Humans are fearless. They fear death, don’t fear to kill. They drink alcohol. They’re dangerous animals eating other animals. They attack in order to pleasantly survive , but nothing pleases them. The power and weakness in their mind can damage the mind system of the universe, or not, but time slides away and they are yet to see their ideas are combustible gas and their buildings and heroes catch fire. We good gods of the universe want to help, but prejudiced by old ideas, humans don't hear because they fear death. They don’t hear time and can’t see it will drive them forever out of time and space, but we good hope to save the mind of humankind so we also study their books, for people's minds are also gracious and intelligent. From here where I spy, I study these families to see what good could come of them.
“Who said I am?”
“You know you are. Why you think the malign varicose wounds in your chins don’t ever heal? Now cataracts attacked your right eye. In hope you’re not diabetic, you refuse to go to a doctor because they’ll put you on a diet, but you can’t stop eating, can you? You don’t want to feel better because you’re a rare stubborn primitive species who don’t care about nobody and nothing but your selfish pleasures, do you?” Grandma said.
“What doctor am I going to go to in the public hospital? They’ll give me midnight tea to feel better, and in fifteen minutes I’ll be walking through the gates of heaven, my pain surely dead with me. Where’s my coffee, Elga? Put lots of sugar in my coffee,” Tudé said willfully.
“I’m coming, Papai,” my mom said, test tasting his coffee, pouring more sugar, stirring it fast with a spoon, then trying it again.
“You must be highly intoxicated to think you’ll walk through the gates of heaven,” Grandma needled.
“O, Mama, Papai deserves heaven,” my mom said, bringing coffee to her father at the table.
“Arminda, I’m getting very angry with this conversation about me being diabetic, a disease you know nothing about. Is my fried polenta ready? I’m hungry,” old Grandpa complained.
“Here, suffer more,” Grandma said dragging her feeble body carrying another plate of fried polenta to the table.
Grandpa’s soiled nails fumbled to pick a slice from the plate in front of him. Anxiously, his tongue flicked right and left. He ate half a slice in one bite, and pleased, swallowed a large gulp of coffee. “Ah! Now it tastes right!” he said.
Delighted flies landed on his plate.
Her moves came clear to my ears over the unfinished wall only three-quarters to the ceiling between bedroom and kitchen. I heard her old lungs fill with air and slowly empty her breath across kindling. Nervously, she scraped the tray of the chimney damp to and fro for the smoke to go, but smoke billowed inside our house again as she blew, blew, blew. “Thank heavens!” she murmured with a sigh, tiles in the roof aglow. The wood cracked hot and the smoke stayed inside the house, suffocating lungs and burning sane eyes. Mom next to me in bed and my two brothers in their bed next to us snored loudly. Smoke apparently didn’t disturb their lungs or sight, and they didn’t hear the crickets, crows, cars, and radios outside.
The church bell tolled five times. Slowly, the sun lit our smoky dark rooms pale silver. Grandpa crossed my sight, bare-chested in ragged flannel short pants, shins wrapped in grimy bandages. He limped from his bedroom to the kitchen with the help of his imaginary spyglass, a fist wrapped in front of his eye. He coughed pacing from his bedroom to the threshold of mine. “When do you think this disgraceful smoke will leave my lungs alone? All I need is to have an asthma attack,” he said disappearing from my sight to the kitchen and then reappearing in the living room. “Damn, how many times I told you to start the fire earlier since I have no more strength to clean the clogged chimney?” he demanded, his feared dark figure darker, detached in the gray smoke once more in the living room.
“I got up as the church bell tolled four and I won’t get up earlier! Bet on it, pest! And stop feigning coughing! I know you very well!”
“Four? Then smoke should not be suffocating my lungs now. You didn't start the fire like I taught you. Did you blow it slowly and patiently?”
“I don’t think you did. You have to blow kindling like an oboist blows a long soft note in an orchestra solo. You can’t blow too slowly, or harshly in a hurry. A real musician understands the importance of time to not spoil the beauty of a composition of art. Fire is the same. The softer you blow, the faster the flame will grow vivid, belo, and the faster the smoke will go away. There's no need for smoke to accumulate inside. If there’s smoke after five o’clock, it’s because you impatiently started a lousy fire.”
“Look here, Tudé, things are not always as easy as for an oboist in an orchestra blowing his solo thousands of times into the head of someone before the concert like you've done in my head for years. Our wood is wet. This house is on top of a rotten bog. The wood gets humid and don’t burn as fast as you wish, master.”
“Whatever!” he trumped and went on to the next subject that disturbed his nervous system. Do you think the breadman is on the way?” he asked, and not waiting for a reply, he limped to the front door.
I was excited to have bread.
“Damn dogs don’t shut up! I need to focus my ears to hear a signal the breadman is on his way.”
“Why you want to hear that? You just lectured me about time, but seemingly your lecture isn’t exactly clear in your old head. The breadman will be here when it’s time for him to be here. We won’t miss him. We hear his trap half a kilometer away besides the commotion of others waiting for fresh bread, impossible not to notice him.”
I heard the breadman far away.
“Warm bread! Warm bread!” he rang his bicycle bell. “Warm bread! Warm bread!”
“Thank heavens the man is on the way! Arminda, go fast! Be the first customer. Get the warmest loaf, the biggest. Here, take the money! Run! Run!” he shouted anxiously, and Grandmother ran from the kitchen as fast as her feeble legs allowed.
“Jesus, Is that as fast as you can run? You took almost an hour to get less than ten steps from the kitchen to the front window. O, Jesus lord, we won’t have the warmest and biggest loaf!”
“Quit the illusion! The man passed at least twenty streets before ours. The bread won’t be so warm; and the biggest loaf was first to go.”
“Just run! Do what I tell you!”
When Grandma returned to the kitchen, Grandpa followed.
“Let me touch the bread,” he said, unwrapping the paper. “That’s it? The biggest loaf you could get is this small one? I should make you go back and change it for bigger!”
“Tudé, they're all the same size. Don’t make mental trouble!”
“Reinforce to your daughter Elga then that I buy fresh bread Saturday. Her sprouts are allowed to have a slice then and another slice Sunday. The rest of the days, they eat corn flour flakes. The bread is for me, a sick man. In addition, till Elga’s junk husband gets out of jail, I’m the only breadwinner here. God knows what I went through to earn my monthly retirement check, struggling ten to eleven hours Monday to Saturday over fifty-five years in that English cotton mill. The owners there and all around here are filthy rich, and what did I get? Open wounds in my shins, turned into a miserable slave that has to pay the mill rent every month. I deserve to have more bread than everybody else.”
“Yes, Tudé, food is your motivation, right? What you mean is don’t touch the bread or you'll belt them!”
“You know what I mean! True, food is the only motivation. You didn’t boil water for the coffee yet? Jesus!”
“Fire makes water boil, not me, creature."
“My Saturday will be delayed because you started this lousy fire.”
The smell of coffee warmed my spirit.
“Aw! Finally coffee is ready! Pour it for me in the big mug, the one I made out of a preserved figs can, with lots of sugar,” Grandpa instructed.
“You can’t eat sugar, Tudé.”
“O, there we go again. Who said I can’t?”
“You have diabetes, man.”
“Who said I have?”
The salvation is with the girl. I’ll invest in her.