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An excerpt from "The Last Train to Zona Verde"

An excerpt from "The Last Train to Zona Verde"

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Published by KQED News
by Paul Theroux
by Paul Theroux

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Published by: KQED News on May 17, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/11/2013

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Houghton Miin Harcourt Page  November ,  : PMPaul eroux—THE LAST TRAIN TO ZONA VERDE st pp
S
I
   
soening of late aernoon light,against the squealy repeated note of one small insect’s
cheep
,under the bird-haunted acacia tree towering over the baretrampled compound, and near Camillo’s derelict-looking car
dirtfootprints on its doors: Camillo had been kicking it barefoot in fury for its refusal to start
an old women approached through the sun-lit risen dust.She held a chipped enamel bucket in one hand and a long pairof metal tongs in the other. Her hair was wrapped like a bowl in ayellow cloth, this turban making her an unusual presence, givingher height and dignity and a look of quiet anticipation. She wore alimp blue dress that fell to her ankles ending in a tattered hem, andan apron that had once been white. She was barefoot, but her feet
her only indelicate feature
were as big and battered as shoes.No one paid any attention to her or to what she was carrying. Infact, Camillo stood aside, gripping a Cuca beer bottle as though hewere about to throw it. His eyes were empty, and he looked less thanfutile. His body seemed uninhabited.
Three Pieces of Chicken

 
Houghton Miin Harcourt Page  November ,  : PMPaul eroux—THE LAST TRAIN TO ZONA VERDE st pp
S
We had come north, crossing from Kunene province into Huílaprovince, but what did it matter? We were stuck for the night at least,and maybe longer. Light was leaking sideways from the sky frommembranes of cloud, leaving purpled tissue just above the horizon.
The old woman made directly for me. “Old” was probably inac-curate: she was undoubtedly much younger than me, sixty or less,but had the aged face of a kindly crone. I was standing apart fromthe others, who were drinking, and perhaps drunk. I looked for alog to rest on, but saw nowhere to sit, and the car seemed cursed.Holding the bucket up so I could examine its contents, thewoman smiled at me and worked the jaws of her rusty tongs.
Boa tarde,
” she said, but it seemed more like evening to me.At the bottom of the bucket were three pieces of chicken
legsattached to thighs. They were skinless, shiny-sinewed, and dark askippers, as if they’d been smoked. Each one was covered by busy black ies, and ies darted around the hollow of the bucket. It wasmore a bucket of ies than a bucket of chicken.Squeezing her rusty tongs again, the woman asked, “
Qual? 
Which one?Though I was hungry, I waved her away, retching at the thoughtof eating any of those chicken legs. Yet I had not eaten all day, andit had been a long and tiring journey, of harassment, of the bordercrossing, of the sight of misery and naked children playing in dust,ies crawling on their eyes and in the sores on their bodies. The o-road detours had been especially exhausting from the bucking andbumping of the vehicle. And the checkpoints, the shakedowns, theroadblock dictators.The woman was smiling because I was smiling. The absurdity of “Which one?” had just struck me
three identical pieces of chickenin the dirty bucket, each of them specked by skittering ies; an ex-istential question to the stranger in a strange land.
Não,
” I said. “
Obrigado.
Something in my smile encouraged her and kept her there, rock-
ree Pieces of Chicken
r
 


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