I'd post something new, but everything I've written lately is half-finished and too scary to post.
This is how you make feijão. This is how you get rid of the ones that are bad and this is the way you wash them. Be sure to wash them very well. Now pour them into the pressure cooker. This is how much water you put in and this is how long you cook them.
“If you don’t baptize her, she’ll go to hell, Flavia. Flavia, are you listening to me? She’s a heathen and you know where heathens go.”
Flavia stared down at the cardboard box with the blue baby inside. “How can she go to hell? She wasn’t ever alive.”
“Listen to me – that baby needs to be baptized before burial or she’ll receive the condemnation of God.” The woman continued, “a few months ago there was a baby that died on our street who was never baptized. That baby screamed from the ground – I’m telling you – he cried every night and all of us could hear it in our houses. I said to my husband, ‘that dead baby is crying out to be baptized – let’s go put him out of his misery.’ So we dug the baby up and baptized him and I tell you – honest truth – he never screamed again. May he rest in peace.”
“No need to wash them if they’re already clean,” Flavia thought.
* * * * *
This is how you know whether the beans are good or not. This is how you make them so your husband likes them. These are the spices that go inside. This is the way you take them off the stove and this is the way you hold a baby at the same time. This is the way you cook them if they’re for someone else and they’re watching to see if you do it right. This is what it looks like if you do it right. This is what it looks like if you do it wrong.
“It never felt like this with the boys.” She patted her stomach. “Boys carry wide – see how my stomach is pointy? They say it’s a girl when your stomach does that. Gordo wants a girl.”
His real name was Nonato, but everyone called him Gordo. Gordo because that’s what he was - rice and beans every day and a cerveja or two, or three, or four to top it off.
* * * * *
This is the way you heat the oil in the pan and make it really hot. This is how much garlic and onions to put in. This is where you really have to pay attention because you don’t want to put in too much garlic and onions. This is how long you cook the onions so they’re transparent but not brown. This is what they taste like if there’s too much garlic. This is what they taste like if there’s not enough garlic. This is what they taste like if you’ve put in just the right amount of garlic.
“She’s dead,” the nursemaid announced.
“Can I see her?” Flavia asked.
The nurse showed them the little girl, blue and perfect. “The cord must have wrapped around her and suffocated her,” the nursemaid said.
* * * * *
Now you add the beans and salt and let it boil. This is where you have to check to see if there is too much water. This is how much longer you should cook it if there’s too much water and you’re waiting for it to evaporate.
They took the dead baby while Flavia was taking a nap and baptized her. They sang hymns and said “Oh Gloria!” as they sprinkled water over her head. No priest, but when a dead baby needs baptizing, you do the best you can.
They christened her “Maria de Jesus Nossa Senhora Santificada dos Santos,” a proper Christian name. Flavia named her Isabel. But Flavia was a heathen.
They placed her back in the cardboard box and sprinkled salt over her body, to protect her from the demons.
* * * * *
This is when you add more salt. This is how you cook the feijão until it’s soft. This is how many people it will feed. This is what your husband will say if he doesn’t like it. This is what to say if he says he doesn’t like it and this is how you tell him what happened. This is what to tell him if he does like it. This is what you sprinkle in so he doesn’t know whether or not he likes it.
Flavia felt the baby go soft inside her. She didn’t want to wake Gordo – didn’t want him to yell at her for it happening. Flavia didn’t do anything to make it happen. The baby was swishing around and struggling like that and then it just went soft. So she laid there in her hammock. She thought about the litter of kittens that were born earlier that week on the street. One was stillborn and Flavia couldn’t help but think that it was the luckiest one – saved from life on the street and saved from one of the horse-carts that would have inevitably run it over.
* * * * *
This is what you do when it’s done. This is how you use it the next day to make little bean cakes. This is how you use it the day after the little bean cakes to make food for the chickens. This is what you do when there are no more beans. This is what you do when you have a little bacon. This is what it tastes like.