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A copy of an unfinished story

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A copy of an unfinished story

Post by Your Mom on Fri Jul 31, 2015 6:42 am

The wind whistled past his ears and whipped his hair as Winston hurtled headlong towards the rugged terrain below.  The fall itself, coupled with the terrifying reality of his imminent death, combined to tie his stomach in knots. There was nothing he could do to save himself!
 
Wait, what was that? It was almost as if he could hear someone calling his name, barely, but just carried on the wind. The pronunciation sounded alien as the stress was on the final syllable –Win ston. He twisted his head around to see if his ears were playing tricks on him and there she was, directly above him, one arm outstretched reaching towards him, hair cascading behind her like a flowing ebony waterfall. It was her! It was always her. She was always there at the last minute to save him. She inched ever closer to him until, finally her hand was only inches away and then...
 
His eyes shot open and he looked around in confusion. The old, grey haired woman sitting next to him was tightly gripping his upper right arm with a thin, mottled and bony claw. “Are you all right, dear?” she asked with genuine concern on her face. “You were screaming; bad dream?”
 
Still somewhat confused, Winston blinked rapidly a couple of times and nodded his head. “Yes, yes, I'm ok,” he stammered, his public school accent still clearly audible. “Just a bad dream,” he confirmed and, nodding her head wisely, she let go her death-like grip on his arm.
 
He knew he had been screaming in his dream and obviously it must have carried through to the real world and scared the bejeesus out of the poor old lady as well as the rest of the passengers, to say nothing of the crew. Just then, a slightly plump, but quite pretty obviously Brazilian air hostess, with long, lustrous jet-black tresses arrived.
 
<em>“Você tá bem, senhor?”</em> At first, he had no idea what she was saying and, obviously, the confusion showed on his face.
 
“Sorry?”
 
“Are you well, sir?” - she asked, switching to English, her thick accent proving him right as to her origins and it was obvious from both her voice and expression that she was not in the least bit pleased with the disruption to her and the other passengers.
 
He shook his head, realising that this would be more difficult than he thought. He was fluent in Portuguese from Portugal, but Brazilian Portuguese seemed to be a wholly different creature. When she spoke in English, the cogs fell into place and he finally realised what she had said!
 
<em>“Sim, sim, tudo bem,</em>” - Yes, yes, everything's fine, - he replied placatingly. “<i>Somente um pesadelo, desculpe.”</i> - Just a nightmare, sorry.
 
<em>“Ok, intendi, mas, pensa nos outros passageiros, por favor,  fique quieto no futuro,”</em> - Okay, I understand, but think of the other passengers, please  keep it quiet in future, - she replied and haughtily turned on her high heels and marched back towards the cabin.
 
Again, he struggled to understand her. She had pronounced the word <i>mas</i> as maizh, which he understood to mean more or plus, but it didn’t seem to fit the context. He didn’t realise that this was simply the product of a carioca accent, that is, an accent from Rio de Janeiro.
 
Well, he had just been told! He seriously hoped that all Brazilians weren’t so haughty! He could imagine what hell it must be to have a wife or girlfriend like that! But then again, he thought reflecting on Carolinha, she was very bossy, something he detested. He chose to deal with that by simply doing what he wanted to do, as opposed to what she “recommended” he do, and put up with the pain that always followed. It was ironic, he had to follow orders at work, something he did without question, but he couldn’t abide it in his personal life.
 
That dream had been so real; he had felt like he really was going to die and his heart was still hammering in his ribcage and sweat beaded on his forehead, but then again, so had all the other nightmares he had had recently seemed so real. And she was always there, ravishingly beautiful and always saving him from certain death right at the last minute. And he even knew her name, Aurora! How, he didn't know, but he was certain of this!
 
Bad dreams were nothing new for Winston, he had had a lot of them since joining the RAF, especially before flying sorties into Afghanistan and Iraq, but they were never like these. He knew he was dreaming in those, but in these recent nightmares he really felt as if he was living the events in which he was always being rescued from certain death under bizarre circumstances, such as drowning, which he found really odd as he was a strong swimmer, very strong, even winning the gold medal two years in a row in the 100 metres freestyle in the Inter-Service championships. In fact, his best time would have earned him fifth place in the recent London Olympic Games. So how the heck could he drown? And how did he know with such certainty that her name was Aurora? That he couldn't answer.
 
This recent spate of nightmares had started almost as soon as he had made up his mind to spend some time in Brazil, a country he had yet to visit, and he now found himself contemplating the life he had lead leading him to this trip to Rio de Janeiro.
 
Winston came from a long line of service men. His father, may he rest in peace, had been an army Major and would surely have risen higher up the ranks had he not been one of the unfortunate British servicemen to fall in the second Gulf War conflict. Churchill had been one of his idols, so much so that he named his only begotten son after him. Winston's grandfather, like his father had been in the army and attained the rank of Lieutenant General, distinguishing himself in the North Africa campaign and falling into quiet retirement in that late 50s before succumbing to a nasty bout of influenza. Winston, despite the family tradition, and his father's strong insistence to maintain the family tradition, decided that the Air Force was for him.
 
As soon as he was able, he joined the Air Cadets spending his 32 weeks basic training at Royal Air Force College Cranwell, York, which was quite a distance from his home town of Woking in Surrey. He was very early on earmarked for a commission, no doubt his pedigree was an important factor in this, but he excelled at all that he did, so he was certainly not riding on his genetic coattails and after his first year this came to pass. The pilot training he received was very different to what he had expected, including the obligatory armed and unarmed combat training, which he had expected, but also including survival training, where he was taught the basic survival skills should he find himself shot down behind enemy lines, which he hadn't even once considered and, perish the thought, he would have no use for.
 
His father had instilled a sense of national pride and duty to Queen and country and it was with this burning through his veins that he began his Air Force career. However, as the years progressed and he matured in both body and mind, he found himself starting to question his role and specifically the role of the military in their overseas campaigns and the answers he came up with were very disquieting as he concluded that the military was not being used for the purpose of national security nor was it serving Britain's national interest, but instead was serving the interests of the military industrial complex and the greedy banking cartel that had long held the reins of power not only in the UK, but the whole world. As this realisation slowly dawned on him, Winston found it increasingly difficult to continue in his role as fighter pilot, each sortie becoming more and more difficult, but this was not something he felt he could discuss his friends and comrades.
 
Winston’s father had also instilled a strong sense of honour into the young boy that stayed with him into adulthood and therefore he felt duty bound to stay with the Air Force until the expiration of his commission. Once expired, much to the shock and horror of his colleagues and fellow officers who tried to talk him out of it, reminding of the good times they had shared, he retired at the end of his twelve years of his initial service.
 
Winston had a gift for languages, mastering French while still young, perfected during their annual holidays to France and thereafter picking up Spanish and Italian.  His mastery of Portuguese was an easy transition from Spanish, aided by his long time Portuguese girlfriend, Carolinha and he soon moved on to the Arabic language.
 
Winston had met Carolinha when he was in his second year of cadets and there was an instant attraction for both of them. She was aristocratic, distantly related to the Portuguese royal family, refined and, in Winston's opinion, exotically beautiful with doe eyes and an olive complexion. Her defects, which were many, of which even Winston would openly admit, in his opinion, were sufficiently compensated by her charm and beauty. Like the majority of men, he was led by the little head.
 
They had spent every minute together that they could, but Winston's obligations to the RAF had kept them apart, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time. They had decided to move in together in a small apartment in Notting Hill and life was perfect, or so he thought. What he was never able to understand was that it wasn't perfect for Carolinha; she hated his time away and was always terrified that he would be shot down and captured during one of his missions, or worse. Finally, when she could take it no longer, she announced, much to Winston's eminent surprise, that she was leaving him in search of something more stable. And so she did!  Her beauty, like a sunset, was something short lived and would soon fade and she fully intended to take advantage of this twilight of opportunity while she still could!
 
That was a little over a year ago and Winston now found himself with no job, although with a very nice pension from the Air Force, not to mention a very healthy trust fund that he had yet to touch and, with no love interest, single and on his way to the Marvellous City as Rio was colloquially known, the land of the dental floss bikini.
 
One reason he had chosen Brazil, specifically Rio de Janeiro, was to take advantage of the hang gliding and paragliding centre there, nestled high in the Mountains of Rio. He still had a passion for flying and had flown almost every type of craft, but had yet to try hang gliding or paragliding, which removed so much of the craft from the pilot; sure he had parachuted many times, but that was different. Another reason he had chosen Brazil was to escape the terrible cold and wet summer he had just experienced in Old Blighty. He had spent a great deal of time in North Africa and the middle East and had become acclimatised to the heat there and, although it was now only early spring in Brazil, the climate data he had researched on the net, showed him that he could expect much warmer temperatures than he had experienced recently during the British summer and he was well and truly ready for that.
 
It was early afternoon and the captain announced, first in Portuguese and then in English, that they would soon be landing at Rio <em>Galeão</em> airport in less than 45 minutes.  He announced that the day was bright and sunny and the current temperature was 39° C! Well, Winston expected it to be warmer, but not that hot.
 
He peered out of the small acrylic window and wondered if he'd be able to see the famous sites of Rio such as <em>Pão de Açucar</em> and <em>Cristo</em> before they landed. As it was, all he could see for now was a blanket of undulating and fluffy white clouds obscuring everything below. His ears, well before his eyes, soon detected a drop in altitude and a subtle change in the sound of the engines and, before he knew it, they had escaped the cloud bank. Instead of the wide open expanse of ocean blue he had expected to find, he was confronted by a verdant mountainous landscape, dotted here and there with obvious communities! Soon, these communities became more frequent and grew ever larger until the verdant hue of the forest disappeared altogether leaving an ugly urban jungle in its stead. No matter how hard he tried to spot any of the historic and famous sights of Rio, he was unable to spot anything he could recognise from this altitude. The pressure in his ears increased to the point of pain, which was something that he was accustomed to that he barely even registered it,  as the plane descended yet further until, suddenly, his ears popped and the pain and pressure disappeared and they were soon bumping down to Earth.
 
Once the plane had come to a standstill and the gangway was connected, the passengers slowly disembarked. The heat and humidity that greeted Winston as he exited the plane was like a solid wall and the sweat immediately started beading on his forehead.
 
As he walked the corridors towards customs, sweat building on his cotton shirt, he was suddenly stopped in his tracks, irritating those passengers directly behind him who were forced to stop and change direction. There, on the wall, was a huge poster advertising a Brazilian wine, but it wasn’t the wine itself that glued his feet to the spot, but the name of the wine: Aurora! Of course it was nothing more than mere coincidence that he had just dreamt of a woman named Aurora and was then confronted by the name in huge bold letters on a billboard. That’s what we humans do, we make connections where none exist, but it was a little disconcerting nonetheless.
 
Once through customs, Winston exited the terminal to be greeted by the same wall of heat and humidity he encountered when leaving the plane. Beyond the boundaries of the protective roof, he could see bright blue sky and the surrounding area bathed in brilliant sunshine. What a relief from the depressing gloom of home. He was certainly looking forward to this, but figured it would take him a few days to get used to the heat. His freshly changed polo shirt was now saturated wet and his hair stuck to the nape of his neck.
 
Without even hailing one, a yellow Fiat Sienna taxi glided up to him and he signalled to the driver that he would accept it. In his Lisboa/public school accent, he gave the name of the hotel in Ipanema that he had pre-booked before leaving London and they were soon on their way; the air conditioning in the cab giving instant relief from the heat.
 
Within a few minutes, the yellow taxi was cruising across a long bridge spanning what looked like a huge river and from which Rio got its name. It was easy to see why the first Portuguese to land at Rio had assumed it was a river, but it was nothing more than a long, elongated bay – Guanabara Bay.
 
The housing near the airport was not what you see on postcards from Rio, instead it was very shoddy and almost unfinished looking; a collection of pale clay bricks and concrete piled higgledy piggledy one on top of another, rising up the mountain slopes. These were obviously part of Rio’s infamous network of <i>favelas</i> – slums – and Winston could see no earthly reason for investigating them closer.
 
Soon, the taxi was passing through the industrial urban cityscape. The buildings were unattractive and this image was furthered enhanced by the grime and mould that adhered to the paint-peeling walls and surface. Winston wondered if the city council would spend money to spruce up this entry to the tourist centres for the forthcoming FIFA Football World cup and the Olympic Games. No doubt their priorities lay elsewhere, he concluded.
 
The congested and tired buildings soon gave way to a different landscape as the taxi exited the industrial centre, moving to the economic centre. There were many art deco buildings, with their rounded corners, vying for space next to modern concrete and glass structures and they were soon passing Flamengo beach, which gave the bay an almost oceanic vista.  Sitting there, right in the water was a huge white head, reminiscent of the Moai of Easter Island, but instead of gazing to the distant horizon, this face was staring towards the shore. The small curved bay was surrounded by ruddy mountains that loomed ominously. <i>Pão de Açucar</i> was easy to spot with its cable cars travelling to and from its summit. It was so named due to the conical clay moulds used for sugar in Brazil during its thriving sugar cane industry in the 16<sup>th</sup>Century. Corcovado, meaning hunch back in Portuguese, with the iconic statue of Christ standing atop with his arms open to greet the tourists, was likewise easy to identify. If the other mounts and peaks had names, Winston was unaware of them. This part of the urban landscape, as opposed to that through which he had just passed, looked clean and bright in the sunshine.
 

 
Suddenly the taxi came to an abrupt halt, the way ahead barred by cars stalled in front.
 
“<i>O que isso</i>?” –What’s this? – Winston asked the driver.
 
“<i>Sei não, provavelmente uma accidente em frente</i>,” – I don’t know, probably an accident ahead. “<i>Acontece quasi todos os dias aqui no Rio</i>,” – Happens almost every day here in Rio, – he added with a resigned sigh.
 
The traffic remained at a standstill for about thirty minutes before the cars started slowly inching forward, the cars in the right lane merging left. Finally, Winston could see why the traffic had stalled. Much to his surprise, Winston saw the shell of a car still burning furiously in the right hand lane, now blocked with small orange cones and the <i>Polícia Militar </i>directing the traffic away from the blazing wreck. He had never seen burning vehicles on his native soil, but had seen many in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Once past the burning car, the taxi moved freely once again, soon passing through a series of tunnels bored through the red granite monoliths, the sides of which were tiled with large marble squares and the squat, shallow arch of the roof tiled with small rectangular ceramic tiles which were obviously once white, but which were now soot stained grey; the dark grout between them, coupled with large areas where the tiles had fallen off lent the tunnels an air of decay and neglect.
 
Winston caught brief glimpses of the ocean at every intersection until, finally, the yellow cab pulled onto Avenida Viera Souto, traversed the coconut palmed avenue with the ocean in plain view on the left for a few minutes until it pulled up at the Hotel where he would be staying. He paid the R$150 fare, about what he would expect to pay in London, and the driver helped him bring his bags into the lobby and he checked in, taking a map of the city whilst at the counter.
 
The first thing he did once in his room, after putting his room key card into the power slot, was to turn on the air conditioner  and then took a quick shower, putting on his swimming trunks, shorts and a t-shirt and slipping on his flip flops ready to hit the beach when he had finished. He wanted to leave the air conditioning running, but as his room card served to turn on the power, it was impossible.
 
“<i>O Senhor vai nadar?”</i> – Sir is going for a swim? asked the swarthy, immaculately dressed concierge as he approached the reception desk.
 
“<i>Eu acho que sim</i>,” – I think will, – Winston replied with an affirmative nod of his head. “<i>Está tão quente fora,”</i> – It is so hot out there, – he added.
 
“<i>Com certeza, tá,”</i> – It certainly is, – the concierge agreed, “<i>Mas, eu conselho a ir até Arpoador, senhor.</i>” – But, I advise you to go up to Arpoador, sir. Like the airline stewardess, he too pronounced the mas as maizh, but this time Winston understood his meaning, but wondered what other problems he would have with the accent and dialect here in Rio.
 
“<i>Mas por quê? A praia parece linda bem em frente la</i>,” – But why? The beach looks beautiful right out in front there.
 
“<i>Parece que sim, senhor , mas não é</i>,” – It looks so sir, but it isn’t, –  the concierge replied, a sad expression on his face. “<i>Tem uma saida de esgoto bem em frente e a agua fica mais limpa em Arpoador,</i>” – There is a sewage outlet pipe right in front here and the water is cleaner at Arpoador.
 
The concierge gave him instructions as to where to go and Winston warmly thanked him for his advice. The lobby had been refreshingly cool, but the moment the door opened and Winston exited, he was immediately engulfed by the moist, broiling air; this was eased somewhat by a gentle cool breeze that wafted off the ocean.
 
As usual, Winston tried to take in everything at once, but that proved to be a difficult task as his senses became saturated; the sights, sounds, smell and heat almost over powering; ocean, with a number of islands dead in front, a busy six lane, coconut palm lined avenue running from left to right with the sea on one side and massive concrete edifices on the other, and verdant, forest shrouded mountains to the right. The coconut palms ranged from 15 to about 50 feet and many sported bunches of immature green coconuts. Arpoador, his destination was the rocky outcrop visible to the right where the beach appeared to terminate.
 

 
Even though the avenue was bustling with traffic, Winston managed to cross easily and quickly enough thanks to the traffic light controlled crossing. There was a wide footpath at the beach’s edge, made from a mosaic of dark and lighter small blocks of stone creating a pattern of dark and light rounded edged interlinked rectangles. The pattern reminded Winston of some awful cream and brown wallpaper that covered the kitchen wall at his grandparent’s house when he was a child and he imagined that this footpath must have been created at about the same time as the wallpaper had been put up, sometime in the late 60s or early 70s.
 
Winston had more difficulty crossing the cycle way next to the footpath as it was heavily populated with all manner of wheeled vehicles from skateboards with monster truck wheels, bicycles of all descriptions, including a  great number of orange, obviously hire bikes, and electric bikes to a Segway transporting a <i>Guarda Municipal </i>and everything in between, some of which Winston had never seen before and had no idea what to even call them. There was one bicycle that piqued his interest. It was a tricycle with an articulated front end with a large steel framed basket filled with ice. This puzzled him; surely this couldn't be the most efficient way to deliver ice, what with the heat. Maybe it was because the trike could manoeuvre through the streets quicker than a truck. There were also a number of beetroot faced joggers vying for space, pounding the pavement despite the intense heat of the afternoon.
 
The water was surprising cool as Winston trod the shallow waters edge, plodding his way towards the large rock that was Arpoador. The beach was jam crammed with people eager to take advantage of the glorious day and he had to weave in and out of the bathers as he waded.
 
Spotting the surfers milling around on the surface of the water waiting for the next big wave, reminding Winston of sharks gathered for a feeding frenzy, he decided to take a dip out of their reach; he certainly didn't want to be clocked on the head by one of their boards.
 
His feet and lower legs had grown accustomed to the cool water, but as he edged ever deeper into the water, his body felt the shock of the cold water. He may have had the courage of a lion, but when it came to cold water, he was a big pussycat. He inherently knew that one swift dive beneath the waves would give him the thermal shock in one fell blow, but still he edged, one step at a time, until the water reached his chest before he sank beneath the waves.
 
After a refreshing swim, Winston decided to relax on the beach and enjoy the sights. The beach was full of people of every colour, from Scandinavian white to the darkest ebony and he wondered what percentage were locals and what percentage tourists. One thing he found unusual was the complete lack of body hair on all the men on the beach; every single one has a chest as smooth as a baby’s buttocks, himself excluded. As well, the majority had the sculpted bodies of Adonis; very different to what he had seen at Hayling Island the last time he went to a British beach.
 
As he stretched out on the warm, pale sand, basking in the fading sun, his eyes were drawn skyward to the mass of birds slowly and gently cruising in the thermals. The frigates, known locally as <i>gaivotas</i>, however, this name was also used for the myriad of gulls that also called Rio home, reminded him of pterodactyls, with their sharp features, expansive wingspan and long, pointed tails, and he marvelled at their easy grace as they glided effortlessly through the air with nary a wing beat. He thought back to the days when he had taken gliders aloft, revelling in the tranquil and quiet skies, the antithesis of his work, and felt somewhat envious of them and wished he was gliding up there with them, searching for the swirling, rising warm air of the thermals to keep them aloft with the minimum of effort. The line of aves stretched as far as the eye could see, from the direction of the mountains of Copacabana, disappearing into the distance over the ocean. Unbeknownst to Winston, they were making their way to the islands of the Cagarras Archipelago, which lay just before the horizon, one of which could be easily identified as a roosting site by the guano that painted and ran down its steep slopes.
 
The sun was already getting low in the sky as he climbed to the top of  Arpoador and was sinking slowly aside two great monoliths known locally as <i>Dois Irmãos</i> – Two Brothers. The one at the rear reminded Winston of the building in London colloquially known as The Gherkin. It must have provoked similar thoughts in the locals as this huge monolith overlooked a beach known as <i>Praia Pepino</i>, the local name for both cucumber and gherkin.
 
The rock known as Arpoador - literally Harpoon thrower, so called as the whalers once used the rock to launch their harpoons at whales that got too close, was a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to take advantage of the sunset and cameras were already clicking and flashing as the sky reddened around the sun and darkened and it was full of people on this perfect, warm early evening. From his vantage point atop the rock Winston could see the lights starting to blink on in the favela that sprawled all the way up the side of one of the mountains.
 

 
As the sun was setting, the air cooled considerably and Winston decided to explore his new environment once it had finally sank from view. He could feel a gnawing in his stomach, letting him know that it was time to eat He had eaten very little on the plane and, according to his body, it was now 9 pm, so he resolved to search out a restaurant. Of course there was a restaurant at the hotel, but he felt like exploring his new environs, instead of remaining prisoner-like within its confines.
 
For her 25<sup>th</sup> birthday, Carolinha had decided to celebrate at Rodizio Rico, a Brazilian churrasqueria on Westbourne grove in Notting Hill. This was the first time that they had gone out to dinner together and it certainly opened his eyes, both to the true nature of his girlfriend and the cultural differences that existed between them. A number of her Portuguese friends and family, along with some English colleagues, had gathered there to help her celebrate. It was, to say the least, a unique experience as the waiters delivered skewers of succulent meat to the tables, which they carved individually for each diner.
 
“What are you doing, Winston,” Carolinha angrily hissed in his ear at the conclusion of the meal. “That’s disgusting!”
 
“What? What’s disgusting?” Winston asked completely shocked and taken aback, having no idea to what she was referring.
 
“What you are doing,” she hissed, pointing at his mouth.
 
He was, innocently enough, picking the strands of meat from between his teeth. What was wrong with that? Doesn’t everybody do that? It was not as if he had his mouth wide open, displaying his tonsils to the guests; he was doing it through closed lips.
 
“Put your hand over your mouth, no one wants to see that,” she told him, still obviously disgusted.
 
He glanced around the table and noted that her Portuguese friends and family all had their hands over their mouths, as if to disguise what they were doing, although it was obvious to all and sundry. He used to tease her after this, infuriating her and offending her social sense of propriety, referring to it as secret mouth business.
 
Now he was in Brazil, he wanted to sample an authentic Brazilian <i>churrasco</i> to compare with what he remembered from London and set off in search of one. While waiting to cross, Winston noted a man looking to his right and, obviously seeing nothing, stepped onto the road. With a loud squealing of brakes, a bus coming from the left managed to screech to a halt just inches away from him and the driver levelled a string of curses at him. This was certainly a lucky day for him. Winston concluded that he was English, but that had nothing to do with his strawberry and cream complexion, but rather because he understood what had just happened. We, as human beings, are programmed to behave in a predictable way. In the UK, for example, there are countless adverts on the television advising the population to look right, then left, then right again before crossing a road. It has now become almost instinctive for Brits to look to the right first before crossing, but this man, seeing nothing from the right, instinctively stepped onto the road. Winston understood all this because he found himself, by habit, looking right as well, but he then looked left, then right, then left again, feeling confused by the alternate direction of Brazilian traffic. He had also noted that this indoctrination also translated to the footpaths and stairs in Brazil. In England, people walked on the left, both on footpaths and stairs, and passed to the right. Here in Brazil, it was the complete opposite.
 
As he waited for the traffic lights to change, being very cautious after the other Brit’s close shave, before making his way across the six laned avenue, he listened to the voices of those around him, trying to identify a local from whom to ask directions. After a few false starts, he finally encountered a local couple, who gladly gave him directions to Porcão – Big Pig – which, despite its name, they assured him was the best churrasquiera in Rio, and, following their directions, he made his way in that direction.
 
The narrow footpaths were full of people and he was very surprised at their manner. Being British, he was always polite, giving way to people in the other direction, facilitating passage for all, but that didn’t seem to be the way here. Many times, he was faced with couples or even groups of three walking abreast. These people behaved as though he, nor anyone else for that matter, existed and continued obliviously. This didn’t happen once, twice or thrice, but happened with disturbing regularity and he was often forced onto the busy streets just to pass them. As well, he always walked with a long stride, almost as if he was in a hurry to reach his destination, but that didn’t appear to be the way here. Many times he felt trapped behind people who, to him, seemed to be walking so slowly that if they walked any slower would come to a complete stop. He felt his blood pressure rising and tried his best to breathe deeply, but he found it impossible to keep to the same shuffling pace and, irritated, would suddenly veer onto the road when the opportunity arose. But there was more; he also found many people would suddenly stop mid-step when he was directly behind them, causing him to almost run into them, or else, as he was trying to pass someone, they would slow veer to one side, directly in front of him, blocking his passage. If he was of the paranoid type, he would have thought it was done deliberately, simply to annoy him, but of course he wasn’t and they weren’t.
 
Whilst ambling along Aveneda Visconde de Pirajá, which appeared to be the principal avenue there in Ipanema, and, on which the footpath was fortunately much wider, something his dad had once told him came to mind, work expands to fill available time, that is, the more time you have to complete a given task, the longer it will take you to finish it. He felt the same way about Cariocas, the residents of Rio; they expanded to fill the larger space available on the footpath and were like a seething, living wall moving towards him, seemingly oblivious to his presence, not moving out of the way to let him pass and he was therefore forced onto the road to walk around them.
 
As he manoeuvred onto the road once again, silently cursing the natives for their rudeness, he caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. Looking up, he caught sight of a cloud of bats, each with a wingspan of at least a foot, flittering rapidly around one of the trees that lined the avenue. With its aerial roots and the small pale fruit he saw littering the ground around it, he deduced it was a type of <i>ficus</i> and the bats were feasting upon the tiny ripe figs that filled its branches. He stood beneath the massive boughs marvelling at the speed and dexterity of these urban flying mammals; it had been many years since he had seen such profusion, and even then they had been half the size. After a minute or so of enjoying this natural aeronautical display, he noticed a fine mist falling upon his upturned face. Not wishing to even contemplate its origin, he quickly moved on.
 
Winston was met at the door of the <i>churrasqueria</i> by a doorman immaculate dressed in a tuxedo and shown to a table. Even though the night was still in its infancy, the restaurant was still bustling and, judging by the clientele, it was indeed one of the better restaurants in Rio.
 
Seated alone in a restaurant wasn’t an experience Winston cherished, having company was always a better option, but seeing as he was alone in the <i>Cidade Maravilha</i>, he had little option and resolved to make the most of it. The waiter greeted him formally and proffered the wine list and, after a few moments, he chose a robust Chilean cabernet sauvignon to accompany his meal. When the waiter brought him the wine, he inquired whether Winston would be partaking of the <i>churrasco</i> or wanted to choose from the extensive menu, to which he replied that he would prefer the <i>churrasco</i>. The waiter motioned to one of the other waiters who was in the process of serving another table and nodded in response.
 
“<i>Tem buffet la, senhor</i>,” – There is a buffet there, sir, – he added, indicating a sumptuous looking buffet table. “<i>Fique vontade,”</i> – Help yourself, – he concluded, giving a slight bow before departing.
 
Winston decided to take advantage of the buffet, filling his plate with all manner of tasty morsels including <i>ovos cordonas</i> – quail eggs, various sliced Italian small goods, an array of cheeses, and sun dried tomatoes. There was also a huge range of hot dishes, but Winston preferred to stick with the meat.
 
A few moments later, the second waiter appeared at the table.
 
“<i>O senhor aceita coração?”</i>  – Would sir accept hearts? – he asked, indicating the chicken hearts skewered onto a long, sword-like spit.
 
“Eu aceito,” – I accept – he replied, curious as to how they would taste, and the waiter slid four of the succulent hearts onto his plate.
 
Unlike many of his fellow compatriots, Winston was always willing to try new things. Well, almost always. There was one delicacy he could not bring himself to try and that was when he was offered raw camel’s testicles whilst in Morocco. The local tribesmen took great offence to his refusal, but, even so, he couldn’t screw up the courage to pop one of them in his mouth; the milky white sac was unappealing on so many levels for him.
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