"I hate children," Paolo used to say, "they are noisy, dirty, selfish and the cost more than they are worth," Consequently he refused to get married. "What for? Marriage is for the innocent and the unaware, like a kitten is fascinating at first, then boring like an old fat cat."

And then there was Sarah; she was the only employee in his jewelry shop, all the help he could afford. And Paolo learned to enjoy her presence her fresh body aroma of scented soap her undulating grace and smile. In his mind she slowly became the Jewel among his jewels. So he married her. He continued to hate marriage and children, but he loved Sarah.

And Sarah learned to love him. Paolo was not young as she was, in fact he was an old man, cranky at that, but inside him he carried a lifetime of repressed tenderness, friendship and sensuality. Sarah knew how to bring these qualities out of him. The young man deep in him arose and came through with forceful passion.

He shaved twice a day and dressed impeccably. He made her the center of his life, satisfied her in a way that no young man would have dared to, surrendering all his mind, feelings and lust to her, keeping nothing for friends or other distractions. Then the miracle happened: they had a child; so Paolo knew complete happiness.

The empty space of life he was soon to leave in the world had a replacement; no child was loved more than Mando. He grew healthy and good-looking and stayed so.

But the jewelry shop ran into big trouble. The so very poor children from the Favellas, the slums clinging to the Rio Janiero hills, lived hungry and stole all they could to survive one more day. The tourists that had once supported Paolo's business, scared of thieves, did not come anymore to buy the Beautiful Brazilian emeralds in gold settings. Paolo remembered he hated children. He now had a new reason to do so, even if he loved Mando.

Some of his friends and customers who were important and rich people offered him protection, "there are ways that have worked in the other districts; they are effective and not too expensive. Just one of your emeralds will pay for them."

Paolo knew what they meant. They shot those children like varmints, so the dead never came back to rob the tourists, and the alive kept away for fear of dying. So he said, "Go ahead and clean my neighborhood!"

One day Mando, who was twelve, stayed late in school because Sarah could not come for him in time. He decided to walk to the jewelry shop which was not far.

As he approached his father's place he saw a group of children his age sitting on the curb. He sat with them to chat as they looked so lively and full of enthusiasm. Then he heard gunfire and the world went black.

The tourist trade came back to the district, but when they came to Paolo's shop to buy the beautiful emeralds, they found it closed.


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other works by Gualda, "The Puppy"