(Episodes 25 and 26)
Happiness was stamped on Cristina’s face for anyone to see, in her open, wide and loose smile, which she displayed at any time of the day or night. Everyone who lived with her knew the reason for such happiness. His name was Moisés, “O Gordo” and he could be seen every day, answering at the counter of his variety store, on the street that started in the Main Square and ended on the road that led from Roseiral to Mutum.
Gordo was a kind of public relations officer from Roseiral, a district 18 kilometers away from the headquarters of the city, where he headed every Thursday, when nightfall, accompanied by Cristina, his girlfriend and, certainly, his future wife. There in Roseiral, Gordo received everyone in his shop, always with a pleasant chat, a cold water, a dose of good drink and Cristina’s open, happy and loose smile, who kept him company when she received friends. In Mutum, on the weekends, O Gordo and Cristina were staying with him at the boarding house of Artur Vergílio and she at the home of her aunt Albertina, who lived on Rua das Goiabas.
That night of July 3, a Thursday, Moisés O Gordo, after leaving Cristina at Dona Albertina’s house, stayed up late on a bench in the square, talking with some friends. The whole conversation, of course, revolved around the bombs and each one gave his opinion and explained what he thought. In the end, they decided to form a group to also help in the search. Soon Cristovinho offered to take everyone in his pickup truck because, as he said, “my pickup truck has four-wheel drive and if necessary go up to the wall”. They agreed that they would rest for a while that night and by seven in the morning on Friday, they would leave for the bands of the West. Cristovinho and Aduvaldo would go, students who spent holidays at their parents’ house, O Gordo and Anatólio do Zé Maria, a butcher. They decided that there in the Serra do São Roque they would leave the main road and go along some trails that Aduvaldo knew very well, because he had already gone hunting for pacas to those sides and had passed there.
The intention of the four friends was to leave very early and continue in the van as far as they could go. Then, if necessary, they would leave her on the trail and continue on foot. The searches would take until two or three o’clock in the afternoon. Then, finding or not finding a bomb, they would turn around, get in the truck and go back to the city. They wanted to arrive early, before nightfall.
When they went to sleep, everything was well prepared for the next day.
July 4, 1975
The second bomb
When Cristina woke up on the morning of that Friday, the 4th of July, she felt invaded by an uneasiness that was not common to her. And no smile appeared on his face. What was immediately noticed by Dona Albertina. “What animal was it that bit you, creature?” he asked as soon as he saw her come into the kitchen, fill a mug of milk, pour coffee and sit at the table. “I don’t know, Aunt. I woke up to something bothering me. The chest is tight ”replied. “Any bad dreams, a nightmare?” insisted Dona Albertina. “No, aunt. I slept so well that I didn’t even feel the night pass. I was very tired. ” Dona Albertina got up from the table, collected the mugs, put them in the sink and asked “Is there a problem with Moses? Did you fight? ” Cristina looked at her saying, “No, aunt. No way. Moses never gave me any reason to fight with him. God forbid. I am very happy with him. Thank God.” And concluded after letting out a sigh, “I don’t know what’s going on with me today, aunt. I think I’m a little scared, but I don’t know why or why ”. Having said that, he looked around the room. One can only be happy, he thought, looking out the window to the backyard, while one does not know that one is happy. Because, as soon as we realize that we are happy, we start to be afraid to stop being and then, for sure, it is no longer. He let out a slight smile when he realized he was philosophizing. It was just what I needed, he spoke softly so his aunt wouldn’t listen. He got up and went to change clothes and get ready to go out and meet his friends in the square. He hoped to be better in spirit when he met them. Even better when you were holding hands with Moses.
Gordo, at that very moment, was on his way to São Roque, in the back of a pickup truck that was advancing along a trail where he jolted violently, raising dust that he left behind, covering everything.
The grass that grew on the side of the road was still wet with morning dew and joined the dust to form a thin layer of clay that stuck to the wheels as the truck passed. The sun was beginning to warm up when, when making a curve, the landscape changed abruptly. In front of them, the immense wall formed by Envied, a mountain so high that, from where they were, clouds prevented the view from its top. Perfect setting for that morning. Everyone was dazzled. The place was a warm place. Probably millions of years of sunshine have embedded the heat in those rocks. The nights there were too short to make it less.
From where they were, they came across a narrow throat where, at most, two to four men would pass at once. An impregnable colossus that dispensed guards at its main entrance, in case there was a war there. Once inside, it would be enough to close one of the exits and a possible enemy would be trapped and walled in forever.
They had to leave the truck there and continue on foot, following a small trail that seemed to go down to the center of the valley, which they could see down there. As they descended, the Envy’s shadow increased its reach and decreased the heat of the sun over their heads. And the sun, like a bloody disk, lost its light every second, as if the earth was swallowing it.
During the walk they talked animatedly. Cristovinho spoke of the desire that he had to graduate as a veterinarian, it was only two more years before he returned to Mutum and took over his father’s business. I was thinking of expanding the farms, there were four, two in Mutum, one in Aimorés and one in Ipanema. He would be a veterinarian only for his own animals. I did not intend to open any clinic. “With my animals alone, I will have enough work,” he said as he entered.
Aduvaldo was already in the penultimate year of civil engineering and intended to develop an old project to create a closed condominium on his family’s land, on top of a hill on the other side of the river. “Only comfortable houses, without too much luxury so they don’t get too expensive,” he said. From there they could see almost the entire city at night.
Anatolio did not have many pretensions. He had not finished high school and had to help his father in the butchers when he became ill. There were three butchers. All were directed by Mr. Zé Maria. One day, without any warning, he felt ill and had to leave the direction of the butchers on medical advice. He made Anatólio take over business and, for that, it was necessary to stop his studies. He had become a butchery manager and butcher four years ago. As his father did not seem to be able to return to being the head of business, Anatólio was under no illusions about his future. “I think I can only save a little money and then buy a house in Aduvaldo’s condominium”, he said smiling. “At least I’ll be able to catch a pool at home on weekends.”
For Moses, O Gordo, the future and happiness were summed up in just one name: Cristina. He wanted to marry her in a few months and wanted nothing more. “If you really want to know what I think of the future, I can only say one thing: I am so happy with Cristina that I am even afraid of so much happiness,” he told his friends, when they stopped for a while to rest. They had been walking for more than an hour. Half an hour later they started down again.
They had not yet reached the bottom of the valley when they found the bomb. From a distance they saw its brightness reflected in the sun. They started screaming with joy and ran down the hill to meet him. Yes, it was one of the lost bombs. They had really found it. But they didn’t touch it. They had read the instructions that had been given by the military to all residents of the city. If you found any of the bombs, don’t touch it. They were to mark the place and immediately notify the military authorities, who were prepared to take care of them. They should always remember that they were dangerous if handled by someone who did not know how to do this.
After the euphoria of the finding ended, the friends decided that they would return to the military to warn them and that one of them should stay there, to see that the bomb was safe. Gordo offered to stay. He said that he was much more tired than everyone else and that the climb back would be more difficult and time consuming if he went together. So they were agreed and did so.
Cristovinho, Aduvaldo and Anatólio returned up the trail while Moisés, O Gordo, sat on a rock near the bomb and was willing to rest while waiting for his friends to return with the military. He looked at his watch and saw that it was a quarter to twelve.
It was just a few minutes after sixteen when a military convoy entered the city, coming from the direction of Lajinha and stopping in front of the Hospital, at Praça da Igreja Matriz.
Cristovinho, Aduvaldo and Anatólio descended from a van, while from a military ambulance someone was taken out by military nurses and quickly taken on a stretcher to the interior of the Hospital. As the train continued on its way towards the makeshift headquarters at the Municipal Stadium, the three friends explained to those present what had happened. They said of the meeting of the bomb that was now being taken to the barracks in a special car, protected by the train. And they spoke of Moses, The Fat Man, found by them passed out beside the bomb, when they returned with the military, at the foot of the Envy. He had had a heart attack. It was alive, but it was very bad. Nobody knew how to explain when it happened.
Cristina, who was in the square with her friends, as soon as she heard what had happened ran like crazy to the hospital, where she met Moisés, O Gordo, at CTI. At night, at exactly twenty o’clock, he died.
It was Friday, July 4, 1975 and the second bomb had been found. Two more were missing.
(To be continued next week)