02.16.09

The Beheading

Posted in Excerpts at 11:24 am by admin

EXCERPT  - Chapter Thirteen – THE BEHEADING

The Florianopolis Market Place

The Florianopolis Market Place

I loved going to the market with Vadica; in fact, I loved going anywhere with her.  We rose early to catch the five-thirty bus into town.  When we stepped onto the coblestone street, the air was cool, and there was a slight fog over the ocean.  I was nine years old.  The sun had barely risen.

Even that early in the morning, Florianopolis was already busy.  The public market, built in 1898, was framed by two red stucco buildings, each the length of a football field.  Between them was an expansive corridor, filled with stalls.  Inside vendors peddled meat, bacalhau (codfish, a Brazilian staple), and shrimp. as well as rich sweet egg breads and toasted manioc.  Outside, produce seller carts spilled over with towers of lime, bananas, coconuts, etc…Vendor called out over the festive strains of live Brazilian samba.

Vadica and I heard a scream coming from the far end of the corridor.  We were twisting our way through the produce carts to see what was happening when a headless man reeled towards me.  Blood spurted from the place where his head had recently been.  He jerked blindly like the chickens I killed every Saturday for our Sunday dinner.  Behind him his assailant waved a bloody machete.  I watched the dying man stagger for yards and yards—though really it could only have been four or five long steps—before his body crumpled to the ground.

Graceann’s Comments

I remember this scene like it happened today.  I will not forget the deep pain in my stomach and the sudden urge to throw up.  I could not believe what I had seen.  Was this a terrible night mare? It could not have happened.  Vadica and I turned right around and went to the bus stop and took the next bus home  I had many night mares over this and never returned to the market place for many years there after.  I’m always asked,  “Did everyone seem alarmed ? ”Did the police get called ? ” “ Was it in the local newspapers and radio news?”   I was not allowed to read the newspaper or listen to the radio so cannot answer these questions.  However, years later as an adult, I told this story to my friend Luiz Sabino.  I thought he would have heard about it or would be shocked at such a story.  His answer was, “Grace, things like that happened all the time, and I doubt if the police were even called.  It was just two men settling their differences.”  Life in Florianopolis and Coqueiros was very cruel,at times.   We lived close to life and death, be it the death of an innocent baby or a fighting adult.  It was accepted as the “way it is.”  When one does not have hope that better things are possible, it is easy to accept tragedy as “a way of life” or even  as “God’s will.”  That is perhaps why people in my neighborhood accepted their circumstances without letting it destroy them.

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