No, never—because what we mainly find is stupp.
Gardo’s my partner, and we always work together. He looks after me.
We get the fast food too, and that’s a little business in itself. It doesn’t come out near me and Gardo, it goes down the far end, and about a hundred kids sort out the straws, the cups, and the chicken bones. Everything turned, cleaned and bagged up – cycled down to the weighers, weighed and sold.
Trash is often wet, and the juices are always running. Maybe the ground here was a bit lower, I don’t know—but it was always muddy […] I got down low with the candle, trying not to breathe too deep because of the stink […] It might seem crazy asking a kid if you can come into his hole, but this hole was about the only thing Rat had, apart from what he wore. I would not have lived there – anywhere would have been better.
When Smoky Mountain went down, there were nearly a hundred killed, and everyone knows some of those poor souls are still down there, down with the trash, turned into trash, rotting with the trash.
On the other hand, I did not want Raphael hiding and drawing attention that way, so that’s why I kept him right in the middle of it.
In our little neighborhood there were more cooking fires than usual, and a few cases of beer. There was music and singing, and everyone was happy.
I was told once about runaways, and it made me sick. How if a new kid shows up with nowhere to go, and the police get him—they wait till night, break his legs and put him on the tracks.
His final act—the one that killed him—was to expose three senators who’d been siphoning off public taxes and stowing them off-shore. They all resigned and the prosecution rumbles on. Pascal Aguila was shot to pieces in a taxi, on his way to testify. Twenty-six bullets—the same caliber as a policeman’s gun —and his murderers were never found.
It sounds crazy, but there was some part of me sure I’d never found it, and some other part of me begging me not to give up—maybe for José Angelico, because we knew more about him now.
Little Jun had me wrapped around his little finger in about two days, and I was forever giving him little bits of food, and little bits of money. I don’t know how else a boy like that survives.
Behala also makes you want to weep, because it looks like an awful punishment that will never end – and if you have any imagination, you can see the child and what he is doomed to do for the rest of his life. When you see the old man, too weak to work, propped in a chair outside his shack, you think, That is Raphael in forty years. What could possibly change? These children are doomed to breathe the stink all day, all night, sifting the effluent of the city. Rats and children, children and rats, and you sometimes think they have pretty much the same life.
What matters is that forty years ago I came upon information that Senator Zapanta had spirited away thirty million dollars of international aid money […] But no schools or hospitals were ever built, and the city stayed poor.
I had so much evidence. Unfortunately for me, I was naïve. My office was raided. The same night there was a terrible fire at my house. I was away but both my maid and my driver were killed in it. And every scrap of evidence went up in smoke.
Once again, the trash boys were ahead of the trash police.
We were amongst wealthy people in very fancy clothes, and we felt even greyer and dirtier, but there was nothing for it, and still nobody was worrying about us – no one seemed to see us, like we were ghosts.
And that is when we saw the brightest light.
I wanted to hang back and see what happened when the first trash boy of the morning hooked up—not a stupp, but a hundred dollar bill.