Helena Arcoverde

The Coconut Cracker

Posted in Conto by helenarcoverde on 07/01/2014

The kettle steamed over the makeshift stove. To one side, the uselessly scoured coffee pot. Other trivets stand over the coal with stubs leftovers that compete with the first lights to light up the still dark kitchen, which is adjacent to the miniscule adobe room with some laths showing through. The man stares at the coffee pot. Avidly, he also stares at the dumplings. The woman, noticing his craving, warns him: one for each. He, carefully choses the one he estimates to be the biggest. The children do the same. They are all standing, looking at the dumplings gradually disappear. The woman stares at them, her hands on the hips, impatiently waiting. She pours some coffee into the flowered cup and looks with resignation at the small and empty greasy basin. She takes quick gulps. She walks to the door and, alone, takes to the dusty and dry road. The husband soon catches up with her. They don’t talk to each other. A few kilometers farther down the road, without goodbyes, they part into different directions. He leaves with a machete wrapped in tarnished fabric; she, with just a cloth head pad and a basin that sparkles under the insistent sunrays. Across her chest, a liana bag with a stone and a small hatchet inside. Without any finishing, the handle is wrapped with shreds of fabric. The woman removes a leafy branch from the path. Different shades of green blend in together and a few brown leaves fall gently with the movement. Farther down the road, she bends down to fix the strap of her sandal that already misses a heel support. It’s a mechanical gesture. A few more steps and she stops, aware of having reached her destination. She lays down the objects on the ground amidst the fallen dry leaves and coconuts. Then she starts gathering the ones that are closer to her until they are piled up into a brown mound. She sits down near the objects she had brought along. Crouching, she takes the sides of her skirt and tucks them between her legs. Then, she squats down. Near her there is a stone. She deftly puts the nuts on the stone. They are almost oval, elongated, pointed at both ends. With the hatchet she splits them open. She finishes up the job with her hands. The fruit is concealed by a weaving of elongated fibers. She takes the pulp out of the shell and puts it into the basin. The violated shell is tossed aside. Tired from remaining in the same position, the woman sits and her legs, spread out, form an angle that frames the stone and the objects. When the sun sets, she covers the basin with a piece of cloth. The brown mound is on the other side and the empty shells fall down to join others on the dry soil. The woman fixes the head pad and the basin and starts getting ready to go back. She takes quick and cautious steps. Back home, she will rekindle the fire. She will blow on the embers and will ask the children to go on fanning them. She will fill each dish according to their hunger and to the man’s size before the rooster’s crows reminds her of the next day’s journey.   

ARCOVERDE, Helena Sobral. The Coconut Cracker. In: blog Helena Arcoverde. Translation: SCHLEMM, Martha. Curitiba, 2014.

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The Slumber

Posted in Conto by helenarcoverde on 03/01/2014

Lying down, his look easily settled up high. He was denying time, lingering on the dead spots. He woke up from time unmarked, just as the first sunrays appeared. He never opened his eyes right away. He would rather make sure that he had escaped, unharmed. But in the wee hours of that morning, he sat up abruptly. Birds were moving just a few centimeters from his face. The colors were excessive. After the scare, all he could remember as the shade of coral, although he knew that the others were just as intense. The jolt had scared them away into the slumber zone. He remained motionless for a few minutes, in the face of the unknown, the opening that rarely yields to scrutiny. He feared that opening, which once established, would never again let him to travel to and from daily routine. At night, once again he resisted slumber, but more so, waking up.

ARCOVERDE, Helena Sobral. The Slumber. In: blog Helena Arcoverde. Translation: SCHLEMM, Martha. Curitiba, 2014.

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The Brown Roses

Posted in Conto by helenarcoverde on 02/01/2014

From the top, the canopies of the trees obstructed the view as she went down the steep slope. Before the descent, small flowers that seen from a distance looked like one. Blue as they were, they would soon be brown like all the others. Down below, the bluish branches completely vanished and a tree, also covered with brown flowers, emulated the sadness of the roses. Still absorbed in her activities, the young woman went in, reluctantly. A house devoid of flowers awaited her and she began to take off her Sunday clothes. But it wasn’t even Sunday. She gave up undressing and kept on some of her skin-tight clothes. Besides the underwear, she kept on a fine blouse that hung like silk, but wasn’t. There was music in the house. Her still stiffened legs moved with light steps from one room to the next. It was a lukewarm dance. Two other women joined her. The three danced in complicity. They didn’t touch. One of them swirled around inside a plain dress with some shirring attached to a yoke of the same fabric. The other was wearing a nightgown embellished with cotton lace. It also had a yoke, as if to restrain her. Little by little they began to move away from the young woman who, giving in, interrupts her movement. She walked to the window and once again looked at the tree with the brown roses. Even left at the mercy of the weather, they looked flamboyant. They didn’t seem to mind the bad weather. The young woman, after gazing at them for some time – she could not tell exactly for how long – had gone back to the middle of the room. Her feet frolicked. She didn’t look around. She had forgotten all about her surroundings. She no longer looked at the others. She knew they would not come just yet. She went back to the window and there she gazed at the brown roses until their color blended with the sunset.  

ARCOVERDE, Helena Sobral. The Brown Roses. In: blog Helena Arcoverde. Translation: SCHLEMM, Martha. Curitiba, 2014.