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Sebastião’s Adventure

I once had a dream about a movie adaptation of a book that’s never been written, and the movie went like this:

An orphan boy named Sebastião lives with a troupe of traveling performers, a carnival of sorts. The troupe is presided over by an old woman everyone simply calls “Mamãe.” Mamãe spends most of her time cooking and cleaning, but also keeping track of the troupe’s finances, making sure everyone in the troupe is happy, and dispensing motherly advice when needed. She may not be everyone’s real mother, but she certainly acts like she is.

One day, the troupe arrives in a small, dusty town in the back country. The town is mostly ramshackle buildings of wood planks and sheets of tin. The troupe sets up their tents and carts right in the town, settling into some abandoned houses as well. They quickly become friendly with the townsfolk while they prepare for a run of performances.

A magician lives in town. He’s never been on a big stage or in a big city. His performances are strictly local, for very little money, if any at all. He seethes with jealousy at the arrival of the performing troupe. They live the life he’s always wanted and now they’ve moved into his performance territory. How dare they! He struts through the town in his black tuxedo and black cape, daring the performers to challenge him to some sort of theatrical duel, but he’s ignored by both the visiting troupe and his fellow townsfolk. This makes him even angrier.

Sebastião is intrigued by the magician. The troupe has many different performers, but no magician, and the boy has always been fascinated by magic. He follows the magician through town, moving like a small shadow, slipping through streets and alleys as agile as a cat, unseen by the angry magician.

Sebastião trails the magician as the man sneaks into the troupe’s lodgings. He watches as the magician looks for a way to sabotage the troupe’s performances. The boy lets out a little gasp when he sees Mamãe walk in to discover the magician. “Who are you?” Mamãe asks. “What are you doing here?” The magician says nothing, shocked into silence. Mamãe looks him up and down. “Are you a performer?” she asks him. He nods. “Come with me.” She grabs his gloved hand and leads him to her kitchen. Sebastião follows silently.

In the middle of the kitchen is a huge, wood table, covered with onions, cabbages, and carrots. “I’m making a soup,” she tells the magician. “Help me chop the vegetables.” She hands him a large chopping knife. The two of them chop up the onions, the cabbages, the carrots. While they work, Mamãe questions him more. “What kind of performer are you?”

“I’m a magician,” he stammers out.

“Are you any good?” she asks.

“Well,” he says, clearing his throat dramatically, “I believe I am. But I’ve never made it out of this region. Sadly, my reputation has never made it as far as the big cities.”

“Huh,” Mamãe grunts. They continue chopping in silence, until Mamãe says, “Would you like to join our troupe? We don’t have a magician among us, but we could use one. We’d be happy to have you.”

The magician stops cutting, stunned at the offer. He looks up at Mamãe, perhaps to see if she’s making him a serious offer or just teasing him. She looks up at him. They look each other in the eyes. Sebastião sees it flowing between them like waves of hot, summer air: a sudden connection of love. Mamãe sees within the man a tremendous loneliness, a fear of dying alone and forgotten. The magician sees within Mamãe a powerful ocean of love she is happy to share with everyone. He could swim in that ocean for the rest of his life. He could drown in it, but he knows Mamãe would never let him drown.

Sebastião runs out from where he’s hiding, grabs the magician by the hand, and says, “Please, stay with us! Stay with us! Teach me magic so I can grow up to be a magician, too!” The boy is bursting with excitement. The magician looks down at Sebastião’s grinning, beaming face. He looks up at Mamãe’s face, so full of love and kindness.

He nods, slowly at first, but then more vigorously. “Yes,” he says, “I’ll join your troupe.”

Mamãe smiles warmly at him, then shakes her head and chuckles, looking back at her vegetables. “It’s not going to be easy,” she says. “The roads we travel are rough, our performances not always welcome. Our troupe is often like a family, squabbling and feuding.” She hacks a large cabbage in half. “But I think you’re making the right decision.”


  1. Lydia wrote:

    Have you thought about turning this into a book or short story? I’d love to know what happens next.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink
  2. josh wrote:

    It’s possible I could expand it into a longer story if I feel like it, but I think it stands just fine as is.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  3. Melissa wrote:

    You should read the Middle grades chapter book by my friend Laura Resau. I helped her do some background interviews as the fictional village it’s set in is similar to the real life village my mother-in-law was from. I know you don’t like book recommendations because you have such a long to read list, but this would be like an hour or two read for you and hopefully there’s a copy in your library!

    Monday, January 9, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink
  4. josh wrote:

    Melissa, it just so happens that in January and February, all of the KC metro library systems do a challenge to read Juvenile and Young Adult fiction, and my own personal challenge is to read more diversely, less straight white male stories, so I’m bumping The Lightning Queen up the to-read list. Thanks!

    Monday, January 9, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

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