Astray

Astray. © Chris Bronsk 2015.

“When I was little, there were two bakeries in Benfica. One right by the church, frequented by the bagaço-swinging proletariat, the floor was always strewn with sawdust and flattened cigarette butts, and that was called the Adega dos Ossos, where I was advised not to go for fear I might become fatally addicted to cherry brandy and cheap cigarettes and end my days playing dominoes, losing at cards and coughing into my handkerchief. It was a dark place, with lots of bottles on the walls, and in the window were more flies than custard tarts. Beyond the shelves and the spines of the bottles, a library of delirium tremens, I remember the squint-eyed bartender, his right eye furious and his left benevolently tender, and Senhor Manuel, the sacristan, who dropped by in this red surplice between the masses and downed a few glasses with eucharistic unctuousness, hiding behind the fridge, afraid he might be spotted by the prior, who was all sternness and buttons from his neck to his shoes, and for whom wine, when not taken with wafers, had the devilish quality of leading the flock astray and causing them to postpone the six o’clock rosary in favor of the abominable vice of cards.” —Antonio Lobo Antunes, from “Paradise,” The Fat Man and Infinity and Other Writings

(from an ongoing series of Boston transit passengers)

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