short stories for elders
Three Short Stories from The Elders
Editor’s Note: This text is available to read in the original Portuguese and in English translation. Scroll down to read in English, and click here to read in Portuguese.
My grandfather is a tactless old man who asks all the questions he shouldn’t ask at family events.
Apart from asking terrible questions, he stares at me and says I’ve put on weight, my girlfriend is a lesbian, I’ll never get a job with the course I’m taking at university, but that’s okay because I’m a failure like my father, and he says it with that sarcastic smirk of someone determined to interfere.
My grandfather can ruin any family gathering. He starts arguing and offending. He insults and upsets. Everyone.
He has blue eyes, grey hair, he is a bit fat and hobbles when he walks. From a distance, whoever sees him thinks he is a sweet old man. Those who live close to him can’t wait to go to his funeral.
He is cruel to grandma. Calls her an invalid, decides on what clothes she should wear and where she can go, if she can go and when she can go. And with whom. He throws his plate on the floor if he doesn’t like the food. She never reacts.
He used to beat up his kids when they were small—my father and my uncles. And now that they are adults, he always addresses them with sarcasm or swearing.
He never gave us a hug. He calls me Breno and my name is Bruno. Carla, he nicknamed Fatso!. She’s my cousin with weight problems. She’s already tried to kill herself, she’s depressed. My aunt is devastated. He calls my twin cousins “the two” and my cousin Gil, “the boy.” My cousin Cassia, oh dear! this one he ignores. She’s covered in tattoos and piercings, for him she doesn’t exist. She says, “Hello, Grandpa!” He turns his face.
We are at the police station. My parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandma. After that awful, horrendous Christmas lunch. Grandma is the only one crying and she repeats bless him, bless him.
My grandfather will never hurt anyone again. He was stabbed whilst he was sleeping after lunch, with the brand-new knife for carving the turkey. During the lunch he offended, mocked, and cursed everyone.
My grandfather’s ability to belittle, condescend and humiliate was shocking. He was a master at being mean.
There are many of us and we are all suspects, but the chief of police has already accepted some cash and next week everybody will find out about the failed attempt at burglary. And, astonished, everyone will praise the courage of my grandfather, who, alone in his bedroom, fought back. Unfortunately, he wasn’t strong enough to resist the injuries caused by the violent attack from the intruder.
Life will go on. And the wickedness of the family, which was only in the old man, is now in all of us.
I’m black and I’m old. Unlike most black people in Brazil, I’m rich. I live in a luxurious apartment building, in a neighbourhood of white people who find it very strange that my black family lives there.
I’m seventy years old and I practise a lot of sports. I especially like running.
The other day I went for a run on the beach. At the second block after my building, I ran past the petrol station. Just as I was passing, there was a robbery.
Two chipped teeth, three fractured ribs, the cheeks grazed, a bleeding nose, and a broken left arm. Spit on the face, smacks to the ear, and several punches in the stomach.
Some thugs grabbed me, dragged me along the road, and took me to the police station as a suspect.
My white lawyer came to help. I am a doctor, I have my own medical practice, I specialise in three medical fields, I teach, I’ve got several books published, I speak four languages.
So far no one has come to apologise. They keep saying I’m black, I don’t look like an old person, and I was running, so how were they supposed to know I was not a criminal?
I’m seventy-seven years old and I am very fat. I have a heart condition, multiple varicose veins, high blood pressure, and asthma.
Last week something terrible happened. I broke the weighing scale in the pharmacy across the road from where I live. I was on my way back from the bakery, where I’d eaten five cheese pasties, four meat ones, and drank two bottles of coke. I saw the new scales from the pavement, they looked beautiful. I was eating the last crisp from my tub of Pringles when I went in to check my weight.
A kid filmed everything on his iPhone. It’s on YouTube.
It went viral.
The title of the video is “Big Old Man Breaks Everything.” The soundtrack is Brazilian funk. The scene repeats and repeats, it’s on a loop. So embarrassing. My children and their friends saw it, my grandchildren and their friends saw it. My neighbours and their friends saw it. Everyone I know has seen it. It has over one hundred and fifty thousand views.
In the video edit, as well as breaking the scale in the pharmacy, I break the Rio-Niterói Bridge, I break the Alvorada Palace, I break Christ the Redeemer and loads of other famous landmarks.
Some boys took a selfie with me in front of the supermarket. At the bakery I was greeted with whistles, applause, laughter, and shouts of “Bravo Big Old Man!”.
I became famous for this humiliating exposure. The barber didn’t even charge me for my haircut.
I paid Mr Osorio, the owner of the pharmacy, for the damage to the scale.
The iPhone kid filmed the moment I paid and exited the pharmacy, eating a medium-sized bag of peanuts. The title of this video is “Big Old Man Pays Everything.” In this edit, I pay the teachers’ salaries that are late, I pay the old people’s pensions that are late, and I pay off all of the foreign debt. The soundtrack is samba. The “break-all” video earned me a free haircut, whistles, applause, and “bravos!”. I hope the “pay-all” video earns me much more.
Translated by Elton Uliana
Originally published in Velhos (São Paulo: Editora Reformatório, 2020)