“Go Bother Camões” by Meredith Wadley

In the walled garden of a Cova da Beira hillside villa, four-year-old Sofia Mariana’s avô napped, shaded by the branches of a cherry tree. Sweet, juicy fruit weighted the tree’s branches. Sofia Mariana, wishing to reach eat the cherries, climbed upon avô’s chaise longue.

The weekday care for the child fell to the old man, a widower and pensioner. Irritated, he scowled. “Vai chatear o Camões.”

Sofia Mariana knew Camões lived in avô’s library. The room’s French doors opened to the garden, its terracotta floor cool to her bare feet, and its illumed walls lined with leather-bound books. She sat on the floor and cradled a volume of the poet’s work, its frontispiece the great man’s image.

The poet winked.

Sofia Mariana giggled. She returned his wink and found herself sitting upon a lap at a wooden table facing the cherry tree. Her skinny legs dangled. She wriggled her toes.

Outside, a handful of crows fluttered and cawed in the cherry tree, and avô, despite their commotion above him, snored, chapfallen. Sofia Mariana, ready to laugh at the old man, felt a finger press her lips. Camões. “Sshhh!” he said.

His wink, she saw, was no wink at all, but an eye sealed shut by a scar. She longed to reach up and touch it. The great poet dipped a large feather into a pot of black liquid. The feather screeched and scratched as he formed glistening black loops on a sheet of thick paper.

Sofia Mariana yawned. Camões smelled of leather, sweat, and spices. She leaned into him and put her thumb in her mouth, imagining herself high in the tree, her thumb a plump, sweet cherry. The world beyond the garden walls spread out before her like a treasure-filled market. A crow with a red-stained beak hopped close. He tilted his head. “Climb upon me,” he said. “I’ll teach you to fly.”

Drowsy Sofia Mariana shook her head. She already knew how to fly.

***

“Go Bother Camões” (Portuguese: Vai Chatear o Camões) first appeared in Orca Literary, 2020 – as one of three flash pieces, “Three Idioms Reimagined as Short Fiction”

IMAGE: Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, “The Leap of The Rabbit”, 1911. Oil on canvas, 19 5/8 × 23 15/16 in. (49.9 × 60.8 cm). Arthur Jerome Eddy Memorial Collection, Art Institute of Chicago

Meredith Wadley

Meredith Wadley is an award-winning American-Swiss writer who lives in a medieval micro town on the Rhine River. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Pieces from her series of international idioms reimagined as flash fiction have appeared in print and online publications, including Bandit Fiction, Fiction Kitchen Berlin, Gone Lawn, JMWW, Lammergeier, Lunate, and Orca Lit. Find her long-form fiction in various publications, including CaféLit, Collateral, Fairlight Books, Line of Advance, Litbreak Magazine, Longleaf Review, New World Writing, and upstreet. Read more at www.meredithwadley.com. She tweets @meredithwadley and occasionally haunts Instagram: #meredithkaisi.

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