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  • Three Crônicas
  • Antonio Prata (bio)
    Translated by Katrina Dodson

a writer! a writer!

With the newspaper in one hand and a Diet Guaraná in the other, I was roaming the streets of Kiev, dodging roadblocks and Molotov cocktails, when the voice on the PA system brought me back to seat 11c: "Attention, passengers, if there's a doctor on board, please alert a flight attendant."

There was that discreet commotion: everyone whispering, peering around, looking for whoever was sick and hoping for a doctor, until, from the back of the aircraft, our hero emerged. He came walking up with a surefooted stride—salt-and-pepper hair, as you'd expect—his vanity cloaked in slight reluctance, like some Clark Kent who, at that moment, was less interested in showing off his superpowers than eating his peanuts.

A flight attendant met him in the middle of the aisle and hurried him over to a plump older woman who was clutching her head and hyperventilating in the first row. The doctor crouched, took her pulse, listened to her chest and back, talked with her in hushed tones, then spoke to the stewardess. They brought over a metal box; he gave the woman a pill and less than ten minutes later went back to his peanuts, under the admiring gaze of everyone on board. Well, almost: my admiration, I must admit, was quickly gnawed away by envy.

Look, by the time the practice of medicine was born with Hippocrates, the tale of Gilgamesh had already been circulating the world for over two millennia. Since time immemorial, while the body was left to its own devices, the soul has been examined by myths, verses, fables—and nevertheless …Nevertheless, dear readers, who's ever heard a stewardess ask anxiously, "Attention, passengers, if there's a writer on board, please alert a flight attendant"?

I wouldn't be fazed. I'd shut my newspaper calmly, slip a pen and napkin into my pocket, go over to the plump woman, and crouch by her side. We'd talk in hushed tones. She'd confess to me—who knows?—that she was about to reunite with her son after not speaking for ten years; she wanted to tell him something that sounded nice, but wasn't good with words. I'd establish a quick medical history, asking what had led to the fight, her son's name, whether he was more of the MFA or MMA type. Then I'd throw in a few pleasant memories of their relationship, lift a line or two of poetry from Drummond de Andrade—or the [End Page 154] Ramones, depending on her taste—and, prior to landing, I'd hand the woman three paragraphs that could make even a rock burst into tears.

On the way back to my seat, passengers would say hello or share similar stories. A young mother would tell me about her cousin the poet who, upon hearing the cries of a waiter while at a restaurant—"A writer, for God's sake, a writer!"—was brought over to a lovesick young man and managed to write his marriage proposal on a card in a bouquet of flowers before his future fiancée came back from the ladies' room. A gentleman would remark upon the well-known case of the novelist who was on a cruise and, at the pleading of three thousand tourists, had managed to convince two hundred crew members to stop calling them "you guys." I'd smile, ever so slightly, and say, "It's true: if you choose this profession, you've got to be prepared for emergencies." Then I'd politely decline the pack of peanuts offered by my seatmate and return to the bombs of Crimea, with my cup of Guaraná.

genesis, revised and expanded

And the Lord God said unto Adam: "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken...


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pp. 154-157
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