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Fado and Other Stories

Fado and Other Stories

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    Fado and Other Stories
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 1997 Drue Heinz Literature PrizeThis collection is filled with narrative and character grounded in the meaning and value the earth gives to human existence. In one story, a woman sleeps with the village priest, trying to gain back the land the church took from her family; in another, relatives in the Azores fight over a plot of land owned by their expatriate American cousin. Even apparently small images are cast in terms of the earth: Milton, one narrator explains, has made apples the object of a misunderstanding by naming them as Eden's fruit: "In the Bible, no fruit is named in the Garden of Eden - and to this day apples are misunderstood. They were trying to tempt people not into sin but into listening to the earth more closely. . . . their white meal runs wet with the knowledge of the language of the land, but people do not listen."Vaz's beautiful, intensely conscious language often delicately slips her stories into the realm of thefado, the Portuguese song about fate and longing. "Listen for the nightingale that presses its breast against the thorns of the rose," on character sings, "that the song might be more beautiful." Such a verse might describe Vaz's own motive behind her willingness to confront her subject's ambiguities and her characters' conflicts - the simultaneous joy and sorrow of some of life's discoveries, the pain sometimes hidden within passion and pleasure.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7884-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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    (pp. 1-8)

    One day without provocation my brother hit me with a shovel. That it came as a dark flash from nowhere stunned me as much as the blow, and after the doctor stitched up my head, he peered into my eyes to make certain I had not gone too far into another world. When my parents asked my brother why he had struck me, he looked without expression at them. “Because I’ve never seen Miranda cry,” he finally said, as bewildered as anybody. From that day I have never doubted the existence of original sin. Nothing has since grown on my...

    (pp. 9-15)

    We must make love quickly; I wish the doctors were not waiting right outside the door. I draw aside the white bedsheet and under my touch, whether through familiar reflex or desire, you grow hard enough for me to lift my skirt and climb onto you. They have covered what remains of your face, and instead of looking there I rest my head on your chest, unaccustomed to your arms not returning my embrace.

    Because stories keep us alive, I will tell you one as I rock back and forth on you. When my Tia Dolores was young in the...

    (pp. 16-41)

    My girlfriend was a beautiful liar. I should say “is.” I figure Cecilia is still inventing her answers off in the fog, or wherever it is that people go when we stop seeing them. She’d say things like, for instance, money wasn’t important to her, but she sulked when I decided not to go to law school. Then she made it worse by saying that she wasn’t bothered by anything except a headache. I asked her once to look at me, will you, and tell me one thing that’s completely true. She had me craving plain facts, even tough ones....

    (pp. 42-55)

    Line + parabola = Clara standing, then bending to put on her shoes.

    ))) (((§ was Clara listening to a song only once, and then knowing perfectly how to sing it.

    || was Helio walking with her before they joined hands: | – |.

    If | □ was Clara in front of a window, then | □ × 7 =x, xbeing unknown, was Clara throughout a week, with her private thoughts. Sometimes they seemed to carry her far away, which terrified him, (Hx/x). He was almost thirty years older than Clara, and like all widowers he was nervous...

    (pp. 56-74)

    To buy some time, Reginald peered at the doorknocker. His face danced like a gremlin’s on the polished surface. He glanced away, and the door creaked as he opened it and spilled the smell of a sickroom, like a brew of oranges and pesticides, into the street. Professor Dias should be more careful about locking up. But then his whole life had been a studious approach to carelessness, carefreeness, though now, of course, very little of that mattered. Reginald paused in the dark living room, with its furniture pushed back against the walls, as if nothing had changed since the...

    (pp. 75-76)

    The mob was yelling at Augusto to stop, but without turning around he dared them to take away his colors. Cowards! he thought. Stop, stop it, they screamed, their anger hitting his back in small hot clouds. He was kneeling at the famous seawall in the yacht harbor of Faial, painting a smiling crayfish that was holding up a framed picture of Augusto in a serge suit. You own a boat in your dreams, someone called out, upset that Augusto was claiming a blank space that belonged to the sailors of the world who anchored at this Azorean island and...

    (pp. 77-92)

    It was the dry season, and the pine needles, when they showered down, were golden. José often came to this thicket at the edge of the clearing. Two thick roots streamed from the base of his favorite tree and offered themselves to him, with a soft thatch of needles at the fork. He liked to rest his head there, because this twin flow out of the tree, rigid as muscle, was Ana. He would lower his head onto the sponge sprouting on the muscle and breathe her name:Ana. Ana. In answer the hair on the bark would stand. When...

    (pp. 93-95)

    Margarida had just crushed an ant charging toward the bowl of lemons on the tablecloth. Her grandmother, Maria de Amparo, stood at the sink with the Galliano bottle, frowning at the gilt tear rolling over the lip because it would stain the label an old ivory.

    The ant had been wild, scrambling; blots, especially moving ones, bothered her grandmother.

    Maria de Amparo sponged away the sugary tear, then washed the yellow sponge and laid it on a paper towel. (Direct moisture would hasten the wearing away of the tile beneath. Never underestimate how much one drop of water can pound...

  9. FADO
    (pp. 96-110)

    One morning I could not find Lúcia, my stuffed toy pig. I ran crying next door to Dona Xica Adelinha Costa. Xica buried her Saint Anthony and told him he would stay there until he helped us. Then she kissed me and sent me home. That night I saw Lúcia’s cloven hoof jabbing out of my bed, and with a shriek I clutched her in a dance. Xica left Saint Anthony in his grave another day to teach him to be faster in finding what was lost.

    When the Californian valley heat pressed down on us, Xica would lift my...

    (pp. 111-132)

    “My stomach is singing!” said King Kalakaua.

    The children lined up along the wooden wall sensed their stomachs singing also—they always did, when Frank Vasconcellos played his musical instruments, especially hisbraguinha—but they were afraid to move. For one thing, their mothers had warned them that not so long ago, if the shadow of a commoner fell across the path of a king, the offender would be killed. Times were changing in Hawaii, but it was still a good idea not to make Kalakaua wrathful. Elena, Frank Vasconcellos’s daughter, tried to catch the eye of her mother, Amelia,...

    (pp. 133-138)

    Mamãe said, “Come watch.” I pulled a chair over to the stove. Then I was tall enough to see clearly. Into the boiled icing she squeezed a drop of blue coloring. The blue swirled into a gyre and then disappeared. The icing went from flat oyster white to heavenly white, as if not blue but the absence of blue had been added. What a fabulous discovery, that consuming an opposite makes something more itself! I clapped my hands. “Be careful,” warned Mamãe. “If you overdo, you’ll have a blue mess you’ll have to throw out.”

    One day my Tia Alma...

    (pp. 139-166)

    On 26 August at 5:35 a.m., in Lodi in north central California, according to the police report, orchids were found at the home of George and Maria Luisa Sousa and their four children. The orchids hung on three small bark slabs nailed high on the rec room wall, which George had recently fitted with inexpensive paneling to reduce outside noise. He informed Officer James MacMillan that he was often incapable of sleeping to a decent hour, but that he had noticed no commotion out of the ordinary. The heating had been turned up, but nothing else was awry. The temperature...