Translated into English by Lara Pawson
Sir, give me just a fiver, just a fiver, really, to buy some bread, I’m hungry, I still haven’t eaten anything since the day before yesterday, the other kids caught me out at caçambula, they got the cash that a chief had given me, I saw him when he arrived with his babe, she could have been his daughter, or grand-daughter, I dunno, he left his car down there close to the boulders, I waited a while, counting on my fingers, I know how to count, sir, I went to school, too, I reached fourth grade, a b c d, one two three four, like that, sir, just like that yes, sir, don’t laugh, it was my teacher who said it, there in the bush where I was before I came here to Luanda as a displaced person, some said I was a displaced, others a refugee, we never heard these words in the bush, even in school we didn’t see or hear them, but, well, there in the bush folks didn’t know these words and they also didn’t get to eat, it’s only here that we eat, alas, you’re laughing, sir, really laughing, you don’t know that there is refugee food and displaced food and food of the tattered and the torn, of the down-and-out, we look for it every night in the garbage containers, we fight over it, crippling ourselves, but still finding good stuff, chicken bones like recyclable ribbons, yes, sir, recyclable, I learned this word from some of the guys who hang out here, they turn up on mopeds saying we’re from the Green Gang, I think it’s odd that in the middle of all these blacks and mulattos there’s a couple of whiteys, they say we have here some seedlings for you to plant, we look at them in a way that they don’t get, they’re thickheads, among us we kiss our teeth, trees, trees, we want them but not to eat, although we are still hungry, starving with hunger, our hunger is so bad that we could kill these green guys, they’re all so nutritious, so delicious, so fragrant, even so the best thing is to go back to rummaging through our containers, sometimes we even find a few good things like cow meat that’s so old you don’t even need to chew it, just swallow and hey presto, pieces of bread so riddled with holes they look like they’ve been shot at, cans of beer, cans of fizzy drinks, cans of sardines, cans of tuna, cans of beans, cans of fruit, cans of candy, so many cans, cans, I reckon the whole world is one big canning factory, the only problem is the rats, the dogs, the cats, even the crooks are pretty bold, we have to yell at them, the other day Filipe said these sons of bitches are creating unfair competition, I laughed, mostly because I don’t know what unfair means, but I laughed because that day I’d also had nothing to eat, I thought, fuck, one day I’m going to grab one of those big rats that turn up and eat the cats and I’m going to make a beast of a barbecue, eating only a little bit and selling the rest in tiny pieces, if I’d done this today I wouldn’t need to ask you, sir, give me just a fiver, really only a fiver, sir, the shame is in thieving not asking, I haven’t eaten anything since the day before yesterday, not even bread drenched in liquid, bugs, bad smells, shit, no, for fuck’s sake, don’t mess me, my friends stole the money that the chief gave me, I counted on the fingers of my hands, I worked out that the guy must have had his dick out of his trousers by then, he must have asked the chick to suck him off already, and she’d probably never even seen a porn film before, but what am I supposed to make of this, nothing, sir, nothing, I myself am already completely fucked off with my life, like the other day, I swear, I was a hungry son-of-a-bitch, I left the chief manoeuvring his car with his lights off, then parking up and turning off the engine, I hung back, counting up to ten on my fingers, then approaching the car almost without breathing or touching the ground, I didn’t just go to school, sir, I also know how to walk on water like Jesus, the priest said that, I got to his window and knocked once, but the guy didn’t open it, I knocked twice, same thing, I thought this bastard doesn’t know who I am, just because he’s a chief he thinks I’m dumb or what, I began hitting the windows without stopping, then the doors and the bonnet, the guy got out, all out of breath and into the bargain, without noticing that his prick was still poking out, sir, ah ah ah, his stick was so tiny, like mine, ah ah ah, the poor girl, I thought, if you’ve got to start fucking at least do it with a quality love-stick, but before the chief could open his mouth I pointed my pistol at him, I spoke with such a low voice you could hardly hear me, sir, give me just a fiver, with my hand firm on the gun but my voice just a tiny trickle, eyes fixed, dulled like an insect’s, I am an insect, sir, miserable vermin, but there with the gun in my hand I seemed more like a commandant, shouting down at the chief, his knob still hanging out of his trousers, completely shrivelled, totally limp, unworthy of any comment, put that piece of crap away, for fuck’s sake, put it away before I castrate you right here right now, shit man, so your wife knows that you’re here, does she, with your grand-daughter, cos this girl is young enough to be your grandchild, you dick, your wife knows, huh, she knows, huh, get back inside, go on, get inside, I swear, sir, the chief looked like horse shit, he backed up real slow, easy boy, easy, be careful with that weapon, let’s talk, how much is it that you’d like exactly, a fiver, only a fiver, take it, you can count it, there’s five hundred there, lower the gun, hey, lower the gun, the guy thinks I’m from the bush or what, get inside, go on, back up, get inside, the fool fell back into the car seat, noticing his prick for the first time, he quickly zipped up his trousers, pushing his shirt in nice and tight, give me just a fiver, I said, the barrel of the gun was pressing against his head by now, my voice was still weak but my pulse, sir, I swear, I don’t know how to explain it but my pulse was getting stronger and stronger, not just a tremor, it seemed like it was from the gasoline I’d been sniffing all afternoon to forget my hunger, my pulse was strong enough to compensate my voice which was weak, give me just a fiver, you son-of-a-bitch, give me just a fiver, the bastard could tell from the trickle of my voice that I was faking it, he only pulled out his papers and I let it go, sir, I let it go because deep down I’m just a good kid, I don’t want to hurt anyone, just because everyone hurts me, one day I’ll find out, sir, I swear it, sir, I’m going to find out why the whole world has done me wrong, the guy threw the bag with all his money in front of the car, I didn’t move an inch, turn the key you bastard, I pushed the barrel of the gun a bit harder, but don’t start up without my say-so, all of a sudden sir, I don’t know how to explain this either, I hadn’t been thinking anything, all I wanted was a fiver to buy some bread, but all of a sudden, and it really was all of a sudden I swear, I didn’t want it, I looked at the babe all hunched up on the other seat, she must have been fifteen, not pretty, not ugly, but she was wearing a mini-skirt that was barely a skirt, it was just a mini, her thighs already shapely, I looked at her long and hard, she looked like a little animal lost in the forest, she could have been my sister, sir, since I’ve been in Luanda because of the war I don’t know where my sisters are any more, but that chick could easily have been one of my sisters, all of a sudden I wanted to cry, I don’t know if the guy noticed but I acted real quick, I pointed the gun in the direction of the girl and said you stay here, go, you get out of the car, don’t be fucking afraid, this bastard isn’t going to do anything to you, if he wants a fuck he can fuck his own woman at home, go, girl, get out of the car, and you, my son-of-a-bitch, keep quiet, keep quiet or I’ll blow your brains out right this minute, all of a sudden, sir, I myself don’t know how to explain this because everything happened so fast, the chief cried out Aninhas, don’t leave, and ducked his head to avoid the barrel of the gun while sticking his left leg out of the car kicking me in the knees, I lost my balance a bit, ah, sir, that afternoon I’d sniffed a lot of gasoline, my pulse was strong, without a tremor, sir, without regret, sir, when I opened my eyes the chief’s head was on the steering wheel, blown to bits, blood was spurting from his forehead on to the carpet forming a little pool that was getting steadily larger, the chick was completely crumpled up on the other side of the car, hunched up in fear, paralysed by her own screams, without the strength to open the door and vanish, it would have been better if she’d disappeared, sir, but she didn’t, it looked like she was waiting for her own misfortune or perhaps someone sent her to ruin my life just a little bit more, I went round the other side of the car, I opened her door and said let’s get the hell out of here, girl, before the riot cops turn up, only that instead of obeying me she had a really weird reaction, throwing herself against my chest, she began to scratch me and kick me in the shins, you killed my friend, you killed my friend, he was going to sort me out, he was going to give me a child, while she was yelling tears were running down her face, every now and then she tried to get the gun out of my hand, calm, I was saying, calm down girl, it was him who asked to be killed, who made me react, I only wanted a fiver to buy some bread, but he gave you all the money, why did you kill him, this question left me speechless, sir, how was I going to explain to her that it wasn’t simply a question of dough, you know my life is well and truly more complicated than that, so I said to her, more calmly, who let him bring you here to fuck you like this in the middle of the street, the chick looked at me as if I was from another world or perhaps some TV character, don’t you have anything, she asked, anything at all, I went all floppy, all my strength disappeared out of my legs, it went all dark inside my head, I grabbed her by the wrists and pinned her to my chest, the pistol fell on to the sand from the beach, I didn’t look, I simply felt her tears in my hair, I embraced her with all my strength, my tears also began to fall very slowly from my eyes, all of a sudden I began to remember a pile of things, for example, one day I was in Chitepa with my two younger brothers, I looked at them and said someday I am going to Luanda to see the sea, they laughed knowing that our father was never going to let me go, but that day I got on the WFP plane like a refugee, or a displaced person, whichever, and I jolly well came to Luanda, no one had heard from my father, he had gone to work in his field three days earlier and he still hadn’t returned home the day I got on the plane and began to howl for my parents who’d been killed by some bandits, just take me away, I don’t have any parents any more, their names, ahhh, their names, my father is António Canivete João, my mother, Andua, but they’re both dead I know it, just take me, I don’t know if my father already knows that I now am also a Luandan, when I arrived I was a bit surprised but soon enough I got a hold of the situation, first they put me in a house full of priests but I fled on the third day, now I’m here on the Ilha, I have my own hole in the ground, I go out during the day to my odd jobs, at night I stay here to look after the cars that turn up for all sorts of shenanigans, they don’t take any notice when I sidle up to them ever so quietly, saying, sir, give me just a fiver, some of them leap into action like wild goats, searching for their shirt or trousers, the chicks always shrink back, covering their eyes with their hands, suddenly going even quieter than if they were dumb, but I act as if I haven’t seen anything, I repeat, sir, only a fiver, I gently extend my hand, sometimes I wait an eternity, but most cough up quickly just to get rid of me, with the most stubborn I pull out my gun and ask, are you deaf or what, give me a fiver or I’ll put a hole in you right away, I was remembering, sir, the chick pinned ever more tightly to my chest, I heard my mother’s voice, the cries of my mother, all her despair when those men assaulted her, one, two, three, four, five, six, after sticking a bayonet inside her snatch they poured gasoline over her and set her on fire, my older brother and I were hiding in the long grass behind the house, we saw everything, we wanted to save our mother but we ran, we ran, we ran until we ran into soldiers, ever since when I have heard my mother’s voice inside my head, rising all of a sudden at the worst moments when I would rather die, as I did that night when I put a bullet into the chief with the Mercedes and now his chick is in my arms, all fragile and weak thinking that maybe I was really strong simply because I had a gun and had done away with her sugar daddy, what she didn’t realise is that I am even more fragile than her, my head was far away remembering the day I decided to run away from Chitepa, it was an ordinary day, the same as all the others, nobody saw any strange signs in the air, my father received some visitors, they went to a corner of the main room, they drank cachipembe, they talked in low voices, nobody heard a thing, after, when the visitors had left, he said I’m going to the fields, three days passed, there was no sign of him, my mother had already died, my brothers were in a daze, motionless, doing nothing, I asked if they were waiting for father but they didn’t respond, the look they gave was whitened, as if they were under a spell, my sisters were dragging themselves about on the floor, covered in snot and flies and tears, it was the hunger, sir, the world there in Chitepa was one simply of hunger and silence, the only ones who stayed were the elderly and the children, the women who managed to avoid being abused like my mother were seized in the light of day, the men would say they were going to their fields and would disappear, so I took a decision, I’m not waiting any longer, I took the WFP plane and, hey, after I arrived in Luanda, a few months later, a cousin of mine turned up, he’s like a brother, he told me uncle António had joined UNITA, oh brother, I felt nothing, neither sadness nor happiness, nothing sir, but later when I was alone I asked myself but who is my father, he went to the fields long ago, I don’t remember him anymore, I only remember my mother, they raped her, they shoved a bayonet up her cunt and afterwards, as a final insult, they burned her, for fuck’s sake, sir, how could my father join UNITA, how, so I decided to forget everything, even my name, you can call me whatever you wish, sir, but that night when I extinguished the chief with three bullets in his head, his bitch reminded me of my sisters, ah, sir, sometimes I have such unbelievable saudades, but only for them, so that night I led the girl away as carefully as I could, with all the sweetness I had left in me but also with grief, I led her away from the dead body of that son-of-a-bitch, that randy rascal, that shameless old codger, and we went to the beach, I took off her clothes, I screwed her, I screwed her, I screwed her, it seemed as though I wasn’t actually shagging her but was taking my revenge on the world, she didn’t say a thing, she only cried and laughed and suddenly began to shout out, give me a child, give me a child, I shouted with her why father, why father, when we had finished we rested a while in the sand, side by side relishing the moment, afterwards we got up in silence, we plunged into this sea of Luanda, we swam, we played, we washed ourselves well, when we got out I told her to be on her way, chick, this is no life for you, she picked up her things and to this day I’ve not seen her, sir, she left neither scent nor shadow, only scars sir, many scars of pain and sorrow, they are like stab wounds in my heart, I can’t forget her, sir, the only thing worse than hunger is saudade, I haven’t eaten anything since the day before yesterday, the day I killed a man and had sex with a woman for the first time, now she’s gone, I remain alone again without a thing, without a father, without a mother, without brothers or sisters, I don’t know whether I’m a displaced person, or a refugee, or some other thing, I don’t know if I will wake up tomorrow, if today I will have to kill again, if a television will appear, if the green kids will turn up, if the soup wagon will come by, and more than anything, sir, I can’t take it any longer, give me just a fiver, sir, I’m dying of hunger, no, sir, don’t say no, sir, my girl has gone, my hunger is so bad I’m in pain, all I want to do is cry, but I still have the gun in my hand, sir, for fuck’s sake, don’t provoke me, did you hear that, don’t provoke me, sir, give me just a fiver, just a fiver, that’s all sir.
 caçambula (n) is the name of a children’s game for at least two players but with no upper limit. The aim of the game is to trick opponents into dropping an object — any object — or giving it away by mistake. The object could be food, a ball, money, a hat, anything. The game can continue for days and only ends when all players agree to it. The act of playing the game is caçambular (v).
 The United Nations World Food Programme
 The Ilha is a spit in Luanda that reaches out into the Atlantic ocean from the heart of the city. It is full of restaurants, bars and clubs and is a popular location among the middle-classes, the wealthy elite and the expatriate community.
 Some street children in Luanda live beneath the streets in drains and large pot holes.
 A locally-brewed alcoholic spirit, or ‘fire-water’.
 The closest word to saudade in English is nostalgia, but that does not fully capture the depth of saudade, a deep emotional state of melancholic longing and desire for something or someone that is absent. It often includes a psychological dimension, a repressed knowledge that the thing that is longed for will never be seen or experienced again.
born in 1955 in Luanda, Angola, is an author, journalist, and communication consultant. He is a founder of the Angolan Writer´s Association, and of the Angolan Academy of Literature and Social Sciences. Currently, splits his time between Luanda, Lisbon and Houston. His works include poetry, short stories, articles and essays and have been published in Angola, Portugal, Brazil, Italy and Cuba. A number of his writings had been translated into English, French, German, Arabic, and Chinese. He was awarded the 2009 Angola Arts and Culture National Prize in literature category.