He arrived to the hamlet at dawn. A cold and wet dawn with drizzling rain. Obvious evidence that it was already winter. It had been a laconic phone-call: “the old bag kicked the bucket. Come ‘cos if you don’t, people will talk.” Actually, leaving at night, having to listen to a taxi driver babbling about something on his way to the train station, driving him up the wall on a slow train to Castelo Branco and getting sick for more than thirty kilometres on his way to Cebolais did not make his ideal weekend. At 5 a.m. he was snorting in his sleeping bag in the living room of his cousin’s before getting ready to attend the funeral. He had left working projects, reading and trivial matters behind and his keys at his neighbour’s, with instructions to feed his cat and his parakeets who collected complaints from neighbours who could not endure Sunday morning noise, feathers, dust, with parakeet seed on window sills, little poo stains, stronger than rust on drying clothing. His favourite was his cat, rescued from street rubbish containers. His behaviour was not too different from that of a dog. He had been named Jardel, Pimpas, Michifu, Renault and Latex. In the end, he was named after the funny name of Balthasar because he had devoured a whole bolo-rei. He usually laid on the entrance hall carpet when I went to work and there he stayed curled during the day. As I returned, he would jump onto my lap, and purred as loudly as the sound of a refrigerator motor.
It had started to rain, and he buried his shoes in the mud as he remembered his grandfather in the priest's words, protected by a reassuring umbrella held by the rough hands of Firmino blacksmith, a bosom friend of his grandfather, who had always warned against the possibility of being fooled by gypsies in the business involving apparently bright flaxen chestnut horses which after being washed became gray, with rough hair and bad teeth. This was the sort of thing that should not be mentioned at a time as this. He should also accept his uncle’s ride; the daughter of the policeman Zé should not also have fled with a man before getting married to him first. He should also say goodbye and he should also accept kind offers, such as cabbage, olive oil, rye bread, arbutus brandy and the genuine smile of those who thought the future was at the end of the tarmac road to Lisbon. He accepted the ride. The rain started to fall again silently and the treacherous fog was strong enough to beat the laws of physics. A tight curve and the car slid on the slope, falling apart-and broke into chains, tires and shrapnel.
The parakeets... you have to be careful so that they won’t fly through the little door; it’s not safe, you know, I had to use a paper clip to hold it to the plastic bottom. And the cat... cat food... salmon! He likes salmon pâté, the cheap one; that one in the round can sold at the local grocer’s...