james

588H I N O   À   I A N S A

James Hodgson

*

“Why don’t you outline your idea,” I say, the Portuguese falling out like smooth, well-proportioned scoops of ice cream. “Walk me through it.”

Tiago, the director, looks about himself. He clears his throat.

“Okay,” he says. “Working title is Hino à Iansa. You know who Iansa is? It’s important, you see – the whole film is a hymn to her –”

I shake my head. We’re drinking at a small roadside bar, slumped in the same white plastic chairs you’d find on a British patio.

“Iansa,” he explains, “is the Brazilian goddess of the River, Mirrors, Beauty. And the film is about that. About Beauty. What I want to start with is the credits a little Bond-like, abstract. Music, women, Candomblé. The emphasis on abstract significances.

“The protagonist is called Taís. I see her as an Ivete Piralta, a Piroeta Maligna. I want a hard face but a fragile mouth, delicate eyes. The hardness should come out in her jaw. I want simmering anger. Passion. In fact I’m personal friends with Piroeta. I could call her now – what an idea. Should I call her now?”

“Don’t call her,” I say, quickly. “Not until you’ve told me the whole idea.”

“Taís,” he continues, “starts off the film ordering a breakfast bun from a bakery. This is typical for her, a rich businesswoman, ordering breakfast from a bakery. I will take you to one near my place – meats and cheeses along the counter, cereal, melon, whatever you want. A colleague from Germany came over here last year and all he could talk about was the bakeries. Ooh, I löff your brött, Tiago. Ooh, your brött is – wowee. Nonstop. So Taís anyway decides what roll she wants and puts her purse on a chair by her side, as she’s ordering. A handsome estate agent is due to meet her any second. She’s nervous: not only does she want to buy an apartment but she sort of lusts after the estate agent and wants to ask him out for a drink. Some conflict there, eh? The first thing you see is her high-heels pacing back and forth – clack, clack, clack – as she orders her breakfast bun.

“And oboe music,” he says, downing the beer (which is the colour of toast) with one hand while simulating the oboe’s trill with the other. “While Taís isn’t looking, this small dog – I’m thinking a French dog, maybe a poodle – steals her purse and runs off with it. This is the premise of the film, you see, a cat-and-mouse chase with the dog. Taís panics. Her purse had money, some fancy earrings, her credit cards – and her phone! Oh gosh, which is a disaster because without this how can she be a powerful woman? She runs out into the street – nothing there. Okay. She uses the bakery phone to get hold of the estate agent but there’s no response. He must be on his way, then. She taps her mouth. Little fucking dog!

“Taís waits outside the bakery. Paces back and forth, back and forth. Maybe she thinks she sees the dog, maybe she doesn’t. Then her friend arrives. Very bicha, the friend –” the word is absent from my inner dictionary, “‘wow,’ he says, the friend, ‘wow, it’s so lucky I bumped into you, Taís. I’m very depressed. I’m so depressed I can’t even cry – that’s how depressed I am.’ Taís wants to say – look, Nestór (his name), not now. I’m waiting for this guy, and looking for this dog, and I don’t need any extra stuff on my plate. But she doesn’t, she hears him out. ‘Well, I’ve done a terrible thing, Taís, a terrible thing.’ ‘What? What thing?’ she says. And he can’t even look at her. ‘Promise you won’t just judge me? Promise you’ll hear me out?’ She nods.

“Nestór begins. ‘So I am due to talk at this gala tonight, an awards gala, about a little show I did. I’m giving the keynote. The speech they hear when they’re finished their food.’ Taís nods. ‘Anyway, I was really worried about my depression, you see, because it makes me so emotionally flat – it makes me insensitive to nuance, Taís. I even take lacrimativos,” (another pothole in my vocab) “so what I did was, well, because I was worried about no one reacting to my speech –”

Lacrimativos?” I say. “I’ve never heard of them –”

“Pills,” says Tiago, “for crying. We give them usually to men who are sealed up with superglue,” he pats his solar plexus, “and maybe it’s like this for Nestór because when he was small his mother was too hard with a belt, maybe not, but that’s another story, eh?” He knocks back his glass and pours himself another.

“So Nestór is going to speak at a gala, and he’s worried about no one responding to his speech because he’s so emotionally flat from his depression, and what he does – you could tell this all with a flashback – is to sneak into the kitchen at the theatre where the gala is being held (the Palacio) and drop two months’ supply of lacrimativos into the soup tureen before the chefs store it away in the chiller. Maybe Nestór dresses up as a cook. He’s been an actor; why can’t he be a cook? The point is – now, after the act, Nestór feels guilty about the impending false emotions: if you can’t tell whether your audience is sincere or not, how are you going to know if you’re a success? Plus it’s also a kind of psychologically invasive behaviour so maybe there’s some guilt from that as well.

“Taís thinks (talking out loud) – ‘okay, this isn’t the end of the world. Maybe we can get to the gala before they serve the soup. Maybe I’ll ring the hotel now and say the soup is poisoned – but, goddamit, the bastard animal took my phone.’ Just then, what does Taís see?”

“The dog,” I say, and serve myself the last nectarine drop before waving for another bottle.

“He’s back alright,” Tiago says. “Taís runs after it in high heels. Samba music on the soundtrack. Nestór runs behind her. ‘Taís!’ he’s shouting, in his high pitch, ‘Taís!’ – some great photographic shots of them running through crowds, little dog scampering, legs and arms and a zebra crossing – a car swerves – more legs, maybe a delivery man drops his goods – then the dog gets on a bus. The bus driver winks at him. Maybe he’s a regular! Just as the bus drives off, Taís flags down a taxi. ‘Taxi!’ she shouts (a mirroring of the bicha’s shouting, earlier), ‘taxi!’

“Now here’s a little bit of irony from me: who gets out of the taxi? Why, the estate agent. He was on his way to brunch nearby, planning to skip out on Taís entirely. ‘Aha,’ she says, ‘I’ve got you now.’ So she pulls him right back in, into the very cab he’s just left, along with the bicha Nestór. ‘After that bus!’ she shouts (and maybe the taxi driver is, like, ‘not so loud, you crazy bitch!’ under his breath) and then there’s more samba music, more shots of the taxi weaving up and down the main road, legs, a car swerving, the dog at the front of the bus, and so on.

“‘Hey, lady,’ says the driver, ‘you know there’s a parade on today? Up ahead. A samba parade. This bus – the 83. The last stop is the Palacio Theatre. Want me to skip the parade and just go straight there? I know a shortcut.’ And something tells her that the dog is going to end up at the Palacio Theatre, something like an inner voice, but she’s not ready to listen to that yet. ‘No,’ she says. ‘Follow that bus exactly. Stop at every stop it stops at, driver.’ You know in Portuguese this is a tongue-twister? A little joke from me. Or you think it’s too much? What do you think, in your opinion? How are you liking it all so far?”

I must confess something.

Tiago labours under a false premise. Somehow I have managed to imply that, as the BFI’s consular representative in São Paulo, not only do I hold the keys to production funding but am also (as if the two things are logically connected) keen to scope for new talent. I did not mean to lie. Or rather, I did not mean for Tiago to take it how he took it. I certainly wouldn’t want him thinking, as I sense he does now, that I have access to some sort of fiscal cornucopia, to a pot from which his ideas might draw their sustenance. I have no access; there is no money.

“It all sounds marvellous,” I say. “Do continue.”

“Next you have this scene,” says Tiago, animated, “where the taxi and the bus play cat and mouse up the Rio Estrada Norte. Every stop the bus stops at, so does that taxi. And each time it stops Taís looks out of the window, searching for the little dog. Here we can show off the beauty of Brazil. Legs, faces, hands. Diversidade fundamental. Meanwhile, the estate agent opens up negotiations. ‘Your place, Taís, is worth three hundred thousand Reis. Now this place is five hundred, so you’ll owe a couple hundred thousand. Okay, too much. Four hundred thousand and you’ll net a lovely two-bed. No way, no way. Fine, three hundred thousand! No way, no way…’

“Taís looks out of the window. Suddenly the taxi runs straight into a samba parade. It comes out of nowhere and stops them dead. The bus escapes. ‘Two hundred thousand – that’s a profit!’ says the estate agent. But Taís isn’t listening, trying to see if the dog’s got off the bus when it stops. Leaning into the front of the cab. View obscured by topless women. ‘One hundred thousand, my final offer!’ He’s not sensed the shift in tone. A dance troupe surrounds the taxi. Everyone’s beating drums. But I want it actually to be a mournful moment. ‘My mother’s jewellery,’ says Taís. ‘She gave me those earrings. Paste, fake, like everything about her. But she gave them to me – and now, now I’ll never see them again.’ At this, the bicha cries. It’s a little joke from me because his lacrimativos caused the whole crisis, and all he had to do was listen to his friend talk about her mother –”

Tiago stops. A balloon seller approaches our table. The man has few teeth. His balloons, which are strange, undecorated silvery animals (and actually more like thought-bubbles, lumps of mind-stuff amputated from their thinkers), bob unhappily around him. They frighten me. I wave him away.

“Where was I?” asks Tiago.

“You were telling me about the cab,” I say. “The crying bicha – what did you say bicha meant? – in the cab. There’s a sort of samba parade in the street, and the bus – I think the bus has taken the dog on to the gala –”

He pauses. “Yes. The bus has gone on to the gala. The taxi isn’t moving so Taís and Nestór and the estate agent get out and walk through the parade for a bit to cool off. So much excitement, they need a break. Nestór and the estate agent talk about what it means to be a Brazilian in today’s world, an honest chat about globalisation and politics and social media – very topical, very relevant – and Taís keeps thinking she sees a little dog –”

“Does she see it? The little dog?”

“Maybe. You’re not quite sure. The dog is like… sunlight on a river. Glinting. But the real thing? Who knows. This makes Taís think. She is really all about appearances. This is what you realise, too. Skin deep. She’s been about appearances from the start. A new apartment. The handsome estate agent. Her purse; the phone. And as she’s walking along the parade she doesn’t feel like either of the men are talking to her. They’re talking to each other. What Brazilian situation? What about my life? You can communicate a lot of this through face-shots. Nestór animates the estate agent, and vice versa, and all Taís can think about is how alone she is. And that fucking dog.

“‘Look,’ she says. ‘Look. There’s no point chasing after my purse. It’s just a purse, and I can accept that it’s gone.’ She sighs. ‘Let’s go to the gala and save the audience from crying unnecessarily. I give up my superficial concerns.’ We can work on the dialogue but the gist is clear, right? First signs of repentance. So they get in a cab and drive the quick way to the gala, which they should have done in the first place – and who do they see getting off the bus when it eventually arrives there but the dog. It runs into the gala party. Another choice for Taís: should she follow her heart (the dog) or her head (the lacrimativos)? She rallies the bicha and the estate agent, pacing back and forth, and makes an executive decision.

“‘You two,’ she says, ‘go stop the dog, and I’ll stop the soup.’ She figures that she’s too involved in the dog for a clear head, and maybe she can seduce her way into the kitchen – which the bicha definitely couldn’t do – so she heads off to the kitchen while Nestór and the estate agent mingle, looking for a poodle in a haystack –” Tiago laughs, “isn’t that a phrase, in English?”

“Nearly.”

“As she’s going to the kitchen she sees the little dog on a flight of steps, and it’s waggling the purse at her – but she’s calm, she gets to the kitchen door – and then a chef stops her. ‘You can’t come in here,’ he says, and she responds ‘but I – I need an ice-pack,’ off the top of her head. ‘My feet are killing me, with these heels.’ ‘There’s a first aid kit in the box office,’ he says, and then she says something along the lines of ‘what if I can make it worth your while?’, and at first she says ‘sure’ and rubs his arm, but then, well, her dignity prevails and plus he’s not as responsive as she’d imagined and so she takes back her offer and says ‘just let me in the kitchen, idiot!’, which gets her precisely nowhere –

“And before she knows it, the kitchen doors are flung open and out comes a troupe of waiters with the soup, one after the other. Pea soup. Very chic. At this point Taís realises the game is over. She walks back to the gala hall and stands at the door. It’s not fair. She should be at a table, getting served the soup spiked with lacrimativos. But she has nothing. No phone, no money, no mother’s jewels. The diners eat their food, after which it’s time for her bicha friend, who has failed to find the dog (incompetent! Taís says), now has to stand on stage and deliver his keynote.

“It turns out that Nestór has made some changes to his original speech, which was about the television show he starred in – Paraíso Masculino. Instead he talks about his life struggle. He mentions personal difficulties. Although he’s abstruse everyone knows this refers to the fact he’s a bicha in a macho’s world. He also talks about a new partner. They are very happy, he says. They met today. They are in love. ‘In fact,’ he says, ‘João. Why don’t you come on stage? João works in property. Come up here, João…’

“And guess who gets up next to him? Of course. The estate agent. That’s right: it was love at first sight. Taís had no clue. And the two kiss on stage, and everyone floods with tears, shouting ‘bravo!’, ‘bravo!’, and ‘how romantic!’, and then ‘you should marry!’, ‘marry!’ – but of course this is all coming from the lacrimativos in the soup.

“And things get really crazy – old ladies weeping onto their dresses, their mink coats wet like dogs at the beach. I want literal fountains spurting out from the dignitaries’ eyes. You can do this with little pipes, maybe tape them onto their faces, you know, have them coming right out. The cameramen are crying. The costumers are crying. Even I’m crying! Everyone’s crying! We can throw buckets of water at the walls, the dinner plates. Another good effect is garden hoses. A water cannon. Maybe even one stream is so strong it punches a hole in the window – boom!

“Taís does not cry. She remains beyond the melodrama. What does see, at the theatre’s exit, is the little dog. She takes her heels off and throws one at it. The heel, which is quite hard, catches on the dog’s head and stuns it. She gives it a final chase. Samba music. Shots of her legs, shots of the dog’s legs. Hair all over the place. Samba intensifies. She shouts at it, ‘give me my fucking purse! My fucking purse!’

“What a great scene. So the dog, you see, is actually this envoy of Iansa. So it does make sense, it’s not just for the plot. And Taís has sacrificed a lot that day – a love interest, a purse, riches, a phone, her dignity, everything – and Iansa is about testing the strength of her worshipers. Can you forge the river? That’s the question she asks. Can you withstand the perils of Iansa? Anyway, the point is Taís can withstand them, or at least Iansa thinks she can, and so she decides to reward Taís right at the end of the film.

“The little dog runs into an alley. And Taís grabs hold of it – ‘where’s my purse, you little shit? Have you eaten it? Have you eaten my fucking purse?’ – and then the dog starts to be sick. Hwogh. Hwogh. It wretches. Christ, she thinks. What if it did eat my purse? She steps back. Hwogh. The dog is sicking up something. ‘I didn’t mean to be rough,’ she says, ‘are you okay? Jesus. Should I get you a vet?’ Taís gasps. She realises the dog is sicking up jewellery. Jewel after jewel. Diamond necklace after diamond necklace. Earrings, hoops, studs. Ring after ring. It keeps coming. It’s her reward, you see: the gifts of Iansa. She gets down on her knees. The final image: Taís holding up all this jewellery, so much of it that when the camera zooms out it looks like water – and she’s a supplicant, with all this water tumbling out of her hands…” Tiago pats the table, softly. “And that is the end of the movie.”

A period of silence follows. His eyes shine in the streetlight, which by now has become pale gold. He asks me what I think. Before I can speak he tells me about the themes of the film, how he was inspired by the usual suspects – early Glauber, Almodovar, Castor-Coisa – and that he heard I was interested in Castor-Coisa in particular. That’s why he thinks it’s a suitable project for BFI funding, because it’s a vision of contemporary Brazil. He asks about budgets. He is obsessed with Piroeta Maligna (I have no idea why – she has about as much charisma as a pair of socks) and with showing Brazil’s diversidade fundamental to the world. As he’s talking, the balloon seller returns to our little bar and bobbles his ghostly crop right behind Tiago’s head. I find it hard to keep a straight face.

Of course I am positive. I nod and smile. But apart from the small fact of having no money, I don’t know if I’d cough up even if I could. Frankly, I’m not sure I understand it. I don’t like the use of chase scenes every two minutes to cover lacunae in the plot. And there’s something vaguely distasteful about the way he treats Nestór, the so-called bicha character (the exact meaning of which still escapes me).

After twenty minutes or so extoling the virtues of his unrealised magnum opus he asks me directly if I’ll fund it. I ask how much. Two hundred thousand, he says, initially. Maybe three and a half. He factors in Piroeta’s fee. Four hundred thousand. And an extra hundred thousand for luck. I deploy some marvellous Brazilian gestures. I wipe my hands, hold them open to the sky, press both palms together. I tell him I need to speak to my team. I tell him that I’ve still a few directors I need to meet. But I impress upon him that the weather looks good. Full of promise. I say I love an authentic response to the Brazilian question. That’s what the BFI is for, after all. We love our import-export programme. I tell him I will give him an answer by Monday, and does he have a phone he’d prefer me to ring? And then, with his number at the top of a receipt, I smile, pay for the beer, and leave.

Brazil, Brazil. When he’s gone I breathe out. I could take the metro back to my apartment (a small, cluttered space I share with a few international friends) but as the evening grows a little cool I rather fancy the walk. Avenida Paulista reminds me of Liverpool Street. The space between each financial building and each telecom tower is great, too big, as if they’ve yet to finish colouring the avenue in, but I nevertheless enjoy the brute buildings themselves: signs as they are of familiar lives in banking and television. Even the names are homely: JP Morgan, HSBC, Granada. Nothing like Tiago’s film – just straightforward business. And what of poor Tiago? Skipping off to wherever he came from, happily drunk, filled with the idea that I am considering his proposal in a favourable light.

At first I think I’ve followed the balloon-man by mistake. I realise it’s just a single balloon ahead, a silvery adenoid that I suppose is meant to be a parrot, the owner being a small child, darting from one parent to another. A cheap piece of string tenses and goes slack. I do feel bad about Tiago. I feel like I’ve led him on. But it’s not my fault: he took the suggestion – the faintest intimation! – and ran with it. What could I say?  The pavement from the top of the avenue to where it curves off to Ana Rosa is very flat and wide, and I move away from the balloon-bearing child towards the Portuguese fronting of an old colonial hospital, and then, after that, to the basalt that edges the road’s proud economic furnaces. A crowd of young punks, with hair glued into acute angles, head towards me. I find Tiago’s number. Best to get it out of the way.

I think about the phrasing. Good god man, give up now, retrain. I laugh a little. Have you thought about accountancy? Truthful, yes. But too direct. Your idea is not quite right. Can we lose the dog? Maybe cut this business with the bicha? And you never really explain what the bicha is all about, why he’s important. Once you’ve done that, then let’s talk about funding. Still too blunt.

‘I’m sorry,’ I practise, ‘I really like the sound of it, I really do. But I get the feeling from the team that funding being what it is we’re looking for films that speak to Brazilian reality, or more openly at least, and that things like extended metaphor are a bit passé, and that your piece is better suited to something, well, I wonder… more commercial. What do you feel about the advertising sector? What do you feel about television?’ Even that feels harsh. ‘How about this, Tiago. Set it in the backlands. In a town underrepresented on screen, something with a lot of big-leafed plants and sugarcane. Rework the chase, the dog, the main protagonist. A knife-fight is the opening premise. And a hint of favela, just a smidge –”

The kid with the balloon runs into the road, right into oncoming traffic. I don’t hear a bump. The balloon follows him, sucked under the wheels of a car. A horn honks out.

I stop. The punks don’t notice anything. The parents – I can no longer see them. The punks pass me by. The pavement beyond them is empty.

I run to the kerb. Several groups have moved to fill the pavement’s space. The balloon bounces up from the tarmac and heads towards the telecoms building.

“Excuse me,” I stop an old woman. “A kid. Did you see him get hit just now? Did you see him run into the road?” She looks at Avenida Paulista.

There’s no way a kid could survive the traffic. The night-time light, which is orange, actually hides the tarmac by intensifying the cars’ quick shadows. I can’t see any evidence, any blood. I try to tell her this. She doesn’t know what I’m talking about. She doesn’t even know which balloon I’m referring to. It has gone behind the telecoms building. She tugs herself free from my grip.

The lights go red; the cars stop. I run along the kerb asking people at random: “Did you see a kid? A kid that ran into the traffic?” At points I feel my Portuguese corrodes in my mouth. People shake their heads. When the traffic moves on it is clear the road is blemishless. A car, however, could have easily lifted his frame from the ground, tossed it up into the air, and there’d be no sign at the impact site. The driver might not have noticed.

Up ahead: the punks.

“Did you see anyone run into the road, with a balloon? A kid, who was near the road with a balloon?”

Three of them ignore me. One looks into my eyes, curls his lip.

“You’re looking for a balloon?”

“A kid with a balloon.”

“Your kid?”

“No. He ran into the road –”

“Do you speak English?” he says, in English but with a heavy American accent.

“Yes –” I rub my head, flushed. I speak slowly and enunciate. “A child has run into the road, just there. Have you seen him? Did you see it happen?”

They shake their heads and move on. I hear them call me caralho and bixona, the first word I recognise as slang for cock, the second I can’t be sure. The punks slouch up the avenue, laughing.

Where are the parents? There’s a bank nearby. HSBC. Perhaps they think the kid is playing happily behind them. It’s possible they have gone inside to deposit a cheque, or take a little cash out for dinner, and they think the kid is just outside. They might not know he’s missing. I enter. A security guard in a brown shirt looks at me.

“Have you seen a couple? Man and woman?”

“Pardon?”

My Portuguese absconds again. “A couple – a man, about as tall as me. A woman with dark brown hair. The wife. She’s his wife.”

“Your wife is a client of the bank.”

“No, no – sorry. I’m looking for a couple. A young couple –”

“There’s no one inside, sir.” He seems to understand. “The automatic tellers are just to your left –”

“A kid is dead! On the street!”

The guard runs outside. Avenida starts and stops. Cars collect at the red lights like drops of nail polish before the green passes them on to the waiting city. Was it, perhaps, just a balloon I saw? A kid-shaped balloon, pulled under a car and pushed up on top? I run the image over in my head. The kid trips up. Maybe he just let the balloon go but remained safely on the kerb. Maybe he had two balloons, one hidden behind the other, and I mistook the second balloon for a kid, and it was this I saw – mistook – tumbling under the car’s wheels…

There’s nothing on the road but traffic. The guard looks at me like I’m crazy, shakes his head. I can hear him swear under his breath.

I see the couple. Same hair, same clothes. Arm in arm, casually strolling, the woman resting her head on her husband’s shoulders. I’m certain it’s them.

“Hey,” I shout, running up alongside. “Hey!”

The woman turns to me and smiles. I match this, mirror it, before I realise what I have to say.

“Your kid – your kid ran into the road!”

The woman stiffens; the man scowls.

“We don’t have a kid.”

“There was a kid playing by you –”

The man looks at his wife and shrugs.

“Maybe,” says the woman. “I didn’t see anything –”

I turn away. The avenue, cleared of cars, is an innocent stretch of asphalt. What kid, which parent, whose balloon…

“Tiago –” I press a shaking phone to my ear. He’s the first person I think to ring. No British double-trill-and-pause, just a singular insistent pulse. I’ve just seen – I’ve just seen something – I think a kid is dead –

I hang up before the call connects.

I walk down the kerb again. Above my head is a silvery shape. I cannot tell what it is meant to be: a fish, a bead of mercury. There is nothing on the road, on the streets, except people and cars.

Tiago rings me back. I do not mention the kid. I tell him where I live. In an hour, I say, in English. Uh-huh, he says: the universal sound of assent.

I make the journey home on foot. I cannot afford a cab; the buses worry me. Why not the metro? I don’t know. I need to be above ground. On the walk I get lost and have to cross a dual carriageway to correct myself. I am frightened of getting hit. I pass what seems like a thousand streets, some holding vague signs of life – a car, drunks, a young couple – but most of them empty, dusty, the tarmac everywhere frayed. I see the kid’s body in a bin bag, and in the curved scoop of a sleeping dog’s back. I buy a bread roll from a café and put too much sauce on it and don’t eat it, leave it on a window ledge. Nobody talks to me, nobody notices.

Tiago is waiting in the car park to my apartment block. I almost want him to slap me away, to beat me up. But he does not. Instead, he takes the hint, tells me, “I knew you were going to call,” and follows me upstairs.

When he pushes with angry industry between my legs he calls me bicha. He flips me onto my front, hips up, belly pressed into the bed. “Ai, bicha,” he says. “Bicha.”

Afterwards I try to tell him about the dead kid. I explain how it was, how nobody listened. The trauma. I even tell him that I want to cry, that just like Taís I want to find release in a river of silver. He looks at me for a moment as if I am something comical, without sense: a dog walking on its hind legs. Tiago will not grant me the license – after all, he got what he wanted – and so at the conclusion of my story he shrugs, drinks a glass of tap water, and leaves. He never mentions the funding.

From the window I look at the metropolis. It sprawls so far into the distance you’d be forgiven for thinking that nothing could exist or was possible outside of its corrugated reach. I look for a sign of Iansa’s earring, the silvered bubble of helium. But there’s nothing. Nothing except the city, a cloudless sky, and a bright but indifferent moon.

*

JAMES HODGSON has short fiction published in various web and print venues, including The Queen’s Head and Queen Mob’s Teahouse, with pieces forthcoming in Neon and the London Journal of Fiction. His work has made the longlists for the 2016 Exeter Writers Competition and the 2016 Sunderland Short Story Prize. He also has some poetry published, in magazines such as Kaffeeklatsche Magazine and Chelsea Station. He completed a PhD thesis on Latin American Cultural Studies in 2012, with a focus on Brazil, and is working on his first novel. His website is hodgsonson.wordpress.com and he tweets @hodgsonson.