Written by Monteiro Lobato Originally published in the collection A Onda Verde.
Translated into English by Shayna McHugh
The capoeirista nicknamed “22 da Marajó” [22 was likely his registry number, as sailors were often known by them. Marajó is an island in the mouth of the Amazon River] was an imperial sailor and a master troublemaker. He was a good-looking guy, and stories of his exceptional Capoeira abilities spread as legends. He annoyed the government so much that he was sent up north to serve in the Amazon. The change in climate refreshed him, and he became a calmer man. He began an affair with the wife of a ship chandler, who later died. 22 married the widow and inherited a bit of money. The couple went to Europe for two years, then returned to Brazil and settled in Rio de Janeiro.
He had changed so much! Transformed into a perfect gentleman, he amazed the whole neighborhood with his fancy clothes, gloves, and cream-colored top hat. Who is that? Who is that? – the people whispered. No one knew. Certainly someone of noble lineage, they said, just look at his refined fashion. And 22, impervious to the chatter, continued on, a monocle perched in front of one eye. He always walked by the same route, and every day he passed by São Fransisco Street. That happened to be the hang-out spot for a bunch of “cool” guys who resented the elegance of the stranger, not to mention the competition he represented in terms of getting girls. After much plotting, they decided to teach the newcomer a lesson.
One day, while 22 passed by more elegantly than ever, a capoeirista approached the group of cool guys. He boasted that he was a master in soltas – cabeçadas perfomed without touching the opponent with one’s hands. He asked for 5,000 réis. “Perfect,” responded the cool guys, “but first you have to land a solta on that guy with the monocle.”
“Got it!” exclaimed the capoeirista. He removed his hat and went to the sidewalk where 22 was walking in his London suit. When 22 arrived, the capoeirista advanced and unleashed an excellent and formidable cabeçada. But 22 dodged, and the attacker ran his head right into the wall, at the same time as a well-placed foot tripped him up with an extremely elegant rasteira. When the dizzy and confused attacker got up, he was taken down with another gorgeous rasteira. The attacker ran away, totally disoriented after having unexpectedly changed from attacker to victim.
22 calmly straightened his tie and mentioned to the astounded group of cool guys: “Only an idiot gives soltas without negaça [feints or dodges].” Twirling his cane between his fingers, he concluded with a bit of nostalgia: “I’ve had my fun, but today my social position no longer permits me to do this. But I’m sad to see that the art is deteriorating…”
And he walked off, murmuring, “Soltas without negaça… so stupid!”
After their amazement wore off, the cool guys decided to try again. They hired the famous capoeirista Dente de Ouro [Golden Tooth] and went to meet 22 on another day. “That’s him over there!” they said as soon as they saw the cream-colored top hat. Dente de Ouro advanced, but when he got closer he stopped and opened a wide smile, recognizing his old acquaintance.
“Hey, 22… you’re around here?”
“Shut up and go away, because now I’m an upper-class person and I don’t hang out with bad company,” responded 22, continuing calmly on his path.
Dente de Ouro returned to the group of cool guys. “Well?!” they asked him, surprised by the anticlimax.
“You guys are idiots!” – Dente de Ouro responded. “That guy is 22 da Marajó, his body is invincible – closed tighter than a can of sardines. To attack 22 – you guys are stupid.”