Excerpt of Heliopolis by James Scudamore
(Page 2 of 4)
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When did Ernesto ever fly? Dont move. Her hand strays
into my hair, placating me as gently as possible so she doesnt
have to wake up.
Shes right about the helicopter. The sound of blades
beating overhead soon recedes. I lie still for a further halfhour,
pretending that more sleep might be within reach,
before accepting the inevitable.
Ill squeeze some juice, I say, sitting up. The sticky noise
of her body separating itself from mine banishes the night
with all the finality of a plunge into cold water. Its like
ripping off a Band-Aid: for better or worse, the wound is
exposed. Once again, we face the facts.
In the hallway, the naked form creeping across the mirror
startles me, and for an instant I am Ernesto, stumbling on
this burglar in his bed. I stand up straight, to assess what he
would face if he walked in now.
Im a shade or two lighter than my mother, which implies
that my biological father was lighter still. Because Im cashew
to her caramel, its likely his skin was even less toasted: milk
and honey, almond cream. Where that leaves me, I dont
know: probably, to employ an expression still in common
usage in spite of the racial democracy we are said to enjoy,
with one foot in the kitchen. That said, my prosperity of
recent years helps: money makes you whiter, as they say.
Colour isnt immutable: its just a matter of context.
Either way, things dont look as good as they once did.
Baldness is carving twin channels towards the back of my
head, like a boats wake. My skin is pitted and flawed like tired
fruit, and my cheekbones look swollen, almost bruised.
Otherwise, Im like a sylph: I might not be here at all. If you
took a swing at the place where you thought my belly was,
youd probably miss it. My metabolism is a super-tuned engine,
always processing, churning with hot acid. Its why, in spite
of my appetite, I am always underweight. Its why my clothes
hang well. Its why I cant sit still. Its why people always think
Im nervous, and why nobody ever properly relaxes in my
The sylph in the mirror sighs. Ernesto. She married
Ernesto the gentle giant five years on, I can still hardly
believe it. I wonder if theres something about his bulk she
finds reassuring. His weight, pinning her down. Perhaps it
reminds her of being kidnapped, provides an element of
Stockholm Syndrome that splashes Tabasco on all that
marital meat and potatoes.
How did I become this interloper, this bed-hopping
marriage wrecker? I smile like a villain to make myself feel
better, and say, Ludo dos Santos, pleased to meet you.
I halve oranges at the granite island in the middle of the
kitchen and squeeze them as quickly as I can, adding an
extra spoonful of pulp from the juicer to my glass to bulk
it out. Im padding back across the polished penthouse floor
with two tumblers of frothy yellow when I feel the throb of
another approaching helicopter. I see the flickering bug as it
picks out this building and rears up over it. And now it is
time to panic, because no matter how unlikely it is that hell
come down to the apartment, this one is carrying Melissas
Who is also, of course, my father.
My full name is Ludwig Aparecido dos Santos. People assume
my mother was a music lover, but Im told that Ludwig
was a bar in the city years ago, whose name was written
above the door in a curly silver script that pleased her. As
for the rest, the name Aparecido refers to my mothers sometime
contention that instead of having a real father I slipped
down a rainbow, while dos Santos was the name given to
orphans during the infancy of the country, because they were
deemed to be in the care of the saints.
Excerpted from Heliopolis
by James Scudamore. Copyright © 2010 by James Scudamore.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.