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  • Three Stories
  • Marcelino Freire (bio)
    Translated by Claude Henry Potts (bio)

Somebody Killed the Lifeguard

We're happy. It's Sunday in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro. Children roll around in the sand. The beach spins. There are asses here from every corner of the planet. If some of them make it worse, others make it better—like the drumming section of a samba school, like blacks playing soccer. Nobody wants to know about the rain. I'm not going to be the rain. In such sweltering weather, Sunday is a perfect day for dozing off. Rio is one big smile. Hey, this is beginning to sound like a guidebook.

We're happy because our coastline spans more than 7 ,367 kilometers. The water is clear and warm all year round. With its sea of automobiles, even the city of São Paulo has an ocean. Everything flows toward Suarão, Sonho, Cibratel I, Embaré, Ilha Porchat. Some of these beaches aren't fit for swimming. Others have diversions like waterfalls that gush into the waves, slapping the white sand like tongues. I don't want to know. Nobody wants to know what happened yesterday. Yesterday already was.

Why don't we talk about futevôlei instead? It is played the same way as beach volleyball except you use your feet instead of your hands. A player can use his chest, his head, and any part of his legs. You've got to stay on top of the sand and not sink down into it. Don't let the wind lift your serve from behind. Now I'm talking about sailing. There's a nautical term for every direction you send the ball: sail, cut, angle, line. But when you're at the beach, the only thing you really need to know is how to swim. In the case of the boy yesterday, it was something different. What boy you ask? Yesterday during that confusion.

There are those who go to the beach only to eat or get a tan. For these types, here's a bit of advice:

  1. 1. only use tested dermatological products;

  2. 2. remember that sixty percent of solar radiation is transmitted through heat;

  3. 3. in local restaurants, don't forget to try sopa leão veloso, a famous stew made of fish heads and shrimp; or

  4. 4. try arroz-de-cuxá from São Luis do Maranhão. [End Page 101] [Begin Page 103]

It's also important to remember that although Brazil has more than 192 lighthouses, they are rarely built because of the dangers of the sea. The dangers of the sea. As if the Dead Sea, like the others, had never died. As if sharks had never been able to attack. As if the shipwrecks had never sunk to the bottom. As if pirates had never done any smuggling. As if oil had never flowed through pipelines. As if whales had never fallen after breaching. As if the boy yesterday had not also been the boy today, more alive than the early-morning sun. As if he had never been hit by that damned bullet.

What can you do? At the beach, there are tons of things to do. Surfing, diving, hiking, camping, and even nude sunbathing. Once you've gone nude—think about it—it's like being reborn into the world. To expose everything the way an Indian would, without even a thong bikini. Pedra Grande is one of them, a beach that allows the complete manifestation of paradise. It is located in Trancoso, Bahia. There's also Pedras Altas in Santa Catarina. Tambaba in Paraíba. Naked as a cloud in the sky. I don't want to make it rain. I don't have that kind of power. I want this story to have some usefulness—to give the traveler a bit of advice. I want it to be about the different climates one can find in this country. I also want it to be about the moon's oceans, or the boy's body, stretched out there.

Let me talk about the weather a bit. It's not just the blazing sun that can hurt you, but also...