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Authors: Mario Sabino

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The Day I Killed My Father

BOOK: The Day I Killed My Father
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Scribe Publications

was born in São Paulo in 1962. He is deputy managing editor of
, Brazil's most influential weekly magazine. His second book, a collection of short stories,
O Antinarciso
The Antinarcissist
), won the Brazilian National Library's Clarice Lispector Award. He has completed his second collection of short stories,
A Boca da Verdade
The Mouth of Truth
), and is currently working on his second novel, entitled
O Vício do Amor
Addicted to Love

has translated a number of works by Brazilian and Portuguese authors into English, including
City of God
by Paulo Lins and
by Chico Buarque, which was shortlisted for the 2004 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in the United Kingdom. Originally from Australia, she now lives in Brazil.

Scribe Publications Pty Ltd
18–20 Edward St, Brunswick, Victoria 3056, Australia
50A Kingsway Place, Sans Walk, London, EC1R 0LU, United Kingdom

Originally published in Portuguese as
O Dia em que Matei Meu Pai
in Brazil by Record 2004

First published in Australia and New Zealand by Scribe 2009
This edition published 2014

Copyright © Mario Sabino 2004

English-language translation copyright © Alison Entrekin 2009

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publishers of this book.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication data

Sabino, Mario, 1962-

The Day I Killed My Father.

9781925113051 (e-book.)


Part One


The day I killed my father was a bright day, although the light was hazy, without shadows or contours. Or perhaps it was grey, that shade of grey which even tinges souls that are not usually inclined to melancholy. It's strange that this is the only detail I don't remember; all the others are still vivid. But why does it matter? The frame, that's all it was — the frame. Why try to jolt nature out of its indifference towards us humans? So, let's get to the facts. I killed my father as one would an insect. No, this image is false, since there's usually irritation, if not fear, in such a pedestrian act. I digress — forgive me. It would be more precise to say that I killed my father as one breathes. Steady breathing, that is, requiring no great effort to get air to the lungs.

It was with a blow to the back of his neck and another to the top of his head. He was sitting on his living-room sofa reading the paper as he did every morning before going to the club, where he would swim fifteen hundred metres in forty minutes. An athletic man, my father always sported a tan — the tan of the rich, one of the outward signs of his prosperity. I snuck up from behind, my footsteps muffled by the shaggy carpet. With the first blow his torso shot forward, like someone leaning over to tie his shoelaces. Folded over himself, he received the second blow — the chrism that confirms the baptism. The trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth; his right hand trembling for seconds before coming to rest, inert, on the ground; the look of fright frozen on his face … Is my description of the scene satisfactory? I hope it hasn't been too unpleasant; that wasn't my intention.

I leaned the piece of wood against the back of the sofa with a care I now recognise as inordinate (as if the wood were a ritualistic object). I walked around the sofa and, before putting my father back on it, caught sight of the page he'd been reading before he died. It was the adult personals. What had he been dreaming of in his last moment? Aline, the sex kitten with honeyed lips? Milena, the naughty girl who was up for anything? Or the sadistic cousins, who promised to do everything twice? I know I could have omitted this part, but knowing he was interested in ads for prostitutes lends him an endearing humanity. I said ‘humanity', but ‘weakness' would be more fitting. He was known — respected, in fact — for his power of seduction. My father, until the end I decreed him, had shown he was capable of enchanting women of any age and from any walk of life. It was impossible to imagine him having to pay to go to bed with one. Women — every one he'd had — were crazy about him. Prostitutes are for men like me. Used to be.

I laid my father's body on the sofa and sat on its edge, near his head. I don't know how long I stayed there staring at him, but it was long enough for me to memorise every furrow in his face. When I closed his bulging eyes, his look of fright gave way to a smile. But that may have been my imagination.

Then I called the police. ‘Come and arrest me,' I said. ‘I've killed my father.'


I was five when I saw the ocean for the first time. And it was the ocean that gave me the opportunity to see how much my existence was connected to my father's. Until those distant summer holidays (some thirty years ago), he had simply been an extra in my childhood. Since I was an only child — which I believed to be true until not long ago — I had spent my days enjoying my mother's full-time devotion. She fed my body, nourished my soul, inhabited my dreams. A love story at once unique and yet identical to so many others. In my childish self-centredness, I believed that the intensity of my love, as well as my fidelity, was fully reciprocated. If I could have expressed my deepest feelings at the time, I would have said that I was the creature who had come to put a full stop to lust. A happy ending. I was a dream come true — her ideal, her redemption, her saviour. The truth. But this is, to a greater or lesser degree, everyone's story, isn't it?

That summer's day, the joy of meaning everything to her seemed confirmed by the radiant morning. The sky was a crayon blue … There I go, invoking nature again; forgive me. But it was my desperation, or what it caused, that has kept the day crystal clear in my mind. We arrived at the beach after walking a few blocks from the condominium where my parents had rented a house. Our walk took a while, as I was curious to examine the plants, stones, and insects I found along the dirt road. My father set up the beach umbrella near a stone wall, and my mother and I went to build a sandcastle near the water. After a while, I picked up my pail and waded into the sea. ‘I'm going to catch a wave to fill the moat,' I told her.

I had waded a few metres into the shallow water when I saw a minuscule fish swimming between my legs. It occurred to me to catch it in my pail and take it to my mother as a present. I tried to catch it, once, twice, but it managed to escape each time. For a moment I hesitated before continuing my fishing. But the idea of surprising my mother overcame my caution. I followed the fish further into the sea until I found myself chest-deep in water. I had never gone so far out on my own, and wished an adult hand was there to steady me. Where was my mother? ‘Mummy!' I cried, looking at the fish, which had come back to play around my legs. When I looked up towards the horizon, a wave big enough to cover me was already looming over my head. I was swept into the roar of the breaking wave. And on that sunny morning, everything went dark.

What's a father for? My analyst … Don't tell me you didn't know? … Yes, I had an analyst, before you came into my life … Or I came into yours, whatever … My analyst used to sit there in silence whenever she heard this question. You know, that rather tragic analyst-silence that sets you at a crossroads, all the paths leading everywhere, which isn't anywhere. Would things have turned out differently if there had been an answer? Anyway, it's too late now. I left the crossroads by a shortcut, that's for sure. Am I mad? Maybe, but madness has given me back lucidity — this lucidity, at least. I've accepted it. Today it is clear to me that, until I bludgeoned him to death, my father's purpose in life was to humiliate me.

The first humiliation he inflicted on me was saving my life that summer morning. The wave crashed down so violently that I passed out. I have nothing to say about the experience in itself, except that to this day it was the only time in my life that I did so. I woke up in a room whiter than this one seems to be. My head was aching, the first in a series of headaches that were to torment me as a child. At the foot of the bed was the familiar sight of my teddy bear. What was I doing there? I turned to look at the window. My father and mother were kissing. And, I can say now, voraciously, urgently, passionately.

I screamed like someone trapped in a nightmare.

My mother ran over and embraced me, crying, ‘He's awake!'

Here's a brief summary of what happened. After setting up the beach umbrella, my father was doing his stretches near the sandcastle my mother and I had been building. He always stretched before his morning dip. When he looked up after a sequence of exercises, he saw that I'd gone too far out. Imagining the worst, he threw himself into the sea. Only then did my mother realise she'd been too distracted by the sandcastle (she didn't forgive herself for this for the rest of her life). When I passed out, he was only a few metres from me, and he saved me from drowning. I was taken to hospital, where they said I had concussion. I spent a day sedated so the doctors could assess the extent of the problem. The accident left no physical effects, but to this day I don't know how to swim. I just can't learn. In water, my body is made of lead. The fact that my father was an excellent swimmer gave this inability additional significance.

I'd never seen my parents kissing. Not even hugging. When I was a teenager I discovered that they'd grown apart months after my birth. The real reason was unknown, but family mythology had handed down several versions: my mother had become frigid; my father had taken a lover; her extreme dedication to the baby made him jealous and he'd felt like an intruder; paternity had pushed him into a deep depression. What to believe? Perhaps each of these versions contains a fragment of the truth. And perhaps there isn't actually a whole, solid truth, in which everything fits together perfectly. And perhaps the truth is no more than this: a messy jumble of half-truths.

The interesting thing is that, while my birth drove a wedge between them, my near-death brought them back together. And I was reborn that day so that part of me might die.


Their love was unbearable. After that day on the beach, my father became the strong one and I became the weak one. My mother's caresses seemed like charity compared to what she reserved for my father. When she was with me she was unable to hide her desire to be with him. Her bedtime stories grew shorter. The long sessions of hair-stroking that used to send me off to sleep were replaced with perfunctory kisses. She abandoned me to the threatening shadows in my room. How many times I wanted to cry out! How many ghosts I saw dancing at my window! One of them had rattles for hands. His appearances were announced by the clattering of his rattles. The most torturous thing was knowing they'd come, waiting for them without being able to avoid the wait. I don't believe in other-worldly beings, spirits, tortured souls, or whatever you want to call them. But I believe in these ghosts that tormented me in my childhood. After so many years, fear still prowls around me when they turn out the cell light. It's strange, in my current condition, to be afraid of the dark … This isn't a cell? For me, it is

BOOK: The Day I Killed My Father
4.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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