! Great things for you and your family, God bless all of you, oh yes, so be it...