The Boa Knife
illustrations Zoe Taylor
— I simply listen to a voice in my right ear and repeat whatever it says. It is always right. It tells me to do things I cannot remember that others swear to have seen.
— He wore white and he looked just like me. He was in a room full of people standing in line against the wall. He had wires coming from his head, arms and chest keeping everything monitored. He sat there for some time until the machines were switched off. He put his shirt back on and took a seat behind a desk. Above the wall hung a portrait of Nosso Senhor that I had seen before somewhere in my house. To each one he wrote a prescription on a horizontal piece of paper.
— The handwriting wasn’t mine, in fact it didn’t resemble writing at all. The only words I recognized were the last two. His signature, Dr. Adolf Fritz.
— When he finished writing he wiped a rusty knife on his shirt and walked towards an old woman who was waiting in line against the wall. He pulled her eyelids wide open, exposing the globe of her eye, and, employing the rusty knife in his other hand, he slowly scraped her cornea with the edge of the blade. She did not flinch, although perfectly conscious. He continued the operation, clasping her head and thrusting the blade into her eye socket. He jerked his knife as though striving to unclog her brain. The entire procedure was performed in eighty seconds. She did not bleed. When he finished revolving the rusty knife inside her he gently extracted its blade and kissed her forehead. She snuggled him and whispered a few words before opening her shining eyes.
— A cataract surgery without the use of anesthetics or antiseptics. Isso não existe!
— The waiting in line continued for hours. There were hundreds waiting for their turn in the corridors and out on the streets. Desencarnados of all breeds, all sick one way or another, in their bodies and inside their heads.
— He told us they were workers of the last hour.
— Meu filho, arruma uma faquinha para mim, qualquer uma.
— Between surgeries he wiped his rusty knife on my shirt.
— This is absolutely impossible!
— NASA was here the other week. He looks just like me; he can’t be figured out. Last Sunday the priest announced that I was endemoniado and accused me of curandeirismo.
— I worked all night with my people while NASA recoiled their wires.
— Não importa se as pessoas não acreditam, he carries on his illegal practice of medicine in my house. He was twice sentenced to jail. From there he continued his work, operating on inmates, visitors and prison officers.
— When he started back in 1950 he performed his surgeries on the floor, and the first one was a paraplegic beggar standing on the corner of my street. I knew that man, and I felt really sorry for him. He was operated laying prone on the sidewalk.
— He laughed the whole time. Povo says he returned to walk, but we never saw him again.
— Isso não é nada! Where I come from old black men performed old black magic; resurrected animals and contacted the dead. They spoke in foreign languages and gathered in terreiros de umbanda. What used to scary me most was all of them wearing white, from head to toe.
— Meu irmão, tudo maluco.
— Their respect yielded him protection against the enemy, o Eixo, who was growing in numbers and hankered after his death. Wherever he went two Exús followed.
— He told us they were his bodyguards. They looked like demons and they always read the label before drinking their whisky.
— Only certain circles were acquainted with the extent of his repertoire. Sometimes they videotaped it. Years ago I watched him perform an open heart surgery. It was unbelievable; he carved this man’s chest with a sternal saw splitting his breastbone in two. He looked just like me. He opened the imbrued wound and with his bare hands he held his beating heart. Then he asked Putz, his assistant, to hold it for him. He said that man’s heart was not going to bite him! At this point I fainted and one of them gave me water. The videotape continued, and his patient laid undisturbed. He didn't protest and he didn't scream, for his wounds never required stitches.
— Meu Deus, what have we done?
— Dr. Fritz died, so to speak, in 1918. He showed me a few photographs taken during Word War I, but I resembled none of them; those were Germans! He said we stood together, servicing mankind in penitence. By repairing their broken parts we expiate crimes whose nature I dare not imagine.
— When he was seventeen he was victim of an assault that almost killed him. I don’t know who they were, but I think they knew who he was. And perhaps it was his father.
— He was taken to UTI where he spent weeks next to a mechanical ventilator.
— His mother was desperate; a real Christian. She lit candles and prayed everyday to Nossa Senhora da Conceição. Ó Incomparável Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, Mãe de Deus, Rainha dos Anjos, Advogada dos Pecadores, Refúgio e Consolação dos Aflitos e Atribulados,Virgem Santissima....
— One morning she was visiting when his hands started shaking.
— He couldn't breath alone and his hands were shaking. She grasped he was trying to tell her something and thus held a pen in his hand and placed a sheet of paper under it.
— It wasn't his handwriting, nor hers, that said the words GET ME OUT OF HERE.
— His mother ran to the doctor and implored him to release her son. Deve tá maluca, he thought. You evidently don't understand your son's condition; the morgue is waiting for his body. He said they were going to deactivate all machines which kept him alive, but Teimosa would not listen. She cried and cried until he surrendered to the extravagant idea that if her son resisted after being unplugged, then she would be allowed to take him home. I remember he felt ridiculous, and one hour later, he was incredulous.
— You woke up in the middle of the night and for the first time you saw Careca Horroroso! He floated above your bed, surrounded by a blue light. He spoke with a foreign accent as he called out your name, and announced that you were going to be repaired that instant. In return he asked your cooperation with the laity in mission, but he vanished out of the window before you had a chance to reply.
— As you walked to the kitchen starving for some fruit, you wondered if you were still dreaming. In the morning you failed to recognize your mother as she cried Aleluia Aleluia! The hematoma in your head was gone, together with your memories. It took you a few days to realize who you were and what had happened to your skull. She reminded you of your childhood, then everything made sense.
— Seven days later your head began to whirl, they were collected in a circle reciting the Holy Rosary, and once again the blue light appeared, drawing you out of your body.
— It was your voice but those weren't your words when you said you were going to operate Aleijadinho.
— As I was told, I walked to the kitchen and returned with a rusty knife. The others did exactly as they were instructed, either out of fear or faith in the lunatic. They closed the curtains and locked the front door. I don’t know why none of them tried to jump out of the window. They acted like real espíritas, though a little horrified, keeping their eyes on the knife.
— Aleijadinho was lifted off his wheelchair and laid supine on the dinner table. He protested, but his mother assured him it was for his own good. You won't have to go to school when I’m finished, I said in complicity.
— Relaxa e pensa em Jesus!
— They watched speechless as I proceeded with the operation. I let them know it doesn’t hurt, since he is under anestesia espiritual. He won’t feel the blade sinking on his back, nor the warm blood running down the sides. It doesn’t hurt, as long as he doesn’t panic.
— Tá tudo bem meu filho?
— But what if it hurts?
— In that case you’ll have to be patient and wait until I’m finished.
— Are you being serious? I told his mother he looked like a pig about to be served for dinner. Only the apple was missing.
— Seven days later you hid under your bed shaking like a leaf and you refused to leave your room. It must be my mother, a real Christian, to have set this up. How could they know about the mission? A Vontade de Deus! She tried to convince you to open the door, offering you some cheese bread and a glass of watermelon juice. Sometimes she disturbed you with her extravagant ideas. Unlock the fucking door!
— She wouldn't listen to my voice. She knew something waited on the other side. Careca Horroroso! He solicited her for six other patients of any kind. They sat downstairs waiting. He also warned you mustn’t profit from mediuninade and he warned the Filipinos; quit faking it! All posers will go to hell.
— He was on television the other day telling everyone he can cure everything with his blue light. Sete Lagoas, Minas Gerais.
— Detonada walked in saying she is dying of AIDS. She begged for help or else, please kill me. Dr. Fritz asked her você tem FÉ em DEUS? Are you ready to die?
— Dr. Fritz challenged everyone to inject her blood in their veins. If you have FÉ he said you won't be infected. Nobody dared to, suicídio puro! Their prejudice really annoyed him sometimes. He had had just enough of their lack of firmeza, the balls to believe, and so he proceeded extracting 2ml of blood from her left arm with a syringe.
— I've never done this before but I don't see why it shouldn't work.
— He evoked Deus! and injected the 2ml into his vein. His whole body shook. The room was silenced. When it stopped he extracted another 2ml from his other arm and reinjected it into hers.
— They had never seen him act this crazy. I didn’t know what to say. Faith had always been the worst part of the deal; faith in Abracadabra, Pomba Gira, Preto Velho and the Holy Ghost.
— He simply kissed her forehead and told her to go home.
— Weeks later I was taken to São Paulo for more exams. The private clinic looked familiar. I had wires coming from my head, arms and chest. My blood was sent in a freezer box to NASA.
— She never returned to Sete Lagoas. I thought she was somewhere on vacation, the first one in years. I imagined her shining eyes apologizing for her long disappearance.