Short Stories

Zé Botarras (1st part)

– Has everyone left, Alice?

“I suppose so, Mrs. Alda … I just didn’t see it in the Reading Corner.”

Indeed, in one corner, someone was leaning over a book, regardless of the time of departure. It was José Miguel.

Zé Botarras to friends. Migas for the mother. And simply Joseph to his father. She was a tenth grader in one of the secondary schools on earth, and it was no longer the first time she had seen that slender black-clad body sitting there in that corner of the library.

Now that she saw him standing, Alice remembered that the same figure had caught her attention two or three days ago. Same haircut, same windbreaker and that detail of the leather strap on the wrist. Alice was right. I just found that isolation strange. Yes, because besides going alone, I only looked for the library at dead hours.

– Come on, boy! Do you intend to sleep here? If you want, you can order the book and finish reading it at home.

No, but “thank you” and excuse that forgetfulness … there were books like that! It did not go out without repeating the apology again. In one corner, Dona Alda watched with interest those somewhat unreasonable courtesies of a stranger-looking boy.

– Delicate this boy!

“That’s true, Mrs. Alda,” he said to Alice, walking to the sackcloth door in his hand. “It’s not every day you find a boy in those ways.” But did you notice those botarras ?! They look like the army! Well … is it still late?

– I’ll just have a sneak peek, don’t get something on. Go on, Alice, I’m out after you.

Diligent, the librarian confirmed the lights and windows, and as she passed the Reading Corner, she noticed a loose sheet on the carpet. Print, pages 31/32 of any book … but which one? He turned it both ways, but there was no indication of title or author. She let go, the librarian concluded with the sheet in her hand; Today’s books are no longer what they were, or the defect was at the hands of readers, much sharper nowadays. Optimistic, he preferred to think that the problem was the safety of the spines and already conveys a way to take advantage of the situation pedagogically.

Simple: held a contest to find Cinderella’s foot. Yes, because in 22,000 volumes, it was difficult to figure out which book did not have pages 31/32 and whoever it was, had leafed through the same day. It would therefore appeal to discovery and the right to a premium. With this new project in mind, he finally left the library.

It was winter, it got dark early and the village was full of lights. In the streets and in the houses. In the bedroom, Jose Miguel waited for his mother to finish dinner. As usual, he had an evening program with his colleagues, and although he got lost in the hours with the books, he enjoyed punctuality in meeting his age, and then getting lost in the hours with them. The mother well recommended “Back at eleven, the maximum”, but they often gave the twelve chimes and Jose Miguel without being home. On weekends the situation got a little worse. The mother, accustomed until then to a reserved but dutiful and quiet son, attributed to her son’s recent companions the reason for her nocturnal habits.

“Migas has changed a lot,” her voice was venting to her husband, “ever since you messed with that group from Bairro dos Cabeçudos.” If he was silent with us, he was quieter. And the clothes, Chico … I just wash you and iron black pieces! The underwear is saved in the middle of all that clothes. And the hair?! … And the language … Have you ever heard him talk on the phone ?! Sounds like latrine talk, almost another language!

– These are phases, Assumption! – conciliated her husband, still looking at the sports newspaper – A few more years up and all that passes. When walking at the university …

– If you don’t get lost along the way! I don’t see him pick up a book and look at the first period notes were no big deal!

– You’re in a new school … and look what the boy reads! Do you know where I saw him leave at six today and all? From the Municipal Library! That’s right! Your boy is also into books. Maybe in the bedroom now, it’s back from them!

“Or looking at the clock waiting for dinner time!” He wants is to leave! – risked, unconvinced, Dona Asuncion.

They were both mistaken. José appears at that moment in the kitchen entrance, complaining about the shoe shine brush. She had been back from her boots and liked them to shine.

“You must want them like mirrors to comb that lock!” The brush is there by the tank. – says the mother, taking the last potatoes from the fryer.

Let her hair and boots go … and finish dinner before hunger tightened.

– And friends too! … ‘Okay, let’s go to the table!

They had dinner in silence and Joseph left. Glossy, lock by order, it was made on the way to the house of Sampaio. From there they went to the Little Star cafe where the group should already be. The music was light that night, still a girl, and between cigarettes and beers they were shredding the adventures of the afternoon. Teixeira had been enjoying some songs from Nirvana’s last CD … with the girl, of course! … Where ?! Where would it be? !! In the Teixeiras living room, of course! The Ensign had walked back from the History work that should have been delivered two weeks ago. How dry! … Just copying a few things from an encyclopedia … and no cover put … the prehistoric Monkey no longer deserved! The Sampaio had been trying the Nelas Scooter and had given a speed here on Av. 25 de Abril! The girls couldn’t push the gas!

– What about Joe Botarras? The schism with the Rose, huh ?!

Not to think about it, all afternoon talking to some cool guys that I haven’t seen since the cycle.

– Who? Kick there, O Zé! – insisted the colleagues. He merely answered that they did not know. Going to the library not a word. What would they say about him! There are things that cannot be said anywhere. Still, with all their caution, they had already discovered her crush on Rosa. Just because one day they caught him drawing a button. What a funny thing! P’ró I was going to give him: draw and paint a rose! And it was beautiful! Dangerous weaknesses for a 15-year-old in black dress. What wouldn’t they say if they knew they used to spend three or four hours a week in the library ?! A perfect betinho! On top of that reading fine print. Even if they were music magazines or comics! It was decided … not a word to them. Also because she had a good time with this troupe of Bairro dos Cabeçudos. Cool! Crazy for real!

The other day, at the same time, there was José Miguel in the library. He needed to read Tom Sharpe’s latest book and had more rest there in the late afternoon, with no friends or mother around. Then … carrying a book under his arm was not his style, and who knows what Rosinha would say if she found him.

– With that then just reading the little book! Asks Alice, smiling, recognizing the late client from the day before.

– Look, take a look at the announcement of the contest in the lobby. You may win, as you are a frequent reader!

Jose Miguel wished that this last sentence had been more discreet. Who knows who could have heard her in the room. And it was time for him to go underground. Contest … went to see what it said. LOOSE PAGE LOOKING FOR YOUR BOOK Do you want to help this page? She broke free of her book and was found desolate and orphaned on the library floor. If you are an attentive reader, you can give him a little help! HOW? Maybe because of the type of language Maybe because of the scattered references of the text Are you eliminating hypotheses: fiction or essay? National or foreign? recent or old?

If you find out or want to make a guess, go to the librarian. There is a prize for the first one to get it right. (Continued…) Natália Caseiro The Book Eaters Leiria, Editorial Difference, 1999 (Excerpt)

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