A clown, an otter, my brother and me

The Beautiful Araguaia river

A not-so-beautiful piranha

Speaking to my brother always brings back a few memories . I was talking to him yesterday and, inevitably, we ended up reminiscing about our adventures in Brazil. It’s hard not to. The names of some of the colourful characters have faded a little over time, but the experiences are still fresh, etched as if in stone.

We lived on a plantation, 25km or so from a small frontier town called Santa Terezinha, and there wasn’t really very much to do in the way of modern entertainment for teenagers. We had, more or less, just ourselves for company. But, boy, did we have a blast. Fishing. Hunting. Drinking. That was pretty much all there was. Catching stuff, shooting stuff and drinking stuff. The man who taught us to fish was an alcoholic ex-clown; a sad character.

I remember being both amused and horrified when I found out that our ex-clown’s name was Ximbiu (pronounced ‘Shimbiu’) which is an expletive word for lower lady parts. Oh yes. Basically his name was C… well, you get the picture. Most people called him Ximbika because they couldn’t bring themselves to insult him every time they used his name. His mother must’ve really hated him. Anyway, the circus left town when Ximbika (let’s call him that) was drunk, so he was left behind and ended up working on the plantation. And he was the person who taught my brother and me to fish. We went down to the lake – Ximbika on the bicycle that was his pride and joy – and he showed us how to pull a piranha from the water with just a line and a hook and without losing our fingers. Oh, and if he felt the urge, he took a few paces back, squatted, relieved himself while smiling drunkenly, then pulled up his trousers and carried on. Nice. And he always looked so sad when the fish got away. Ximbika was a strange and drunken man, but I’ll always have fond memories of him. He was good guy, I think, but there was a lot of sadness in him. He even befriended a giant otter which used to come to him for food. It would emerge from the line of the jungle, swim in the wet season pools, and lope across to him for food. It even once stood up on its back legs and put its front paws on my thigh, letting me run a hand across its slick and beautiful head before it became spooked and ran for the cover of the trees. But something attacked it, wounded it and the wound became infected. Ximbika was distraught when it died, and so we buried it for him – my brother and me.

Giant Otter( Pteronura brasiliensis)

Dan Smith’s Official Website


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