by Meredith Wadley
Imagine the cold and heaving Atlantic reaching Southern Portugal’s coastline of honeycomb cliffs. Imagine it nearing a horseshoe-shaped cove, changing from blue to purple to turquoise, breaking into white-crested waves, bobbing the buoyant bodies of swimmers, and playing itself out on the cove’s golden crescent beach in scallops as thin and white as Eucharist wafers. Along the beach’s firm wet sands, couples young and old stroll, children build sandcastles, and youths in bikinis and boardshorts smack rubber balls with wooden paddles. A dog barks. Laughter comes from a cliffside bar bolted midway between the beach and a parking lot where an army of rental cars sits exposed to the scorching summer sun and a brisk overland wind. Imagine a battered white surfer van heading west toward Cabo de São Vicente, Europe’s most southwesterly point—or not. Return to the beach, and imagine a woman, who calls herself “commodious” and wears a red, shape-enhancing swimsuit, positioning a towel in a strip of shade at the base of the cliffs forming the cove. Her husband, a man as wiry and thick-veined as a long-distance runner, warns her of rockfall. Imagine her saying, as she settles, “Good God, Ben, my constant pessimist. Give it a rest. I’m not here to fry.” And imagine a pebble loosened from the clifftop, falling. Impacting her skull. There would be damage.
Ben settled in the full Portuguese sun. He didn’t mind. At least the cove provided shelter from the insane Atlantic winds. Here, a plastic bag fluttered nonstop. Up in the parking lot, it’d be ripped from your hands, sailing who knew where.
Miranda tossed him his thriller and opened Pioneers of Globalization, a hardback she’d bought at Henry the Navigator’s fort. Two seconds inside the fort’s thick walls, and she’d gone straight to the gift shop. “Books in six languages!” she’d cried. Meanwhile, he’d marvelled at the ceramic-rooster wares, wine corks, gravy boats, letter openers, and statues. He’d showed his wife a set of salt-and-pepper shakers, rainbow roosters copulating.
Miranda read everything Ben had always wanted to read but not very much. He pretend-read his thriller, napped, strolled along the shore, and even dipped into the water. Twice. To his knees. Almost. He’d hoped to see his wife wave, smile, and take a photo to send to the girls—the eldest a police officer, the youngest a firefighter—and message them “Your father went into the water today.”
He could’ve swum to Ocean City and there’d be no photo or message. Last night, he’d forgotten to load their phones. Big deal. Constant connectivity led to high blood pressure and teeth grinding. Did with Miranda, anyway.
A dust devil swept by, flying sand stinging Ben’s sun-screen-shiny arms, legs, and belly. He shielded his face with the paperback, then tossed it. Never mind finishing the damn thing. The wife got it in the end, he just knew it.
“Finished, finally?” Miranda asked. The thriller had been her idea. She’d bought it minutes before their Newark-Lisbon flight. His palms had been so sweaty, though, he’d hardly been able to hold it. He was four pages along.
Ben sat up. “Let’s go into the water. You must be hot, darling, even in the shade.” He gazed out past his yellow toenails and the crowd of beachgoers to the heads bobbing in the surf.
Imagine Miranda out there, doing her frog-like stroke and paddling a bit too far from shore. Imagine the current turning, her red-suited figure—viewed from the cove’s warm sandy beach—growing smaller and smaller. Over hundreds of years, the Portuguese Current dispatched thousands of sailing crafts. Why not one wife?
Three kilometers from Ben and Miranda, the wind hurled itself at Cabo de São Vicente and slammed against Luke’s white utility vehicle, what he called his “ute.” Inside it, his Australian shepherd pawed at sour towels. Vasco sighed and settled upon the nest, curling his tail over his paws.
Luke, mid-thirties and likewise Australian, was on a reloading mish. A friend, who sold alpaca shit from a concession trailer here, owed him a few weights of coke. Sabina, a blonde and square-jawed surfing student he’d brought along, fingered the friend’s ponchos, choosing one.
“Ah, you picked my favorite.” The vendor said this to every customer. He rolled a zip of two weights into the purchase. “First time here?” he asked Sabina.
“I have been seeing the sun set since my first day.” German, she was unaccustomed to using her classroom English.
“I meant Portugal, love.”
She smiled, her teeth large and straight but not overbearing.
Luke preferred women who resembled his own Teutonic handsomeness. Steering her away from the stand and back into the wind, he said, “Hang onto that.”
She had a skip in her step, he a hard-on. Nothing like a hint of rivalry to raise the flag.
Dogs barked, children laughed, couples strolled. Strains of guitar music reached him A drawling voice. “Music,” Ben said.
Miranda snapped her book shut. “Fado. Like the CD I bought.”
A CD he detested.
“Do you know what the word means, Ben?”
“Fade? Follow?” Maybe, founder?
She stood and dressed, her bright turquoise shorts and white T-shirt as far from law-office black as possible. Miranda worked as a paralegal; Ben owned a service station. She loved research and reading; he loved to please.
“I must’ve left Saramago on the nightstand.”
“No, no, here.” Ben held out a tube of sunscreen.
“José Saramago, dope. We toured his house in Lisbon? Shelves and shelves of books? The Roman walls in the cellar?”
Earthquake, tsunami, and fire came to Ben’s mind at the mention of Lisbon, an ill-fated city. The earth could’ve split at any moment, swallowing Miranda along with a million black-and-white cobblestones.
She grabbed her yellow Crocs. “Use the sunscreen on yourself. I want to sit on the hotel veranda and enjoy a bica.”
“Get your coffee here.” Ben pointed to the beach bar jutting from the cliff wall. A sagging wooden bridge connected it to the beach’s steep access stairs.
Imagine, the moment she sits herself down at a table overlooking the blue-green sea, a bolt shearing. Support timbers cracking. Men and women screaming and attempting to scramble for safety.
“You’re squinting,” Miranda said. “You squint while driving, too. You surprise me, Ben, driving with impaired vision.”
“It’s the glare.”
“Where’re your sunglasses? Did you forget them?”
Ben actually suffered sleep deprivation. Over the past two nights, he’d feel himself dropping off, and their neighbors, a bed-banging couple, stirred into action. Once they were spent, he’d hear the sailboat rigging ping, ping, pinging in the wind. Same torture as a drippy faucet. At first light, their harbor-facing room grew too stuffy to sleep. Open the sliding glass door, though, and a hurricane-force wind snapped the curtains as if they were wet kitchen towels. It rattled lampshades, fluttered book pages, and drew ghoulish howls from the bathroom vent.
Had he slept through all that—and the lingering jet lag—the barking dogs would’ve kept him awake. Did all that barking communicate anything, anyway?
Miranda said, “I’m walking.”
“Sweetheart, it’s a mile.” Ben stood. “I’ll drive.”
“A bit of exercise won’t kill me. I’ll earn a slice of chocolate fig pie. This menopause weight gain is killing treats for me.”
“Darling, you’re perfect.” He stepped over the thriller, leaving it and foregoing the author’s precisely plotted narrative, its surprising connections and grim ending.
Luke’s ute left Cabo de São Vicente’s. Sure, sure, they’d return to the lighthouse for the sunset; first his place, right, do a couple of lines—
Her fingers slid through the bleached hairs of his leathery chest and rooted in his shorts. Like cracks in a windshield, desire spread across his nerve endings.
Vasco sniffed. Sweat, vaginal secretions, and pheromones; humans had yet to pin down their own pheromones; canines had sussed them out thousands of years ago. He let out a doggy sigh.
At the wooden bridge connecting the stairs to the beach bar, Miranda paled as if ready to have a stroke.
“Darling?” Ben said.
Wheezing, she eased herself upon a step.
At the bar, a short sturdy man grilled sardines on a half-drum barbecue. Clack, clack, he snapped a pair of tongs. Instinctively, Ben licked his lips.
Miranda said, “I’ve been thinking of that man.”
“Little wonder. So, how about we get your drink, here? Some food?”
Ben wanted to stick to their plan, to head to Cabo de São Vicente from here. They’d missed the first three sunsets, Miranda preferring the hotel’s Sunset Dinner.
“Supplication?” she said. “Or giving thanks?”
Ben looked at the man. Fish, fries, and a cold Sagres would tide them over—but what did they have to do with giving thanks? “Supplication?” he said.
“He must’ve been giving thanks.”
Oh, come on, Ben. Miranda’s not talking about the grill man. She’s talking about the one at the chapel. On yesterday’s drive, remember? Her shouting “Turn!” and you jerking the steering wheel so fast the little rental car nearly rolled? And for what? A whitewashed chapel plop in the middle of an overgrazed pasture? Red cattle so thin they lacked the energy to notice you parking among them?
Dust had blanketed the chapel’s crude stone altar from where a ceramic Mary beseeched a wood-wormy Jesus on the cross. Her blue robes were chipped in several places. Obviously, Mary had fallen.
As Ben and Miranda settled on two caned chairs—he’d given hers a shake to make sure it’d hold her weight—the chapel door groaned open and a small, scrawny man in blue work trousers rushed to the altar and sank to his knees. His sweater vest was as holey as Jesus.
Miranda grabbed the handrail and continued climbing the stairs.
Ben followed. His wife knew what she wanted, which he admired. He never got a lot of what she was about, yet he got her need to be herself; they’d been together since meeting on the high school track team. Married on account of a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage. He supported her through college, since she’d lost her track scholarship. One loss was more than enough to expect her to bear.
At the top, the infernal wind pushed them headlong toward their Panda. It snatched the door from Ben’s hand, the hinges yelping. A staggering, condensed heat hit him in the face, and he reeled sideways.
Miranda declared, “Hand me the room card. I’m walking.”
“Don’t be silly. There’s more danger in your squint driving.”
Yes. Imagine dozy Ben nodding off at the wheel, plowing into another car. Mangled metal. Glass shards. Blood burbling—Miranda’s.
“And sunstroke? Or getting lost?”
“Nonsense. Card, please.” Miranda’s graying hair whipped in the wind. Her white T-shirt billowed, and her turquoise shorts fluttered. To his request that she phone once she arrived, she rolled her eyes.
Right. The phones, recharging in their room.
“Tonight’s the sunset.”
“Is that your stomach rumbling? Get yourself some of those fish.”
What a sharp woman! Off she chugged, past a line of dead palm trees, their rusky fronds rustling. She reached behind and scratch, scratch, scratched her rear. Ben sighed. She’d gone from extra scrawny to extra curvy, and he didn’t deserve her. Never had. Fearful of her being snatched away from him, he felt the nerves at the top of his head vibrated like sand on a snare drum, and he almost called out.
Oh, dear, careful, Ben. As you think, so you travel, right?
Alley-oop. Let’s score you some grub. Miranda’s chosen her road to walk.
Luke’s ute approached a graveled lot bordered by a row of dead palm trees. Dozens of rental cars glinted in the afternoon sun. Not that he noticed. His feeble fingers, a-tingle and buried in Sabina’s salt-stiff blonde hair, massaged her sand-gritted scalp as she moved up and down, up and down, over his lap.
Just when a generous white and turquoise figure should’ve registered in Luke’s field of vision, Sabina’s fingernails dug into his flesh. The steering wheel jerked. The ute veered onto the shoulder, and a barrage of stones assaulted the undercarriage like fossilized popcorn. Vasco scrambled for purchase, Sabina’s lips grabbed on, and the surfer’s chest snap-billowed, taut as a sail. “Uh! Uh, uh, uuuuh!” His eyes flickered in their sockets.
The steering wheel twitched and twitched and twitched.
Walking along the road, Miranda longed for a sunhat. The wind, which would’ve blown it off, played a faint rattle and squeak, reminding her of swing sets. She thought of being with her daughters at the playground, years ago, and how she missed their little hands in hers, their little painted nails. She stopped, nostalgia burning in her chest. The winds blew.
Several months back, Ben had stunned her and the girls by winning a grocery store’s Forever Portugal contest, flights to Lisbon plus an overnight there, a southbound hopper, and a harbor-side suite in a new Sagres resort. The three of them talked him into flying. “A life-changing experience,” they’d insisted.
Indeed. Southern Portugal’s stunning geography—including its savage wind whipping her hair—its megalithic menhirs, Roman ruins, Henry the Navigator’s fort, and even the rustic white chapel they’d visited, thrilled her. Fancy, from exactly here the Portuguese had blown to the four corners of the earth, at once discovering a world vaster than humanly envisioned and shrinking it forever.
The distant rattle and squeak neared Miranda. Her adrenal medulla, alerted by the noise, responded by kicking out hormones chemically messaging “danger.” As she scooted to the side of the shoulder, a salvo of rocks battering metal erupted. She suppressed a poultry-like impulse to bolt across the road,an alarming sense of peril somewhat akin to what certain people experience while boarding a doomed air flight. By disembarking or changing seats, sensitive people might be saved from savage, blistering deaths—but still succumbed to heart disease or pneumonia. Prostate cancer. Slips in showers shattered hips, triggered blood clots squeezing into air passages: Ventilatory impairment: Suffocation: Death.
In the act of turning toward the noise, Miranda stepped on a sharp stone. Ow. She bent to extract the stone, oddly enough, and saw with acute, swift clarity the source of the rattle and squeak, a white surfer van—which we know to be Luke’s ute—its filmy windscreen, a chrome grille festooned with grasshoppers, and bits of fluttering plastic. A headlight dangling from a rust-speckled orb.
In response, the grille in her face cried, “Uh! Uh, uh, uuuuh!” It whizzed by, missing Miranda to within a microscopic hair of a D. folliculorum parasite.
Respite for Miranda. Yet only the briefest fragment. Her chest compressed and the sky shattered into daylight stars of flickering, falling confetti.
At a roadside bush, she toppled.
The great greedy wind ripped away her moan.
Marvin, a South African toddler strapped into a child seat in a car heading toward Sagres from the cove with the bar bolted onto a cliff face, popped a cola Chupa Chups from his mouth. He’d spied Miranda’s shorts. “Blue,” he said, which sounded like brew. The concept of turquoise—of different tones and shades of colors carrying different names, in fact—lay several years ahead of him.
His mum, gazing at the bulk of Henry the Navigator’s fort backdropped by the glittering surface of the Atlantic, said, “Yes, the sea. Blue.”
Her response might’ve exemplified word refinement, one critical step in the process of language acquisition, had her son meant the sea. Soured by his mother’s error, Martin clamped his teeth onto the Chupa Chups.
Meanwhile, the boy’s dad—a devoutly sour chap—attempted to shake a tailgating Panda. Keeping his eye on the rearview mirror, he held the windscreen fluid toggle, the flying vapor hitting the offending vehicle.
As the tailgater slowed, Marvin’s dad cried, “Yes!”
The boy’s mother, mistaking her husband’s cry as a compliment to her exchange with their son, smiled—the first time she’d smiled all day. All week. Maybe longer.
Next, the Panda’s brights flicked on, and Marvin’s dad grumbled, “Arse,” earning a sharp glance from Marvin’s mum, who took the swearword personally. She snarled in return, “Jerk.”
Marvin’s dad smiled; he and his wife agreed for once.
Nightly, as soon as the boy fell asleep, his miserable parents levelled their fury into miserable, wall-banging sex—the wall lying between their room and Ben and Miranda’s.
And how is it, cautious Ben, you’re tailgating? Fumbling to eject Miranda’s fado CD—the music’s mournfulness producing in you a strange anxiousness.
Precisely as the CD slid out, the Panda’s windscreen misted over. Ben eased on the gas. He fumbled to engage the wipers. And precisely as a yellow Croc tumbleweeded across the road, his high beams came on. They illumed nothing in vivid daylight. Poor Ben swept past Miranda. And he assumed the windshield wipers were broken.
Remember the meaning of fado? Fate. Fado means fate. And it’s covering Ben like excess wiper fluid.
Ben searched the hotel for his wife. The café barista had just started her shift, so she didn’t know whether Miranda had been there. Ben went to the suite; no response. From a corridor window on their floor facing the harbor and bay, he watched several windsurfers scuttling over the whitecaps. One drove the board right onto the beach. Had Miranda been with him, he’d have imagined such a board plowing right into her—guts rupturing, neck snapping, that sort of thing. Instead, he figured she’d popped out to buy snacks. She hated late dinners. Hated being served whole fish—like the grilled sardines filling his belly—and she’d found bacalhau tasteless. “Cod. Dried and reconstituted. Remember Babette’s Feast?”
They knew a Babette? The only feasts he’d ever had were at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And funerals—although “feast” might be the wrong word to use.
He decided to ask to be let into the room. The elevator opened in front of Reception. Two women, one young and slender and the other matronly prim, chatted and gestured excitedly. Used to being invisible and unassuming, Ben waited.
The matronly receptionist’s daughter, who’d suffered several miscarriages and two stillborns, had given birth last night. Mother and daughter were doing well, obrigada. As Ben stood idly by, unable to follow Portuguese and eavesdrop, the matronly receptionist said of her husband, “Jian Ricardo drove straight to the chapel where we’d married and had our daughter christened to give thanks to the Senhor Jesus Todo-Poderoso e a Santíssima Virgem for the child’s safe birth.”
As Jian Ricardo prayed for the survival of his grandchild, he sensed guilt and remorse for perhaps endangering another life. In local, pre-Christian lore, for each soul entering a body, another must depart. Praying, he experienced a shift in two tectonic plates of fate, which he attributed to the Lord moving through him. Of course, so preoccupied, he’d failed to notice a pair of tourists in the chapel.
The newborn, Inês Leonor, was destined to fall in love with a man wholly ill-suited to her, an Australian surfer nearing his sixtieth year. Luke. She and Luke would settle in San Diego, California. Following the birth of their twins, Luke would suffer a heart seizure on the goat trail to Blacks Beach. He crumpled into the scrub brush, and his lungs emitted a banshee moan. His vitality chip alerted Emergency Services Drones to his distress, but while the pair were in flight, the signals switched to dispatching the County Morgue Drones.
Fate’s cousin is irony, isn’t it?
The bathroom vent moaned. “Ceifador,” the matronly receptionist thought, crossing herself at the inopportune reminder of the Grim Reaper. She murmured a quick prayer for her newborn granddaughter and left Ben to his suite.
Not spotting Saramago’s Blindness on Miranda’s stack of books, he pocketed the second card key and his phone. Strange, his wife’s phone being in the room, her messages unopened—the girls having written “Enjoying trip? Over soon . . .”
It was near the time to leave for Cabo de São Vicente. He sat showered and dressed on the bed, his hands in his lap. Miranda had promised they’d see the sunset; he despaired what to do in her absence.
What would she do in your absence, Ben? Go to the lighthouse!
Go! Fate will find you wherever you are.
The end of Europe offered no decent parking. Cars lined both sides of the road, and tourists poured toward the lighthouse at the edge of the cape, rising whiter and taller and firmer than anyone expected a saint’s beacon to rise.
Mesmerized by it, Ben drove until he reached the lighthouse compound’s whitewashed walls and the cluster of mobile vendors, a microcosm of globalization selling ceramic roosters, Balinese jewellery, alpaca woollen wares,genuine English fish and chips, bifana, and Olá ice cream. He found a space beside a battered white van.
He took care to keep the wind from snatching the car door from his grip; it snatched it, anyway, startling an Australian shepherd peeing on the Panda’s tires.
Swooping between the vendors’ trailers, children screamed like gulls, reminding Ben of his daughters. Gosh, he hated being alone for this. He jumped a low stone wall built to discourage people from going too close to the cliffs’ edge and joined a crowd, their sights set on pink clouds sailing in an orange and yellow sky and the sun casting liquid gold over a restless, pewter sea.
Miranda would’ve felt profoundly connected to the Discoverers at this moment, her skin a-tingle. Ben, you’d have imagined the wind blowing your wife off the cliffside, its harsh howls smothering her screams, nulling the thud of impact.
A tall young blonde—Sabina—stood next to Ben. The edges of her poncho rippled like the fins of a manta ray. She said in a determined voice, “I am seeing each sun set this week.” Resolved to begin her adult life on her own terms, she’d booked her trip to Portugal behind the backs of her ultra-conservative parents. Early on the morning of her eighteenth birthday, she left a note on her narrow childhood bed and departed. Her father, a Magdeburg politician taking a leak, saw her with a suitcase, scurrying past the bathroom window. Alarmed, he dressed and pursued her, yet she’d timed her arrival perfectly: the train departed before he reached the platform. She ignored his shouts, phone calls, emails.
“Did you know,” she said, “just last week, a Polish couple blew off the cliff right here, in front of their two little childrens.”
“Too much informations, ja?”
“There is a Trauerkranz and poster.” She pointed toward the lighthouse.
“A what?” He turned, and the crowd cheered. Everyone whooped and clapped, including Sabina.
“The green flash, ja?” she said, grinning.
No need to mention the scowling face Ben made at the poor girl.
Ben sat in his Panda and sulked. The cars and vendors drove off—save for the van next to him. He tried phoning Miranda. Voice Mail. She was probably mad at him. He was mad at himself. On the drive back to Sagres, a plastic bag flapped through the Panda’s high beams like an airborne jellyfish, and an indescribable loneliness gripped him. Instinctively, he pushed Miranda’s fado CD into the player. Cesaria Evora’s mournful “Sodade” played.
The car beams lit up a figure. It moved right into—
Look out, Ben! It’s Miranda!
Screaming, he stomped on the brake and jerked the steering wheel. The car whipped one-eighty, the chassis bucked, and the engine died.
“Sodade” died, too.
The wind roared. It moaned. It howled. The stalled little car rocked. Its beams stared onto empty road.
Shaking from his knees to his fingertips, Ben scrambled out. “Honey? Miranda?” The wind tore at his hair and clothes. “What’re you doing here?”
In one direction, the lights of Sagres twinkled. In the other, St. Vincent flashed, and a single headlight approached. Ben didn’t notice. “Miranda, darling? You nearly scared me to death—I could’ve hit you!” Had she walked to St. Vincent’s? Or tried to? “Did you see the sunset? I was there—and missed it.” He laughed. “What a surprise, hey?”
A few feet from the glow of headlights, Miranda’s second Croc, pried by the wind from her cold foot, blew across the road.
Luke slowed and cranked down his window. Vasco, curled on the floor at Sabina’s feet, scrabbled onto the bench. Both dog and girl recognized Ben. He hadn’t impressed Vasco, but he’d given Sabina the creeps. She said, “Drive!”
Luke said to Ben, “Epic bootleg, Dude.”
In the headlights, Ben’s hair appeared gray. The wind blew it in all directions. “Miranda,” he said.
“Whatever ya Yanks call it—a beaut.”
Sabina tugged on Luke’s T-shirt. “This man is anormal.”
Luke understood her to say “animal.” He ignored her.
A gust of wind blew into the cab, stirring several loose parking vouchers, receipts, and rolling papers. Vasco jerked his head. He shot across his master’s lap, sprang onto the window frame, his nails going clickity-click, and leaped out the window, straight into the dark, straight to Miranda. He sniffed her fluttering shorts and barked, “Death, death, death, death!”
Luke yelled, “Yo! Vasco! What the fuck? Come!”
“Death, death, death, death,” Vasco barked.
A barking dog: Ben pressed his fingers to his temples.
“Let us go,” Sabina said.
“Not without Vasco.” Luke activated his phone’s flashlight and got out. Damn dog. In a sweep of light, he saw a ghostly foot. “Jesus, fuck! Fuck Jesus fuck! That’s a Jesus-fucking body!” Sensitive to the thought of blood, he bolted.
Understanding Ben to have hit someone, Sabina yelled, “Oh. Mein. Gott! Er hat jemanden überfahren!” She dropped her head between her knees and moaned “Mutti, Mutti, Mutti” into the van’s stench of rust, wet dog, and sour towel.
Indeed, this was a moment a young woman needed the comfort of her mother. In the morning, she’d catch the first return bus to Lisbon and the first possible flight home. She’d beg her mother to meet her at the airport, bitte, bitte, bitte, bitte. Of course, both her parents were there. And they supported Sabina through her pregnancy and helped her safely navigate her way into a dull but secure marriage with an American orthodontist of the faith. She and Harvey would raise Luke’s son and their daughters within yards of Blacks Beach. Once Luke and Leonie moved to the area, he and Sabina twice crossed paths, and although neither recognized the other, they both caught themselves recalling Portuguese sunsets.
Innocent and clueless Benreasoned with himself. The wind had played tricks. Miranda wasn’t out here, and he needed to get to the hotel. He’d lie about missing the sunset. And forget dragging her out there. Risk losing her to a savage wind that blew people off cliffs.
Too much informations, ja?
Jian Ricardo Costa was intimate with Cabo de São Vicente’s plumbing. En route to an emergency job there, he sang along to soulful Cesária Évora’s “Miss Perfumado,” blindly immersed in his own joyfulness. His little dove, his delight, his newborn granddaughter, suckled regularly and robustly at her mother’s breast.
“Que se passa aqui?” Ahead, car beams burned. Three. “Um acidente.” A Panda and a surfer’s van with a busted headlight blocked the road.
Jian Ricardo got out. Miranda would’ve recognized his work trousers and hand-knit vest, and Vasco recognized his Algarve scent. With renewed earnestness, he barked, “Morte, morte, morte, morte.”
Luke, huddled with Sabina in his van and wishing the dog’d shut the fuck up and come when called so they could get the fuck outta there, hardly noticed Jian Ricardo’s arrival. Ben either. He knew it was time to go yet sat—as he and Miranda had done at the white chapel—feeling the sacredness of the place.
“Cão que ladra não morde,” Jian Ricardo mumbled to himself. Barking dogs might not bite, but they barked for a reason. His phone light found Miranda immediately. “Jesus e Maria!” he cried.
Sabina shouted, “Ja, he has killed some-body!” and Luke stiffened. He hadn’t touched the woman—was she even dead?
Frio. Jian Ricardo crossed himself. The dog nudged his knee and received a pat on his head. Thus, relieved of his duties, he trotted to the ute and scrambled inside. Fear and anxiety leaked from his master and companion like blood from a severed limb. Yuck, he thought, let’s get some air circulating.
The wind had died.
Jian Ricardo called emergency services. Luke and Sabina left. And Ben ignited his motor. A strumming guitar drifted into the clean, still night. “Sodade.”
Jian Ricardo recognized Cesária’s famous song immediately. She sang “How will you find your way?” and he crossed himself again, picturing his little Inês Leonor. He believed the sacrificed tourist ensured his granddaughter’s survival, praise the Lord, and he thanked this lonely, cold woman for her sacrifice.
The Panda idled. Ben, relieved of the wind’s haunts and cradled by “Sodade,” found himself loath to engage first gear.
To a tender comfort, we leave you, Ben, blissfully ignorant of your dear Miranda’s fate. What heartbreak, what unearned sense of guilt coming your way, buddy. There will be damage.