CHAPTER 43 – Untitled, by Valério Romão

©Sara Bichão, Meio dia / Midday www.sarabichao.com


Translated by Felix Macpherson

Edited by Sarah Jacobs

“Secondly, and while I love samba, Chico and Caetano and drinking caipirinhas on Ipanema beach when I go to Rio as much as the next person, I don’t see why I alone should have to take responsibility for cleaning up someone else’s mess.”

“Fuck, I hate being forced between a rock and a hard place.”

(Teresa hardly ever swore aloud, but she did so profusely in her head)

Man, I can’t do it, it’s too much responsibility. And that speech of yours didn’t even make sense. I loved my grandfather to bits – God rest his soul – but it’s the professor who pays my salary. Secondly, and while I love samba, Chico and Caetano and drinking caipirinhas on Ipanema beach when I go to Rio as much as the next person, I don’t see why I alone should have to take responsibility for cleaning up someone else’s mess. Look, can’t we come up with some sort of compromise?

“I’m sorry, Teresa, but I’m structurally binary, I’m programmed to make unequivocal decisions.”

“Hold on, hold on.”

Teresa chuntered to herself:

“This guy’s trying to con me with that speech about – “

“Teresa, you have five seconds to make your decision.”

“Hold on though, wasn’t that the time it would take for you to self-destruct after opening the box? I haven’t even touched the box!”

“Five”

“Look, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, this isn’t the time for – “

“Four”

“For Christ’s sake, there’s no need to be so stubborn – “

“Three”

“Wait! Wait! What happens if I don’t choose?”

“Two”

“Tell me what happens, for fuck’s sake!”

“One”

A quantum silence, time stretching out like cheese on a slice of pizza wrenched suddenly from its mother, etc.

“Nothing.”

“What?”

“Nothing happens – nothing at all!”

“I don’t get it, Reboredo, what kind of shit joke is this?”

“I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you swear in public”, commented the professor.

“Are you alright, Professor? What’s going on? I’m totally lost!”

“Never better, my dear.”

SURPRISE!

Dangling from the ceiling of the cave like seventh-dan yoga students, the choir of bats echoed:

SURPRISE!

“Do you like it?” asked Reboredo. “It took us almost four years to teach them to do it that many times. The idea was for them to say ‘surprise’ three times, but all the shortages meant we could only get enough food for two, and the bats’ union – which, between you and me, is much stronger than many of your own – didn’t like the look of the rations we were going to offer them – and scarcely had any of this got back on track, when – ”

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut your mouth this second or I’ll smash your face in with my own head.”

(Teresa pointing at Roberto, her index finger jabbing in his face, as they often do in the theatre but here, real.

The android, although comparatively sturdier than a human being, could not help but shut his trap and shrink back a couple of steps. Teresa, before discovering her immense gift for epidemiological virology, was European mixed martial arts champion).

“Professor, where’s this all going?”

“Look, my dear Teresa, the truth is that we wanted to give you a little surprise for your birthday, and you’ve been so busy jumping from chapter to chapter, trying to make some sense of all this that you haven’t given a moment’s thought to yourself. What you need – at least just for one day – is to forget about your duties as protagonist. Too much work does no-one good, you’ll waste away before this is even over – and the producers really don’t want that storyline.

“It’s my birthday?”

“It is, my dear.”

“What day is it?”

“It’s the day you were born.”


Read the original chapter in Portuguese


Valério Romão (France, 1974) has released three novels with the publisher Abysmo: Autismo (2012), O da Joana (2013) and Cair para dentro (2018); three collections of short stories, Facas (Companhia das Ilhas, 2013), Da Família (Abysmo, 2014), Dez razões para aspirar a ser gato (Mariposa Azul, 2015); and two plays, A Mala (Guilhotina, 2015), and Irina, Macha, Olga (não, 2016). His books have been published in Brazil, Italy and France. In 2016, Autismo was shortlisted for the Femina Prize in France. He is also a translator and a playwright..

Felix Macpherson studied Spanish and Portuguese at university, and has a master’s in translation studies. He first became interested in Portuguese when trying to translate the lyrics to Brazilian funk songs as a teenager, and is still passionate about Brazilian music. Felix now works primarily in online suicide prevention technology but still loves to translate when the opportunity arises. He has lived in Colombia, Portugal, and Mozambique, and is now settled in London.


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