Ruben was a young man who spent his life in the mall. I only bought designer clothes. I only ate at the pizza place or at McDonald’s. I only saw the world through the cinema. Just up escalators. I only talked to friends in the crowded corridors. He only knew that it was spring when the shop windows took off their coats and dressed the mannequins in light, colorful clothes.
When your birthday came, it was always a problem to choose from the thousands of objects on display in the mall.
– What gift would you like to receive? His parents asked him when one week was missing for this wonderful date, June 29th.
He didn’t mess up.
– Oh, I want so many things … games for my console, some Nike sneakers, an Adidas jacket, a fantastic DVD movie, a panoramic TV, an electronic organizer, a camera phone, a green hair gel, a Coke-smelling ballpoint pen, a transparent backpack, socks with extraterrestrial monsters, an earring for the left ear, an eagle tattoo, black trousers with twenty pockets, new notebooks with portraits of football stars, a box of cherry-filled chocolates, boxers in the seven colors of the rainbow, a keychain with a flashlight, some signature sunglasses, a …
– What a madness! Exclaimed her mother. – Do you think we’re millionaires?
“Why,” replied Ruben, “what is the money for?” And if they don’t have it, they can use the credit card. Buy now, pay later. That’s what everyone does in the mall.
The father was stunned.
– What the consumer society comes to! Just want to spend …
– Sure! Said the boy. – My dream was to have a portable cash machine to always be on the lookout. With notes jumping all the time …
The following nights the parents, instead of being paralyzed in front of the television as usual, began to whisper.
The big day has finally come. The room was decorated with balloons and a beautiful birthday cake glittered on the table. But no package could be seen. Her parents kissed her as usual and handed her an envelope.
– Money! He enthused. – It can only be money! So I choose the gift at ease.
He opened the envelope, beaming. How good to buy, buy, buy! What a disappointment! He found only one bus ticket for Vilar de Geckos.
– What kind of bad joke is this? Shouted Ruben. “If you think I should travel, why don’t we go to the Seychelles, why not go on a safari in Kenya, or climb to the top of New York’s skyscrapers?” In America there are certainly fantastic shopping centers. Vilar de Lagartixas is not advertised by travel agencies … What will my colleagues think?
The mother still laid a teardrop on the left eye, but the father was uncompromising:
“It will only do you good to know a different land, where you don’t spend your life spending money!”
So Ruben hid his destiny from everyone. What a shame! What a disappointment! The boy unwillingly packed his bag and furiously boarded a ragged pickup truck. He hung up the phone, tore off the stationery they had been given. No one would have to hear from him. It was his revenge.
Days, weeks, more than two months went by. Class time was about to begin again. What would be made of Ruben? Could she have survived in a lost hamlet without shopping centers? Would it have gone mad?
It was with concern that the family waited for him at the bus station on the due day.
Instead of getting off a passenger bus, he got out of a cargo van. At first they could not even recognize it. It was taller, stocky, with a smile on its lips.
– Then? Did you know about poverty?
– Not! – answered the boy with conviction.
The mother was amazed.
“I am told there is no electric light in that place.”
“But thousands of stars illuminate the night,” he explained. – It’s Wonderful!
The sister wrinkled her nose.
– But have a pool?
– For what? You would see the beach by the river. You can go swimming, boating, fishing for trout.
“I couldn’t live without a gym to keep fit,” she continued, always concerned about elegance.
“I didn’t find any stools like you there.” People do gymnastics outdoors, walking and working. You pay “to do gymnastics” … You’re really silly.
Dad was already suspicious of so much change.
– Didn’t you miss our car? You insisted so much for me to buy this model …
“Why, I have ridden horses that run without roads.” And they don’t pay a fine for stopping outside the car park. (This is what happened to his father.) If the knight falls asleep, they will even return home alone. Does your car know the way home?
Then, very sententious (even looked like his grandfather Augusto!), He crossed his arms and said:
– They did well to send me there. I found that money is not everything in life. I had time to think and I brought you some gifts …
He clambered to the back of the truck and appeared with a piglet, which soon began to grunt.
– It’s for you to raise, mother. Butchers’ bifanas do not compare with homemade pigs.
– How horrible! Where do I get this animal? Only if it’s inside the bathtub …
The boy went back to the truck and pulled out a cherry tree, which he handed over to his sister.
“Sis, there are no more beautiful earrings than freshly picked cherries.
And to prove it was true, he hung two very red fruits in one ear….
“How do I plant this tree if we don’t even have a balcony?” She exasperated. – Only if it’s on the sidewalk … But it’s jammed with cars…
However, the best was yet to come. He went to the truck for the third time, whistled, and from there jumped five very furry dogs.
– As you wanted to buy an alarm because of the robberies, now have the problem solved. With these guards no one comes into the house. Didn’t have a good idea?
The father turned pale. Five dogs! Who was going with them? Did they sleep in the living room? What an expense to eat so much canzoada!
They got into the car, squeezed between the tree, the pig and the barking canids.
– For now everything is in the garage of the building! – resolved the father.
But the neighbors didn’t find it funny at all!
“This is not a pigsty, a kennel, or a garden.” Get those specials out of here!
And what remedy but to obey …
Ruben laughed out loud, her sister mocked, her parents were in despair….
– Oh bro, don’t you miss the mall? We could go eat a pizza … – the sister remembered.
– But where do we leave the presents? – replied the mother – At home not, that everything messes me!
“In the car even less, that my upholstery is destroyed,” said his father.
– Great! Go with us! – decided Ruben right away. – But I want to go on foot! Today I’ve done 400 kilometers sitting. I am even sick!
Her mother could barely walk on the sidewalk with her very thin, high-heeled boots that slipped between the rocks. The sister was very tired…. His father was distressed by the five dogs on his leash, each pulling at his side. Ruben had fun with the tree under his arm and the piglet on his back….
People would stop for a walk to admire this extravagant family. Finally they arrived. The security guard didn’t want to let them in, but his father shut him up soon.
– We are salesmen. This is our merchandise.
They went to the pet store, and then their father and mother tried to leave the dogs and the pig.
Then they entered the plant store and the owner immediately bought them the cherry tree. It made a piston in the middle of the flowerpots.
– We got some money from the gifts you brought from Vilar de Geckos! Exclaimed the three.
– Now you can buy some of the gifts you wanted for your years. You are happy?
“Didn’t they say I was a consumer?” Who just wanted to spend money? Well, I’ll buy bus tickets so we can all go on holiday together, at Christmas, to Vilar de Lagartixas! Luísa Ducla Soares Buy, buy, buy Porto, Civilization Publisher, 2010 (adaptation)