Lena hears the slap against Zig Zag’s haunch, he’s leaving! She grabs her daughters, one under each arm, runs out the back door, tosses the two little spitfires into the hammock strung up under the neighbor’s shed, and shouts, Dona Mercês, I’m desperate, watch them please, give them water if they cry, she doesn’t wait for a response, she bolts down the alleys of the favela, barefoot and disheveled, just in time to see the cart turning the corner onto the street, she runs as fast as she can, though she’s weak with hunger, stumbling by the time she catches up to Edu, she throws her arms around him, bracing herself, don’t go, Edu, don’t go back to the streets, I can’t do this anymore, don’t head down that path again, Edu. You’ve held out for so many days, just hold out a bit more, you’ve got to stay clean, ay, meu Deus, come back, come back before Shifty sees you, I’ll stay beside you, I won’t let you out of my sight, I’ll stay close, I love you, you’re the father of my daughters, you love them, I know it, don’t go, Edu, ay, Zig Zag, help me, stop, stop, Zig Zag, you don’t want him to die, do you? He’s a good man, to both of us, save him, Zig Zag, stop, Zig Zag!
The mule shakes her head and snorts, look at that, Edu, Zig Zag doesn’t want you to go either, she knows what’s happening, she doesn’t want that either, come back, Edu, come home, come back, stay until tomorrow, just one more day, my birthday, Edu, I’ll be eighteen tomorrow, Mother says she’s going to bake a cake and bring it to us, we’re having a party, Edu, don’t go, as a present, my eighteenth birthday, come back before Shifty sees you. Ay, meu Deus, he already saw you! Shifty’s coming, run, Edu, run, hurry!
Eduardo frozen like an iron statue, his body so heavy Lena can’t drag him away, he’s clinging to Zig Zag’s scruff, she’s clinging to his waist, pulling with all her might, but she can’t get him to budge, and Shifty’s mocking laughter is closing in, fast, there’s no time to escape, he’s too fast! Pulling his dirty hand full of white rocks from his pocket, Hey Edu, Shifty’s crow-like call, this could all be yours, Edu, the gate to paradise, your fix for the whole month, look, all for you, and what’s this? there’s more, his other hand comes out of the other pocket shaking another fistful of rocks, Shifty’s voice, the sound of the rocks knocking against each other, Edu transfixed, his body stiff and trembling and breaking out into a cold sweat, Lena struggling, her arms around his waist, but she still can’t get him to move, she’s helpless beside him, What’s going on, Edu, why’s a man like you letting himself get pushed around by a little woman? Listen, I know what you want, why shouldn’t you have it? Look at what pleasures await! Give me the mule and it’s all yours; that mule’s worthless, I might as well be giving it away.
Zig Zag, don’t leave, Zig Zag, don’t go! The mule’s agitated, she begins to stir, Shifty’s already grabbed the rope from paralyzed Edu’s hand, yanking at the animal’s scruff like he’s already the master. Zig Zag, don’t leave, don’t go! Oh, she’s coming with me alright, that’s what Edu wants, right, Edu? One more big tug at the scruff, Zig Zag appears to obey, she lifts her head, then with one swift, decisive movement, the mule’s big yellow teeth latch onto Shifty’s arm and crush it, the animal twists her body and sends the man flying down to the ground, and a second later all that can be heard is the sound of Zig Zag’s hoofs stomping a skull and white rocks sinking into the mud.
“Salvation” originally appeared in the Brazilian journal Revista Pessoa. It appears here as part of WWB’s ongoing partnership with Revista Pessoa. Several times a year, WWB will bring readers new work that originally appeared in Pessoa here in English translation, and Pessoa will publish work from WWB’s pages in translation into Brazilian Portuguese.