He returned to writing, but eventually unable to stand the weight of the man’s gaze any longer, João put down his pen and walked around the pool’s perimeter to the wall and, bending down, greeted him. The skinny salesman looked to be in his mid-twenties. He wore ripped red shorts, a shirt with the letters “CIA,” and plastic sandals. In his hands he held several scarves and beside him were two plastic bags filled with more.
“Take a look at these,” he said, handing João several scarves. “They’re beautiful. For your wife, girlfriend, or mother. Made here in Mozambique. Genuine African.”
One of the scarves was burgundy and had a stylized image of a giraffe and the other brown with yellow hieroglyphic-like lettering. João examined both. The young salesman then handed him three more.
“See, beautiful. Silk. Genuine African. Top quality. I’ll give you a good price. Best price.”
“Oh?” João replied. “What are you asking?”
“Special deal for you: 1,500 Meticais each.”
João didn’t particularly want the scarves, much less at the equivalent of over €35 a piece. “No, that’s too much. Way too much.”
“Okay, what then? What do you want to pay? I give you good price.”
João was pondering a figure when he spotted small tag on an inside fold of one of the scarves. He drew it close and saw in small letters the words, “Made in China.”
“I thought you said there were from here,” João said, pointing to the small tag.
The salesman brusquely grabbed the scarf from João and closely examined the tag. “These are from Mozambique,” he replied defensively. “They’re designed here. Right here in Maputo. They’re only printed in China.”
“But it says that they’re made in China,” João said, contesting the point. “They’re not local.”
“Yes they are,” the agitated salesman snapped. “I know the person who designs them. Made with African silk, too. Just produced in Chinese factories, but from African material and African design.”
João gave the salesman a quizzical look.
“You don’t believe me?” the salesman asked with annoyance.
“Fine,” João said, “I’ll give you 500 Meticais for the two.”
“What?” the salesman replied incredulously. “They’re worth more than that.”
“Maybe if they were actually made here.”
João’s comment set the salesman off. “I told you they’re from here. Are you calling me a liar?”
João didn’t reply, but instead pointed to the tag.
“That means nothing!” yelled the salesman, his face contorting in anger. “It’s just a tag. Like I said, they’re designed here and made with African silk!”
João, still squatting on the edge of the lawn, shrugged. “Five-hundred Meticais for the two,” he repeated. “If they were made here I’d give you more.”
Just then, one of the two men who had approached moments earlier, stretching out his arm, pulled João towards him, as if in an embrace. Crouching and unprepared, João lurched forward without resistance and, as he fell, the man pulled out a knife with his free hand and thrust it three times into João’s chest. The assailant then pushed João backwards and quickly absconded, as did the other two salesmen. For a moment, João, still crouching, blood pouring from his chest, was motionless. His backwards momentum having crested, he teetered in place on the threshold that so enthralled him. Before him was the wall and beyond it the beach, and behind him the hotel’s pool.
He looked down at his bloodstained shirt, then back at the Indian Ocean, and finally up at the marmalade sky. The final movement was enough to shift his center of gravity, and he fell backwards into the pool, his hand still clutching the scarf.
There were no witnesses, and João’s motionless body lay unnoticed in the now-reddening pool for several minutes. It was only discovered when one of the two sunbathers got up for a drink and, spotting the lifeless body, blood seeping from it, screamed in horror.
Two waiters ran out onto the lawn and gathered by the pool while a concierge, maintaining his calm, ushered the two stunned sunbathers inside and cordoned off the area. João’s body remained untouched until the police arrived an hour later and fished it out of the water. His limp body was then zipped up in a body bag and taken away.
That evening, the pool was drained, scrubbed, and refilled. By morning, the Southern Sun’s back lawn was reopened. It was a beautiful day. The hotel would be busy.
Jon Shifrin is the founder of The Daily Dissident. His work has appeared in ‘The Baltimore Sun’, ‘The Hill’, and ‘Reunion: The Dallas Review’.
Editor’s note: ‘João De Vivre’ will also be appearing in Futures Trading.