Catarina de Oliveira (Portugal)

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Abstract for The Chronicles of the Blue Crab

The Chronicles of the Blue Crab will be a short fictional story, whose narrator is The Blue Crab. He will mostly be third person omniscient narrator, nonetheless he will sporadically shift to a second person point of view, by making some interventions where he will directly address the reader. The chronicles will commence with a series of dialogues between two women; without a previous introduction to whom they might be, or where they are. Between the different dialogues the narrator will expose some of the thoughts a character has about the other. I’m presently interested on how these two women invent their own relation to time...

Initially they won’t be named, the crab will only use the pronouns ‘SHE’ and ‘HER’, their names will appear for the first time in the story when the characters enunciate the others name. It’s important to mention that the names of the main characters aren’t birth names, it’s more that the characters through their story will ‘come into them’.

One mostly goes through whose life is reliving the fading memories of mostly her past, thought often more recent ones come into play – thought the these are unavoidably entail distant ones, as these are somehow memories of her he remembering. Still the main of this story is not a mise en abîme of memories. Paradoxical to her relation to time she strives to remember this memories as accurately as possible and retrace ever step of her past (she believes that she succeeds in this). The other as an adverse reaction cherishes whenever she stumbles across ‘lost time’, when she can’t account to certain moments, hours that have passed – she also occasionally tries to induce gaps in her memory, though these are not as successful as she wishes them to be, nonetheless she soon discovers that she is not so bothered by her failed attempts. Thought there will be several clues to what is the nature of the relation between these two women I don’t believe that I’ll fully disclosed in the text; through out the story we will be introduced to other characters that are somehow close of the lives of the two women and will be relevant to understand how do these invent their own time. Returning to the first character I was describing, she will come across in the piece of writing I’m passing now to you, as a quite being quite a nationalist – I think I’ll keep developing this idea but I’m thinking of writing a passage that complicate this characteristic of hers slightly; she might believe that she is still living when her country was under a fascist dictatorship, and act in this way to avoid problems with the authorities. It is highly possible that she suffers from dementia, nonetheless this might never be directly told to the reader.

The chronicles won’t follow a continuous line of narrative, nor chronological line.

After delaying until she could no longer delay, she [brought doesnt quite make sense, forced? jf] herself to call her. She dialed the number

and waited.

She answered the phone. After realizing it was her [who is her? which person?jf] - that she had finally arrived and was calling HER,

she became very animated. - I’m so happy to hear your voice! You arrived last night right? Around 1

am? I heard you arriving; the airplane! I went to bed and lied down under a mass of blankets and waited

very quiet, attentively listening. I sharpened my ears and heard the plane descending… – A turmoil of

emotions rose in her and soon it was spiraling in and among all her particles. Sasa interrupted her –

No…. It was not the same. I landed at twenty past eleven. I guess the plane made his way to the airport

by a route that doesn’t fly over your apartment.

– No! – Her emotions were now rapidly approaching the threshold of flooding – I’m sure I heard it, and I

knew it was you! It had to be you!

They then dissolved into an awkward listing of what had happened during her day, where particular

emphases was given to some domestic affair involving potatoes and that it had been announced on the

evening news that Troika had demanded that four public holidays should be terminated – two religious

and two civil…

Sasa had never managed to grasp the origin of these outbursts [is Sasa the one having the outbursts or Alicia or someone else?jf], nor what triggered their dissipation

and mostly: from where the care and love she had for her and Alicia came from. – This woman loves no

one! Had she ever? –Sasa tried to recall the times she had heard her say the verb ‘to love’, at first she

thought never but then it struck her, she had heard her say at least on two occasions that she loved her

country and its flag. [....its a bit unclear who has the speaking or thinking voice at points-jf]

– When you are abroad and you stumble across our flag don’t you get moved at once? To the point

that tears come to your eyes? – after receiving Sasa’s disappointing, and to her eyes shameful, answer

she continued – I get so moved; or when I listen the anthem, sometimes they play it at the beginning

of football matches. The players put their right hand on their hearts, and I follow them – she swings her

right arm up, close to her body and then rests her hand on her left breast – and … Why don’t you feel

moved? – she paused briefly to recollect herself and then continued – You know when I was abroad,

with dad, grandfather, when he was alive and we traveled, my chest would fill up with pride when I saw

our flag in foreign lands. How come you don’t feel pride whenever you see it? And how dare you say

that’s it’s ugly! It’s such a beautiful flag! It’s our flag!

She paused again, this time for longer, so to tame the anger that had been growing inside her chest.

Sasa’s lack of interest and respect towards their nation felt like a lack of interest and respect towards


– And how do you like the country where you are living now? I don’t find it at all pleasant! – to her

delight, Sasa had expressed discontentment towards her new country of residence, and so she

continued – I love my country! It’s so beautiful! No matter what anybody else says, and those crooks

running the government do to it; it’s my country and I love it, and there is no other country as beautiful

as this one.

Sasa was not a bit interested in this conversation she didn’t understand nationalist and patriotic feelings

and had grown to loath them. She would have liked to say that she was head over heels for that

country, that it was the best place ever! But she was forced to admit to her that she was not so fond of

the place. She really disliked living there, but she knew that if she said she liked it, the strength of her

aversion would pull up her upper lip and nose while pulling down her eyebrows and the corners of her

mouth, resulting in a vivid expression of disgust!

– This woman loves no one! Had she ever? She always spoke very dearly of her parents, still I wonder if

the happiness in her voice comes from remembering them or is it nostalgia for those times? – Sasa had

never met them. – She would also always speak very dearly of her daughter, Alicia. The relationship

between these two woman seemed to be a strange entanglement of fears, shared sorrow and feelings

of possession and duty. Perhaps even sadism and masochism.

The phone was ringing.

Sasa picked it up – it was Zamani – after the usual greetings a verbal diarrhea started. As the

conversation progressed Sasa understood that Zamani had gone out of the house today! – I needed

some potatoes – she explained, and quickly returned to her story. She had spent hours walking around

town looking for something quite specific that Alicia had told her Sasa really liked, but she hadn’t been

able to find it anywhere. Sasa interjected – Oh! Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you; but really,

there is no need…

– Well, you really like it don’t you? And Alicia said you really felt like having it. I want to get it for you!

Ui! – thought Sasa. She hated when she got caught in the middle of those two! She could now

loosely foresee how the rest of the Zamani’s phone monologue would play out. Sasa used to think

of these episodes as ‘confused sadomasochist’ [why in speech marks? jf] fits. Zamani would do or try to do something nice and

unexpected for a person, generally for her or Alicia, but in order to do it she would undergo some

tortuous journey. Afterwards she would share in detail with the person to whom the nice gesture was

dedicated to, the pain such venture had caused her. Thus sabotaging her generosity and upsetting all

parts involved!

Why didn’t you take the bus? Or the tram? A taxi? – asked Sasa absent minded

Zamani didn’t know why… she thought she didn’t have to walk much… But why not when you were tired

and wanted to go home? Zamani didn’t knew why. She continued giving Sasa a detailed account of all

her unsuccessful walking up and down the hills of the city. She was exhausted and endlessly sorry for

herself. Her feet were hurt and ached; and she hadn’t been able to find what she had been looking for,

so tomorrow she had to go and look for it again. She felt that it was a horrible punishment - hell - for

some terrible sin she couldn’t conceive having committed. She didn’t want to go out again the day after. It was cold and she was tired. She told all of this with

growing rage to Sasa, who was getting more and more upset by the monologue and had started day

dreaming to prevent further irritation.

When the monologue arrived to the end she swallowed her exasperation and told Zamani that she really

appreciated all the effort but that there was no need for her to go in search of it again… [and that she should? jf] stay at

home and rest. Despite her efforts to sound kind she wasn’t able to deliver this words without a slight

bitterness in her voice.

Sasa was about to say goodbye when she became conscious that the conversation had moved

somewhere else.

– You start by turning the pants inside out, iron the waistband, pockets (on both sides), fly area, seams

and hems, in that order.

Then, turn the pants right side out and pull the waistband over the pointed end of the board. Iron the

waistband area and any pleats along the front of the pants below the waistband.

Lay the pants lengthwise along the ironing board with both legs together and carefully line up any

preexisting creases.

Take the hem of the top pant leg and bring it toward the waistband, folding the top leg away from the

bottom leg. Iron the inside (hem to crotch) of the lower leg. Turn the pants over and repeat for the other


Smooth out both legs carefully and iron the outside of the top leg. Give extra attention to cuffs, if the

pants have them.

Turn the pants over and iron the outside of the other leg.

Hang warm pants immediately to avoid wrinkling. Fold them through a suit hanger to avoid crushing.

That’s how you do it! I used to be so good at it. My mother was so proud when they complimented me

in relation to how well ironed his trousers were. After he, father, I guess he was jealous, asked me to

iron his also, and off course I did and grandfather, great-grandfather was very pleased with my ironing.

And when he married, because he married before I did, and then he didn’t have his trousers so well

ironed anymore… that wife of his doesn’t know how to keep her house! When he told me that he saw

him ironing his own trousers with his girlfriend looking at him, instead of doing it herself… I was baffled!

Where…[why does this question drop of? is it part of a conversation really happening or in someones head? again who is speaking/thinking? -jf]

– She [who?!] seems to function between a triangulation of a common sense rational grounded in the same

principles of those of a 1950’s middle class housewife and the conduit of respectable catholic women,

all intertwined with a growing neurosis that is sporadically visited by paranoia. – kept thinking Sasa, who

was having some difficulties in following the conversation and identify of whom, and how many people

Zamani was talking about.

Those of you acquainted with Swahili culture would perhaps wonder if a character with such a name,

Zamani, is long gone… and that perhaps our character Sasa is maintaining conversations with a ghost.

That is not the case; to relate to the names of these particular characters one needs to move closer to

an allegorical realm than to anything else. For those of you who are not acquainted with Swahili culture,

in it time/people/communities – it might be relevant to make a note here highlighting that in most sub-

Sahara cultures people are rarely thought as singular individuals – as there is the belief that humans

are social animals in constant interaction with others and not hermetic entities, a person is mostly

thought as a plurality of relations. In Swahili culture time/people/communities are conceive as being part

of one of following realms: Sasa and Zamani. These realms are both dimensions and ontological states,

that can be affected both quantitively and qualitatively. When translating them to Western thought one

could say that Sasa is the present time, the near future and the recent past, i.e. the time already lived

by a non dead person. Sasa is populated by the living and by the dead who the are still remembered by

the living that met them during their life time. When all the people who where acquainted to a diseased

person have died, then this person becomes part of Zamani. Zamani is the realm of the distant past,

where the ones who have for long been dead live and where myths are formed. Myths are somehow

part of the present, in the sense that they have the potential to affect the living, and so Zamani is as

much the realm of the distant past as it is the one of the present.

Our character Zamani had lived for a long time in Africa as a white colonialist. There she suffered the

death of her husband to an incurable illness. When she recognized the gravity of his condition and the

certainty of its fatality, she left the hospital and walked aimlessly for hours all around town; she walked

up and down the hills of the city. She was exhausted and endlessly sorry for herself. Her feet were hurt

and ached, but she felt nothing. She found herself in the desert. She could not clearly say how she had

arrived there, she was so full asleep just at the point of entry, she could not say if it was exhaustion or a

dream. It was then that she saw a familiar face that had been for long forgotten by her and understood

where she was. She knew that her husband would inevitably, in some years be there, so she entered

and waited for him.