Short StoryWorld Literature

The first and last day – A Short Story from Brazil

A story of last day of life of a devoted mechanic, who used to work round the clock

Strangely, one day he avoided working, took a long shower, wore best clothes and went to the bar to enjoy beer whole the day. It was his first and last joyful day of life as at sunset he sustained severe head injuries in an explosion and died after at hospital.          

By Marcelo Pereira Rodrigues

Sebastian was the owner of a mechanical workshop in a small city of Minas Gerais, Brazil. We can almost say that Sebastian lived in the workplace as the workshop was right next to his house. He was so dedicated to his labor that he was always available to help anyone that asked even in the resting hours, and his dedication and love for his work was so much that his hands and nails were always dirty, even after showering, since he was a 24-hour mechanic. His family was already used to the smell of grease that sometimes emanated from him. He was known in the city for being a very nice and respected person. He rarely travelled, only in case he had to do business or to buy any piece of car needed in order to complete a work.

One day, a random Friday, a day as normal as the others, Sebastian´s wife, Alaíde, found strange that his husband was still asleep by six in the morning, when he usually was seen fixing a tire by that time in the shop, so she decided not to say anything and waited, and around six and a half, she asked him if everything was ok.

— Today I´m not going to work — he affirmed.

— Is everything ok? Did you sleep well?

— Yes woman, I´m fine. And please let me sleep a bit longer — He moved to the other side of the bed and covered up, almost covering his entire body.

This was unusual, and for the first time in years he divided the bed. Alaíde got up before Sebastian and went to make coffee and take care of some other duties. She explained to her kids that their father had finally decided to take a day off, which sounded strange to the older children, especially to one of them that already helped Sebastian in the shop, but he decided not to pay that much attention and continued having breakfast, and afterward, he went to open the shop to start the day. The other three children ignored what was happening and got ready to go to school. Once everyone had left and Alaíde was free, she went to the bedroom to see if everything was fine with her husband, she checked Sebastian´s breathing and found he was sleeping so peacefully as never had, even snoring, and she thought; “my husband seems to be fine, and I have nothing to worry about”.

Around nine in the morning, Alaíde heard some noises in the bedroom, Sebastian had woken up and was taking a shower, which it was weird for her wife because he did not usually take long time doing it, and while he took a shower, she decided to play some music in the phonograph of a sertanejo duo of whom the couple liked much. Sebastian also decided to do something different in the shower and removed his beard that adorned his face since a long time; and during the coffee, his wife got completely shocked with Sebastian´s request to cut his nails and remove the dirt, and so they did immediately.

He finished his coffee and with his nails already clean, returned to the bedroom and put on his best clothes, modest, but clean, and said goodbye to his wife Alaíde saying he was going to Adolfo´s bar, the best in town that was not more than 200 meters away from his house to have some beers. Sebastian left without even having a look on the shop to see if his son or the new employee needed any help. The two were amazed when looked at his face and noticed the absence of the beard and the clothes that made him look a completely different person but decided not to comment and continued with work.

Adolfo was just opening the bar and was cooking a feijão (Brazilian dish) with pork and preparing some appetizers, he also got surprised when he saw the client arrive and noticing his new version. He only occasionally came to the bar, asked for a frozen beer and drank it slowly to savour the taste of the barley, in a 600 ml bottle; he took small sips and left making sounds with the tongue savouring the remaining taste of the beer. But this time was different, he arrived and sat on a table on the left side of the bar and took sips while Adolfo asked questions about what had made him change his look, trying to find out if everything was ok with him. Despite the several questions he asked, everything was in vain, Sebastian, all laconic, did not answer and just asked Adolfo to play some sertaneja music, and he did.

When things go different in a small city everyone knows and starts making questions and rumors about it, and as the habitants heard about the unusual mechanic´s day off drinking beer since ten in the morning, the speculations started to spread and many so-called friends of his went to the bar and with some pretexts, tried to find out about the motives of being in the bar since early, some of them even tried to start a conversation and made jokes about his baby-ass shaved face, but as it had happened with Adolfo, no one got an answer. And like that, the day continued in the small city.

Alaíde asked one of her kids that had already returned from school to go to the bar and tell his father that lunch was ready. The boy was ignored by Sebastian, he bought him a candy and sent him back home telling not to wait for him. The oldest son, the one that helped him in the shop, went to the bar to talk about a task he had to do after lunch and to ask him for orientations, but his father instead, bought him a beer and again told him to go home and to act on his own. Sebastian concentrated back on the music and the appetizers; a pork tongue made by Adolfo with so much care for his visitor.

The unusual event and everything that was being said got until the priest of the city, and he went to the bar and got in that perdition hole, according to his strict moral and catholic values. He was going to reprimand the man; but when he saw him, grabbed a chair and Adolfo asked him if he could serve anything to drink, milk or water, but he was solemnly ignored. Father Francisco frowned; he only talked to Adolfo because he usually contributed financially with some works in the church. He then asked:

— Sebastian, people are not talking about anything else but you. Please go home and stop being the reason of so many malicious comments.

— Blessings Father! I´m not doing anything wrong just having some beers and eating. Have a drink with me.

— Respect me! I´m not here for joking…

— My apologies Father! I know you only drink wine without alcohol, or from the church, but I thought…

— You thought…, you thought…, you thought… you´re not thinking about anything. Besides, where have you seen a man in a bar drinking since — he looked at his watch to see the time — it is almost 2 pm, for God´s sake, get off that chair and go home, to your work!

— But Father, once again, I´m not doing anything wrong.

— Do you want a quiet place to be? Then go to church, you´re gonna find all the peace you wish.

— Father, once and last time, respectfully repeat and affirm… I´m not doing anything wrong.

The priest left the bar so angry, ignoring Adolfo once again and almost cursing to the people that had gotten to the bar to see what was happening with Sebastian and the conversation with the priest, but as aforementioned, they could not get any information from the man that had gone to the bar since the morning. As the day continued, the population decided to go back to their duties and responsibilities and let the man alone.

Alaíde was worried at home because she did not get any news from her husband, and occasionally sent one of her children to the bar to see if everything was fine with him, but he was just enjoying the time he never had as he was working all the time, so, everything was normal and Alaíde at home remained calmed every time she got news from him. The older kid already administered very good the shop, since he had been working with his dad for a while now, and he thought that maybe it was a test his father was giving him to see if he could watch after himself and make his own decisions, and inside the house Alaíde thought: Was not already the time for my husband to take a day off and rest from working? But to be accurate, Sebastian was only 46 years old, still young, healthy and strong to work for so many years yet.

Sebastian proved his own drinking ability at the bar and by 6 pm he had already drunk five beer bottles and three Pingas (Brazilian drink), but he was quite sober and continued enjoying the food and appetizers offered by Adolfo since he wanted to treat his client as he never had, Sebastian was just happy and tipsy and repeatedly crooned a song that was played over and over. The bar was full, Genaro, one of Sebastian´s friends, made him company while he drunk his favorite frozen beers and talked about pleasant topics, Genaro was frequenting AA meetings, so he had to reject his friend´s offer to join him drinking, he was only there to watch after his friend and make him company. They were surprised by Sebastian´s oldest son, that had come to the bar to tell his father that he was leaving the shop for a while, as he was going to the neighbor city to visit his girlfriend; and came to ask his dad to be in charge of the shop while he was gone. Sebastian saw his son and felt a sudden pride, it was like he was reflecting in a mirror and watching himself twenty-four years younger. He took a hundred thousand cruzeiros bill (ancient Brazilian currency) and gave it to his boy, who said thanks and left, not without drinking before a beer offered and served by his father.

The bar was getting crowded with lots of clients arriving to drink and to also see Sebastian, and in between all the chaos, music and noise, something unexpected happened; Alaíde arrived looking for her husband; she was worried that he had not gotten back home during the whole day. When she got in, everything went quiet, no one said a word, everyone was expecting to hear shouts and fighting with the couple, but on the contrary, when she saw Sebastian drinking, she saw that he was really happy and enjoying the moment, like she had never seen him before; and she felt remorse of being there, because deeply she knew that women did not go to bars, so she decided not to say or do anything and returned home, asking Adolfo to watch after his husband as she did not want anything to happen to him.

Around 8 pm, a man walked into the bar wanting to know who the mechanic in the city was, he had a flat tire, and he was told the man on the table of the left was the one. And he walked towards him.

— Excuse me sir, can you please help me? I have a flat tire and I wondered if you could fix it!

Sebastian looked at the man, and pointing at a chair so he sat down said:

— It is my day off boy! My son is in the neighbor city and my assistant, that good-for-nothing is in the school. I cannot do anything.

— Please sir, I gently ask you to help me. I must continue with my work. Would you make an effort?

— You are a working man, I get that. Why don´t you sleep here tonight? Tomorrow morning, very early I fix the tire and you can continue.

—  I can´t, believe me. Of course, if there was not any other way, then I would have to, but I want to continue and I would appreciate if you helped me. I have some deliveries to make in the next cities before returning home.

— I´ll fix the tire tomorrow morning.

— I´m sorry for insisting, I will be generous with the payment.

— I didn´t ask you to be, you´re offending me.

— Please! My wife and my daughter expect my arrival.

Sebastian accepted to help the man. He paid the bill despite of Adolfo´s insistence to pay later and left the bar. They went to Sebastian´s home, he introduced his wife and went straight to his bedroom to change and put on his working clothes. In the living room, Alaíde offered dinner or a drink to the guest as she used to do it, but he declined. Ten minutes later Sebastian returned, he had squirted some water in the face to lose a bit the alcohol-effect and was ready to fix the tire and help the man continue with his journey. Opened the shop to get the car in and started working on it. He removed the tire, put a new one, and he was making sure the two tires were calibrated, when, out of nowhere, an explosion occurred. Sebastian´s body was thrown away from the truck and immediately Carlos and other two guys that were just passing by ran towards him to pick him up; the scene was not very good. His head was partially open, like he had been hit by a Comanche Indian. They turned the lights on to see more clearly the injured and they looked as his brain drained out his skull, and in an instinctive act, he put his hands in his head as he did not know the gravity of the incident.

He was urgently taken to the hospital of the neighbor city that was eighty kilometers away, his family did not think if he was going to make it, but it was surprising to see how he struggled and resisted. Once they arrived, he went directly to ICU in critical condition, he survived and without having any notion of what had happened, he got into vegetative state. The days were passing; his family was not certain if he was going to recover and be the person he used to; they hoped that still that would happen. One day while they were expecting news about him, they were told that there was a possibility for him to recover by doing a brain surgery, but there was also the possibility that he would suffer damages in the process and this would cause him to be blind, paralyzed or worse, speech and memory impediments, it was hard to say and admit that the hardworking man and responsible with his family and job was gone forever. After a long surgery and ten days of recovery, his family was allowed to see him, they were shocked to see how much weight he had lost and his critical condition, they were prepared to expect the worst but not prepared to let him go. And even though he was skinny and talked slowly, he was alive and recovering, and that was enough for them. His head was wrapped in bandages, and his vision was barely good to recognize his family, they were so happy to see their father and husband was fine, he asked for dessert, and they served Canjica; and after the visiting time, they left with the impression that he would get over it and would be the Sebastian they knew, despite the severe effects.

But the same night, Sebastian closed his eyes to never wake up again and faded away from his memory all that no longer existed his life.

____________________

Marcelo Pereira Rodrigues-Brazil-Writer-Sindh courierMarcelo Pereira Rodrigues, 47, is a writer (chronographer and novelist), philosopher, lecturer and literary agent. He is editor-in-chief of the Revista Know-te, a monthly periodical that continues uninterruptedly for 20 years. He has written the following books: “Very Human Too Much” (Chronicles, 2002); “We” (Chronicles, 2003); “23 Hours: 59 Minutes: Reminiscences of What’s to Come” (novel, 2004); “A Café com Sartre” (novel, 2006); “Pimenta, Sal & Alho” (Chronicles, 2007); “My Women” (novel, 2009); “The Idiot Philosopher: The Forbidden Book at UFSJ” (novel, 2011); “Acústico MPR: The Worst Successes & The Best Failures by Marcelo Pereira Rodrigues” (essays, articles and biography, 2012). “Rope sobre o Abyss” (novel, 2013), “Rope sobre o Abyss or O Prado da Desesperança” (novel, 2015, also released in Portugal, Angola and Cape Verde). “Perfume de Mulher” (chronicles, articles and essays, 2015), “A Coffe With Sartre” (released on AMAZON), “A Queda” (novel, 2017) and “Fernando, O Lusitano Brasileiro” (biography, 2018). His latest novel, “A Queda” (“La Caída”), was translated into Spanish and published in AMAZON. He has just published “Um Mergulho na Literatura Clássica” (essays and literary reviews, 2021), in Brazil, Portugal and Switzerland, by Éditions Helvetia, from Switzerland. His literary agency has disseminated Marcelo’s writings in Spain, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Puerto Rico, United States, Russia, Singapore, Italy, France and Portugal. Participate in literary competitions around the world. He is a member of the AILB (International Academy of Brazilian Literature) in New York. He is a columnist for the website O Barrete, in Porto, Portugal.

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