João secured the anchor to the tabernacle frame and Ze set the small jib. Mamede put us on a beam reach heading north. How did I know this was our course? Because the sun had just risen on our starboard side. (For certain basic facts you don’t need an App.) The easterly wind would give us a straight shot out to deeper water — no tacking required.
As soon as we settled on our course, João climbed below and brought out a plastic grocery sack. (Where he kept finding these things was beyond me.) When I saw what was in the sack, cookies and crackers, I realized how hungry I was. None of us had eaten since lunch, the day before, and a lot of calories had been torched since then.
João placed the sack on the icebox lid, pulled out the sealed bag of cookies and tore it open. Grabbing a handful, he sat on the hatch cover to begin his breakfast. Mamede was standing at the helm, Ze beside me at the rail. Both men were eager to get some grub, but being gentlemen, they waited for me to go first.
I needed no prompting this time. Reaching into the sack, I pulled out a large cracker and two of the cookies. I was already familiar with the cracker: called a bolacha by the jangadeiros — we sailors know it as hardtack. Bland and chewy when fresh, hard as a hockey puck when not, the biscuit’s sole purpose is to fill your stomach with bleached flour (wheat flour, not farinha). The cookies didn’t look any better — small and round with an off-yellow color. João was happily munching them down on the hatch cover.
Knowing what I would get, I took a bite of the cracker first. Mmmm… just as bland as I remembered and even more chewy, probably from sitting in the muggy hold, absorbing God knows what. But that didn’t stop me from scarfing it down. I inhaled that biscuit just as fast as my salivary glands could pump out spit.
When I finished the cracker I badly needed some water. Kneeling by the barril, I could see João was watching me. Ever since my little choking incident the day before, he made it a point to watch whenever I took a drink from the cask, hoping, no doubt, for a repeat performance. This time he was out of luck!
I could almost feel the flour congealing in my gut as I drank. White glue. Good thing I wasn’t feeling seasick or I might have been spewing a sticky mess. Standing back up, I saw my two cookies sitting on the cover and popped one into my mouth, dismissively thinking, At least it’s got some sugar.
To say I was pleasantly surprised when the cookie hit my tongue would be the grossest understatement. It was light and buttery and dissolved in my mouth like angle cake, leaving behind a delicate taste of toasted almond. This was the best Magdalena cookie I had ever eaten!
“Ohh…” I moaned. (If this had been a movie, I would have lit a cigarette right then.) This can’t be true. So I popped in the second cookie to see: Oh, yes, yes, yes! — just as good as the first! (And now the camera pulls back, revealing a pair of nylons on the floor, a silk bra dangling from a chair, a single sexy pump kicked off in the corner.)
Already I was peering at the bag to see how many cookies were left. No matter, I could have easily eaten them all, then wrestled João for the few he had remaining in his palm (though after raising the anchor, I knew it wouldn’t be easy). It’s amazing how quickly we regress to our baser selves in times of stress. All it takes is a bit of fear or an empty stomach, to actually believe the politicians when they say that the only solution to all the guns in our society is — MORE GUNS! (Yes – you can never have too many.)
I must have been staring at the bag a little too intently. Maybe I was drooling, possibly growling. Surely I was panting. Mamede pointed at the sack with his half eaten cracker and said, “Go ahead—take more!”
I might be slow but I ain’t stupid. From the bag I lifted the same as before, but with an extra cookie this time — three heavenly Magdalenas — leaving more than enough for everyone to have a third round. Again I ate my cracker first — Finish your peas before dessert! — followed by the cookies:
One-mmmm! Two-oooo! Three-eeeee!
“I forgot to tell you,” Mamede quipped. “We don’t serve any coffee for breakfast out here. Do you want to go back?”
While I chuckled at his little joke, just hearing the word coffee made my scalp start to itch. Of all the drugs out there and the many ways they can be taken (swallowed, inhaled, injected, patched, or poked where the sun don’t shine), caffeine in hot coffee is my only addiction. But how I am addicted! I wanted some coffee so badly right then. And together with those cookies — Heaven!
Instantly I was transported to my favorite Northside café, the rich aroma of espresso filling the air, a steaming triple latte standing on my table, a full bag of those cookies sitting right there beside it — all of them for little old me.
I must have moaned again.
“What?” Mamede asked, bringing me back to reality.
“Oh—ah… nothing, Mamede. I was just thinking how good the coffee will taste when we get back.”
“Yes—yes it will.”
I was just about to reach for my last round of cookies when João jumped up and jabbed his hand into the bag, grabbing all of the cookies but one.
WHAT?… ONE COOKIE!… ONE COOKIE!… YOU LEFT ONE COOKIE!…
In almost every culture it is considered bad manners to take the last piece of something good to eat. Do it in Spain and they say you will never marry. While I don’t know what happens in Brazil, I wasn’t about to find out. So I stood there fuming, glancing sideways at João on the hatch, his fist barely able to hold those little drops of gold. And he hadn’t eaten a single bolacha.
Next chapter: Steady As She Goes