acervo álvaro

Caiman Operation,
Tom Laughwood.
part 1:
chapters 44-55

Chapter 44

Some time later Keith was in a police vehicle. They drove to the nearest town. Following his instructions, the soldiers took him to Hotel Quatro Gatos. A long building converted into a guest house by Mercedes Cordero, a Spaniard from Salamanca who had lived there for more than 20 years. The rooms of the only hotel in the village were dark and stuffy. With its high attics, the walls of the old house had showed the ravages of time. Signs of damp and mould were visible.

The journalist took a small room at the end of a narrow corridor next to the only bathroom in the place. After arranging payment he was warned about the zancudos, a kind of mosquito that usually attacked at night. Keith rested until the sun went down.

At the end of the afternoon he went out to look for his contact. He had been instructed to walk around the main square. At the right moment, he would be approached. He walked among the houses of the small village. He saw the misery of the country. Most of the houses were on the point of collapse. Some of them had fallen walls and others showed recent signs of bullets. On the sidewalks there were a lot of children, almost all hungry and dirty. The breeze wasn’t enough to reduce the sensation of heat and discomfort. The journalist had never seen anything like it.

In the small square traders, old people and farmers gathered for a chat at the end of the afternoon. Some of them sat by the shop doors. Others entertained themselves in a small fair at a street called Juan Tolentino. Some women and children were walking through the `gardens’ of the square, actually two rectangular flower beds with some rosebushes and some shrubs. It was dusk. The passers-by and the landscape were fading to red. The faces were becoming more expressive and the deep furrows stood out.

“Senor O’Brien…,” said a man in a low voice as he passed by.

Keith looked up. He stared at the stranger and then looked around.

“That’s me.”

“Follow me,” said the man.

From the square they walked through two sidestreets, passing through the poorest part of the village. A jumble of houses appeared. Most of them were made of wood and shects of plywood . The man walked some metres ahead, completely ignoring the journalist. Watchful eyes observed from a window the foreigner passing by. They went down a steep hill and came to the end of the village. Two bearded men appeared from one of the houses.

They approached.

“Is there anybody with you?”

“I came alone.”

“Good. Can you see that garage? Go there. Push open the door and go in.”

Keith saw the empty garage at the end of the steep hill. His guide had disappeared. The two men turned round and entered a right-angled lane. The journalist went on and did exactly what he was told.

He pushed open the gate and entered the garage. It was dark. There was a switch, but the bulbs didn’t work.

Some old cars had been abandoned there. Most of them were dented, with parts missing. There were cobwebs all over. Keith walked more slowly and kept quiet. His ears were alert to any kind of noise. Nothing. He came to the centre of the garage. Some light was coming from a hole on the roof. He heard something. He looked around. The noise stopped.

“It’s me, O’Brien. Anybody there ?” said Keith.

He heard another sound. Footsteps. A moment later there was a middle-aged, heary bald man beside him. The prominent belly and the beard were very obvious, as were the open shirt and the bermuda shorts.


Chapter 45

Light coming from the roof fell on Keith’s face. Leaning on an old and rusty Chrysler, the informer stayed in the shadow. The Englishman wasn’t happy.

“But nothing you’re telling me is new. I’d like to know something about the big offensive you’re planning.”

“How do you know, senor O’Brien?”

“It doesn’t take much to work that out. Look at the recent attacks on military barracks: what’s the motive ? the increased involvement of the United States in the region and the surface calm that we can see in the country.”

“I can tell you in advance that you’re not mistaken. The guerrilla activity is going to intensify. But unfortunately that’s all I can tell you.”

“You know that I’m not from the government. I don’t play for both sides. I’ve got journalistic principles. Come on, you must have something more interesting than this supposed installation of a provisional government in Chalatenango. Who knows anything about the attack?”

“I don’t understand.”

“How are they going to do it ? Arms supply, for instance, and the staff training. I’ve seen the men from the Army. They’ve been receiving direct support from the United States and guns of the highest quality. How can you defeat these people?”

“Senor O’Brien, it’s clear that you’re on the right track. Something is going to happen soon. There are secrets in a war.”

“Even if I promised to reveal them simultaneously with the events ?”

“Don’t take us for fools. We can’t risk an operation for that.”

“Even for a large amount of dollars?”

“You’re not suggesting that I could…”

“Absolutely. The money can be delivered to the FMLN.”

“All right, we can negotiate. But I have to say that the money will go to the organisation.”

“I never thought otherwise.”

“But I tell you, senor, that I can’t give you crucial details.”

“I understand that.”

“Well, as we’ve already talked about the attack, there’s no need to go on about that. Two hours of conversation were enough.”

“Of course. What about starting with the guns? I suppose smuggling here is not a problem.”

“You’re right. The region’s been at war for a long time. There are kilometres of virgin forests and the government can’t search all the frontiers.”

“Do you have enough arms to start the attack?”

“No. But soon we’re going to have the best.”

“Are you talking about modern weaponry ?”

“I’m talking about changes in the balance of power – and money, too.”

“Who’s providing the arms?”

“The international market.”

“And the Russians and Cubans…”

“Imperialist propaganda. We buy guns with dollars on the black market. That’s why I’m accepting your offer. How much is it? You know the score: the value of the donation relates to the willingness to speak…”


Chapter 46

There were stars in the sky. Some dogs were barking and, in the distance, there was the clamour of children playing. Chickens were scratching at the earth. A pig darted in front of Keith. The Englishman stepped aside and continued going up the steep hill.

The conversation with the guerrilla informer had been useful. Unfortunately the information he had received, despite his insistence and the dollars, was not enough to form a definite picture of the guerrillas’ intentions. Anyway, the sacrifice had been worthwhile. He was the only journalist able to talk to someone from the guerrilla command, in Salvadorean territory , at a time when other journalists couldn’t get anything.

From the shacks slowed the pallid yellow light of kerosene lamps. One or two had something more than a lamp. In addition to the stars, the most urbanized streets of the village. Quickly, he left the meeting place.

After a cold shower and a large and spicy dinner, Keith felt better and went on to the verandah. There he watched the comings and goings of the people. The owner of the guest house sat beside him.

“Not so many foreigners come to this place. Are you here on business?”

Keith looked at her. He didn’t feel like carrying on a conversation.

“In a way, yes.”

“Do you like it here?”

“It’s a new place.”

“A lot of people have come out of the mountains. The war doesn’t leave anyone in peace.”

Keith nodded. He gazed at the street and asked where there was a telephone booth. After being told by Mrs. Cordero, he went over and put through a call to the capital.

“La Guardia? You’re at the end of the fucking world. Speak up!”

“In a cavern of a fat and snoopy Spaniard !”

“Have you talked to the men?”

“Everything’s fine, Domingos. They gave me the information I wanted and left. Am I going to suffer on that bus or are you going to pick me up?”

“Of course I’ll pick you up, Keith. I’ll be there tomorrow at lunch time, OK?”


“Antonia has been asking about you.”

“If everything’s alright, I’ll talk to her tomorrow. That’s it Domingos. Gracias.”


Keith left the booth and went over to the telephone operator.

“What do I owe you?”

“Two hundred pounds,” he heard in English from a voice that came from behind .”

He felt a gentle slap on his back.

He turned and saw Philippe.

“It’s twenty colons, senor,” said the telephone operator.

“Philippe! You are always catching me from behind!”

“Mr. O’Brien? What a surprise?”

“What are you doing here?” asked Keith, astonished.

“A pink angel brought me here. And the flirting Englishman?”

“Stop taking the piss…”

“I’m investigating. Something tells me that it’s around here… It’s my journalistic intuition. Our intuition… Tomorrow I’ll go up into the mountains.”

“You’re going to try to make direct contact with the guerrillas ?”


“Things aren’t good.”

“I know that. Today I passed by the corpse of a youth on the road, but I decided to continue. After all, what is life for without the spice of death? N‚st-ce pas, mon vieux?”

“Wait a minute,” said Keith, reaching over to pay the telephone operator.

They were silent. The woman gave him the change. Philippe spoke:

“I’ll telephone the newspaper. I’m going to say goodbye to people. Maybe things won’t be so good .”


Chapter 47

After a sleepless night, the day finally dawned. Extremely tired, Keith wrapped himself in the sheets trying to recover the lost hours of sleep. Besides a heavy fit of sneezing, he had been plagued the whole night by the zancudos. The noise coming from the neighbours turning in their beds and moving through the corridor hadn’t helped his insomnia.

While he lay awake he tried to put together what he had heard from the informer with what Philippe said after they left the booth. Something didn’t feel right. Different hints, gaps, contradictory information. One thing was certain: The guerrillas were preparing a huge secret operation.

Philippe’s presence in the village was something disturbing. Keith knew the photographer’s reputation, but he was afraid that the Frenchman would spoil his plans.

Seven o’clock in the morning. A clear blue day. Three blocks from the empty garage, the guerrilla informer was receiving visitors. Two strong, heavily-armed men were asking him some questions:

“Is everything in order?”

The informer was in a cold sweat.

“No problem so far .”

“It’s good that there isn’t. The operation is going ahead .”

“I guarantee it.”

“I hope you haven’t given anything away. We’re tailing you.”

“I’ve done my job according to your instructions. I don’t know why you should suspect me.”


Chapter 48

At around noon Domingos arrived at the hotel. He found Keith making some notes on the verandah. After the Salvadorean’s arrival an adolescent appeared, with a message.


“Senor O’Brien, I’m in trouble. I think they want to kill me. I want you to meet me immediately at the same place we met the first time. I’ll tell you what I know.


Keith crumpled the paper, stood up quickly and said to Domingos:

“I have a problem to solve.”

“Can I help ?” asked Domingos.

“No, no. Wait in the car.”

Keith went to his room. He fetched his things, paid the bill and left. He put his belongings in Domingo’s car and walked alone. He retraced his steps to the place of the first meeting. He stopped in front of the garage. He pushed open the gate and went in .

Close by, the informer’s house was in a mess. His wife was being held by two men. A third was holding his cigarette end close to the woman’s abdomen. The informer’s wife was half naked and covered with bruises . His two small children were watching the scene.

“We don’t have the whole day to waste. Where is your husband? Come on, don’t you feel sorry for the children? If we lose our patience things will be worse.”

The woman was quietly weeping.

“One shout and we’ll blow these kids’ brains out! Where is Enrique?

Her voice was tense.

“He went to meet a man in an empty garage in Cuesta de la Cruz.”

The men pushed her until she fell into the corner of the living-room. One of them pulled a gun with a silencer. He fired three times at the woman’s head. They left the house and went to Cuesta de la Cruz. The children started to cry.


Chapter 49

“Enrique, it’s me,” said Keith.

His voice echoed among the abandoned cars. Nobody answered. He took forward one step. Silence. Keith moved to the centre of the garage. At the other side the informer appeared. They walked towards each other. Enrique was shaking. He was out of breath.

“I have little time, senor. The military faction suspects me. They’ll kill me. They soon discovered that I’d made forbidden contacts. They don’t understand the importance of propaganda in a war.”

“Take it easy, my friend. Let’s do things calmly.”

“No, senor O’Brien, it must be quickly. I’m not wrong. They’ll try to get rid of me. File destruction. I’m not a fool. Come on, I kept the money you gave me. And I want more. I want all the money you are carrying, because I’m going to disappear. And you, as a kind of compensation, are going to have the most important information of this war.”

Keith hesitated.

“And how can I if I don’t know what’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you. Knowing that it’s for a man and his family to escape, you’re going to be generous.”

Keith nodded affirmatively.

“Well here it is . A shipment of arms is about to arrive to the north of Acajutla, almost on the border with Guatemala. They are modern guns bought in Europe by the Soviet Union. A special delivery is also coming, I don’t know if it’s a kind of rocket, chemical weapons or something else. I know that the secrecy is total. From the coast they’ll take the shipment through the forest to a farm twenty four kilometers from here. It’s an old coffee farm with empty sheds. There they’ll hand over the material to special forces. Did you get everything? Write it down.” Keith held his notebook. While the man was speaking, Keith was writing and stuttering:

“North of Acajutla, there… Chalatenango, the district? I know, the road between … before El Paraiso… They call the operation Cayman, Cayman Operation. The code distributed to the command chiefs that will take the material is the arrival of the ship Townlee, in the port of Acajutla. It’ll arrive with no special shipment… pick up a coffee shipment… it only indicates that the guns are in the farm…”

“Don’t I deserve my dollars?” the Englishman heard.

Keith continued to write. He looked up and spoke with no enthusiasm:

“Here you are,” he said giving him a handful of notes.

“Get out of here as soon as possible. Let’s go. I’ll go with you to the door,” answered Enrique.

They walked to the entrance of the shed. Enrique seemed panicky . Keith said goodbye and hurried up the steep hill . His spirit was uneasy. He was afraid of something. He came back to the square and got silently into Domingo’s car. From there the car turned round the bend and went up to the road.

Some minutes after Keith had left the place, another car went down the Cuesta de la Cruz and stopped in front of the gate of the empty garage. Three men entered. Enrique was leaning on one of the cars. Calmly he was lighting a cigarette.

“People ! Here !” he shouted.

The men approached. Two of them pointed the guns at him.

“Come on guys, what’s the matter? I did the job well. Hey…”


Chapter 50

“You know the region very well.”

“I’ve lived for many years in a village nearby. It’s twelve kilometres from here by road.”

“My informer knows you. He’s been in contact with your brother in the guerrillas.”

“My family has people fighting for all sides. It was divided by hate. I didn’t have much contact with this brother. He is younger than me. He lived in the countryside while I went to downtown to work with Don Carlito.”

“Do you like your boss?”

“Without Don Carlito I wouldn’t be anyone. He was like a father to me. He gave me an education and helped me to be what I am. Can I know who your informer was ?”

Keith was in doubt.

“I’d rather not. I want to be able to trust you .”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t need to.”

They drove slowly. The picturesque Salvadorean landscape was passing. From the window, they could see the cultivated plain with its crops of coffee and cotton.

“Domingos, I want you to keep quiet about what’s going on. Don’t tell anyone you came.”

“I won’t say a word. Only Antonia knows that I’m here.”

“The guy’s days seem to be numbered. He told me something extremely important.”

Domingos was curious.

“It’s information that could lead me to big news. After this I’ll certainly retire. The informer gave me all the clues. I need a lot of help and would like to count on you. But it must be clear that you’ll have to keep it absolutely secret. Any precipitate action could disturb the flow of events. I’d hate to lose this opportunity.”

“I’ve been ready since the beginning to help you.”

“All right. I’ll explain what it’s about and what we’ll need. Arms are going to arrive and they’ll be stored in a place that I’m going to skip over for the time being. The place is waiting for the delivery; the storage and the distribution are the last thing.”

“OK. You can trust me. Just tell me what you need and I’ll get it for you.”

“We’ll need guns, courage and means of transport. I’d like you to watch the comings and goings at porto de Acajutla.”

“Are they going to unload there?”

“I’m not going to say. I only want to know when a ship by the name ofTownlee docks.”

“That won’t be difficult. About transport, shall we go by car?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“More people?”

“I think not. We’re going to do things ourselves. Domingos, I don’t know how I got into this, but you can clear out if you want.”

“I’m with you.”


Chapter 51

Antonia hugged Keith tenderly and ran her fingers through his hair. The two bodies touched each other from head to toe .

“Long time no see !” she said.”It seems as if we haven’t seen each other for months! I was scared ! You’re crazy. You shouldn’t be involved in this war!”

Keith took her by the hand. They went into the room.

“I missed you too,” he said.

They kissed each other eagerly. Keith’s hands slid over Antonia’s back. After the kiss she said:

“Keith, we need to talk more about you’ve been doing. Domingos doesn’t tell me much, but I know you’re mixed up in something dangerous. I brought a newspaper cutting and a message from him. He told me part of what you had done in La Guardia.”

Keith looked at her. Antonia continued:

“Darling, I needed to know things. I can’t live with this anxiety. Have you read the newspaper cutting?”

Keith went away to read. The informer of La Guardia had been found dead. He had been brutally beaten. The authorities affirmed that it was probably an act of retaliation by the guerrillas. In the message, Domingos suggested Keith lay low for a time so as not to attract the attention of the police. If he stayed at the centre of the investigation he would lose the chance of uncovering the operation that was about to go down . Domingos signed off offering his help and justifying himself for having told Antonia the facts. She would help.

Keith closed the envelopes. He put them on the chest of drawers and moved towards Antonia again. She was by the window, looking at the tennis courts. He caught her from behind and passed his hand around her waist and turned her round. They kissed each other again. Antonia was uneasy.

“This is my idea, darling. You pay your bills without saying that you’re leaving. You fetch your stuff and leave by the stairs. They lead to the laundry. There’s a side street, where there’s the service door. I’ll distract the porter’s attention and you get in my car. Today, right after lunch. OK with you ?”

Keith nodded.

“Where are we going ?”

“Ah my love, trust me. Let’s say, I’m kidnapping you.”

“Any clues ?”

“No. You must believe in me. Can’t you see it in my eyes ? Keith, let me love you!”


Chapter 52

Keith and Antonia met according to plan that same afternoon. From San Salvador they drove to the coast, avoiding busy roads until they reached an almost deserted region. There Antonia had her chalet.

The chalet was by the beach in a quiet and inaccessible place. To get there, you followed a sandy track past a shelter that guarded access to the private area. This was one of Antonia’s favourite places. She had designed the house and the gardens. The chalet was extremely pleasant. A small hexagonal construction with glass windows that came down to the floor, a pitched roof and protected against inquisitive eyes by a ring of tall trees.

During the day it was fresh, but it became cold during the nights when there was a breeze of the sea . Cosy, the decoration had the personal touch of the owner, providing the comfort she felt was necessary. A big room with a view of the sea, a living room with a wooden floor and pale yellow furniture and a well-equipped kitchen and bathroom.

The living room and the bedroom were separated by wooden shelves at various levels. There was a televison, a videocassette and a sophisticated stereo. The room had beautiful pictures on the walls and an impressive collection of video tapes. There wasn’t a flat roof, but there was an attic covered with pine planks.


Chapter 53

“To use a machine gun you must pay attention to how you are going to connect and disconnect the trigger. It’s always important to check the bolt position and keep the gun disarmed . Lots of comrades die in accidents because they are not cautious.

“Comrades, we must keep up the struggle. It’s a quarter to nine. A useful piece of advice to a revolutionary: Keep the gun-sight adjusted. Most times this decides a battle. Shots fired over a long distance require a gun to be well-adjusted.

“Venceremos Radio. Spokesperson of the national emancipation movement.

“Comrades, comrades, down with the yankees!

“Long live the Revolution! Farabundo Marti! Sandino!

“One more song against the people’s enemies:

yo tenia mi casa chica
clavada entre mar y mar
pero vino la tormenta
y con ella el tio Caiman
Tio Caiman
menea la colita
Tio Caiman
como una senorita
Tio Caiman
menea la colota
Tio Caiman
como una senorita
de repente el territorio
de sur a norte se abrio
la parcela que alli estaba
Tio Caiman se la trago
puso el Caiman su bandera
y la mia me la quito
yo le dije Tio Caiman
eso no la aguanto yo
Tio Caiman hablaba ingles
y andaba por todo el mundo
y en cada sitio que iba
metia su colmillo inmundo
y hoy con su cola cortada
Tio Caiman se cayo al agua
le quitaron el canal
y tambien la Nicaragua
y yo como soy moreno
a mi no me engana nadie
le dare palo al Caiman
a su padre y a su madre.”

“Could you turn it off, darling?”

“Just a minute. It’s important for me.”

“Ah… I wish it would finish soon…”

Keith reached over and slowly turned the radio down till it was off. It was dark and it was a night without a moon. From a distance the noise of the sea could be heard against the cliffs. From their bed they could see the cliffs and the beach far behind. From the window they could also see the gardens with their palm trees and a glimpse of the sky.

“This place is very beautiful,” Keith said.”I’d like to stay here for a while.”

“So why don’t you ?” asked Antonia.

“I’ll have to go sooner or later.”

She was lying in bed on her side. Keith was near the window looking at the stars. He went over to the records, chose one, went back to the stereo and turned it on.

Antonia was more beautiful than ever. Her sinuous lines were apparent beneath the crumpled skirt that she had travelled in. Keith admired this woman’s freedom who, according to her, used to stay here alone, contemplating the sea. As if he had butterflies inside him, he walked uneasily around the house trying to analyze the situation. “Honey, come here,” she said.

He came closer. His heart was beating faster. He felt that desire. Keith stretched his body out on the bed, put his arms around her and they started to kiss each other. The first caresses multiplied and intensified like never before.

They made love.


Chapter 54

Keith awoke with the warmth of Antonia lying beside him. They were naked. Keith held her again . Antonia made a movement and got closer to him. Keith smelt the hours that had passed. It was a mixture of kinds of perfume and a strong scent of bodies. Antonia was breathing slowly. He held her tight, turned and kissed her on the face. Antonia opened her eyes. Then she closed them and uncoiled herself lazily.

“Good morning,” he said.

Antonia stretched and sat up in bed. She gazed at him. She pulled away the sheet that was covering them and threw it aside, revealing their naked bodies. Keith felt a little shy. She looked at him. She moved to and held him tight.

With Antonia lying over him, Keith’s hands wandered over her back, going up and down in circular movements from the nape till the buttocks and loins. His chest felt the friction and pressure of her breasts, while his penis glided smoothly between her thighs. The two bodies were writhing in bed like snakes.

Antonia quivered at every touch. She held her body against his, kissing the nape of his neck. She leaned on one arm and with the other reached for Keith’s penis. She squeezed it gently as it entered her.


Chapter 55

Hugging each other under the shower, they were talking.

“After this you’re going to be back to bed, darling. I’ll prepare an English breakfast with bacon and eggs.”

“There’s no need. I can help you.”

“No, I’ll do it.”

“I can’t believe in what I’m hearing. You in the kitchen ?” he teased.”A businesswoman? A free and feminist woman?!”

“Cut it out, OK ?” she answered.

They ran the soap over other’s body.

1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by

Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
1992 – Copyright of the English version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
Mario Viggiano
Kevin Keys

icon-eye Chapter 56 (click to continue)

acervo álvaro

Caiman Operation,
Tom Laughwood.
part 1:
chapters 34-43

Chapter 34

Lopez’s place was near calle Delgado, in a sidestreet. A simple restaurant, but well-decorated. It was crowded. For a weekday in San salvador that was an exception. They sat at a table next to the entrance.

“You look tired. I don’t know if I was wrong to turn up like that.”

“Of course not. I don’t sleep before eleven. Let’s see what happens. Do you recommend anything?” “Pasta is their speciality.”

“The lasagne?”


“You told me that you’d lived on your father’s farm. What’s it like to pass your childhood in that kind of place ?” “It was a long time ago. I don’t remember it very well. There are only a few good memories, like the pastries that Dona Isabel used to make. I’ve forgotten almost everything. My father’s farms were in a beautiful place. A region of high mountains with a lot of forests. The weather there is milder and even the mosquitoes don’t bother you so much. Did you know? There are still real Indians there. They are nomads, remnants of the first people who inhabited the continent.”

“Interesting. Shall we order ?”

“Yes, please. Waiter, lasagna and cappeletti! And to drink?”

“What about some wine?”

“A bottle of wine. Thank you, Keith. I hate having to choose the drinks.”

“When did you go to the United States?”

“When it was time to study. Here the opportunities are very few and then the guerrillas had started attacking the region. I moved to the capital and after that I lived with my mother in Atlanta. It was great to live in America. It improves people. Everything there is much easier. People with ambition find their chance there. But I think I’ve been talking about myself too much.”

“Not at all. I’m curious. Do my questions bother you?”

“Absolutely not.”

“I ask myself how you came to be interested in business.”

“I think since I was a child. I can’t stand still anywhere. I need to be on the go all the time, working hard. In America I decided to study business and it wasn’t difficult to start. My father helped me a lot. Although he is old-fashioned he believed in me. After all, I am his only daughter.”

“It’s not easy to be a businesswoman in a country like this.”

“We try.”

Antonia talked about her career, explained some of her ideas. She always spoke with conviction, although she avoided going deeper into subjects. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman. Keith let himself be carried away on a wave of emotion. Although he didn’t exactly know what was going on, he knew that Antonia was exercising a glamorous fascination.

The willingness to win, the difficulties she went through to set up her business and her busy life as a businesswoman. These facts couldn’t diminish the admiration that Keith was starting to feel for her. Antonia gave off a mysterious sensation that revealed itself in tiny details. Along with her words,her gestures showed affection and frequently her vital energy.

“This may be a difference. Here people are still stuck in this endless war. In Europe you don’t have to do anything. I think that the will to live is the main thing. We have to learn to deal with things even when they are going wrong. There, I don’t see much of that. Do you sincerely believe that you are living with the intensity that you should?”

“Difficult question. I don’t think so. What I can assure you is that this lasagne is very good and your company is much better.”


“It’s a pity it’s so late. I really have appointments tomorrow.”

“In the morning ?”

“Early. It was the only time that Domingos arranged with Colonel Felisberto.”

“Ah, talking about that, was your conversation profitable ?”

“Very much and I don’t know how to thank you. He’s going to give good protection.”

“These things here are necessary.”

“And you can’t imagine how! I know about it. Well, let’s talk about now, right?”

“A toast.”

“Of course!”

On the way to the hotel Keith thought about the moments he had passed with that woman. Near her, he felt eclipsed. Antonia still had more to reveal. Caution towards her feelings was recommended*when the car braked. The caretaker approached to open the door. Antonia smiled.

“Here we are,” she said.

Keith felt himself definitively involved. From that moment on, he would do anything to conquer her. He hesitated. Then he talked, looking into her eyes:

“Are we going to see each other again ?”

Antonia answered sweetly:

“Is it OK for the night-club on Friday?”

They said goodbye. While the caretaker was holding the door open, Keith stood up and held out his hand towards Antonia. She took it and pulled him close to her. She gave him a kiss on the edge of his mouth.


Chapter 35

The drawers were all over the room. The bed was a mess. The wardrobe was open. Papers and notes were spread over the bed. The cases were on the floor with all the zippers opened. Even the bathroom had been searched. The shaving foam and the deodorant had fallen next to the bidet. The room door was closed without signs of having been forced. It was a professional job.

As soon as he entered, coming back from the restaurant, the journalist thought he should talk to someone. He realised there would be no point in calling the police. He wondered about Antonia. What reason would she have for being involved in something like this ? Could it be a coincidence? What did the intruders want in his apartment? He thought it might be best to try to sleep. He locked the door. He made his bed and got into it. He was unsettled.


Chapter 36

“Antonia, you listen to me whether you want to or not. Listen carefully: I don’t want you involved with this journalist,” said the deputy.

Don Carlito, his daughter and his two private assistants, Domingos and Juan Carlos, were having a meeting in the library of the villa. They had just settled things relating to Izalco Enterprises, the import-export company managed by Antonia. Don Carlito was speaking slowly at that moment, in a respectful and low tone of voice, trying to avoid a scene.

“I don’t like snooping into your private life, but I consider your relationship with the journalist inopportune. You’re going beyond your limits. I asked you only to introduce Domingos and that’s all.”

“Can I know why ?” she said.”And can I know who is gossiping about my private life?”

There was silence. She looked at the two assistants. Domingos stepped back with a gesture that said he didn’t know anything about it. Juan Carlos approached.

“I don’t like him very much. He’s already been in trouble here and in other places. I do it on my own account.”

“You do it according to my instructions,” interposed the deputy.

“It’s not my business,” continued Juan Carlos.”But you shouldn’t have been in contact with a man like Keith O’Brien. If you want, I can show you his file. We’ve already collected a lot of very interesting information about him… We’ve already been in his hotel room…”

Antonia was furious.

“I know very well what I am doing. My life doesn’t need to be invigilated, particularly not by an asshole like you. Dad, I ask you to leave me alone. If you don’t… well, if you don’t you’ll see.”

“I just think that we shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. I don’t have anything against Mr. O’Brien. I think he’s a nice intelligent man. I’m not against the help Domingos is giving him, but I don’t know why you get involved. What do we earn from that ? Let’s forget about this man and take care of our business. And another thing: you expose yourself by going out without a bodyguard. The guerrillas would love to have you as a hostage. Try to be more reasonable my daughter.”

Antonia calmed down. She flung a final defiant look at Juan Carlos and said:

“I’ll shoot the first person I find following me in the streets.”


Chapter 37

After crossing the northwest section of the city they arrived at the Operation Centre of the Salvadorean political police. The Centre worked out of a walled mansion. There were no identifying signs, nor any kind of activity outside the building. The house stood out from the others because of the shelters with men armed with machine guns. The single entrance was heavily guarded, with barbed wire and cement blocks.

Domingos slowed the car. He drove up to the gates. He flashed the lights, reducing his speed further. He stopped. He and Keith were identified at the entrance. Then they found themselves in a kind of internal area where other cars were parked.

What they could see showed that it was definitely not a house. There were thick bars on almost all the windows as well as men in uniform. They were guided by a policeman to an office at the end of the corridor on the second floor.

Felisberto Vilareal, a young man of 32, tall, thin, square-shouldered, with his black hair combed to one side, was the agency commander. He received them at the door of his office.

“Good afternoon,” he said, standing to attention and speaking with a military clip.

Domingos approached and greeted him.

“Good afternoon, colonel.”

“How can I help you? ” answered the officer.

“My name’s Domingos Herrera. This is Mr. O’Brien, the English journalist.”

“Nice to meet you. What are you doing standing there ? Please, come in and take a seat.”

“I work for Don Carlito and I’m Ignacio’s brother.”

“Ignacio Herrera?”


“He’s an excellent civil servant. How is the old deputy?”

“He’s very well.”

“He’s wearing well, isn’t he? How old is he now?”

“About 74, I think.”

The office had a small table near the window from where the internal area could be seen. There was also a circular committee table with four chairs and files stuffed with paper spread around the room. On the wall there were portraits of the President and Army officers. On a table there was a pile of reports, an array of pens and a large ashtray decorated with warplanes. Felisberto sat down and put his feet on the table. The visitors were still standing.

“Well, senores. How can I help you?”

“Well, I offered to bring Mr. O’Brien so he could take advantage of the department’s co-operation.”

“Right. Why don’t you sit down? Senor O’Brien, how can I help you?”

They both sat down and Felisberto asked Domingos for a cigarette.

“Mr. O’Brien doesn’t speak Spanish very well. If you don’t mind, I can tell you what he wants.”

“As you like.”

“I don’t know if you remember, but he is the journalist who was trying to make contact with Santiago’s group in that downtown brothel.”

“Ah! Of course I remember.”

“Mr. O’Brien is one of the most well-known journalists in Europe and he is here doing a story on our country. You already have his file, as well those of the other journalists that are here. He is a neutral and he is full of good intentions. Mr. O’Brien knows that someone has been following him and, after what happened downtown, he realised that you police are keeping a watch on him. In short, we’re here to ask you to leave him be.” Keith intervened.

“I’d like to have a general overview of the conflict to write up later in my articles.”

Felisberto laughed.

“I’m sorry Mr. O’Brien, but I can’t help laughing. Unfortunately there’s no neutrality in a war. You support either one side or the other. The press have no rights in a conflict that involves life and death. We are against them and the one who wins will destroy the other. What you want is simply impossible. Those men would take you hostage and would exchange you for their colleagues in prison. And we did the best thing: We killed them before they could go on causing problems.”

“I understand your point of view, but what I ask is not impossible. I would like to be left alone.”

“Let’s be honest, senor. We follow all foreign journalists. It’s not a privilege. Everybody knows, don’t they, Domingos? They know it so well that they come here to ask the same thing. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Mr. O’Brien, our men are following you to protect you. And if you disappear? We need to know what’s happening. It isn’t in our interest to hear speculations later from the Red press saying that we are `disappearing’ the journalists. War is something that happens every day, even in time of peace. International communism is working every minute of the day. Counter-espionage is part of the procedure. I’ll give you an example. If I were a guerrilla I would make you disappear and later I would kill you, leaving on your body the mark of our death squad. What would happen? The whole world would be revolted with our government. One goal, one battle won by the reds.”

“Were you the ones involved in that hit ?”

“Frankly, yes. We were the ones who went into that brothel firing. Our men had instructions to protect you.”

“Colonel Felisberto, please. Don Carlito is willing to help this man in his work. I was ordered to follow his instructions. I am armed and I know all about the service. Would it be too much if I asked you to make an exception? We’ll take care of his security. Mr. O’Brien would sign something saying that the decision was his .”

“I don’t want to be over-inquisitive, but what’s your special interest in this man?”

“We should all be interested in him. What he’s going to publish in Europe will have repercussions all around the world and this will help to put an end to the war.”

“Optimistic, Domingos, optimistic. The war against communism will never end. And European opinion… well, it’s not important. But let’s get straight to the point, because I’m not here to waste my time. If it’s what you want, all right. I promise you that they won’t bother you. Wait a minute. I have to find the journalist’s file to make some notes.”

Felisberto signalled to an assistant. He asked him to look for Keith’s file. While the man was looking for it, Felisberto talked about the function of the information service. With the file, he took notes of something and read it through, slowly flipping through the pages.

Then he said:

“Well, everything is OK. A detail that I’ve read here. A curiosity. We were not the only ones who were following Mr. Keith. Someone else is following him.”

As soon as the visitors left, the assistant asked Colonel Felisberto if he were serious.

“Of course not. I want you to intensify the surveillance. No mistakes. I don’t want him to see anything. Tell that idiot, Morales, to be quiet. There’s no need to be hasty. Let the man talk to everybody on the left. We are going to do the business later when the idiot’s far away from here. Ah, and I want to know who is following this journalist and why he is so important for Don Carlito.”


Chapter 38

Keith decided to wait. He adopted a more cautious plan of action until something new happened. He stayed quietly in the hotel and tried to think about what had been going on. He concluded that it was essential to protect not only himself but also his informers. The secret service certainly wouldn’t stop following him. Furthermore, someone else was following him and, sooner or later, this person would try to make contact.

His relationship with Domingos intensified and deepened as the weeks passed. The Salvadorean proved to be even more helpful. Constant telephone calls to London brought back old memories. But his involvement in collecting the data for his articles made him lose himself more and more in his new environment. Keith, as in other situations, found himself entangled in events in a search for something in his private life that he didn’t clearly understand.

Antonia became part of his routine. At first, she would appear out of the blue and later disappear for several days. As time passed, they started to see each other almost every day. Keith admired her even more. Although she had a modern spirit, Antonia kept a certain distance, never allowing space for more daring invitations. She sought time to understand what her feelings were.

At the weekend, a telephone call surprised him in the middle of the night. Just as before, a man well informed about his life and habits, claiming to be the guerrillas’ spokesman, was proposing a meeting. Before checking the details, the man spoke with the journalist about his mistakes during the other contact. Keith apologised and said someone had been following him. He blamed himself, but he was quickly forced to change his opinion. The voice on the telephone said that the guerrillas had been watching the person who was following Keith. Everybody made mistakes the first time.

They arranged a new meeting. They didn’t specify the location. Only some days later a brief message would give further details. Keith was supposed to go the following Friday, at six o’clock, to a certain place near the bus station. There he would receive instructions to travel to a certain village. He was asked about people he knew. Keith asked the man on the phone if he knew Domingos. After a short pause he heard that the guerrilla knew the man. He was quite trustworthy. He didn’t have any direct contact with the right wing, but to avoid problems only he should go to the meeting. He avoided mentioning Antonia, but he was asked about her. He replied that she was only a girlfriend and that he didn’t talk to her about what he was doing.


Chapter 39

Domingos probed for more information:

“Did the men get in touch?”

“Are you talking about the guerrillas?”


“We may have a new meeting.”

“Are you going to risk yourself again?”

“It’s necessary. I’m going away soon. The destination hasn’t been revealed yet. They asked me to go alone, and I’m going to respect that.”

“How are you going to get to the country?”

“In civilian clothes.”

“You’d better take care.”

“I sometimes do…”

“How ?”

“It’s good to take risks sometimes.”

“You’re kidding …”

“I don’t know why, but I feel like it.”

“Anyway it won’t be easy for you to travel. Have you ever travelled on our buses?”

“Not yet.”

“Well, if you want I can give you a lift.”

“No, no, I’ll go alone. If the situation gets difficult, I’ll telephone you. I learned a lesson with the deaths of the informers at the last meeting.”


Chapter 40

In front of the television, images of a country music show were flickering on Keith’s serious and impassive face. He paid no attention to what was happening on the screen. He was far away, thinking about recent events.

“I don’t know who I can trust. In my position I don’t have any alternative. Domingos… He surely is one person that I shouldn’t rely on. I don’t know if he’s interested in the end of the conflict. I don’t know who he works for. I must keep my eyes open and use him while it’s possible. He should know as little as possible. He seems to be a man who’s not really involved in politics, but it’s amazing the relationship he has with all the people on the right. I really wanted to understand better what was going on and know exactly who I could trust. I felt like sharing my ideas with Antonia, but something tells me to wait. In fact I don’t even know where I stand. Antonia is a special woman. This involvement at the wrong time is disturbing me. Maybe in a different situation… Her zest for life is beginning to affect me. I am seriously attracted to this woman and I don’t know if that’s good. Particularly in the situation I’m in. The impression I have is that she is going to leave me suddenly. She’s been affectionate and impulsive, talking about strong feelings, but I don’t know what she may do. Antonia is an enigma. She’s been great company during these long days, but it’s difficult. I’m a kind of independent and I can’t accept this feeling with an open heart. I don’t know if I can get involved with her. I don’t know how to deal with things without her. If I could take her smile to England…

“What crap ! I’m a grown man and I’ve been around. It may be something simpler. A desire that comes, a casual meeting and all the story that a man and a woman have to tell. A party, a flame of passion and soon it’s over. I would like to have her in my arms. It’s strange for a man like me, after experiencing everything, to admit that I can still love a woman the way I do… I need to sleep.

“Tomorrow I’ll have a busy day. I’m confused. I can’t tell what’s right or wrong. Where is she tonight?

“Good old Ralph, I miss you. Life’s not the same without a friend to argue with. I think that I’m really becoming sloppy and sentimental. If you could read my thoughts you would surely think that I’ve been carried away by the Latin’s passionate way of living. Could it be? My life has been empty recently… I’ve always waited for the opportunity that I’m having now: a place to forget about the routine and to live intensely. This country has a bit of everything. Passion, this is something that the Latins know how to bring to life.

“El Salvador, a very small and dirty country. A small oven that is slowly baking my senses. What nostalgia for the mild days of Autumn in London. My cups of coffee. Come on, Keith. The show must go on!”


Chapter 41

The waves were buffetting the ship with less force. The wind was dropping at last and the crew, for the first time in two days, could breathe with relief. The ship was off the Central-American coast. Yuri, on the bridge, was smoking a cigarette.

“There’s not much left to do to finish the mission,” he said.

“What are we waiting for, by the way?”

“Instructions by the radio. Probably the group ashore is late.”

“Will it take long ?”

“Less than ten days, maybe. If we don’t have problems like this one, I don’t care about waiting.”

“Bad weather is part of a sailor’s life.”

“That may be true, but I’d rather not have been through it. I’m not used to it,” said the Russian.


Chapter 42

The bus, an old Chevrolet lorry adapted for carrying passengers, followed the Panamerican Highway. From the windows the exuberant tropical vegetation was visible. Plains and scattered peaks appeared in alternation.

Fields with small crops and ranches with cattle farm passed quickly by . The suspension creaked. The passengers were squeezed together, trying to take up the empty space in the aisle. The bus bounced about, overtaking slower lorries when possible, as well as those carrying people. Inside, it was a hub-bub of Hispanic noises and the screeches of chickens in sacks. Now and then someone laughed. `Permissos’ often introduced new faces.

Sitting on the third row of seats, Keith was trying to hold on to his sense of humour. Beside him there was a fat woman carrying a child on her lap. Keith didn’t have enough room for himself, but he was cheerful. In his mind he was whistling an old Christmas song and trying to comfort himself by remembering that he would have to stand for the last two hours.

The bus went north. After the Panamerican, it turned east, along a winding road in dangerous state of disrepair. At this point the mountains were already routine and the bends increased the likelihood of a collision. Keith focused his attention on the passenger beside him. He looked at the deep traces and wrinkles around her eyes. The large cheekbones and the texture of the skin. She took care of the child like a robot. She turned the baby, changed it and shouted at it as if she were hardly conscious of what she was doing. In the rare moments of peace she fed the baby, pulling down her coloured print shirt and giving it her breast.

Small villages flashed past the window. Poor houses in a twisting line, dirty streets full of children playing. Old men and women without teeth eyed the Chevrolet. The bus stopped for a snack near Soyapango. A dirty wooden bar offered the travellers refreshments and Coca-Cola. A small display case on the counter held boiled eggs and pieces of cake. On the walls, there were cigarette and drink advertisements and government posters with photographs of wanted guerrillas. Keith, though trying not to look a foreigner, was the centre of attention. His silence and his posture gave away his origin. He asked for a soft drink. He drank it and tried the gents.

After ceaselessly beeping his horn, the chauffer closed the door. He shouted after those who were missing and accelerated away, leaving the bar behind in a cloud of dust. Keith was back in his seat with his bladder full. The toilet had been impossible …


Chapter 43

A few kilometres before Las Vinas, they were stopped at a police check-point. Three officers looked over the bus. Their eyes scrutinised the passengers’ faces. Armed with machine guns, they spread tension as soon as they entered.

“Your documents, please,” said the shortest. Those standing can get off to clear the aisle !”

They watched each of the passengers’ movements very carefully. Each document checked received a visa. They passed in front of Keith. One of them fixed his attention on the Englishman. He asked for his documents. He took the passport and carried on down the aisle. The other two were at the back of the vehicle. They checked the documents of a twenty-five-year-old guy and, without asking any questions, dragged him from the bus. The guy shouted. Keith didn’t understand anything.

Two policemen came back later and asked some passengers to go to the check-point for clarification. Keith was among them. His heart started to beat faster. He got off with five people. Outside, three soldiers were searching the passengers’ baggage. The group was taken to a small room about four metres square. There was only a writing desk in one of the corners with a noisy fan on it. Flies buzzed around the people. Keith was pushed towards the man in charge of the police operation.

“Sergeant Miguel!” – he introduced himself.”I’d like to know what a man like you is doing in this region ?”

“I’m a journalist.”

“Journalist! Come on! Let’s see. You are either a guerrilla or a smuggler. One or the other.”

“I’m telling you the truth, senor. Please, speak slowly. I don’t understand your language very well, I’m a foreigner.”

” Shut up,” the officer said making a gesture to his assistant.

The man brought Keith’s bag and turned it out on to a table. Pens, notebooks, a diary, a shirt and a small parcel fell from it. The sergeant opened the notebooks, looked at what was written, pretending he knew English. He shook and smelt the pens. Finally he opened the parcel and found some grammes of marijuana.

“Here it is, son of a bitch! Journalist! Filthy drug dealer!”

Keith was wide-eyed.

“I assure you that this stuff doesn’t belong to me. Someone must have put it there.”

“Fuck you, man. Wait there.”

An armed guard began to watch Keith’s movements. His machine gun was pointed at the Englishman’s back. While Keith was sweating coldly, the sergeant questioned the others. He set some of them free and detained one more besides Keith and the man who had been dragged by the policemen off the bus. A little later the driver entered the office, slapping the soldiers on the back.

“Hey amigos, let’s get this over with quickly. I gotta go. Miguel, have you found anything?”

“You’re free. You can get out of here. I’ll stay with these.”

The three men were scared. The two Hispanics started to shout. One of them whispered something to the sergeant. He discreetly passed him a handful of colons and was released. The second was taken to a cell nearby and Keith was kept in the office. The bus driver pressed the horn three times and took off. Keith tried his last chance.

“Sergeant, please, my passport. Read inside the envelope.”

The officer gave him a look. A mixture of disdain and menace. He opened the passport, took a small envelope and started to read. The light in his eyes faded little by little. His face became pale. Without taking his eyes off the document, he waved to his colleagues. They approached and read it too. Beads of sweat stood out on Keith’s face.

“Senor, everything was a big mistake,” said the sergeant.”I’m terribly sorry. I couldn’t have known that you were working for Colonel Felisberto.”

“I was introduced to him by a good friend,” stammered Keith.

“Holy God. You can ask whatever you want. Money? Don’t tell him that we’ve treated you badly. Can we help you?”

1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
1992 – Copyright of the English version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
Mario Viggiano
Kevin Keys

icon-eye Chapter 44 (click to continue)

acervo álvaro

Caiman Operation,
Tom Laughwood.
part 1:
chapters 28-33

Chapter 28

The speed and brutality of recent events were enough to shake the journalist’s morale. Keith began to feel even more involved in a war that seemed to be unreal, although it was cruel enough and certainly connected with the present. He was taking risks in the streets of a country where he wasn’t even known to most of its citizens. Although he was trying to understand the situation he was in, his thoughts gave rise to no conclusions. What had happened seemed to have floored him; what he needed was a new focus for his investigations.

The government and the guerrillas were fighting to win, there was no place for delicacy in this struggle. Keith felt guilty about the deaths of the guerrillas.. He had certainly been followed the whole time and he had been a fool in not taking the minimum necessary precautions to protect his informers’ lives. Clearly the opening that Barry had carved during these past months was now closed. Everything was lost and he was back to where he’d started.

It was already night in the Avenidas and the party in the Vidals’ mansion seemed to be appealing. It would be an excellent opportunity to relax and if possible to pick up some new information. The old deputy seemed to be willing to help and the opportunity couldn’t be lost because of a psychological indisposition. Keith felt that something was in the air. As usual at times like these, he had a bath to recover his energies and decided to go down for a drink before he joined the celebrations.


Chapter 29

By the lift he met Phillipe. He found it strange that the Frenchman was well-dressed for once.

“You’ve changed your style, haven’t you ?”, he said ironically.”You don’t look like the usual righteous photographer that’s always looking for new ways to defend the down-trodden poor.”

“So what’s the problem ? Is it because I don’t fit in with your cliches ?”

“You look great.”

“Thanks. I don’t want to look like a screwed-up American that comes here in a mess looking to get involved.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Haven’t you seen the film `El Salvador, the suffering of a nation’ ? After all, one of the heroes was a photographer like me.”

“I had to see it before I packed. I thought it was alright.”

“Alright ? The American way of looking at other peoples comes out even through the cameras of a pseudo-progressive. They always like to put the emphasis on the people and their search for justice, the constitution they have and stuff like that. It makes me sick.”

“It’s not as bad as that. I think you’re changing the subject. We were talking about your clothes.”

“I decided to find a woman, Keith. I’m tired of living alone. I’ll marry a Salvadorean.”

The lift arrived. The lift boy opened the door and waited for them. They entered.

“Are you going to the Vidals’ party ?” asked Keith.


“Have they invited all the journalists?”

“It seems that people are going to do some drinking at the farmer’s expense.”


“Keith, I heard that you were in trouble in the beginning of the week.”

“Bad moments.”

“Just like the Lebanon?”

“A bit worse.”

“Was it? A situation worse than in Lebanon? There you stayed in the cross-fire, hidden behind a lot of garbage, pretending you were dead. I know this story very well. Sometimes you go off your head.”

The lift arrived at the cocktail bar.

“Drink ?” asked Keith.

“Why not ?” answered the Frenchman.

A noisy group of journalists was having a good time on the hotel terrace. The two men went over. They sat down. The night was mild. The men were talking excitedly. Some of them were a little drunk. Keith ordered a vodka with lemon and no ice.

“Did they all die?”

“I think so.”

“It was no picnic, Keith. In your place I wouldn’t have escaped.”

“Bullshit. In these situations you use your instincts.”

“Anything else new ?”

“Nothing. I wasted my time with a man called Tachito, that’s all.”

“Tachito,” said Phillipe, raising his voice. “People, guess who went to visit uncle Tachito?”

The others stopped talking. They looked at Keith. Most of them were smiling openly.

“Our champion journalist?

“Come on Keith, don’t get angry. I’ve already been there,” said another.

“How many dollars did you spend before you discovered the trick?”

After some time the men organized a kitty full of dollars. The one who had spent the least money on the huckster would win the pot.


Chapter 30

At the top of the hill, more than ten miles from the villa, the white, verandaed mansion seemed detached from the other elements, illuminated by more than a dozen spotlights. A large, airy residence with several levels and a lot of windows, it was in exemplary taste. The view from the verandahs was one of the most envied in the city.

It was well protected, located in the most exclusive part of San Salvador, near the mountains. The district was quite remote and the war was a long way away. You couldn’t make out the mansion from the road. After stopping his car at the entrance gate, the visitor had to pass through a small wood and only then did he arrive at the top of the hill. There was a lawn with palm trees and a dozen of flower beds that surrounded the verandahs and the swimming-pools.

There were tables and kiosks spread out over almost the whole lawn. There were about three hundred people milling about. The night was starry and the weather was mild. There was almost no wind. At the most there was a delicate breeze diffusing the scents of the garden.

Don Carlito was receiving people on the verandah of the main salon. The host was sitting in his favourite suite: black chairs, covered with red velvet and decorated with bronze details. Around him there were some of his private assistants and political friends, among them the Treasury Minister. The greater part of the ornaments in the room were either from the beginning of the century or even earlier epochs. The deputy was one of the most well-known collectors of antiques in the country.

“Man, I didn’t think I’d see these things here !” said a surprised Giovanni, an Italian correspondent newly arrived in the country.

“So, prepare yourself, because you’ll be invited to a lot of these,” explained Philippe.

“Take a look at the cake behind the swimming-pool. It must be about 2 metres high !”

“Keep your voice down.”

“Don’t you think that women here seem to be different ?” Hermann asked Keith.

The Englishman was looking around the extensive lawns. He eyed the guests, seeking out their characteristics. The sound around him was a babble of languages. Keith passed groups of people speaking English, Spanish and even French. He admired the architecture of the house and soon he saw the first kiosk in which he could check the origin of the whisky.

“The best,” he said.”As for the women, I’m really surprised. They are sensual indeed, Hermann! You already had something going with someone?”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Come on! There are no frontiers for love,” said Keith, smiling.

“Let’s go this way,” said the correspondent from UPI.”First, compliments to the main man. It’s the rule. In fact, this is his party. After that, I want you to behave yourselves, boys. I don’t want any trouble.”

Some journalists jeered ironically. Others started talking of other matters.

“Does this approach the Russians made to Brazil and Argentina represent a change in Soviet Union’s politics towards Latin America?”

“I can’t understand what’s happening. The diplomatic policy doesn’t fit in with what I see here. The revolutionary struggle is bogged down. They’re setting traps,” said Octavio.

“I don’t agree.” Hermann spoke as they walked to the verandah.”The Soviet Union isn’t interested in taking risks during a period of tension in Europe, especially over an insignificant country like this.”

Keith interrupted:

“It’s not easy to come to any conclusion in these conditions, we need more information.”

“Of course, but who is going to take the risks looking for them? You know what happens to informers here, don’t you? Smarten up, we’re nearly there,” said Philippe.

The journalists went up the stairs which gave on to a verandah. The security guards watched them. They got together and formed a kind of queue to greet the deputy and the other dignitaries. Don Carlito spent some time with each of the journalists. The old deputy had a fantastic memory and picked up with each of them the thread of conversation they had previously. He was warm towards Keith.

“Good evening and congratulations,” said the journalist.

“Mr. O’Brien. It’s a pleasure to have you here.”

“You’ve got a good memory and a beautiful house.”

“Do you like it ? You must come here one day when things are quieter and I can show you my collection.”

“Do you like antiques?”

“Very much.”

“Interesting,” said Keith, hesitantly. “Your house seems to be so modern…”

“Only on the outside. Come in and see. Do you know Deputy Perez ?” he said, indicating a man at his side. Keith nodded. They exchanged compliments.

“What do you think of the country ?

“It’s very friendly.”

“People here are very happy, despite everything. We’re good-natured, open-minded and we like parties. Have you been to the coast?”

“Not yet, I’ve been very busy.”

“Making `inquiries’, eh ? You didn’t listen to my advice and you got into trouble. I warned you. Come back later. I’ll be free then, when the guests stop arriving. Minister,” he said speaking a bit louder,” I’d like you to meet my friend, Mr. O’Brien.”

After the series of presentations, Keith talked privately with Rodrigo Martines, one of the most well-known Salvadorean businessmen.

“If there weren’t for the guerillas this country would be a kind of Switzerland in Central America. You’ve only to look at Costa Rica. Have you been there ? The left wing lives on the suffering of the people and because of it they don’t let us develop the country. They need the poverty to convince the people of their doctrine. A lot of people died here and others will die for nothing. The war won’t end while Cuba exists.”

“Comparing the situation of the country today and before, at the time of Dom Oscar Romero’s death…”

“Now things seem to be calmer, but I think that these recent attacks are a symptom. The guerrillas will return to sabotage and murder.”

“The police also do these things. I saw a police raid where they killed all the guerrillas.”

“And if they hadn’t done so? Would the guerrillas give them chocolate? A common misjudgement that you foreigners make in a country like ours is to think that solutions are easy to find and you look for a simple explanation for what has been happening,” replied Martines, in another tone.”I sometimes have the impression that you’re daydreaming. The guerrilla is transformed into a beautiful woman and the army into a hairy gorilla. A war has neither generosity, nor rules. The strongest will be the winner. Losing the country means more deaths. Have you seen what happens when the revolutionaries come to power? Have you seen Cambodia, Iran, Nicaragua? It’s hard, but war is a preferable option to what can happen under a communist administration. Do you remember Stalin? The peasants were their first victims, weren’t they?”

A waiter passed. They helped themselves. They went on talking about the reality of the country and the prospects for local industry. Rodrigo was speaking:

“I didn’t imagine that we’d speak English for such a long time.”

“You speak English very well.”

“I have relatives in Miami. I lived there when things were worse. Now, with ARENA, if things aren’t calmer, we at least have a more powerful government.”

Keith was talking and glancing around at people, scenting clues, feeling the atmosphere. The drink had left him feeling somewhat sluggish. He kept up the conversation with an effort. His attention had wandered to the scents in the air. His ears were listening to noisy vowels of the Spanish spoken around him.

Antonia crossed the verandah, kissed her father, said hello to a circle of people near-by and went downstairs towards the swimming-pool. She left only the fragrance of her perfume in the air. A mild bouquet of eau de toilette by Yves SaintLaurent.

Keith’s eyed the woman passing in the distance. He turned to his companion. Rodrigo noted Keith’s distraction and repeated himself, finishing his point.

“I like your style. You’re less daring than the majority of the journalists I know. They always think they know everything. I’ll tell you: the truth, if it exists, is shared by very few. Keith, let’s go to the swimming-pool. I want to introduce you to some people. My glass is empty…”

“I’ll see you later,” mumbled the Englishman.”I’ll take a look at the living-room. Don Carlito told me he has some beautiful Mayan pieces.”

“His farms are near the border with Guatemala. Well, I’ll see you later anyway.”

Despite the breeze, Keith was sweating under his brown blazer. He wandered about, passing amongst guests, coming and going in and out of the rooms. He ate here and there. He had some more drinks. He talked happily to the journalists that were standing at one of the bars.

The swimming-pools with spotlights illuminating the water had attracted people’s attention. Keith saw the sillouette of hills dotted with palm trees. He was feeling more and more remote and was undergoing a strange sensation of lightness. His legs sought movement. He walked among the guests sometimes stopping for an introduction and sometimes to be admired by Salvadorean eyes. For the first time he felt comfortable in that country.

He passed through a big group on the verandah at the side of the house. He heard a familiar voice. It was Rodrigo Martines again.

“Come here. I’ll introduce you to an interesting person.”


“Stop asking questions and follow me.”

They walked towards the garden.

“Here’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

“It’s a pleasure.”

“Your name?”



Antonia was a tall woman with a slim body, a lithe figure, brown eyes and long straight hair.

Her face was smooth and oval. She had a red mouth, in proportion. Her teeth were strong and her nose was small. The cut of her dress revealed part of her well-shaped breast. Her waist and thighs were suggested without breaking the harmony of her lines. Her back was visible, smooth and sensual. There was a birth mark on her right shoulder blade. At the knee, the dress was cut to show her sun-tanned legs. She was lightly made-up and was wearing her favourite jewels.

Keith liked her firm and confident way of speaking. Her English was perfect, as was her smile. Her mouth was what most attracted his attention. The white of her perfect teeth impressed him when she smiled. He scrutinised her body rapidly with his eyes, without lingering on any part. He sensed only the mild feminine scent that had caught his attention earlier.

“She’s Don Carlito’s daughter,” said Rodrigo.

“My father told me about the conversation you had in the Congress,” she said, looking at the journalist.

“We had lunch together,” said Keith.”It’s a pleasant night, isn’t it?”

“Very pleasant,” answered Antonia.”It’s common at this time of the year.”

“I’m going to look for a glass of something,” said Rodrigo, turning his back on the couple.

“Do you know Rodrigo ?” she asked.

“Your father introduced him to me. You speak English very well.”

“My mother is American. I’ve lived there more than here. Can I call you Keith?”

“Of course .”

“Would you like something to eat? Come with me. I’ll show you a delicious canape. Would you like some more scotch?”

“If you have one too, OK.”

“So, let’s go.”

Around the table with canapes and hors d’oeuvres there was a group of local journalists talking to two representatives of a Spanish textile group. The directors from the”Diario de Hoy” and “La Prensa Grafica” were talking about the constant flight of foreign money from the country.

“Since the war escalated we’ve lost millions of dollars per year already in foreign investments. Previously, our country offered an excellent return on multinational capital investment, because labour here is very cheap and we’re near the United States. Now we’re obliged to watch these businesses reduced to the minimum possible, without being able to do anything about it.”

“You’re right,” agreed one of them.”Nowadays only American help is keeping us going. You yourself, from Santa Matilde, do you intend to enlarge your cotton processing works in El Salvador ?”

Keith and Antonia joined the group as they sampled the pat‚. Antonia introduced him to the executive directors of the local press.

“We’re pleased to meet you. Antonia, take him to visit our newspaper. You know,” said the director of La Prensa, turning to the others,”this man works for one of the best newspapers in Europe.”

“It’s not quite that,” answered Keith, pleased.”We’re interrupting an interesting conversation, aren’t we?”

“Not at all. We’ve been talking about the war and the reduction of investments in the country. What do you think about that ?” asked one of the businessmen.

“Come on, my friend. Today we’re having a party. Let’s not talk about unpleasant subjects with our guest,”

interrupted Antonia.

Her intervention was decisive. The men lowered their tone of voice.

“You’re still the same, our darling Antonia,” said the director of Diario de Hoy.”You’re very beautiful today.”

” Thank you,” she said.

“People,” he said, turning to he companions, “she is one of our most dynamic businesswomen. She runs a group of companies with a turnover of millions of dollars per year.”

“Excuse us, but we’re going to eat some of the excellent canapes that Rosa makes. Would you like to join us?” “Thank you. They’re very good, Mr. O’Brien,” said the Spanish businessman.”I’ve never eaten any as good as these.”

Antonia took Keith by the arm and put some of the sweet on a plate for him.

“Well ? ,” she asked.

“Very good, very good indeed.”

“They’re my favourite. They remind me of my childhood.”

They stayed there for a while, listening to the men discussing coffee quotations, business and investments. Antonia was eating slowly, letting her eyes fall on the landscape around her. She sometimes glanced at Keith’s face or took part in the journalists’ and businessmens’ talk, criticizing and being ironical about the situation in the country. She criticized the lack of a more effective business policy and complained about everyone’s acceptance of armed conflict.

They said goodbye to the four men and mingled with the other guests. Antonia sought from Keith his first impressions about El Salvador. She spoke directly:

“The war’s destroyed everything in this country, even the topics of conversation. People only talk about. We all know one thing. What’s the point in talking about it night and day?”

Keith nodded in agreement.

“Don’t take me so seriously,” she said.”I know that you’re here because of it. But life is much more than crises and men fighting, isn’t it? There’s an invisible adventure that isn’t printed in the newspapers. That’s what I like talking about. Come with me. I’ll do you a big favour. Then we’ll go for a walk and forget about motives.”

Keith didn’t understand. Antonia was shining but her light was confusing. At certain moments he felt she dazzled the whole atmosphere, but at others she seemed to disappear. The certainty of her decisions, the refined way of speaking and the presence of her body alternated with silences and long gazes into the distance.

They walked a bit more and then went to a kiosk where they were serving drinks.

“I know you aren’t fond of mixing your drinks, but I’d like you to try this cocktail. Hector, one of those ! Keith, can you see those two men ?” she asked, pointing them out. “They are my father’s private assistants. They both have connections with the police and in the secret service. See, they’re watching us. I don’t like the man on the right. He is much too coarse and he’s of limited intelligence. But Domingos, the man on the left, is one of the most fantastic men I’ve ever seen. He’s been working with us for more than twenty years. Since he was a child, my father helped him to study. He comes from a poor family in Los Chopos, a small village near one of our farms. I’m sure that he’ll be willing to help you. He can use the influence he has in certain police departments to ask them to stop bothering you. My father won’t complain. He likes you very much.”

She waved at the two men. They both made a sign asking which one had been solicited. Antonia solved the problem by pointing at Domingos. The short man, with a steady and slightly reeling walk, crossed the lawn and came towards them. Keith observed him closely as he approached. He noted his crossbred ancestry. He observed his Chinese-like eyes, round nose, his black, fringed hair and olive complexion. His big face, rather square, couldn’t conceal his origins.

Domingos was wearing a light blue safari suit and white shoes. With a smile and a little shyly, he held out his hand. Antonia introduced Keith and then explained his problem. She gave him a cocktail of coconut and rum and asked him to help the journalist with whatever he needed. Keith said it wasn’t necessary, but finally agreed just to avoid a refusal that might offend his friendly hosts. He arranged an appointment for the following morning. From a distance, Juan Carlos, the other of Don Carlito’s assistants, never took his eyes off them.

Then Antonia took Keith for a stroll through the garden. They walked to a raised terrace from where they could see the city and the villa. The place was a corner with railings, near a cliff. A small garden, an arrangement of trees and a table. They talked there. They spent some time looking at the landscape. Keith’s mild drunkenness had blunted his senses. The scents, the night, the perfume and the presence of Antonia. From off could be heard the murmur of the party and the calm sound of the New York pianist Bob Kavanaugh. There was a scrap of moon in the sky, silvering their faces.


Chapter 31

He shook off the last drops of water. The towel rubbed the hairs on his nape. Keith’s muscles were stiff and were firming up. He looked at himself in the mirror. His sunken eyes revealed that he had slept very little. It was five to nine. He put the toothpaste firmly on to the brush. He opened his mouth and started to massage his gums. He passed the toothbrush over his teeth. His breath was fresh again. He started slowly to come to.

He left the bathroom and went into the bedroom, while he was rinsing his teeth. He looked at his unmade bed, opened the curtain and the light hurt his eyes. He went and spat everything into the sink. He gargled four times and breathed deeply through his mouth.

He was late for his meeting with Domingos. The Salvadorean must certainly have been waiting. He grumbled, stammeringly,”This isn’t the way an Englishman behaves.” He looked once more into the mirror.

He recalled last night’s party with mixed sensations. Antonia’s face and her direct and sensual way of declaring preferences. The tropical night that had passed. A confusing feminine image formed in his mind while he was looking for his shoes. He found them. He sat up and tied his laces. Above all, the contradiction. The confusion and the strange feeling of unreality. His actions were mechanical.

He dressed. He was in a hurry. He brushed his hair. He telephoned reception and asked for a taxi. He closed the door and went downstairs almost at a run.

Around him, impressions formed pallidly. The musty seat of the antique Ford, the passing streets, the strangeness of the people and the noise of Hispanic voices talking on the radio. Keith was trying hard to recover his normal way of thinking. The car swung wildly, beeping at pedestrians and braking violently at every corner.


Chapter 32

“I’m fed up with everything, Ralph. You can’t imagine what this country is like. I know, the line is terrible. They’re incompetent. It’s unbelievable how they manage to survive. I’m talking as loud as possible. It’s not my fault. I’m not the one who’s making this noise on the line. Be patient. And how’s the old country.”

“I miss you. So what? You’ve told me a lot of things, but you haven’t said anything substantial. By the way, what are you doing there? Are you playing a game Keith, risking your life doesn’t make for good journalism. Have you got your head sorted out ?”

“I can’t really talk seriously with you. The same mother fucker as usual.”

“I don’t like this foul language. Are you learning from the natives?”

“Fuck off, Ralph. I’m not spending money on this call to listen to your bullshit. I want some help. Come on, let’s think together. I need some advice. Do you think I can still believe in these people?”

“Are you talking about the guy that offered to take you to Colonel Felisberto?”


“You have to build up a game plan. You need to trust someone, even temporarily. If you don’t, you won’t get anywhere. Did you find him convincing?”

“He told me his family mourns the dead on both sides…He seemed to be sincere. He wants the war to end. At the same time… I think his connections with the secret service are a little strange.”

“Not that much. In these small countries everybody knows everybody else. At last he works with deputy Carlito. And the press?”

“The staff want a good time. As always, the usual reprobates. Do you know who’s been here? Hermann Fenbert.”

“Running away from his wife!”

“It must be that. If I get safe-conduct, I’ll look closely at this stuff.”

“Great ! That’s the Keith I know. More experience, more action. That’s what I was waiting for. The insect sting. The pepper in the eyes. My favourite journalist can’t lose his way. Wasn’t it you who discovered where Moczulski was in Poland and got an exclusive interview with the heads of KOR ? I like your metamorphoses. Come on, my young Frankenstein. But be careful! I don’t want you getting into trouble.”

“I’ve always been careful. Send me some decent newspapers to read.”

“Dorothy sends her regards.”

“Tell her that I haven’t forgotten. I’ll be back to get married to her.”


Chapter 33

As soon as he put down the receiver, Keith stretched out across the bed. He pulled off his shoes with his feet and flexed his legs, moving them up and down, exercising them. On a chair near the bedside table was his shirt, soaked with sweat. On the table were the notes taken during the conversation with Don Carlito’s assistant. Keith had had a long and tiring day.

The doorbell rang three times. The journalist got up, grumbling. He hadn’t ordered anything. Who could it be? He wasn’t expecting anyone at that moment. He thought the waiter must have lost his way. He put on his slippers and his shirt and answered the door.

Antonia stood before him.

“I decided to pop in,” she said, smiling a little shyly.

Keith tried to organise things. He closed the door a little.

“I hope I’m not bothering you,” she said.

It took Keith some time to answer her.

“Not at all,” he murmured.”It’s good to see you.”

“Would you like to have a drink with me ?” she asked.

“Of course. What time is it?”

“Twenty to ten.”

“So let’s do this… Can you wait for me at the bar by the pool? I’ll take a quick shower and go down. Or do you want to meet me in the shopping arcade ?”

“By the swimming-pool. What about going out?”

“I don’t know the city.”

“Hill’s Cottage? It’s a mixture of a disco and a restaurant. It’s a pleasant little night-club !”

“Not tonight. I had a tiring day.”

“Well, at least a dinner at Lopez’s place.”

Half an hour later they left the hotel. Antonia’s car stood apart from the others parked nearby. A metallic-red Pontiac. They walked over to it chatting casually. As soon as they got in Antonia asked:

“Any musical preference?”

“I like a lot of things, specially jazz.”

“Bob Dylan?”

“Some songs…”

“What about this one? Do you know it?”

“I’ve heard it before.”

Antonia started the engine, put the tape into the cassette player and drove away.

“Hey Mr. Tambourine man
play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and
there is no place
I’m going to.”

1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
1992 – Copyright of the English version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
Mario Viggiano
Kevin Keys

icon-eye Chapter 34 (click to continue)

acervo álvaro

Caiman Operation,
Tom Laughwood.
part 1:
chapters 22-27

Chapter 22

William Wilbur was one of the most well-known foreigners that used to visit the house. On the staff of the American Embassy, he not only talked politics and diplomacy with Dom Carlito, but was also the family friend, especially of Carlito’s wife Elisabeth, who was still active in the American community.

“Good afternoon, Wilbur,” said Dom Carlito.”I haven’t seen you for a long time. Do you have good news for me?” Wilbur got up, nodded and went to greet them.

“Sir; Antonia; how are you?”

They shook hands.

“Are you going back to Europe after your father’s party?” asked Wilbur, glancing towards Antonia.

“No,” she answered politely.”I’m staying here for a few months because I have some business to see to.”

She looked at her watch. It was four o’clock.

“Well gentlemen, I think I’ll leave you. I know that you have a lot to talk about,” she said.

Antonia said good-bye to both of them and went out to the verandah. Don Carlito put his hand on Wilbur’s shoulder and they went into the library.

They closed the doors. Coffee and biscuits were on the table. There were three bookcases full of books on Law and the Annals of Congress. A careful observer would recognize collections of famous literary works. The paintings, rugs and classical furniture revealed Don Carlito’s predilection for antiques.

The two men, sitting side by side, were talking in English. Wilbur had brought the latest news of his trip to Washington, specially the movements in coffee and sugar futures. They were exchanging trivialities, in a tangled and circular conversation.

“I don’t think that the economic fight with Japan will lead us into a new world crisis,” said Wilbur.”But I still recommend caution. The United States are going to try to reduce their trade deficit, even if it means restricting imports from friendly countries.”

Don Carlito nodded in agreement. He poured some coffee.

“No sugar, thanks. Don Carlito, I came specially to ask you a favour. We have been friends for years and I know that it might seem indelicate to come to your house to talk about this sort of thing, but Washington wants some priority. We have definite information that the KGB is planning something extremely daring, a certain operation about which we have only a few clues… Unfortunately, it’s going to happen here, in El Salvador.”

“They live on the other side of the world and they still make our lives hell.”

“There’s no doubt that they’re preparing a big guerrilla offensive. The president wants effective and discreet action to avoid an imbalance in the war.”

“What is it , Wilbur?”

“I don’t know and even if I did I couldn’t say. You have to understand that it is a question of maximum security. We count on your loyalty.”

Don Carlito scratched his chin.

“I see… How can I be useful? Biscuits, he offered.

“Don Carlito, we need one of your assistants. He would have to act on our information. We can’t take risks in having CIA agents working here. If something went wrong it would be good stuff for the press, to accuse us of interfering.”

“Who do you want?”

“I don’t have specific names, one of your two trusted men, perhaps. It’s not dirty work and Washington will pay well for his participation in the operation.”

“I understand.”

“Washington will value your loyalty highly.”

Don Carlito got up.

“Is the deal being organized by the people from the Central department?”

“Directly from there. They’re the people from the Department of Latin American Affairs.”

“Well, Wilbur, I never could say no to you. What am I supposed to do?”

“You’ve only to decide who you want to choose and send him to the embassy.”

“Tomorrow your man will be there. No problem. As for the salary…”

“We can talk about that later. Let’s not talk about money in your house. There’s only one more thing, it may be asking too much…”

“Come on, Wilbur. Spit it out.”

“It’s something delicate. I know that I’m going to ask for something extremely difficult, but I have personal instructions from Washington. Please, don’t be irritated if it offends you. I’d like to be free enough to say what I’m supposed to, and I won’t be upset if you can’t help us.”

Don Carlito felt his companion’s tension. He said:

“Wilbur, you don’t have to be formal with me. Come with me to the veranda. On the way you tell me what it is.”


Chapter 23

Keith was talking to himself.

“I’m not happy. When I first thought about writing something on the situation in this continent I didn’t expect it to be so difficult. I’m busy with what is going on here, but, despite the work, images from London still come to my mind. This may have to do with the way I used to live before I left. I am really dissatisfied and only now can I see clearly the extent of my unease. I can reconstruct the whole scene. Ralph made me read something about certain possibilities that Barry had discovered, particularly contacts that might lead us straight to the high command of the guerrilla movement, hints about a secret military operation. It could be good stuff. Barry wasn’t the right man because he’d gone back to hitting the bottle. I wasn’t immediately interested in the nature of the subject. Central America was much too far from our reality. There were other options. There was one in Italy and a specially interesting one in India. I was so confused that I chose the most distant option and the least interesting. Ralph urged me to travel, but now I see that I could easily be somewhere else.

“I don’t understand this country and its people. Everything here is trapped, slippery. I don’t know how to put together the information I’ve received, the setting is so unreal. Whenever I walk through the streets and see the chaos of the traffic, the puddles and the trash on the pavements, those sickly people heaped together on old buses and lorries, I can’t help missing London. The heat of this country, the mosquitoes, the incompetence…

Whenever I read and hear about the atrocities that the war generates here, it doesn’t seem to me that underdevelopment is the only reason for this state of things. Barry is right. The nature of these people is wild and grotesque.

“There are no advantages in being here. I don’t like the food, the weather… Something is happening and I’m here, stagnating, without courage or emotion. The misery of these people makes me feel pity and anger at the same time.

“What laziness! Something may justify my presence here, mixed up in a strange war…”


Chapter 24

The press conference of the Salvadorean president and parliamentarians started forty minutes late. It was an unusual day, extremely hot, which made the appointment somewhat galling for Keith’s weary spirit. Squeezed into the small Congressional press room, journalists from various parts of the world were checking information and noting down statements from Salvadorean authorities.

The government was trying hard to improve its international image. The president answered questions relating to the war and the economy. He criticized the armistice suggested by the Christian Democrats some time ago, avoiding questions from Latin-American journalists who were forcing him to face the difficulties that ARENA had imposed at the time of the negotiation.”The government can’t tolerate two sets of armed forces,” he argued, reiterating the demand that the guerrillas surrender their arms to allow negotiations to begin.

Keith was watching the confrontation between two Latin Americans. One of them, president of a chaotic and ungovernable country and the other, a typical hack who offended the expert and professional English journalists. The president would concede nothing, nor would the journalist relax his insistent pressure. Keith recognized in his colleague’s behaviour a vice which he thought fatal to the verification of facts.”You can’t deal with someone in authority if you give away your ideological position,” thought Keith, looking at the people around him.”This guy is a sympathizer who wants to embarrass someone in authority “.

The Englishman glanced around and nodded discreetly to friends from Europe. It was hot. Sweat was running down his face while he noted the president’s gestures: he crossed and uncrossed his hands, held his chin, emphasized one or another declaration with his wrinkled forehead and counted on his fingers the main elements of his government’s plans for economic recovery.

Keith preferred not to ask a question during the interview. It was more interesting to observe, taking notes of this or that statement. Anyway, if it were necessary, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to have an exclusive interview with the president at another time. London didn’t want rhetoric, but a special report. The session with the journalists was just an excuse to improve his listening skills.

The microphone passed from one to another of the members of the government present. They were finding it tough going repeating the arguments of the president. A deputy became irritated with an Argentinian journalist. Alfredo Cristiani, who was covering himself against further probing, took on the question. Keith didn’t like him very much, but gazed at him with slight smile as he spoke loudly and pompously:

“I want dialogue, not war! We intend to govern for all five million Salvadoreans. We’ll transform El Salvador into a Central American Formosa.”

Behind the president’s self-assurance it was possible to detect a certain bewilderment among the Salvadorean executive. The country was, in fact, becoming increasingly uncontrollable and this was one of many attempts to put up a facade of normality.

The Salvadorean leader indicated that he was going to terminate the interview. He stood up and he was followed by other members from the table. Keith approached the president and was introduced to him. They exchanged trivialities and the Englishman took the chance to make contact with some politicians whose names he had been given by members of the British Club. He arranged meetings and made appointments. The most interesting of all was a long conversation with Dom Carlito Vidal.

The deputy made an effort to see the journalist personally. He invited Keith to have lunch with him after the president’s press conference. During the conversation, he volunteered to clear up any doubts that Keith might have and offered an excellent opportunity to meet personally the chief of the Armed forces and other people from the military and political commands.

The meeting lasted two hours. Keith was impressed with the liberal tone of the deputy’s remarks. Don Carlito was firm when he said that he supported the fight against communism, but that he didn’t give up the idea of a negotiated solution for the war in the country.

“It’s more important for our people. Very few want to know about winners and losers: the absolute majority of the population want only to live in peace,” he said.

“It is ten years since the war started,” commented Keith.

“There are citizens that have never known the meaning of either order or progress,” continued the deputy.”We need to give them the opportunity to work in peace.”

” As for the guerrillas, deputy, do you believe they could be trusted in the event of an armistice?”

“We have already had experience in the past. They don’t understand the idea of a longlasting or, at least, a stable social peace. This is the problem of marxist doctrine: it reduces everything to armed conflict between the classes. As soon as they regather their strength, they’re the first ones to break the truce.”

“There are some people that say that death squads are active even during an armistice.”

“The squads are a kind of cancer inside the government.

“Our Christian spirit tells us to reject these men, but we can’t simply start fighting them and weakening each other.” “There’s a common enemy and a more powerful one. With the extreme right we try to maintain a dialogue. We can convince them that respect for human rights is fundamental to the credibility of the government. Christian Democracy is open to an understanding.”

“Do you think it might be possible for me to meet any of the guerrilla leaders ?” asked Keith.

The deputy spoke quietly, in a deeper voice:

“It wouldn’t go down well with the authorities and it would be a waste of time. We are at war and the enemy uses propaganda to spread confusion. What reasons could a guerrilla have for telling the truth to a journalist from a Western power ? If I were you, I would forget all about this subject and concentrate on the theme you want to develop about the relationship between the economy, investiments and an exhausting war. This material will give you an excellent article.”

After listening to Don Carlito’s comments about investiments in the country, reports on the principal political movements and personalities from El Salvador, Keith was invited to the Vidals’ mansion for the party to celebrate his fifty years of political life.

“It’s next week. On Saturday next, not this one,” said Don Carlito.


Chapter 25

It was ten to midnight. The telephone rang in the bedroom.

“Keith O’Brien?” asked a distant and tremulous voice. in the background, there was some noise coming from a television and the murmur of people speaking.

Keith rubbed his eyes.

” Speaking.”

“Santiago here. Barry might’ve mentioned me.”

Keith sat up. He paid more attention.

“Of course he did. I can hardly hear what you’re saying, because of the noise. Could you please speak loudly and slowly? I don’t speak Spanish very well.”

“OK. I’m in a telephone box. Listen, I don’t have much time. I want to know one thing. Are you still interested in talking to us?”

“Yes, of course I am,” Keith replied.

“Good. Has Barry told you about the risks ?” asked the executive member of the”Frente Farabundo Marti de Libertacion Nacional.”

“I know how to deal with them.”

“Well, try to find the bar `Pizarro’. Tomorrow evening, go there and wait. Between five and a quarter past I’ll ‘phone you again. Go alone. Your name will be Ramon Arenas. I am going to send you to many places before we meet. Be discreet. Are you blond ?”

“No; and I can pass for an Hispanic.”

“That’s fine, then, Mr. O’Brien. Tomorrow at five. Goodbye.”

The call ended abruptly. Keith sat up in bed and turned the lamp on. Things were warming up. It’s not always that a member of the organization that represents the legal and armed opposition in a country looks you up. Barry’s contact could clarify some of his suspicions.

He drank a little water from the bedside table. He turned off the light and tried to sleep again.

He had a restless night.


Chapter 26

The following afternoon, Keith left the hotel at about four o’clock. He hailed a taxi and went downtown. He got out near the corner where he would receive the telephone call.

The district he was wandering through was unknown to him. It looked as though the place was full of junk shops. The sidewalks and the shops were full of second-hand goods. Traders tempted buyers with their bargains.

“Un grabador cassete!”

Keith had dressed as best he could according to local custom. While he waited for the time arranged for the call, he went in and out of a few shops, browsing among the things there. He asked about prices and amused himself bargaining for stuff he was not at all interested in buying.

“How much is this jacket?”

“For you, senor, it’s cheap. It’s only 2000.”

“It doesn’t suit me.”

“Senor, it’s real leather, here, feel it.”

“It’s expensive.”

“A coat like this for 1800?”

“I didn’t want to spend more than 600.”

“600! Senor? That wouldn’t even pay the freight. It’s yours for 1200 and that’s a deal.”

“Sorry, but I’m going to walk around a bit. It’s not that cold,” said Keith, getting out of further negotiation.

He left the shop, looked at his watch and walked to the bar with the telephone mentioned by the guerrilla. A man came into the shop soon after and asked the salesman:

“What was he looking after?”

The Salvadorean pretended he wasn’t listening. The man slipped some notes from his pocket and tossed them on the counter.

“He wanted a leather jacket,” said the salesman.

It was twenty past five when the telephone rang. Keith sat at the bar and waited. He drank two shots of tequilla. He gazed at the ceiling fans, the dirt in the corners and the ancient, loose floorboards.

The bar was an old building from the beginning of the century: wide windows, walls with decorated tiles and pictures of catholic saints. There was a high counter capped with steel and on it there were some glass cases filled with odd trifles. There were a few people in the place: three dark men next to the door and a strange couple at a table at the back. The owner was behind the counter pulling at his moustache and watching the two exchanging kisses. Then another man came in, bought a cigarette and stood by a pillar opposite the bar. The telephone rang.

“Senor Ramon Arenas!” shouted the owner.

Keith hurried to answer.


“Keith O’Brien? OK. Answer only yes or no. Are you alone?”


“Good. When you leave the bar, you have to go along this street for three more blocks and then turn right for two blocks. There you’ll find a bar and another telephone. Be there at ten to six.”

Keith looked at his watch.

“I don’t know if …”

“Yes or no, only.”



Keith paid his bill and left quickly. Discreetly, two men followed him. At the corner, one turned to the left and the other followed Keith.

Time was passing. Keith walked faster. At six-twelve the telephone rang in the other bar.

“Ramon Arenas?”


“Our men think that there’s somebody following you. It’s only a hunch. Let’s do it this way. Go into the toilet and leave by the back door. There you’ll find a lane. Turn left, going down, walk two blocks and turn again, but this time to the right. A door will open. Just go in. If the door doesn’t open it’s because the meeting has been postponed. Do you want to go on?”


It was getting dark. Keith noticed that he was in the red light district. Drunk and ragged men and noisy women were haggling over prices. Keith was exhausted. He was sweating and his body ached. He went to the bathroom. He felt sick. The walls were yellow, something stank beyond the hum of mosquitoes. He left and turned towards the back door.

He headed for the rendezvous. He passed through narrow lanes and steep climbs past old and dilapidated houses, subdivided into tenements.

Women standing on the sidewalks approached passers-by. Middle-aged men, soldiers and youths were milling about. Keith hurried on. It was the rush that kept him calm despite the effort and the nausea. He found himself in a dark lane. A door in the basement of one of the houses crack.

“Senor Arenas,” somebody spoke in a low voice.

Keith walked towards the door. He looked around and saw nobody. He went in. A dark corridor preceded a set of stairs that was clearly some sort of a service area. A dark man carrying a small machine gun followed him. Keith was nervous, but it was impossible to go back. They went up four flights of stairs, through a small door and came out into a red corridor, illuminated by blue lamps. The stench of the place was unbearable.

“Senor, we are near. Santiago is waiting in that room,” he said, pointing.”I’ll check if everything is in order.”

The man went to the end of the corridor. He looked along a further landing full of half-opened doors and semi-naked women. Someone waved. He was signalling that something was going wrong.

The tension in the air became an explosion of noise. A man ran in Keith’s direction, shouting:


He kicked open the door of the room where Santiago was. A frightened woman cried out. The guerrilla dived into the bathroom and came out pulling his friend. They ran passed Keith with guns in their hands.

“Get out, man!” Keith heard.

The two men entered another room. Some women and their clients stuck their heads out to see what was going on. From a distance came the noise of sirens and shouts.

Keith snappedfrom a state of shock into action. Guided only by his instincts, he turned back, ran to the small door and then towards the stairs. His heart was pounding. He couldn’t think. His muscles had taken over his body.

Instead of going downstairs, he clambered desperately up to a kind of attic. He looked through the window. The street was full of police and army vehicles.

Inside the house he heard the sound of gunshots and shouts. Machine gun blasts. Keith found for a side-window, broke it, clambered on to the window sill and jumped to the next-door building. He searched frantically a window, climbed in, and mingled with the people from the neighbouring brothel.


Chapter 27

“The situation looks bad, my friend. Things are different from where you come from,” said a policeman. Keith was staring at Santiago’s body. Others, stretched out in the mortuary fridge, were also so riddled with gunshots that it was impossible to recognize their faces.

The policeman continued:

“You’d better keep yourself to yourself, it’s less risky for you and for anyone else. This is not Europe with all its subtlety. The police have been looking for this group for more than five years. They were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of more than eight businessmen. They were brutes. They were the ones who tried to kidnap the German Ambassador. The bums would have held you hostage for either money or the release of prisoners. They play to win, why should they compromise ?”

Keith breathed deeply and swallowed with difficulty. He left as quickly as he could and returned to the hotel.

1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by

Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
1992 – Copyright of the English version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
Mario Viggiano
Kevin Keys

icon-eye Chapter 28 (click to continue)

acervo álvaro

caiman operation,
Tom Laughwood.
part 1:
chapters 15-21

Chapter 15

Room 804, the right-hand side of the Avenidas.

It was a little after nine. The sunlight coming through the curtains was making the room warm. Keith woke, got up, stretched himself and walked over to the coffee table. He telephoned reception to order his breakfast, reminding them not to forget the eggs.

He asked some more questions just to test his Spanish. Although he had studied it for 10 years and had travelled to Spain many times, he was not confident enough to express himself without difficulty in Central America. This time he didn’t stutter and he had to change his intonation to make himself clear. He was pleased when he saw that he had been understood.

He reached out and drew the curtains. He saw by day the landscape that he had imagined the night before. The hotel was in the outskirts of the city, set on an attractive hillside. From his room he could see the mountains that surrounded San Salvador and some distant suburbs. He surveyed the hotel area and saw swimming-pools, bars, gardens and courts. He felt the sun on his skin.

He telephoned Barry and made an appointment for an hour and half later by the hotel swimming-pool. They talked for some minutes about the journey. Keith asked about Ramirez. The correspondent told him that the man was in the hotel lobby, ready to help him with whatever he wanted.

“I don’t need anybody. I can do it myself, Barry.”

“OK, Keith, I only wanted to be helpful. I don’t know what your Spanish is like nowadays…”

“Here, in the hotel, everybody speaks English.”

“All right. Send Ramirez back and I’ll get rid of him. Did you sleep well last night?”

“Yes, I needed some rest. I think I’m going to have some days off before I start working.”

“That’s good. How about the weather here?”

“Well, at the airport, during the day, the heat was terrible. Here in the hotel I don’t know because I arrived in the evening. I slept well. The temperature at night is fine, very fresh.”

“It’s because of the mountains.”

“I suppose so.”

Keith drank his coffee. As soon as he had washed and dressed, he went to see Barry. He took a book, some notepaper and a couple of magazines.

By the poolside nearest to the Tropical Bar there was a lively crowd of journalists. Keith met old friends like Hermann Fenbert from the Suddeutsch Zeitung, Paul and Steven from the New York Times, people from Le Monde, UPI and from the Corriere della Sera.

“Hey everybody, take a look! Isn’t that Keith O’Brien?”, shouted one of them.

The others stopped talking to look at the Englishman. Keith waved his hand and approached them.

“Hi! It looks like the whole of Europe has moved to El Salvador. I don’t mean to offend the Americans present here,” he said looking at the group from the New York Times.”Is there nothing happening in the old world ?”

They laughed.

“And Her Majesty’s correspondent? What’s he doing in this distant country?”

“Well, the winter there was too cold, don’t y’know?”, he said looking down at himself.”I’m on holiday. I came to swim in a pool at the foot of Mount Izalco.”

“So, welcome,” two of them said.

They reached out and shook hands.

“As we’re all on holiday”, said Hermann,”can I make a suggestion? Barman!”, he shouted,”a very cold pina colada.”

“Take it easy,” said Keith,”I’ve just woken up.”


Chapter 16

A dim, blue light coming off the swimming-pool fell over everything in sight. The outline of bodies, the shadows on the tiles, the sun’s reflection, everything was blurred. Arms were moving in the water, legs kicking. A body was moving like a frog, hair trailing behind. Two strokes more and Keith reached the side of the pool. He surfaced and came face to face with Barry.

The London Chronicle’s correspondent was wearing patent leather shoes, blue trousers, a white shirt, striped coat and black tie. He was bald and his eyes were apprehensive.

“Good morning,” he said.

Keith stood up and lifted himself out of the pool.

“Hi!”, he said,”Sorry I can’t shake hands, but in these circumstances…”

“Don’t worry about it…”

They sat in the shade, a little apart from the other journalists.

“Do you smoke?”, Keith asked.

“Yes,” Barry said, reaching over.”Is this one of ours ?”

“Of course. D’you want more ?”


“Well, Barry. Where shall we begin ?”

“Let’s start with some general advice.”

“I’m ready to listen.”

“Don’t drink the water here without chlorinating it first. If it’s possible, avoid drinking it at all. If you don’t, you’ll get hellish diarrhoea. Another thing: during these first days avoid salads, raw food or food that’s been handled.

People here are ignorant and they rarely care about hygiene.”

“Am I supposed to take this seriously ?”

“Just listen to what I say. If you do anything different it’ll be your business, not mine. But I’m telling you. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had a problem. When it happens, the only thing to do is to dose yourself with medicine and look out for yourself. Let’s forget about that. But don’t forget about malaria and dengue, mainly on the coast. Have you brought quinine?”

“The white pills?”

“Those are the ones. Take them with you when you leave the city. Even here, try to keep the window closed and avoid open areas in the evening. The mosquitoes are terrible.”

“The zancudos, right ?”

“They’re famous … Dollars, use them, people here think of nothing else. Everything can be solved with a handful of dollars. I reckon you could even buy space in the president’s palace with them.”


“Listen, take good care of your money. Don’t wander about alone, especially downtown. They’ll steal your money, camera, everything. Whenever you go out, disguise yourself, try not to show that you’re a foreigner. It’s easy for you because you’re not blond or too white.”

“I was sunbathing in Spain, before coming here.”

“I’ll give you some names for future contacts with the police. Those guys are nasty and if you’re not careful, they can make things very unpleasant. Don’t mess with them. Also, avoid problems with women, mainly if they’re either married or with a boyfriend.”

“Come on, Barry, what’s wrong with a little flirting ?”

“If that’s the case, in Jingle’s you can find stunning dark-skinned girls, women without any ties. I can even give you the number of a certain Rosita, who speaks English. I’m sorry if it doesn’t interest you. Try some”pupusas”, they’re a kind of pancake made with cheese or bacon. They’re cheap and delicious. You find them everywhere you go.

Avoid”tortillas”, that junk made with corn.”

“I’ll try. Where can I eat good food?”

“If you want to eat good food, go to Monterrey and El Greco.”

“They’re picturesque places.”

“Interesting cities around here are Panchimalco and Santa Tecla. You can see surviving indians of the old landowners in the first and the San Salvador volcano in the second. Ilopago lake you must’ve seen when you arrived. The airport’s there, but it’d be nice if you could walk around it in peace. They say that the indians used to honour their Gods by drowning four virgins every year in its waters. Who knows, you might find one…”

“If I could’ve, I’d ‘ve been in the water. And the sea, Barry ?”

“The coast isn’t that beautiful. But it’s near and it’s worth a visit. Go to La Libertad. I got shot of Ramirez, but he left his phone number. If you want anything, you can call him.”

Without hesitating, he opened his briefcase to show Keith a pile of papers.

“It’s everything I have. Names of the contacts in the government, functions and speculations. Take good care of this stuff. My sources are risking their lives here. Now the most important thing. I think that you should look in on the police, just to make contact with them. You should go to the president and deputies’ interview next week.”

“And the contact with the other side?”

“The first one is called Tachito. I don’t trust him but I arranged an appointment for you at the weekend. He speaks English and he’s already lived in London. He also said that he has some information, but he wants a bundle of dollars, didn’t I tell you? Some information. It wouldn’t hurt you to check it out. The second one is Santiago, a weird chap who has telephoned me a few times. I met him through a certain professor at the University who was later killed. This Santiago seems to be afraid of something, which makes me think that he has something hot. I gave him your telephone number. When you get in touch with him, make an appointment. Read my files later, when it’s quiet. This man is the right connection with the guerrillas. According to the information I have, we’re the only ones in this game.”


Chapter 17

Keith met Tachito at the weekend. As he had arranged with Barry, he met someone called Marcelino first. He owned a souvenir shop in the city market.

For the first time he went out alone into the streets of San Salvador. He walked around the centre, looking at the houses built around the beginning of the century, colourful and with large windows. He examined more attentively those which had been built after the earthquake of 1854. He passed by the new cathedral and the National Palace. Then he turned off into a lot of sidestreets. He passed among street peddlers and idlers. He watched the comings and goings of the city and the habits of the poor.

The heat was unbearable. Sweat was running beneath his white cotton shirt. He had the sensation that his body was going to explode. The sun was burning the asphalt, exacerbating the awful stench of the rubbish thrown about the streets.

He weighed up the passers-by, especially the women descended from the Indians. They were short, dark girls with straight black hair. He also took the chance to eat some pupusas: he found them rather tasteless. He tried three restaurants until he found one that he liked. There he ate some national specialities. He enjoyed the beer. After lunch, enervated by the sultry heat, he went to the market. There wasn’t a large choice, especially for a man who had visited Arab markets.

At three o’clock sharp he went into the souvenir shop.

“Good afternoon. I’d like to talk to senor Marcelino,” said Keith.

A fat, hairy middle-aged man, wearing a worn-out white T-shirt, came over. His eyes were rat-like.

“What about ?”, asked the man.

“I’m O’Brien. Barry asked me to come.”

The man’s expression changed. He smiled and made as if he were going to embrace Keith.

“Ah! Come in, senor O’Brien, please. I’m sorry about this mess here.”

The shop, a narrow corridor about 40 metres square, exhibited various types of souvenirs. From Maian ceramic plates to plastic dolls with”recuerdos” from Miami. The things seemed to have been there for ever, piling up during the passage of the years, tumbling over each other and stacked to the ceiling. The place was dark and dusty. Keith sneezed.

“Well, I think you know where I might find Tachito,” Keith said.

The man looked surprised. He put his finger to his lips.

“Silence. These things should never attract attention,” he said looking around the room.

Some customers were browsing about the place.

“Walls have ears here,”mister”, and things aren’t exactly the way you think they are.”

Keith had a bad feeling either about the place or the man. Something made him distrust everything.

“Tachito?” he insisted, speaking low.

The man scratched his nose.

“You know, I’ve spent a lot money on a taxi to bring him from La Libertad.”

Keith got the message. He took some colons from his pocket.

“Is that enough?”

Marcelino’s hands eagerly counted the money. His eyes lost their sparkle.

“Haven’t you got the green ones ?”

Keith lost his patience.

“I’ve changed traveller’s cheques for that. I don’t want to bother you anymore. If you could…”

“Of course, senor,” said Marcelino, changing the tone of the conversation.”I haven’t spoken about it before just to protect you, you know. I needed time to make sure that it wasn’t an ambush. Tachito! You can come out,” he shouted, turning to a small door at the back of the room.

A man, short, paunchy, almost bald came out of the shadows. With a tense look, he came slowly towards the cash register where Keith and Marcelino were talking. He introduced himself and put out his hand. Keith felt sick.

“Nice to meet you, senor. Tachito is ready to help you,” he said, looking up.

Keith greeted him coldly. Marcelino intervened.

“Not here. It’d be better to talk inside.”

With his belly and his hands he pushed the two people towards the door. Tachito went first and Keith, although annoyed, followed him.

They went into a narrow and stuffy room, with only a tiny louvred window near the ceiling. There was a small table covered with bits and pieces, sheets of paper and surrounded with trinkets.

Tachito provided two chairs and put them by the table. They sat down. The man’s face was lighted by a thin torchlight. Almost compulsively he started to talk, jerking out the words.

“It wasn’t easy to arrange this meeting. You haven’t been here very long, have you? But Barry must’ve told you that information about the war could cost us our lives. Did he tell you how we met each other?”

Keith nodded and listened. Flies buzzed around the table.

“Well, we’ve already met twice, I think, and I’ve already given him some information. Am I making myself clear ?” he asked.

“Of course,” said Keith.”It’d be better if you could speak a little bit faster.”

“Or in English,” said the man, starting to talk fluently in Keith’s language.” I lived in London,” he continued,”and I worked there as a waiter in a pizza house. Ah, senor, if I could find a way to go back there…I was sent home, papers not in order, but I’m willing to work. Ah, they’re some people! You’re educated and clean. Would it be too much if I asked you to help me with the people at the consulate?”

Keith stiffened. He felt trapped and couldn’t see a way out. He went straight to the point. “We’ll see about that later. First, the information. Barry said that you’d have access to the leaders of the guerrilla movement.”

The man was surprised.

“No, no, senor,” he said in Spanish, before starting again in English.”I’ve never said that. I’d be a dead man if I said that.”

“I can keep a secret.”

“There isn’t a secret that can resist a good interrogator.”

Keith reacted.

“But I’m a foreigner!”

“You die the same way. Don’t go where you shouldn’t, senor.”

“Listen to me, Tachito, What the hell is this information you say you’ve got?”

“It is in fact the possibility,” he stuttered,”of arranging a meeting with Ordonez, who is a sympathizer with the guerrillas. I…, I never… I only help the English, nothing more. You know, my wife’s ill. Barry helped us a lot.” Already impatient, Keith pushed his chair back, standing up. He thought quickly about the best way to get out. Suddenly he had an idea. As he had nothing to lose, he decided to be unpleasant.

“That’s enough ! I’m very busy and I think that your information won’t interest me. I have to go,” he said, walking towards the shop.

“Senor, senor,” said Tachito,” I know about something else but we need to be calm. I didn’t make myself understood because I haven’t spoken English for a long time,” he continued.

Keith looked back and continued on his way. He passed Marcelino, patted him on the back and reached the shop door. In the street, he decided to glance back inside the shop and he could see the two men talking loudly and angrily. He turned left and mingled with the crowd.

An unobtrusive figure, who was standing on the other side of the street, approached the place. He looked into the shop, went to the corner and made some notes. He took out a cigarette and in his left hand held his favourite lighter. The yellow flame flickered briefly in his narrow eyes.

Keith left the souvenir shop bothered by Barry’s inefficiency. He was wondering. If the other contact were a trick like that, he would probably be starting from zero. He stumbled into a woman. He heard an angry word and went on his way amongst the merchants and street peddlers. He thought about the time he had thrown away preparing the interview with the man and calculated how many colons he had lost. He was angry, very angry about the situation and about his naivete, as he realised that the men were professional crooks. He loathed the fetid streets, the rabble, people who would do anything for a handful of green bills. He took a taxi and went to the hotel. On the corner, a few blocks from the Avenidas, he saw a bar. He went in and drank some beer.


Chapter 18

The last quarter of a waning moon was shining over the outline of the mountains. A breeze soughed through the branches. After dinner, Keith decided to walk through the hotel gardens. Some people were talking quietly by the swimming-pool. He passed them and walked on a little, to the golf course. He lighted a cigarette. From there he could see the view of San Salvador. It was intriguing to imagine himself miles and miles away from London in a country that, although apparently calm, was in the middle of a civil war. He listened closely and heard scattered sounds, laughter here and there and snatches of Italian.

A strange feeling of indifference and emptiness came over him, he felt he was alone. He started to think about the article he would write. Impressions provoked by the movement of the shadows in the garden soon diverted his thoughts. He decided to have a drink. With long, slow strides he walked to the Tropical Bar.

“A Campari and soda.”



He looked around. A group of American businessmen was complaining about the lack of interest from the Salvadoreans. An Italian couple gesticulated. He saw Philippe coming towards him.

“Keith, we’re at the same hotel and I haven’t seen you for days… Good evening!” said the Frenchman.

Keith was daydreaming.

“How’s things?”

“The same as they’ve always been: a pile of shit. Mind if I join you ? Keith, we don’t realize what this country’s like. What’s your opinion?”

“I haven’t had enough contact with the people here. I had a few days off. Then I organized the papers that Barry had left. You know, I like working this way.”

“Like the strike in Poland?”

“Like the strike in Poland. Have you got anything new, Phillipe?”

“I’ve got something. Things are getting hot. The number of people being killed by the death squads is increasing. It is a sign that things’ll be more complicated in the future. Today I saw something terrible. Two grenades went off in a bank downtown.”

“Are the guerrillas working here?”

“No. The paramilitaries must’ve done it. I was near the scene and took some photos. I may be wrong, it’s difficult, but one of the men in the middle of the commotion was Major Gomes, a well-known son of a bitch.”

“How do you know?”

“A little bird told me. These guys are trying to arrange an excuse to make the regime even more oppressive. Keith, you’ll feel it in your skin. The government of this damned country is set up and run by the Americans.”

“Do you think so?”

“Isn’t it incredible that a poor country like El Salvador should be so important for the Americans? This country only produces coffee, bananas and some useless tropical stuff. They’ve been financing the war for years …”

“Please don’t tell me that you don’t know why, Phillipe…


Chapter 19

Keith decided to use the week to plan his activities and make notes of his first impressions. He went to public departments and collected some data on the economy, the war situation and international business. He arranged appointments with prominent politicians and he registered at the government palace.

It was hard for him to get the information he wanted, because it was too difficult to understand how the government worked. The public finances were in disarray, the bureaucracy was insurmountable, production had come to a halt and defence expenditure was enormous.

At first, he thought of analysing the effects of an exhausting war on the country’s economy. But that wouldn’t do. He was there because of the increase in hostilities and he needed something more substanial. On Friday he was invited by the members of the British Club for a dinner party at El Bucanero.


Chapter 20

El Bucanero was located in a pleasant sidestreet in San Salvador. It was a luxury restaurant, frequented by businessmen, diplomats and foreigners. On the menu there was typical Spanish food, specially shellfish, prepared by cooks trained in Madrid.

Because of the war, the street and the neighbouring buildings around the Bucanero were watched over by armed men with machine guns. The customers demanded security. At the entrance, everyone was searched and it was not difficult to pick out policemen in plain clothes, armed and mingling with the customers.

The British Club staff table was to one side of the restaurant, next to a small winter garden. There were about 40 people sitting at the table. Keith sat next to the head of the table, between Mr. Marvin, the first secretary at the Embassy and Mr. Cornell, a representative for an English multinational. The renewed outbreak of guerrilla activities was the chief topic of conversation.

Cornell was speaking.

“I have been informed by intelligence sources that the Soviet Union is taking advantage of the popularity of the Reagan administration to reinforce the guerrillas’ positions. It seems that they’re gaining some advantage after the recent inauguration of the Bush government. They are testing him to see which way he’s going to go.”

“Seems logical,” agreed Mr. Marvin, looking at Keith.”What do you think ?” he asked.

“It’s plausible.”

“If it weren’t for the intervention of the Soviet Union, this region would prosper,” said Mr. Marvin.”The war only drags the country down. A guerrilla victory would not be acceptable to the American administration and a government victory is unlikely,” he concluded.

“Mr. Marvin,” Keith inquired,”to what do you attribute the ineffectuality of the Salvadorean army in its fight against the guerrillas?”

“Incompetence, corruption, Mr. O’Brien. The help these guys have already received from Western governments… It’s a lot of money! And where are the generals and the colonels ? Breeding cattle on their farms or on holiday in Miami. There is neither planning in this war nor professionalism.”

Cornell was incisive.

“This is a country without a future. People are not educated, the authorities are corrupt and the communists are gaining ground. And that’s not all. The guerrillas have been very well trained by Cubans and Nicaraguans.”

“Do you believe they’re involved?”

“There’s no doubt about it. If Cuba and Nicaragua were not in this story, it wouldn’t be so easy for the guerrillas to get the guns. That way, they would certainly be wiped out.”

Keith was working hard. After all, the majority of people sitting at that table had direct access to the palace and to the highest institutions in the country. In amongst the pleasantries, there were comments on Salvadorean customs and recollections of old London. The Englishmen gave Keith valuable information. Names of politicians, areas controlled by the guerrillas, data about the economic situation in the country. It was much easier to get information from English businessmen than in his pilgrimage through the ministries.


Chapter 21

“Dad,” said Antonia,”there’s only a week to go before you celebrate your 50 years in politics. Aren’t you happy?”

Carlito Vidal, the ageing deputy, was one of the most influential men in the country. A man of about seventy, he had deep and misty eyes, a wide forehead, his white hair combed back. He was of average height, paunchy and weak on his legs. He invariably wore white clothes, preferably linen suits and silk shirts.

Don Carlito was one of the oldest members of the Salvadorean Christian Democrats. For a long time he was one of ex-president Napoleon Duarte’s assistants. During Alfredo Cristiani’s government he was keeping a low profile, a link between parliament and the armed forces.

A member of one of the”fourteen families”, the most powerful of the country, owners of almost all the fertile areas, he had a large holding in the North. Through his astuteness and sense of timing, he had accumulated one of the largest fortunes in El Salvador, increasing tenfold the inheritance his father left him. An affable person, open-minded and arresting as a speaker, Dom Carlito had never had serious problems in his political career and it had never interrupted his meteoritic ascent as a businessman. He controlled a number of coffee, cattle and sugar cane farms, a local financial conglomerate, various import-export companies and even a string of snack-bars in the United States.

He married the widow of a former US Ambassador to San Salvador and had only one daughter, Antonia, who had been educated almost entirely in the United States. Antonia studied there from the age of thirteen to twenty seven, when she completed her MBA and returned home to manage some of her father’s companies.

They were talking in the living room.

“It takes a long time for Mom to get to sleep because she’s much too worried about organizing the reception. And old Carlito? Is he excited?,” Antonia went on.

She went over to her father, kissed him softly and sat on his lap. The Deputy caressed his daughter and said: “I don’t know. I don’t think I’m that interested. I have a lot of other things to worry about.”

“Dad, you need to relax for a while. Come to my room. I want to show you the dress I had made for the occasion.”

They went to the bedroom. Antonia held the dress in front of her body, holding the ends of the hanger. It was a classic model, made of delicately printed silk, predominantly black and olive-green. The dress was tight to the waist from where it opened up into a loose circle. What made it special was the exaggeratedly low-cut back, which came down almost to the waist. At the foot of the bed were the scarpin shoes she would wear and on the dressing table her jewellery.

Antonia was smiling. She was showing her father the beauty of her twenty eight years. She walked, triumphantly, around the room, stretching her neck, with the air of a professional model.

“What do ya think, dad? Don’t I look gorgeous?” she asked.

“Wonderful,” said the deputy.”Darling, you know better than I how beautiful you are.”

They were in the bedroom where Antonia had spent part of her childhood. Through wide windows, the sun brightened the room, even with the curtains closed. The place seemed to be untouched. The walls were painted in pale yellow. The curtains were coloured and trimmed with lace and the furniture was laquered in beige tones. Picture frames with drawings of Walt Disney heroes hung on the walls, except the one facing the corridor, which had a built-in closet, a mirror and a collection of dolls.

“Oh, my daughter,” said the deputy while he was walking through her bedroom, observing the dolls on the bedside table.”You know your good points. You also know that I don’t like your way of life. Antonia, don’t forget that time’s passing and you need a good home and peace and quiet. Oh, I’d like to see you married to a good man who could help in the business… I am getting older and more tired as each day passes. My daughter, I would like to see a responsible man helping you to expand our patrimony.”

Antonia’s spontaneity evaporated. She stopped smiling, listening to the first part of her father’s speech, and looked out of the window. Clouds drifted overhead. Her strong nature rebelled against her father’s repeated interference in her private life. She had been brought up far from him for the greater part of her life, in a country where individual freedom was important. She couldn’t adjust herself to the rigid control he tried to impose on the family, in the Latin way, especially on her, his only daughter.

Antonia lived on her own and managed not only her various business ventures but also her apartments in San Salvador, Paris and Atlanta. Even though she had an independent life, she was subject to her father’s interference because she worked in the family companies. The kind of conversation that was taking shape didn’t interest her at all. Although she was angry inside, on these occasions she tried to change the subject and avoid saying anything more about it.

That was what she would have done if she hadn’t been interrupted by one of the staff at the door.

“Senor, Mr. William Wilbur is waiting for you in the living room,” said the butler.

Dom Carlito stopped what he was saying and looked towards the door.

“Go and ask him to wait. We’ll be there in a minute,” he said, turning to his daughter.”Will you come to the living room with me?”

Antonia tried to smile. She left the dress on her bed and put her arm through her father’s.

1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by

Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
1992 – Copyright of the English version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
Mario Viggiano
Kevin Keys

icon-eye Chapter 22 (click to continue)

acervo álvaro

caiman operation,
Tom Laughwood.
part 1:
chapters 5-14

Chapter 5

The clock-radio buzzed for three minutes. The beep, added to the radio speaker’s voice, took a long time to wake Keith up. His head was aching. His eyes were hidden behind heavy eye-lids. Not for the first time. He stretched out his arm and turned off the radio. He cursed himself, looked up angrily at the ceiling and rubbed his eyes.

“What about not going to the paper ?” That was out of question. He looked down at the bedside-table and saw a photograph of his children. He was still drowsy, being half-awake, half-asleep, floating in a kind of day-dream.

His life had been great. At the weekends, in his country house in Sussex, fishing with Karin on the lake, the beginning of his notoriety in the international press. His friends coming and going, the country house, the music of that time… the 60’s giving a special rhythm to the dates. Beth, Millie, Lizzy… Those girls attracted him. His affairs were nothing that would last or interfere with his relationship with Karin. She knew all about those feelings too, and they didn’t hurt each other because of them. That was until she met that tall, quiet guy … Mike … and the trip changed page and author.

For Keith, worse than that bitter moment of remembrance, was to come back to reality and find himself thumbing through his paperback. It was there, in his hand, a series of lines and shapes. They made his uneasiness worse on that morning of pallid sunlight. An attempt to register contemporary European ideas, a collection of interviews and essays on the pioneers of Old World thinking.

“Why did it go wrong ?” His friends knew the answer. The theme wasn’t strong enough, his readers should’nt be dissuaded from thinking that they lived well in Thatcher’s era, opinions like that. Ralph’s opinion was worse. He did’nt understand why Ralph touched a nerve by saying that he didn’t find his truth in the text.

The book could have been the thing that was missing, preventing him from emerging with his own style, abandoning the idea of being a prize-winning reporter to become a journalist and a writer with his own ideas. That was it: Keith O’Brien, a winner, didn’t find the fame and the fulfilment which followed him when he wanted to do something out of the ordinary. Some notices had been favourable, but he fretted about the ones that attacked him. As for his readers, the small quantity of books sold didn’t give him the feeling of success that he had been expecting.

He got up and walked over to the curtains, pulling them aside. Morning light flooded the room. He only glanced at the day, a rarity in the London winter. A clear day with no clouds. The sun was over the roofs. He turned back into the room.

His room was a complete mess. His bed, pushed into the corner, was surrounded by a pile of paper, videocassette tapes and old newspaper cuttings. Beside it, the television, two bottles of whisky and some glasses. Near the headboard there was a pile of books waiting to be read. Two of the wardrobe doors were wide open and inside there were suits, jackets and shirts, jumbled together over the drawers. Some of these were open, revealing bits of paper, pairs of socks and belts.

“Heaven, I’m in Heaven
‘nd my heart beats so
that I can hardly speak
and I seem to find
the happiness…”

The record was on the deck: Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald. The sound of the water running into the sink came from the next room. Keith was having a shave.

He noticed the first grey hairs on his chest. The hand holding the razor blade stopped in mid-air, while he looked at his body reflected in the mirror. He hadn’t looked at himself in the mirror for a long time.

He looked at the outline of his chest, the muscles still firm, but he noticed that the curvature of his spine was not as regular as it used to be. He looked up and started to analyse his face, part of it covered with the foam of the shaving cream. His features were subtle, a little rectangular. The mouth was open in a half smile. He remembered Karin’s great attraction towards thin lips with a firm line. He stared at his eyes, that gave little away, usually hiding a certain air of mystery and malice; but which came out at the right moments and was worth more than a good right hook.

He applied the razor to his face. He let the blade slide over the surface. As soon as he had finished, he opened the wardrobe, exchanged the razor blade for a pair of scissors and moved his arm, cutting carefully a long hair that was coming out of one of his nostrils. He observed his nose, well sculpted, almost square. He slapped his face gently with hands. He washed his razor blade and the scissors. He put them into the wardrobe and left the room.

He went to the front door, fetched the newspaper and the milk. He went to the kitchen, put out the things he needed for breakfast. He went into the living-room and laid the table. Then he had milk, cereal, grapefruit, some toast with blackberry jam. He made eggs and bacon and finished his meal with a cup of coffee and two aspirins. Forty minutes later he was on his way out of the house.


Chapter 6

The London Chronicle’s research department was in a small room, full of files and computer terminals. There were full-time librarians and computer analysts who searched for the necessary data for articles that were to be published. The newspaper’s international section demanded most from the department’s resources. For Dorothy, the chief-librarian, Keith’s visit was more or less routine. The journalist entered the office in a hurry, grumbling. He looked for her and went straight to the point:

“Have you got my files, sweetheart ?”

She looked sternly at Keith. He didn’t bat an eyelid. He took off his sunglasses, came up to her and said:

“You owe me that dinner.”

“Oh you rascal”, said she smiling,”this time you had a good excuse.”

“You’ve got my documents, haven’t you? Dorothy, what’s happening in Central America right now? Any attack from the Nicaraguans? Any treasury minister offering his resignation in San Salvador, sending Wall Street into a panic?” he asked ironically.

“Keith, you’re crazy! What’re you going to do there?”

“I want to sunbathe and clear up a mystery.”

Dorothy smiled. She asked him to wait and went out to get the files. As she left, her thoughts were very much with Keith.

“At least a good luck kiss,” he asked before he went away, with a very serious expression. When I come back, I’ll ask you to marry me,” he said, leaving with the files.

From the door he shouted:

“And I’ll also take you up on that dinner.”


Chapter 7

The boxer in the red-stripped shorts came from the left side, weaved and struck with a jab and two uppercuts. The other, in black shorts, protected himself and counter-attacked with two crosses. They backed off and then started in again. The first man seemed a little dizzy so the second went in to get through his guard, trying a more sustained attack. He let go a jab to the chin and another to the forehead. Sweat sprayed. There were five clinches one after another. Muscles were taut, legs were working. The referee separated the fighters. He signalled with quick and agile gestures.

The fight went on. Excited, the audience applauded. The forehead of the man in red began to bleed. Rabid looks from the man in black. Two attacks. Tight defense, a counter-attack at the right time. They broke. The audience was cheering, shouting and clapping. The seconds looked at the bell. The camera showed a close-up of the cut man’s face. It was stiff and his mouth was twisted. A gum-shield between his teeth. The rhythm was fast again. The fighters seemed to sense the chance of a knock-out in the ring.

Two punches, a counter, good lateral protection. Another punch. The man in red was feeling it in his ribs. He tried to keep his breath. A flash of thought:”One last chance ?”

Between two jabs, he threw an uppercut. He was hurting, dizzy. He took a punch to the side of his head. There was a buzzing in his ears. He reacted. He dug out all his energy and threw two blows with all his strength. One was a sideswipe, the other was right off-target. A feint. A crack. A black mist swam before his eyes. The man in red fell. The audience cheered. A little confused, the fighter in black raised his arms, exhausted and shame-faced. The gum-shield was visible.

An MC started to talk about something. Keith looked down and saw the pile of papers. He thought of the monotonous succession of accusations between Sandinists and Americans, Castro’s threats, the explosive but localized guerrilla actions. He thought about the rhetoric of world leaders. He looked through the newspaper cuttings that he had in his hands. Maps of Central America, telephone numbers for further contacts. He tried to find a place to begin his business on the Central-American continent.

He looked further down the page. He glimpsed the vague brown of the bed-cover. He got up and walked to the office, leaving the documents on the bureau. He stopped and listened to the murmur of the night.


Chapter 8

As was his habit, Keith decided to go for a walk. His children would get out of school at five and he wanted to see them before he went away. He started by going down Fitzjohn Street and from there he turned right into Finchley Road.

Winter brought the evening on early. The sun had already set, leaving only traces of light, a kind of background for the variations in red of the houses and flats. At Finchley, the shops already had their windows lit up, attracting the odd customer. Near the Canfield, the Italian who owned a greengrocery waved. A bit farther on, Keith came to Swiss Cottage tube station. It was twenty to five by his watch.

The passers-by didn’t interest him. In winter everybody looked alike. Keith saw them in their overcoats like brown smudges or dark grey blurs moving through the streets. He would rather look at the buildings and the shrivelled branches of the trees. He walked a bit more and saw the school gate still closed. Some parents were already waiting for the end of classes. He decided to go into a nearby tobacco shop.

“Good afternoon”, he said.

“Yes, sir ?” said the man behind the counter.

“Benson & Hedges.”

Outside, the streetlamps were coming on. The tones were fading, giving way to black. A soft noise of cars passing. At the tobacco shop door, a tall man, with large shoulders, small eyes and hollow cheeks was staring intently inside, following Keith’s movements. He put a cigarette to his lips. His left hand took out of his pocket a silver lighter, with the design of a Mandragora. When Keith left, he turned his back.

“Unfortunately it won’t be possible. Even knowing that you are going to be away for a few days.”

“Karin, it won’t be difficult for you to do it for me. In fact it’s not only `a few days'”, Keith replied.

“Roger arranged a trip to the country for this weekend. The children have talked about it for more than a month”, she said.

Keith became angry. For some minutes he had been trying to convince Karin to let his children stay with him. Her intransigence upset him. He was feeling something like jealousy. He resented it.

“Couldn’t you be less rigid ? I’m going away, I’ll be away for some time and I’ll miss my children. Why do you insist on being so insensitive ?”

Karin pretended not to hear. The gate had been opened and the children were running towards the couple.



Chapter 9

Keith accompanied his ex-wife and children home. On the way he bought sweets, put little Elaine on his lap and told them that he was travelling to a strange and distant country. He said to Arthur that he would give him a present if he knew where El Salvador was. He was formal with his wife. He couldn’t convince her to let him have the children so he stopped trying. They carried on in silence. After leaving them at home, Keith went straight to the newspaper.

His mind was in a whirl. His head ached a little. His ex-wife’s attitude bothered him a lot. He felt sorry about the situation divorced couples found themselves in and sought to forget what had happened, trying to concentrate on the job in hand.

He couldn’t concentrate. Images of his marriage troubled him. Karin’s body appeared before him more than once. Her curves, the comfortable sensation of touches, whispers. Sentences echoed, segments of final quarrels. Fragments of remembrances came together, with sadness. Some happiness, the birth of the children. He felt nostalgic. Everything came together: the wedding, adolescence, the games of cricket, his dissatisfaction with the life he was leading, the failure of his book.

From the window of the tube he saw flashes against the black background. His fingers scratched unconsciously at the material of the seat. His body sensed the inertia as they came to a halt at the stations.

At a quarter to seven he arrived at the door of the newspaper building. He went in. The same man with small eyes and hollow cheeks passed by and stopped on the corner under a lamppost. He lighted a cigarette, opened the newspaper and started to read.


Chapter 10

“OK, Ralph. What can I do for your socialist sympathies with the Central American nationalists?”

Ralph was finishing an article.

“Calm down, will you? Can’t you see I’m busy?”

Keith sat in a plastic chair, near the window. The boss, impassive, remained bent over the table, correcting that day’s articles in ink.

Some minutes later, Ralph started to speak.

“The situation in Central America is getting worse everyday. The countries are in no condition to endure long wars that make economic stabilization impossible. The Americans are back with the big stick and the guerillas are becoming more and more experienced. Between the two poles of this confrontation are the people, every day suffering more and more. In addition to that, I voted for the Liberal Party. “While he was talking, his eyes were on the article he was editing. Keith amused himself by looking out of the window.

“I can’t find a solution for those poor people”, continued Ralph,”for me they will be in this situation until the end of time. Something drastic must happen to put an end to those people’s suffering.”

“Come on Ralph, if you keep on being so vehement, they’ll fire you. The big boss is not so fond of radicals or socialists.”

Ralph became angry.

“Me? Radical? Come on Keith, give me a break! You know that’s not true. Whoever listens to what you say would think I was an agitator. I’m only using my common-sense”, he said, getting up from the desk.”

“And a little bit of pseudo-innocence.”

Ralph smiled.

“Go to hell, you pretentious bastard. Who do think you are ? I was a journalist before you were even born !”

Keith went over to him.

“When will you be through here ?” he asked, pointing to the proofs on the desk. “We need to talk. I have to discuss latest report from `our correspondent’ and the stuff I’ve been reading about El Salvador.”

“Now. We’re going to talk about it now”, answered Ralph.

They sat down on the sofa that was in the office.


Chapter 11

“Still here, boss ?” asked one of his assistants. Outside the office it was snowing heavily. It was night. The computer terminal was on and was casting a pale light over the office.

Sitting in his velvet chair, the director was trying to calm his 92 kilos. Restless, he recalled the latest information about the Cayman Operation. With these thoughts in his mind, his body was fidgeting in the chair. His legs swung back and forth ceaselessly..

In Europe everything was going well. The containers with the secret material and the group taking care of them had embarked without a hitch. The files on the crew had revealed nothing. Agents were following the people involved in the operation and nothing unusual had been detected.

The director sighed and scratched his head. Only he, Yuri and the three auxiliaries present at the last meeting knew everything about the operation. On land, Alonso was establishing contacts to the north of San Salvador. He was following his instructions to the letter. Agents infiltrated amongst his assistants were sending in reports. Everything was in perfect order.

Informers had reassured him that in El Salvador none of the journalists were either snooping in suspicious places or talking to people who could tell them anything about the operation. There was just one small problem. The correspondent from the London Chronicle had contacted people connected with the guerrilla leaders. It would be necessary to send him after a red herring so as not to put the project in jeopardy.

But it was advisable to be calm. Keith O’Brien would arrive from London to take over Barry’s mission completely. It would be better to wait and watch his behaviour. Reports on his activities had arrived from England. Nothing special had been noticed. With him in El Salvador it would be easier to guarantee the development of the operation.

The director took a sheet of paper and wrote:”Redouble the watch on the London Chronicle’s journalists. If necessary, avoid press interference.” Still holding the pen, he wrote in the middle of the page:”Eliminate”. He drew a head then scored an X through it. He started to think again, while he was crushing and throwing the paper at the bin.

Two light knocks at the door. His personal assistant entered, walked to the videocassette and read the reports from the men involved in the operation.

“Is this Spaniard really reliable?” he said, getting to the point. The boss looked up and opened his hands.

“Yuri has been working with him for more than eight years”, he said.

“Do you really believe in Yuri?”

“Of course not. I’m having him followed. He’s betrayed once, so he might do it again.” “And the other men?”

“Everything in perfect order. The ship is leaving. Our men ashore are already covering the tracks.”

“And in Central America?”

“Up to now everything’s calm. The London Chronicle’s man’s about to make contact with the guerrillas and that could be a serious problem.”

“Do you want us to take care of the correspondent?”

“No, no, he’ll be back in London this week and our man’s about to arrive in San Salvador. We must take care of him.”

“He’s already being followed in Europe.”

“I know that. You must understand that, when I ask for someone to be watched, I’m not asking for trivialities. Take a look at the reports coming from London: `Monday, 4:50pm, he went out to buy some cigarettes, later he picked up his children at school’. Or this one: `Wednesday, he spent the whole morning shopping at John Lewis’s department store’. Can’t these people send something more substantial ?”


Chapter 12

Keith checked for the last time that everything was in order in the flat. He went through the living-room, unplugging electrical equipment and closing the curtains. In the study he opened and closed the bureau drawers and disconnected his micro. He looked at the shelves, chose two books and went back to his bedroom.

He checked the luggage for the last time. Summer clothes, striped trousers and some light-coloured shirts were arranged on the left. On top of them there was a towel, a toilet kit, a razor, socks, underwear, two lightweight jackets, two pairs of swimming trunks and an umbrella. He opened the kit. Shaving cream, shampoo, soap, aftershave, toothbrush and toothpaste. Amongst the”pharmaceuticals” there were sleeping pills, antidiarrhoea medicine, aspirins, chlorine for the water and quinine. To prevent them from leaking, he wrapped the shampoo and the aftershave in a small plastic bag.

He looked in another bag to see that everything was OK. The typewriter, sheets of paper, files with Barry’s reports, material collected by the newspaper’s research department, notes, address book, some books on Central America, guides.

He closed everything with a sort of despondency. Ahead of him there were the endless hours of the journey to Panama and from there a connection to San Salvador.

He looked for the last time at his passport, press identification, visas, vaccinate certificates, tickets and traveller’scheques. He replaced them in the inside pocket of his coat. He telephoned for a taxi and waited.


Chapter 13

There were thirty minutes before the flight was to be called.

The two journalists were having coffee at the airport restaurant.

“We’re going to miss you” said Ralph.

“Oh come on, don’t be a hypocrite. You’re going to feel relieved. I’m the only one on the paper that argues with you,” Keith said, trying to provoke his friend..

“That’s it. I am going to have another cup of coffee. Do you want one ?”

“Of course,” answered Keith,”Brazilian, with cream.”

“I hope you like Salvadorean coffee.”

“Me too. If I don’t, I’m going to suffer.”

“And the cigarettes?”

“I won’t find them there.”


“I’m going to buy some at the Duty Free.”

“Don’t forget to take some good brandy. You’ll feel good sipping it while you are writing your articles.”

“Ralph, you can’t stop winding me up all the time, can you? Thank Christ I’m taking a break, otherwise we’d quarrel. I hope you’re in a better mood when I get back.”

They joined the queue at the self-service.

“I’m going to be straight with you, Keith. What worries me about you is your arrogance, your exemplary professionalism which you seem to think is the ultimate. There are important things that we learn as time passes.”

” Do we learn how to be more easy-going ?”

“Amongst other things. Age allows us to say what we think. Keith, you’re a guy that’s never written about what you think. People who read your articles read about what’s happened, but never your opinion about it. You must express what you really feel inside.”

“We’ve talked about this before …”

“Careful! Don’t spill your coffee. Let’s get back.”

“Listen Ralph. Do you really think that Barry’s about to get in touch with the guerrillas?”

“It looks like it. But from what I know about the region, things can change overnight.

Another thing, Keith. Watch how you go. I know all about your carelessness in Libya and your crazy behaviour in Poland. Listen to me. I know you love travelling to take risks in other places. That’s a problem for your psychiatrist. Now you’re going to Latin America and there things are, to say the least, worse than anywhere else. I don’t want to lose a friend.”

“You’re going to make me cry… Ralph, send me the cricket scores ?”

They sat down again.

“The guerrillas have started attacking again. It looks like you’re going to arrive at a particularly tense period of the war.”

“It means that something must be going on back-stage.”

“I think so.”

“That’s why I want to be there. According to the information that we’ve had from Barry…”

“Do you have any doubts about what we said at the newspaper that night ?”

“I don’t think so, Ralph. I agreed with you. The two opponents know that if there isn’t anything new, they will be weakened by a chronically wasteful conflict. This is especially an advantage for the guerrillas, because the economy of the country will never recover.”

“What’s more, they’d never control the country with the United States as powerful as they are now. The Americans would never allow a new Nicaragua, at least for the time being. And the European point of view of the conflict ?”

“I agree with you to an extent. It’s clear that decisive European support for the Contadora group could be a democratic solution for the war. But for that, our governments would have to be more involved in the conflict. And you know very well that we have no interest in this war. Thatcher wants to be on the Americans’ side so as to get the money from the Star Wars program. Do you think the Europeans would risk their economic recovery just for pure idealism ?”

“Have you seen Carlos Ramiro at the University?”

“We had a good talk. He gave me some important stuff.”

“Are you taking the addresses I gave you ?”

“Yes, everything’s here. This time I’m taking my camera. I want to get some snaps for my album.”

“Has the newspaper reserved your room?”

“And how! I’m staying at the Avenidas, five stars.”

“Good for you!”

“Look old chap, it’s time to go. As soon as I have something interesting, I’ll call you.”

“Good luck!”

They said goodbye. Keith went through passport control and then to the Duty Free Shop. Half an hour later the plane took off.


Chapter 14

A quarter to two in the afternoon, 32 degrees centigrade, good weather in San Salvador.

On a sign which was being waved over the crowd of people was written: Senor O’Brien.

Keith’s head was aching, although he had taken some aspirin in Panama. The trip had been exhausting. Hours and hours of flying, bad in-flight service, the time difference, everything conspired to make him feel miserable.

Keith was summing up each unpleasant detail. The airport was too small for the number of people that were arriving. Service was uncertain. It took him more than half an hour to collect his luggage. The staff in immigration spoke execrable English.

He saw the sign. By means of pushes and `permissos’ he made his way towards the man who was holding it.

“Buenos dias,” he said, introducing himself.

The man must have been in his early thirties. His black, greasy hair was parted in the middle. He had a well sculpted nose, a small mouth, and he was about five-foot ten. He was wearing simple and quiet tropical* clothes.

“My name is Ramirez and… I work for the newspaper. Unfortunately senor Barry couldn’t come,” he said with difficulty.

Keith greeted him and asked how they would get to the hotel.

“This way, senor. Jesus, carry Senor O’Brien’s luggage.”

While they were walking through the airport, Keith tried hard to connect what he had seen from the airplane with what he was looking at now. From the air, San Salvador had seemed to be a calm provincial city, free of a large concentration of buildings. As the airplane was coming in to land, he could make out the topography of the region. Mountains and the craters of volcanoes surrounded it. The sea was close by.

On the ground, one’s impressions changed somewhat. The atmosphere in the airport was tense. There were military vehicles parked at strategic points, soldiers patrolled the corridors and there was rigid security. Those were the signs of conflict in the country.

As soon as the passengers disembarked, they went through a stiff interrogation at passport control, especially the journalists, who had been informed of the risks they would take in being involved with the war. Everybody received a leaflet with instructions on how to act if they found themselves in a combat area.

Keith felt himself strangely surrounded by businessmen, politicians and Americans who were arriving in the country. Their physiognomy was something completely new to him. They were strange people – that was obvious if you thought of the reasons why they were in such a country. He remembered the conversation he had had with an eccentric American tourist he had met at Panama airport. She only travelled to countries which were at war.

The heat was unbearable. The journalist loosened his tie and took off his coat. Beads of sweat trickled down his face. Before he got to the end of the corridor, he heard:

“But it’s not possible! Who’s in charge here ?” someone was saying in English, with a strong foreign accent.

Keith stopped, turned and came face to face with Philippe.

The photographer Philippe Montferrand was an argumentative and excessively outspoken man. His distracted spirit was revealed in the careless way he dressed. That morning, the Frenchman, 34 years old, was wearing a light-green tunic which hid part of his shabby jeans. His thin body almost disappeared beneath his large shirt until only his thin face and his curly blond hair falling over his forehead could be seen. His blue eyes over his long, thin nose were constantly scrutinizing his surroundings, as if they were looking for something.

1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
1992 – Copyright of the English version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
Mario Viggiano
Kevin Keys

icon-eye Chapter 15 (click to continue)

acervo álvaro

Caiman Operation,
Tom Laughwood.
part 1:
chapters 1-4



Chapter 1

.“That’s the man!”

“And … ?”

“Keith O’Brien, special reporter for the London Chronicle. These last couple of years he’s published a lot of influential reports in the international press. He’s been awarded three of the most important prizes in European journalism.”

“And why him?”

“He is objective and professional. His work is on the technical side and this interests us.”

“What’s he like?”

” He is 42 years old, six-foot two, well-built. He has black hair, greying at the temples, grey eyes. He is slim, bony and a little muscular.”

“And where does this guy live?”

“Hampstead, 14 Willoughby Road.”

“Is he married?”

“Divorced. He has two children who live with their mother in St. John’s Wood.”

“Girlfriends ?”

“He lives alone, but he is still active. He is sometimes seen with an escort. He occasionally goes to nightclubs and third-rate Soho bars. But basically he’s the serious type.”

“Any vices?”

“He likes spirits, vodka, whisky. He’s a moderate smoker. He takes drugs, mostly cocaine, but he’s not an addict. Sometimes buys the stuff from a dealer near Charing Cross Road.”

“And his medical file, do you have it ?”

“He has allergic rhinitis and he sometimes suffers from constipation. Besides that, there’s nothing else that could discredit him. This guy’s as strong as an ox.”

“Anything else?”

“He has various hobbies. He likes sports, specially cricket, fine arts and music. He collects jazz records and art books. Whenever he can, he goes for a walk. He uses his car only at the weekends.”

“This is bullshit. Let’s get to the point …”

“Psychologically, he’s difficult to pin down. He swings between his daily routine and the risks he takes to get those front-line stories. During the American bombardment of Libya, he went to Tripoli and interviewed Colonel Khadafi. For some reason, O’Brien sometimes becomes extremely audacious. We don’t know why, but something like a compulsion, something almost pathological, makes him take off to trouble spots. The guy loves being involved in tricky situations.”

“There are a few details to complete the picture…”

“Cool it, take it easy. You will get the details later.”

The phosphorescent green of the computer terminal was angled so that the men could see Keith O’Brien’s file. Each received an envelope with photographs.

The winter was fierce. It was snowing. A white blanket was visible through the blinds, from the garden to the distant street. An enormous iron railing protected the bureau.

Of the four men, three were gathered around the terminal that was installed on the dark brown surface of a long wide desk. The fourth man was breathing on the window, misting it. He drew letters on the glass with his finger. He glanced around the room.

To the left of the desk, there was a huge door made of carved and darkened wood. A grotesque golden knob, carved in the shape of a snake, its eyes incrusted with green stones caught one’s attention. The walls were hidden behind the dark brown bookcases. On one of them, panelled with wood, hung official photographs. On the other, there was an oil painting of a sea-scape with two sailing-boats.

The committee table was on the right; on the left, the director’s desk. There there were picture-frames, piles of paper and some bound.

The man who was near the window came over to the others.

“Are you really sure that this is the man that we are looking for?” he asked, turning to his right.

The director, a fat, bulky man, was about to light a cigar. His thick yellow fingers struck a match. While raising his hand to his face, his dull eyes, prematurely wrinkled, looked up. Puffing out his red cheeks, he smiled, revealing his small teeth.

“Of course he is. We mustn’t fail. Any drawback and everything will be ruined.”

The four men exchanged glances. A flaccid hand, extremely thin and white, pressed a button on the computer keyboard. A list of files appeared.

“Wouldn’t this person here be preferable ?” he asked.

“We thought about him, but now he’s out of question.”

“This O’Brien…”

“I know what you mean. One of our best men is following him.”

Everybody smiled discreetly. The director’s olive-grey eyes shone. With his forefinger, he loosened his tie. He sat down and opened a drawer. He shuffled through its contents until he found three folders which he set on the table. The other men approached, curious. After satisfying himself that this was what he wanted to do, he passed one of them to each of the men in the room.

“Gentlemen, the operation starts now. I want absolute secrecy. Each of you has a folder with the necessary instructions and none of you should know what the other is doing. Needless to say, you will be watched by the enemy and by ourselves. You must be discreet. You have money and contacts. Any problem or change in the instructions will be passed on immediately. If the operation fails, you will know what to do. Now read the documents.”

The men picked up their folders. Two sat down at the committee table; the other preferred a comfortable sofa set against the wall. The director re-lit his cigar.


Chapter 2

The painting was almost entirely a sort of green stain. Many shades of this colour, overlaid with heavy brush-strokes, formed a gradation that went from the darkest colour in the lower part to the lightest in the upper part of the painting. In this way, the planes were apparently confused, but the impression was that the first plane seemed to continue through something like a window, showing mountains in the distance. Some white touches, in rectangular and triangular shapes, seemed to suggest a city in the top left corner. Beyond that, an olive-green portion: the mountains. In the lower right corner, the dark green from the underlying planes gave the impression of something tense, inexplicable. Next to this blur, a tricycle and a plant gave a sense of familiarity to the scene. Finally, some red brush-strokes in the middle of the painting, a little to the left, formed something between a fence and a bonfire.

Linking the white and the red, in minimal strokes, dissolved in green, the painter transmitted a strange feeling of lightness. At the same time, details like a cleft along the scene’s centre of gravity or the tricycle’s immobility sent the close observer into a state of primitivism and even trance.

January, l7th. Sunday afternoon was almost over. The first hours of a London evening. After a rainy and foggy Saturday, the weather had improved. The air was clear and limpid. It was cold. There was a small traffic jam in Hampstead High Street.

“I don’t know if I can include this painting in your group of private works”, said Keith, looking at the painting in front of him.”Don’t you think that the figurative elements should be stressed more ?” His friend Elliot was also looking at the painting. His motionless eyes gave nothing away. They seemed to be concentrating on a fixed point. Elliot was far away.

Keith finished speaking and walked over to the balcony. He glanced at the houses and the lawns around him. He admired Hampstead’s roofs. Everything was pallid and gray. He wished it could have been spring. He came back to the living-room, closing the glass door behind him and went to the drinks cabinet.

“Would you like a drink?”, asked Elliot.

“Gin”, he answered.

“Neat ?”


Elliot opened the drink cabinet and poured a measure of Gilbey’s into a glass.

“A thousand pounds for your thoughts”, he said to Keith.


“How’s that ?”

“Holidays, a nice beach. Charming dancers with flowers round their necks and a comfortable hotel room. Good company, peace and sun. How does that grab you?”

“It’d be a great idea. You ever been there?”


“When are you going to take a holiday?”

“I don’t know.”

They listened to music and remembered the good old days. Pleading an appointment, Elliot left before dinner. Keith stayed in the living-room. He flicked through the record shelf till he found an old song by Jimmy Giuffre. He listened to”The song is you.”

He drank some more gin and thumbed through some magazines. It didn’t take too long and he became bored, tossing them aside.

The telephone rang.

“Keith ?”


“It’s Ralph. How’re things ?”


“And Liverpool?”

“They lost.”

“How about a chat this evening ?”

“Alright. Where?”


“OK. What time?”

“Say, an hour and a half from now.”

Keith warmed up a lasagne, ate, dressed and went out.


Chapter 3

Keith’s Jaguar passed the corner of Arkwright road. He braked and looked at the blocked street. Two groups of adolescents, one on each side, were holding up the traffic with their banners. Keith tried to read what was written on them, but gave up. The youths were making too much noise and he became irritated. A girl approached: “Hi! We are here to support a campaign for the Animal Protection Society. I don’t know if you know about the atrocities that the rats suffer in the laboratories…” she said, unable to repress a childish smile and glances at her friends.

Keith didn’t attempt a reaction. To himself, he resented the youths’ lack of ceremony. He turned away and turned up the radio. The girl was still trying to say something. Keith, making sure that there was nobody in front of the car, pulled away, the tires squealing. He heard, from a distance, something offensive, the last part of a common phrase. He laughed, leaned back and turned the radio down.

The road to the Knight’s was calm and dull. On Sunday night, there was little going on in Park Road and Baker Street. Just the frosty breeze of winter and a succession of houses and shops, the occasional bright red double decker bus. Keith wondered what Ralph wanted to talk to him about.

The Knight’s Bridge is a quiet London pub near the city centre, in the basement of an old-fashioned arcade. During the week, the place was full of yuppies; on Sundays journalists and intellectuals. The Knight’s has a refined and gloomy atmosphere. In the dim light tables and chairs covered with violet velvet were almost always occupied. People drank spirits or pints of bitter. The conversation was mixed. Attentive ears could pick up allusions to international politics, discussions on the situation of European contemporary art and even high-society gossip, the names of famous people. The Knight’s murmur was cultivated by its customers. It was rare, if not impossible, either to hear a laugh, or a sentence spoken loudly.

It was not difficult for Keith to find Ralph. The boss was reading a magazine at his favourite table near a small side window at the rear of the pub. When Keith came in, Ralph glanced around the large room. He smiled and waved discreetly.

Ralph S. Foster, 66 years old, was of Scottish descent. He was a strong, tall man. His white hair combed backwards revealed his wrinkled forehead. He was a highly professional journalist, known for his dedication and maturity. He had started at the London Chronicle as a reporter, but by dint of hard work, he had risen to be the English daily’s editor-in-chief.

Keith owed him his own career. Ralph believed in his talent, helping him with his first exclusive. Because of this and other reasons, accumulated during the years of shared experiences, there was more than friendship between them: there was almost a pact of mutual help and great admiration. However, a certain paternalism from his boss towards Keith made their friendship rather difficult. It made itself felt through a convoluted game of mockeries and hidden aggressions.

Amongst journalists, Ralph had a reputation for being a little biased in his analyses of international politics, mainly because of his contempt for the U.S.A. Keith, on the other hand, rarely revealed his opinion about the countries or politicians involved in his reports. He preferred the style and the rawness of well-documented facts.

“Hullo, Ralph.”

“Hi, Keith!”

“What are you reading?”

“Take a seat. What a tactless guy! You’ve just arrived and you are already prying into my business …”

“I only asked to get you talking.”

“Well, you needn’t be so polite. What do want to drink?”

“Half a pint.”

“You drinking beer these days ?”

“You can’t drink scotch after gin”.

Ralph smiled.

“I see. You’ve already started. After all, what else could make a guy like you drink beer ? I’ll get you one.”

“I’ll get it”, answered Keith.

“Look old chap, let Ralph pamper you a bit. After all, these are your last days in London.”

“What?” Keith was surprised.

It was too late. His friend had already stood up and gone to the bar. Keith sat down and picked up the magazine that Ralph had been reading: Newsweek.

His boss was soon back with the drinks in his hands: a foaming pint in the left hand and a bottle of whisky in the other. He put everything on the table and sat down.

“Ralph, I can’t believe my eyes! Are you reading American magazines ?”

Ralph pretended he didn’t understand. Then he grabbed the magazine and started thumbing through it, looking serious.

“Do you know that Newsweek says that Thatcher can divorce that jerk ?”, he said.

Keith sipped his bitter.

“That’s good!” he said, looking at Ralph.” Have you talked to the Director ?”

“How did you know that?”

“Well, it seems obvious. So?”

“Everything’s fine. He agrees with your project. You know, Keith, that he never refuses what we ask him. Now that we have his approval, you can’t waste any more time. The situation is getting worse there every day.”

“Everything’s ready. I’ll be travelling in two weeks from now at the latest. Have you been in touch with Barry?”

“Of course, dear boy. What wouldn’t I do for you? And another thing: go to the Research Department tomorrow.

They’ve put together a dossier with all the information that you will need. I almost brought it with me, but as I know that you’re the kind of chap who likes to do things your own way… Go and see if you can find something that might interest you. Barry telephoned warning that things are hotting up down there. Have you read his reports?”


“And what’s your opinion?”

“Insipid, but some of them are interesting.”

“It is not easy to get information about a country that’s at war.”

Keith didn’t reply, but sipped his beer and looked down.

Ralph shook him.

“And the Spanish? Did the classes with Mrs. Gonzales have any effect or you are going with your holiday Spanish made in Majorca?”

They half-smiled.

“Newsweek is reporting a worsening situation in El Salvador. After ARENA’s victory in the last elections, anything can happen. The Yanks will have problems because of their intransigence in Central America. You know I’m not a communist, but a democratic solution for those countries will invariably be an anti-American one,” said Ralph. “And what’s that got to do with me ?” asked Keith ironically.

“Well, you’re going to do a report on El Salvador. You should know all about the situation there.”

“Ralph, knowing all about the situation there is one thing. Taking sides is completely different.”

Ralph became serious.

“The two things are the same”, he answered.

“I know”, replied Keith.

Ralph drank his whisky.

“Well, let’s talk about your holiday trip to Central America.” Keith moved closer to him, rubbing his hands.

“Now, this is the old Ralph I know. Do you think I’m going to wind up in a Salvadorean hospital ? They say that the sun there knocks out an Englishman.”

“Well”, said Ralph,”use a good sunblock. Keith, listen to me, this is a serious matter, your mission is very important. Those poor people need European public opinion. This is the only way to control, a little, the violence that’s expected now with the total war between the Government and the guerrillas. I know that you won’t let us down.”

Keith listened to everything carefully. He didn’t reply. He pretended to agree with what was being said. Far from boring or interesting him, Ralph’s opinion was part of his routine. The more his boss talked that way, the more he knew how it would end up.

“Keith, a man has responsibilites beyond his professional work.”

“Ok, Ok,” said Keith, with a gesture of applause.

“All right, let’s forget about it. To you, my friend, and to your mission. Cheers!”


Chapter 4

A small flat in the suburbs of Milan. Three men together in a meeting.

“This is my first and last meeting with you. My code-name is Gabriel. I have a little information to give you and a lot of instructions. Some demands… and… take it easy … a lot of money too. Can we get to work ?”

The other two nodded.

“OK. You, Yuri, have you found the men we need yet ?”

Yuri, one of the KGB’s most important agents in Europe, was a serious man who hardly spoke. Short, thin, with black hair and a little beard, he was well known in counter-espionage for his good contacts with terrorist groups working in Europe. He was the connection between the Soviet authorities, secret revolutionary movements and guerrillas in various parts of the world. A faithful executor of orders, he would surmount any obstacle to reach his targets. He had been working on a risky operation for some months.

“Everything’s ready. The crew of the ship is reliable. I’ve got thirty two men. Some are idealists, others are in it for the money.”

“And these people will keep their mouths shut ?”

“I’ve already told you they’re reliable. Anyway, they won’t know anything till the operation’s over. They’re spread all over Europe. Most of them speak different languages. They’ll come together when we call them.”

“And the problem of unloading arms in Central America?”

“Everything is checked out. Alonso will take care of the details.”

Alonso, a thirty-seven-year old Spaniard, bearded, white-skinned and of average build, was one of the most wanted men in his country. For some time, he led the People’s Army, one of the most violent factions of European terrorism.

“It is OK, Gabriel. You can trust him. I’ve known him for a long time.”

Gabriel smiled.

“In our profession, trust is a word that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve already checked out his story and he’s OK. I’m sorry”, he said, turning to the Spaniard,”it is a question of security.”

“That’s enough of this bullshit. And the ship ?” asked Yuri.

“A ship under an Algerian flag is waiting for you, moored in Tunis. It is ready to sail. You’ll only need to finish the loading and leave.”

“And the name-code of this operation, Alonso? Choose one, you’re a Latin American.”

“Now ? Just like that ?”

“And fast!”

“Let me see… What do you think of Cayman? Yes, Cayman, a small crocodile. That sounds good to me. The name reminds me of Central America, a song. What about Cayman Operation?”

“OK, OK. From now on you, apart from a very small group of people, are the only ones who will get any information. Anything that gets out will have come from you, and there is no need to remind what will happen then, is there?”

Yuri and Alonso stood next to Gabriel.

“Well, I can tell you what will be transported and how you will unload the cargo.”

“We are curious to know.”

“You shouldn’t be. Anyone who knows more than necessary in our profession generally gets into trouble. You will deliver arms to Central America. We are sending American, Czech and German arms to the guerrilla war.” “And where do we unload them ?”

“You’ll take with you a coded letter with instructions. The passwords to decipher it will be sent by radio when you get near the coast. Alonso will be ashore arranging the unloading. I want you, Yuri, to be on the ship, leading the operation personally. You will take with you not only the conventional weapons, but also two containers with a highly secret cargo that will be guarded round-the-clock by some of our men. You and they will have access to a device that will detonate the cargo in case of danger. If the operation fails, don’t hesitate to do it.”

Yuri interrupted, wanting to know more about the content of the boxes.

“Not even I know”, said Gabriel.”I only know that it is something that is going to change definitively the balance of power in El Salvador, right ? Afterwards, Yuri, you’ll be able to go away and live like a king.”

“That part I like …”

“You can take this money now” said Gabriel, giving him the receipt of a numbered Swiss bank account.”After the operation, you’ll get five times more”, he added.

Yuri opened his eyes wide, disguising immediately his greed with a smile and a satisfied look at Alonso. Gabriel gave him another receipt.

“This money is for you to complete our shopping. I want you to buy some more machine-guns, good ones, OK ? Czech or even British. Do you know anyone that could arrange that for us ?”

“Of course, with this money.”

“Without raising any suspicions?”

“Don’t worry. But is all this for the guns ?”

“No. It includes the dollars you asked me for your mercenaries.”

“Right.”, said Yuri.”Where are the guys who will take care of the containers ?” he asked.

“They’ll find you. The containers, too. Don’t anticipate too much. Worry only about your men and don’t hesitate to eliminate any suspect. This operation must be successful. Any hesitation and we’re fucked.”

“Don’t worry. Even the slightest suspects are being watched”, said Yuri, slapping Alonso on the back.

“Luckily they are only a few”, said Gabriel.”I don’t trust idealists.”

“What’re you trying to say ?” asked Alonso.

“You’re worse than mercenaries, you have compassion. And you also shoot badly, very badly.”

1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
1992 – Copyright of the English version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
Mario Viggiano
Kevin Keys

icon-eye Chapter 5 (click to continue)

acervo álvaro

Tom Laughwood

  PART 1 icon-eye  icon-eye  PART 2 icon-eye  PART 3


Soy loco por ti America

by Eneida Maria de Souza is Professor of Literature and Compared Literature at UFMG,
former president of “Associacao Brasileira de Literatura Comparada” (Abralic).

The fingerprint printed, in close, on the cover of Caiman Operation, portrays (emblems) the literature of the 80’s, fragmented by the passion of the multiple and by the loss of an identity touch. The thumb in ink printed in the document – revealing signature of the original trace – contrasts apparently with the false name of the author Tom Laughwood. Because of the multiple effect, it makes evident the authoral griffe, produced by “Oficina Literaria Informatizada” and put in the figure of a blase American. Representing the android and detective-like character of the post-modern literature, Tom Laughwood – author mingles with the cover illustration and pseudonym-signature starts to be trademark of the culture of imitation.

Caiman Operation develops a clever plot of contra-information between the CIA and the KGB, exposing the political scene of Central America (and of the third world), played by Keith O’Brien, English journalist from London Chronicle and guided by effects of abbreviations and simulations.

The fingerprint of this reality disappears and becomes multiplied in images through the intrigue that dissolves identities and articulates the trick of policial plots. With dirty and blurred traces of journalistic-political touches, the text registers the connection between politics and literature, through the mediator character of fiction. Considering Tom Laughwood also as a character – golem and replicant – and using a kind of narrative in the moulds of a best-seller, the author of Caiman Operation doesn’t do it only with the intention of the pastiche. Like a text to be decyphered, the policial plot of the novel is composed equally of false names, exchange of identities, disguise operations and mirrorring of abbreviations, multiplying metaphorically the artistic production. It establishes a complo. The writer, acting like a criminal in a robbery and collection of other texts, still forges identities and hides himself behind masks. The critic-reader, searching constantly for hints, drives his look to anything that causes suspicion and conspiration.

Filled with clichets, the construction of the plot is made in England, El Salvador and France, cleverly made by Tom Laughwood, author with the perfect style of the good best-sellers. The landscapes are similar to postcards or reports published on the first page of the newspaper. Keith O’Brien, searching for good news in El Salvador, involving gun smuggling, is the target of prosecutions of CIA and the KGB and transforms himself much more in victim of abbreviations than reality. He unmasks the political intrigue in which the two superpowers participate and he is eliminated in a spetacular way. The final message of the novel blames the CIA in the Operation and the agents regret their bad behaviour. Tom Laughwood goes against his country’s ideology and the good character doesn’t meet, in the airport, his girlfriend Antonia.
Cinematographic cuttings and shots, flashbacks and suspense scenes support the book that pastiches the best-seller style and follows the recipe in an exemplary form. It seduces the reader and catches his attention during the reading time.

What is the reason or what is new in writing this kind of novel? How can we put this in the picture of the contemporary literary production, clearly among those like Rubem Fonseca or Umberto Eco, that approaching the policial plot, also pastiche this style? Caiman Operation invents another griffe that doesn’t care about supporting the signature of a Brazilian writer, but of creating a fictional American author who acquires his own fictional life. It is done much more, with this trick, the filigrane of the artistic making and the condition of the literature of the Third World, made in the moulds of the imported samples. It is searched, in the middle of this discharacterization, a signature.

Tom Laughwood, also a best-seller critic, leaps from the cover of the book and falls in the pages of Jornal do Brasil, confessing his literary friendships in a dialogue in which are mixtured personal opinions and intellectual gossips. Or he is interviewed, in the occasion of the launching of the novel, in O Risco do Oficio, publication from the same Oficina Literaria Informatizada. Journalism and fiction get together, nowadays, in the art of producing authors and characters. In Jornal do Brasil, Tutty Vasques is the author without “real” identity and Radical Chic, character by Miguel Paiva, stands for the interviewed in “Perfil do Consumidor.”

The trick, fingertip of Literature and other speeches, reinforces the ficticious and multiple aspect of post-modernity, contamined by the mild poison of simulation. In discrediting the media, the politics, the art, the existence of truths or depth of meaning, author and work present themselves as surface effect. “The deepest is the skin,” had already said Valery.

The exhibition in shelves, of Caiman Operation, and of its author in the pages of newspapers, acts like answer to the editorial market, getting more opened to the foreign literature, to translations of best-sellers, when they use critically the recipes offered. It is discussed this kind of literature either in the novel or in the reviews written by the author to the section “Ideias Livros.” In a text of 30/09/89, “Perigo sob os turbantes,” Tom Laughwood gives his opinion about the book by Robert Lundlum: “If A Agenda Icarus is a good or a bad book, it is not me who must tell you. This is for the list of best-sellers. The publisher is good, the author is popular and the promotional scheme was well set up. Particularly I got satisfied with the novel. If I expressed here one or another restriction, don’t reproach me. I’m only trying to earn a living. And Robert knows about it. My opinions, like his, never correspond to reality.”

It is limited the concept of literature when they denounce the tricks that happen in the publishers or the interested exchangesof favours among friends. Tom Laughwood, avoiding to emit serious opinions, keep alive the fictional game and calls attention, as acritic of best-sellers, to the fragility and prejudice in which are built the literary truths.

Inscribed in a significative part of this glass culture that W. Benjamin mentions, where disappear the traces and object “aura” is empty (and so is the subject), the trace of identity in Caiman Operation gets volatile in imitations and reflexes. The burgeois scenery of the countryside, originated from the police novel, gives place to the shadow show, ruins of a time in which people believed in the signature and in the author propriety. Losing the object “aura”, are signed masterpieces and the author is hidden in the back seat of the car. Tom Laughwood’s fingerprint acquires, in this space mined with fiction, the signature trick. And the trademark of Caiman Operation is worth just for the pleasure of taking off the seriousness from the author stamp, waving in a jocular way to the lack of character in literature.

1989 – Copyright of the Portuguese version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
1992 – Copyright of the English version by
Alvaro Andrade Garcia
Delfim Afonso Jr.
Mario Flecha
Roberto Barros de Carvalho
Mario Viggiano
Kevin Keys


  PART 1 icon-eye  icon-eye  PART 2 icon-eye  PART 3
acervo álvaro



Álvaro Andrade Garcia



Ana é um romance intimista narrado na primeira pessoa. O livro conta a história de uma mulher que divaga sobre os acontecimentos de sua vida, a partir da rememoração de um carnaval imaginário. A narrativa se desenvolve em blocos de parágrafos, nos quais a pontuação obedece a critérios de ritmo mental e não à gramática convencional. À medida que a história se passa, uma marcação gráfica, que dosa espaços em branco entre os parágrafos, vai impondo densidade e silêncios aos pensamentos da personagem.



Álvaro, como surgiu o livro Ana?

Como tudo que escrevo, ele começou com uma série de anotações que fiz sistematicamente em uma determinada época da minha vida. Esse livro é um projeto antigo. Se não me falha a memória, o projeto começou em 1987 — eu não sou muito bom com datas — e nessa época mesmo, mais ou menos um ano depois, eu finalizei o livro. Me faltava o nome e o trabalho de elaboração formal do texto. Mas a idéia estava pronta.

Por que o nome Ana?

Eu queria um título que fosse bem pessoal e direto. Um nome próprio. E esse nome se presta a isso. Além do mais, seu significado está ligado a graça. É um nome sonoro e pleno de ar, como a história que o livro conta.

O livro fala de que?

A história do livro é bem intimista, densa. É o pensamento de uma mulher em curso que, numa determinada circunstância — que não vou contar agora, para não atrapalhar o leitor –, divaga sobre sua vida, pensando em torno de um carnaval imaginário.

Um carnaval imaginário?

Sim, mas nem por isso menos real! Cabe ao leitor descobrir esse momento na vida da personagem e na sua própria vida. O menos importante no livro é saber se os fatos existem ou não. O texto fala um pouco do conhecimento que adquirimos, sem perceber, da forma mental do mundo que se formula individualmente em cada um de nós, e que, nesse sentido é única e intransferível. Essa é uma coisa forte do livro. Tentei falar de uma vivência que só aquela pessoa, a personagem, tinha. Busquei algo extremamente pessoal. E nesse sentido o livro é universal. Todo mundo pode compreender o que a personagem carrega com ela, por que todos carregam algo assim. Como diria o poeta T. S. Elliot, numa citação de alguém: “embora a razão seja comum a todos, agimos como se cada um tivesse uma própria”. Eu tento penetrar nesse espaço mais íntimo de cada um. Isso é um desejo muito forte em mim. Vou te contar uma história: sempre tenho uma emoção muito forte, quando vejo alguém morto. Eu me pego olhando para o corpo inerte, tentando imaginar a quantidade infinita de vida que estava ali, animada, intensa, e que se foi junto com a pessoa. A quantidade de emoções, vivências e pensamentos que se perdeu para sempre, por que esteve incomunicada, enquanto a pessoa vivia. Por que o tempo real, externo a nós, não dá oportunidade às pessoas de fluirem esse mundo para fora e para dentro. Na maior parte do tempo isso não é possível, além da dificuldade, eu diria quase metafísica, de fazermos isso. A personagem principal é uma mulher e a história é narrada na primeira pessoa…

Isso é interessante. Eu mesmo tentei muito entender o por quê. Acho que desejava ver por outro prisma. Ao falar das coisas mais íntimas, mais internas de uma pessoa, senti necessidade de estar sendo uma mulher, até porque não sou. Foi difícil me colocar no lugar de uma mulher na hora de escrever. Usei muita coisa que aprendi com amigas, mulheres que conversam intimamente comigo. Algumas já leram o livro e me deram um feedback. Afinal, eu precisava saber o que acontecia quando uma mulher lia Ana. Elas ficaram impressionadas com a força de emoções tipicamente femininas que existe no livro. Mas flagaram aspectos masculinos que acabei deixando escapulir na trama. De toda maneira, o livro fala do relacionamento entre mulheres e homens, e nesse sentido, na minha opinão, a alternância só enriqueceu a história.

Voltando um pouco, por que reviver um carnaval?

O carnaval é um espaço para a subversão de valores, para a possibilidade da expressão de desejos que não se manifestam cotidianamente. E é isso que acontece com a personagem, e também conosco algumas vezes. O carnaval sempre me atraiu muito como a possibilidade da existência de um tempo fora do tempo na vida real. Transposto para a história, ele cria o espaço de metáforas que eu precisava para expressar uma manifestação da amálgama de emo-pensa-memo-mento-ações que existe em todos nós. É legal falar da beleza sublime que isso tem, e o carnaval é uma forma de se fazer isso.

Você falou que gastou muito tempo na elaboração formal do livro. Como isso aconteceu?

Eu quebrei muito a cabeça montando a história dentro de algumas premissas que desejei, do ponto de vista formal. O conceito básico veio da minha infância. Na época do primário, eu escrevia histórias que não tinham início, meio, nem fim. E eu enfrentava a professora de português anunciando que, quando fosse presidente, modificaria a gramática. Bem, assim fiz. Nada que não tenha sido feito antes, mas com algumas particularidades que constroem a estética do livro. Basicamente, eu trabalhei com uma pontuação completamente fora da gramática tradicional, usando blocos de parágrafos intercalados por diferentes espaços em branco. O trabalho foi todo esse. Contar a história seguindo o fluxo do pensamento, aproximando a linguagem escrita dos nossos momentos de divagação. A delicadeza do processo consistiu em não distrair o leitor com pirotecnias formais, e ao mesmo tempo não oferecer o que ele já conhece. Eu quis apresentar a história de uma maneira diferente, sem que o leitor se desse conta disso durante a leitura.

Por exemplo?

As vírgulas, pontos, etc, cumprem a função de inserir paradas, pontos de silêncio dentro do fluxo do pensamento. Um verbo pode estar separado do sujeito, se naquele momento há uma interrupção do pensamento, um parágrafo de frases grandes despontuadas pode traduzir uma idéia que brota plena, e pausas, várias pausas podem marcar momentos de hesitação e multidireciomento. Eu trabalhei a relação entre o texto e os momentos mentais da personagem, tentando aproximá-los do modo como são vividos por nós. A distância entre parágrafos é outra característica importante do livro. A medida que a história decorre os parágrafos vão se distanciando uns dos outros, forçando pausas que destacam ou submergem idéias. Essa estrutura vai sugerindo a descontinuidade do pensamento, os parágrafos vão se espaçando e os pensamentos se incorporando de mais silêncios e menos palavras, e nesse sentido, se tornando mais intensos. Eu trabalho tudo numa outra lógica. A gramática nesse caso não é a organização de idéias e pensamentos estruturados em classes de palavras subordinadas entre si, mas a organização de palavras-silêncios que conforme seus significados, justaposições e ritmo — principalmente o ritmo — representam a interação entre nós e o mundo. Se eu usasse a gramática tradicional, organizada, estruturada, hierárquica, como poderia compartilhar pensamentos e vivências tão turbulentas, como as que têm minha personagem e todos nós? Estamos falando da representação de um tipo de pensamento mais caótico?

Essa é a delicadeza da literatura. Compartilhar o caos, a incerteza, mas de forma transparente, cristalina e reveladora. A personagem se descobre, e nós também somos capazes disso. A gramática, que nada mais é que a ligadura entre as palavras, a atração química que exercem umas sobre as outras, pode se estruturar das mais variadas formas, e assim o faz no curso do nosso espírito. A língua escrita formalizada é que, infelizmente, nem sempre se dispõe a fazer isso. Vou te dar outro exemplo: a história do livro é contada no tempo verbal passado. A partir de um determinado instante, ela transmuda para o tempo presente e depois volta ao passado. Como é possível existir um tempo presente antes do passado? É que no livro eu não usei os tempos verbais para marcar a existência ou não de fatos dentro de uma linha do tempo externo à personagem, eu manipulei a estrutura temporal dos verbos para encadear os momentos de vivência e o estado psicológico da personagem. Uma idéia vivida no tempo presente é diferente de uma idéia vivida no tempo passado. Passado, nesse contexto, significa distância de uma idéia em relação a nós, distância no tempo externo também, mas sobretudo distância por negação, por afastamento afetivo ou por outras razões. O tempo, nesse caso, foi usado para aproximar e afastar as vivências do fluxo de consciência da personagem e não para pontuar os acontecimentos. Dá para entender? Quando ela se acerca mais próxima de si mesma, ela vive um presente intenso, quando se afasta, ela perde esse presente e volta para o passado. E isso tudo é feito para que fique imperceptível ao leitor, porque é assim que a gente vive as coisas mais íntimas. A gente não sente, nem percebe, mas todos nós vivemos a maior parte do tempo regidos por outras gramáticas.




“A natureza são duas.
tal qual se sabe a si mesma.
Outra, a que vemos. Mas vemos?
Ou é a ilusão das coisas?”

Carlos Drummond de Andrade


Há um lapso, um instante crucial onde tudo se faz. Um momento eterno que acabei experimentando. Sofri depois esse medo esconso, como se fosse possível continuar ali, suspensa no tempo. Tento me explicar outra vez: não se percebe, mas tanta emoção encontra rumo nessa hora. É quando compreendo uma realidade larga demais, para se pensar inteira. Será que sofrer não é falta de paciência?

Meus desconhecimentos esperam saber, a certeza quer estranhamento, revejo, busco outra vez. Se pudesse, traria o mundo inteiro para dentro de mim. Quem criou o limite. O corpo. Eu era assim mesmo, antes de mim.

Esfacelo, como uma planta seca. Onde vai terminar o vento, esse que sopra minha vela.

Onde foi parar de ser o que nunca foi? Aponto o dedo para o meu rosto espelhado, não reconheço, não reconheço porque sou nova. Sei, mas não sabia, algo transformou, quebrou a continuidade. Há um fosso, entre o passado e o presente, entre eu mesma e a forma que habita meu corpo. Eu desencorpada e amnésica.

Pergunto. Sou agora? Ou fui?

A diferença pode parecer inútil nesse instante. Há um fosso que separou os dois lados de mim, sou assimétrica, e não sei mais explicar essa maneira de ser.

Os olhos que vieram até aqui, não continuem. Que os movimentos se encerrem. É inútil prosseguir.

Certas vezes, as recordações vêm súbitas. Uma porção do tempo é sacada para fora do seu lugar e aproxima; não há duração entre cronologias. Agora e foi são uma coisa só.

Paro. Seu cabelo é castanho. Centenas de olhares estão ao redor, o vento passa por uma fresta da janela. Uma cantilena, paro, rodopio na praça. O coreto, a mesma banda, e a música toca. Paro, lembro, a estação cheia, apenas recordo. Quando foi que te perdi?

Tantas vezes você foi um nome forte demais e agora nem sei te colocar sentido. Lembro, engulo, mastigo.

E desconheço. Irreconheço o que é próximo. Até eu mesma. Já não alcanço respostas. O mundo se torna áspero, cheio de pontos para a mão tatear. Transformo. Percorro, mas qual estrada, não sei mais. Farrapos, onde estão as ligaduras, a malha da minha vida, da minha vida, que se perdeu.



Tudo se perde nesse turbilhão.



O remanso da amnésia.


Lembro, quero lembrar o mundo inteiro, lembrar e morrer, lembrar e morrer, quantas vezes forem possíveis. Quero o limite humano, agora quero a tensão. A partícula mais veloz, o futuro, a infância, vivi. Numa cela, recebendo ossos e chocolates, recebendo quadrados para colocar na cabeça e me punir dos desvios, e a culpa, a culpa cada vez maior.

Não quero morrer! Não quero. Nunca!, ninguém pode morrer numa hora como essa.

Por que minha mãe me sufocou assim? Por que não entendo o que acontece.

Realizo e ninguém vê, desmudo e no entanto não há som. Nunca estive tão lúcida e tão perto de sucumbir. Tenho três pernas e percorro distâncias que não aprendi. Desaprendo.

A cada dia surge mais infância em mim. A antiga casa do interior, meus tios. Meu passado se prepara para desabar sobre a cabeça. Ele que nunca mais me lembrava, ele, pálido, ofuscado.


Pulando, vou pulando, são saltos, ausência de trégua, invalidez, fraqueza. Flutuações.

Antes daqueles dias.


Eu era uma pessoa comum. Tinha emprego, casa e comida. Tinha família, uns sonhos até. E uns dias de ordem natural no suceder. Banho, café, trabalho, almoço e trabalho; descanso da guerreira uma vez por ano, nas férias. Fiz cursos. Estudei e cheguei a ter diploma. Mas não sou o que desejava ser. Só depois fiquei sabendo. Alguns homens passaram pelo meu caminho, uns amei, outros nem tanto. Vi muita coisa, estive em muitos lugares, mas não permaneci em nenhum. Me assusto quando penso assim. Eu penso demais aqui, as idéias vêm sempre em golfadas. Não sei o que fazer delas. Elas são eu? Quem sou afinal, esse corpo repousando na cama, tudo isso que sinto também? Ando sensível, delicada, tudo me atinge em demasia. Meu coração está irrequieto.

Ainda assim me resta um tempinho para ser eu. Ora, eu, já perdi meus limites. Não estou mais aqui.


Meu sonho é o mesmo, dia após dia. Oito anos se foram e a noite pertence a esta paisagem que se repete. Quando ele vem, tenho certeza de que é a primeira vez, mas não, depois encontro os mesmos sentidos em tudo que se passou.

A família é grande, alguns se dispersaram por outros estados. Tem gente com meu sangue até no exterior. E muitos perto de mim, vizinhos, colegas, mas nossa distância é maior. A tal distância que não se mede em metros. Que se sente, como amor, ódio e raiva. Distância é um sentimento como outro qualquer.


Aqueles dias ensinaram muita coisa. Se é que existiram.

Bato ponto num escritório no centro, terceiro andar, telefones, mesas, pilhas de papéis. Secretárias, chefe. O destino do mundo? Será? Cada dia desaprendo mais. Trabalho numa repartição do governo, faço projetos para recuperação de monumentos históricos. Não é bem o que sonhei para mim, mas é melhor que muita profissão por aí. Os projetos que ajudo a elaborar dificilmente vão ser executados, mas tenho o dinheiro do aluguel no fim do mês. E acabo fazendo o que gosto.

E me irrito também!

Não trabalho mais nesse escritório! Há anos não vou nunca mais lá. E minto também. Ele está aqui, dentro de mim, nunca me deixou. O tempo é uma mentira. As palavras, os verbos nos afastam daquilo que está dentro de nós. O tempo é uma forma torpe de afastar. É uma distância também. Eu sinto sem palavras.



O que penso agora é o que existe.

Gosto de suflê de milho, banana frita e chocolate. E calda de caramelo nos meus sundaes. Gostava, agora acho um pouco doce, para ser sincera doce demais. Meu trabalho sempre foi uma morte lenta. Dizia que adorava fazê-lo. Pura tapeação. Muita crítica nos arrebenta. Um pouco de autoconsideração sempre é bom. Há muita notícia boa que aparece quando menos se espera.

É que esperamos olhando para o lado errado da rua. Na hora de atravessar, acabamos sendo atropelados.

Minha cabeça é só lacunas, tudo passa mais rápido nessa hora e eu ainda o amo.
Não sou muito bonita, mas acho que chamo a atenção. Tenho o nariz um pouco fora do lugar. Sei que sou magricela. Tenho pudor e me valorizo, às vezes. Antes, se pudesse cortava isso, amassava aquilo e fazia um modelo de mim. Hoje penso diferente. Gente se molda de dentro para fora. Não adianta ir talhando, escondendo. Os bustos, as pernas, os medos, as dificuldades.

A cada minuto a vida deixa sobre meu corpo uma leve impressão da sua passagem. Uma marca, uma cicatriz, uma imagem bem-vinda, um pensamento. Como é bom ser um corpo que sente a vida como uma brisa ligeira. A morte não. Tromba na gente. Os talhos. Tive. Aborto. Acidente de carro. O câncer. A morte da minha mãe.

Tive uma cultura razoável, uma boa educação. Tocava piano, dancei um pouco. Um volks, um som legal, queria ter outras coisas. Sonhava em viajar pelo mundo. Falei até em deixar tudo para encarar a estrada. Não fui, não fui eu mesma também. Era difícil me encontrar. Ainda é. Vai ser. Consigo sentir meu suor, meu pulso, minha respiração, são momentos emocionantes, estes. Vivemos todos os dias, mas nos encontramos apenas em certos momentos.

Minha mãe esteve comigo na infância. Era bonita, forte e decidida. Foi o que uma mulher podia na época, se casou com José. Meu pai, um muro. Nunca falava. Ele foi carinhoso? não sei, talvez à moda dele. Só lembro de vê-lo diante do sol, dizendo que o mundo não prestava.

Às vezes me surpreendo pensando como num diálogo. Meu pensamento também é uma fala. Quando falo por ele, converso para quem?

Meu pensamento é confuso como o das pessoas. Falta ordem, mas tudo se acerta. E essas perguntas que me aparecem. Cada pergunta, uma lacuna.
Mas é simples. Complicado é organizar, ordenar. Agora o pensamento vai atrás do que sinto. Antes não. Ficava dando ordens e reprimindo. Eu pensava para justificar aquilo que não podia sentir. É. O sentimento que temos é forte. O meu viveu enterrado.


É engraçado como a gente se engana pensando. E esta é a mentira mais absurda.

O certo foi uma estrada muito estreita que construíram sem me perguntar. Mas olhei para o lado. Aqueles dias vieram pela tangente. E acabei recompensada pela oportunidade.

Fui correta, todos somos. Respeitava as leis, os costumes, transgressões só as discretas, sem comprometer.

Que baderna, meus namorados, minha vida, meu trabalho, a gente brilha ou se afunda. Agora é assim.

Devo me alimentar com freqüência, mas estou enjoada. Tenho que dormir bastante e não quero. A fragrância dessa flor é a única coisa que me atrai. Seu perfume é tão belo… diria, antes de começar a chorar outra vez. O mundo merece ser desvendado.

Estou suando muito, uma gota cai, logo vem outra. Meu cheiro se espalha pelo quarto. Será que os outros o sentem como eu.



Minha irmã me visitou hoje.

Quero dormir. Descansar, quero ficar turva. Quando a luz se apaga, aquieto no escuro. Na sombra tudo fica mais próximo. As coisas se fundem comigo, perdem a forma e a aparência.



Estou num salão iluminado com muitas pessoas. Todos usam máscaras. Não. As máscaras estão sem corpos. Um salão com máscaras coloridas, apenas. Dançam com entusiasmo. Eu estou lá, uma máscara azul, com três estrelas na direita.

De repente é pleno carnaval. As máscaras vestem pessoas, e eu estava lá.

Quando olhei.

O salão se dobrou em quatro, sumiu

e fiquei só.



Apenas olhava para o alto e esperava um recado das estrelas. Pura superstição. Mas aquela era uma noite assombrada. A razão saiu correndo. Mantive os olhos pregados no céu, até que flores começaram a brotar das estrelas, formando galhos que caíam na direção da terra. Meus olhos se voltaram para dentro. E começaram a enxergar.

Surgiu na minha frente um portão de ferro, muito familiar. O tempo parou ali. Até que uma sombra apareceu do outro lado. Um arrepio intenso percorreu meu corpo de cima a baixo. Uma sombra humana, harmoniosa, o espaço se transformou outra vez. O portão fica morno.

E se abre. Uma imagem emoldurada pelo sol. E tudo é tão rápido, e sem volta. Uma espiral subindo ao céu, um filamento de luz sobre o corredor.
Tudo se desfaz lentamente. O lugar sumiu, o espaço se ampliou, até surgir algo sem bordas e um fio de nada. Nada, coisa alguma.




Ele está aqui outra vez. A luz me alivia. Meu coração trota, a respiração está ofegante. Não me lembro de nada. Sinto falta de ar, ânsia, tonturas, estou bamba de tanto pavor.

Devo ter gritado. Tudo que vivi deve estar lá, ressoando naquele sorvedouro. O que penso é incapaz de atingir a plenitude de um simples momento! Estou só, mas fico certa, absoluta de que ele estava aqui. Mais uma vez incompreendo. Quando é que ele se afasta de nós?
E quando algo é a gente mesmo.


O sonho retornava e eu ficava deprimida. Hoje sei que entristecia por outras razões. Sempre cultivei essa dor que se arrasta ilesa ao longo dos anos. Tive todo o tempo do mundo para ser feliz e não fui.

Tive muitas coisas, menos eu mesma. Muita emoção e ninguém para compartilhar verdadeiramente. Trabalhava junto, dormia junto. E daí, falo de compartilhar. Dividir o corpo, o dom. Somos dom. É só. Deveria.

Naqueles dias foi. A rotina estava me extenuando. Rotina é algo que se gosta ou se foge dela.


Não é aflitivo, algo que vem de dentro de nós e que não é palpável. Que não é compreendido?

Minha infância. Brinquei muito na rua, correndo entre carros estacionados, subindo em árvores. Assim se foi meu primeiro tempo, entre o pique e as coleções de boneca. E o primeiro namorado aos quinze. O cara foi tudo que desejei um dia. Apaixonei-me perdidamente. Mas ele não quis ficar comigo.
Não é assim o casamento. Me casei, tive um filho.

Essa vida é tão engraçada. Eu estava numa praça dando tiros para o alto. Me iludia, achava que fazia algo original. Antes daqueles dias eu estava mal dos nervos, isso sim.


Apesar da falta de dinheiro e da falta de coragem, desafiei as pessoas e comprei um pequeno apartamento para morar antes de me casar. Enfrentei resistências, meu pai dizia que não era correto uma mulher morar só, minha mãe chorou bastante, depois acabaram se acostumando.



Sempre tive medo de realizar meus sonhos.



Ele foi embora quando forcei a barra. Fui ciumenta. Torcia para que quebrasse a cara. Separamos. Muita gente veio depois e se foi da minha vida. Para sempre. Vinham por uma razão, uma coincidência, às vezes, e depois acabava o relacionamento. Cito nomes, não encontro ressonâncias. Mas decerto deixaram alguma coisa em mim.

Menstruação com treze anos e susto também. Aquela coisa é marcante. O sangue. A gente vira moça da noite pro dia. Completa, com seios pontando e doendo. Meu filho, uma vida inteirinha que resolveu crescer em mim. Ai ele nasceu. Eu que era dois, fiquei uma. Aquele aborto. E pensar na morte antes mesmo da vida, quando ela devia começar. Loucura. Desatino. Numa noite qualquer conheci o pai, o suficiente para estar ali, junto, pele na pele, mas faltava o resto. Não veio a menstruação. As resoluções, o ato. Aquela mulher suja, aquelas mãos brutas. Fiz. Chorei, choro, eu depois queria tanto aquele bebê.

Uma rua plana, larga, com casas baixas, ajardinadas. Cinco meninos pulando na água que escorre de uma mangueira. Seus gritos, e eu apenas olhos. Era meu filho.

Não é mais. Não foi.
O tal pai que não foi. Nunca mais o vi. Um aborto fica no corpo da mulher para sempre. Eu faria de novo? Faria? Instinto de mãe é coisa séria. Posso até justificar por aí, mas dói. Hoje tenho um filho, também toma banho de mangueira. E brinca. A gente se revela aos poucos.

A vida traz sementes dentro de nós, se não brota uma, arrancada, temos outras, e outras, milhares delas. Afinal, sou uma mulher.

Aquele outro foi um chato. Meu herói na universidade. Revolução! Armas em punho. O sistema nos vigia. Vamos derrubá-lo. O capital industrial, a direita. A ditadura, os filhos da puta que estão aí, defendendo privilégios. Eu não vim para derrubar nada, quero viver. Ele desejava transformações radicais na sociedade, o fim da injustiça. Só que era obrigação para nós. Continuo alheia aos burgueses, mas abandonei esse tipo de luta.

Minha causa é uma vida como aquela, daqueles dias impossíveis.


Queria um companheiro que amasse loucamente. Ele foi, foi mais até. Não encontrei homem algum como ele. Acabei casando com outro. Quantas vezes a vida não é assim?

Minhas costas ardem onde não posso alcançar. Nem roçando o colchão faço sumirem as pinicadas.
Sempre gostei de café da manhã com muitas frutas, leite e requeijão. Cozinho bem, só que detesto lavar pratos. Não combina sair de uma refeição divina e engordurar as mãos. Meu marido ajudava nisso.

Também sempre gostei de animais. Em especial de pássaros. Tive alguns na gaiola, mas depois larguei disso. No fundo sempre achei que nossa maneira de amar acaba sendo prender. E toda hora justificamos: pássaros soltos morrem de fome, gato come.

Fui livre quando adolescente. Morria de medo do mundo, mas o encarei de frente. Meus pais colocavam alguma ressalva na auto-suficiência que tinha, tentavam ser coerentes. Não fica bem para uma moça fazer certas coisas.

Eu já reparei, a condição feminina é a condição do medo. É gente pondo medo na gente o tempo inteiro.

Uma coisa puxa a outra, penso assim. Será que só me vem à cabeça as marcas, as rupturas. As pedras no leito do rio. Os pontos finais. E a vida que correu nesse meio, onde está? Não me lembro. Quase nada resta, estas imagens tão frouxas, o que fica afinal?

Chorei quando me levaram para a escola. Meu primeiro dia foi um arraso. Depois chorei por toda infância. Tinha medos, dores incompreensíveis, muitas vezes sem razão. E fui assim, chorando até o fim da universidade, agora me concentro e num relance passam todos os anos, eu assentada na carteira olhando para frente. O que realmente aprendi com isso? Formei e vi meu pai no dia mais feliz da sua vida. Uma filha doutora. Apesar de história ser algo enigmático para ele, com comunismo e muitas doutrinas estranhas. Meu pai era duro, mas acabava sempre me deixando fazer o que queria. E me acenou com lágrimas nos olhos, no dia da colação de grau. Tenho poucos amigos, e sou uma emotiva confessa. Abro a boca agora. Queria ser forte. Muito mais forte do que sou. Minha irmã é uma grande amiga, conversamos muito hoje, suas visitas são sempre reconfortantes. Ela é durona.
Férias, uma vez por ano, no verão, com a família. Reunião de amigos, um cinema às seis, o mundão e a gente indo sempre para o mesmo lugar. Pode… acabamos criando um -inho para nos conter.


Certa vez meu pai nos contou a história da areia. Eu era menina. Ele disse que a areia foi pedra um dia. As pedras também não resistem ao tempo. E a areia vira o quê?

Férias outra vez, passeios à sorveteria, alguns livros, namoricos. A eternidade na memória.

E lembro, passo a ferro essas besteiras, imaginando algumas coisas e concluindo um monte de outras. Sonho de novo, ok, o mesmo sonho. Dessa vez é um quarto parecido com o meu, quando adolescente, limpo e muito cheiroso. Uma cama no meio com um edredom bem macio. A escrivaninha, um espelho redondo, à esquerda alguns quadrinhos. A janela está aberta para leste. O sol em tudo. Um embrulho na cama.

Ele está ali, de costas.

E some.
Passei boa parte da vida sem nem saber o que era realmente viver. Perguntava sem ter idéia do que era perguntar, tentei decifrar, ter pistas que levassem a mim mesma. Que explicassem, qualquer coisa: a razão da minha vida, para quê, de onde e tudo mais. Mas eu acabei vivendo para valer, sem dar notícia dessas questões, num único momento. E vivi mais plenamente que em qualquer outro. Cada desejo foi uma extensão dos meus atos. Tinha uma certeza íntima, uma resposta do lado de lá. Mas quando tento lembrar, pago pedágio e me esqueço completamente.

Senti muitas coisas acontecendo naqueles dias. Cheguei até eles com perguntas mal feitas e obtive as respostas, as respostas que hoje me escapam. Sou uma falta agora.

Não me lembro, não posso pensar que dói.

Quando uma planta brota, ela traz consigo sua flor. É uma questão de tempo.


As formas encerram tantos segredos… e quando se acabam? Um revérbero na memória, desexistiram; o que faz o fim?

Os acontecimentos durante a minha vida se sucederam e eu, intimamente, tinha conhecimento de que seriam como foram. Onde está o elo perdido, que nos mantém desligados desse mundo paralelo que corre ao longo do nosso.




Sei que vou transformar em beleza a minha derrota. Terei de volta meu homem com a barba por fazer e músculos firmes nos braços. Uma tatuagem pequena. Suor forte. Ele virá sorrindo, dirá apenas: quero te ver. Depois vai colocar suas mãos na minha boca, forçando os lábios com o polegar e o indicador para cima e para baixo. Até que me arranque um sorriso, e depois os dentes. Cada dente é um ano de vida. Quando meu relógio começar a funcionar, receberei de volta um por vez, até se completarem os 32, aí, nos encontraremos de novo.

Eu levava uma vida tão destituída que a tristeza já não me incomodava. Apenas adiava o encontro com os fatos.

Tanta coisa me faltava antes dele. Não tinha vontade de viver, agora tenho.

Aquele janeiro é o mês mais comprido da minha vida. A dor. Agora entendo: a dor serve para prolongar o tempo.

Lutei com resistência e fibra. A televisão me ajudava a levar os dias. Passei a me convencer da banalidade da vida. Busquei prazer na cama, a proteção de homens. Não sonhava, tinha sobressaltos, estremecimentos, pesadelava aquele sonho. E cada vez mais tinha pavor.
Me recordo, desbela, com olhos caídos e arruinada, debruçada sobre a janela, vendo os carros passarem. A Carolina do Chico.
Coisas assim emergem de vez. Aquela emoção domesticada desde a infância, recebendo apenas caramelos para se manter. Brotou. E chorei, chorei todos os choros de uma só vez. Furiosa, louca até.

Já faz tempo?

Eu perdi as certezas que carregava, hoje duvido do meu dedo toda vez que aponta numa direção.

A tristeza, os galhos secos. Toda desolação termina um dia. A dor não existe para a vida toda. Não dá para colocar vida nela. Enquanto as folhas secam não há o que fazer. Mas enquanto houver raízes e caule, enquanto houver céu para se alcançar. Ou se mata e se morre até o fim, ou então há uma chance. Minha raiz está no passado. Eu sei muito bem como é.
Belos lugares são raros hoje em dia. Vou para um deles e farei uma vida nova para mim. Quero ver minha vida cotidiana se desmanchar. Quero amigos e um luar decidido. Faremos uma grande festa da alma. Precisarei de algumas garrafas de vinho. Ou cerveja gelada? Não importa, até cachaça eu tomo. Sairei daqui, serei livre, preciso apenas escolher um lugar. Quem vai? Todos que estiverem querendo. A Ruth têm que saber logo disso. Vou escolher um lugar bem legal, e agora farei um fevereiro só para mim.

Pode ser uma cidade a beira-mar. Pequena, que saiba mudar sua rotina. Eu preciso de mar, mas quero montanhas também. E estrelas. Um rio de água doce, melhor, um riacho que caia no mar. Água correndo. Uma ponte, alguns veleiros, bares, casas antigas. Uma praça e uma igreja: imponente, cheia de arestas. Um padre com seus fiéis.

Nossa casa fica à esquerda, numa rua um pouco além da praça.


Estarei lá numa quinta-feira, antes do carnaval, passeando pelas ruas e dizendo alô para as senhoras na calçada. Vou cantar debaixo de uma árvore que há na praça até a polícia me tirar de lá. Quero ver a cidade inchar. A cidade, seus bares, gente alegre e triste, com latas de cerveja, cães vadios.

Sim, eu irei, e quando nada souber, a vida sairá de mim, com cores cintilantes. Me afastarei do convívio dos homens e n’algum canto, num refúgio escondido da incompreensão, gritarei alto e em bom tom.

Milhares de coisas sem nexo, absurdos, blasfêmias, direi todas essas emoções, sentirei o vento passando e não terei vergonha de sentir tudo que virá. Loucos, vagabundos, vocês aí. Parem, desliguem a máquina, podemos fazer o impossível.

Que coisa mais engraçada!


Começo a pensar numa viagem sem retorno.
Não sei como ele me aparece. É sexta-feira. A noite começa, as ruas estão movimentadas. Por que estou ali? Não sei. Me convenceram a ir. A vida nos prega peças, podemos fazer de tudo para ter controle da situação, mas na hora exata ela é quem dá as cartas.

Ajeito o cabelo, desligada, e me viro para o jardim. Ele está ali. Um homem brilhante. Que me olha com olhos estelares, sorri. É ele, alguém que tenho certeza conhecer.

Ele se aproxima de nós. E me dá uma flor. Não uma rosa, apenas a primeira, a mais próxima. Uma amarelinha. Meu coração bate a alegria daquele momento. Todos começam a rir. Ele fica sem jeito.
Quando penso tenho medo de perdê-lo para sempre.
Ele ainda não me conhece, apenas acha que me sabe.
Brilha tanto que é impossível defini-lo. Ele vem para ofuscar. Brilham os olhos pretos que me turvam a vista. Ele tem uma expressão de alegria contagiante. Sua boca é uma extensão dos meus pensamentos. Ele diz o que preciso ouvir. Posso ver-lhe o coração. Saltita, como um cão vadio, posso intuir que seu espírito é repleto de sins, e vamos. Seu nariz conta histórias de perfumes vindos de outras épocas, odores tão fortes quanto a liberdade. Como esquecer, se vejo seu queixo, sua mandíbula, ávida por devorar toda a vida que passa desapercebida. Um leão, um lobo prateado, um camaleão, lâmpadas néon, as cores e todos os ângulos que um dia se revelam num só corpo, macio, de consistência quase gasosa, um perfume que se recolhe na flor mais próxima. Nesta flor, que está na minha mão. Ele é a mistura, o mosto. Um sentimento que seja um só. Ele. Que começa antes da hora e termina depois do fim. Ele, um só. Ele que tem atalhos no corpo.
Ele vem: não sinto apenas eletricidade, rearranjo. Ele vem e acaba se indo por minha culpa. Volto nele a todo instante, ele, em minhas mãos, girando, mudando de posição, uma nova alegria, minha paixão, um novo reflexo, mas o mesmo. A mesma.
Na hora exata tivemos uma espécie de encontro profundo. Pouco conversamos, conversar o quê? Logo a noite, quando fiquei só no quarto, repensei. O instante é tão passageiro, por isso é tão difícil alcançar o tempo. O presente é uma faísca e o passado se estende sobre tudo.
Só que ele me fez esticar o presente.



A hora mesmo foi veloz. Me despedi. A gente se vê amanhã. Tudo aqui é tão pequeno, não há como não acontecer outra vez.

Saio cantarolando pela rua até a praia, lá existe uma árvore no canto da enseada, protegida dos olhares, subo em um de seus galhos e me assento para sentir as coisas gostosas que passam por mim. Tudo que vivi passou por mim naquela hora, algo como hoje. Só que naquele dia existia um filtro qualquer no meu espírito, o triste ia embora, o alegre contagiava. Foi quando pensei. É tarde. O carnaval começa amanhã. Já começou, e eu quase acabei com ele.
Fui para o quarto sem saber o que me esperava, me enrosquei nas cobertas sem ao menos sonhar com o que aconteceria, e foi. Ficava apenas pensando que tristeza tem remédio, e eu estava disposta a viver tudo que viesse pela presença dele.

Engraçado como pude dormir naquela espelunca, no meio de tanta gente.

Relembro a cidade, com suas pessoas. As mesmas que sempre foram e serão.

Mas meus olhos distinguiam apenas beleza.



Tanto é que estranhei os amigos depois: por onde andou? O que estava fazendo esse tempo todo? Você desapareceu. Já comeu? Sabe quem está aí? Eu ensaiava uma vida vagabunda, e foi assim que talvez adormeci. Cantarolando, aquela música do Caetano, do azul celeste celestial, da morena lábios cor de açaí.
A manhã de sábado vem sem pedir licença. Chega pela fresta da janela. Bom dia! Um zunido de vida na casa onde estou hospedada, logo vem o cheiro de café passado. Uns ruídos vindos da rua, o corpo enrolado nas cobertas, outros ainda dormitando ao redor. A manhã entra pela janela e faz um traço sumário no espelho do armário. É dia na cidade em festa. Como estará a praia hoje?

Dou o troco e acabo com o primeiro pudor que encontro no carnaval. Abro a janela de vez. O sol retira a umidade que havia no quarto. A manhã está aqui, inteira, com as padarias abertas, os carros passando apressados e, ao longe, o ruído da primeira batucada. Estou em pleno carnaval.
É carnaval, não me diga mais quem é você.
A cidade está nua, as casas me abrem suas bocas. Sinto o coração bater. Hoje lanço um dardo invisível às pessoas que passam.


Passear pelas ruas foi bom para mim, tudo estava tão alegre que me contagiou. Pensei nele. Tornarei a vê-lo?
Vagueio pela cidade na plenitude da luz, as cores fazem um xadrez vibrante, telhados empenados ziguezagueiam, o meio-fio alto e o calçamento desigual recobrem a rua.


O almoço é farto. Ruth me diz: olha que você tem uma congestão. Cuidado! tanta coisa pode acontecer! Viver é muito perigoso, já disse o Guimarães Rosa.
É depois do almoço de sábado que a coisa começa a esquentar. A cidade se inquieta. É um caldeirão prestes a entrar em ebulição. Vejo sair fumaça das pedras do calçamento. Bem que tento ouvir os conselhos: deita e descansa, depois você não vai agüentar. Mas como? Rolei uma hora na cama. Mas como? Deixar este som ancestral. Ele marca o compasso do meu coração. Saio pela rua.

O sol castiga, outro dia fará frio, hoje não.

O calor aumenta e destila energias em mim, meu pé roça o solo, patino, contorno a praça e tomo uma pinga de uma só talagada. Um arrepio percorre meu corpo. Já falo pelos cotovelos, o que não é do meu feitio. Encontro um amigo, e tomamos algumas cervejas, daquelas bem geladas.

Ok, sei que estou só e daí, tudo que penso é para os outros, mesmo que eles nunca cheguem a saber disso. O que penso é o outro em mim mesma. Por isso falo tanto quando estou só.
O que importa agora não é isso, nem o mundo dos canais de tv, das civilizações, das infindáveis neuras. O meu mundo hoje não está em guerra, está em pé de festa, desfilando pela cidade. A platéia? Eu mesma. Eu que aprendi a ser tão contorcionista, diria.

Saímos andando e falamos sobre nada, coisa alguma, falo a vontade de falar, sonorizo a tarde.
Uma algazarra me avisa, ele está chegando. Os sons são música, as palavras, pura sonoridade, sem significados, há relevo no ar. Acho que componho agora uma peça sinfônica, se me derem uma partitura. Estamos lá pelo quarto movimento, sei lá qual cerveja.

E ele se apossa de mim, e começa a mistura, o carnaval, uma baita confusão. Ele irrompe sempre assim: magnífico.

Passa pelo outro lado da rua, a multidão mascarada e colorida. Ele está lá. Tão perto e ainda distante. A multidão me envolve e tento alcançá-lo, ele está no meio do povo, numa fresta, depois desaparece. Vem cá, não me deixe para trás. Ele é som puro, imagem sem molde, cheiro sem perfume. Um gás. A vida, os toques e olhares ternos. Olho no olho, um exercício sensual.

Quanto mais busco o choque dos nossos olhos, mais desapareço entre as pessoas, mais longe estou do meu amigo, longe de todo mundo, no meio da multidão em movimento. Vou sambar e cantar bastante, e chegar até ele.

O corpo vai e me vem. O corpo vem e me vou. Meu quadril se move, ele me olha de frente, dançamos juntos, apesar da multidão.

O mundo não seria o que é se não fosse o carnaval. A gente não seria o que é.
Não esperava encontrá-lo tão cedo, e aqui está o danado, me matando de saudade.

No sábado o Boi de Papel sempre saía. Era um bloco de pessoas conhecidas da cidade. Deixavam suas casas com seus instrumentos para voltar só na quarta. Voltar? Carnaval tem volta?

Carnaval só tem fim depois que acabou, durante é eterno.

Não voltam para casa, para o trabalho, para sua forma humana, se vestem como animais, fantasiados com papel. Reunidos no bar da ponte, cantam e bebem, para depois circularem sem parar pelas ruas.


Por quanto tempo perambulei atrás deles? Quanto durou? E eu, como estava naquela hora? Fui encontrada no final da tarde, num bairro distante do centro, próximo ao mangue, esfarrapada, com as pernas doendo. Esse tempo todo que passei longe. Há uma distância que difere das outras, como na música.



Cada instrumento da batucada faz sua parte. O som do surdo serve de marcação para os outros, é engraçado, um surdo fazendo som. O tarol parece um militar apressado, é o primeiro a obedecer. O melhor dançarino é o tamborim, que desenha no ar sons rebeldes, mas sempre volta ao compasso. Às vezes, o pandeiro entra e chacoalha a música.
Volto para casa, tomo banho, me perfumo e forro o estômago com bastante comida.
Boa noite, a tarde passou muito rápida por aqui.

Na verdade, a praça está entupida, a praça dos convites, diria o poeta.

Se acabassem as ruas e as cidades fossem grandes praças. Como essa, verdejante, com flores amassadas e bancos para namorados. Um coreto vazio e estrelas para ser ver no céu.


A praça é o coração do carnaval. Começamos a cantar e a dançar, uma pequena roda vai crescendo, e depois nos espalhamos. Aos poucos ele volta, sempre recomeça. A música leva o corpo ao ritmo. Ao entusiasmo do carnaval.


Meu país, meu povo! Como fazer uma declaração de amor maior nestes dias que são tão brasileiros? Se pudesse gritava como aquele. Ele berra com toda sua energia. As veias do seu pescoço trepidam. Suas palavras parecem golfadas de sangue. O grito de um povo. E pensei no germe disso tudo percorrendo as veias. Seu rosto vermelho e distorcido, se contorcendo com as palavras. É o que sempre soube, o corpo também pensa.


Tenho a vaga idéia de que ele é o único a saber das grandes emoções que temos, ele é a memória, o palácio, e o cárcere de todas elas.



Dançamos no salão. Eu balanço as cadeiras e os ombros. Requebro para valer. Ele se aproxima. A mesma leveza que traz e afasta. Gira os quadris, abre e fecha os braços. Estamos, acho que fazemos amor. Um exagero? uma estocada leve, um toque de genitais aéreas.
Meu corpo eriçado, nessas horas, tudo é demais, por isso tem que transbordar. Sem solução. Cada músculo depende da música para viver, cada fibra se desloca como se tivesse propriedade. O sêmen se espalha dali, vindo dos olhos, da boca, do pênis, pela música, eu tentava receber, pelos poros, pelos olhos, pela boca, pela vagina.


Me recordo vagamente de um abraço. Um laço que desfaz e envolve toda e qualquer vida. O laço fatal e o seu peito morno.
Estamos fora do salão.
O cinza vai se destoando. Novas cores surgem em pinceladas trêmulas. A madrugada chega ao fim.
Os vales ainda estão recobertos de neblina. A manhã de domingo nasce e junto com ela, o novo dia.

Voltei para casa e nos despedimos. O sono pedia passagem, os olhos já não conseguiam se abrir. A perna não se movia. Ele me deixou na escadaria que dava para a entrada da casa. Me deu um beijo de leve. Não sei por quanto tempo adormeci, por quanto tempo não vi o tempo passar.
A água do chuveiro escorrendo e eu pensando. Tanta coisa acontece.

É bom sentir a vida como uma maré nos levando. E eu? Como estou comigo mesma? Ansiosa, confusa? Não, nem um pouco. Penso em ficar por conta, falar tanta besteira. Aonde estou mesmo? Gostaria de conversar com alguém sobre isso. Ele é bonito demais. Me pegou numa hora que eu não acreditava em mais nada.
Ah, ele é parte do carnaval, mas não é o carnaval, não é mesmo, o carnaval é muito maior… deixássemos fluir…


A água escorre pelo relevo do meu corpo. Sinto minha capacidade ilimitada de dar amor e prazer. De acariciar. Sinto meu corpo pleno, parecendo fruta madura, bem cheirosa. Uma fruta em busca da própria semente.


E me vem a voz suave da Ruth. Isto são horas? Você desaparece. E coisa e tal, onde estava? Vamos almoçar juntas? Quem é ele, estou doida para saber de tudo.


Eu posso contar o que de fato me acontece? Será que ela flutuaria na escadaria como eu flutuei? Como abrir a boca e dizer que encontrei fulano e beltrano, fui ao baile e vi o dia nascer, e dormi bem, e que meu corpo está leve, e minha alma em festa, e que sinto coisas que não sei bem o que é, não saberei nunca como dizer. Poderia abraçá-la, poderia, mas jogava o que sentia sobre ela em forma bruta, sem contornos, sem tonalidades.

Contei do passeio que fiz, das palavras virando sons, dessignificando, da desordem das coisas, será que o que dizia era o que de fato aconteceu? Existem as coisas sem serem percebidas?
Por que estávamos falando sobre nós mesmas naquela mesa. Por que num restaurante? Por que numa outra cidade? Por que não na minha mesa de trabalho?
Nada me ocorre na cabeça, apenas passeio pela rua, como se fosse uma folha levada pelo vento. Ruth falando sobre como ela realmente é, e todas essas coisas, eu pensando em não pensar.

Vejo um papagaio no céu e me assento. Converso um pouco com as pessoas. Cada conta como está seu carnaval. Tomo sorvete e passo as mãos no cabelo. A tarde de domingo chega ao fim. Volto para casa, preciso me preparar.

Vou desfilar com ele na avenida. Nunca estive tão emocionada. Disse que sim, que iria. E me preparo. Eu digo sim. Passei horas na maior correria, fazendo acertos na fantasia de última hora.
Meu carnaval estava cercado por quatro paredes, meu carnaval se escondia da rua, era quase o carnaval, mas ainda não era meu por inteiro. Só ele poderia me convidar, só ele poderia trazê-lo para mim.

O carnaval se mostra. Pára diante da arquibancada e então sorri, dele mesmo e de todos.
Foi nessas que aprendi a me defender de olho gordo e de suor pegajoso.
Começamos a sambar no início da avenida. O ritmo da música contagia logo o corpo. Os olhos apontam para o final da passarela. Parece um imenso funil. As arquibancadas espremem a avenida, até lá, onde a distância faz tudo pequeno, pequeno até não ser mais.

A escola se adequa, vira um cordão e começa a ocupar a passarela, como se afastasse as arquibancadas, no ritmo da música.




O mundo gira com o corpo, as pessoas nas arquibancadas são recifes nesse mar de brilhos e tremores. Ele me atravessa e ocupa um lugar na bateria. Se mistura à música e me ultrapassa a todo instante.

Fiquei irritada e quis mantê-lo próximo de mim. Retirei sua primeira máscara. Lá estava ele novamente, pulei sobre ele e fui desmascarando, rasgando, retirando. Ele estava lá, ele. Sorriu e disse: você se atreveria a fazer o mesmo com você?

Se puxei… veio um oco, um vazio tremendo, veio um medo.

Gritei alucinada, e ele me acalmou.

É carnaval.

E no meio da avenida há um rei. Um rei sem castelo e súditos. Adornado apenas com uma coroa de lata. Um rei que sorri, não dá ordens, nem faz guerras. Um rei dançarino.

Ele me transforma, me faz sua rainha. Juntos temos nosso reino.
E o momento se desfaz, há mais gente para se ver. É dia de se tocar intensamente com os olhos.

E o dia vem claro, ensolarado, ensaiando algum tipo de perfeição que apenas tento captar, mas logo desisto.

Amanheci convicta de que sou uma maestra que chega atrasada ao ensaio e encontra a orquestra afinada, tocando sozinha. Basta assumir o lugar e achar que entende das coisas. O dia clareando, as cores e sons: uns aqui outros lá.

Os garis começam a varrer a praça, ajuntam os restos num canto. Tenho vontade de correr e espalhar tudo outra vez. Fosse jogando as latas de cerveja e refazendo quem as bebeu, fosse jogando a serpentina e brotando do outro lado quem as atirou.
Só lembro de acordar com uma banda passando junto à minha janela. Meu corpo respondeu lentamente ao estímulo. Um pouco de movimento aqui, remexi acolá. Me sentei. Tinha sede, dor de cabeça. Tudo doía em mim.
Mas foi de água e banho que precisei. Cabelos penteados, a pele lisa e sensível. Comi alguns pedaços de pão e frutas.
Toda vez que acordo meus olhos vêem as coisas de outra maneira, tudo se torna diverso. Perco o juízo?

A noite volta, o dia vai, a noite vem, a noite vai passando e estou na rua, como nos outros dias, perto da batucada, o mesmo ritmo, a festa parece durar uma eternidade, os dias escorrem pelos dedos. Já é segunda-feira.
Falta pouco para a noite terminar, escorpião está prestes a sumir no horizonte, a estrela-d’alva prenuncia o fim da madrugada. Vamos para a praia. Ela está fria e úmida. Caminhando, pouco falamos do que acontece. Me satisfaço em estar ao seu lado. Estamos longe do barulho e das cores excessivas. Sinto o momento ainda meu, prateado, a lua, a bobeira, a grande bolha na cabeça, não pensava que sentir tanto fosse assim tão besta. Mas agora sei, é assim essa coisa de alegria, de amor, de graça.

A espuma começa a recuar e logo cai outra onda, e outra, e tenho desejo de amá-lo, amar de todo, de corpo inteiro. O desejo como as ondas. Não falo nada, deixo ele vir do seu modo.

O dia dando mostras que vai nascer.

Enquanto ainda sinto, meu desejo se agiganta, mas não pode ser ainda. Ele precisa crescer mais. Tem que estar pleno. O oceano, a escuridão, o silêncio, nada está tão denso quanto meu desejo. Ele sente que sinto. É só este o momento. Estamos sós numa pequena enseada. Seu sorriso é cúmplice.


Me beija, ai que calor. A hora some. O mundo se condensa nos dois corpos. Sinto tudo em mim, nele. Caímos na areia, nosso tapete. Suas mãos me acariciam.

Agora seguro seu pênis e o trago para dentro de mim. A metade das coisas que não tenho, o outro lado de tudo. Estou girando, dando voltas e afundo na terra.


Não temos mais corpos, um só.


Estou lá, onde não posso mais. E dele nada mais resta.
Amo um corpo, o amor mesmo, sem dúvida alguma, compreendo, depois perco a razão.





O sol veio aconchegante.


Os primeiros raios são apenas ternura.


Acordamos descansados. Olhei para ele, olhei para o mar. Nossos corpos nus chegam a ser transparentes. Nossa beleza. Choro. A mesma emotiva de sempre. As ondas quebram próximas dos meus pés, tenho vontade de entrar. Tenho medo. Ele brinca com a areia e corre mar adentro, até afundar numa onda que se prepara para quebrar.
Onde foi? ele, ele de novo, hoje queria outra vez aquele mar, o mar daqueles dias, para pular e não voltar, para me perder.

Que não acabasse tudo aquilo. Mais e mais me perco e me esqueço, depois que acordei, para onde fui? Para onde?
O encanto ainda permanece, só que faltam palavras.

Subo até uma colina e avisto a cidade. Pudesse parar o tempo.


Comecei a viver uma enorme confusão que dura até hoje.



Na tarde de terça-feira ele passa por mim, mas não me vê. Está distante. Eu o sigo com os olhos. Atravesso a rua e corro até ele. Recebo um beijo no rosto. Ele ainda é inteiro amor.
O mundo de pernas pro ar, de cabeça para baixo, sem pé nem cabeça, pirado, sensual, bêbado.


Ele veio com o carnaval, se viesse noutra época saberia onde encontrá-lo. Mas agora não se sabe de onde vem as coisas.

Só depois, e depois quase sempre é nunca.
Agora o tempo é sagrado, é só meu. O tempo escapa do relógio, não marca mais as horas.
Era só o que faltava. Agora ele está me convidando para dançar no céu. Não posso acreditar. Ele diz que é sério. É sério, mas não pode ser. Eu não quero agora.
Damos cambalhotas no ar, eu juro que estou indo para muito alto, alto.
Estamos tão longe que não há nada debaixo, nem dos lados, estamos numa bolha do tempo. Estou apressando meu medo.




Calma, Ana, pode ser que seus miolos pensem também em silêncio, você fica aí tagarelando consigo mesma, tentando se penetrar. Calma, mesmo. Ainda ouço ele falando aquelas coisas maravilhosas que ele sabe dizer.
Estou perdendo.



Estou afastando, só quero compreender, antes que seja tarde.
Naquela noite de terça dormimos juntos, no quarto dele. Me lembro. Seu corpo macio descansava ao meu lado. Sua expressão guardava uma simplicidade que nunca vi em outro homem. Irrequieta, permaneci acordada, admirando a beleza daquele momento.

Foi um instante daqueles que a gente pensa que morrer não faz mal, já valeu a pena viver.
Estava absurdamente feliz, absolutamente inteira, acreditava que sem você eu não pudesse existir.
Foi difícil conciliar o que sentia com a forma com que me aproximei. Ajeitei o lençol, afastei alguns fios de cabelo que caíam no seu rosto. Cheguei mais perto, senti o calor da sua respiração. Como harmonizar tanta paz com tanta inquietude?
Senti um choque, um baque gigantesco quebrando meus ossos, um pedaço de mim se desprendeu. E me lembro, você sorriu, ainda dormindo me abraçou, e me trouxe a paz pela última vez.

Meu corpo foi se embalando, atrás da canção que você me cantava nos sonhos, até que acabo fazendo parte de lá.



Um vulto sorridente me diz:

Ora, amiga, agora veja se dorme um pouco, deixa sua alma vagar nestes momentos que você considera tão caros e se satisfaça em não existir.




Quando me certifiquei, já era quarta-feira de cinzas, um arrepio percorreu meu corpo, enquanto continuo ouvindo o som da bateria, mas em outro lugar.


Acho que dormi pela manhã, acho que tive pesadelos, não me recordo. Sei que há um vazio, um buraco nesta manhã. Onde estava?

Onde estava ele?
Seu sorriso desaparecia aos poucos.

Só me lembro olhando para trás.
Você trai. Trai. A mim, a nós. Ele me diz.
O carnaval acaba, não percebe? Logo mais, agora é ontem.


Minha morte foi estar olhando para trás. Você se trai, quando menos se espera. A morte é assim, a soma de todas. Ele foi embora.



Ele foi!
Ele se desfez.

Um estrondo. A quarta-feira de cinzas. O fim. Acabou o carnaval. E corri. Não podia sentir a dor de ver nascer o fim.



Ele estava em toda parte: no meio da multidão, depois se separou dela, se entregou a mim, na praia, no seu quarto… mas não fui capaz de fazer outra coisa que não me lembrar dele. Como uma vaca faminta, querendo regurgitar todos os momentos, tentando ressentir cada instante. De uma hora queria sessenta minutos, de cada minuto sessenta segundos, de cada segundo a eternidade. Eu queria demais, muito além das minhas possibilidades. Eu tratava com o impossível e pela primeira vez tive medo de me perder.
Será que é tarde demais? Por que não me afundei naquela hora? No mar. Eu voltaria?


Onde estou.
Estava me olhando no espelho tão sinceramente que tive medo.

Despida, descoberta de outros predicados, e que tais. Das máscaras e ornamentos, despida de adjetivos, tive medo de tudo que me acontecia. Queria saber de mim sem atributos. Carne e osso. Queria sentir outra vez sem antecedentes.

Virei as minhas costas, não quis saber se a fantasia também era real, deixei-me afastar de lá, assustada.

Ele me forneceu pistas, tive presságios, me fez uma exigência e não cumpri, estava cega, não fui capaz de enxergar.

A avenida principal está interditada. Dois cordões de isolamento fecham o acesso. Há um ônibus de turismo estacionado. Os prédios nas laterais estão vazios, correm pedaços de papel sobre o asfalto, está escuro.

Os turistas descem do ônibus, uma banda começa a tocar, enquanto eles andam em várias direções, alguns fotografando.

A banda se incendeia à medida que executa a música. O fogo se alastra. Tudo se queima. As cinzas se espalham pela avenida e começam a brilhar.

Ofuscam a visão, tudo começa a mudar, molda-se outra forma.



Logo que o carnaval acabou, o Boi de Papel se reuniu na praça. Aqueles senhores solenes, murmurando as últimas marchinhas. A batucada tocou uma estranha e repetida melodia. Grave e distante. Meu boi morreu… todos choravam. Ele morria, e uma grande fogueira foi feita com as fantasias. Atirei a minha também.

Começava a quaresma, meu boi morreu. Era quarta-feira de cinzas.

Pássaros revoam, o mar inquieta. O sol desanda do céu. A minha cidade se afasta.


Um cão ladra. Está muito escuro. Ele partiu.

Sinto vir uma noite aveludada, como uma capa de camurça negra.

Algum movimento suave e persistente continua levando as ondas de encontro à praia.
Amanhã o dia veio implacável.
Você não está aqui, depois de tudo. Dos nossos encontros marcados para outros dias.

Sei que não voltou mais, como te encontrar na mesmice da minha vida, na incompreensão do meu apartamento? Você rasgou a minha intimidade, eu não resisti e me afastei. Mas vem. Agora estou preparada para você.

Por que se esconde agora? Se fecho os olhos, chego mais perto? Não tenho mais medo. Mais uma última chance. A última.



É a ofuscação que eu quero.
Me farta de vida até eu transbordar novamente. Até eu passar para o lado de lá. Me liberta dessas dores, me restitui o desejo, o sexo, me faça livre.
Presságios me tomam a alma, o que virá?
Ei! falo sozinha? Onde está você, onde estão todos que estiveram comigo? Onde estão as pessoas?

Estou numa paisagem estranha, num quarto de luzes azuladas, quero ir para lá, quero aquele carnaval outra vez. Quero estar com você.



O tempo agora é uma gangorra.


Será que todos vivem algum carnaval, algum dia?


Cada tem o seu momento como aquele.

Tem que ser, senão o mundo seria feito de uma terrível tristeza.

A hora se aproxima de mim. Setembro passou impunemente. Tenho impressão de não ter mais passado, eu fico, mas não sei aonde. E me vem as lembranças, não consigo formar um quadro, o fio da meada se perdeu. Quem sou eu agora?




Eu falo, mas não tenho mais palavras, penso, mas nem pensamento me sobra, quero, mas nem vontade me resta.
Mudei, estou magra, as roupas não me servem, dizem que vou ficar ainda mais magra, pele e osso. O remédio que me dão deveria servir para acabar com a inflamação, mas não está adiantando. Meu coração incha a cada dia, e um fogo arde lá. E como dói. Sei que te irrito com essa conversa triste, mas vem, se eu te fiz fugir, agora não te abandono, agora prometo. Quer apostar?
Por você faço festa hoje em meu coração.
Quando fico confusa quero resolver de vez todos os problemas que me ocorrem. Quero só você, mesmo por um átimo, e aí terei coragem, é medo quase tudo agora.

O curso da vida nos afasta do que realmente É. Busco a diferença entre o que é real e o sonho. Eles estão tão próximos agora que fica cada vez mais difícil separar. A realidade com sua alucinante velocidade. Logo, logo estamos vivendo o que nos fica na memória.

Pensar é sempre um pedaço, digo que é muito pouco. A realidade é bem mais rápida que um instante.
A vida é um dom que tive.
Se posso escolher meu destino, quando vem o fim, que seja um cristal reverberando aqueles dias. Os dias em que me senti humana, os dias em que me senti plena.


Ele deve ser um anjo que despencou do céu.

Pedaços de deus caem assim?


Caem quando perdem a memória.
Ele é uma viga, um sinal, uma corda.



Por que tudo insiste em se repetir, o córrego da infância com seus pedregulhos, os sonhos, meus sentimentos, para onde vai tudo? O início? As coisas voltam? Mesmo quando não existiram realmente? Quando vou da vida, o que realmente fica? O que se extravia para sempre comigo?
Será que o pensamento consegue me refazer o mundo?
Você existe, meu único amor? físico? elo? é mesmo ou nunca foi?

Você existe?
Compreende? estou aguardando seu toque, como da primeira vez.


Você me ensinou a viver os carnavais. Antes passava por eles, vestia uma fantasia, me divertia. Não encontrava.

Carnaval pode ser um dia debaixo de uma árvore. Ou, hoje, aqui nessa cama.
Será que alguém já sentiu uma emoção tão forte assim, que se recusa a acreditar que é própria?


Você vem de novo? Ou irei dessa vez?


Vou encontrá-lo ou perdê-lo de vez?

acervo álvaro

da videopoesia à imaginação digital


(publicado no livro Onde está a literatura?
Seus espaços, seus leitores, seus textos, suas leituras, editora UFMG, 2014)

Álvaro Andrade Garcia

Resumo: a partir da experiência com criação de videopoemas e trabalhos de poesia em multimídia, o autor propõe uma nova forma de poiesis e uma linguagem recategorizante que utiliza a metáfora do mental para o processo de escrita e leitura em meios digitais.

Palavras chave: literatura, poesia, videopoesia, audiovisual, multimídia, imaginação digital


Este texto pretende compartilhar uma síntese de descobertas que surgiram a partir da relação entre minha poiesis e a mídia digital, que emerge e evolui no período dos anos 1990 até 2010. O entendimento dessas relações vem da experiência de criar poemas e conteúdos audiovisuais para o meio digital durante esses anos, uma prática que se desenvolve num meio que evolui e se transforma muito rapidamente. Prática essa elaborada na reflexão e no diálogo com os pensadores essenciais do fazer poético e também dos novos meios digitais. Reflexões essas que se desdobram em textos e ensaios que percorrem a minha trajetória: Videopoesia (1994), Poesia e Tecnologia (1994), Multimídia, Imaginação e Poesia Zen (1996), Multipoesia (1998), e, finalmente, A Arte da Imaginação (2002) 1.

Quando começa minha trajetória de escritor digital, em 1987, é tempo dos primeiros processadores de texto e softwares de animação, os computadores ainda não tinham a interface gráfica e a maioria das pessoas ainda os considerava máquinas do campo das ciências exatas, antipoéticas. No início dos 1990 surgem os ambientes gráficos e os primeiros acessórios multimídia. Logo, a internet ganha o mundo, com conexões a 2 kbps (hoje um celular conecta a 1.000 kbps, e a banda larga com cabo já é usual a 3.000, 10.000 kbps). Para se ter uma ideia da velocidade e das proporções de crescimento do meio digital e da multimídia, em 1990, quando nascia a teia mundial e eu fazia as minhas primeiras experimentações, o mundo não contava com mais de 40 mil usuários na internet. Hoje são 2 bilhões de internautas, 1 bilhão dos quais usuários da internet móvel. Nesse período, o computador adquiriu papel fundamental como ferramenta de comunicações e na produção artística, e hoje se torna o principal meio de comunicação pessoal, leitura e escrita, visualização de filmes e audição de músicas do mundo.

Minha experiência com poesia e o meio digital começou com o uso de computadores para produzir sequências animadas de textos, algumas vezes ilustrados, trabalhando na linha evolutiva da videopoesia, que já fazia experimentos em cinema e vídeo antes do surgimento dos computadores. Posteriormente, me envolvi com a criação de roteiros e direção de projetos de autoração de softwares complexos de multimídia não só para a exibição de textos, mas também de imagens e sons em portais e audiovisuais interativos.

Essa experiência com poesia, audiovisual e novos meios, aliada às pesquisas contemporâneas em neurociências e redes digitais, me fez desembocar na ideia da imaginação digital, uma proposta de meio-arte que descategoriza a poesia, assim como todas as artes conhecidas e categorizadas até a data, para integrá-las em uma nova, produzida e circulante em meio digital. Embora o percurso até essa ideia seja interessante e coetâneo às drásticas evoluções do meio, neste texto pretendo deixar de lado o trajeto e chegar a uma definição temporária do que seja a imaginação digital, trazendo à tona algumas das suas características em termos de nova linguagem. Espero que esses achados possam contribuir para a reflexão de outros autores e pesquisadores interessados no processo de construção de obras para circulação no meio digital.

A Imaginação Digital

Escrever: lat. scríbo, is, psi, ptum, ère – ‘marcar com o estilo (ponteiro ou haste de metal), traçar uma linha, marcar, assinalar, gravar, marcar com cunho, desenhar, representar em caracteres, fazer letras, escrever’; ver escrev-; f.hist. 1544 screueo

Ler: lat. cl. lègo, is, légi, lectum, legère – ‘recolher, apanhar; enrolar, tirar; escolher, captar com os olhos; ler em voz alta’; a solução semântica do cl. ao vulg., em que prevalece apenas a noção de ‘ler’ (eventualmente em voz alta, pelo menos de início), postula certa intensificação do fato social, muito restrito, nos primórdios; cf. esp. leer, it. lèggere, fr. lire; ver le- e leg- e as remissivas aí citadas; f.hist. 1258-1261 leer, sXIII liia, sXIII leer, sXIV leendo, sXIV lyi, sXV le, sXV leese, sXV lia

 Texto: lat. téxtus, us ‘narrativa, exposição’, do téxo, is, xùi, xtum, ère – ‘tecer, fazer tecido, entrançar, entrelaçar; construir sobrepondo ou entrelaçando’, tb. aplicado às coisas do espírito, ‘compor ou organizar o pensamento em obra escrita ou declamada’; ver text-

(do Dicionário Eletrônico Houaiss)

Como escrever e ler o novo texto que surge como possibilidade criativa no tempo da comunicação digital? Com o passar do tempo, imerso nesse ambiente em transformação, ficou claro para mim que uma nova forma de expressão, uma nova arte, um novo veículo de comunicação estava surgindo. Era necessário achar conceitos que ajudassem a melhor compreender o que estava acontecendo e que ajudassem no trabalho, na criação de obras concebidas dessa maneira.

Revendo minha experiência no contexto das pesquisas mais recentes em neurociência e relendo autores que tratam da evolução dos meios digitais, ampliei consideravelmente a compreensão sobre os acontecimentos nessa área. Busquei então repensar tudo o que aprendi a partir de uma espécie de zero. Na verdade, propus-me um exercício de descategorização para encontrar uma nova terminologia que fosse mais útil e adequada ao que estava em curso no pensamento e na ação de produções que fazia e via surgir.

Muitos pensadores do mundo digital têm focado numa direção: nós mesmos, como pensamos, como manuseamos a informação no mais sofisticado sistema jamais criado para isso, nosso cérebro. Esse pensamento começa com os autores que podemos chamar de “clássicos” devido à precocidade com que pensaram o tema: já em 1945, Vannevar Bush escreveu As We May Think (Como Nós Talvez Pensamos)2, descrevendo um sistema de armazenamento e recuperação de informação capaz de usar os caminhos do cérebro para associar informações, portanto, fora do padrão do banco de dados indexado tradicional, hoje largamente empregado.

Depois, para citar apenas mais um autor, Teodore Nelson3 cunha o termo “hipertexto” e desenvolve suas ideias sobre a transliteratura e os documentos capazes de guardar memórias de sua edição e associações criadas por seus “frequentadores”, além de protocolos para criação e manutenção conjunta de documentos. Ele já enfatiza a necessidade de sairmos da metáfora da página de papel para uma nova metáfora, um novo ambiente para a informação que, para ele e muitos de nós, deve se focar na maneira como nós mesmos acessamos, transformamos, guardamos e recuperamos a informação em nossa cabeça. A metáfora mental.

A palavra que um dia me apareceu foi “imaginação”. Poderia ser pensamento, imagética, imagonomia, arte mental etc. Mas escolhi imaginação. Aqui a palavra é mais um invólucro, o importante é delinear algumas das suas características a partir dos primeiros experimentos criativos com essa proposta, é chegar à percepção da nova arte que se apropria desse universo disponível.

A definição da imaginação enquanto meio de comunicação e nova arte é uma evolução da definição de multimídia. A imaginação é uma forma de comunicação multissensorial e interativa mediada também por sistemas computacionais, como é a multimídia, mas que avança na busca de uma nova metáfora para a interface4 homem-computador que abandone a metáfora da mesa de trabalho, da página gráfica, da linha do tempo, do console, do palco de teatro -, enfim, todas aquelas metáforas usadas na construção dos softwares atuais. A imaginação é fruto da incorporação de linguagens e meios numa nova linguagem e meio, e não de sua utilização e justaposição. A imaginação é um processo mental compartilhado e construído em rede digital e humana. É a escrita-leitura de textos vistos de uma forma mais ampla.

A imaginação é baseada na criação de ambientes computacionais aqui chamados de “extensões mentais colaborativas”, propostos e mantidos por uma ou mais comunidades. Esses ambientes, por sua vez, também interagem com outras comunidades conectadas em redes. Na sua construção podemos pensar em metáforas que remetem diretamente ao funcionamento do cérebro. Os blocos de construção desses ambientes são chamados de imagens. E certos estados mutantes de articulação entre elas, através de sequenciamentos e mixagens, são chamados de pensamentos. Por fim, temos o ambiente do software como um todo, assemelhando-se a um organismo informacional vivo, o qual chamei de imaginação. Deixamos a televisão rumo à telepatia.

 Uma “imaginação” – como um filme, um livro, uma peça de teatro, um quadro.

Esse ambiente digital contém imagens em permanente fluxo e conexão umas com as outras. Tal processo ocorre perceptivelmente e também imperceptivelmente, através de interações e outras ações previstas em códigos escritos no software. Recorrendo à metáfora mental, num certo tempo temos acesso apenas a uma parte das imagens, que trazemos para o foco, num processo semelhante ao da consciência, enquanto outras permanecem despercebidas, porém interagindo com o todo.

As imaginações, propostas, mantidas e interagindo com comunidades, são de fato extensões mentais colaborativas em ambientes computacionais, onde grupos expressam e leem suas ideias na forma de imagens interativas que se constroem-destroem como um organismo vivo. Essas imaginações se relacionam também interativamente com outras, trocando imagens, pensamentos, comunidades etc.

Antes de prosseguir desenvolvendo a ideia, gostaria de definir um pouco melhor o termo imagem no sentido que uso aqui, para chegarmos à sua ação. Para isso recorro ao neurocientista António Damásio5, pois é muito importante descolarmos definitivamente o termo da visão, tendo dele uma compreensão mais ampla, que será muito útil mais adiante. Segundo Damásio:

O termo imagem não se refere apenas à visão… Pelo termo imagem quero significar padrões mentais com uma estrutura construída com a moeda corrente de cada uma das modalidades sensoriais: visual, auditiva, olfativa, gustativa e somato sensorial … inclui vários sentidos: tato, muscular, temperatura, dor, visceral e vestibular… A palavra imagem não se refere apenas às imagens visuais e não se refere apenas a objetos estáticos…

A imaginação é um espaço-tempo possível, uma ágora presente com certa duração de passado e futuro, onde ocorrem fluxos e ordenamentos de imagens organizadas em forma de cachos (clusters), constelações benjaminianas6, e em linguagens ressigificadas. Uma imaginação começa a partir de uma proposta que alinhava condições iniciais de publicação e um modelo de interação das comunidades correlatas a ela, especialmente a comunidade mantenedora e as comunidades interativas.

Quando começamos não sabemos onde estaremos, o que seremos. A obra começa dessa maneira, estabelece-se um tempo para ela e ela vai se construindo. Não lhe falta isso ou aquilo, nem ela está totalmente publicada, nem totalmente em rascunho. Ela é o que pode ser agora, e muitas coisas não estão lá porque não se estabeleceu ainda o tempo para que se fizessem. O tempo da imaginação faz parte da sua sintaxe. Seus padrões de evolução são definidos pelas comunidades ativas.

A narrativa aqui não é algo apenas pré-definido. As comunidades podem montar seus sequenciamentos, as imaginações e planos focais, as consciências e inconsciências. O foco perceptivo de objetos dispostos no espaço-tempo contínuo segundo suas afinidades, causalidades e seu multissequenciamento faz parte da sintaxe da obra.

As imagens pulsam, comunicam-se por vários meios sensoriais, refazem-se ao acaso, ao avesso, exploram combinações sintáticas novas, tomam rumos aleatórios e não lineares. Os vídeos se tornam interativos e multi fluxo (multistreaming), com alinhamentos e desalinhamentos em relação a diversas linhas do tempo (time lines) simultâneas, coordenadas ou aleatórias, passíveis de interação com as comunidades. Os áudios se configuram associados a textos, fonemas, sons incidentais, articulados em linguagem musical. Criam-se paisagens mentais.

Essa nova forma de expressão e comunicação abole as fronteiras já tênues entre diversas formas de linguagem num ambiente digital, entre criador e seus públicos, entre idiomas, estilos etc. Enfim, não cabe mais dizer que nesses ambientes temos linguagens e múltiplas entradas e saídas sensoriais atuando simultaneamente. Texto escrito, texto falado, voz, música, som ambiente, gestos, linguagem matemática, linguagens de programação de software, fotografia, cinema, vídeo, animação bi e tridimensionais, teatro, artes plásticas etc. se tornam aqui elementos descategorizados do seu sentido original enquanto meio ou linguagem, sem prejuízo de incorporações de muitos de seus elementos sintáticos na nova linguagem.

Uma nova linguagem surge da integração dessas linguagens, e meios já estabelecidos, dos sentidos do homem. O que se propõe é algo muito simples e poderoso: a construção dessa nova linguagem, incorporando esses elementos.

A imaginação é uma obra que se estrutura via entradas-saídas multissensoriais digitalizadas, constituindo uma base de dados digital com uma sintaxe mutante escrita em linguagens de programação que ordenam os elementos sensoriais da obra. Essa nova sintaxe permite, entre outras coisas, a interferência permanente dos criadores/propositores e dos públicos leitores/escritores na obra, categorias estas que passam também por profundas modificações, tendendo mesmo, no caso desses ambientes, a desaparecer.

O tempo é tratado como fluxo. Não temos um único vetor temporal linear. A noção de simultaneidade ressurge vigorosa. Pode-se esperar uma linha de tempo da obra, que encerra outros fluxos, na medida em que a obra vai sendo construída. Mas cada imagem, cada momento tem uma linha do tempo própria e mutante, interativa com comunidades e usuários que as moldam também a seu tempo. Ocorrem fluxos paralelos num instante de tempo, vetores temporais podem ser invertidos. Essas novas possibilidades abrem-nos as portas para os multifluxos interativos, especialmente os audiovisuais, fazendo-nos abandonar o conceito da linha do tempo unidirecional e única que rege a linguagem do cinema e do vídeo.

Entretanto, é preciso evitar a ideia de que para se conceber obras de imaginação tudo tem que interagir e nada pode ser linear. Na nossa mente há muitas narrativas que pedem linearidade, há imagens que devem e podem ser pouco interativas. Passada a euforia do surgimento dos meios não lineares e interativos, chegou a hora de saber usar esses elementos de linguagem de forma mais balanceada. Linearidades, fragmentações e outras formas de sequenciamento, interações ou não, quando, como e por que usar tais elementos, são decisões que fazem parte da nova sintaxe que se delineia.

O tempo corresponde ao fluxo dos movimentos, e a imaginação é capaz de lidar com dimensões temporais as mais diversas. Aquelas que nossos olhos e ouvidos percebem e também aquelas perceptíveis apenas pela memória quando compara imagens distintas. Existem animações que são fruto de movimentos cuja duração entre estados é maior que a nossa capacidade de lhes perceber a variação de luz ou a propagação sonora imediata. Pense numa criança crescendo, numa plantação. A maioria dos movimentos tem durações imperceptíveis ao nosso aparato sensorial audiovisual sem interferência da memória, e essas movimentações, ou esses tempos, que não são tratados nos meios atuais cinéticos, como o cinema e o vídeo, que privilegiam a percepção instantânea, são agora também passíveis de tratamento nas obras de imaginação.

Uma imaginação não é para se assistir, mas para se estar nela. São obras presenciais. A noção de palco ou de tela, ou de página, que remete ao conceito de projeção e de espelhamento, se desloca para a ideia de uma presença imersiva na informação. Esta se coloca como uma opção acessível e disponível, extracorpórea, capaz de relacionamentos próprios, estabelecidos no ato propositor ou nos desdobramentos interativos da obra durante sua manutenção. Devo salientar que os movimentos e interações da obra de imaginação continuam ocorrendo, mesmo na ausência de um observador.

Estamos diante de um novo horizonte de exploração dessas novas perspectivas, com experiências introdutórias em diversos pontos de interseção: visual-interativo, visual-sonoro, sonoro-interativo, linear-não linear, ordenado-aleatório, sinestésico. Teremos a limitação da linguagem incipiente, ainda pouco desenvolvida, da interface dos softwares e hardwares atuais e da velocidade pequena da maioria das redes ligadas à internet. Mas o que hoje existe é mais que suficiente para a implementação de projetos práticos usando essas ideias.

Referências Bibliográficas:



DAMÁSIO, António R. O Sentimento de Si. Portugal: Publicações Europa América Ltda, 2000.

BENJAMIM, Walter. Magia e Técnica, Arte e Política. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1994.

KOTHE, Flávio R. Para ler Benjamim. Rio de Janeiro: Francisco Alvim, 1976.

LÉVI, Pierre. A Ideografia Dinâmica – rumo a uma imaginação artificial? São

Paulo: Edições Loyola, 1998.




4 A Interface realiza operações de tradução, de estabelecimento de contato entre meios heterogêneos, funciona como operadora de passagem. Uma interface homem máquina é um conjunto de programas e aparelhos que permitem a comunicação entre um sistema informático e seus usuários humanos, através de dispositivos de entrada e saída.

5 DAMÁSIO. O Sentimento de Si. Página 362.

6 BENJAMIM. Magia e Técnica, Arte e Política.

KOTHE. Para Ler Benjamim.

Benjamim apresenta o conceito de Constelação, em oposição ao conceito de Sistema. Constelação indica um relacionamento com características dialéticas onde as partes adquirem sentido mais completo no todo em que se constituem, sem subordinação. Suas considerações sobre o papel do narrador foram úteis na construção de narrativas em obras digitais, servindo de contraponto à quebra pura e simples da linearidade / temporalidade e da tendência à criação de mosaicos com elementos desarticulados, vista em muitos softwares atuais.