1.

May 2034

Rustle.

There it is again.

Rustle, rustle.

Above the late afternoon cantata of the cicadas from behind the amber glow of the curtains. Above the reedy rasp of his breathing.

The sound of his skin, dry and papery, against the sheets.

So this is what it’s fucking like, caralho.

He coughs and his body spasms as though above him a puppeteer jerks invisible strings. He rolls onto his side, hawks phlegm and only a little blood into a large china dish on the bedside table. This late in the day the murky pool of liquid has climbed halfway up the sides.

Looks like fucking chicken soup.

Freed from the cough he falls back and lies gasping on the mattress.

Later, when the glow behind the curtain has faded, the door handle rattles. He narrows his eyes to slits, ready to feign sleep. Through a sliver of gloamy light the tight, pious faces of his children float round the bed.

He closes his eyes.

“Can he hear us?” João, the eldest, whispers.

“Room’s probably bugged anyway,” says Manuela.

Matheus, the youngest, gives a snort of laughter.

Sounds like a fucking pig.

He listens to them sit in the armchairs scattered around the room or pace from the window to the bed and back. The material of their expensive suits whispering. Matheus is a lawyer and Manuela a doctor. João has followed him into politics.

They talk for a moment about the latest news from the doctors. Which is that there is no news. Nor will there be any news in the future.

It is only a question of time.

“He looks paler today,” says Manuela.

“More crepuscular,” says João.

“What?” says Manuela.

“That’s what the papers used to call the old fuck,” says João. “Crepuscular.”

Eventually Mateus says he has a party to go to and gets up to leave. The others follow, their mobile phones chirruping into life before the door has closed.

No tears, the ungrateful little fucks.

No Susana either. Where the fuck is she?


2.

June 2013

On the big TV in the lounge of the Palácio helmeted riot troops fire rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters. A black armoured truck, its red lights burning like coals behind sulphurous clouds of tear gas, rumbles past a metro station marked Estádio/Stadium. The demonstrators scream and scatter.  

“Get the fuckers! The only good bandido is a dead bandido!” Andrade shouts from the sofa.

“Fucking deadbeats,” yells Baixinho. “Bitch and moan about shitty public transport, and when you build something for them, what do they do? Fucking smash it up!”

Eduardo leans his head against the back of his armchair and stares up at the ceiling through a haze of blue cigarette smoke.

Being host nation hadn’t looked like this on the fucking brochures.

Then again, being President of the fucking Republic hadn’t looked like this on the brochures either.  

“Turn it over,” he barks.

“Yes, chefe,” says Andrade, reaching for the remote control.

On the next channel one of the esquerdistas in Congress – Glauberto, he thinks his name is – is being interviewed by a female journalist.

Look at the state of his fucking beard, the lefty prick. Looks more like a tramp than a politician.

“Do you think the government’s position is sustainable, given the current wave of protests and the President’s disastrous approval ratings?” the journalist asks, grinning.

“Absolutely not! The unelected putschist has to go, and he has to go now!” roars Glauberto.

The journalist flinches as a shower of spittle bursts from his mouth with the suddenness of a tropical rainstorm.

“It was an impeachment, not a coup, you dumb fuck!” shouts Andrade.

Eduardo sighs.

“Turn that shit off too,” he says.

“Yes, chefe. Another whiskey?” says Andrade, turning the channel back to the coverage of the protest.

Eduardo stares at him. Tiny flames, reflected from the TV, dance amidst the dull light of his eyes.

“A large one,” says Eduardo.

Andrade goes to get his whiskey.

Another thing this fucking tournament was supposed to do but hasn’t. Put an end to all this putschist president bollocks. Make him beloved. Or at least liked. Less despised, anyway. He closes his eyes and imagines himself standing next to the captain of the Republic as he hoists the gleaming trophy in the air. Waving like a benevolent uncle. Wasn’t that what the generals used to do? They didn’t worry about fucking approval ratings. Later millions would pour onto the streets to celebrate. There might be flags with his face on them.

Thank you, Vossa Excelência, they might say.

There is a loud explosion on the television. He opens his eyes. Images of a group of riot police beating an elderly black man with batons fill the screen.

Sweet fucking Christ. The gringo press is going to love that one.

Andrade brings him his drink.

“What’s the point of it all, Andrade?” he asks.

Andrade looks anxiously at the whiskey.

“Too much ice, chefe?” he asks, his bottom lip trembling.

“There’s nothing wrong with the fucking whiskey,” Eduardo snaps.

Like debating metaphysics with a fucking goat.

He takes a long swallow of his drink and stares at the TV. The Copa was the fucking esquerdistas’ idea to start with, of course. Then they fucked up and got their arses kicked out on the street. Leaving him to pay the bill and mop up their mess.

“Fucking months of sucking the cocks of those fucks at Fifa. The fucking dinners and the first-class flights and five star fucking hotel suites. Rolexes on their fucking pillows, for fuck’s sake!” he says.

“Yes, chefe. And the bribes, chefe. Don’t forget the bribes,” grins Andrade.

Eduardo puts a hand to his temple as his headache gives a violent throb. It wasn’t just the cost – the taxpayers would cover that. It was having to sit there and smile while some crooked fuck from Sweden or Switzerland or wherever the fuck scolded you like a naughty schoolboy because things were a bit late. Acting like the Republic was a fucking third-world jungle village that had never heard of a cell phone or built a fucking motorway.    

“And the stadiums too. They cost a pretty penny!” chuckles Andrade.

Eduardo glares at him. Is he enjoying this? Surely fucking not. He knows better.  

It wasn’t like this in the old days, he thinks. The generals could knock up a few crappy concrete bowls in the middle of the fucking jungle or the drylands and it would be enough to stop all the bitching about shitty hospitals and schools. Now everywhere you looked there were fucking gringo journalists bleating on about white fucking elephants and forced evictions and anti-World Cup campaigns on fucking Facebook and Twitter.

And now this – a bunch of fucking deadbeats whining about being kicked out of their fucking cardboard shacks to make way for a metro extension or a bus lane or whatever the fuck it was this time.

“Fucking ironic, really,” he growls, reaching into his pocket for his cigarettes.

“What is, chefe?” asks Andrade, immediately proffering a lighter.

Eduardo sighs again.

“Everything, Andrade. Fucking everything,” he says.

Ironic how they moan about the state of their shitty slums and then moan about being forced to move out of them. Ironic that everyone complains about forced evictions because of fucking infrastructure works, then bitches that the fucking infrastructure works aren’t fucking big enough.

“Fucking idiots,” he says, aiming his gaze somewhere between Andrade and the protestors on TV.

The news coverage returns to the studio, where a trio of journalists are discussing the reasons behind the demonstrations.

“The people are unhappy about everything!” a female journalist says.

Aren’t we all, querida, aren’t we fucking all.

“They’re calling for the money the government is spending on the World Cup to be invested in education, public transport and hospitals. After all, you can’t cure disease or teach a child in a football stadium!” says a male journalist with fucking ludicrously bright teeth.

Well you can’t play the fucking World Cup final in a fucking cancer ward either, can you, caralho.

“A number of demonstrators we spoke to said even that wouldn’t be enough, and that what’s really needed is major political reform to stamp out corruption. That could be bad news for the President, whose approval ratings are currently below 5 per cent,” adds the third journalist, smirking into the camera.

Eduardo takes another long swig of whiskey.

Major political reform? That’s a good one.

Like anyone in the Republic knows what major political reform fucking looks like.


3.

May 2034

The pain grows throughout the day. By evening it feels as though his brain is being shaved with a rusted razor. Marilda, his night nurse, sits in the corner of the room and reads her Bible as he lies wheezing softly on the bed. The whine of the cicadas outside the window seems louder now.

He can no longer hear the rustling of his skin.

He imagines them writing his obituary at the TV stations and newspapers. No. Not writing. Revising. They would have written the fucking thing years ago, then put him in a fucking folder with the rest of the decrepit or infirm.

It will start with his years at the law firm. How he built it into the biggest in the state, a safe haven for politicians and businessmen who found themselves in the shit. Which was pretty much every politician and businessman. Then his move into politics and rise through the party. Mayor. Governor. President.

Then the fucking World Cup.

And then they will come to his disgrace.

His sighs and his eyes close and the whine of the cicadas grows louder. He floats between waking and sleeping.

And for an instant he is seven again, chasing Amanda Moreira – he thinks that was her name – through the playground until they tumble, pink and sticky from the heat of the summer afternoon, onto the grass beyond the soccer pitch. He rolls over, the earth hard and unpliant against his skin, and plants a kiss on the opaque ellipsis of her lips. Then she jumps to her feet and he is running after her again, this time the chase ending not with a kiss but with the extended left tennis shoe of his schoolyard Iago, Lucas fucking Almeida. He skids along the ground, tearing the skin from his knees. His head slices open against the concrete steps. At the emergency room they give him six stitches. He still has the scar today.

Fuck Lucas Almeida. What did he ever amount to?

But they will not write about Amanda Moreira or Lucas Almeida.

There is so much they will not write about.

Ex nihilo nihil fucking fit, caralho.


4.

July 2014

It could be worse, he thinks, stabbing his cigarette into the tumulus of bent and twisted butts in the ashtray. At least he isn’t at the match. The last thing he needs is 60,000 people telling him to go and take it up the arse.

Baixinho is staring at the TV, the veins in his temples pulsing like snakes. As he watches he takes a cigarette from a pack on the table and lights the wrong end. On the other side of the room Andrade is slumped on the floor, his face mottled with anger, kneading an empty beer can between his thick fingers.

Eduardo gets up from his armchair and carries his whiskey through the patio doors into the garden. Beyond the walls of the Palácio the dying sun is shattering along the horizon in a refraction of orange and red. The ice cracks in his glass and the fronds of the palm trees clank in the hot breeze. A bullfrog belches somewhere amidst the flowerbeds.

He sips his drink for a few minutes until another low, mournful cry of goooooool comes from the TV.

The fucking seventh of the afternoon.

Caralho,” yells Andrade from inside.

“The fucking Germans, porra. It’s always the fucking Germans,” shouts Baixinho.

Baixinho is right. It is always the fucking Germans, porra. He walks back into the lounge and glances at the TV. The images resemble a fucking war zone – the Republic’s players lying on the grass like fallen infantrymen, the fans sitting or standing in the grandstands in tears, their faces ashen, as though they’d just seen their fucking families slaughtered before their eyes. Thousands more shambling towards the exits, kicking the seats to pieces as they go, their shoulders slumped, as desolate as fucking refugees.

“It’s the referee’s fault,” yells Andrade, as he tears his beer can in half and throws it into a nearby bin. “The first goal was never a penalty.”

Eduardo glares at him.

“The referee, porra? Are you fucking joking?” he growls.

Andrade looks at him nervously, then stares sheepishly down at the floor like a puppy that has just shat on the carpet.

“What about the other six fucking goals?” continues Eduardo. “Were they the fucking referee’s fault too?”

“Suppose not, chefe. Sorry, chefe,” mumbles Andrade.

“It’s that burro of a coach’s fault, chefe! And the players too! Living it up like playboys in Europe! They don’t give a fuck about the Republic! He should have picked some local lads!” says Baixinho. His eyes are wet with encroaching tears.

“The local lads are fucking shite. Even worse than the donkeys on the pitch,” yells Eduardo and stomps outside into the garden again. He lights another cigarette and gazes at the quivering aquamarine plane of the pool.

The last of the sun’s rays bleeding across the lawn.

It isn’t that he expected the Republic to win, exactly. Not against the fucking Germans, anyway. Even an honourable defeat would have been tolerable – then the tournament could have faded gently into the past, a success if only because it hadn’t been the complete fucking catastrophe that everyone had predicted a year ago. Once the cops had smacked the demonstrators around a few times most people had lost interest in protesting and settled down to watch the football. Amazing how everyone – including the fucking gringo press – stopped crying about billion-dollar white fucking elephants when they were watching fucking Messi or Ronaldo. The matches had largely kicked off on schedule, the fans had mostly gotten to the stadiums on time, and no, or at least very few, foreign tourists had been killed in the slums.

Behind the scenes too, things had largely gone according to plan. He didn’t always see eye to eye with his fellow politicians – in fact he very fucking rarely saw eye to eye with his fellow politicians – but there were times when you had to tip your hat to them. When it came to backhanders and graft and overbudgeting scams they were like the Royal fucking Concertgebouw. Every player – state, federal or municipal, not forgetting the lads at the construction companies – working in perfect fucking harmony. Everyone with an instinctive, almost fucking telepathic understanding of his role. All of them working for the greater good, which in this case was making lots of fucking wedge.  

If only the muppets on the pitch could have performed half as well.

But a defeat like this – seven fucking one, caralho – is a big fucking problem. A defeat like this will define a fucking country, not just a football team.

And now the Republic is a laughing stock. Which means the spotlight will be on him and his fucking government. And when your approval ratings are below five fucking per cent the last thing you want is to be in the fucking spotlight.

Later they sit around the pool. The big TV on the wall repeats the German goals endlessly, the Republic’s players trapped in a purgatory of misplaced passes, slapstick stumbles, tackles that come days too late, flailing dives that miss their targets – ball or player – by fucking yards, not inches.

Stinking of whiskey, Andrade leans over and sniggeringly shows him the memes on his phone. There are dozens, ranging from the childish to the lurid, from both gringos and local so-called fucking wits. One shows Eduardo, adorned with donkey ears and nose, being roughly penetrated by a bratwurst. Underneath runs the legend “what do you expect with a putschist filho da puta like this as your President?”

Still with the fucking putschist bullshit, caralho.

“Sorry, chefe. Didn’t mean you to see that one,” Andrade says sheepishly.

“Get me another drink,” he says, his words as stretched and slow as the commentator’s cry of goooooool. How drunk is he? It doesn’t fucking matter. Nothing fucking matters. He reaches for the remote control and turns the TV to the news channel. A trio of journalists are discussing what the defeat might mean for the economic and political situation in the Republic.

“It’s certainly not good news for the President, who was banking on a successful tournament to give his miserable approval ratings a boost,” says a male journalist with a chiselled jaw.

“Especially as the Republic’s historic defeat is making headlines all around the world!” says a female journalist.

Fuck you! Fuck you all, caralho! Fuck the press, the fucking saps, pissing their fucking pants with excitement every time the Republic gets a mention in the New York fucking Times or the Guardian. And fuck the gringo papers too, with all their bitching about white elephants and fucking slum evictions. Fuck all the gringos, in fact, especially the fucking Germans. And the Americans, because whenever there’s a complete fucking shit show going on you know the fucking Americans are bound to be involved somewhere.

Oh, and fuck the esquerdistas, too. Can’t forget the fucking esquerdistas.

But most of all fuck the players, the useless fucks.

The generals never had this problem. At least in their day the Republic knew how to play fucking football.

Andrade hands him his whiskey, a simpering grin on his face.

Fuck him as well.

Eduardo stands and hurls his drink across the patio, watching as a golden rope of liquid twists in the air before cascading onto Andrade’s face and hair. The glass shatters against the wall and tumbles to the ground in a small blizzard of glistening shrapnel.

Andrade stares at him, his mouth flapping open and closed. He looks as though he might cry.

A vortex of white birds shivers upwards from the lawn and glides across dark bruise-coloured bands of sky.

On the TV a crowd of people dressed in the gaudy colours of the national team marches across a gloomy square.

The fucking placards and banners are back.

“Fifa Go Home!”

“Fuck the World Cup!”

“Putschist Out!”

For fuck’s sake, he thinks. Years of hard work, and for fucking what? Even the fucking German captain would kick his arse in the polls. If the protests start again the Fifa fucks will give him shit for not being able to organise a piss up in a fucking cachaçaria, and the press will be on his case, well, for about a million fucking reasons. And the fucking esquerdistas – of course – will be out for his blood.  

As he watches, a smaller group breaks from the pack and begins to smash the windows of a bank. A phalanx of policemen who look like they’re on their way to a fancy-dress party dressed as fucking Robocop run up to them and start firing rubber bullets at point blank range.

That’s the fucking way, caralho. If it was 30 years ago he could do the same, metaphorically speaking – lock up a few esquerdistas, shut down the media, tell Fifa to go fuck themselves. The way the generals did.

But you couldn’t get away with that shit these days.

Or could you?

He grabs Andrade’s drink from his hand and drains it.

Which is when it comes to him in an intoxicating rush, so potent that he staggers.

He stares into the empty glass.

How drunk is he?

Is it ridiculous?

Is it even possible?

It will mean the destruction of everything he knows.

Everything they all know.

The Republic itself.

Well, good, he thinks. It has never amounted to much anyway. Football, maybe, and now it couldn’t even get that right.

Who will even miss it?

People might even thank him!

He would fucking show them – Fifa and the Germans and the New York fucking Times and the Guardian and the esquerdistas and the fucking bums protesting in the streets.  

“Andrade,” he says, slurring.

“Yes, chefe,” says Andrade, as eager as a fucking pekingese.

“I’ve got an idea,” he says.


5.

May 2034

His heart misses a beat and scrabbles for another.

Finds it, just.

Hangs on to it.

Then it’s gone.

Here comes another.  

One.

A long fucking pause.

Two.

Back to normal.

If this is what fucking normal is like.

There are times now when he doesn’t know if he is asleep or awake. Times, in fact, when he doesn’t know if he is alive or dead, given that nobody fucking knows what being dead feels like anyway. It is as though he is lying on a soft cushion, floating through warm tunnels walled with throbbing pillows of orange and red. At these times he can hear nothing, see nothing, that is not inside him.

At other times he is aware of people entering and leaving the room – Marilda, his children. Still no sign of fucking Susana – where the fuck is she?

Has she traded him in already?

Who the fuck for?

Someone he knows?

Fucking Andrade?

It wouldn’t be the first time that fuck has betrayed him.

It doesn’t matter. Nothing fucking matters now.

Asleep or awake, alive or dead, the memories come to him. Of that night – staying up late after Andrade and Baixinho had gone, finishing the bottle of whiskey and getting most of the way through another. Growing angrier with each glass.

He would not be remembered fondly, with or without the World fucking Cup. He had no chance of re-election in two years. The way things were going he’d be lucky to last six months. He was just a fucking caretaker, only here because the esquerdistas had got caught with their hands in the cookie jar again. They’d never learn. People didn’t mind a bit of a fiddle. They were used to it by now. But you couldn’t overdo it.

Getting caught was the real crime. Only fucking idiots got caught.

On the TV a late-night chat show. A so-called fucking comedian making jokes about him. At least he’s brought the country together. Students, trade unionists, captains of industry, foreign investors, football fans, the rich, the poor, you name it, they all fucking hate him!

Ka-fucking-ka-fucking-ka.

But they would have to take him seriously after this. This would be his true legacy – not some shitty fucking football tournament. And if he didn’t have the support in Congress or the Senate, well, he would just have to fucking find it. Buy it, if needs be. This was the fucking Republic, after all. Everything was for fucking sale.

Wait.

Is someone holding his hand?

What the fuck?

João?

Marilda?

Susana?

Andrade?  

A voice is singing the national anthem close to his ear.

It is fucking Andrade!

That treacherous fuck.

He opens his eyes. The sound of the cicadas is like a turbine in his ears. He cannot see anything. He closes his eyes. The sound of the cicadas stops.

It had taken months of work. There were times when he doubted he’d survive long enough to see it through. Countless angles – financial, administrative, political, regulatory, constitutional, infrastructural – to be considered. They’d consulted dozens of experts. Tedious fuckers, for the most part, but they’d convinced him he could do it.

All against a backdrop of street protests and fucking strikes. The country in fucking flames. Getting thrashed by the fucking Germans had been the last straw, it seemed. People thought they’d had enough before. Now they’d really had enough.

Making him surer than ever that he was doing the right thing.

A fresh fucking start.

Revenge on his enemies and a fucking hero of the Republic. What could be better?  

The idea had assumed a life of its own, spooling outwards as delicately as a spiderweb. Andrade had been a dervish, arranging hundreds of meetings and coffees and lunches and dinners and parties. Ensuring complete secrecy from everyone he spoke to. Eventually they’d confided in a select group of presidents and foreign secretaries from their closest allies. Had to check what the reaction from the international community would be. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the international community didn’t seem to give much of a fuck what the Republic did. But they weren’t against the plan either. That was the main thing.

Wait.

Someone has taken his other hand.

“He was a true patriot, in his way,” says a voice.

Sounds like that esquerdista fuck Glauberto.

What the fuck is he doing in his bedroom?

The pain behind his eyes intensifies.

He hears a banging noise.

No. Not banging. Thumping.

He moans.

He remembers the late-night drinking sessions, the wining and dining of business leaders and media moguls. Shadowy fucks, every one of them. When he had pointed out the benefits – the time and money they would save, year after year, the reduction in public holidays, the economising on ceremonies and official events, the opening up of new foreign investment opportunities, the positive response they could expect from the markets, and of course no more getting thrashed by the fucking Germans – most of them had reacted with guarded enthusiasm.

Or so it had seemed.

What the fuck is that thumping noise?

When everything was in place – it was impossible to know for sure, but he thought he had the support he needed to table a motion and perhaps even get the bill through Congress – it was time to make the announcement.

If only he had noticed, he thinks, as the light behind his eyes dims.

Is this sleep? Or something else?

If only he had seen them sniggering behind their hands.

The thumping noise again. He knows what it is now.

A boy. Himself. Kicking a football against the schoolyard wall.

Thump, thump, thump.

Or the beating of his heart.

If only someone had told him.

If only he had known.

But it doesn’t matter now. Nothing fucking matters now.

And the thumping stops.


6.

September 2015

Is this really a good idea?

In front of all these people?

Fuck it. Too late to turn back now.

He gazes out at the parade. They’d decided to do it on Independence Day, because it was a kind of independence, if you thought about it. The tanks gleaming in the sun like the World Cup trophy the fucking Germans had held aloft, the horses mincing down the esplanade, the crowds waving their shitty little plastic flags. The generals – paper fucking soldiers, compared to their predecessors – squatting like toads further down the row.

His stomach gurgles. Too much coffee.

Don’t shit your pants, he thinks. He is a man of history. Did Gandhi or Martin Luther King ever shit their pants?

Probably not.

A band plays the Republic’s parping little national anthem. Like the song from that film. Oompa loompa doompety doo. The crowd sings along lustily. Then he stands up behind the microphone. The crowd boos.

A man in the temporary grandstand opposite raises a flag with the cartoon of him getting fucked by a bratwurst and the inevitable “putschist” bullshit scrawled underneath. A gaggle of cops immediately moves in and starts beating the man with their batons before dragging him away.

Fucking loser. Might want to think about getting some new material.

The first part is easy enough. The usual platitudes about the Republic’s underwhelming history and conquests, followed by some crap about the economy – how things could be worse, really, if you looked at it the right way. All horseshit, obviously. But he has a fine line to tread. He has to make people believe things are bad enough to require some pretty big fucking changes, but not so bad that they decide that it’s all his fucking fault.

Though they probably decided that a long time ago.

And then it’s time.

He opens his mouth to speak.

And is struck by a coughing fit, which unsettles his already queasy stomach, causing him to emit a watery fart, loud enough to be heard by those around him, though thankfully not picked up by his microphone.

Was that a titter behind him? He looks to his left. The generals are staring at him, their eyes hooded and bulbous.

Andrade elbows him in the ribs.

“Go on, chefe. You can do it,” he says.

And he fucking does it, by God.

“It is time,” he says, and pauses as another fart squeaks from his arse.

“It is time to make a change,” he continues, his voice first wobbling, then growing in strength. “For too long we have tried to be like the others, only to lag behind. For too long we have wasted our time with nationalist pomp and ceremony, with foolishness like anthems and flags. Proclaiming ourselves as great!”

He watches as people in the crowd look down at their little flags, then quizzically up at the podium.

“We all remember that fateful day a year or so ago. We all remember how we felt. The fucking Germans (a smattering of boos from the crowd) laughing at us! Everybody laughing at us!” he says.

He feels the words flutter in his chest, yearning to be set free.

“Well, I say – never again!” he cries.

The words soaring into the iridescent cobalt dome of the sky.

“Never again!” he yells.

The words racing to find the ears of the crowd.

“Never again!” a section of the crowd shouts – possibly a little drunkenly.

The words racing to find the ears of his people.

Are they cheering?

Yes!

I’m like fucking Caesar, he thinks.

Though that hadn’t ended too well.

“From this day on we shall abolish all symbols of nationalism in the Republic! No more flags! No more national anthem! No more national football team!” he yells.

More cheers.

“Because let’s face it, they haven’t been any good for years anyway!”

The cheers grow louder. There is even some laughter.

He should be on the fucking stage!

“No more army!”

He glances down the row. One of the generals leans over and whispers into the ear of his neighbour, who nods slowly. They both turn and stare at Eduardo.

Christ, he thinks.

“What I mean to say is there will be an army, they just won’t be called an army, ka-ka-ka!” he chuckles.

Why is he laughing? Martin Luther King or fucking Gandhi didn’t laugh, did they?

Hic manebimus fucking optime.

“Most importantly of all,” he continues, “the Republic will no longer be known as the Republic. Instead we will be the First Administrative Region of the Southern Cross!”

It’s a good name, he thinks. Andrade, of all people, had thought it up. You can’t expect people to accept such a radical change all in one go, he said. You can’t take the Republic away from them and leave them with nothing. It has to be a gradual process. You have to give them something to hang on to.

An identity, Eduardo thinks. Isn’t that what they want? Isn’t that what everybody wants?

He looks out at the scene before him, at the little flags dangling flaccidly from sweaty little hands. They have stopped cheering. It is very quiet.

And then it is over. He stands and waits, not expecting an ovation, exactly, but perhaps a polite smattering of applause. But there is nothing. Only the silence. And then, as he turns to make his way down the stairs at the back of the podium, the booing begins.


Epilogue

June 2034

Extract from the obituary of Eduardo Cavalcante, President of the Republic 2011-2015

“…following the impeachment of his predecessor. Cavalcante’s time in office was marked by volatile public demonstrations against his largely unpopular government, notably surrounding the hosting of the 2014 World Cup, where the Republic reached the semi-finals before losing heavily to Germany. His presidency will be remembered for the notorious period known today as ‘The Betrayal’ when he embarked on a short-lived campaign to strip the Republic of its nation status, converting it instead to an administrative political entity. Following a period of large-scale public demonstrations in which millions took to the streets to protest that, despite the embarrassing defeat to Germany, the Republic had a proud history and identity and should remain a sovereign nation, the plan was quickly defeated by lawmakers. Cavalcante was removed from office a few months later, and replaced by his chief-of-staff, Andrade Oliveira. While vilified for his actions for many years, Cavalcante’s reputation has recently undergone something of a re-evaluation, with some historians believing he was the victim of a plot orchestrated by Oliveira and others arguing that The Betrayal and the ensuing demonstrations added to the Republic’s sense of national pride and unity, giving the country hope that after 20 years it might finally get its revenge and defeat Germany at this summer’s World Cup. Cavalcante is survived by his three children and his estranged wife, Susana.”