After running around Rio all day, you open the pub doors at five. The air-conditioning remote is in a different place every day. A game you play with the staff. You put it in this drawer. The thing lives here. You wonder if your Portuguese is wrong, right? They all nod. You nod too. You curse them every twelve hours. The doorman is called Big Guy because he is and arrives with the chef called Chef. You go through a chef a week. After the second week, you promise to learn proper names but nothing lasts. You plug in the tunes, pour a pint, and watch Big Guy sweep and sway while calling distributors. You ordered 20 kilos of lemons and 20 kilos of jilo—a Brazilian turnip– arrived. You ask Chef what he can do with them. He says nothing, I can do nothing, my dogs won’t even eat jilo.

Cleber, who is clever, arrives, your head waiter, at 21 he has sired four children with four different women. Who are you to judge if he wants to overpopulate the planet? One whiskey and weed session after closing the topic of vasectomy arises. He screams nunca nunca nunca, grabs his crotch, rolls from stool to freshly mopped floor, curls into fetal position, and propels himself in a yelping circle. We men laugh men loud and men ugly men. Big Guy belly flops onto him. Chef wrestles me into the scrum. Bill Withers croons Use Me. You don’t know how you got home that or the next night until the protests threaten to sober you up from Carnival.

Was that the year of the garbage strikes? Before or after the night the band rocked why don’t we just do it in the road and Big Guy harbored about forty Black Block protesters from the elite riot squad with shields and real not rubber bullets and Big Guy bolted the front door pulled down the shutters and Cleber and Chef soaked all the bar rags jammed them under the door around the window frames over the air-conditioning vents quick now the tear gas still coming through. You go up to the second-floor balcony wishing you were a Julieta or Romeo down below shooting stars upward but the elite squad sees you and fires a tear gas grenade which rolls past your office sofa down the stairs onto the dance floor all moshing you hear the drummer miss a beat then punt the tear gas grenade through the flapping kitchen doors then Black Block go nuts like a winning cup penalty just scored and the cops pound pound cops pounding the door you call your girlfriend to say you might be a little late tonight don’t wait up I love you and she asks if you are high and you giggle eyes watering from the gas of course and love and wonder if you can find the exit any exit or still sign up for that 10-day silent retreat in the hills before Christmas and if you will know your lines aren’t you shooting a tela-novela in the morning as the gringo tourist always gets robbed for the third time this season you are the professional.

You grab a bottle of cachaca and a tray of empty shot glasses tell Cleber to man the bar ask Big Guy if he cares to follow and march straight out the front door damp rags tied over nose and mouth straight into the elite squad firing line hold up the bottle pray they don’t think it’s a Molotov or surrender trick or just straight don’t like you much or managers or free shots you offer them rounds and rounds. You hear the band slow the beat and the protestor join the lead singer who is a diamond and the cops join you and Big Guy singing Tim Maia’s if all the whole world could hear there is much to say we’ve learned in life we must understand, some were born to suffer while others born to laugh, the dream’s all blue. Blue the color of the sea.

7 Comments

  1. Sarah Freligh

    David, I’m a fellow Michigander, now situated in a not-so-small village on Lake Ontario. From one Great Laker to another, I say hello and welcome!

    I love this so much–the rollicking narrative that puts the pedal to the metal from the get and accelerates through those wild turns and the inventive use of language! “We men laugh men loud and men ugly men,” by far my fave. If there’s a better description of dudes being dudes, I haven’t read it. And the opening paragraph is so good for doing exactly what an opening graf of an effective story should do, establishes place and characters and conflict. I get right away that the narrator is as foreign to this place as it is to him and the second person is perfect for that. As a reader, I’ m right there with him,

    I had a momentary time glitch at “Was that the year of the garbage strike?” probably because I read the “One whiskey and weed session after closing” as being the closing on THAT day, the day of the story present. So it’s probably as simple as putting in a time marker that transitions us from the story present to the time of the whiskey and weed session.

    The ending is just light’s out gorgeous! Well done!

  2. Andrea Marcusa

    Hi David! There is so much velocity and life packed into this flash. So much atmosphere and attitude and detail. The detail is rich and original and unexpected. The writing pops. And the feeling is there throughout and comes out in the wonderfully satisfying ending. I was out of breath reading this. The only feedback I have for you would be to set this aside and then prune away stray bits and pieces that may it slow down, cause a speed bump or confuse. I found myself getting a tad off track in places. I wasn’t completely clear about why the cops showed up. And I don’t know anything about Black Block so this may have tripped me up. But honestly, I didn’t really care. What I cared about was this narrator and the ride he was taking me on. Thank you for this. Andrea

  3. Koss Just Koss

    Really fun, uproarious piece. I had to read twice and decide it was okay to be ungrounded and just enjoy the spectacle. So many funny details and a bit surreal. Nice work.

  4. Len Kuntz

    Hey David.

    This was a bullet train of a piece, sailing 160 mph. It reminded me of the first 20 minutes of The Bear on Netflix ( highly recommend it) where everything is manic, but important. It’s fascinating how much you’ve packed in here. I had to read it three times and yet I’m sure I’ve still missed things.
    The different characters, and their unusual monikers are wonderful, and is their participation in the story. I love how you use music/songs to thread things together, and that last paragraph is just terrific.
    This could be the beginning of a novel, though it’s stunning as is.

  5. Robert Vaughan

    Hey DOC, woah!!! This is NIRVANA on speed, and hold on for the ride!!! Feels like a car crash, or some spinning out on acid type of fantasy. Also reminded me of the double shifts I did at 103 Second Ave (East Village, NYC) with the multi-international ethnicities and nick-names, and I’m gonna be late calls to home, and entire nights/ lights out. That violent backdrop is just so fitting here as well, menacing, adding just the right amount of tension. This is chock-a-block-helluva-terrific piece!

  6. Jayne Martin

    I could totally see Quentin Tarantino directing this. Not for the violence, but just for the wonderful madness of it all. It feels like when you have a crazy, wild dream and wake up exhausted wondering WTF was that, but you want to go back to sleep and do it all over again. Terrific piece, David.

  7. Anita Brienza

    David, I see in your bio that you’re writing a novel, and I hope this is it, because as I was reading I kept thinking “I would read a whole book about these people.” The pace of this piece, so breathless and driven – it’s such a ROMP. I loved reading it.

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