Four: Paxiúba


Someone said,”Hey!”.  (The voice, like what?)

It was that big strapling caboclo Paxiúba who is entering this story and talking - at this time about nineteen years old, but already endowed with size, reputation, status, at a height of six foot three.  (Ah yes, I remember him all too well.  We get old but before dying, memory revives us and we live in it until the tamp of time snuffs us out; a glossy, big tomcat swipes his tongue in the forgotten stillness, nothingness, so that we disappear; it will be as if we never existed, not even as a fictional character which is what we are.)  But his bestial eye sees everything, and registers it – his voice like a fly on the blood rose and void of conversation.  It was said Paxiúba was the son of a black man from Madeira-Mamoré, Barbados, and a  Caxinauá Indian woman, whom I did not know, and became legendary and eternal - it was he himself approaching, rowing, silent and menacing in the height of the morning towards the lush growth in front of Laurie Costas's door, located on the left bank of Hell's Bayou which was subsumed and meandered through the renowned plain.


So he came saying only: “Hey!” addressing himself to a certain Zilda, the wife of Laurie Costa, a washerwoman, squatting, crouching over a smooth, leached itaúba board, a soapy scrubbing board, - she had not even seen him nor could she foresee him covering her entirely like an gigantic caiman -  Paxiúba in his dugout, a handsome spectacle to see (in a literary sense), an enormous tetrapod, as I thus later came to know, a dark caboclo and tiger, huge, wanton, with snake eyes, bold, intensely savage, fierce, shining in the yellow eye of the sun, ferocious, his noble musculature would make the statues in the Louvre envious, head raised on a thick neck, solid, alert, belligerent, murderous, frightening subjectivity - it was thus he was coming, cynical, predatory, sparing or tolerating no one, not even a judge, as if he were saying to himself: “I know you: I know who you are” - the certainty of guilt, the indecent and menacing look enough to frighten a policeman – his power came from the the smell of the tonka bean tree that extracted from his easy victim the expected confession, indeed, he weakened and anesthetized people, putting them to sleep under his power (it was known he was never to be trusted) - imposing his bulk which backed up his bloody designs and commands, acquisitions and pleasures, which he found in the depths of ourselves, wrenched out and submitted to his access, ah, the brute, but primordial: from the fleeting impression to the exact and guilty certainty that, in the logic of our dark innocent region, coerces and presses to reveal itself, impelled outward by a hypnotic force toward new submissions, smiles infiltrating into the cracks of power from which he rules, cunning and intimate, in the empty intersection and prohibition of response, in the inversion of retrograde forces, unmasked roguery, his sole nobility, any left-over dignity: “Speak his truth” was the language of an order from his eyes in the perfidy of his sensual and perverse smile, underscored by an outline of sin that photographed us, that spoke to us, in the considered mirror of indignities.  It would not be good to meet Paxiúba suddenly on a deserted road.   He demanded caution; fear and mute experience of a dim familiarity with sensitivity was seen in the transmission of his secret.  In one word: obvious.  When he left, people crossed themselves.  Because he came off as a warrior of irregular seasons, of inverse time, of the most remote, crafty mechanisms, of corporeal possibilities that were his prerogative, out of the ordinary and capable of much accomplshiment, forming an alert and ready muscle.   Paxiúba, emblem of overgrown and brutal Amazonia, shadowy, unknown, pernicious.  And the dugout, having traversed areas requiring caution, gently collided into the plank of the dock where Zilda was washing clothes, white and clean, shining, suds rising and going forth in soapy and glassy bubbles scattering on the white edge of the river's surface reflected by the sun and in religious purification of the water.


With her back to him, (she didn't know that would be the day) Zilda attentive to her work, concentrated, absorbed - and plop - she beat the wash against the heavy soap board to scatter the accumulated heaps of flying and colored bubbles into the air, vaporized, elevated, exploding into little panics.  And the fixed urgency of his look frightened her and made her feel ill, like the coming of a sickness, of death, in a quickly developing turnabout into hatred, nausea, loathing and congested phlegm.  The voice she heard in its flight of sounds, native sounding, diction of a conniving phenomenon, curiously sharp, metallic, like a needle in its vibratory height, plucking and peeling of arpeggios and aggressive trumpets, and undertones of violin and harpsichord, a continuous ensemble behind the domination of the whinny of an excited horse with a black and shiny mane, a voice that she didn't know where it came from, as from all sides but not from his mouth, and yet it reverberated in the opposite direction, outside of the surrounding space, like it immediately came out strong from his abdomen, and generating, to the extent that it existed in lax and heavy modulations, an entreating and irresistable appeal, a low and earthy blow, but attentive, like a snake that makes itself known as a queen, propagating, gradual, delayed, primal, intrinsic, in the glands of an established and fecund operation, the nervous schemes of his body's musculature and primary clinical urges and needs, awakened and abounding, hard, such “ssss” vibrations inclined to weaken a woman's supports and defenses.


 Zilda was stirred inwardly under that pressure, troubled, and in a panic, with loathing and odious horror, feeling herself affected by the hospitable penetration of the killing and bestial head of that voice, native of the tonka bean tree, fructifying earth – autonomous and sibilant timbre of a serpent, not aggressive but insistent, of a demonic audacity that said: “I know you”.  And which was saying: “You can't hide from me”.


Now she knew.  She knew in her whole being the outcome of that voracity, what his body wanted.  She knew what he expected of her.  Sickness: her guard dropped, apprehensive, hidden, cowering, squatting, exposed to the intimacies of that sound.  What happened then?  She could have secured the gun that was always kept behind the shrine of Saint Rita.  But she was afraid of the paralysis of her will.  Her husband far away.  The nascent aggressive figure.  Confrontation.  Her wet clothing leaving bare the solid, concrete, white corpulence of her large breasts and her mature woman's body, ripe for fecundation, skirt between plump legs attainable in the amplitude of morality. 


Due to the Morgados, her husband was the only rubber tapper on the Manixi plantation who was able to bring along a wife.  Laurie Costa was a favorite; Bataillon liked him and approved, though provisionally.  Zilda became the personal laundress of the Palácio's linens, except those laundered in Lisbon, as the dross of the river water, beggars' water as it was called, soiled some of the laundry.  The Morgados, having sold the plantation of the Riachuelo Bayou upon the direct order of Dona Isabel Morgado who was afraid of the fevers, had become rich enough to move to Lisbon, where they settled in the Amoreiras district.  Laurie and Zilda said good-bye to their friends, the Indian Iurimão and his young Indian wife Ianu, who went to Rio Ji-paraná, where they were never heard from again.


 Now then,  Paxiúba was walking dangerously near on the dock, his glance fixed on his prey and near the lurking malice of an odious and arrogant false friend; alert, she drew back instantly, polarized, armed in the preservation of the defense of her integrity against the straight aim of that corruptor's look.  She hoped that Paxiúba would not come nearer, that he would exclude her from any harm ever since the time he was a person of the Palácio, head of the police apparatus of the plantation, body guard of Zequinha Bataillon (they said a friend who slept with the boy), a man of primary importance.  Paxiúba, armed assassin, eagle and snake, eliminated whoever needed to be in his function of coercing and killing.  Thus, the cynical face, perverse and damp, glued on her, possessing something that pulsated in him, in delight.  Oh, this was happening when she was alone in the hours of her solitary drudgery.  The king's gunman, Paxiúba, police soldier.  A look was enough to know he would exact something, examine, humiliate her, corner her, surreptitious, excessive, cynical, obsessive, dominating, provocative, pornographic, hypnotic.  Greater danger: he was looking at her!  It meant that he saw her, was aware of her, powerless against that devastating, forced, psychologically invasive and debauched knowledge.  Would she tell her husband?  No, she would say nothing to prevent the death of Laurie Costa, her only darling.  She loved him, the most kind of men.  But she didn't have children, she couldn't.  And what's more: she never felt anything with him.  She served her husband.  Only a loose woman should have an orgasm.  Laurie would kill her if she moaned, experience pleasure.  Trying to impregnate her Laurie regularly got on top of her with his clothes on and not touching her.  A child would be the cement for a happy family.  She married quite young, guided by her godmother Rita, from one of the best families of Vila da Serra da Mernoca, in Ceará; then had come a prolonged, approved courtship.  They went to Roçado de Dentro, but godmother Rita died, the crisis came and, banished, they had to come to the Amazon.  Laurie always reliable, proper.  Now peace infiltrated by the tonka bean tree.  In the last few days she was troubled, becoming sick just being seen by that brute.  The situation got worse with the weekly solicitations.  Paxiúba showed a certain affection, courtesies, in a choking voice that indicated that he was still a child after all.  And Zilda, disliking it because he was a bully, read in those eyes what he wanted, expected, begged for and which said: “I will wait for you.  You will be with me one of these days”.     


Zilda's house was a one-room thatched hut with a floor of beaten clay, walls and doors of rasp palm, with two doors: one opened over the bayou passing below; the other opened onto the forest ahead where there was a garden box on four poles.  Their dog had died, bitten by a snake, leaving her even more alone.  The smell of beans cooking on the fire came from the kitchen located by the door into the bush.  But,  Paxiúba was coming towards her, the smell of tonka bean tree upon her.  He had a present, a big cichlid spread out on a plam leaf, barely alive.   Paxiúba was the best fisherman of the Amazon, as if by magic, with his eye of a snake of the hypnotic and horrifying type.  Almost happy with the fish, Zilda felt her hatred increase in a brutal rush.  It was the first time she hated somone; remoseful, she crossed herself.  She felt nauseated near the fellow, her mouth contracted from disgust, from repugnance of something repulsive, phlgem, thick gum like latex, her mouth filled with saliva that she spit out when he came to her, which seemed strangely satisfying for the brute, as if she were spitting out of love.  She never looked at him directly, however; gathered into his desire by her timid look, she was afraid to glance at him, so as not to take in directly and see something menacing.   But there came to her in the last few days such a foolish, silly idiocy, a dizziness of enchantment, a jinx in the smile from the lips of the fellow; she became paralysed without strength, anesthetized without power, useless in spite of his ugly face and a smirk that came to have an energy, an excitement (as it was insane) that crazed, she plunged against herself in a vain reflex awakening a certain irresponsibility and attraction in the weight of an unknown madness and the strange fragrance that emanated from her body such that everything that boy represented to her, might contaminate her; it was the force of the Manixi Palace's power, the splendor of the rubber plantation, in its orgy of charismatic luxury -  Paxiúba, the brother of Zequinha (son of Dona Iphigenia, her mistress) - all that resounded in her contradictory dreams, in everything wrong and other in her life, ingrate and destroyed, without discretion and now without a future, here, unlucky, lost, idle in the Amazon, the most far away of worlds, and she knew well that the body of that brute, mainly the broad chest and handsome shoulders, exuded the heat of power of the Bataillons as if he were the firm and strong iron of the authority and glory of the estate, imbued with that fragrance of tonka bean, oily, contaminated; she also felt it within her as the odor of love, honey from the body of unknown love in the midst of soapy sweat on the skin.


Then what happened was the following: Zilda unable to refuse him, she picked up the fish from the palm of that hand, without touching it and no thank you's, rose decisivley from her work leaving the laundry there in its soap suds and went stright and quickly; in the house she took the lid off of the jug and drank a mug of well water that made her choke – but it was when she saw in a panic that man displaying himself there in her house, without being able to react that she became ill, twisted inside, struck dumb; he seized her firmly by the wrists with those enormous hot hands and she yielded completely, so that when she decided to scream the scream did not come; she collapsed at the moment of being bound with him, defenceless, drunk, silly, washed out and nauseated, suffocating... Oh! grief of griefs!  Oh! defeat of defeats!  Oh, woe, the weakness of the human condition.  “Quiet, little one!” he was saying in a gentle voice... “Be a good little girl”, he begged, whispering very softly in her ear, adding: “Keep still, my love”.  Demons!, how soothing was that soft and docile voice, for the victim horrifyingly docile!, she bleeding inside, irregular, against a monster of so many initiatives and resources that she encountered within her a treacherous demon, allied with an enemy, hidden in darkness, seeing how helpless it was to react, to struggle, disengaged, the impregnating enemy in the contraction of disconnected forces.  The cry was fast and terrifying.  It could have been heard at the Manixi Palace if it had been heard there.  It was as if she was being swallowed alive.  It was the cry of the oppressed, of despair, of horror in the encounter with inimical forces...


On the next day Zilda's husband was dead, his liver pierced by an arrow.


But the day before, after Paxiúba left saying to her “thank you, my love”, she remained stretched out on the floor and realized she was not going to die while her husband was on his way bringing her a stalk of bananas gathered from the road beyond the risky limits of the Numa and their signs marked in the shadows of the edges of Hell's Bayou; at home he found the cichlid cooked and fragrant, prepared in sauces with fine herbs, a beautiful fish, king of Amazonia.

What more? How? Unexpectedly the day after, as he had not seen where he was tearing the veil, he had departed from the boundary and broke the law; he was suddenly killed at the limit where Amazonia determined the directions to the right and to the left, boundaries of the Numa which were there and were advancing, finding their origin in everything and everywhere realizing the course of their weave of nodes that reveal nothing of themselves and upholding themselves, in blood veins that cover it in Amazonia, in its permutation, in its alteration, in all its unknown grandeur. The corpse was thrown in front of the Palácio as a warning. And in those same days there occurred important events in other places and times, historical and decisive for this fiction and which I will relate at the opportune moment, but for now, I have some surprises of many other occurrences