a novel by Julie Locascio
-- "Tricks" is available in paperback!
-- Also on sale as a Kindle e-book:
Kindle preview: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B004LZ55PK&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_i6e1xbV3R1SE4&tag=tricksi-20
My senses abruptly snap to attention, overwhelmed with awe as the dolphins hurtle out of the depths of the water into the sunlight, each dolphin carrying one of the perfectly balanced legs upon which António stands as he too is launched upward through the spray into a surreal ski-lap around the shimmering, bright blue pool. My heart clenches as every instinct I possess propels me to jump into the pool and let the dolphins lift me up, too. I want it so immediately and so achingly and so primally that it takes a long time for me to realize it has riveted and wounded me so much because none of my own flying dreams have ever come true--or even seemed remotely possible until I saw António whisked effortlessly through the enchanted water and tossed into a dazzling trajectory through the air before landing again on solid ground.
Mesmerized, I cannot stop watching the show, and at the end I have to go buy another ticket to see it all again, desperately wondering how António had ended up swimming and soaring with dolphins while I had ended up so motionless. Why were my flying dreams something from which I always awoke, whereas here was an actual person who got to swim through water and soar through sky every day? It is unbearable, and I leave the park miserable, with tears suppressed, vowing to come back every Saturday to watch until I can figure out a way to get into that water myself.
My job is insufferable, like the ones that preceded it, but in Mexico it is a thousand times worse: fetching the Center's mail while untold myriads of families wait for money to be sent to them from their relatives in the States, making the Center's photocopies while generations upon generations are copying the poverty-soaked lives of their forefathers, shelving the Center's books and journals that speak so much about socioeconomic injustices in a library only perused by a handful of well-meaning souls without any power to do more than hand out fifty pesos to the next beggar at the door. I long to forget my impotence and drench myself in typhoid-free water, closing my eyes until every last bit of dusty grime has been washed away, opening my eyes in pleasure as Mother Nature lifts me through the spray into the brisk air and warm sunshine of the joyride I have dreamt of all my life.
Instead, I head back to Casa Dolores....
Outside at lunchtime, I give a dollar to a tiny beggar boy--the first completely naked beggar I have seen in Brasília. On his way back from the store, he happily waves his bag of potato chips at me, and I bolt after him, horrified.
"Why did you buy this? This is garbage! You need to buy bread, vegetables, rice, beans!" He runs off, crying. "Where are your parents?" He screams at me to leave him alone, but I chase after him, not sure if I should be ashamed of myself for terrorizing this child or resolute in confronting his parents. He winds his way past the stores and across a vacant lot. At the far end of the field, I see the tent he calls home. How long has he lived here? Are these people among the transients who have come to Brasília to beg during the time of holiday good cheer only, or are they permanently ensconced in these tents?
The child is wailing hysterically, and I wonder if my complaining will result in a beating: is that what he really fears? I eye the growing number of homeless bystanders gathering near as the mother approaches me: they could easily encircle me, rob me.... I hold the bag of junk food up to her. "Look, I gave him a dollar, and he bought this: it has no vitamins, no nutritional value." She shrugs and smiles. "The children will get sick eating this crap! They need fruits and vegetables. Do you know how much bread you can buy for a dollar?" I stretch out my arms to illustrate. Why am I doing this? Do I really think this destitute woman does not know how much a dollar can buy?
"The kids don't eat bread," she explains, smiling again. Is she being insolent, or is she smiling from nervousness?
"You need to tell them what to buy!"
"Well, they get money: everyday he goes and buys that."
I argue with her for five minutes, and finally leave, still not sure if I should have done it at all. Potato chips! And at the jacked-up price of the convenience store! He could have bought bread for his entire family. He could have bought underpants. Maybe I should walk around Brasília with a basket of underpants and bread....
"Tell them about the tucuxi," says Adão.
"Ah, yes, there is a second kind of river dolphin called boto tucuxi, which are more like, uhh, harbor porpoises--small and dark and bluish/grayish. These ones nobody is afraid of. There are no bad myths about them: maybe because the other ones are so ugly and strange!" He laughs. "But these littler ones, they are less curious and mischievous, and they do not come near people's boats much. Some people say the tucuxi are very good, and will even save drowning people and carry them to shore, or carry dead people back to the shore or the boat. They swim in big groups, you see? They act more like friendly fish, not like the boto vermelho, which always seems to be sneaking around one or two at a time."
"And tucuxi no take the fisherman fish," adds Adão.
"Fernando," says Stephanie, sitting down with a bottle of Guaraná in her hand, "how did these dolphins get here?"
"Into Amazônia?" She nods. "Well, the Indians have a very strange myth about it, but I do not know if I can tell it right. Something about a great rainy season when it rained and rained and did not stop raining for a single day for ten moons, until the Sulayapo could find no land left anywhere. They were clinging to the tops of trees, starving to death, when their leader had a vision of where they could find dry land. He told them to follow him, but they would have to swim very far. Some of the people refused to go, but most of them went and swam all day and all night until they found the dry top of a very high hill. They ate many fruits from the trees and lived on the top of the hill for one moon. Then the rain stopped...."