Arturo and the Cactus Bubble Carnivale

August 6, 2012

Arturo watched as Corvio and Lorena danced.

“Damn the devil; it is sweltering,” Grandfather muttered. “How I hate days like this… How I hate this place.”

Arturo sat on the warm earth as his grandfather ranted. The boy had spent several minutes playing with a stout, long blade of wild grass, pressing the slender green leaf between his thumbs and puffing away at it until it buzzed and whistled.

The two lovers some 100 feet away swayed under the weight of the horizon-warping sun. Lorena’s black hair danced on the warm Brazilian breeze like tendrils of a richly-rooted plant. Corvio’s fingers ran through the licorice strands as a distant steel drum band pulsed away.

“If you hate this place so much, Grampa, why don’t we leave?” Arturo asked innocently.

A dry laugh escaped from the old man’s striated and bearded face. “When you are poor and old, boy,” he sighed, “your feet magically disappear.”

Arturo became restless and rose to his feet, walking towards the center of the intersection. He walked past the dancing couple, strangely distracted by Lorena’s flashing, unsolicited smile.

A wooden bucket sat just shy of the street corner, worn and faded-brown from sitting in the sun. Slick sheets of soap coated the surface of the still water within. Arturo pulled the strand of grass from his lips, stood up, and walked to the container. As his bare feet scraped against the dry grass kicking up tiny plumes of dusty earth, he curled the long green blade in his fingers into a loop, twisting the bottom until it formed a perfect ring. 

Then the boy dipped the grass ring into the soapy standing water and removed it with a jerk. A rainbow sheen of soap swirled prismatically at the ring’s center. With one puff from his lips, Arturo sent a flurry of bubbles into the waning glow of the dusky air.

Arturo soon followed the swirling mass of shiny globes towards a cactus at the center of the street’s intersection. The government had killed many plants on this patch of land, but spared this one native piece of vegetation. All who gazed on it knew why.

An uncharacteristically slender base stem supported a mass of seven cactus branches, each festooned with blossoms and spines. Reptiles and insects alike gravitated to the organic structure, exploring its vividly-colored blossoms and sharp white barbs. Several honeybees drifted around the scarlet blossoms decorating the cactus’s green framework. All Arturo knew was that the cactus–’seven of hearts,’ his neighbors called it–was a tiny fount of indescribable beauty.

Another film of soap clung to the interior of Arturo’s grass ring. The bees drifted lazily in the air above the alien-beautiful cactus, buzzing slowly but certainly towards the boy’s head. Arturo forcefully exhaled another puff of air through the grass ring, and another fleet of soap bubbles burst forth.

One of the honeybees accelerated forward into the sea of bubbles, until it pierced one of the globes. Instead of bursting to nothingness, the bubble continued to surround and encase the bee hovering wishfully above the cactus blossoms. A lizard, its compound eyes mesmerized by the floating soap globes, began snapping bubbles up with its tongue. Lacquered and armored beetles squirmed methodically along the cactus’s surface.

The bubble-imprisoned bee buzzed directly into Arturo’s surprised face, until its soap prison burst and scattered droplets of moisture about. The boy followed the insect’s progress around his head, watching wistfully as it ascended towards the hot yellow sun.

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