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Dedico este conto a alguém muito especial, que um dia prometeu: «...tentarei que nunca te pareça que te tiro o rebuçado.»        ...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

A River Adventure

 Mum always liked to listen to the radio while they were having their breakfast.

'One of the thieves, who has been robbing jewellery shops in the Barcelona area has been arrested and is awaiting trial under preventive custody. Kirsten Hoffman was caught red-handed while trying to fence one of the valuable diamonds from their first heist two weeks ago. The public defender has announced that it should be a cut-and-dried conviction as they also have the defendant caught in the act on one of the jewellers' CCTV...'

'Well, there you go,' said Mum. 'Crime never pays.'
'Have they found the rest of the diamonds yet, Mum?' asked Mariona, the elder of two children.
'I don't think so, hon. According to the 9 o'clock news last night the police are still looking for their loot along with a second accomplice.'
'And what will they do when they find the rest of the stuff?' inquired Mariona, feeling oddly curious about the case. She was thirteen and lately she felt there was not enough common ground or shared interests to be able to hold a conversation with her mum.
'I suppose everything will be returned to their rightful owners. The jewellers have lost a lot of money and I'm sure the insurance companies are also doing their bit to recover the jewels, diamonds and gold. It's in their best interest after all...They'll make a huge loss if they end up having to cover all those insurance policies.
'And what will happen if it's not the police or the insurance companies who find the treasure?' asked Sergi, suddenly also feeling very interested in the conversation.
Mum and Mariona looked at each other and burst out laughing.
'Oh, Sergi,' said mum trying to be serious. 'That person or people might get a handsome reward. Who knows?'
'And why do you care,' asked Mariona rolling her eyes as she always did when her brother butted in on their conversations. 'Are you planning to look for the treasure yourself?' she added ironically.
Sergi chose to ignore his sister and doubled his concentration on the bowl of cheerios in front of him. He decided then that he would speak to his friend, Gerard, instead. Gerard would understand his excitement about the wonderful treasure hidden in or somewhere very near Barcelona. He would tell him that same day after they put up the tent in his room.
'The tent looks great. Thanks Gerard. I couldn't have done it without you.' said Sergi, still in awe at what they had managed to do.
'It was nothing really. I'm used to helping my dad pitch the tent when we go camping. And, yes, it does look fab. All things considered, it turned out better than I thought it would.'
'Have you heard about the stolen jewellery, diamonds and such?' asked Sergi.
'Do you mean the robberies in Barcelona?' replied Gerard. 'Yeah, they don't seem to talk about anything else now on TV.'
'Or the radio.'
'What about it then?'
'Nothing much. I think it's kind of exciting to know that the robbers have hidden the stuff somewhere in Barcelona, or in the surroundings of...'
'Do you think they could have stashed it in Sabadell?' asked Gerard, with a thrill of excitement in his voice.
'I don't know. But if they say the treasure could be anywhere in Cataluña, why not in Sabadell?
'So what are you saying? Do you know where it is?'
'Of course not. How would I know that, Gerard? All I say is that it's nice to believe that it is somewhere close. Why don't we make ourselves some pirate hats and pretend we're pirates looking for a treasure?'
'Cool! Let's find some newspaper to make the hats then.' Gerard could feel his heart race with excitement. No wonder he loved coming round to Sergi's – there was never a dull moment around him.
'...and the way he shakes his hair back is so cute...No, do you really think he likes me?' Mariona was on the phone with her best friend when Sergi and Gerard came into her bedroom with part of a newspaper in their hands.
'Get out! Get out of my room! How many times have I told you my room is off limits to you? Moooooooooom!'
'Sorry, Mireia. I'll have to get back to you...It's the same old story – my brother just doesn't know what boundaries are.'
'I'm sorry, but...'
'But nothing. You know I don't want you in my room – ever!'
'All right. But now that I'm here, can you help me make a pirate hat?'
'Okay, I'll show you how to do it just one more time and then you must never...'
'Yes, okay, I'll knock next time.'
'There won't be a next time. Do you hear me?...There – it's done. See how easy it is?' said Mariona once she had finished making the second hat.
'Great! Thank you Mariona.' said Sergi, with a big smile on his face.
'Yes, thank you so much,' echoed Gerard.
'Hold on!' said Mariona. 'What's this?'
On one of the leftover sheets she saw a poem. Poetry was not really her thing and some other day it would have gone unnoticed, but something about the name caught her attention and compelled her to read the poem from the small ads section.

In the strong brown god
Lies the key to my release.
Find the shiny pebbles –
Prized gifts to share with the
Black robed man.

If not, dear Quixote,
Behind this cold sullen cage
Without you will I fade.

                                                            Find the shiniest stone
Within the god that has:
A bank that does not store money,
A bed but never sleeps,
A mouth but never eats,
A head but never weeps.

                                                            My dear Don Quixote –
Ask the brown, murky god
to return the freedom
rocks that it hides within

                       your Dulcineia

'What does it mean?' asked Sergi
'I don't know. It's so cryptic. Why would anyone sign off as Dulcineia. And who is this Don Quixote person?'
'Do you think it has anything to do with the jewellery thieves?' asked Gerard.
'Why do you ask?' Mariona wanted to brush the question off as silly but something inside her told her that the idea might not be that far-fetched.
'It's the mention of shiny pebbles and rocks...' replied Gerard, hardly containing his excitement.
'...and there's also the shiniest stone...all these things could refer to diamonds, couldn't they?' added Sergi.
'I guess so. But what on earth is the 'strong brown god'? And why would someone pay to have this poem published in the newspaper?
'I know,' said Sergi with enthusiasm. 'Perhaps the woman who's in prison – Dulcineia – is trying to contact her partner, Don Quixote!'
'Yes, yes, yes! That must be it, Sergi,' Gerard jumped up and down as he said this. 'Your mum is a teacher, isn't she?' Gerard said, heading towards the door, 'Let's ask her what she thinks the 'strong brown god' is.'
The two boys and the young teen rushed out of the room to go and find Mum. Mariona no longer remembered she was upset with her brother for barging in on her room uninvited.
Mum was in the living room with Gerard's father and little sister, Martina.
'Mum, look what we found in the newspaper,' shouted Sergi and Mariona at the same time.
'Please, children, there's no need to shout. We're right here.'
'We think the jewellery thief is trying to communicate with her accomplice,' blurted out Gerard.
'What on earth are you talking about?' asked Mum and Gerard's dad simultameously, which made them all giggle.
Five minutes later the children had shared their suspicions and mum was browsing through her books on the bookshelf. The words 'strong brown god' rang a bell. She was certain she had read them somewhere before.
'Here it is, guys! I've found it. 'Strong brown god' is what T S Eliot calls the river inFour Quartets,” The Dry Salvages . Listen: I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river / Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable.'
Sergi felt very proud of his mum. She was so intelligent.
'Okay. Let's have a look at the rest of the poem.' proceeded Nerea, the teacher.

A bank that does not store money,
A bed but never sleeps,
A mouth but never eats,
A head but never weeps.

'A river has banks, doesn't it? The right bank and the left bank.' said Gerard.
'It also had a mouth – the river mouth is where the river flows into another body of water, like a lake or an ocean.' added Mariona, realising that what she had studied in geography was not as useless as she had thought.
'And then there's the river head, which is where the river begins,' chipped in Gerard's father, Jordi, gently stroking little Martina's head.
'That's it. If this is indeed a secret message from the woman who's currently in prison to her accomplice, she must be telling him where to find their loot: Go! Find the shiniest stone / Within the god. She was probably the one in charge of hiding it.' Mum said pensively.
'At the bottom of a river!' cried out Sergi and Gerard together.
'That's right. But if Don Quixote is her partner, who is the 'Black robed man'? Asked Mariona, once again catching everyone's attention.
'That's a good question,' said Jordi. 'Find the shiny pebbles – / Prized gifts to share with the / Black robed man...Do you think it might be to pay for her defense?'
'You mean, like a lawyer?' asked Nerea. 'You know, that must be it. Goodness, never in my life did I think I'd be involved in solving a crime. What do you think we should do now, Jordi?'
'Let me go down to the police station and speak to the chief.'
'Please can we go with you? Please, take Sergi and me with you! Please, please, please dad!' pleaded Gerard.
'I'm afraid not, children. This is serious business and if we all go there and start telling our story the police officers might not believe us. Tell you what, why don't you all prepare a picnic basket and when I come back we can all go and have a picnic by the Ripoll river? I have to go check on my crane, which is on a construction site nearby anyway. What do you say?'
'Yes!' they all said in unison.
'Perhaps we'll find the treasure there,' said Martina, speaking for the first time and surprising everyone.
'Ha, ha!' laughed Jordi. 'Well, I don't think that'll happen! That would be too much of a coincidence, wouldn't it? Nah! Nobody would hide anything in this river.'
'Well, guys, here we are. Let's see what you've prepared for our picnic.' It had been a very eventful and exciting morning and Jordi was starving.
'What did the police chief say?' asked Nerea, unable to hold back her curiosity any longer.
'As I had expected he wasn't too receptive at first, but he came round to the idea when I showed him the newspaper clipping and told him what we had discovered. He said he was going to look into it.'
The two families enjoyed their sandwiches and fruit in joyful chatter. After lunch, the two boys, wearing their pirate hats, said they were going exploring. Mariona began playing with Martina and Nerea and Jordi lay on the picnic blanket talking about how fortunate they were that their children seemed to have hit it off so well. They were both divorced and until then they had not been very fortunate in their post-divorce relationships. What is more, they felt they could only be happy if their children were fine with the new situation. They seemed to be and that made the couple very happy. They still lived in their own separate flats but with things going so well they thought it might be the right moment to go on a short holiday together, both families together. From there they would see where life would take them. The important thing was to take it one day at the time and enjoy the moments of bliss – such as this one – that came their way.
'Daaaad!' cried Gerard.
'Mum!' yelled Sergi.
The peaceful silence of the afternoon was broken by the boys' shouts.
'Calm down, boys.' said mum. 'Don't try to speak at the same time.'
'There's a man in a wet suit diving in the river over there.' said Gerard without taking a pause to breathe.
'It must be Don Quixote...' added Sergi, his cheeks flushed with excitement.
By then dad had already started moving in the direction the boys said they had seen the diver.
Five minutes later he was back, picking up the picnic basket and the shoes lying around.
'Quick, everyone, get into the car. Now!' His voice sounded worried.
They drove off and when Jordi thought they were far enough from harm's way he pulled over, called the police station, and asked to speak to the chief.
'Yes, it's urgent. I spoke to him earlier today. It's related to the jewel thieves.'
Later that afternoon the police chief himself called to give them the news. They had caught the second accomplice. He had been trying to open the boot of the car to get hold of the diamonds and gold they had stolen.
'The only problem now is that we have to wait until tomorrow for the police crane to arrive. Only then will we be able to retrieve the car along with the valuables,' said the police chief.
'I have a crane. You can actually see it from the river. I can pull the car out of the water for you if you want,' offered Dad.
'That would be great. When can you come?'
'I'll be there in twenty minutes.' Dad said before he hung up. 'Nerea, kids, we're going back to the river.' Jordi knew he could not leave them behind. After all, they had solved the mystery of the stolen jewels.
Two police divers had already put a giant chain through the windows of the submerged car and were hooking it onto the long crane beam. Now it was Jordi's turn to slowly control the lever and cables, and lift the car gently out of the water.
Gerard could not be prouder of his father at that moment. Neither could Sergi.
As soon as the car touched the ground and the chain was removed, the chief of police moved towards the car and forced the boot open. Inside there was a big black metal steamer trunk with two huge padlocks, one on each side.
A police officer approached with a huge bolt cutter and snapped the padlocks in half and the two boys were ecstatic when they saw the shiny gems and all the gold inside the trunk. In the end, they had found their pirates' treasure.
The police officers laughed when the boys started jumping up and down, clapping and hugging each other in sheer happiness and with a look of disbelief on their young faces. This would certainly be a day to remember.

And was there a reward? Of course there was: a university trust fund of two thousand euros was set up for each of the four children, and to their utter delight that was not all of it. The jewellers got together and offered the two families a one-week, all expenses paid holiday in Disney World, Orlando, USA! Jordi and Nerea's family holiday plan had become a reality sooner than expected; they could not have been given a better prize. This was possibly the beginning of a new family path, a new family adventure.

- COPYRIGHT/Registado no IGAC

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  1. I'm glad I discovered you, Paula. You are talented!!!!!
    Please keep writing! Thanks for sharing your tales with us; and specially thanks for the one that we know :)

    Lots of love,

    Olga :)

  2. Thanks for your interest in my blog, Olga.

  3. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment this story, +Victoria Addis. I've visited your blog on several occasions and find you provide a critical and intelligent approach to literature. Congrats! https://ahermitsprogress.wordpress.com/