The Marathon of Faith - Rio 2016 by Vis Writer

Announcer: “Hello everyone, and welcome to the live coverage of the final event of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. My name is Abe Jones and I will be your host. Not only is this the very last event but this will truly be one of the most beautiful and most spectacular 
The Marathon of Faith - Rio 2016
The Marathon of Faith - Rio 2016 by Vis Writer

events of the Olympics as the runners start and finish at the grandiose Sambódromo, famous for the huge Carnival parades, before running through the streets of old downtown Rio, then up and down the sun-bathed streets along the world renowned Rio beaches, and then back through the downtown section of the Marvelous City all the while with the Christ Redeemer Statue as the backdrop – the most publicized picturesque scene in all of the earth!

Once again the African nation runners are the favorites to haul in the majority of the medals as they have done in the past five Olympic Marathons. It should be Kenya versus Ethiopia, unless there is an upset in the making. Kenya has 9 of the top 20 runners in the world while Ethiopia has 7 of the top 20. Between them that is 16 of the top 20 marathon runners, but unfortunately each of them can only enter their three best in this event. Here are the three Ethiopian favorites in their countries green, yellow, and red uniforms: Dawit Abel, Biruk Yonas, and Nahom Jemal.”

The camera pans on the three slender dark skinned athletes as they stretch their legs in different positions as their white-skinned overweight coach looks on; offering words of wisdom every now and then.

“The three Kenyan runners are right next to them and are also considered heavy favorites, in their traditional red and green uniforms: Ken Masa, Simon Bett, and Martin Kiprop.”

Again, the camera zooms in on three other slender, dark skinned athletes as they stretch their legs in different positions.

“One additional favorite from Africa is a lone Angolan runner, Reverend Iehoshua Da Cruz, who has ran two of the best twenty marathon times in the past two years which also places him in the top twenty. Yes, that’s right, I did say Reverend. He is the pastor of his church back in the small town of Luau, on the extreme Eastern boundary of Angola. Keep in mind though that Angola has never won an Olympic medal in this event. Who knows maybe he is going to have a little help from above in this race, and today just might be his day. Here he is in his country’s dark red and black uniform.”

The camera closes in on the wide-grin face of the lone Angolan runner as he touches his toes from the sitting position.

“Brazil has also never won an Olympic gold medal in the marathon event, although they did win a bronze in the 2004 Olympics. But with the home crowd cheering you on, the additional adrenalin can give them an advantage. Maybe this is their year… Here are the three Brazilian runners…Jose dos Santos, Joshua dos Santos, and Eder dos Santos in there bright yellow and blue uniforms famous around the world for their 5 time World Champion soccer team. And, no, they are not brothers and are not related. ‘dos Santos’ happens to be the most dominant last name in this country and it means ‘of the Saints’. Brazil is a very religious country that at one time was close to 95% Roman Catholic but is now dominated by all faiths.”

The camera pans the three, lighter-skinned athletes also stretching their legs

“We have a specially prepared video for you that will take you through the entire 42,195 meters or 26 mile, 385 yards in just 5 minutes showing you all the splendid beauty of this event……”


Iehoshua walks up to a tanned, tall and slender Brazilian runner and asks in a deep, firm baritone voice. “Are you Eder?” (In native Portuguese)

Eder is timid and confused. “Yes, but how did you know my name?”

“I have been commanded to give you a message from above…(pauses) now just wait and let me think because it has to be exact words.”

Iehoshua pauses and closes his eyes. After a few seconds he opens them. “Ok, here it is. ‘Follow me’. (Pauses) ‘Run to the light as fast as you can.’ (Pauses) And ‘Keep the Faith’. You got it? Please repeat it for me so I know you got it right.”

Eder is still amazed with his eyes wide open, pauses, and then stutters as he tries to repeat the phrases. “’Fol…Fol….Follow Me’, ‘Run to the light’, and ‘Keep the Faith’.”

“Almost right; ‘run to the light as fast as you can’.”

Eder is confused and still trying to understand. “But why are you telling me this and who are you?”

“Sorry about that, let me introduce myself. I am Reverend Iehoshua from Angola. At times I get visions and messages that I am strongly compelled to give or else.”

“Or else what?”

“Or else I get in trouble from the big guy up above.” Reverend Iehoshua pauses as he glances and points to the sky. “You must be going through a very deep crisis of life and faith because this vision and message are very clear.”

Reverend Iehoshua pauses again for just a second. “Do you believe?”

Eder is taken aback by the unexpected question and again begins to stutter. “Yea… I mean… yes I believe.”

“I have seen your face almost every day for the last couple of months. I also see a very beautiful lady that seems to be sick in bed… could this be your wife?”

Eder lowers his head with a very concerned and sad look. “Yes, my wife has cancer.”

“Very sorry to hear that, but that for sure is part of the grand plan.”

Eder’s eyes open wider. “What do you see about her? Will she survive?”

“That answer unfortunately is not in the vision.”

Iehoshua waves his arm at Eder. “Let’s go. They’re calling us to the starting line. Oh, and by the way, I think the ‘me’ in ‘Follow Me’ meant someone greater than me, but we can run together if you like.”

They walk up to the line with all the other runners from all nations, multi-colored uniforms representing their nation’s flags, several runners making a sign of the cross, some just bow their heads and close their eyes as they wait…


Announcer: “Let’s go down to the official race steward who will get this race underway. It is now almost 8 am in the morning, the official start time.”


Race Steward: “Runners, take your marks; Get set; Boom.”


Announcer: “And there off! The runners start their way up the beautiful Sambadrome. It is 600 meters from one end to the other. The seating capacity for this event is 33,100, but I can tell you that there are at least 40,000 packed in here today. What a beautiful site! It's a rainbow of colors as 105 athletes go by the cheering crowd giving them a standing ovation. It will take the runners less than two minutes to cover this first 600 meters before exiting to streets that lead to the city, the bay, and the beaches. What pageantry! What elegancy! What a way to finish a fantastic Olympics!

The runners have ended up with a near perfect morning to run this event; Only clouds on the horizon in this big dark blue sky, almost no wind, the temperature is right at 16oC or 61oF, and because it is still winter here in Brazil the air is very dry, only 42% relative humidity. We just very well could see a new Olympic record with these ideal conditions. The current Olympic men's record is 2:06:32, set at the 2008 Summer Olympics by Samuel Kamau Wanjiru of Kenya with an average speed of 20 kilometers per hour. Even the marathon world record might be within reach for this superior group of athletes. The world record at this distance is 2:02:57 that was set in the Berlin Marathon by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya just two short years ago in September 2014. The runners are still all together in one big group. They are almost to the other end of the famous Sambódromo, basically resembling a race car drag strip, and the crowd is still quite noisy. There are huge TV screens strategically set up in front of each section of grandstands that will continue to televise the race live, so most of the crowd will sit down and enjoy the race as they wait for the runners to come back for the grand finale – the finish! At the end of the strip, the runners will exit straight out of the Sambódromo and make a big smooth right turn on to President Vargas Avenue that will take them through the grand and historic downtown Rio de Janeiro.”

Mile One

Announcer: “Ok, the runners are exiting the Sambódromo and there they go into the streets. Look at the huge crowds lined up along both sides of the road to capture a glimpse of the runners – for most of the city this will be the only event that they will be able to see as they do not need to pay – no tickets needed, just get in line…”

Close up of Eder running alongside Iehoshua as he thinks to himself... “What did he mean by ‘follow me’, ‘run to the light as fast as you can’, and ‘keep the faith’?”


FLASH BACK (one of many)

December 31, 1993

7-year old Eder is with his dad lined up behind the rope at the annual Sao Silvestre run held right before midnight every year on December 31, in the streets of Sao Paulo. His dad yells as the runner goes by, calling each of them by names along with the cheering crowd.

His dad bows down and says in a loud voice so that Eder can hear him over the noise of the crowd. “One day you will be one of these elite runners if you work hard, walk, not run, the straight and righteous path, and always…always.. ‘Keep the faith’.”


Announcer: “The runners are now on the main avenue leading to the downtown area. As we predicted the African nation runners are already at the head of the pack and the runners from each country are staying clumped together to pace each other. As they head towards the big Marvelous City, let’s take you through that five minute video of the race route.”

Commentator: “The Rio 2016 Olympic marathon, the final event of the Olympics, will start and finish at the famous Sambódromo, home of the world’s largest annual party; The Brazilian Carnival. This week-long party is held every year before the start of the more somber Christian Lent season, which is the 40 days before Easter season. Known as Mardi-Gras in French or Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, the Brazilians have several “Schools of Samba” that put on grand, illustrious parades as they compete for the grand prize. The competition, or party, typically runs non-stop, 24 hours per day. Just look at these amazing costumes and dazzling dancers from last year’s event. (Clips from Carnival 2015). So here is the view the runners will see during this first leg.

After exiting the Sambódromo the second leg is a straight shot through the historical downtown. The Marvelous City gets its name from one of Brazil’s greatest writers, Coelho Neto, and then was later immortalized in a song of the same name. Rio is Brazil’s second largest city, behind São Paulo, and was the capital of Brazil until 1960, when it was moved to Brasilia. Here is the view the runners will see. On the right is the beautifully green Campo de Santana Park, one of the largest in the downtown area. Lining both sides of the avenue are Rio’s largest and most important businesses and banks. This main avenue leads straight to the city’s original port where the early settlers disembarked on a new land and adventure. Before arriving to the port the avenue ends at the prominent and one of the country’s oldest Catholic Cathedrals, Nossa Senora de Candelaria. This impressive monument was originally built in 1609 as a promise to God by a Portuguese couple that survived a shipwreck of the same name. The church was expanded and reformed to its present majestic state in 1811. The church sets right in the middle of the main avenue right before it dead ends at the port.

The runners will then be taking a sweeping right turn on Alfred Agache Avenue which is the next leg going parallel to the port. The city port is geographically located right at the mouth that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Guanabara Bay. The avenue will take them down past the old Port Market Square as they head towards Santos Dumont Airport. As the runners go past the international airport the avenue changes to General Justo and then to Infante Dom Henrique. This avenue takes them past the Gloria Marina and then to the impressive Flamengo beach that they will run from one end to the other with the world renown Sugarloaf mountain in their view at the end of the beach.

As they arrive to the end of Flamengo beach the runners will not actually make it to the Sugarloaf Mountain, but will instead wind around to Botafogo beach and bay – another extraordinary tourist site.

The street again changes names to Nações Unidos Avenue or United Nations Avenue in English. This leg takes them through two different tunnels heading towards the world famous Copacabana beach. The street changes names twice from Lauro Sadre to Princess Isabel before it dead heads at the beach. The runners take another right turn on Atlantic Avenue which runs parallel to beach and is more than 3 kilometers in length. At the end of this beach, they cross over to another renowned beach, Ipanema, made famous worldwide by Tom Jobim’s classical bossa nova song “The Girl from Ipanema”. The street changes from Viera Souto to Delfim Moreira as the route goes past Ipanema to Leblon Beach for a total of almost 4 kilometers.

At the end of Leblon Beach the route makes a small loop that takes the runners to the right on Visconde de Albuquerque Avenue and head past the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. This is the close to the halfway point and the best view of the Christ Redeemer Statute created by French sculptor, Paul Landowski. The Statue is and impressive 30 meters (98 feet) tall, and its arms stretch 28 meters (92 feet) wide from fingertip to fingertip. The statue weighs 635 metric tons and is at the peak of the 700 meter (2,300 feet) Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park. Construction on the statue was finished in 1931. After rounding the lake, the runners then head back to Ipanema Beach where the runners will retrace the route back to the Sambódromo. Watch as our camera leads you back through the sights and sounds the runners will take to the finish line!”

Mile 2

Announcer: “The group of lead runners has just passed the one mile marker just as they go by the Campo de Santana Park. Their time was a very respectable 4:32. That calculates out to a 1:58:52 marathon! But don’t get too excited, that was just the first mile and some runners like to push the early pace to get TV time. Actually, two of the Brazilian runners, Jose and Joshua dos Santos, are leading the pack, followed closely by an American runner, John Oates, and then the rest of the group including the favorites from Kenya and Ethiopia. The other favorite, Reverend da Cruz from Angola, is also in the lead pack together with the third Brazilian runner.”


A close up of Eder as he thinks to himself – where have I heard “keep the faith” before, where was that? What was I doing?”


Fast forward 9 years

Sunday, June 23, 2002

16-year old Eder in his best Sunday clothes is sitting in a white plastic chair in the third row of a make-shift church made from an unfinished garage with his two younger sisters, mom, and dad. The small, improvised church with bare concrete flooring only has room for six chairs on each side of the narrow center aisle. The unfinished brick walls have recently been painted with one coat of white paint and shine brightly from the mixture of sunshine coming in from the front and back, and from the simple overhead lights hanging from wiring strung on the wood framed ceiling supporting the red ceramic roof tile. A beautiful, fare skinned girl dressed in a simple white dress sitting in the front row across the aisle with her parents and two younger brothers catches his eye. She turns at that exact moment and gives him a smile that melts right through his chest and drops his stomach to the floor like a roller-coaster. She has dark eyes with shiny, long black hair that is tied in a pony-tail and goes down more than halfway of the back of her cloud white dress creating an enormous contrast of black on white. She turns back around as the Pastor Francisco, in his traditional black suit and tie with a white shirt is giving the final prayer.

Pastor Francisco is concluding the service. “….. by the power and light of God, we ask that He lead us down the right path at all times. Amen. My brethren, Keep the faith and don’t forget to say good-bye to each other with the Peace of God and a simple handshake.”

As is typical in tropical Brazil, the true melting pot of the world, the majority of the people are different shades of tanned-skin, some darker than others. Pastor Francisco is tall and thin, with very dark skin. Eder and his family are the normal bronze while the beautiful, new girl stands out in the congregation with the fairest skin of them all.

After the blessing, as Eder, his sisters, and his parents are saying good-bye to the others. Eder, from the corner of his eye, glimpses the girl in the white dress walking up the aisle and wants to catch up with her, but Pastor Francisco stops him and his family and says to them, “Wait up a second and let me bless and anoint your family before you leave.”

He picks up a small, round bottle of a dark greenish oil, removes the blue cap and turns it over in between his finger and thumb, and touches his father’s forehead and says “May the grace of God protect you always.”

He repeats this for each of the other four and then says to Eder; “God expects big things from you and the win at the city race today is just the beginning.”

Eder blushes and says, “Pastor, I am only 16, there is no way I am going to win the city race today. The other runners are much older with more experience and they have trainers.”

The pastor replies. “Son, at times it is only a matter of keeping the faith”.

As they are leaving, Eder is trailing the others when the pastor touches Eder’s arm and whispers softly to him. “The new girl’s name is Gelita, just thought you might want to know.” The pastor smiles an enormous all-knowing smile. Eder instantly seems to go into a sudden zombie daze as he walks slowly up the only aisle of the garage-turned-church and towards the exit.


Fast forward to the last kilometer of the city race

The sign shows ‘Bebedouro Annual 10-K City Race’. The first three runners each with a different brand new uniform with names of sponsors on the front and back are just passing the Start-Finish line with the ‘9-K complete and 1-K to go’ sign being flashed and Eder, in his old yellow soccer shirt and blue shorts, is 100 meters off the pace in fourth place. He passes in front of his sisters, mom, and dad who are frantically cheering. As he continues to run past the screaming crowd the sun abruptly bounces its light off a white dress that almost blinds him – it’s the new girl with her brothers, her parents, and Pastor Francisco. Pastor looks at him and just smiles and says “Keep the Faith”.

He suddenly sees a strong light coming from a thin, glowing white-robed figure that forces him to squint and practically close his eyes. His heart begins to race faster and he begins to pick up speed running at an ever-increasing faster pace. After only one city block or 100 meters he has amazingly closed the gap to 80 meters. After two blocks he is within 50 meters of the other three runners who have also picked up the pace. Eder is running at an amazing speed looking like he is running a 200 meter sprint. At 500 meters to go he has caught up with the other runners and runs by them as if they are only jogging, but in reality Eder is still sprinting. He nears the finish line with his parents and his sisters jumping up and down and yelling. Eder breaks the white tape as he crosses the finish line a full 30 meters in front of the other 3 runners who are also running their fastest to the finish line for second place.

His two sisters duck under the yellow crowd control rope and run up to him as he bends over trying to catch his breath. They each hug him and his older sister lets out a yell. “Eder, you won! I am so proud of you!”

The other runners break the tape for second and third place in their dazzling uniforms. Eder walks up to each of them and shakes their hand telling them thanks for a great race.

Eder walks over to where his mother and father and Pastor Francisco are standing. His mother gives him a hug. “I knew you could do it!”

His father smiles at him. ‘This is just the beginning of bigger and better things to come.”

Pastor Francisco also gives him a big grin. “I told you so; all you had to do was…. Keep the Faith.”

Eder is looking around frantically as if he lost something or someone. Pastor whispers in his ear, “I know who you’re looking for… Gelita and her family had to leave; they are moving furniture into their new house.”


Announcer: “As everyone probably already knows by now, “Marathon” comes from the Greek city of the same name. Legend has it that a Greek warrior-messenger named Pheidippides was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to the capital city of Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in battle. This fight took place in the fall of 490 BC. The story goes that he ran the entire distance without stopping, burst into the assembly, and proclaimed ‘we have wοn’, right before collapsing and dying.

Well we certainly hope that none of our runners today have that sort of fate. Let me take this opportunity to present my good friend, my co-announcer, and general expert on marathon running; Thomas Francis.”

Co-Announcer: “Thank you, Abe, for that great introduction. Not sure I would call myself an expert, maybe knowledgeable and read-up. And let me rest assure our audience that it would be highly unlikely that any of our runners today would suffer the same doom as the very first marathoner. These athletes are some of the most highly trained and monitored in the world. Unlike that very first marathoner, these racers have trained for thousands of hours and all the while with specialists strictly monitoring their food intake, body mass index (BMI), blood levels, oxygen intake and usage or VO2, body weight, muscle tone, organ functions, water usage, and the ability to cool their bodies just to name a few. As we go through the race, I will be explaining the ‘Science of running’ and updating the status or condition of each of the runners. We have strategically set up all sorts of electronic monitoring equipment in every part of the race. Just to give you an idea, besides the normal instruments to measure ambient temperature, humidity, and air or wind velocity on each individual athlete, we also have thermal imaging instruments that measure body temperature, heart rate, and cooling rate. In addition, we have high-precision, electronic scales underneath the asphalt at each kilometer to measure the runners body weight to understand how fast each of them are using up water and body mass. Our technicians will be weighing and analyzing each individual bottle to know how much water and sugar each athlete has consumed. Our engineering team will be analyzing the mechanics of each runner – how much energy or work each one is expending based on their ‘bobbing rate’, stride rate, and the weights of each limb that each runner has to move up and down. There is also the ‘Slip factor’ or how much energy is wasted on each runner’s step by measuring exactly how much their tennis shoes slip on the asphalt. All of these factors for each athlete will be fed into our super-computer to come up with performance indicators for each one. And of course there is ‘The Wall’ that each and every runner will hit at some time in the later stages of this race. There is no way to avoid it and our instruments will be there to pick it up and to see how well each of the runners is able to cope with it. Back to you, Abe.”

Announcer: “Thanks, Thomas. We look forward to all that technology as we work our way through this plus-two hour race. Going back to the competition, the runners are right in the middle of the downtown area as they come up to the grand and historical Cathedral. And look at the number of spectators! This is unprecedented. There are at least 8-10 rows deep on each side of the avenue as the runners run right down the middle, and that does not include the uncountable number of fans in each and every window in the buildings on both sides. And they are all cheering and roaring because the two Brazilian runners, Jose and Joshua dos Santos, are still leading the pack, closely followed by the American, John Oates, and then the large group of the African favorites. Remember, these runners will be coming back through this same avenue on their way back to the finish at the Sambódromo, so most of these fans will still be here waiting. Let’s hope that one of the Brazilians is still in the lead so they can truly make this a home-stretch to remember. After they go past this amazing Cathedral they take another sweeping right turn onto the avenue that runs parallel with the bay and port.”

Mile 3

Announcer: “The runners have just passed the 2 mile marker right in front of the well-known Port Market off to left of the runners. Let’s check their time. It was 9:00 exactly – wow, that is an even faster than the first mile and is still on a world record pace of 1:57:59! Thomas, are we going to break the famous 2 hour barrier here today?”

Co-Announcer: “Now Abe, don’t get too excited just yet. They still have more than 24 miles left to go. And remember that you have two Brazilians going through their downtown area using a little bit of their adrenalin. Plus, keep in mind that this is one of the few parts of the race that does go slightly downhill as we go from the city to the bay. Remember these same runners will have to go back up this slight incline during the last 3 miles of the race.”

Announcer: “Okay, Thomas, but we will keep our hopes up. As the runners continue to run parallel to the bay on Alfred Agache Avenue, they will be heading directly to the Santos Dumont Airport, and the street will change to General Justo. The runners will curve to the left as they run parallel to the airport and on their way to another small bay called Gloria. The two Brazilian runners continue to set the pace, and the third Brazilian is also just behind the leaders.


Close up on Eder. ….’Run to the light’, that has to be from my wife. She seems to always be surrounded by light. Eder’s eyes appear to close as if he is in deep meditation but keeps directly behind Iehoshua’s right shoulder that is pulling him along with an invisible rope.


Flashback –

Eder is with two of his best friends who grew up together on the same dusty dirt street right on the outskirts of the small bustling town of Bebedouro. The reddish clay streets later turned into concrete-color cobblestone as more houses sprang up on what use to be farmers plots. They are walking down one of the cobblestone roads going to the school playground that is three blocks away with a soccer ball being bounced and kicked between them every five or six steps. All three are dressed in simple gym shorts, white T-shirts, olds socks dropped down to their ankles, and old worn-out tennis shoes. All the houses they pass by are the same basic style built from the same mold but each painted a different color creating a rainbow of houses. Each has a small, one meter high concrete fence that appears to be Roman architecture. Behind each fence is a small one to two meter ‘green area’ that has grass, flowers, or bushes or a mixture of all three. Each house has a one-car wide area to the right for parking 2-3 cars in a row. The two large rectangular windows on each side of the door are metallic frames, with metallic shutters that slide open but have no glass. The doors are also metallic, with no glass and painted the same color as the window frames.

Eder is a half a head taller than his two friends, Ivan and Nilton, and all three have the same bronze skin, thin and muscular, with athletic builds. Both of them are taking turns verbally poking Eder about his first sighting of the new girl on the block.

Ivan pokes the first jab. “Come on Eder, tell us again about Gelita. What an unusual name. What was the color of her hair?”

Nilton adds another one. “Was it really down to her knees?” Both of them start giggling.

Eder is only slightly flustered. “It was not down to her knees, come on guys; I said it was down to the middle of her back. And blacker than any black that I have ever seen; blacker than the new tires on my dad’s truck. Her hair redefines the color black.”

“Ooooh”, both Ivan and Nilton sing in unison.

Ivan continues with the verbal assault. “Redefines the color black – this I have to see.”

Nilton adds in. “And, what about her face? Her eyes?”

Eder continues description. “Her face was the most beautiful that I have ever seen or could ever imagine. It was like she had the face of a famous movie star.” He pauses and seems to be dreaming. “Yeah...that’s it...her beautiful porcelain face was like an innocent Sally Fields in that old TV series The Flying Nun.”

“Sally Fields!” Again both Nilton and Ivan shout out in a synchronized voice.

Ivan adds on. “It must be love at first sight. You must have been in a daze.”

“In a daze is right. I can’t even remember the color of her eyes. She took my breath away and made my heart stop beating.”

Nilton looks at his friend Ivan. “Wow, this is serious Ivan. We are going to have to do something about this. Did Pastor Chico tell you what Gelita’s last name is? Where do you think they live?”

Ivan replies. “My mom says a new family moved into the old Tardelli house on Saint John Street. It is only four streets over. Let’s go check it out?”

Eder has started blushing as he visualizes another encounter with her. “Come on guys. It is going to get dark in another hour. Let’s go kick some goals.”

Nilton teases Eder. “Oh-oh, looks like Eder is scared of meeting her.”

“I am not. I think you two are scared about me kicking your butts!” Eder grabs the black and white soccer ball and makes a quick dash up the street. “Come on losers, catch me if you can.”

Eder’s long thin, muscular legs are no match for Ivan and Nilton. He quickly puts distance between them without even trying. He makes it to the school playground in minutes and waits for the other two to catch up.

The three of them form a triangle and take turns kicking between them the tattered leather soccer ball covered with black and white hexagonal patches. They each practice receiving the ball on their chest or thighs trying to get it to drop perfectly on the top of their feet covered by discolored, old tennis shoes. Sometimes they will “dribble” or bounce the ball a couple of times on their feet before kicking it to the next guy. Every once in a while someone will get really fancy and bounce the ball off their heads or make it come to a complete stop on the nape of their neck. This will usually draw a few aahs and oohs from the other two, but if they drop the ball it quickly turns into laughter and sharp comebacks…

Eder drops the ball.

Nilton quirks back at Eder. “You amateur. Not sure why we brought you along.”

Ivan joins in. “He must be still dreaming about his close brush with love.”

Both Ivan and Nilton laugh profoundly as Eder kicks the ball hard to Ivan. “Come on, let’s kick some goals. I’m the first goaltender.” Eder quickly sets himself in the middle of the soccer goal that is formed by round pipes with chipping white paint and a dirty red nylon net. The playground soccer goal is much smaller than a regulation sized goal and Eder seems to be able to touch both sides with his thin, outstretched arms.

“Give it your best shot ladies.” He heckles the other two.

Nilton sets the ball down on the marked, round spot painted into the gray concrete floor about 4 meters directly in front of Eder who seems to be dancing back in forth inside the rectangular goal. Nilton takes four or five steps back and then runs quickly to the ball, kicking it as hard as he can. The weathered ball is heading right to the upper left corner of the goal and just as it is about to go in the net, Eder easily bats it a way with his right hand.

“Hah, is that all you got? You’ll have to do much better than that if you expect to score any points against me.” Eder yells as he laughs a quick laugh.

Ivan grabs the ball with assertiveness and puts it on the same spot. “Let’s see you stop this one.”

He takes 6-7 steps back. Concentrating on the ball he runs as hard and fast as he can, and then kicks it with a resounding thud. This time it is going into the right lower corner as it hugs close to the floor at a high velocity. Eder again diverts it away at the last moment, this time with his left foot.

“Huh, what a bunch of losers. I thought you guys would get better with age.” Eder continues taunting them.

This goes on for another 15 minutes as the kicks become softer and even easier for Eder to flick the ball away or even catch it every once in a while. The taunting continues, but the other two have just as much given up.

“Okay, I’ll let one of you take the goal. Who wants to try and stop my kicks?” Eder asks as he goes to the spot and sets the ball down and then takes only two steps back. “I’ll make it easy on you and not take more than two steps back from the ball.”

Both Ivan and Nilton look at each other, neither one wanting to take the goal knowing that Eder kicks the ball much harder than they can kick. Then Ivan with a higher pitch, whining voice says, “Come Eder, let’s call it a day. It’s already starting to get dark out.”

Sure enough the sun has already moved underneath the far away horizon and has cast beautiful orange-reddish streaks across the few clouds in the darkening sky. The darkness sets in very fast during the winter months in countries below the equator.

Eder does not desist. “Okay you babies, I will ask Jonas and Anna Maria to turn a couple of the lights on.”

Jonas and Anna Maria are the resident married workers at the small community elementary school. Jonas mainly does the janitorial and maintenance tasks while his wife, Anna Maria, will take care of organizing the cleaning for the school classrooms. They are a young couple, recently married, and enjoy the benefits of having a place to live and work.

Eder walks past the basketball court that has rims with no nets and hardly gets used. He walks to the last window of the building which already has the lights on. The black painted steel windows, each with six divided panes, contrasts with the white paint on the concrete walls. The two sliding windows are open which is usual for most of the year except for some of the colder, winter nights. Eder sees Jonas who seems to be talking to someone in the corner of the room, but out of his obstructed view.

“Good evening. Can one of you turn on the lights?”

He says this while he is walking to the window and just as two people sitting in front of Jonas come into view. Both of them turn their heads to see where the voice came from. One of them is his wife, Anna Maria and the other one is Gelita.

Eder instantly goes into a state of shock – his heart stops beating, his eyes open as wide as the size of two plums, and his skin starts sweating. Gelita is dressed in more normal clothes with white tennis shoes and faded blue jeans, but is using a pearl white shirt that matches the color of her porcelain white face and contrasts with her very dark black hair that is tied up in a ponytail.

She recognizes Eder, gives him another big heart-melting smile, and says with a sweet, heavenly voice “… and let there be light.”

Jonas instantly perceives that Eder is in a state of shock but does not realize that it is because of Gelita, “Eder, what happened? Is someone hurt or did something happen?”

Eder tries to control himself but begins to stutter, “…no…no one …is …is hurt. Ivan, Nilton, and I are just kicking some goals and it got dark all of a sudden.”

Jonas now realizes that Eder’s eyes are frozen on Gelita. “Have you met Gelita? Her family moved in this week into the old Tardelli house next to my mom and dad’s place.”

Eder still stuttering, “Well…well…we…we … have not been formally introduced, but I did see her in church last Sunday.”

Jonas’s wife, Anna Maria, instantly recognizes the head-over-heels syndrome that has overtaken Eder. “Well, Eder, you are not being very polite. Aren’t you even going to say hi? Come on in and greet the ladies the proper way.”

Eder finally regaining a little bit of control and says, “Hello Anna Maria, sorry about that. Excuse my bad manners – just a second.” Eder quickly walks past the window to the open metallic door that is also painted black to match the windows.

Eder enters into the small, humble living room with a grass-green cloth on the worn-out loveseat sofa, and two simple, pine wooden chairs. The two ladies stand up with Anna Maria on Jonas’s left and Gelita on Anna Maria’s left. He first walks up to Jonas and grabs Jonas’s outstretched hand, “Good evening Jonas.”

Jonas returns the greeting, “Good evening Eder.”

He then turns slightly to his right and firmly takes Anna Maria’s outstretched hand, bends over because of the great difference in height and touches his right cheek to her right cheek while making a smacking, kissing sound and then switches to gently touch his left cheek to her left cheek with another smack to complete the traditional Brazilian salutation. At the same time he greets her by saying, “Good afternoon Anna Maria.”

Anna Maria replies in a soft sarcastic voice, “Good afternoon, Eder. And now let me formally introduce my newest friend, Gelita.” She opens her left hand to Gelita on her left.

And now comes the moment of truth. Eder and Gelita’s eyes meet in a celestial trance that lasts for a few seconds but suspends time for hours. Then both of them slowly raise their right hands in unison and touch for the first time. They are immediately immersed in a bright light. All their surroundings have disappeared as if they are transported to another place and time that is not of this world. Time discontinues for an eternity.

Eder is amazed at her white, soft, delicate, cloud-like hands that also appear to be emitting light. Eder bends over slightly and again in unison they both bring their right cheeks together as if they have done this a thousand of times before. Her cheek is even softer than her hands. Eder has frozen; both of them have their eyes closed.

Mile 4

Announcer: “Well folks, the runners completed 3 miles in a time of 13:33. Once again, that is a tremendously fast pace equivalent to a 1:58:28 world record marathon! They also just now passed the 5 km marker at 14:02, which comes out to the same marathon time. The huge crowd gathered on both sides of the road continues to be very noisy as the Jose and Joshua dos Santos are still leading the pack that is virtually unchanged, just a few competitors have changed positions with one another. The leaders are now at the beautiful Gloria Bay after having just run the entire length of the airport. The next stop is Flamengo Park and then on to Flamengo beach. Thomas, any comments about this fantastically fast pace?”

Co-Announcer: “Abe, I sure hate repeating myself, but it is still very early in the race. But for sure the weather conditions are very favorable for the athletes during the early part of the morning and maybe they want to take advantage of that fact. Plus, now that the runners are running alongside the ocean, the streets will be very flat. I have to give a high mark and a compliment on the route that the race organizers came up with. It is tremendously beautiful, showing off all the stunning sites of this marvelous city, and yet at the same time it is extremely well-suited for the competitors. The fans are also giving the athletes an added boost of encouragement as they cheer their three home-grown heroes who are still in front.”

The camera again zooms in on the two lead runners and then Eder.



“uhn-uhn” Anna Maria grunts as she clears her throat.

Eder awakes from his dream and looks at Anna Maria and Jonas with embarrassment showing on his reddening face. Gelita’s normally white face has also turned a shade of pink.

“Congratulations on winning the city race on Sunday. Everyone says you are the youngest to ever win the race.” Anna Maria offers up to break the tensioned atmosphere.

“Thanks. I think I just got a little lucky.” Eder replies modestly trying to down-play his victory and still recovering from a very emotional moment.

“You looked like you were super-charged on that last lap. You passed everyone like they were walking.” Jonas recounts.

“I’m not sure where it came from but it did feel like an external force was pulling me along.” Eder replies back as he tries to explain.

“Gelita, you were there weren’t you? What did you think?” Anna Maria says as she turns to Gelita.

“It is obvious that Eder has a special gift.” Gelita offers simplistically in a soft musical voice.

Eder blushes as his face goes two tones darker on the red color scale. Grasping for an escape he quickly replies back. “Hey, I better get back to Ivan and Nilton or they are going to kill me. Jonas, can you turn on the lights, just on the soccer goal closest to the basketball court? Just for 30 minutes or so, and we’ll be done.”

“Sure no problem, just give me a shout when you guys finish.” Jonas replies.

“Good to meet you Gelita. Tchau Anna Maria.” Eder says rushing his words as he turns hastily to the door to make a quick exit.

Eder arrives back to the soccer goal just as the light comes on. Nilton and Ivan are patiently sitting on the concrete next to the goal and see Eder arriving.

“Well, finally. What took you so long?” Ivan asks.

“Yea, we thought you got scared and ran home with your tail between your legs.” Nilton joins in chiding Eder.

Eder is still in a daze as he walks in a crooked line with his eyes out of focus and stutters as he says, “Sor…Sor…sorry guys. I got tied up talking to Jonas.”

“Whoa, something is wrong. Looks like you just saw an alien.” Nilton states the obvious.

“What planet did they take you to? Come on; tell us what’s going on.” Ivan adds.

“This is not our good ole’ steady-eddy Eder. Alien, where did you take our friend, Eder?” Nilton continues the onslaught, not giving Eder a chance to reply, and picking up a rock and threatening to throw it at Eder.

Eder finally comes back to Earth. “Come on guys, calm down. Let me tell you what happened. When I went up to ask Jonas and Anna Maria to turn the lights on, Gelita was there with them.”

“What! You’re Gelita? The one and only?” Nilton raising his voice and lowering his hand armed with a rock.

“You met her? You talked to her? What did she say?” Ivan asks in a rapid-fire sequence.

“Come on guys, take it easy. Yes I met her. She is with Jonas and Anna Maria.” Eder replies in a softer voice trying to pacify his friends.

“Let’s go back up there. We want to meet her.” Nilton says matter-of-factly.

“Yea, come on Eder, we…” Ivan starts but them stops in mid-sentence as his voice locks up. His eyes are looking past Eder as he sees someone approaching from the same direction that Eder just arrived. Ivan also begins staring with his eyes wide open.

Eder turns around just as Gelita appears in the light. All three of them are frozen and silent. Gelita continues approaching as if she is walking on water, gently with no sound. She again has a huge smile on her gorgeous porcelain face that instantly moves all three of them.

“Well Eder, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends?” Gelita asks with a soft, harp-like voice that is pleasant to hear.

Eder, Ivan, and Nilton are silent and still, with eyes wide open like lifeless statutes. They are taking in the moment as if they were in a heavenly dream with no incentive for waking up. This goes on for an unusual amount of time and requires Gelita to ask again.

“Eder, please, can I meet your friends?” Again Gelita asks in a musical voice.

Eder finally breaks out of the trance. “Why…why yes, of course. This here is Ivan and beside him is Nilton.” He says very slowly as he points to Ivan first and then Nilton.

Gelita gently raises her right hand towards Ivan and has to hold it there for a few seconds while she says with a soft voice, “Glad to meet you Sir Ivan, friend of Eder.”

Ivan finally drops back down to earth, raises his right, bronzed hand to meet with Gelita’s white marble hand. He also loses his voice the moment they touch. He finally stutters a few words. “Goo…good to…to meet you.” As customary in Brazil, he also brings his right cheek up next to Gelita’s right cheek and makes a smacking sound as he closes his eyes and time suspends.

Gelita abruptly awakes him by saying “Great to meet you, too.”

She then turns to Nilton, “Glad to meet you Sir Nilton, friend of Eder.” Again, she says with a sweet voice repeating the same sentence but only changing the name. She offers her right hand to Nilton who also raises his hand to meet hers. They touch cheeks with smacks.

Ivan, in better control than the other two, clearly states, “What a great pleasure to finally meet you! Eder has told us so much about you.”

“The pleasure is truly mine.” Gelita replies with her intoxicating voice. “So, tell me, what has Eder actually told you, since we really only met just moments ago?”

Nilton’s tanned face turns a shade of reddish-brown as he realizes he has put himself in a self-closing, deepening trap to answer her question. “Well…well...he…he told us he saw you in and..”

“I told them that I saw a very nice girl in church last Sunday, and that we should try to make friends with her.” Eder quickly jumps in trying to prevent his good friend Nilton from falling even further into the abyss.

“Oh, I see.” Gelita smiles vividly. “Well then, it is good that we finally got to meet.”

“Yes it is.” Eder states, “but of course our paths would have eventually crossed in our small metropolis of Bebedouro, the city of heart.”

“So Bebedouro is the ‘city of heart’, that is good to know.” Gelita replies as she breaks into an even larger smile. “Well it is getting late and I am on my way home. Does anyone want to walk me to my house?”

Ivan pushes Eder from the back that forces Eder to take a step forward and says “Eder would love to walk you home; Right Eder?”

Eder blushes slightly and blurts out, “Su...Sure, I can do that. Let’s go?”

Eder and Gelita start walking slowly to the playground exit as Gelita asks, “Are you sure? You don’t mind not playing soccer?”

“Oh, these guys aren’t any good anyway and they really didn’t want to try and stop any of my kicks. These wimps had all but given up hope.” Eder says loud enough for his friends to overhear.

“We heard that.” Nilton says. “The truth is Eder is losing his touch. Good thing he has an excuse to run away.”

“Yeah, we had already hammered him down to his knees.” Ivan joins in the jeering.

“Oh, yeah, we’ll see about that tomorrow afternoon. I kick first.” Eder retorts to the taunts.

They continue to walk out the gate exit but can still here Ivan and Nilton chatting away in mumbled voices and for sure talking about their encounter with the one and only Gelita.

“Your family has moved into the Tardelli house on St. Johns Street, right?” Eder begins.

“Yes, well almost, probably more like ‘moving’ instead of ‘moved’. We still have lots of boxes to open, paintings to hang, furniture to put together, cleaning to do and so on. You know, just a lot of work.” Gelita replies.

“Well, not really. I’ve never moved. Lived right here in good old Bebedouro and in the same house all my life. So where are you from?”

“Well that is a tough question. We are moving here from Uberlandia, by way of Ilheus, by way of Sorocaba, and to top it off, I was born in the small town of Nazaré just outside of Campinas. My dad is one of those construction project managers who like to move around. So he has been hauling mom, my two younger brothers, and me all around for the last ten years.” Gelita answers with that same soft, musical voice.

“Wow. That is interesting and different. Must be a great experience living in all those places and meeting new people.” Eder continues as he stares at her dreaming with glossed-over eyes.

“Well I suppose if you don’t mind changing schools and losing friends, the only sad part of gypsy living.” Gelita explains.

“Yeah, I didn’t think about that part.” Eder says and then trying to change the subject, “Gelita is a very uncommon name. In fact, I am quite sure you are the first Gelita that I have ever met. And, tell me, does Gelita come with a last name?”

Gelita anxiously replies. “Sure does. Gelita Rodriguez, both my parents are Spanish descendants. My name Gelita comes from the Greek word ‘Angel’ which literally means messenger of God. My mom says that on the exact moment I was born she had a vision of an Angel. She was going to call me Angela, but decided to remove the first two letters and add ‘ita’ at the end which in Spanish means small. Sooooo… her definition is ‘Spanish for a small angel’. Of course I also looked in the Spanish dictionary and the word doesn’t exist. Mom says that angels only appear on earth for really special reasons or to deliver really special messages. I’m still waiting to figure that one out. There are other people in this world with the name Gelita, but I have never met any of them. I would love to ask them or their mother’s why they also used this name to see if it has anything to do with my mom’s reasoning. Nevertheless, one of these days… so enough about me. Tell me about you? Who is Eder and where does he come from and what does he do?”

Eder pauses, “Well, I am Eder of the ‘dos Santos’ clan. There are lots of ‘dos Santos’ in Bebedouro and actually all over Brazil. We all must be related somehow. My mom said that she picked Eder because my dad’s favorite sports hero was Eder Jofre, the Brazilian boxing champion. And besides going to São Paulo a couple of times and a couple of vacations on the beaches near Santos, I have stayed in Bebedouro most of my life.”

Even though they both have purposely walked as slow as possible to maximize their enchanting time together, they have already arrived at Gelita’s house on St. Johns Street.

Gelita’s new home is nearer to the center part of the quaint city and one street over and parallel to the city’s main avenue. The well-kept, nicely painted houses are slightly bigger and built on larger lots with the majority having two stories. The dividing walls are much higher and most have black wrought-iron fences facing the street. Gelita’s home is only a one story house, but nicely conserved with fresh paint from the owners trying to rent the house out.

They are still walking side-by-side and just a couple of houses away when Eder suddenly stops. Gelita notices after taking a step, turns around, and is facing Eder. “Eder, what is it?”

Eder looks hard into Gelita’s eyes. “When we touched cheeks in Jonas’s house, did you feel like you were immersed in a river of light and in a different world?”

Gelita looks straight into Eder’s eyes. “Yes! I felt it too.”

“Wow. What do you think that was?” Eder asks in amazement.

“I don’t know what it is but I can tell you it is not the first time I’ve seen or experienced it.” Gelita answers.

“What? You’ve had that experience before? It was amazing.” Eder continues.

“I’ve had similar experiences, mostly in some of my dreams right before I wake up in the morning. Also, I was immersed in light a couple of times when I’ve been in accidents; once with my bicycle, one time in a car accident, and another time when I was really sick. But I have never had a shared experience with anyone like that. In fact, I was afraid to ask you because I was sure you did not see it and I was afraid you would laugh at me.” Gelita explains.

“Laugh at you? No way. That was one of the most astonishing moments in my life.” Eder replies.

“Do you want to see if we can make it happen again?” Gelita asks with another heart-melting smile on her beautiful face.

Eder slightly blushes at Gelita’s requests. “Yes. Let’s go for it.”

They both raise their right hands in unison and delicately bring them together, they close their eyes, and as they are just getting ready to touch his cheek with Gelita’s cheek when suddenly her father cries out from the black iron gate in front of the house. “Gelita, is that you?”

Both of them quickly open their eyes, break their hands apart and direct their eyes toward Gelita’s house. Gelita responds. “Yes dad, it’s me.”

“Well it is about time you got home. It got dark quickly and your mother was worried about you.” Her father responds.

They both walk towards the gate as Gelita continues. “I told mom I was going to Jonas and Anna Maria’s house at the school.

“Yeah, but you know your mom, she seems to have that sixth and seventh sense about you.” Her father responds as he searches intently at the couple, clearly interested in who Gelita is with.

Gelita notices her dad observing Eder. “Dad, let me introduce you to Eder, one of Jonas’s best friends. He offered to walk me home.”

“Good evening Mr. Rodriguez.” Eder says in a deep, serious voice.

“Good evening, Eder.” Gelita’s father says in a deeper, masculine voice just as Eder takes one more step into the light and is now even with Gelita in front of the open gate where her father is standing. Eder begins to raise his right hand and offer a handshake to her father.

Gelita’s baldheaded father is still nicely dressed in his office clothes and raises his hand to meet Eder’s, then suddenly recognizes Eder’s face. “Oh, you’re Eder dos Santos. We saw you and your family in church on Sunday. And you also won the city race, right?”

“Yes sir.” Eder replies politely as they pump hands up and down.

“Well do you want to come in? We are still cleaning and arranging furniture, but you are more than welcomed.” Gelita’s father replies very pleasantly.

Eder, slightly embarrassed, “No sir. I really appreciate the offer, but I need get home to do some homework.”

“Well that is important too. The invitation is open whenever you have time. And Gelita, don’t be long.” He says as he heads back towards the house not worried about Eder stealing a kiss since Gelita’s two younger brothers have appeared out of nowhere and are intently observing from the house door, whispering, and giggling in muffled voices.

Eder and Gelita look at each other with intense emotions, disappointed that minutes have passed so fast and now the time has come to say goodbye.

Gelita trying to break the tension smiles and says softly, “I guess we will have to try that ‘river of light’ trick some other time.”

“Yeah, I guess you are right.” Eder says while stealing a glance at her two brothers in the doorway.

“I have to help with the boxes and cleaning anyway. Plus, I also have homework to do. I suppose maybe we’ll see each other in church on Sunday?” Gelita asks.

“Sunday? Why not Friday?” Eder asks back.

“Friday? Does that mean you’re asking me out on a date?” Gelita states aloud and direct.

Eder blushes slightly and begins missing words again. “Well….well…I...I guess we could call it a date. Is that okay?”

“Why sure. I thought you would never ask. 7:00 pm ok?” Gelita counters again with a huge smile.

“Perfect.” Eder’s face turns to absolute happiness.

They shake each other’s hands, say goodbye, and turn around, each going in opposite directions. After three steps, they both turn and look at each other as if they had planned it. They raise their hands, say ‘goodbye’ again wishing it was ‘hello’. They turn around again, Eder disappears into the dark street and Gelita vanishes into the lighted house.

Mile 5

Announcer: “The leaders have just passed the 4-Mile marker right in front of Flamengo Park – what a beautiful site. They have almost completed one fifth of the race and their pace has slowed down only ever so slightly. Their time was 18:12, which would be 1:59:17 for the race! We are still on a world record, sub-2 hour pace – amazing!

The very loud cheering from the huge crowds has also died down a bit as we also have a new leader or should I say leaders. All three of the Ethiopian runners have taken the lead, and, get this; all three of the Kenyan runners are right behind them. They are practically running three abreast. Thomas, what do you make of all of this?”

Co-Announcer: “Still a very good pace, but this formation is quite unusual. It almost seems that both the Kenyans and the Ethiopians are working together. Maybe they will take turns drafting and pacing each other. This practice is very common in the majority of the big city marathons around the world, but this would be unprecedented for the Olympics. We will have to wait and see. If after two or three kilometers they switch positions, then it would be obvious that they are helping each other out. They have luckily been drafting off the Brazilian runners up until now, but they must have felt the pace was starting to slow down too much. In this section of the race there is usually a slight headwind coming off the Atlantic Ocean, but today it is not even reading on our instruments.”

Announcer: “Thanks again Thomas. Look at this unbelievably gorgeous view of the ocean from Flamengo Beach. The sky is blue but the sun is making a dazzling display of colors as it is hidden behind the heavy clouds over the horizon. Keeping the direct sunlight off these athletes should also provide them with one more advantage. Tucked in behind the Kenyan and Ethiopian group are the two Brazilian runners, closely followed by the American, and then the Reverend da Cruz being followed by the third Brazilian runner, Eder dos Santos.”


Friday evening, Eder and his father, Pedro, are in dirty jeans and T-shirts while they assemble wooden beds, chairs, tables, wardrobes, and chests. Pedro has one of oldest and most traditional furniture stores in the city. Pedro is slightly darker than Eder with a balding head that only has gray hair on the sides and back. He has a very heavy, muscular frame with thick, strong hands that have stayed in shape over the years from working with wood and lifting heavy furniture every day. He has strong facial characteristics with fat, red lips and very large dark-brown eyes that all three of his children have inherited. Pedro comes from a long line of carpenters, generations and generations, who have handed down to their sons the traditions of working with wood. On the bare concrete floor there are wood shavings, cardboard, wood screws, and mostly dust as the area is cramped with several pieces of furniture being assembled at the same time. The dust covered walls with chipping paint have very old posters and pictures hung randomly. The multi-paned windows and doors trimmed in blue painted steel that form the front entrance are dusty with wood-flour on the inside and clean on the outside. In the two far corners of the old, stale-air room there are various pieces of old wood working equipment gathering dust and spider webs. The wood lathe, drill press, and table wood-saw repose, unused, as they have given way to ready-to-assemble furniture that only requires portable hand drills and power screw drivers.

Eder has just finished assembling four dark stained wooden chairs and a matching round table made from pine. He turns to his father and says “I am going to take these chairs and tables over to the store. Mom says she sold one yesterday from the display and needs another set.”

Pedro looks up briefly. “Ok. Hurry back. We still have some tables to put together for delivery tomorrow.” Pedro goes right back to work as Eder puts the four chairs on top of each other with cardboard between them in order to prevent scratches, effortlessly lifts them up, carries them out the open double wide door, passes through the opened metallic garage door, and crosses the street to the furniture store on the other side.

The backyard furniture shop is hidden by the surrounding tall and painted, concrete block walls. In direct contrast, across the black asphalted street sits the attractively painted furniture display store with well cleaned tiled floors. The largest furniture store in Bebedouro is strategically located on the corner of two bustling streets with nearby restaurants, a triangular tree park, and a small Catholic chapel in front. The black and white square wooden sign hanging from two black painted chains in front of the store displays the Portuguese words “Moveis Jose, Pedro e Eder - 1940”, which means “Furniture by Joseph, Peter, and Eder”. Jose, Pedro’s father, was the first generation to open a furniture store to compliment the carpenter’s shop. The large display windows are kept clean to allow the many cars and pedestrians to see the beautiful wares neatly laid out inside as if they were individual rooms in a house. The more luxurious sets are purposely displayed near the windows and doors. The corner window has an exquisite living room set consisting of a beautiful red velvet sofa and chair set trimmed in dark stained mahogany with two matching end tables and a large rectangular coffee table. Each end table has fine-looking imitation French style Louis the Fifth table lamps and the coffee table is neatly decorated with decorative bowls and ash trays. The next window over is a gorgeous lightly stained cherry wood dining room setting with a new style square table with two high-back chairs on each side. The table is set with fine china plates each on green velvet placement mats, with crystal wine and water chalices, silver plated dinnerware, and decorative candles in the middle. In the middle and towards the back of the store are the more affordable furniture; mahogany and cherry has given way to pine and even metallic furniture. Tables and chests made of thicker wood get thinner. King and queen size beds turn into double and single size beds. This is all part of the strategy to maximize sells.

Eder’s mother, Mariabela, and his two younger sisters, Elaina and Elizabeth, are in the back of the store where a simple metallic desk and three white, metallic chairs are used as a makeshift office. His mother, tall and thin, has genetically passed on her stature and her golden brown complexion to all three of her children. Her perfect, half-and-half mixture of black and gray hair is rolled up into a bun on the back corner of her head. She has an eye-catching face that has stayed wrinkle-free over the years. Elaina, only 13 years old, has already learned the art of selling furniture. If her mother is attending one client, she will energetically engage other clients that happen to wander in. She has even learned how to write up sales orders, issue sales receipts, and even do basic accounting that is still done manually at the family-ran business. But what she really relishes the most is helping to deliver furniture together with Eder when their father gets behind on assembling. Eder has been driving the small truck since he was 13, and already has his driver’s permit. Sometimes he lets Elaina drive the truck, just as his father did with him, when they are away from the city and delivering furniture to the smaller towns neighboring Bebedouro. Of course, they do not dare let their parents know about their little secrets. Because of the smaller age difference, Eder is much tighter with Elaina. Elizabeth, 9 years old, is watching cartoons on the small TV that hangs on the wall above the table to entertain customers while they wait. She would almost pass for an identical twin with Elaina if not for the age difference. Both of them have short, black curly hair, with beautiful faces made prettier by their large, dark brown eyes.

The day is drawing to a close on a Friday evening and the store is empty. As Eder walks into the back of the store with the four chairs, Elaina quickly jumps up and runs to him.

“Do you need some help with the chairs?” Elaina says energetically.

“No, I can handle it.” Eder replies back.

“Is dad behind on work? Are you going to need some help delivering furniture tomorrow?” Elaina probes with an eager voice.

Eder looks at Elaina’s big oval eyes and grins. “I’m not sure yet. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Mariabela, his mom, smiles at Eder and says, “Just put them next to that round glass table. That’s where the other one was that I sold yesterday.” She helps by pointing to the round glass table which is just a round piece of glass supported by a dark-stained wooden tripod – pine wood imitating mahogany.

Eder sets the four chairs down next to the glass table as instructed and then glares seriously at his mother with his big brown eyes as he obviously prepares to ask for something. “Mom, can I get my allowance a couple of days early?”

“Eder, it is only Friday. Your dad always pays you on Sunday morning. Do you owe someone some money?” His mom asks with her full attention on Eder.

“No, it’s not like that. I was just thinking about going to the pizzeria tonight with some friends.”

“Well what about your allowance from last Sunday? Surely you didn’t spend all of that did you?” She continues to probe as she observes Eder avoiding her stare and appears a little nervous.

“No, I still have more than half of it. I...I just wanted some extra pocket money.” Eder replies with just a small stutter as he begins to fidget about knowing his mother is staring at him, amazed out how his mom’s intuition is so sharp.

“Oh. I see. You’re going to pay the bill. Well, I know you’re not going to treat your normal friends. This must be a special friend. Who are you going with?” His mom asks with a smile knowing that Eder is hiding some information.

Eder’s small blush turns full as his face darkens. “I…I asked a girl if she wanted to go out to eat.” Eder breathes a heavy sigh as he has finally let it out.

“Oh. So you’re going on a date with Gelita?” His mom asks with a huge all-knowing, glowing smile on her face.

“What? How did you know her name? Who told you?” Eder asks sharply, not understanding how his mom could know about Gelita.

Elaina, who has been listening intently to the conversation, interrupts the exchange of questions. “Eder, can I go too? Can I go to the pizzeria with you?”

Eder beams his eyes quickly and replies firmly, “No Elaina. Not this time.”

Elaina’s expectative smile turns to a frown and her large oval eyes go round as she looks to the floor.

Eder turns his attention again to his mom. “Come on mom; tell me, how did you know her name?”

“Well if you must know, Pastor Francisco told us that you were interested in her and asking about her.” His mom says truthfully.

“Told us? You mean dad also knows? I can’t believe this is happening.” Eder says shaking his head.

“He knows who Gelita is but surely he does not know about your date tonight…… well at least not yet.” His mom says with a smile as she looks at Elaina who is still looking at the polished tiled floor.

His mom quietly walks over to the office table and opens a small cardboard cigar box that doubles as a petty cash box, draws out a couple of bills, and hands them to Eder. “Here you go Eder. I’ll tell your dad tomorrow that I gave you your allowance a day early to run some errands.”

Eder grins contently as he folds the bills and puts them in his front pocket. “Thanks mom. Let me run back over to the shop to get the table. Dad will be wondering what took so long.”

Eder is out the door with just a quick couple of steps from his extra-long legs. He crosses the black topped street in a matter of seconds as traffic has died down to almost nothing. He goes through the garage door and into the shop where his dad continues to drive wood screws with the power tool making a high pitched whining sound that dies down slowly as the screws come to a stop. As his dad finishes a screw Eder interrupts. “Hey dad, would it be all right if I quit working today at 6:30 to take a shower? I told some of my friends that I would meet them at the pizzeria tonight at 7:00.”

“Yeah, it’s Friday, that should be all right.” His dad answers and then quickly picks up another wood screw and drives it in the wood.

Eder picks up the table and takes the exact same path back to the store. He enters the store and effortlessly places the wood table down next to the matching chairs. As he places the four chairs around the table he notices that Elaina is sitting down but still look in at the floor. He walks over to her wanting to cheer her up. “Laininha. I am almost sure that you and I are going to have to go together to deliver the furniture tomorrow. Dad and I are behind and I need to stop to take a shower.”

Laininha is the special nickname Eder made up for Elaina, dropping the “E” and adding ‘inha’ which means small in Portuguese.

Elaina looks up at Eder with an ear-to-ear grin and her eyes go from round to oval. “Yeah! Hurrah! What time should we get up to load the truck?”

“Oh, what do you think? Let’s load the truck about 7:30 tomorrow morning?” Eder asks.

“Ok. But if you’re not up I’m going to wake you up.” Elaina replies knowing Eder usually likes to sleep in on weekends.

“Fair enough; let me get back to shop.” Eder turns around and winks with a smile at his mother as he heads out the door and back to the shop.

As he walks through the shop door he realizes that his dad is chatting with his two best friends, Ivan and Nilton, and his stomach drops to his knees.

Both of them turn as they hear Eder walking through the door. Both of them are dressed to play with shorts, t-shirts, and old tennis shoes. Ivan has the old, black and white soccer bowl wrapped around his right arm. All three of them look at him with surprised expressions as Ivan asks, “We asked your dad if you could play some soccer but he says you’re getting ready to take a shower to go to the pizzeria. He thought you were going with out with us. So tell us, who are you going with?”

Eder reddens and begins to stammer, “Well…well actually I...I am going out with that new girl.”

Both Ivan and Nilton shout the same words at the same time, “You have a date with Gelita!”

His dads” eyes meet with Eder’s eyes. He chuckles and then goes back to work on the furniture.

“So when were you going to tell your best friends? That’s not like you to keep secrets from us.” Nilton asks with disappointment in his voice.

“So I guess we are getting benched. This is probably the end of our soccer days.” Nilton adds.

“Come on guys. We are just going out to eat a pizza. It’s not like we’re getting married.” Eder says.

“Yeah, but it’s the first step. It won’t be long now.” Ivan joins in as both of them giggle.

Eder’s dad continues to laugh now and then as he listens in.

Eder is obviously embarrassed and frustrated. He turns around and heads back out the door. “Excuse me guys, but I am going to take a shower.”


Mile 6

Announcer: “That was the 5-Mile marker that the leaders, all three Ethiopian runners, just passed with the Kenyans right behind them. They are exactly at the other end of Flamengo beach, right in front of Sugarloaf Mountain that sits just a hop, skip, and a jump across the Botafogo Bay – truly one of the most scenic spots on this marathon route. Let’s check the time; 22:38, equivalent to a 1:58:41 marathon! They have really picked up the pace that last mile, and the lead group is now starting to put some distance on the other groups.”

Co-Announcer: “Yes, we are starting to separate the men from the boys here in Rio. The lead group currently consists of the three Ethiopian runners - Dawit Abel, Biruk Yonas, and Nahom Jemal – followed closely by the three Kenyans - Ken Masa, Simon Bett, and Martin Kiprop – then two Brazilians – Jose and Joshua dos Santos – then one American – John Oates – then there is the Reverend da Cruz from Angola, and bringing up the rear is the other Brazilian, Eder dos Santos. The next group of runners is already 16 seconds behind the leaders. I still believe that the Ethiopians and the Kenyans are working together to help each other with pacing and drafting. Of course the runners behind them are also reaping the benefits. We will keep a close watch on what happens over the next mile.”


Eder arrives at Gelita’s house on Friday evening at 7:30 pm. Arriving up to one hour late for dates is very typical for men in Brazilian culture. Night has already fallen and the air is cool and dry. Night comes early during the winter months in Brazil which also coincides with the middle of the six month dry season. Eder is dressed in his newest pair of dark blue jeans, an almost-new pair of black tennis shoes, and a cranberry-red, short-sleeved dress shirt. His heart is racing and his hands are sweating as he presses the little white button on the black grate door that rings the doorbell.

After one minute of eternity Gelita’s father opens the house door that shines light on his own face and asks in a loud, clear voice, “Hello, who is it?”

Eder, who was hoping Gelita would answer the door, is caught off balance and stumbles his words, “Hel…hel…hello Mr. Rodriguez. Goo…good evening. It is Eder dos Santos to see Gelita.” Eder moves just a little to his left and is illuminated by the street light.

“Oh. Hello Eder. Gelita said she was expecting you. Come on in, the gate is unlocked, just slide the steel bar over.” Gelita’s father replies.

Eder slides the black steel bar making a metallic screeching sound and then opens the gate. He walks up to the house door and offers his right hand. “Good evening.”

“Good evening Eder. Come on in and have a seat. I am sure Gelita is running late.” Mr. Rodriguez adds after shaking his hand and points to the dark brown cloth sofa.

There is a matching dark brown chaise, one end table, and a center coffee table. The distinguishing feature is the bare walls and a couple of empty boxes in one corner.

“Excuse the mess; we are still trying to settle in.” Mr. Rodriguez continues.

Eder sits down on the far end of the sofa hoping the distance will shield him from the onslaught of pointed questions that he knows is coming. Gelita’s father must have worked late and is still sharply dressed with a dark blue dress shirt, blue jeans, and shiny black leather shoes. This is typical office attire in the small farming community cities in the middle of Brazil. He sits down on larger chaise which doubles as his throne and begins the inquisition. “So tell me Eder, how many brothers and sisters do you have?”

“Just two younger sisters, sir. Elaina is 13 and Elizabeth is 9.” Eder replies.

“Well that is a nice size family. I believe we did see your family in church on Sunday. What does your dad do for a living?”

“My father is a carpenter, but really we just put furniture together and sell them in the store.” Eder answers politely.

“Oh, so you’re a carpenter just like your dad?” Mr. Rodriguez continues.

“Well, I guess in a way. My father has taught me how to use all of his woodworking tools, but I really almost never work with them. I mostly just help assemble the furniture.” Eder continues to answer as best as he can.

“So where is this furniture store? Is it downtown?”

“No sir, the store is just a three streets over from here, on the corner in front of the pizzeria.” Eder again answers.

“Oh, yes, I think I have passed by it a couple of times. It looks like a very nice store with lots of furniture displayed in the windows. I don’t remember seeing any signs with the name of the store.”

“Well there is a very small sign. The name is “Moveis Jose, Pedro e Eder”. My grandfather opened it up in 1940, and then added the Pedro when my father was born. And then, my dad added my name when I was born.” Eder utters with a slight blush.

“I see. I suppose you will add one more name when your son is born?”

Eder’s slight blush turns full. “I…I guess. Maybe.”

“You don’t seem too sure of yourself. Don’t you like the furniture business?” Mr. Rodriguez replies probing deeper with his baritone voice.

“It’s okay, but I really want to do something different and maybe more exciting. Maybe…” Eder begins before getting cut off.

Gelita’s two brothers coming bursting into the room at full speed with Gelita’s mother chasing the escaped prisoners in close pursuit. “Come back here you two. I told you to wait.” Mrs. Rodriguez exclaims.

Eder rises from the sofa as he has been educated to do when elders and ladies become present. He stumbles through his words again. “Goo…Good evening, Mrs. Rodriguez.”

Gelita’s mother is modestly clad in a plain dress, white with black polka dots, and a red apron tied around her neck and waist to protect her dress. Both drape down to her feet that are donned with black leather sandals. Her black hair is rolled up into a tight bun on the top of her head tied up with white lace and with two streams of about twenty hair strands hanging down to her neck on both sides of her face. Her stunning and beautiful facial features are very similar to Gelita’s even though her skin complexion is slightly darker.

She walks closer to Eder, shakes hands, and speaks in a melodious voice. “You must be Mr. Eder dos Santos. Very glad to finally meet you. Now tell me, do you prefer to go by the name of Eder or Mr. dos Santos.”

Eder is still in a dreamlike state taken back by her beauty as he answers back. “Good to meet you, too, Mrs. Rodriguez. Actually I prefer Eder.”

“Well, good Eder, and I prefer to be called Gabriela. So no more Mrs. Rodriguez. Ok?”

“Yes, ma’am, Mrs.….I mean Gabriela.” Eder smiles as he corrects himself in mid-sentence.

“Now these two tornadoes of terror are George, the older one, and Gregorio, the baby of the family.” Gelita’s mother continues as she points at Gelita’s two younger brothers, 10 and 9 years old, separated by only a year and who could almost pass for twins. Both are dressed in identical shirts and gym shorts, royal blue with dark red stripes and school letters on both. They obviously have not changed clothes since coming home from school. They both have their father’s facial features and identical tanned complexion. Both George and Gregorio approach Eder and hold out their small right hands to shake with Eder’s.

“Good to meet you sir.” Both of them say at the exact same time almost as if they rehearsed.

Eder shakes each of their small delicate hands. “Good to meet you George and Gregorio.”

George and Gregorio begin to giggle. “He smells like a bottle of perfume.” George says.

“George and Gregorio stop that. Don’t hassle our guest.” Gabriela states in a stern voice as she glares at both of her sons. “Besides, its cologne, not perfume.” She finishes with an enlightening smile as she shifts her beautiful dark brown eyes to Eder. “Now both of you go to your room and change your clothes.”

The two quickly dash out of the room and amazingly disappear faster than when they appeared.

Gabriela gracefully sits down on the other side of the plush sofa folding one of her long, thin legs behind the other as a queen or princess would do. “Please, sit back down Eder. So what did I miss out on my love?” She slowly turns and asks her husband.

“Well Eder has two sisters, 13 and 9 years old. He and his father are carpenters and in the furniture business. They own that big furniture store three blocks away in front of the Tardelli pizzeria restaurant.” Mr. Rodriguez summarizes most of their conversation in his deep baritone voice.

“Well, isn’t that something. Already learned a craft and working for a living. And so young. How old are you Eder?” Gabriela asks in that soft, rhythmic voice.

“I’m 16 and will be 17 in a couple of months.” Eder straightens his back.

“Next year will be your last year in high school. Are you planning on going away to college?” Gabriela continues as the tenor.

“Well, yes and no. I do want to go to college but will probably study here in Bebedouro.” Eder replies lowering his voice. “Mom and dad still need help with the business.”

“Do you know what you want to study and what you want to be?” Gabriela continues to press.

“Well I think I would like to study business management, but I am not really sure.”

“Well I guess you still have some time to think about it and you can always continue to work in the family business.” Gabriela replies offering an escape.

“Sounds like Eder is not so interested in continuing to run the family business. He might be the last of a long line of carpenters.” Mr. Rodriguez intrudes.

“Oh. Is that right Eder?” Gabriela joins in.

“Well, sort of. Just putting furniture together for the rest of my life doesn’t sound exciting. I just have this feeling that I can go places and do more with my life.” Eder replies.

“Well our family sure has been going places for the last 15 years. It is exciting and has its advantages, but there are also advantages in setting your roots down in one place. We are kind of hoping that Bebedouro is the best place for our roots. We think it would be nice that at least George and Gregorio can stay in one school and not have to say goodbye to friends.” Gabriela says in a sweet, praying voice.

“Don’t get me wrong. I really like Bebedouro. It’s just that….” Eder stops in mid-sentence as Gelita walks into the room. She is dressed in an eye-catching, light pink dress flowing down past her knees with a white leather belt wrapped around her small diameter waist emphasizing her perfect hour glass figure. She has a matching white leather pocket book in her left hand. Her hair is still slightly damp and is neatly tied in a single pony-tail down the middle of her back. Her radiant smile instantly lights up the dimly lit room and her rose-petal perfume fills the air.

“Hi Eder. Are these two giving you a hard time and interrogating you with their good cop-bad cop routine?” Gelita sings as she quickly approaches Eder and grasps his right hand. They go through the informal customary greeting for friends by tenderly touching both their right cheeks followed by their left cheeks.

Eder’s heart starts beating again and his lungs finally fill with air. He reddens slightly not imagining Gelita to greet him like that in front of her parents. “No…no..not really. They were just asking about my family.” Eder replies politely.

“Well, I am hungry and ready to go, unless you want to sit back down and answer more questions?” Gelita declares as if she is in a hurry.

“Sure. Let’s go then.” Eder walks across the room.

“Mom, dad – we are just going down the street to get a pizza at the Tardelli pizzeria.” Gelita speaks as both her parents rise to their feet.

“Please wait just a second.” Mr. Rodriguez utters. He walks to the hall entrance and shouts. “George. Gregorio. Are you guys ready to go?”

Gelita and Eder stare at each other with perplexed looks. Gelita turns her stare to her mother. “Mom, are you kidding me? Do we have to take those two rug-rats with us?”

Gabriela turns to her husband, who looks back at her without changing expressions as they seem to communicate with telepathy. Old fashion customs in small cities never fade away. She turns back and gazes at Gelita. She pauses before speaking, but Gelita already knows the answer. “Maybe the next time you can go alone. Besides, the boys need to get out also. It’s a new city for them.”

Gelita looks at Eder with those big brown oval eyes. “Eder, do you mind taking my two little brothers with us?”

“Why sure. I don’t mind at all.” Eder responds without a pause.

As if on cue, the two boys rush into the room, both in matching green t-shirts with white propaganda lettering, over-sized blue jeans, and white sneakers with untied laces. Their brown, straight hair is uncombed. Gabriela instantly notices and bends down on one knee in front of her two boys to tie their tennis shoes. “You guys just don’t like tying your shoes and combing your hair. What a mess.” After securing their shoes she stands up and runs her hands through each of their hair as she brushes them to one side.

“What time can we expect you back home?” Mr. Rodriguez asks in his low demanding voice.

Gelita quickly answers. “Oh, probably around 11:30, is that okay?”

“I would think 11:00 sharp is better.” Mr. Rodriguez replies not expecting any further negotiations.

“Ok. You kids have fun now. And you boys behave yourselves.” Gabriela says as she opens the door to break the tension. “Good to meet you Eder.”

“Good to meet you, too Mrs. Rod... I mean Gabriela. Good to meet you, too, Mr. Rodriguez.” Eder says and then turns to go through the door, finally relieved.

After taking a couple of steps, Eder turns around just in time to sidestep the two boys who have ran out the door behind him and darted towards the iron gate. He waits as Gelita kisses both her mom’s and her dad’s cheeks in the silhouette lighted doorway, and then gracefully floats out the door as if walking on air. She graciously puts her soft right hand into Eder’s left hand as they both turn to walk out the gate that the boys have already opened and passed. Eder feels as if he is walking on clouds as they slowly stroll down the broken concrete sidewalks along the dimly-lit streets with the dominating light coming from a huge full moon that has already come up from the horizon. The moonlight shines brightly through the crisp, clear air. Every now and then the street lights up even more from passing cars. The boys stop every now and then to look back at both of them or to pick up rocks, sticks, or paper littered along the sidewalk that they quickly discard after examining each new object.

“Well that didn’t go too bad. I think my parents like you.” Gelita’s soft voice breaks the silence of the night.

Eder awakes from his dream-like state. “You really think they like me? It was really hard to tell. Your dad is very serious and tense.”

“His bark is worse than his bite. He has to act like that at work to earn respect and sometimes he brings it home with him. He is actually soft and mushy inside.” Gelita says with her everlasting smile.

“Soft and mushy? Really? Almost sounds like a warm chocolate bar.” Eder says with a laugh.

“Your mom is very nice. I can see where your beauty comes from.” Eder’s laugh turns to a blush.

“Mom likes you for sure. She whispered in my ear to hang on and don’t let this one go.” Gelita giggles.

“She did, did she? Why did she say that? Have you been letting the other ones go?” Eder’s asks seriously.

“Well, sort of. It doesn’t help when you are always moving from city to city and school to school.” Gelita answers back more seriously.

“So how many boyfriends have you had or do you have? I suppose I should have asked earlier.” Eder now has a slight worrisome look showing on his face.

“Just a few. None that had that sparkle, you know? And, no, I don’t have any boyfriends at the present time.” She pauses. “Unless, of course, you want to be my boyfriend.” Gelita gazes into Eder’s eyes with a solemn and anxious face.

Eder is overtaken and completely surprised by Gelita’s sincerity and boldness. “Why…why...sure, I would love to be your boyfriend.” Eder finally musters with a dark red face hidden by the night. Gelita quickly kisses him on the cheek and Eder’s life comes to a sudden stop for a fraction of a second as he is quickly enclosed in light exactly the same as the first time they touched cheeks.

The two boys had stopped and were looking back at the exact moment. “We saw that Gelita. We’re going to tell mom and dad that you kissed.” George yells bringing Eder back to concrete.

“Oh, you will not or you’re not getting any ice cream after the pizza tonight.” Gelita shouts back.

“Oh, okay…….. We won’t tell.” George quickly replies in a lowering voice as they both turn back around and begin walking again.

“Gelita, did you see a powerful light again?” Eder asks wonderingly.

“Yes I did! That’s what I mean by the sparkle.” Gelita replies gleefully.

Mile 7

Announcer: “Just as Thomas predicted, the Kenyans are the new leaders and have already passed the 6-Mile marker with a time of 27:08, right at the start of the gorgeous Botafogo Beach overlooking the bay. They are just now passing the important 10 km sign. Let’s check in to see how their time is doing; 28:06, which is a 1:58:33 marathon-equivalent. That is an amazing pace of 21.35 km per hour! We are almost a quarter of the way through the race and our favorites, the Kenyans and the Ethiopians, are taking turns setting a blistering pace.”

Co-Announcer: “I agree with you Abe, this is a blistering pace. The three Kenyans have jumped in front of the three Ethiopians to set the rhythm and more importantly to act as a wind breaker. They are definitely working together. The rest of the lead group has remained unchanged with two Brazilians and an American followed closely by one Angolan and the third Brazilian. This has given the Brazilian crowd plenty to cheer for all along the packed streets. It will be interesting to see how many times the Kenyans and Ethiopians switch over the middle part of the race.”


The three blocks and time have already passed once again too swiftly. They have already arrived at the first tables and chairs of Tardelli’s Pizzeria placed on the sidewalk and on the veranda of the old mansion-turned-restaurant. Between the veranda and the sidewalk is a small patch of green grass that is also filled with square, metallic tables each draped with a white and red checkerboard tablecloth imitating a far-away Italian restaurant. Each square table has exactly four metallic white, folding chairs on each side. Large families or groups simply combine two or three tables. It is only around 8:00 pm, so only three or four of the tables are occupied, mostly by couples enjoying an early wine or beer. The weekend crowds will usually peak at about 9:30-10:00 pm. This older mansion was one of the first in the city built with two floors. There are more tables inside the spacious building with walls removed and rooms combined on both floors. On such beautiful cool nights with the moon and stars providing the romantic lighting the open-air tables fill up much faster than the internal dining space. Only the kitchen is the original room still intact but with two red-clay domed pizza hearths added. The outside of the restaurant is red bricks and the roof is made of the traditional orange-brownish tile used throughout Brazil. There is a large, red and white lighted sign that says Tardelli’s Pizzeria hanging from the easement of the roof. The two boys arrived first and have already picked out a table on the veranda nearest the entrance. The table has a decorative glass candle holder with a white candle that is already glowing. The boys are mischievously trying to set afire a small tree branch they picked up off the sidewalk, by holding the tip into the candle flame. Gelita and Eder sit down on the two remaining empty chairs at the square table that already has been neatly placed with white ceramic plates and shining silverware.

Gelita quickly snatches the brown stick that is already smoking from George’s hand. “Stop that now. No misbehaving or no ice cream. Ok?” Gelita warns again with the one threat she knows will work, well, at least until desert is served.

“Boys will be boys. I guess my parents are lucky that they only had one instead of two, especially two boys almost the same, identical age.” Eder says with a smile.

The waiter, tidily dressed in black pants and a white shirt buttoned to the collar appears out of nowhere with four menus in his hand.

“Hey, Eder, how are you doing?” The waiter, Carlos, is a friend of Eder but three years older and probably working a couple of jobs to pay his community college classes.

“Hello Carlos. Doing fine. What have you been up to?” Eder replies.

“Mostly working and studying, and not having much fun.” Carlos replies with a sigh. “So tell me are you two on a date or are you babysitting?”

Eder looks at the two boys and blushes. “A little bit of both. Let me introduce you, this is Gelita Rodriguez and her two little brothers, George and Gregorio. They just moved into town and are in the old Tardelli’s house four blocks away on the St. John Street.”

“Ah, so you’re the new family in the old Tardelli’s house. You know he’s the owner of this restaurant so he’s actually my boss. Glad to meet you Gelita.” Carlos grabs her right hand and shakes it.

“Good to meet you Carlos.” Gelita replies back politely.

Carlos sets down three menus on the table. “Can I bring you guys something to drink while you’re looking at the menus?

Gelita gazes at the two boys. “So what do you boys want to drink?”

George quickly pops his head up and says, “I want a Guarana soda.” Guarana soda is one of Brazil’s national soft drinks made from the red berries of this tropical tree.

Gregorio looks at Gelita. “Can I have an orange juice?”

“Why sure you can.” Gelita says in her soft voice. “And I would like a bottle of mineral water with a glass of ice and a slice of lime.”

“Hey Carlos can you have them make me a glass of half pineapple juice and a half orange juice?” Eder asks.

Carlos looks back at Eder. “Sure, no problem. I’ll be right back with your drinks while you guys are looking at the menu.” Carlos briskly walks away to the kitchen area inside the mansion-turned-restaurant.

Eder and Gelita look at each other with big eyes wishing that this was their first date alone instead of having to babysit. The windless night air turns cooler but because of the dry season it just doesn’t feel as cold.

“You must be very popular in town; Looks like everyone knows you.” Gelita breaks the silence.

“Small towns in this area are like that; especially when three, four, or five generations stay in the same city.” Eder explains.

“Yea, I suppose. I surely wouldn’t know what that feels like.” Gelita sighs. “I hope this is our last move from one city to another. Maybe my family can finally set down roots and be the first of four or five generations.”

“Well, you’re sixteen. In a couple of more years you can make that decision for yourself. Besides, I kind of envy you with all the places you’ve lived and your experiences you’ve shelved away at such a young age.” Eder answers trying his best to bring that remarkable smile back on Gelita’s pretty face.

The strategy works as Gelita lights up the table with a huge grin. “So tell me about the history of the huge metropolis of Bebedouro that your five generations of “dos Santos” help founded. I’m sure you must have memorized all the stories that have been handed down from father to son.”

Eder can’t help but to chuckle. “Well, in the first place we have not reached metropolis status yet since we still only have 75,044 habitants.”

“Exactly 75,044 habitants – now has that number been updated to include my family?” Gelita laughs.

“Well actually yes it has. I read in the Bebedouro Gazette this week that the official number went from 75,039 to 75,044.” Eder continues giggling as he relishes Gelita’s radiant face.

“So the word Bebedouro of course means “The watering place” and got its name from the troops, pioneers, and hunters crossing what them was a prairie and would stop here to hunt or water their animals in the small lakes that were formed from a stream fed by natural springs. The..”

Eder is abruptly cut off from Carlos appearing from behind with a round brown platter holding their drinks. “Here’s your drinks. A Guarana soda and an orange juice for the boys.” Carlos says as he places small green bottle in front of George and a glass jar of freshly squeezed orange juice in front of Gregorio.

“Thank you, sir.” Both George and Gregorio say in unison as if they practice every day.

“You are quite welcome young men.” Carlos replies. “And here is a natural, bubbling mineral water, Bebedouro’s oldest and finest, with a slice of lime for the lady.” Carlos continues as he sets down the clear glass bottle with blue and white lettering along with a tall glass containing a couple of slices of lime mixed in with ice cubes and fresh lime juice on the bottom of the glass.

“Thank you, Carlos.” Gelita adds.

“My pleasure is to serve.” Carlos replies politely. “And last but not least, Eder’s favorite fresh-squeezed, half-and-half, orange and pineapple juice.” Carlos continues as he sets down another glass jar of a lighter orange-colored juice.

“Thanks, Carlos.” Eder says as he grins at Carlos.

“So, is everyone ready to order or do you still need more time?” Carlos asks the group.

“Well actually we haven’t even opened the menu yet.” Eder replies.

“We have, and we want a pizza, half Portuguesa and half Quatro Queijos (four cheeses).” George answers quickly while pointing his finger at the opened menu.

“Now George, that is not very polite not waiting for everyone.” Gelita says with a small frown as she glares at George.

“Oh, Gelita, don’t make a fuss. The boys must be hungry. Let’s go ahead and order a pizza and then we can order something else later if we want.” Eder smiles at boys.

“Well, alright Eder. Thanks again for putting up with the boys.” Gelita beams.

“Okay, one large pizza going into the wood-burning hearth. Should be ready in about 15-20 minutes.” Carlos confirms the order as he picks up the menu’s but purposely leaving one on the table for later, turns around, and quickly disappears again into the kitchen.

“Now, where was I on my Bebedouro history?” Eder enquires as he pours the gaseous water into Gelita’s glass.

“You stopped at the part where this was all prairie land with some small lakes and a stream.” Gelita replies as she gives her full attention to Eder along with the boys who have also become eerily quiet as they pour their drinks into their glasses and look back at Eder.

“Ok, now I remember. So that was in the mid-1800 and that was where the original word “Bebedor” came from, the name they gave to the creek. This land originally was part of the Jaboticabal city that is about thirty minutes south of here. Have you been to Jaboticabal?” Eder pauses to ask as he pours part of the pineapple-orange juice from the jar into his glass.

“Yeah, yeah, we’ve driven through there many a times on our family trips. We actually stopped in one time for lunch hoping we would see huge groves of big jaboticaba trees, but didn’t see a single one. My dad adores those big, dark-purple grapes that grow on the tree trunk.” Gelita answers as her mouth waters thinking of the delicious fruit.

“Yeah, too bad, I think they cleared out most of the jaboticaba trees to plant orange groves. Well anyway, a group that owned this place donated a part of the land near the Bebedor creek to settlers that wanted to put up some homes and trading houses. The small settlement was called by several names; “Vila Saint Sebastian of Bebedor” and “Bella Vista Saint John the Baptist of Bebedor”. Then around 1880, the town had increased in size and they organized a council. The council went back to the owners asking to buy the land to form a new city. Now get this, the owners agreed to sell the land for three herds of pigs!”

“Three herds of pigs!” The boys again say at the same time and start laughing. Gelita is also laughing out loud. The patrons at the other table look over and cannot help from smiling.

“Yelp, that is how the history is told.” Eder says while also chuckling. “Well, you can imagine it took them some time to raise the second and third herd, but they finally did. They delivered the final herd of pigs with herders on horseback to the Jaboticabal courthouse on May 3, 1884, and officially called the new town - Bebedouro. Actually Bebedouro remained part of the Jaboticabal district until we finally gained our independence on September 6, 1892. But, we the people of Bebedouro actually celebrate the city’s birthday on May 3.”

“Well that is some story. So did your grandfather actually help raise the pigs?” Gelita snickers.

“Not my grandfather. But believe it or not my great-grandfather actually was the first of our “dos Santos” clan to move into the region around 1870. He was a carpenter and lived here when all this happened.” Eder answers with a proud air about him.

“Wow. So your family really is one of the original families of the city. I thought you were just kidding me.” Gelita amazed with her big brown eyes opened wide.

“Yelp, no kidding. My great-grandfather actually was the one that acquired that piece of land over there where our furniture store and house are built.” Eder continues as he points across the triangular park. Gelita and the boys look over at the furniture store.

“So what did your great-grandfather actually do during that time in history?” Gelita continues more curious than ever as she turns back around.

“Well, my dad doesn’t tell me much, but my grandfather use to tell me stories about how his father mostly made wooden doors, window frames, and roof frames to hold the ceramic tiles.”

“Are your grandfather and grandmother still alive?” Gelita wonders out loud.

“Unfortunately, no. Jose was a workaholic just like my dad and ended up dying of heart failure about ten years ago. My grandmother, Marina, ended up dying of a broken heart about a year later.”

“Oh that is too bad, so sad.”

Eder’s face saddens as he hurries to get back on topic. “My grandfather told me what really made our family business prosper was every once in a while he would get an order to make some special furniture for one of the rich coffee farmers.”

“Rich coffee farmers? I haven’t seen any coffee farms around here?”

“Yes ma’am, this region was the coffee capital of the world back at that time: the first of three monocultures that dominated this region. During the worldwide economic crisis in 1929, coffee consumption dropped and farmers started replacing whole coffee plantations with orange groves.”

“Oh, so that is how Bebedouro became the orange capital of the world.” Gelita announces. “Even today, before we moved here, people were talking about the oranges.”

“Well, we were the orange capital of the world in the late 70’s and 80’s. We had four big orange juice factories and nothing but orange groves as far as you could see. But even that quickly faded away in the 90’s, and has now mostly been replaced by sugarcane. You barely see any more orange groves in the land around the city. The dry season is the peak of the orange harvest and the whole region smelled like oranges. Even…” Eder is again interrupted in mid-sentence as his sister, Elaina, comes up from behind and puts both her small, cold hands over each of Eder’s eyes.

“Guess who?” Elaina says in her high-pitched familiar voice.

Mile 8

Announcer: “Okay, we are now past the 7-Mile post and just past the first of two tunnels leading to Copacabana Beach. The three Kenyans are still our leaders, closely followed by the Ethiopian runners who are also in a line of three abreast. Their current time is 31:38, which is equal to a 1:58:30 marathon! We are still projecting a sub-two hour marathon here in Rio today. And the mobs of Brazilians have plenty to cheer about as all three of their runners are still in the lead pack, right behind the leaders.”

Co-Announcer: “Our runners are halfway between a series of two tunnels that cut through a small mountain that separates Botafogo and Copacabana. Remember that the runners did have to run up one of the few hills on this course today, but are now going down the hill, on their way through the next tunnel that leads to the majestic Copacabana Beach.”


“Elaina, what are you doing here?” Eder replies as he softly grabs both of her hands and turns around in the chair.

“We’re here to eat a pizza, and mom and dad wanted to meet your new girlfriend.” Elaina says matter-of-factly.

Eder looks over Elaina’s shoulder and sees his mom, dad, and Elizabeth coming across the street towards their table. His face turns two shades past dark red. He turns back around and to also see a wide-eye surprise on Gelita’s beautiful face.

“Girlfriend!” Both boys say at the same time almost as if their minds are one.

“Well what a pleasant surprise.” Gelita says as she pushes her metallic white chair back away from the table to stand up and greet the new visitors.

Eder also stands up with his skin color growing darker with each step that draws his parents closer.

“Mom…mom, dad, what…what a surprise. You didn’t say anything about going out tonight.” Eder stutters as he tries to control his voice as it pitches up and down.

“Well, we really didn’t have anything else to do so we thought we would have a pizza.” His mom explains as she arrives first. “So aren’t you going to introduce us to your new friends?”

“Why…why sure. Mom, this is Gelita and her two brothers, George and Gregorio.” Eder musters with blood continuing to rush to his face.

“Hello, Mrs. dos Santos.” Gelita says loud and clear as she grabs her right hand and they bring their right cheeks to together.

“Good to finally meet you Gelita. And please, call me Mariabela.” Eder’s mom replies and takes over the task of making the other introductions as she sees that Eder has frozen. “This is my husband, Pedro.”

“Very nice to meet you Gelita.” Eder’s father states in a warm, friendly voice as he also takes Gelita’s right hand and touch cheeks.

“Nice to meet you, too, Mr. dos Santos.” Gelita replies.

“Please, call me Pedro.” Eder’s father requests politely.

“And, this is Elaina, the middle child, and the smallest “dos Santos” is Elizabeth.” Mariabela continues as she touches Elaina on the shoulder and then places her hand on Elizabeth’s head.

“Well, nice to meet both of you young ladies.” Gelita says as she gracefully bends over and greets each of them with a kiss on the cheek. “And, everyone, these are my two brothers, George and Gregorio.”

Both the boys take turns shaking each of their hands, starting with Pedro, then Mariabela, then Elaina, and finally Elizabeth. George, slightly older, shakes first and then followed by Gregorio. They do not say a word and actually blush when they shake Elizabeth’s hand.

“Well look at that, how cute, the boys must be the same age as Elizabeth. Are George and Gregorio twins?” Mariabela asks with an overwhelming smile.

“No, they are actually a year apart, but sure do look like twins.” Gelita explains.

Carlos has seen the new guests arriving and has walked over. “Good evening Mr. and Mrs. dos Santos. Do you want me to add some tables and chairs?”

“Hello Carlos. Why sure, let’s put three tables together.” Mariabela, the master of ceremony, answers quickly. “So Elizabeth will sit on one end, next to George and Gregorio. Gelita will sit next to Gregorio, and Eder will sit next to her on that side. I will sit next to George, and with Pedro next to me. And Elaina will sit on the other end, next to her darling Eder.”

“Not a problem.” Carlos replies as he quickly places two tables next to Eder’s original table to form one long table.

After everyone has been seated Carlos places a menu in front of Mariabela and in front of Pedro. “The first pizza is coming out of the oven in two minutes. Do you guys want to order some beverages and a second pizza?

Mariabela continues to dominate the decisions. “That sounds good. Pedro and I are going to share a bottle of wine, so can you bring us the wine list. Elizabeth wants a Guarana soda. Elaina, what would you like?”

“I’m going to have some of Eder’s pineapple-orange juice, so please just bring me an extra glass.” Elaina responds brashly.

“Ok. And Carlos, go ahead and put one of your famous Tardelli House Pizzas in the oven for us.” Mariabela adds.

“Ok. I will be right back.” Carlos answers as he turns and disappears into the kitchen.

“So Gelita, how do you like Bebedouro so far?” Mariabela turns and asks.

Gelita smiles and lights up the whole table. “I really like it a lot, and honestly, more and more with each day that passes.”

Just as everyone is getting situated, Ivan and Nilton approach the table after crossing the darkened street, almost as if they appeared out of nowhere.

“Is there room at the table for a couple of more?” Ivan asks inviting himself.

Eder looks up surprised. “What are you guys doing here? Is the whole town coming to dinner?”

Mariabela loves the commotion. “Now, now Eder, these two are you best friends. We can add one more table. You know your grandfather use to always say – the more the merrier.”

“Thanks Mrs. dos Santos.” Ivan says as he bends over to greet her by touching right cheeks. “Good evening Mr. dos Santos.” Ivan says as he shakes his hand.

Nilton also follows Ivan, repeating the same gestures. “Come on Ivan, help me with this table.”

“Yes, just add the table to the end and you young men can sit there while we let Elaina sit next to Eder.” Mariabela continues giving instructions in her domineering manner.

“So, now back to Gelita, let me see how accurate the small town gossip is…” Mariabela starts before being stopped by Pedro.

“Now honey, do you really have to do this? We don’t want to embarrass our new guest.” Pedro pleads with Mariabela.

Gelita answers with a brighten face. “That’s quite alright. Let me see how this small town gossiping works.”

Mariabela continues. “Ok, and I will try to be nice. So….: you and your family just moved two weeks ago into the old Tardelli house on St. John Street, but your furniture only arrived last week; for sure you must still have some lots of empty boxes in your house; you are moving here from Uberlandia were your father just finished a project; your last name is Rodriguez, which is definitely Spanish; you go to the same church as we do because it is on the same street as your house; your mother’s name is Gabriela; your father is a project engineer and works for the large sugarcane factory near Colina; and finally, a beautiful girl is the talk of the town with a name that no one has ever heard of before – Gelita.”

Gelita’s moon-white face blushes ever so slightly. “Wow. I am impressed. That is the talk going around town and is now public knowledge?”

“Well, actually there is more, everyone also commented on the color of your furniture, how much your family pays for rent, what food you bought at the supermarket, our pastor has already given you the thumbs up, and, plus, your family has already made friends with your next-door neighbors who also happen to be Jonas’s parents.” Mariabela adds.

Gelita’s wide eyes open a bit wider. “Looks like gossiping is an important part of life here.”

“Yes it is. I will be very happy to teach you the in’s and out’s of this fine art in the coming months.” Mariabela grins contently.

Gelita glances to her side at Eder who raises and lowers his shoulders. The boys have become uncommonly quiet in the presence of Elizabeth. Carlos has already come back with a pizza tray, more glasses, another Guarana soda for Elizabeth, and a wine menu that he hands to Pedro.

“Well hello Ivan and Nilton, I didn’t see you guys come in.” Carlos says at seeing the new guests and that one more table has been added to the chain of tables.

“Hello Carlos.” Nilton says.

“Hello Carlos. Yeah, we did not want to miss such an important night.” Ivan adds while turning his eyes towards Eder.

“Well I will get your drink order in just a second. Here you go everyone, more glasses, the wine menu, two wine glasses, and one more Guarana for the little lady.” Carlos adds as he sets them on the table. “And the first pizza is ready to be served. I will start with the ladies – oldest to youngest. Mrs. dos Santos, would you like a slice of Portuguesa or Four Cheese?”

“No thanks Carlos. I will wait for the second pizza. Love, please order one of those good Malbec wines from Argentina. The one we had last time was really delightful.” Mariabela adds as she looks at her husband.

“Gelita, you’re next.” Carlos says.

“I’ll have the Portuguesa.” Gelita replies.

Carlos gently places a slice on her plate using a triangular spatula. “Elaina, which do you prefer?”

“Four Cheese, please.” Elaina answers.

Carlos continues going around the table with the pizza tray.

“Gelita is such a pretty name, where does it come from? What does it mean?” Elaina asks.

“Well….according to my mother it means “little angel” in Spanish. It is supposed to be the abbreviated form of Angelita. Of course, you can’t find it in any dictionary, so I really think she just made it up. She said she kept having visions of angels’ right before I was born.” Gelita has enchanted everyone at the table, including Carlos the waiter, who has all stopped to listen to her pleasing, rhythmic voice.

“So, are you and Eder already girlfriend and boyfriend?” Elaina asks openly.

Eder can’t believe his ears as he turns even darker red. Gelita blushes ever-so-slightly and smiles lightly as she looks at Eder.

“Now Elaina, that is very impolite to ask our new guest such a question.” Pedro reprimands as he glowers at his oldest daughter.

“But dad, mom told me to ask.” Elaina replies to defend herself.

Now Mariabela tints her face dark red as Pedro points his grimacing face to his wife.

Gelita once again soothes over the situation. “Elaina, that is quite alright. Actually, I am very happy to announce that - yes we are. We sealed the deal with a kiss as we were walking over here. So now it is official and can also be included in the gossip.”

Eder’s tightened and blush face relaxes and breaks into an immense grin. Pedro and Mariabela look at each other and smile. The boys look at each other and then at Elizabeth, put both hands on the top of their foreheads, and shake their hands back and forth, synchronized as always. Ivan and Nilton look at each other with eyes wide open.

Carlos, who has also overheard the whole conversation, is the first to speak. “Way to go Eder! Congratulations to the both of you.”

“I think this calls for a salute. Maybe Mrs. dos Santos will let us all toast with a little bit of her wine.” Ivan suggests as he gazes quickly at Mariabela.

“Now Ivan, that is going a little too far.” Mariabela sternly looks at Ivan.

“Yeah guys, ease up a little, it’s not like we’re getting engaged or married.” Eder mutters while trying to contain the moment.

“Well at least not yet, but this is the first step you know.” Nilton responds as Eder again flushes ever so lightly.

“Ok everyone, enough is enough. Let’s change the subject and talk about soccer or the Olympic Games in Athens next month or women’s clothing. Ok?” Pedro says with a strong, clear voice.

There is an eternity of silence as everyone stares around the table at each other. Carlos disappears into the kitchen.

The boys lastly look at each other. “Women’s clothing?” They say at the exact same time.

They break out in laughter that quickly becomes highly contagious as it spreads throughout the entire table. All the other patrons dining in the same outdoor area interrupt their light conversations as they observe the table of laughing lunatics. Finally the hysterical laughter dies down and each small group – the boys and Elizabeth, Ivan and Nilton, Gelita and Eder – split up into their individual dialogues.


The time has flown and dinner has ended. Eder is walking Gelita and the boys back to their house before the 11 pm deadline. The cars have completely disappeared from the streets and the only sounds are their own footsteps and a distant dog barking every now and then. The boys are once again in front. Gelita and Eder are walking in silence, holding hands, and enjoying their last first-date moments together.

“Gelita, I am really sorry about my friends and family crashing our pizza dinner.” Eder apologizes and breaks the silence.

“Oh now Eder, you know it was not your fault. Besides, I had to meet them one of these days. Better now than later.” Gelita answers back endeavoring to cheer up Eder.

“Yeah, I guess you are right. My mom would not have rested until she finally met you. She is just that sort of person.” Eder replies.

“Really? Why did she want to meet me so bad?” Gelita asks with a renewed curiosity.

“Well, mostly because of Pastor Francisco. He told mom that I had been asking about you. And then when I told her I was going to the pizzeria tonight she quickly figured out that it was with you.” Eder answers back.

“So you have been asking our Pastor about me ever since you saw me in church last Sunday?” Gelita continues to press Eder with questions.

Eder reddens. “Well sort of, but not really. I did not ask about you, I was just looking around the church at the end but you had already left. Pastor Francisco is very good about knowing what is going on, what people are thinking, and even what is going to happen.”

Gelita dons a heart-warming smile. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I think we were set up by Pastor Francisco. He convinced us to go to the city race even though we really had lots of unpacking to do at home. I am pretty sure he had already told my mom about you.”

“Well that’s Pastor Francisco for you! It is almost like he knows the plan.” Eder answers.

“Yeah, my mom says he is unusually blessed and has special gifts. And she is always 100% right when she reads people’s hearts.”

“Really? What did she say about my heart?” Eder asks.

“Oh come on, I already told you that my mom whispered to me not to let you go.” Gelita grins.

“Well that’s good, and I hope you always obey your parents.” Eder beams.

“Speaking of parents, I don’t think I made a good impression with yours tonight. It didn’t seem to go well at all.” Gelita says while her smile diminishes.

“Are you kidding, my dad never protected anyone like he protected you tonight. He usually joins in with the laughter and joking. You are definitely on his favorite’s list along with Elaina.” Eder grins as he remembers the night’s conversation.

“Well maybe, but your mother definitely has her doubts.” Gelita relates still with a slightly worrisome look on her normally shining face.

“Oh, that’s just my mother. She likes her gossip. I do believe that most of the people that come into our furniture store are more interested in the latest gossip rather than furniture. You’ll get used to her after a while.” Eder offers as solace.

“Well she did offer to teach me the fine art of gossiping, so I guess that’s a start.”

“Yelp, that’s a start to small town living all right. Of course the big stars of the night were the boys.” Eder begins chuckling as he remembers their performance.

Gelita also begins giggling as she looks up at the boys who have just opened the iron gate and are running into the house. “Well here we are… back where we started from. And it looks like just in time, 5 minutes before 11 pm. That will make a nice impression on my dad.”

Eder’s face becomes serious as he realizes the magical night is coming to a finale. “Time just does not seem to want to cooperate. Why can’t time just stop every now and then?”

“I think I know how to make it stop.” Gelita answers as she gently closes her eyes and tiptoes to bring her right cheek up next Eder’s. Eder bends over and completes the gesture. They both are instantly immersed in a world of light that flows around them in all direction. Time stops.

Gelita’s dad appears in the backlighted doorway and clears his throat with a grunting sound. Gelita and Eder open their eyes at the same time with pure bliss on their faces.

“Hello dad.” Gelita says as she turns her head to the house entrance. “I’ll be coming in just a couple of minutes.”

“Okay. Don’t linger too long.” Her dad answers back in his deep voice.

Gelita turns back to face Eder’s beaming, glossed-over eyes. “So what’s next on the program? Will we see each other ever again?”

Eder awakes from the dream and refocuses on Gelita. “Now I know what you mean by the sparkle, although it does seem more like a laser bomb going off.”

“Yeah, that is amazing. Now come on, tell me, are you going to the church on Sunday at 10 am?” Gelita presses.

Eder feels his feet hitting the ground. “Yes, of course, I can’t remember the last time my family missed church on Sunday. And the last Sunday of the month is always “picnic Sunday”. Is your family going?”

“I am pretty sure we will. My mom doesn’t stop talking about the church and Pastor Francisco.” Gelita answers with her shining expression.

“Well that means our families will probably meet at the picnic. The meeting of the dos Santos and Rodriguez families – that should make for quite a show.” Eder grins as he envisions how the meeting will be.

Gelita quickly kisses Eder on the same right cheek. “Well time to go. My dad is probably counting the minutes.”

“Well…well…wait a minute.” Eder stutters as he watches Gelita quickly walk up the concrete path to the open doorway. “Is that it?”

Gelita turns around with gigantic, heart-heating smile lighting up the surroundings. “That’s it for now. See ya on Sunday!”

Mile 9

Announcer: “The lead group after coming through that second tunnel continued a slight downward slope to the majestic and beautiful Copacabana Beach. They just turned right on Atlantic Avenue right in front of the beach, and after two blocks they have now passed by the 8-Mile marker. Again, as Thomas predicted, the Kenyans and the Ethiopians have switched positions once again. All three of the Ethiopians are now back in the lead. They are still on an incredible pace with a time of 36:13, once again equivalent to a world record, sub-two hour, 1:58:41 marathon! The Brazilian crowd is probably just a little sad as one of their athletes, Jose dos Santos, couldn’t keep up and has dropped out of the lead group. Thomas….”

Co-Announcer: “Yes, what a fast pace! This is quite fun and I hope they can keep it up. Too bad for Jose dos Santos, he is now 15 seconds behind the leaders. But get this, the rest of the pack is more than two minutes behind! We are only one third of the way through the race and this gap between the leaders and the laggers is unbelievable. It seems as the Kenyans and the Ethiopians have agreed to switch up every 3 kilometers. The viewers can see that there are water showers or water sprays set up every couple of miles or three kilometers. This is to help cool the athletes off. Some of the runners use them and some don’t because they say the water adds weight to their skin, clothes, and shoes, and so the negatives out-weigh the benefits. None of the lead group is using the water showers. Also, you can see that all the runners are grabbing and drinking liquids at each of the water stands set at exactly 5 kilometer intervals. This is very important to give them energy boosts and to replace some of their body’s liquids. But, I would like our spectators to understand that dehydration is typically not THE problem but rather part of a bigger problem called HYPERTHERMIA, or excessive body temperatures. The body overheats, usually towards the last 3-4 miles of the race when the body is out of gas and really struggling. We will be watching each athlete’s body temperature with our infra-red scan guns.

Actually the number one and biggest risk is HYPONATREMIA, or low blood-sodium levels. This occurs when an athlete drinks too much water too fast, causing dilution of the blood that has been known to cause swelling of the brain. This could result in unconsciousness, convulsions, and even death. So, you can see, what they drink and when they drink is a very important part of the science of running. Abe….”

Announcer: “Thanks again Thomas. Once again, behind the six African runners is John Oates from the USA and Joshua dos Santos from Brazil, running side-by-side. Right behind them is the Reverend da Cruz from Angola, and just slightly behind and off the Reverend’s right shoulder is Eder dos Santos from Brazil. One of our technicians has pointed out that it looks like Eder is running with his eyes closed. Very interesting! We will do some close-ups and analyze this over the next part of the race….”


…. “Where have I heard those words – Follow Me? Does Iehoshua really want me to follow him? He is a reverend; it must be from the Bible. …..


Sunday morning in the same garage-turned-church where Eder first spied Gelita and Pastor Francisco dressed in his black suit has just started his sermon. “… and when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. That verse is from Mark 8:34. Again, Christ is calling us to follow in his footsteps, take up a cross, and deny ourselves. He gave us very clear examples of how to follow him. The clearest example is what I like to call the first pillar. Does everyone remember the four pillars?”

Elaina quickly raises her hand and Pastor nods his head at her. “A, B, C, and D.”

Pastor gives her a big grin. “Very good Elaina.…. Now let’s see if Eder remembers what each one stands for.”

The entire congregation turns their heads at Eder, including Gelita who is again sitting with her family in the first row on the other side. Eder flushes slightly. “A stands for AGAPE (a-ga-pe), B stands for Baptism, C stands for the Great Commission, and D stands for Day or the end of times.”

Pastor Francisco smiles a big smile. “Excellent Eder, good job! Everyone knows that pillars are what connect the foundation to the roof, or the earth to heaven. Any well-built house will always have a rock-solid foundation, a well-built roof, and at least four strong pillars. The rock-solid foundation represents our faith in God. Remember, God left us two very important evidences of his existence – the universe and the Bible. Anyone who has seen a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a flower garden, or even the bright stars on a very dark night knows and feels God’s existence. And the Bible was written by his anointed ones and in the case of the Ten Commandments, handwritten by Himself. Our faith is based on obedience and knowledge - obeying his commandments, laws, suggestions, and wishes AND the knowledge from reading his Bible and talking or praying to him each and every day. The roof, that shields us, protects us, and allows us unite with God, represents the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the church, His church that he started here on Earth. Christ did not leave any autobiographies, or books, or movies; the only thing he left was trained and enlightened people to run His church. And then there are the four pillars. So the first of my four pillars is AGAPE or in Latin – AMAR. And to build our own, personal houses, we all need AGAPE or what Christ referred to as the Greatest Commandment on which all other commandments are based on. Please turn to Matthew 22:37.” Pastor pauses to allow everyone to find the passage and then continues.


“Now in Greek and Aramaic there are several words for love; EROS which of course is romantic love, PHILA which means brotherly love, and AGAPE which is the highest form of love, unconditional and sacrificial. This was exactly the type of love that Christ showed us when he sacrificed his own life on our behalf. The word AGAPE appears 259 times in the New Testament. When the Bible was translated to English and Latin, only the words LOVE and AMAR were used. Today, AGAPE has also been added to the Portuguese and English languages – A-GA-PE, not A-GAPE. Before Christ’s time the word barely existed, so we can say that the first Christians invented or reinvented the word AGAPE. Agape is what all Christians strive for, a love so strong that you would lay down your life for your mother, father, brother, sister, neighbor, and your enemies. Yes, even your enemies, if you truly want to be a full time, “Saved” Christian.”


The sermon has ended. Everyone is shaking hands and repeating, “The Lord’s peace be with you” to each other at the exit of the church which is really a garage door. Gelita and her family are one of the last to come up the makeshift aisle. Eder and his family are waiting at the garage door as they approach.

Gelita is the first to speak. “Mom, dad…this is Eder’s mother and father, Mariabela and Pedro dos Santos.”

Gelita’s dad shakes hands with Pedro. “Good to meet you Pedro. My name is John Rodriguez.”

At the same time Gelita’s mom takes Mariabela’s hand and they touch cheeks. “Hello Mariabela. I am Gabriela.”

Introductions are made between all of them including the children. Just as they are finishing Pastor Francisco and his wife, Christiana, arrive at the exit.

“So, the dos Santos family finally meets the Rodriguez family. This is an important moment.” Pastor Francisco flashes a huge grin at both Eder and Gelita. “So is everyone going to the church picnic?”

“Sure. We never miss one.” Pedro responds first.

The boys look up at their mother and George asks. “Can we go too, mom?”

“For sure, it’ll be a good time and place to meet new friends.” Gabriela replies.

Elizabeth has been listening intently to the conversation, smiles broadly at the answer, and taps both of the boys on the shoulder. “Let’s go, hurry. They usually have a couple of soccer balls to play with or we can climb some trees.”

The boys and Elizabeth go running down the street to the unfinished plaza-park that is only one block away. The tree filled park is about the size of a city block but has no concrete walkways or monuments that the typical city park would have. The tall, tropical trees provide ample shade to protect everyone from the intense sun but also there are large grass-filled spaces for games and picnics. There are also a couple of mango trees, lime trees, and orange trees that have been clandestinely planted to provide fruit for the neighborhood. The limes and oranges have already ripened during the middle of the dry season and are obviously being picked on a daily basis as there aren’t any fallen fruits littering the ground. The mangoes are still green, but the large majestic mango trees covered with large, dark-green leaves are the favorites amongst the tree-climbing children. There is one long, permanent concrete table that has been draped with a red-and-white checkerboard table cloth that serves as the buffet table and is already lined with large metallic pots of different shapes and sizes. The Sunday picnics are always pot-luck with each family bringing their own dishes, drinks, and one large pot of their favorite dish to share with the other families. There are pots filled with the popular white rice and pinto beans, while others are filled with different types of spaghetti, stewed pork, baked chicken, steam vegetables, and beef dishes. Each family typically brings large colorful blankets that they spread out to sit down on. Some families do bring some portable folding chairs to recline and relax. The adults have plates in their hands and are ready to eat as soon as Pastor Francisco gives the blessing. The smaller children are all off enjoying themselves in some type of activity. The dos Santos and Rodriguez families have set their picnic blankets next to each other. Mariabela and Gabriela are sitting next to each other on one of the blankets and have not stopped chatting with each other since they left the church. Gelita and Eder are sitting on the other blanket, conversing and enjoying the fact that their families are enjoying themselves. Pedro has introduced John to some of the other men near the buffet table and all of them with plates in their hands awaiting the Pastor. John, being the newcomer, is being drilled with questions about his job and company from all directions. Finally, Pastor Francisco raises his opened hands, bows his head, and closes his eyes. Everyone quickly becomes quiet and the other adults, young adults, and children not playing stand up.

Pastor Francisco begins the blessing with a booming voice knowing there are no microphones. “Our Almighty Lord, Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for this spectacular day on which we give you praise for keeping us safe and providing us with this fantastic feast that sits before us waiting to nourish our bodies. May we always seek to attain agape for you and all others with the help of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Everyone replies “Amen”, and the picnic begins. The pots and lids along with the large metallic spoons begin to clatter as people begin filling their plates.

Gelita and Eder each take up a plate and fill it up quickly just by putting a little bit of each pot. They return and sit at their same place on the blanket. Everyone is busy eating or playing or talking and that gives them both a chance to talk.

“So, you’re pretty good with this A, B, C, and D. Have you been studying?” Gelita asks.

Eder chuckles a bit. “Actually, Pastor Francisco repeats the same sermons year after year. I could probably almost recite each of them word for word.”

“Oh, so that’s how you knew all the answers. You know I have never heard about this word AGAPE before. It’s amazing that a word so common for Christ and the early Christians gets lost in the translation, a word that actually already exists in almost all languages. That is really a shame.” Gelita responds.

“Yeah, I agree. Experts say that if the Bible had to be summed up in one word it would be AGAPE, The Greatest Commandment. The only one you need to know and the one that all the others are based on.” Eder adds.

“You know the concept is easy enough to grasp, but to put it in practice is a huge challenge. Have you actually achieved the level of agape for anyone or for any period of time?” Gelita wonders.

“Yes, I am sure I have, for short periods of time. Pastor Francisco says that when we are finally baptized by the Holy Spirit we will know for sure.” Eder replies.

“Eder, I had no idea that you were so religious. You almost remind me of a Pastor.” Gelita says with another grin.

“Oh, come on now. It’s not like that at all. I just know and feel deep down inside that Pastor Francisco is right about everything.”

“So, in other words, you believe? Right?” Gelita continues to ask.

“Yes, if you really must know.” Eder answers with a firm voice. “And what about you?”

“No doubt about it, I’m a believer. I am not sure why, but ever since I can remember I talk to God on a daily basis. Maybe it has something to do with my mother calling me a little angel, God’s little messenger.” Gelita replies as firmly as Eder. “My only problem is I don’t always listen to Him at times.”

Eder gives out a small chuckle. “Yes, you are right. That is the same problem with most people. Deep down inside they know what’s right and then go off and do just the opposite. I do it too, and it is just so hard to understand why.”

Gelita giggles a bit. “My mom says if we continue to try our hardest to walk the straight and narrow path that it gets much easier as we get older. She says we just have to make sure we never stray too far, and that we should always ask forgiveness from Christ and from those that we have offended.”

“Well those sound like great words of advice. So is your mother an aspiring Pastor also?” Eder laughs.

“No, not really. Actually, she probably would if she could overcome her shyness about speaking in front of crowds. She has studied the Bible for as long as I can remember and with very knowledgeable people. I tell you she has special gifts.” Gelita answers on a more serious tone.

“Now don’t get upset. I was just asking.” Eder sees that Gelita has gotten serious. “Let’s do that river of light trick again. Now that is something else.”

The glowing grin comes back to Gelita’s pretty face just as fast as it left. “Yeah, that was nothing short of amazing. It’s like we were transported to a different place and time.”

Eder’s expression turns to serious. “Let’s see if we can do it again?”

“Here, with all these people around?”

“Oh come on. No one is looking and no one will notice.” Eder says as he closes his eyes and brings his cheek up next to Gelita. Gelita also closes her eyes as their cheeks meet.

Nothing happens. They wait another couple of seconds and then both of them open their eyes in wonderment.

Eder breaks the silence. “I guess you are right. It has to be in a special place at the right moment in time and all the stars have to align.”

Gelita breaks into laughter. “I told you so. Now you’ll have to believe me next ...”

Just as she is finishing her sentence, Pastor Francisco and his wife Christina walk up to their blanket. They have been making the rounds to each of the groups to socialize with each of the church members.

Pastor Francisco has a smirk on his face. “What’s going on here? We saw that. It almost looked like you were trying to steal a kiss here on a public blanket.”

Christina jumps in. “Oh come on Pastor, give them a break. They were only touching cheeks like they were complimenting each other, although it is kind of strange to be greeting each other during the middle of the picnic.”

Eder is caught off guard and begins to miss his words. “Well…well…ac…actually we forgot to greet each other today because we were in church.”

Gelita lightens up the situation as always. “Eder is right you know, we never had a chance to formally greet each other today, but really we wanted to see if anyone was watching us. And guess what, we got caught.”

Both Pastor Francisco and his wife break out into a roaring laughter. “Gelita, you know, we are all really looking forward to having you around. You are something special. You seem to have a great talent for bringing out the best in everyone. And it looks like Eder was quick to the draw and has taken you off the dating circle right away.”

Gelita joins in the laughter. “Well, I, too, am looking forward to the many adventures here in Bebedouro metropolis.”

“Ok, we are going to leave you two alone and go talk to your parents. But no more greeting games, ok? We’ll be watching.” Pastor Francisco warns with a big smile as he and his wife walk away.


Mile 10

Announcer: “The lead group of runners, the three Kenyans followed by the three Ethiopians, went past the midway point of Copacabana Beach where the 9-Mile marker is located with a time of 40:48. They are just now crossing the 15 km marker…and the time is…. 42:15. Let’s see, that equates to a marathon time of 1:58:51. Wow! They are really keeping a steady pace! Thomas…”

Co-Announcer: “I am really amazed at this pace. But we still have not reached the halfway point so it will…..”

Announcer: “Oh, look at that. Sorry for the interruption, but it looks like one of the Ethiopian runners is slowing up. Who is that…Looks like it is Nahom Jemal,…yes it is Nahom. He is holding his side and walking. He has stopped and is bent over. Well if he stays there for more than one or two minutes for sure he knows he cannot win a medal and will probably give up. Our lead group is now down to nine runners. Back to you Thomas.”

Co-Announcer: “Thanks Abe. Yes, that is too bad for Nahom. It will be interesting to see if they continue to switch the lead with the Kenyans now that they have lost one of their runners. The ninth and last runner in this lead group is the Brazilian, Eder dos Santos. We have been studying his closed eyes with our best zoom lens, and it does appear that he is running with both eyes closed. But all of our technicians find that almost impossible, so we believe his eyes are barely open and he is watching the Reverend da Cruz’s feet. …”


Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004

The church congregation is in front of an old, small 4 m x 8 m swimming pool with dark blue, small square tiles in the modest backyard of a small brick house that is typical Brazilian with very little grass around the pool but with several papaya, palm, and coconut trees and in the corner one large, dark-green-leaved mango tree with several, softball-size yellow and red fruits. The backyard is surrounded by a 2 meter high, orange-clay bricked wall with broken glass concreted at the top to discourage intruders. Pastor Francisco is attired in his traditional black suit but barefooted with his black pant legs rolled up. He is standing in two feet of water on one of the steps submerged in the clear water of the swimming pool with a thick Bible covered in heavily worn black leather in his left hand held tightly to his chest. Eder and two other young men of about the same age are also barefoot with white tee shirts and white gym shorts standing at the edge of the pool to the right of Pastor Francisco. Eder is now 18, much taller than the others – at least 1.95 meters and very muscular. On the left side of Pastor Francisco at the edge of the pools stands Gelita with two other young women in simple, long white dresses and also barefooted.

Approximately 75 church members are gathered in their best Sunday clothes jammed together with their backs against the back wall of the brick houses. About 20 of the members, elders and mostly women, are sitting in simple, white plastic chairs with one teenaged boy with jet-black curly hair strumming a classic, 6-string guitar with soft church music. He has probably been strumming and leading the group in song for the last 15 minutes but it is obvious that with his eyes closed and the clear beauty in his voice that he sings with a passion that would allow him to sing the whole day long.

Pastor Francisco in a loud, deep booming voice, “Brothers and sisters, we are gathered together today to aid these 6 young adults fulfill Jesus’s ultimate request and challenge – Follow Me.”

Pastor Francisco slowly opens his black tattered Bible saying, “One of the very first evidence of this challenge that Jesus laid before us can be found in the very first book of the new testament written by the first evangelical writer who also happens to be one of Christ’s original followers, (pause) one of the chosen twelve apostles, (pause) our beloved Matthew. Please open your bibles to Matthew mile 4, verse 19.”

He pauses for a couple of minutes and the sound of people paging through their bibles is almost as loud as the multi-colored variety of tropical birds chirping away during the middle of the morning.

As the sound of bending paper starts to fade Pastor Francisco asks, “Everyone with me?”

The majority of the group responds in unison with a loud and firm “Amen”.

Pastor Francisco continues in firm voice and slow rhythm pronouncing each word very clear and exact, “Matthew 4:19 - And He saith unto them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

He closes the bible and looks up at the gathering.

“Wow, very simple and impacting words. He can’t get much clearer than that. Follow me – go where I go – do as I do – talk as I talk – heal as I heal – act as I act – pray as I pray – teach as I teach – love as I love – and fish as I fish. You teach people by showing and doing, and that is exactly what Christ’s life was all about. You give someone a fish and they can temporarily satisfy their hunger, but if you teach them to fish you can satisfy their hunger for an eternity.

Reminding my brethren that baptism is one of our four pillars of our faith, and that this baptism in water is in preparation for your baptism in fire – the Holy Spirit.

Remembering that at the approximate age of 30, Jesus was baptized with water by John the Baptist, before beginning his missionary life.” He again opens his black tattered leather Bible using the red cloth page marker and begins again with a clear, booming voice.

“Matthew 3:11-17 - I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’.”

Pastor Francisco again closes his Bible, hands it to one of his attendants, and looks up. “No explanation needed for that clear message. Ok, now is the time, Eder you’re first. Come down to the water.”

Eder goes down two steps onto the same level as Pastor Francisco and faces him.

Pastor Francisco smiles and says, “No, you need to take two more steps down.”

Eder goes down two more steps backwards until the water is above his chest.

Pastor Francisco states, “Eder dos Santos, did you and do you come here willingly of your own free will?”

Eder clearly states, “I did and I do.”

Pastor Francisco, “Are you ready to be baptized into the faith taking the first steps to following in Jesus’s footsteps, to be reborn, and cleansed of all transgressions?”

Eder again in a loud and clear voice, “I am.”

Pastor Francisco, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Eder closes his eyes as Pastor Francisco puts Eder under the greenish-blue water by lightly putting his hand on Eder’s back and lifting his feet up with his other hand. He holds Eder under for about 15 seconds. The congregation is completely silent. Then Pastor Francisco brings Eder up from under the water saying, “Arise Brother Eder and begin your journey in the footsteps of our greatest inspiration, Jesus of Nazareth.”

The congregation applauds by clapping their hands energetically. Eder’s face looks as if it is glowing and he is completely at peace.

He smiles and says, “Amen. Thank you Pastor Francisco.”

Eder walks up the steps and out of the water. His hair, shirt, and gym shorts completely soaked. The water drips off his tanned skin in brilliant drops of light illuminated by the afternoon sun on a cloudless day with a dark blue sky. Eder moves to the far outside of the row alongside the other two young men and the scene is repeated for each of the other two.

Then Pastor Francisco turns to his right to the young women, “Are you girls ready, it’s your turn.”

Gelita, with her short curly jet black her and glowing smile replies firmly, “We were born ready.” And she rapidly walks into the water down the first step with her simple, pure white dress, with no other color and no designs, flowing down to her bare feet. As she reaches the second step on the same level as Pastor Francisco, her slender tanned legs appear after immersing in the water from underneath the white cotton fabric that her mother sewed together. As she quickly glides down the next two steps the water blankets her up to the middle of her back, obviously her diminutive stature being much shorter than Eder. She turns around and faces Pastor Francisco with her dark brown eyes wide open and proudly states with loud, crisp words “Yes, I have come here today on my own free will and I am ready to be baptized with water and follow in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pastor Francisco is thoroughly surprised. “Well, nothing like getting right to the point, and no need in waiting.” He puts one of his hands on her back and the other lifts her legs up as she slowly dips down into the water with her eyes closed and an expressionless, peaceful face.

Pastor Francisco begins his words. “I baptize you Gelita in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Take your righteous place amongst us by helping others to find the true light of the world.”

Again the congregation is silent and even the birds and the wind have stopped for a moment in time to observe this event. Fifteen seconds pass by for what seems to be an eternity as Pastor Francisco attempts to raise her head. Gelita does not come up and stays under the greenish blue water for almost another 30 seconds. When she does finally break the water, she has an immense smile on her illuminated face. The crowd breaks the silence with shouting and applause. The wind picks up and blows a huge breath of hot air from one side to the other. The birds begin singing and chirping more vigorous than before. Gelita gracefully steps up and out of the water, looking upwards as if she is in a heavenly daze with an enormous contentment in her appearance. The sunlight turns her white, angelic dress into a dazzling light that forces everyone to squint their eyes. She glides past Pastor Francisco and the other two girls and takes her place. The wind, the birds, and the congregation do not seem to want to stop.

Pastor Francisco has obviously been moved by this event and stutters his words as he tries to call the next girl down into the water. He goes through the motions, and finishes baptizing the last two young women. After Pastor Francisco finishes, he moves slowly out of the water and begins to speak again with a loud booming voice. “I present to our church and our Lord, six newly baptized members of our congregation. Please join me in applauding and congratulating each and every one.”

The crowd claps their hands loudly and then walks to the six new members to hug and shake their hands.


Eder and Gelita are walking home after the baptismal event has come to a close. Both Eder and Gelita are anxious to ask each other what they experienced. Gelita is faster and asks first. “Eder, you were obviously changed. What did you see? What happened under the water?”

Eder smiles at her. “I felt complete and absolute peace. It was if I was given a brand new slate. I truly felt that all my sins were forgiven and I now have a new start. I could actually hear a voice. My heart fluttered and beat harder and faster. It was really more than I ever expected.”

Gelita is very joyful at Eder’s happiness. “That is so great Eder. I am so happy for you.”

Eder is also anxious to hear about Gelita’s experience. “Gelita, tell me what happened to you? You stayed under the water for so long and when you came up you were smiling like I have never seen before.”

Gelita looks at Eder with the same illuminated face and smile. “You remember that river of light that we lost some time ago. Well I found it again. But this time it was different. This time it was if it replaced my heart with a bigger one and took me through time.”

Eder looks at her mystified. “You found our river of light? That’s why you stayed down so long. I guess I would have done the same thing.”

Gelita pauses and looks at Eder for a moment. “I have been baptized by the Holy Spirit.”

“What? Are you sure? How do you know?” Eder speaks much faster than normal.

“Yes, I am sure. It’s hard to explain, but you just know.” Gelita replies with firmness in her voice. “I was shown my future, my purpose in life, and the gifts I have.”

Eder is silent and dazed. After minutes of silence Eder looks up at Gelita again. “Tell me everything. Tell me what you saw.”

Gelita pauses as she looks at Eder with a serious face. “Eder, I am sorry, but I am not allowed to tell you. All I can tell you that it is more wonderful than you or I could ever imagine.” The illuminated smile comes back to light up Gelita’s expression.

Eder has mixed emotions. He is very happy for Gelita but also slightly envious. “In the Bible it says that when the Holy Spirit baptizes you that you are given the gift to speak different languages. Do you know if you got this?”

Gelita, again with her serious face, looks directly at Eder. “Yes I was. They were speaking in a completely unknown language that I was given the ability to understand and to speak.”

“They? Who are they?” Eder asks.

“I believe they were angels or messengers of God.” Gelita replies truthfully.

Eder looks down and away. He knows deep in his heart that she is telling the absolute truth. “So where do we go from here? Now that you have all the answers, just let me know what we do now. Do you go off to some strange land and leave me behind?”

Gelita touches Eder’s right cheek with her left hand and raises it toward her. Eder instantly feels an intense jubilation over his entire body. “Eder, that is not how it works. I was shown possibilities. You have to understand that free will, the decisions we make, will always come into play; decisions have to be made, and those decisions could lead us down one of an infinite number of paths.”

The touch of her hand has brought instant understanding to Eder as his face lights up with glee. “Well this is going to be fun. Let’s get this show underway and help me find my lost river of light.”

Gelita can’t help but to laugh.

Mile 11

Announcer: “Our lead group of runners took a sweeping right at the end of Copacabana beach on Francisco Oitaviano Road that crosses overs and leads to another famous tourist site, Ipanema Beach; the beach immortalized in the great Bossa Nova song from Tom Jobim, The Girl from Ipanema. In fact, the runners are running right in front of a beautiful beachside park called Girl from Ipanema Park. The runners have already passed the 10-Mile marker and just as predicted, the two Ethiopian runners have taken the lead with the three Kenyan runners right behind them. Let’s check in with Thomas for his comments and an update on the race time.”

Co-Announcer: “Well the pace slowed down quite noticeably on that last mile. Their time was 45:30, which would put them at the finish line with a time of 1:59:18, but still a very impressive pace. Part of the reason could be the slight increase in elevation as they crossover from one beach to the other. Now that there are only two Ethiopians, they are still able to help set the pace, but the wind protection or drafting is not as effective as there are three runners behind only two runners. But, once again as we have mentioned before, according to our technicians and wind monitoring equipment, the athletes have been very, very lucky by the fact that they have faced no headwind at all up to this point of the race. But do keep in mind that the runner’s velocity does create a 20-21 km/hour wind resistance that drafting is able to eliminate which allows the second and third row of runners to conserve energy. One additional comment from our technicians; if the wind does pick up during the second half of the race as they go back to the city, the wind will almost certainly be a tailwind, which will actually help or push the runners to the finish line. Back to you, Abe.”

Announcer: “Thanks Thomas for those comments, and we will continue to track the wind speed and direction all the way to the end of the race. Once again, to summarize, there are nine runners in this lead group now being paced by the two Ethiopian runners, three Kenyans, one American, one Angolan, and two Brazilians that continue to bring the crowds out from their homes and off the beaches to cheer them on. One of the Brazilian athletes at the rear of this pack is generating a huge amount of interest as he seems to be running with his eyes closed…”


Wednesday evening, Eder, now 20 years old, and his father are again in their dirty jeans and T-shirts assembling multiple sets of dining room tables and chairs that sold like hotcakes during their promotion last week. Pedro, with his larger muscular frame is working on the heavier tables while Eder is affixing the legs to the chairs. The bare concrete floor continues to be covered with wood shavings, cardboard, wood screws, and dust.

Eder has just finished assembling a set of six wooden chairs made from a dark, stained pine. “Dad, I have my business class tonight at 7:30. I am going to have to quit at 7 to take a shower.”

“No problem son. We might have to start at 7 am tomorrow to finish these last four dining table sets. They have to be delivered tomorrow before noon.” His dad says straight and forward.

“Yeah, that’s fine. That’s what time I usually get up.” Eder replies.

“How are the classes going anyway? Are you able to keep up with the homework?”

“Actually, pretty good. I usually score in the top on the tests.” Eder answers as he continues to work.

“You only have a couple of more years to go, right?”

“Yes, sir. Just two more years and I should finish.”

“Are you learning anything that we can apply to our store?” His dad continues asking as he turns over another table.

“Actually, now that you mentioned it, there are some things that I learned that we could maybe use. Our cash flow is almost always tied up in our furniture stock. We could either look at asking for longer payment terms from our furniture suppliers or we could be making use of very low interest rates the banks are offering us for loans. This would allow us to increase our inventory. You know how we sometimes miss sales because our stock runs out.” Eder is very enthusiastic that his father had asked his advice.

“You know, you might have a good point there. We should draw up a plan and see if it makes sense. Any other good ideas?” Pedro has obviously taken a keen interest.

“Actually, there is another one, but I am not sure you are going to like it. We are studying tax structures, and as a family-run, private business there are a lot of things that we should be taking as tax deductions but that we aren’t. For example, the two cars that you and mom use – repairs, gas, depreciation, everything - should be deducted since you use them more than 50% for business, going to the bank, visiting customers, and so on. I know you like our tax company and we have always used them in the past, but they are missing a lot of opportunities.” Eder looks intently at his father waiting to hear what he has to say.

Pedro pauses, respires deeply before continuing. “Son, I know you are right, and yes we probably should change our tax company. Mom has said the same thing on several occasions. I just want you to remember that Lorenzo has a small family-run business just like ours, and we need to always help each other out. They even go to our same church. They are our brothers in faith and we should always support each other. So, I just ask you to think about that. Maybe you can spend some time with them and show them or teach them. They have a son that is 28, but they didn’t have the money to send him to college. He is very bright and would probably listen to you. Let’s just not give up on old friends just because they are old. What do you think?”

Eder’s eyes open wide. “You’re right! In fact, that was the next thing I was going to tell you. Since I work for our business, more than half my class tuition is also tax deductible. They probably didn’t know that their son could practically go to college for free. I will make a point to talk to them next week.”

Pedro is overjoyed as he picks up a dirty rag and throws it at his son. “Well great. Now get out of here or you’re going to be late for school.”


Eder arrives at Gelita’s house as usual at approximately 7:30 in the evening. The university building where they both study is only two blocks away from her house. Gelita is already waiting outside her gate in her blue jeans, a white dress shirt, and white tennis shoes. She is holding her books in one hand and looking at her wristwatch on her left arm. “You always like to arrive just as the last bell is ringing, don’t you?” Gelita as always is gleaming with pure happiness.

The happiness always seems to brighten up Eder’s day as they begin their routine stroll to school. “Well, my grandpa use to always say, it is always better late than never. Besides, your classes are so easy, you probably could miss all of them and still pass.”

“What do you mean by easy? My classes are just as hard as yours.” Gelita responds.

“Yeah, right. I still don’t understand why you want to become an elementary school teacher. Teaching is probably the worst paying professional job that you could possibly get in Brazil.” Eder answers back.

“Now Eder, we have been through this before. We should not always put more emphasis on what we can get out of it rather than what we can give. Children will always be our greatest hope for a better future.”

“Gelita, you already do enough charity work with our church and now you want to make a career ought of working for nothing?”

“Money and material things should not be our goals in life. Besides, I will probably end up marrying a rich and successful man who might happen to own a furniture store.” Gelita’s smile shines right through Eder’s heart.

Eder’s cheeks tint just a tad. “Oh, come on, let’s walk a little faster so we don’t get there too late.”

They take several steps in silence before Eder speaks up again. “Well, I put furniture together all day, like usual, what did you do?”

“Well, let me try to remember. You know it was a pretty busy day. I helped get the boys ready for school this morning. And then I helped mom with some of the house work. And then we both did our volunteer work for the church at the children’s ward in the City Hospital. After we came back home, we got dinner ready for father and the boys.”

Eder sighs. “Much more exciting than my day.”

“Oh, I forgot to tell you, the new girl from our church, she was there at the hospital also volunteering. Her name is Martha. She is really a nice person with a nice heart – well the heart part is what my mom said. I have a feeling she is going to be my best friend.”

Eder looks in amazement. “She is going to become your best friend? Don’t tell me, she was in one of your dreams or visions, right?”

“Well now that you mention it, her face does look very, very familiar.” Gelita teases back.

“I thought Anna Maria, Jonas’s wife, was already your best friend?” Eder asks.

“Well, she will always be one of my best friends. But she is older and she is already married. Oh come now, there isn’t a problem with having a lot of friends, now is there?”

Eder giggles. “Well I guess not if you are trying to win a popularity contest or if you are running for city council or mayor of the city. So tell me more about Martha, where does she come from and what does she do.”

“Well, Martha comes from Terra Roxa, just up the road towards Colina.”

Eder interrupts. “Gelita, come on, I know where Terra Roxa is. Remember I am the great grandson of one of the region’s founding fathers.”

“Okay, I forgot. Well, anyway, their family had a small farm with orange groves. It sounds like their farm use to do real well but they have lost money every year for the last ten years trying to sell to the last two orange processors in the area. They ended up having to sell their farm to cover their debt.”

Eder grows grim. “Now that is sad. But it is not the first time that I have heard that same story. Family farms, family businesses – now you see them and now you don’t.”

“Her father was barely lucky enough to find work at Tropical Fruit. He is working as a mechanic on the night shift. They are renting a very, very old house in front of the old rail yard on the eastside of the city.”

“So why is she doing volunteer work instead of working?” Eder wonders.

“Actually she is working as a house cleaner, but she has only found a couple of houses until now, so she still has time to volunteer. As soon as she finds some houses to fill in the other days, she won’t be able to help out at the church anymore.”

“Well, here we are at the dividing line. You go that way and I go this way. See you back here at 10:30 sharp so I can walk you home. Okay?” Eder gives her a light kiss on her right cheek.

“Okay Eder. Study hard and peace be with you.” Gelita winks as she turns.


After classes, Eder and Gelita meet again at the same spot in the sidewalk to begin their nightly walk back to their homes.

Gelita is bubbly and happy. “I got the highest grade in the class on the test we had yesterday! Isn’t that just great?”

“Well, I would expect no less. You are one of the two smartest persons I know.” Eder replies.

“Oh yeah, and who is the other one?”

“Well that would for sure have to be your mother. She seems to know almost everything about everything.” Eder answers back.

Gelita again with her ever joyful face continues. “Actually she is pretty darn smart in the ways of the world. Almost as if she has a sixth and seventh sense about things. So anyway, how did your class go? Did you learn about any more good tax deductions?”

“Yes we did. Every day seems to be a new discovery for me. I am really glad that I took Business Management. I even think my normally hard-headed dad might even start listening to me.” Eder responds.

Gelita frowns ever so slightly. “Now come on, we don’t call our parent’s names. You know what Pastor Francisco always says about the importance of a blessing from our moms and dads, and we don’t want to lose our blessings now do we?” Gelita pauses for only a second. “Oh by the way, you didn’t say anything about my first mini-sermon in church last Sunday. Did you like it?”

Eder grins as he remembers. “You know I was so surprised when you got up in front of everyone and talked for almost 5 minutes. I really had no idea you were going to do that. You didn’t say anything beforehand.”

“Sorry about that. I knew I would be even more nervous if I told you. So what did you think about the message? Was it good? Do you even remember?”

Eder replies very quickly. “Acts 2:1-4. About the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles and everyone else gathered with them. This filled them with courage, faith, and hope, and also gave them gifts from above such as speaking in tongues. How could I ever forget that part of the Bible?”

Gelita beams. “Okay, so you were listening.”

“Gelita, why are you doing this? Why are you giving sermons? Is your destiny to be a Pastor of your own church?”

“Eder, you of all people should know why. This is the Big C, of the ABCD, right? The Great Commission. Go forth and baptize. Think every day on the best way to convert ordinary people to the path of Christ. That is the only reason we are given special gifts, to build his church.”

“Okay, you are right as usual.”

“So, come on, how did I do?”

Eder pauses and meditates for a few seconds. “You mesmerized everyone. The way you described it was almost as if you were there and experienced it firsthand. So I have to ask you, was this similar to your baptism two years ago?”

Gelita pauses in a dreamlike state. “Actually, it was similar, but it was not exactly the same. There were lots of things that I saw that day that had nothing to do with the Bible’s description.”

“Do you remember everything that you saw that day?”

Gelita appears to still be dreaming. “Well most of it. A lot of times afterwards, or while I am doing something I remember that I saw it, you know, like deja-vu. Believe it or not, that mini-sermon was deja-vu.”

“So what else do you remember from that day? Anything important that we should talk about?”

Gelita arouses from her slumber. “Now Eder, are you ever going to give up? You know I can’t talk to you about the visions I had. Some very important people specifically instructed me not to tell anyone about those visions.”

Eder grins. “Well you have to give me a good grade for trying. You looked like you were in a trance so I thought I would give it a try.”

Gelita awards him. “Okay, I give you a ten out of ten on that attempt.”

“Gelita, going back to serious again, am I ever going to be baptized by the Holy Spirit? What am I doing wrong?”

“Yes, you will. I know deep down in my heart that your time will come. You just have to be patient and be ready and keep the Greatest Commandment always in your head.”

“Well I still think I must be doing something wrong, or did something wrong, or will do something wrong. I just don’t know what.”

“Eder, just be patient and keep on the path. I believe in you.”

“Well, talking about paths, here we are, back home again. I am sure your dad is probably going to open the door to your house at any moment now to prevent us from smooching.”

“I heard that.” A voice seems to come out from nowhere startling both of them. They now realize that Gelita’s father is sitting in a chair in a darken area of their front porch.

Gelita sees her father. “Dad, you scared us. Why are you hiding like that?”

“I’m not hiding; just sitting on my own porch, minding my own business, and also trying to catch any smoochers that might pass this way. You haven’t seen any smoochers out there have you?” Gelita’s dad responds ironically.

Eder’s blushing face is hidden by the darkness. “Good evening, Mr. Rodriguez. How are you doing tonight?”

“Very well, Eder. Thanks for asking.”

Gelita tiptoes up and kisses Eder on his right cheek. “Well, time to go. Good night Eder. See you tomorrow.”

Gelita is already through the gate when Eder finally speaks again. “Good night, Gelita. Bye Mr. Rodriguez.” ….

Mile 12

Announcer: “… The lead group has just now gone past the 11-mile marker. They are almost exactly one third of the way down the magnificent Ipanema Beach. What a nice cool, morning in this great and historical city! The sky is blue but the sun is hidden behind the cloud-cover over the horizon. Their time at the last mile marker was exactly 50:03, which is still projecting a record time of 1:59:18! There has been a change in the lead group. There are now only two Kenyans behind the two Ethiopian leaders followed by the Reverend da Cruz from Angola and Eder dos Santos from Brazil. The American John Oates, Joshua dos Santos from Brazil, and Martin Kiprop from Kenya have fallen slightly behind the lead group. They have formed their own group about six seconds behind. What do you make of this Thomas?”

Co-Announcer: “This is not that unusual at all. They are all watching their times and speed, and they all set their own strategy. It could be that they feel the pace is too aggressive, and coupled with the fact that there is almost no wind, the need to draft is not that important. They will probably continue to run a slightly slower speed to conserve energy with the belief that the lead runners will also eventually slow down or that they will hit The Wall a lot harder. Keep in mind that we are only two miles from the halfway point of the race and it looks like this will be the first time in the history of the Olympics that we will break the one hour mark for a half marathon – that will be incredible!”

Announcer: “Incredible is right – this is a very aggressive pace these runners are setting! Of course the Brazilian fans are still very excited and noisy as they have one runner in each of the two groups. Besides the cheering, we have also noticed several small groups of Brazilian fans playing Samba or Carnival music for their athletes. That should also help to motivate their runners. Although we still think their one runner, Eder dos Santos, is not listening and seems to be sleep-running…..”


Eder and Gelita are hand-in-hand as they walk through the small, tree-lined plaza park in front of the Santa Casa Hospital. The impressively built three story hospital has a full flight of marble stairs on each of three sides leading to the double-door entrance. The front steps that Eder and Gelita are using go in between two towering Roman-style columns painted white that are as high as the roof line. In front are two ancient palm trees, close to 100 years-old, that reach to the sky more than four stories high. The concrete block building is painted a pinkish-orange color that is magnificent together with all the bright white window frames. Eder and Gelita enter and then stop in the front window to check in and slip on their white hospital overcoats. Gelita is leading Eder to the children’s ward. Eder notices that with her white hair band, her white tennis shoes, and now with her white overcoat that she is completely dressed in white from head to toe. As they go down the right hall and through the doorway one of the busy doctors with a clipboard and a white overcoat glimpses Gelita’s presence.

He immediately glows with gladness. “Gelita, the healer, what a great surprise. What are you doing here on Saturday?”

“Hello Dr. Lopez. This is my boyfriend, Eder. I am just showing him where I do volunteer work during the week.”

Dr. Lopez shakes Eder’s hand. “Good to meet you Eder. I believe I saw you in church last Sunday.”

Eder shakes his hand back. “Good to meet you, Dr. Lopez. So you go to the same church?”

“Well, actually we just started to go because of Gelita. Sunday was our first time.”

Eder glances at Gelita and then back at Dr. Lopez. “So can I ask you, why did you call her The Healer?”

“Oh, you don’t know? Almost everyone that Gelita prays for is out of here in less than two days. It is truly amazing.”

Gelita blushes ever so slightly. “Not everyone gets better. And it has to do as much with the medical care as anything else.”

“Well you can stop being modest Gelita. Ask anyone here, before Gelita started visiting us, we were always completely full and turning patients away. Now look at us, we barely have less than one third of the beds being used.”

Eder peeks at Gelita. “Well, it doesn’t surprise me. I seem to learn something new from Gelita almost every single day.”

“You are more than welcome to our hospital. And let me know if you need anything.” Dr. Lopez says as he departs down the hall.

“So Gelita, why didn’t you ever tell me before about this healing thing?”

“Eder, I had to learn and practice. And besides, I wanted to show you instead of just telling you. Now come and let me show you.”

Gelita takes Eder by the hand and goes up to the first bed where a young boy about five years old is sleeping. She takes the clipboard hanging by a wire off the end of the bed and mentally notes that the boy’s name is Jose Francisco and that he has meningitis. She puts the clipboard back and then walks to the front of the bed. She places both of her hands on the boy’s head. “Father, the most high, all powerful, and omnipresent, to whom I give all glory; please hear my request to heal Jose Francisco who is suffering from meningitis.”

Eder notices that Gelita’s hands seem to glow for a split second. When she removes her hands, the boy remains asleep but seems to be grinning and giggling in his sleep.

“Gelita, did you notice that your hands seemed to glow?”

Gelita looks up at Eder with her big brown eyes. “So you saw it too! I was almost sure that you would! That is why I brought you here. Martha and the others never mentioned a thing, so I figured that they didn’t see it.”

Gelita throws her arms around Eder and gives him a tight squeeze.

Eder is astounded by what he saw. “So you have the power to heal people?”

“No, silly, only God has the power to heal. I have the gift of healing.”

“Does God heal everyone that you pray for?”

“Almost everyone, at least so far. Teenagers are sometimes not easy, and sometimes it takes weeks instead of days or minutes. It is almost like I have to negotiate and fight for their health.”

“Have you tried on any adults?”

“No. I have to be very careful and make sure I don’t interfere with the grand plan.”

“Yeah, I guess you don’t want to mess with the Big Guy’s plan.”

“I like sticking with the younger ones. Younger children are usually the easiest since they are still pretty much pure, you know, not enough time to begin practicing sin. Plus their faith is easy to win over.” She says with a smile.

“Wow, that is really amazing!”

“I think so, too.”

“So what other gifts have you been given?”

“Well, I think, most of them. I just haven’t had the time to work and practice them.”

“So, tell me, using this healing gift here in the hospital was it one of the visions you had during your baptism?”

“Well, now that it has happened I guess I can tell you. Yes it was.”

“Gelita, you are amazing, more than amazing. Now I understand why our church is growing so fast, between your work here at the hospital and now your mini-sermons, the word is spreading fast in smallville.”

Gelita radiates with joy.


Mile 13

Announcer: “… We are now two-thirds down the famous Ipanema beach and already past the 12-mile marker. As expected, the two Kenyans, Ken Masa and Simon Bett, have switched places with the two Ethiopians, Dawit Abel and Biruk Yonas, and are now our new leaders. The lead group has actually picked up the pace once again. They finished 12 miles with a time of 54:29, which is a 1:59:02 marathon pace! Halfway through this next mile we will get their 20 km split. Directly behind the leaders is the Reverend da Cruz and just off the back of his right shoulder is our sleep-walker, or better yet, sleep-runner, Eder dos Santos from Brazil running with his eyes closed. Thomas, how are the rest of the groups doing?”

Co-Announcer: “Well Abe, our second group of runners has now fallen 22 seconds off the lead. It is the same three runners – one each from Kenya, USA, and Brazil – that are betting on a slightly slower pace or a 2:05:00 marathon pace. This group still has a good chance at winning as they seem to be ready at any time to switch to attack mode. The next runner is a full two minutes behind, the Brazilian Jose dos Santos, who might still have a slight chance. Then a large group of runners already four minutes behind the leaders that are probably definitely already out of medal contention unless something unexpected happens to our leaders.”

Announcer: “Well the crowds have actually seemed to pick up. In places where they can stand on rocks or park benches, the fans are at times forming 10-11 rows. And remember, almost all of these spectators will get to see the runners twice as the race turns around and comes back almost the same route. This is really an impressive route the organizers designed for this event, probably the most elegant and picturesque of all Olympic history. Just look at that impressive site of the Christ the Redeemer Statue sitting up on top of Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park looking down over the whole city. We also have camera crews up on the statue to show you what it looks like from there. Just look at this gorgeous site. Back to the race, the runners have just now passed the 20 km marker with a time of 56:25. That comes out to a 1:59:00 marathon! And we are almost halfway through the race! The runners will run to the end of the beach and take another right on Visconde de Albuquerque Avenue ….”


Another blue-sky Saturday morning has appeared as Eder and his dad are loading one last piece of furniture onto the delivery truck from the loading bay in the back of the furniture store. Elaina is already sitting in the front of the truck anxious to go. Both Eder and Elaina are wearing blue jeans and a light-blue cotton work shirt with the words MOVEIS JOSE- PEDRO-EDER written in big white letters on the back.

Pedro looks over the furniture one last time and then closes the blue-and-white railed gate on the back of the open-bed truck. “That should be it.”

Eder looks at the delivery papers and rechecks what is in the truck. “Yeah, looks like that is it. Two deliveries for Andes are ready to go.”

“Ok. You drive safely now.” Pedro turns and walks down the steps towards the shop.

Eder looks back at Elaina. “Elaina, we have to wait for Gelita. I have invited her to come along with us.”

Elaina turns to Eder with a reactive glare. “Gelita? Gelita is coming with us? I thought it was just you and me?”

“Oh come on Elaina. Besides it should be a lot of fun.” Eder winks his right eye at Elaina.

Elaina understands - that means that Eder is still going to let her drive the truck once they get outside the city. She smiles. “Oh, okay.”

And just like that, almost as if mentioning her name is magical, Gelita appears out of nowhere in the same door that Pedro had just exited moments ago. “Good morning everyone. Am I late?”

Eder’s day just got brighter. He puts both of his hands on Gelita’s shoulders and kisses her right cheek. “You are just in time. We just finished loading the truck.”

Elaina has stepped out of the medium-sized blue truck cab. “Good morning Gelita.” She shakes her right hand and then greets her with kisses on both cheeks.

Gelita is wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt with red-lettered propaganda of some sort, and a wide, white band holding her hair back. “Okay, I am ready to go.”

Eder grins and hands her a blue shirt that is identical to Eder’s and Elaina’s shirt. “I thought you might want to look the part if you are going to deliver furniture.”

Gelita’s face brightens even brighter as she takes the shirt, slips on over her other shirt, and fastens the buttons in front. “Wow. This will be my first actual job. So how much do I get paid, boss?”

Both Eder and Elaina break into a laugh. “Well you have to be trained first. We have to see if you make the grade or not.” Eder says with a grin.

“Okay, get in. You can sit next to Eder.” Elaina points to the truck’s sofa-type seat through the opened passenger-side door.

“Wait. Let me slide in first so I don’t have to walk around to the other side.” Eder says as he is the first to go through the door and glides in behind the big blue steering wheel.

Gelita gets in and settles in beside Eder on the dark-blue vinyl sofa-seat.

Elaina is the last to get in and closes the door behind her. “Okay, now let’s go.”

Eder steps on the clutch pedal and puts the transmission into neutral with his right hand using the long, black handled gear stick coming up from the black, vinyl floor of the cab. He turns the key and the diesel engine roars into life. He puts it into first, releases the emergency brake pedal, and eases the truck out of the garage. “Here we go, on our way.”

“Do we need to close the garage door of the furniture store?” Gelita asks.

“No worries. My dad or mom will close it in a little bit.” Elaina answers.

“You guys leave the store open and unattended? Aren’t you afraid someone might steal something?” Gelita asks again.

Eder lets out a small snicker. “Well first of all, this is small-town Bebedouro with very few thieves. And secondly, we don’t keep any money there so the only thing of value is the furniture. The thief would have a hard time carrying something away and then trying to sell it somewhere near here without one of our many friends knowing about it.”

Gelita realizes big-city worries are not the same in Bebedouro. “Okay. I get it. So where are we off to? What’s our first stop?”

Eder shifts into a higher gear and accelerates. “We are on our way to Andes. It is a small township about 15 kilometers South of Bebedouro.”

Elaina breaks into the conversation. “Yeah, you thought Bebedouro was small, now you will see what small really is. Actually the villa of Andes belongs to the Bebedouro Township.”

“So Elaina, Eder tells me that you really enjoy selling and delivering furniture.”

“Yeah, I suppose I like selling furniture. What I really like most is the adventure, of going somewhere new, new places, and new cities.”

“How old are you now, 17 or 18?”

“I am 17 and soon to be 18.” Elaina answers.

“What are your plans? Are you going to study? Are you going to keep working in the family business?” Gelita presses.

‘To be real honest, I am not sure. My mom and dad want me to study something like Sales and Marketing so that I can keep working in the family business. I think my mom really wants me to study so I can meet and marry someone that is well off.”

“Yeah, that’s mom for you.” Eder adds in.

“Oh that’s not fair. I don’t think your mother is like that. She knows if you all keep working in the store that it will continue to prosper, and then it doesn’t really matter if you marry someone rich or poor. The important thing is your happiness.”

“Whoa, you really have all the answers.” Eder blurts out.

“Oh come on Eder, I’m being serious.” Gelita raises her voice just ever so slightly.

Elaina soothes the conversation. “I finish high school this year, and I’ve decided I am going to take a year or so to decide. I have a friend who wants to open up a clothing store and another one that wants me to help with advertising at the Bebedouro Gazette. So, I will keep on working part of the time helping mom sell furniture. Eder also talked me into taking some of the basic first year college classes like he did, so I don’t get too far behind if I do decide on college.”

“Wow. So you do have a plan!” Gelita is surprised.

Eder also is amazed at her little sister’s response. They have just gotten out of the city and the houses have turned to sugarcane fields ready to be harvested, about as tall as Eder. Eder slows down and then pulls the truck off the small paved highway.

Gelita looks around. “Why are we stopping here? Is this where are first delivery is?”

Eder and Elaina laugh aloud. Eder responds. “No, just time to change drivers.”

Eder opens his door, gets out, and walks around to the other side via the front of the truck. Elaina excuses herself as she climbs over Gelita and sits behind the big steering wheel.

“You mean you are going to drive the truck? Do you have a driver’s license for trucks?” Gelita is surprised.

Elaina grins. “Well not yet, but as soon I turn 18, I will be ready to pass the test.”

Eder gets in on the passenger side, sits down beside Gelita, and closes the door behind him with a thud. “Elaina has been driving since she was 13. Dad did the same thing with me; he let me drive outside the city ever since I can remember.”

Gelita turns her surprised look towards Eder. “Yeah, but you’re a man.”

“Well back then I was just a boy, and actually quite smaller than Elaina.”

Elaina quickly removes the emergency brake, puts the truck into first gear, and drives away like a professional.

Gelita sees how confident Elaina is behind the steering wheel of the big truck and begins to relax. “Well I guess you both are lucky that Elaina has never wrecked.”

Elaina and Eder look at each other, pause, and then break out into laughter.

Gelita becomes slightly nervous again. “I take that to mean that there have been wrecks?”

Eder stops his giggling for moment to answer. “Well sure there have been wrecks. You can’t learn to walk without falling. You can’t learn to climb mango trees without breaking a branch now and then. And you can’t learn how to drive without making some little mistakes. You didn’t see the dents and scrapes in the bumpers? Between Elaina and me, we have probably wrecked this truck nine or ten times.”

“I suppose I should have looked at the bumpers before I got in. So nothing serious, right?”

Eder pauses as he tries to remember. “The worst one was when it started raining real hard going to Pirangi on that real narrow highway. We went off the road and knocked a tree over.”

Elaina laughs. “Oh yeah, I remember that one.”

Eder continues. “Actually it didn’t do much damage to the truck, just dented the bumper. But we got stuck in the mud and couldn’t get it out. We ended up hiking almost four kilometers in the rain to the closest farmhouse. Luckily, the farmer had a tractor that was able to pull us out.”

Eder and Elaina continue to laugh as they recount the details of each of their truck driving mishaps. Time passes. They drive the truck up to medium size one story house bunched together with twenty or thirty similar houses on each side of bumpy road made from square stones that have been smoothed and leveled from the many years of use. Parallel and perpendicular to the main road on both sides are reddish-clay dirt roads with similar houses going back in both directions.

Eder announces. “Welcome to downtown Andes!”

Gelita looks around at the simplicity of the town. “You mean this is it? This is the center of town?”

“Why sure. Everything a small town needs. There’s a grocery store, a pharmacy, one hardware store, two bars, and one church.” Eder can’t contain his humor.

Gelita looks around and sees that the front of one of the houses actually serves as a grocery store. The part of another one is a pharmacy. And two others are used as bars. The one church, painted blue and white, with a small steeple and cross, sits at the very end of the stone-paved street. “Well, I guess you’re almost right. They have everything except a furniture store.”

“And folklore says that if there are more bars than churches in any town or city, than they still dwell on the evil side of grace.” Elaina interjects.

“History goes that this was originally a very wealthy coffee plantation and the owner built these houses for his workers almost 100 years ago.” Eder adds.

Elaina opens the doors and jumps out of the cab. “Well let’s get to work. This is what we get paid for.”

Eder also opens his doors and jumps out. He walks up to the front door of the brick and concrete house that painted light green. There is one medium sized window on each side of the dark black metallic door. Eder gets ready to knock on the door, but stops as the door opens before gets a chance. An older lady with a yellow dress covered by a green apron appears.

“Good morning, ma’am. We are from Moveis Jose-Pedro-Eder furniture store and are here to deliver your furniture.” Eder says politely.

“Well good. Come on in. Do you want some breakfast or coffee?” the lady of the house asks.

“Ma’am, thank you very much for the offer, but we have already eaten and need to make a couple of deliveries this morning.” Eder says again using his etiquette.

Elaina has already pulled the pins on the back gate of the truck. Gelita noticed Elaina and helps her lower the gate.

The lady sees that they are in a hurry. “Well, okay. That living room set goes here in this front room and the dining table and chairs go in the room behind that one.” She says as she points and shows Eder where to put the furniture.

Eder puts a red brick in the door to hold it open and goes back to the truck. “Okay, let’s put the dining room set in first.”

They each grab one of the chairs and take them inside. After a couple of trips, all eight chairs are in place. Eder and Elaina lift the heavier dining table off the truck, turn it sideways, and efficiently place it inside without saying a word to each other as if they have been doing this for years. Elaina allows Gelita to help Eder with the lighter, two living room chairs, but then jumps in to help move in the heavier and more complicated sofa. The lady signs the delivery documents, keeps one of the copies, and then thanks them with a very pleasant smile.

They all jump back into the truck, Elaina drives them down to the end of the road closer to the town church, and they repeat the same task. In no time at all they are back in the truck and heading back towards Bebedouro.

“Hey gals, we are way ahead of schedule, let’s go to the Pay-n-Fish?” Eder asks out of the blue.

“Pay-n-Fish? What in the world is that?” Gelita asks.

“You’ve never been fishing at a Pay-n-Fish?” Elaina looks at Gelita with her questioning eyes.

“Well to tell you the truth, my dad took me fishing only once and that was in a boat and in the ocean. I can’t even remember what we caught. Our family is just not a fishing family I guess.” Gelita responds.

“Well isn’t this your lucky day. Not only was it your first job, but this will be the first time you go to a Pay-n-Fish.” Eder elated.

After a couple of minutes Elaina turns the truck off the paved highway onto a dirt road. The truck is engulfed in sugarcane on both sides that is as high as the truck. The reddish-orange clay is very dry and starts clouding up behind the truck. After several minutes, the sugarcane turns to a forest of eucalyptus trees and the dirt road turns to grass.

“Wow, this is different. I didn’t realize there were any forests around here.” Gelita wonders.

“Actually this is a man-made forest. They grow these trees for furniture and mostly for burning in boilers.” Eder replies.

They drive down for a couple of minutes and come to an area with about twenty cars and trucks parked on both sides. Elaina parks the truck in the first available space and puts on the emergency brake. They all quickly get out and continuing walking up the pretty green grass-carpeted road with gigantic eucalyptus trees providing abundant shade. After only a couple of minutes they come up onto a beautiful blue water lake that was hidden away.

“Wow. What a beautiful, enchanting place. I had no idea…” Gelita gapes around in amazement.

There are people fishing all around the lake, some by themselves, but most of them in groups or as a family with portable folding chairs set up around the permanent gray-concrete picnic table. Eder leads them to the sheltered area that rents out the yellow, bamboo fishing poles and also doubles as a restaurant-bar. Eder picks up three bamboo poles, a small plastic bag of steeped corn for bait, and three folding chairs. The attendant notes everything on his slip of paper, which also doubles as a restaurant-bar bill. Everyone gets one when they come in and even if they don’t buy anything, they have to turn it in on the way out. They are lucky and are able to find an empty picnic table that had just been vacated. They set the chairs in place around the tree-shaded table. Eder and Elaina are excited and quickly bait their bamboo poles by putting the steel fishhook through a piece of corn. They twirl the bait into the water and wait.

“Well what about me? Aren’t you at least going to show me how to bait the hook?” Gelita says aloud with her fishing pole in her hand as she watches both of them fishing.

“You just run the fishhook through the corn any ole way you can and throw it in the water. Not much to it.” Eder grins as he looks back right when a fish yanks his pole. He misses. Elaina also has a fish yank her pole, but also misses.

“Well okay. I guess I will figure it out myself. It looks like this is some sort of competition. You guys look really serious.” Gelita continues to blabber and annoy Eder and Elaina.

She finally gets the steel fishhook through the piece of corn. She closes her eyes for just a second, walks down to the side of the water, and flips the bait into the water. Within seconds a fish grabs the bait and doubles her pole over forming an upside down U.

“Ooooh! Look at this! Wow, this fish is a fighter.” Gelita calls out.

Both Eder and Elaina continue to fish as they watch with envy as Gelita fights the first fish of the day. Gelita is hanging on to the end of the bamboo pole with both her hands as the fish takes her line and pole from one side to the other. A couple of times Gelita has to lean back, practically sitting down, to prevent the fish from pulling her into the water. Finally after about 5 minutes of fighting, the fish tires out and Gelita pulls the fish up on the bank, where it continues to flip and flop on the dry grass. Both Eder and Elaina come up next to Gelita to see what she caught. The beautiful greenish fish continues to bounce around.

“Well look at that. That is a nice size tilapia.” Eder amazed.

“Talk about beginners luck. That must weigh more than 2 kilos. Maybe one of the biggest I have seen from this lake.” Elaina adds.

“Well let’s take a picture and get it back in the water before it dies.” Eder says.

“Did you bring a camera?” Gelita asks.

“No, but I can take one with my cell phone. Grab the line and hold it up.” Eder says as he puts his camera up next to his eye.

Gelita grabs the line to hold up the fish that has practically given up the fight and has stopped flopping around. Eder takes the picture.

“Come on Elaina, get in the picture too.” Gelita pleads.

Elaina stands next to Gelita while Eder takes another picture.

“Now let me take one of you two.” Elaina says as she takes the camera from Eder. She takes a couple of pictures at several different angles.

Eder picks up the fish with one hand and gently removes the hook from inside the fish’s mouth. He then slides the fish into a long tube made of nylon net that he then throws into the water that will keep the fish alive for later. And just as quickly and as efficiently as they can, both Eder and Elaina are back fishing again, obviously a little jealous that Gelita caught the first and probably the biggest fish of the day.

“So that’s it? You’re not going to help me untangle my line and bait it again.” Gelita says with a smile.

“Gelita, are you kidding. You already caught the first fish. You’re on your own from now on.” Eder says back.

“Oh, is that right. Everyone one for themselves. Is that how this is played?” Gelita continues to ask but her words fall on deaf ears.

Gelita untangles her line and puts the hook through one more piece of corn, closes her eyes for just a second, and throws her line back into the water. Again, within seconds she has hooked another fish, probably just as big as the first one. She fights this one also for about 5 minutes before pulling it up on the bank. Eder and Elaina continue to fish as if they have not noticed. Gelita unhooks the fish, puts it into the nylon net, and then baits her hook one more time. Within seconds she has hooked onto another tilapia. She repeats this again and again until she has caught six fish. Eder and Elaina have even taken over her fishing spot, but still no luck. Gelita throws her bait where Eder just was and lands another fish. By this time a small crowd has gathered around trying to understand what she is doing differently than everyone else. Why is she catching all the fish?

Finally, Gelita lays her bamboo fishing pole on the picnic table and sits down. “Eder, I’m tired, can we go home now? It’s almost lunch time.”

Eder glances up at Gelita with a frown on his face, and turns back around to continue fishing without saying a word. The crowd disperses as they sense the show is finally over.

Gelita gets up slowly and walks over to Eder. “Honey, it is not that difficult. Here, let me see your fishing pole.”

Gelita grabs Eder’s fishing pole with her hand and closes her eyes. Immediately Eder hooks onto a huge fish. His eyes widen with excitement. He has to use all of his might to keep from being pulled into the water. As he is fighting the fish, Gelita walks over to Elaina and touches her pole. Elaina also immediately hooks into a big fish and the fight is on. Both Eder and Elaina fight their fish for close to 10 minutes each. The crowd has come back, interested to see what type of fish and how big it is. Both fish finally give up the fight. They both pull up a catfish-type fish with yellow fins that is called a ‘dourado’. Each fish looks identical in size and probably weigh about 6-7 kilos. The crowd claps their hands in appreciation. Gelita takes the camera and takes pictures of both Eder and Elaina.

“Now can we go home and eat? Eder, I’m starving.”

“What do you mean go home and eat? We are planning on eating here. They clean and cook the fish for you in less than a half an hour.” Eder replies back.

“Really? How interesting. Well let’s give them the fish.” Gelita is obviously more than a little hungry.

“Let’s give them SOME fish. There is no way we can eat more than a couple.” Elaina laughs as she answers back.

Eder also giggles aloud. “The tilapias are really great cut up into pieces and deep fried. Wait until you see.”

Eder calls for the waiter to the table. “Can you please have them fry up a couple of these tilapias? Also, bring us an order of fried mandioca (similar to the tapioca root), an order of coleslaw, and three cans of lime soda.”

“Now just sit back, relax, enjoy the scenery, and the food will be out in no time at all.” Eder says with a smile.

“Well now look who’s happy now that he finally caught a big fish.” Gelita giggles.

“Well you got that right. Elaina and I were really getting worried that the rookie fisher-girl was going to skunk the professionals.” Eder heehaws back. “Good thing we finally caught the biggest fish and put order back into the “Small town world”.”

“Yeah, you know our family has been coming here for years and we have never caught any fish this big, and plus so many kilos of tilapia – well I guess the tilapias were all you. This is once in a lifetime.” Elaina adds with a grin.

“Yeah, this is a day to remember.” Eder relaxes and enjoys the view.


Mile 14

Announcer: “The leaders have just passed the 13-mile marker, and we are almost at the half way point. The runners took a right turn right at the end of Ipanema Beach and are now heading slightly north on Visconde de Albuquerque Avenue in the direction of Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. The lead group’s speed actually increased once again during that last mile, and their time was 58:57, which projects a 1:58:54 final time! And here they come to the exact mid-point of the race… they’re past. Folks, we just witnessed history! For the first time ever in Olympic marathons they have finished below the magical one hour! Their time was exactly 59:26.6! In fact, this just might be an unofficial world record time for the half-marathon. Our team is checking now. The honor would actually go to Ken Masa from Kenya who is just ever so slightly ahead of his countryman Simon Bett. The two Ethiopians, Dawit Abel and Biruk Yonas, are right behind the Kenyans, followed by the Reverend da Cruz from Angola, and the crowd favorite, Eder dos Santos from Brazil. Thomas, did your team find the half-marathon records?”

Co-Announcer: “Yes they did Abe. The official world record for men is 58:23 that was set way back on March 21, 2010, by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea. He did this in Lisbon, Portugal. So they are more than a minute behind that world record. Actually, their time would have placed them in the top ten, at ninth place, but since this is not an official half-marathon race they won’t go down in the books. This pace the runners are maintaining is still very, very impressive!”

Announcer: “Very impressive indeed! Now the big question that all of our spectators our wondering – can they keep this up for the last half of the race? Will we see the first ever sub-two hour marathon today? Thomas, with all that fancy technology your team is using, are you going to be able to give us any answers?”

Co-Announcer: “Very good questions. And yes, our high-tech monitoring equipment and our super-duper computer crunching power should be able to give us a very good indication. We have very good baseline information on each of the lead runners that we will be watching very closely during each phase of the last part of this race.”

Announcer: “Ok, Thomas, we will be expecting some good information. In the meantime, the runners have just made another right turn on Mario Ribeiro Road that goes right past the Brazilian Jockey Club’s horse race track and will end right at the gorgeous Rodrigo de Freitas Lake.”


Saturday, July 9, 2007

Araraquara track and field stadium is the scene of the Interior Games for the State of São Paulo. Eder, representing Bebedouro, is wearing dark blue shorts and a white, sleeveless shirt that has the word BEBEDOURO written across the front in bold, blue letters. Eder is now 21 years old. Eder has a very smooth, comfortable stride that utilizes his full 1.85 meter height to give him a huge advantage over the other shorter runners. He is just crossing the start-finish line with only one lap, or 400 meters to go. The stadium is practically empty with only a couple of hundred fans and another couple hundred athletes waiting for other events. Gelita and a couple of her friends from church stand up and yell just as Eder is passing. Eder spies them from the corner of his eye. He is already more than 50 meters in front of the second place runners, but he still breaks into a full sprint. As Eder sprints around the first curve, everyone comes to their feet. They begin commenting to each other and the others begin to cheer. He continues at this breakneck speed all the way to the finish line, winning by more than 100 meters.

The city team’s coach, sitting in front of Gelita, looks at his stop watch and cannot believe his eyes. “He just shattered the record for these games by 20 seconds! He ran that last 400 meters in 44 seconds – that probably would have won the 400 meter race! This Eder is just unbelievable.”

Gelita looks at him with a smile. “Yes, he sure is something special.”

As Eder is walking off the track, two well-dressed men in dark clothes approach him.

“Congratulations. That was a great race on your part. Too bad you didn’t have any competition to make you run even harder.” The taller of the two says to Eder.

“Thank you sir. I was feeling good and today was lucky for me.” Eder replies with humility trying to downplay his accomplishment.

The taller one offers his hand and introduces himself. “Eder, my name is Carlos and this is my colleague, Rubens.”

Eder shakes both of their hands. “Good to meet you.”

Carlos goes on to explain. “Eder, we know that your win today was not luck. You have won your Bebedouro city race every year for the last 6 races with faster times every year. You have also won this race for the last 2 years in a row, and now you just shattered the record.”

Eder’s eyes open wider. “Wow. That is impressive that you have all my history.”

“Well, Eder, that is what we do. We are talent scouts and we believe that you are a talent.” Carlos adds.

Eder is taken back as he pauses to think. “Well thanks for the complement.”

“Eder, we think you could be one of the best in Brazil with the right training and coaching. We would like to sign you up to our program.” Carlos goes on.

“Program, what exactly is your program?” Eder says very slowly.

“Our program is called a sponsorship program. We sponsor you. We pay for your trainers and coaches. We pay for your travels to and from any competition. We help you get a job.” Carlos explains.

“Get a job. Coaches and trainers. All that, so what do I have to do in return?” Eder asks.

“Just sign this contract.” Carlos says as he pulls out a 10 page printed document.

Eder looks at the contract and then looks at Carlos. “Ok, I know I have to sign a contract, but what do I really have to do? What does the contract say?”

Carlos grins. “Well, you have to wear our uniforms. You have to let us use your pictures. And if you really become famous, you might have to make some TV commercials drinking Tropical Juice’s orange juice. You know one of our processing plants is right in Bebedouro.”

“And that’s it?” Eder asks.

Well, of course, you do have to keep on winning.” Carlos giggles.

Eder is still kind of uneasy. “So what does the contract say if I start losing?”

Carlos keeps on grinning. “Oh, we don’t think you are the type that is going to start losing. But listen, we are not asking you to sign today. We want you to take this contract with you and give you a chance to look it over. Here is my business card. If you have any questions or doubts, just call us.”

Carlos hands a business card and the contract to Eder, and then shakes his hand.

Eder is still confused as he walks towards Gelita in the stands with the contract in his hands.

Gelita walks down to meet him and gives him a big hug. “Congratulations! You did it again. You are unbelievable.”

“Thanks Gelita.” Eder says.

Gelita had been watching Eder talking to the two strangers. “Who were those two guys you were talking to Eder?”

“Uh…uh. They say they are talent scouts. I think they work for Tropical Juice.” Eder utters in a muddled voice.

“Tropical Juice? Talent scouts? But what do they want with you?” Gelita asks.

“They want me to sign this contract. It’s a sponsorship program. They said that they will pay for coaches and trainers, and they will get me a job.” Eder adds.

Gelita is also slightly confused. “But Eder, you already have a coach and a job working with your father. Why would you want to work for someone else?”

Eder notices that other fans are making their way down the stands to congratulate him and hands the contract to Gelita. “Let’s talk about it in the car on the way home. Ok?”

Gelita does not have time to answer as Eder’s friends start slapping him on the back and shaking his hand.

His coach also congratulates him. “Eder, amazing, you ran that last 400 meters in 44 seconds. Are you sure you don’t want to train for the 400 or the 800?

“Coach, I already told you. I was born to be a long distance runner. I am not interested in the sprints or the middle distances.” Eder replies.

“Okay, just seems that you could easily be winning more races.” His coach shrugs his shoulders.

Eder relaxes and releases a big breath of air. “Okay, coach, I’ll think about it.”

His coach’s face turns to happiness.


Eder and Gelita get into his father’s car, a two year old black, 4-door sedan, to begin the journey back to Bebedouro. It is about a one hour drive on a newly expanded highway. It is already the middle of November and spring is giving way to summer, as the dry season is also giving way to the start of the wet season. The highway is lined with eucalyptus and ype trees, but the landscape that was once dominated by orange groves is now barren as the sugar cane has already all been harvested. Gelita is unusually anxious to continue their conversation that ended too soon.

“Are you really interested in moving jobs? I thought you were studying Business Administration to help run the family furniture store?” Gelita asks to begin where they left off.

Eder pauses before replying. “Gelita, let’s think about it. If I get my own job then I can eventually finance a house and buy my own car. We need to think about our future.”

Gelita enthuses over the words “our future”, but is troubled by the decision Eder is making. “Your parents practically already gave you this car. Both your parents use the other car. You are really the only one that uses this car – well you and I would be more correct.”

Eder frowns. “But I don’t want my dad’s car. I don’t want to have to depend on my father for the rest of my life.”

Gelita grabs a breath before continuing. “Eder, we have already talked about this before. It is not your father, and not even your parents that gave you this car. It is the family business that is giving it to you, since you also have helped the business to grow over the last 12-14 years. You told me you have been working ever since you were 7-8 years old. Your father’s father, and his father before him – all are providing you with this car. Right?”

“Well, sort of but not really. The business is all in my father’s name. He can choose who works there and who gets paid and where the money gets spent.” Eder spars.

“By law, it is owned by both your father and your mother. And really, when both of them pass away it is one third yours and each of your sisters.” Gelita jabs.

“Okay, so there you go. So my sisters, and their husbands, and their children should decide if I get this car or not.” Eder counters and smiles.

Gelita smiles back and pauses as she rethinks her strategy. “You are not only the oldest child but also the oldest male, and that, you know, comes with a lot of family responsibility. Strong family businesses historically are the difference between great countries and so-so countries. If you want your family business to survive for another four generations you need to assume accountability. You should be thinking of future possibilities. What if your sisters don’t marry or what if they marry husbands that are not prosperous? You and the family business should help provide for them. You don’t want to have nephews and nieces that turn to drugs or stealing because they don’t have access to proper schooling and good jobs, right?

Eder pauses again to rest. He knows there is not going to be any early knockouts in this championship fight. “Gelita you are very beautiful and you have very good arguments, but come on please look at this from my viewpoint.”

“What does beautiful have anything to do with this? Are you just trying to butter me up? And besides, what is your viewpoint – I just don’t see it?” Gelita does not allow the compliment to throw her off balance.

Eder laughs. “I told you my parents named me after Eder Jaffe, the greatest Brazilian boxer that ever lived. Are you sure you want to keep fighting?”

Gelita does not throw in the towel as she holds up the contract Eder gave her. “Yes. We need to figure out what we are going to do about this contract.”

Eder moves around in his car seat as if he is moving around the ring getting ready for another attack. “Okay, let me try to explain again. I have a chance here to do something different and better with my life. I am being given what looks like a great opportunity. I will be training with the best coaches and athletes in Brazil. And all I have to do is take a good-paying job with Tropical Juice. I am not saying that I am giving up on the family business. I just won’t be available every day to help, but my dad can easily hire someone else to help him put the furniture together. Right?”

Gelita comes back throwing some straight punches. “Well, let’s see, your dad will probably have to hire two people to help him put the furniture together since you two typically work late hours or two shifts. Then he will have to hire at least one more driver to help deliver the furniture…no, actually, make that two drivers since your sister, Elaina, who adores the ground you walk on will probably not want to help deliver furniture anymore. And then there are vacations, health plans, workers comp, and all the other indirect costs that bring family businesses to their knees.”

“Oh, come on Gelita, you might be exaggerating a little bit here. Do you want me to give up running?” Eder counters with an overhead right.

Gelita this time closes her eyes and bows her head as if she is praying for guidance. After several minutes have passed she opens her eyes again.

“Woo. I thought I had knocked you out with that last one.” Eder jives.

Gelita breathes in a breath of air. “Well I know you have a special gift for running and I know you are supposed to use this gift. The problem is that I really don’t know what’s right. Maybe you are supposed to train with the best available, or maybe it does not really matter. I am just not sure about this one. It just does not feel right for some reason.”

Eder sees the opening and goes for the final blow. “Well, I tell you what, let’s just think of this as a temporary decision. If it looks like it is not working out, we can always go back to plan B. I can go back to helping with the family furniture business. What do you think about that?”

“Oh, alright, you win! No matter where the path may lead, I am always right there beside you.” Gelita replies as she does not answer the final bell.


December brings in the first heavy rains of the season. December is also typically the last month that oranges are picked and processed, although the juice packaging area will continue to run throughout the year from the frozen concentrate that is stored up during the season. The maintenance shop at the Tropical Juice plant is filled with more than 20 metallic work benches cluttered with various pieces of plant equipment – motors, pump parts, metal shafts, metal screens, gearboxes, and the occasional nuts and bolts. The lighting is dim and the floor is spotted with oil and dirt. At almost all the work benches there are one or two mechanics dressed in dark blue pants and light blue work shirts that have the words TROPICAL JUICE written in large black letters on a rectangular, white pouch above the left side shirt pocket. Eder has on the same type uniform except with dark brown pants and a light brown shirt to differentiate the supervisory group.

Eder enters the shop running as he tries to avoid getting completely soaked. He shakes off the excess water from his uniform as he nears one of the tables with two mechanics working.

He overhears them talking. “Look alive. Here comes Eder the Privileged.”

“I heard that. What do you mean by Eder the Privileged?” Eder asks.

“You only got this job because you’re one of their athletes. You don’t know the first thing about being a mechanic.” The first mechanic says.

“Yeah, and you’ve been here for a year and I don’t believe you ever put in a full day of work. Six hours and you’re out of here.” The second mechanic adds.

Eder is taken aback. “Come on guys, I’m just here to help our company. I train for two hours in the morning, work for six hours, and then train for two hours in the evening. I actual put in ten hours a day.”

“Well yeah, you work ten hours if you count your morning and evening exercises as work hours.” The first mechanic replies back as both of the mechanics grin.

“But, don’t you see, that’s part of the job. If I win some races, that helps sell more of our products and keeps all of our jobs secure. Right?” Eder retorts back.

“Well I for one am not so sure about that. You won both of those races last month and our sales didn’t go up.” The second mechanic articulates.

Eder stops to think. “Well, maybe some times it might take a couple of months for our sales to go up. The important thing is that the consumers see our brand on the television or in the newspaper. Right?”

“Well, we are still not convinced. Come on, we got to get back to work. Someone has to do something around here.” The first mechanic picks up the piece they have been working on and heads back out towards the factory floor.

Eder bows his head and pauses as he looks at the floor.


Friday, Dec. 21, 2007

Because of the heavy rain, Eder only has a light, one hour work out inside the city gymnasium. He hurries home, takes a shower, and shows up at the elementary school where Gelita is finishing up her 2nd shift classes for the day. She is wearing a very conservative white with black polka dot dress that goes down past her knees. The bell rings and the children come flooding out of the classroom door.

The classroom is now empty and Gelita looks up to see Eder coming in. “Well what a pleasant surprise.”

Gelita’s sunny smile quickly brightens up his day. “Well Miss Rodriguez or is it Teacher Rodriguez? I left the company car at home, but I did bring an umbrella; do you want to grab a pizza at Tardelli’s?”

“Why sure Supervisor dos Santos. Or is it Manager dos Santos?” Gelita replies back.

Eder bows his head as he remembers his day at work. Gelita instantly recognizes something is wrong. “Eder, what is it? Did I say something wrong? Did something happen today?”

“No Gelita, just not a very good day at work.” Eder says in a muffled voice.

“Well let’s go get that pizza. I am sure that will cheer us up.” Gelita grabs her book bag and heads for the door.

As they leave the school, they huddle together underneath the umbrella and Gelita puts her arm inside Eder’s. Eder feels her warmth and life is good. The short two blocks to the pizzeria will only take them a couple of minutes.

Eder breaks the silence of words as he speaks over the noise of the rain beating the umbrella like a drum. “You know I go to Sao Paulo this weekend for the Olympic trials. Are you going to be able to come with me?”

“Eder, I’m really sorry, but I cannot get out of these teacher conferences we have on Saturday. I tried, but they do not take NO for an answer.”

“It’s just that I run so much better when you’re around. And I really enjoy your company.”

“Eder, I wish I could. You know I will be with you in spirit. All you have to do is close your eyes and I will be there.”

“Yeah, but it’s just not the same without you there.” Eder adds.

“Well, I will be listening to the race on the radio. Too bad they aren’t going to televise the race. So changing the subject, what happened at work today?”

“Oh, a couple of my workers were giving me a hard time about not working a full day.”

“But Eder, didn’t you explain that you also work for four hours away from the plant, training for their races?”

“Yeah, but they said they don’t consider that work. And they said I really don’t understand maintenance. And, you know, they are partially right. I think I should try demanding again that they put me in the accounting department.”

“But Eder, you have tried that three times already. They said they don’t have any vacancies in that department and that the factory is the only place where they have open positions.”

“I know, but I just don’t fit in and I feel like a useless spare tire.” Eder is more than a little depressed.

“Well, you know it really does not matter where they put you or what you do, the salary from the contract is still the same.”

“Yeah, like always, I know you are right. But, you know, I just would like to feel like I am really doing something constructive.” Eder replies. “Oh, before I forget, I took the contract to the bank yesterday and they said that it would be easy for me to get a house loan.”

“Well there you go. That should bring the joy back into your day. It is what you have been working for, your own car and now your own house.” Gelita tries to cheer him.

“Well, technically, the car is not mine; it’s a company car.” Eder replies.

Time elapses. They have arrived at the pizzeria and rush inside to their favorite table in the back corner of the mansion-turned-restaurant. The pizzeria is quite empty on a rainy weekday night and only a couple of tables with patrons are sitting way on the other side of the big dining area. Carlos sees them coming in and disappears into the back room. The candle is already light on top of the white table cloth covered table which is quite different from the rest of the red-and-white checkerboard covered tables.

Gelita notices that the candle is also larger and in a special glass holder. “Are we sitting at the right table? It looks different than normal.”

As she turns back around to Eder, she sees that he is down on one knee with a black ring case in his hand.

“Gelita, my one and only true love. The person I knew was my perfect mate from the first moment that I laid eyes on you. The only person that gives me sparkles and lights up my life. Will you marry me?”

Gelita rises up with a glow on her face that outshines the candle light. She clutches both of Eder’s arms, raises him up to her, and gives him an embrace that he will never forget. “I accept!” She has small teardrops running down both sides of her cheeks. “Eder, I have loved you for longer than I can remember. I have dreamt about this night many times in my life. You are the only person that I could ever envision with sharing my life.”

The few patrons have overheard what has been happening and rise from their chairs and start clapping. Carlos reappears from the kitchen and pops open a bottle of champagne.


Mile 15

Announcer: “Our leaders are just now passing by Rodrigo de Freitas Lake on Borges de Medeiros Avenue and if they each would look up over their left shoulder they would see the magnificent Christ the Redeemer Statue with arms spread wide, keeping vigilance over this gran city. Of course none of the runners are even remotely thinking about the scenic views as they make a sweeping right curve on the same road and as they approach the mile-14 marker. This marker is right in front of the Leblon Shopping Mall and now it is a straight shot back to Ipanema Beach where they will retrace their same path back to the start-finish line in the Sambódromo. Their time was clocked right at 1:03:33.6; that comes out to a 1:59:02 finish. The order is still the same, two Kenyans followed by two Ethiopians followed by an Angolan and one Brazilian. Thomas, any reason for the slight slowdown and are the Kenyans and the Ethiopians going to switch places again?”

Co-Announcer: “The pace came down just a tad bit on the last mile maybe because of a couple of very small hills but certainly because of the four turns they had to negotiate during this last mile. This was the only section of the race with that many curves as they are basically taking a detour before they get back on the same beachside route that will take them back to the city. Once again, the organizers that traced out this event have to be highly applauded for choosing such a straight and level route that goes by most of the greatest tourist stops in the city. Also, we were expecting that the Kenyans and the Ethiopians would switch places once again, but that is not happening. In fact, look at the Kenyans quickly glancing back at the Ethiopians every 10-15 seconds and who are also looking back at the Reverend da Cruz from Angola. It seems that they are asking for him to do his part. This is a very interesting set of events unfolding right now. The Kenyans are saying, ‘Hey, our section is done, it’s your turn now’, and the Ethiopians are looking at the Angolan runners and saying, ‘Hey, aren’t you going to help? Let’s go, do your part’. We will have to keep watch to see how this plays out. Abe…”

Announcer: “Yes, you are right. This is very interesting. They all want to have the same advantage of conserving energy as they draft behind the lead runners. But now no one wants to be the lead runners any more. Something will have to happen during the next mile. ….”


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Olympic stadium, Morumbi, Sao Paulo: the last two laps of the 10K qualifying event.

Eder is in 7th place behind. The top four runners are 15 seconds ahead of them. The Tropical Juice coach yells, let’s go Eder, it’s now or never. Eder closes his eyes, opens them, and begins to sprint. He does the next 400 meters in 45 seconds and moves up to 5th place. He is only 7 seconds behind the other four runners. With 200 meters to go, he passes the fourth place runner but is still 3 seconds behind the other three who seem to be pacing each other, and are wearing the same sponsor’s shirt. It is going to be a close finish. Eder closes in. We are at the finish line. It looks like Eder will pass them. Oh, no. Eder just misses 3rd place by less than a half a body.

His coach and the other coach’s look at their watches with eyes wide open. This Eder ran that last 800 meters in 1 minute and 29 seconds. That would have qualified him in second place for the Olympics.


Early on a clear morning, Eder walks into the furniture store with a joyous expression on his face. His mother is all alone. “Good morning! Can you believe it’s already September?”

His mother clutches her son, overcome with joy, as if she hasn’t seen him in years. “And only three weeks before your wedding! Are you ready for your big day?”

“Oh mom, I suppose as ready as I will ever be.”

Eder looks around and sees there is no one else in the store. “Are you closed today?”

“No, we’re open today, just another Saturday. Although I am sure a lot of people are taking a long weekend.”

“So where are the girls, Elaina and Elizabeth? I thought they would be here in the store.”

“Elaina opened up that women’s boutique last month with her friend. I thought you knew that. She says she wants to try something different.”

“Well, I knew she was thinking about it, but I didn’t realize that she actually did it. What about Elizabeth? How come she’s not here helping you open up?”

“Oh, that little sister of yours. All she wants to do now is sleep in and watch TV. Since Elaina isn’t here, she has lost interest in helping out in the store.”

“Does dad know? Does he let her get away with that?”

“Well I think your dad is being easy on her because, well, she is the baby of the family, and he’s afraid of losing her also. He is downright spoiling her, that’s for sure.”

“So mom, you run the store all by yourself now? That’s too much work for you.”

“Of course, not Eder, I hired one of the neighborhood girls to help me out. You remember Fatima don’t you?”

“Fatima? Oh yeah, she has a brother, Luiz.”

“That’s right. Well, she works from 10 to closing. She’ll be here in about an hour or so. Your dad also hired her brother to help deliver furniture.”

“Wow, things sure have changed around here.”

“Yeah, you haven’t been around in more than a month since you bought your new house.”

“But mom, I see you guys every Sunday at church.”

“Yeah, we see you but we don’t get much time to talk to you. When’s the last time you spoke with your dad other than saying hello during church?”

Eder frowns as he tries to remember. “Probably more than a month ago. But mom, you know with this job and training and Gelita, I just don’t have the time like I use to have.”

“I know, I know, but you really should try to harder. He has been meaning to talk with you these last couple of weeks.”

“Where is he at now, maybe I can see him now?”

“Oh come on, you know where he’s at. He’s in the shop putting furniture together. He starts working before dawn and doesn’t stop until it’s time to go to bed.”

“Why doesn’t he hire more help?”

“I keep telling him to hire a couple of more helpers, but you know your dad – hard-headed as can be.”

“Okay, I am going to talk with him. Love you mom.” Eder gives his mom a big kiss on the cheek and heads out the door.

Eder walks across the street, slowing down each step of the way as he tries to think of what to say. Talking with his dad has never been that easy. They both are the silent type, cut from the same mold. As he gets nearer the shop, he sees his father by himself putting together a dark stained dining room chair.

“Hey dad, what’s up?”

His dad looks up from his task at hand, his face already showing the great elation, drops his tools, and walks over to Eder to give him a huge embrace. The hug lasts for what seems like minutes. “Son, how have you been?”

“Good as ever I suppose.”

“Well only two weeks left before your big wedding day. We are so happy for you.”

“Thanks dad.”

“So how’s Gelita doing? You know we practically only see you guys in church on Sunday.”

“She is doing fine, dad. She really has her hands full with those fourth grade kids. They can be a handful.”

“Well you know you really have picked out the bride of brides. We all can tell you were made for each other from that very first day. She really is something.”

“Yeah, no doubt about it, she really is something else.”

“I heard you bought a house over near the industrial district?”

“Yes sir. I was able to get a loan from the bank.”

“You know, I asked your mom why you didn’t want to start out living in the house we bought for you down the street here.”

“Now dad, you know that’s your house that you rent out, that’s not my house.”

“No son, just like our fathers before me, we bought a small house for each of you kids the same year you were born. It was kind of like buying an insurance policy – in case anything happens to us, you kids could always use it or sell it for emergency funds. We only rent it out so it doesn’t stay empty.”

“But dad, nothing happened to you guys and there was no emergency, so you should just keep it, it’s yours. Besides, I haven’t worked enough to earn that house.”

“I didn’t either when your grandfather gave your mom and me a house. Your aunts, my sisters Patricia and Paula, didn’t earn them either, but they started their families in them, and then ended up selling them when their husbands moved away to other cities. The family store provided for all of us to get a start on life.”

“But dad, Aunt Patricia and Aunt Paula were women, and they needed the help. Maybe you should divide my house up for Elaina and Elizabeth.”

“They both already have their own house in their names. Please take your house and think of it as an advance on your inheritance.”

“But dad, I probably will not be working for the store and won’t be able to earn it.”

Pedro’s demeanor shows a glimpse of sorrow, but his determination won’t allow him to give up. “Yeah, but you never know, maybe your children end up working here.”

“Well then, if my kids do work here then you can give them a house, okay?”

Pedro’s face turns red and his voice gets deeper. “Son, the house is yours; it is in your name.”

Eder is also becoming slightly emotional. “Well then I will either sign it back over to you or I will sell it and give the money back to you. And that’s that.”

“Bu…but…uhn…uhn…uhn…” Pedro starts to cough uncontrollably as he face turns dark red.

Eder pats him on the back. “Dad, are you okay? Do you need a drink of water?”

His dad is not able to answer. Eder grabs a cup and fills it near the water cooler that holds an inverted light blue, plastic water bottle. He brings it back to his father to drink.

After a couple of drinks his father regains his voice. “Yeah, I’m okay. Sorry about that son. Can you go to the store and tell your mother I need a couple of pills?”

“Sure dad, right away.” Eder quickly heads out the door back across the street to the furniture store.

“Mom, mom, come quickly. Dad is coughing real bad and says he needs a couple of pills.”

“Oh, my. Not again. Did you guys get into a fight or did he get excited about something?”

His mother grabs her purse and heads quickly back to the shop with Eder trailing behind her.

“Not really a fight, just a discussion about that house again.” Eder answers as he tries to keep up.

“Well, I suppose that would be enough to do it.”

“Mom, what is wrong with dad. Is he sick?

“No, he just has that problem with his blood pressure control. He’s always had it. The doctors can’t really do anything, just this medication.”

She stops right before turning the corner and turns back towards Eder. “Probably better if you didn’t go back in there just yet. That might raise his blood pressure and get him coughing again.”

Eder is dejected and stunned. “Okay, mom. Tell him I am sorry.”

“Son, don’t worry about it. He’ll be okay.”

“Gelita and I will be back later this afternoon.”

“Okay Eder.”


Mile 16

Announcer: “The enormous crowds lined up on both sides of Vieira Souto Avenue right in front of Ipanema Beach have just gotten very, very noisy. Their Brazilian runner, Eder dos Santos, together with the Reverend da Cruz from Angola have just taken the lead and the fans are applauding and shouting. After being prodded by both the Kenyans and the Ethiopians for almost the entire last mile, they finally took the lead position. Here they go by the mile-15 marker right in the middle part of the famous beach. Let’s go to Thomas to update their time.”

Co-Announcer: “Thanks Abe. Their time on that last marker was 1:08:12, which works out to a marathon time of 1:59:12. They lost another couple of seconds off the pace, probably because they were trying to figure out who was going to take the lead. There were definitely some mind-games going on. Just to remind the fans that this race is as much psychological as it is physical. What will end up separating the winner from the rest of the group is the mental attitude during the long course of the race. So now that they are back on the same path that brought them here, the fans can notice that each mile marker is exactly 385 yards before the mile marker coming in. So this mile-15 marker is 385 yards in front of the mile-11 marker. Going back to our two leaders, the Kenyans and the Ethiopians were actually begging for the Reverend da Cruz from Angola to take the lead position because the Brazilian runner, Eder dos Santos, does not appear to know what is happening. He is just glued to the Reverend da Cruz’s back and is just tagging along for the ride. Most long distance runners will tell you that they at times during a long run they do tend to drift off and actually meditate or run in a trance like state, but definitely not with their eyes completely shut or almost completely shut. My group is trying to figure out what the connection is between these two runners, why are they running together like this. Portuguese is the native language for both athletes and one of my technicians says that they were talking to each other right before the race, but other than that it we cannot find any other connections like competitions that they both might have ran in or if they had a friendship or knew each other before. Actually, we do have a lot of background information on the Reverend da Cruz, but almost nothing on Eder dos Santos. He was one of the very last athletes to actually qualify for the Brazilian Olympic team. My group is trying to dig up some information as fast as they can, so we will get back to the audience in the next 5-10 minutes. By the way, the lead group just passed the 25 km marker with a time of 1:10:37.5, which projects out to the same 1:59:12 marathon time.”

Announcer: “Thanks Thomas. In the meantime, the local fans are going nuts with the hope that they might win a medal on the very last event of these Olympics. Let’s keep a close eye on our closed-eye runner from Brazil….”


Eder and Gelita come back to the furniture store in the afternoon. Eder’s mother and Fatima are going through the accounting books and checking against the sales receipts. When she sees them walking, she gets up to greet them. She gives Gelita a great embrace and holds it for almost a minute as if it might be the last. “Gelita, always so special to see you. You seem to always know how to brighten up anyone’s day.”

Gelita gives her a kiss on each cheek. “Great to see you, too. Seems like we only see each other on Sundays anymore.”

“Yes, and isn’t that a shame. We will have to do something to change that.”

Eder greets Fatima with two cheek-to-cheeks. “So I heard you’re working here in the family store now. Do you know my wife-to-be, Gelita?”

“Who doesn’t know her; just that we’ve never met.” Fatima answers with a teeth-bearing smile.

“Nice to meet you, Fatima. I am honored.” Gelita also gives her two cheek-to-cheeks.

“So mom, how’s dad? Is he feeling better?”

“Oh Eder, he’s alright. It goes away about as fast as it comes. I really think the pills are more psychological than anything else.”

Eder breathes a sigh of relief. “Well that’s good to know. I will know better to take it easier next time.”

Gelita looks around and notices the front door is closed. “Well, it is Saturday afternoon, so is the store actually open or closed?”

“To tell you the truth, Fatima and I are waiting here for two very special customers.” Mariabela says with a broad beam.

“You are?” Gelita asks.

Fatima has the biggest grin of all. “Yes, and they just arrived!”

Eder looks at Gelita with a surprised face. “I don’t understand; we are the customers?”

Mariabela is delighted to answer. “Why yes, you both have to pick out your wedding gift and fill up that big, empty house of yours.”

“Oh, mom, you don’t have to do that.”

“Why sure we do. What kind of parents don’t lavish great wedding gifts on their special children?”

“But, mom, we were actually thinking about asking you to rent some furniture for the new house.”

“Now, now Eder, you’ve got to be kidding. You surely are not going to dishonor your parents right before your wedding. You and Gelita will either pick out the furniture, or I will have your father come over here so you can get him upset again.” Mariabela says with authority.

Gelita gives Eder a small shove in the back. “Eder, stop being disrespectful.”

“Oh, okay, mom, you always seem to find a way to win anyway.” Eder clinches his mother around her shoulders with his long thin arm and plants a big kiss on her cheek.

Fatima picks up her clipboard with an order sheet already attached. “Well great. Let’s start with the dining room.”


Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008

Spring is in the air on a gorgeous evening. The sun is just making its final journey down to the horizon casting flamboyant, streaming colors of orange, yellow, red, and purple mixtures across the light blue sky. The same unfinished public park that hosts the church’s monthly picnics has been awarded the special honor to host Gelita and Eder’s wedding. The large concrete table is draped with a green cloth to pose as an altar on this special occasion. In front of the make-shift altar are rows and rows of white plastic chairs mixed in with white metallic chairs all covered with white cloth. Down the center aisle a dark red carpet has been placed over the freshly cut, dark green grass. Simple lights have been strung up high from tree-to-tree but remain off until after the ceremony for the ensuing feast. There are square metallic tables covered with white table cloths surrounding the area on loan from Tardelli Pizzeria who will be catering the salads, spaghetti, and pizzas. The same chairs will be relocated to the tables. The inner circle of outlaying trees have been decorated with white Christmas tree lights that swirl up like candy canes and tied with ribbons formed from white cloth. The air is filled with romantic melodies compliments of two men playing guitars and one lady singing the songs.

Almost every chair has already been filled and late-comers already have to stand in the back. Both Gelita and Eder are very popular and well-liked throughout the town. Eder is standing in front of the make-shift altar next to Pastor Francisco. Both of them are dressed in black suits, white shirts, and black ties. Beside Eder is Nilton who won the toss of the coin. Next to Nilton stands Ivan, who lost the toss of the coin. Both of them are also dressed with black suits, white shirts, and black ties. In the front row on Eder’s side is his father who is also dressed in a black suit, and his mother and two sisters, all of them dressed in their very best dresses. In the front row on Gelita’s side is his mother in a dress and the two boys dressed in identical white shirts and black pants with suspenders. They all have their eyes fixed on the very back of the red carpet. Gelita’s two best friends, Martha and Anna Maria, are dressed in beautiful white dresses and each are holding a bouquet of roses. Beside them is Gelita’s father in a black suit. They are also looking towards the street waiting for the bride.

Just as the sun disappears under the western horizon, on the opposite horizon a full moon appears above the skyline shining brighter and appearing larger than normal. At that exact moment, a brand new black sedan pulls up to the curb. Gelita’s two best friends and her dad approach the car to open the door. Gelita steps out of the car with her head covered with a white veil. Everyone stands up and turns toward the back. The bridesmaids help her unravel the beautiful long white gown. That is Nilton and Ivan’s cue as they walk up the aisle to meet the bride’s group for escorting. That leaves Eder and Pastor Francisco alone at the altar. The music changes to typical wedding music before the famous march of the bride. Ivan is the first to escort Anna Maria down the aisle in a slow, purposeful stroll. Next is Nilton with Gelita’s best friend, Martha, ambling just a little bit faster than the first pair. The music stops for one minute and then breaks out into the classical wedding march done with two dueling guitars. Gelita and her dad move very slowly down the aisle. Gelita is holding a gorgeous bouquet of white roses as her long wedding gown drags behind her on the red carpet. Gelita’s radiant, exultant face is obvious under her white, sheer veil. They finally arrive in front of the alter and Gelita’s dad turns his daughter face to face, lifts her veil back over her head, and then whispers something in Gelita’s ear - something that will not be repeated or known until the end of time. Gelita kisses her dad on the right cheek and gives him a firm embrace. The moment is touching for everyone as the sniffles begin to start and tissues come out to dry wet eyes. Gelita’s dad turns and shakes Eder’s hand and then gently places his daughter’s hand into his. He pats them both on the back, turns around, and then sits down next to his wife.

Pastor Francisco begins the ceremony with his booming voice this time into a microphone that shares the same speakers as the musical group.

“We are gathered here on this impressive evening provided by God to unite two of His most cherished children – Gelita and Eder.

As Mark so clearly wrote about it in Chapter 10, verse 6: But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.” “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate”

So I ask you both, Gelita and Eder, did you both come her this evening of your own free will, knowingly, with a healthy body and a sane mind?”

Both Gelita and Eder respond at the exact same time. “We do.”

“Love is a very important element of this union. Christ clearly states that the greatest commandment is love, love for God, and love for each other. The essence of love was best captured by Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, and verse 4:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails …”

I ask you both, Gelita and Eder, do you come here with your hearts full of love, a love that will last an eternity?”

Again, they both answer in unison. “We do.”

“Gelita and Eder have picked out a very special music that they would like you all to listen to and enjoy.” Pastor Francisco points his hand to cue the musical group.

After the awe-inspiring song finishes, Pastor Francisco picks back up where he left off.

“Now each has asked to recite their own vows to each other.” Pastor Francisco adds.

Gelita and Eder turn towards each other, place each of their hands in the others at waste height, and then Gelita looks softly into Eder’s eyes.

“Eder dos Santos, I take you to be my lawfully wedded husband. Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you with all your faults and your strengths as I offer myself to you with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and I will turn to you when I need help. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life.”

Eder grins from ear to ear and looks directly into Gelita’s stunning eyes.

“Gelita Rodriguez, I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife. Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you with all your faults and your strengths as I offer myself to you with my faults and strengths. I will help you when you need help, and I will turn to you when I need help. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life.”

“Without further ado, let’s bless the rings. Best man, please present the rings.” Pastor Francisco booms.

Eder turns to Nilton and asks for the rings. Nilton puts his hand deep into his right pocket, moves his hand around, and shrugs his shoulders. His face is as red as a sugar beet.

Eder whispers in a very low voice. “Come on Nilton, this is no time for jokes.”

Some members of the congregation have already started laughing.

Finally, Ivan puts his hand in his pocket and produces the two golden rings. Nilton turns and punches Ivan on the shoulder. More laughs break out.

Eder turns back around and cannot help from giggling just a bit.

Pastor Francisco takes both of the rings and places them on a small white pillow that he places on the altar.

“Heavenly Father, bless these rings. Grant that Gelita and Eder may wear them with deep faith in each other. May they do your will and always live together in peace, love and abiding joy. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen!”

Gelita turns towards Eder, gently takes his left hand, places the shiny, golden band on his finger, and smiles a light-imparting smile. “With this ring I thee wed; with my body I thee honor; and all my worldly goods with thee I share: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Eder then takes Gelita’s left hand, gently places the golden wedding band on her finger, clears his voice, and softly speaks. “With this ring I thee wed; with my body I thee honor; and all my worldly goods with thee I share: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

“Just one thing left to do – please allow me to bless this couple.” Pastor Francisco blasts with joy.

“Heavenly and Almighty Father, please shine your brightest light on this couple, a light that will shine forever and will guide them through their darkest hours, through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen!”

“With the powers invested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

“Eder, you may now kiss your wife. Gelita, you may now kiss your husband.”

Eder slowly bends over and softly grips Gelita around her waist with both hands. Gelita throws her arms around Eder’s shoulders as she bows her head backwards. They close their eyes and their lips come together. The earth stops spinning once again as they are thrown into their river of light. They see themselves kissing and hugging each other in this brighter than bright environment where nothing else is present.

The crowd is on their feet cheering and yelling. The loud clamor brings them both back to the ceremony.

Eder looks into Gelita’s eyes. “Wow, I haven’t seen that sparkle in a while. So you were just saving it for special occasions?”

Gelita’s eyes fill with extreme ecstasy. “I think that was a gift from above.”

Pastor Francisco places his long skinny arms on the shoulders of both, turns them around to face the crowd, and speaks loudly into the microphone with immense pleasure. “I present to you Eder and Gelita dos Santos.”

The uproar from the crowd that had died down just a bit, now comes back in full roar, even louder than before. This goes on for several minutes as both Eder and Gelita bow and throw kisses to the crowd. The music picks up louder than before with “wedding promenade” as Ivan with his escort heads down the red carpeted aisle. Nilton does the same as soon as Ivan reaches the back.

As soon as Nilton reaches the back, Eder turns to Gelita. “Are you ready Mrs. dos Santos to go down the aisle for the first time as husband and wife?”

“I was born ready.”

They kiss and then with arm in arm begin walking slowly down the aisle grinning to each side as the crowd continues to clamor. The parents and family wait until they are more than halfway down the aisle, congratulate each other with massive hugging and cheek kissing, and then escort each other down the aisle as the applause does not stop. When they are all reach the back of the congregation, Pastor Francisco booms into the microphone. “Okay everyone. Let’s do this nice and orderly. Please wait for the ushers who will let the front rows exit first, congratulate the wedding party, and then move off to the sides. We will begin moving the chairs to the tables to leave this big open space for dancing - all night! Let’s get this party going!”


Mile 17

Announcer: “Our leaders, the Reverend da Cruz and Eder dos Santos from Brazil have just made it past the mile-16 marker halfway between Ipanema and Copacabana Beaches. This crossover between the two beaches is a small hill that they have to go up and down. Their time was 1:12:35, which projects a 1:58:57 marathon. The leaders have picked up the pace and are still being followed closely by the two Kenyans runners who are being closely followed by the two Ethiopian runners. The rising sun is still behind the clouds and believe it or not, there is now a noticeable tailwind coming off the ocean. The leaders are being pushed or helped by the wind as they head back to the finish line. Thomas, you have mentioned The Wall several times, can you explain to our audience what exactly that is?”

Co-Announcer: “Sure thing Abe. This is good timing because most of the highly trained marathon runners will still hit The Wall, or run out of gas, right around 18 to 22 miles into the race. In very simple language, the body needs energy to do work, such as running. This energy usually comes from either carbohydrates or fats stored in the body. Everyone should know that the most common carbohydrates are starches and sugars. Our bodies convert fats, starches, and sugars into the only simple sugar that it can use in the blood; glucose. The muscles also store up glycogen, which is a complex sugar or a polymer of glucose. So the runners at the starting line have loaded up on carbohydrates a couple of days leading up to the race, and by the way, this is called carbo-loading, and at that moment in time each runners has a certain amount of glucose in his blood and glycogen in his muscles. At the exact moment that the athletes use up all the glucose and glycogen in their bodies, they hit The Wall. They basically run out of gas, or “easy energy”. Their bodies have to start breaking down fat into glucose. This process actually uses energy and takes time for their bodies to gear up to mass produce glucose from their stored fat. To minimize the effects of The Wall, most long distance runners will train their bodies to begin using fat before hitting the wall by training with less carbo-loading. They will also digest during strategic points in the race a variety of energy gels or even simple carbohydrates before hitting The Wall. So in summary, all runners will hit The Wall at some point in this race and it is just a matter of how big The Wall is and how long each of them takes to get over The Wall.”

Announcer: “Thanks Thomas. That was a very good explanation and easy to understand. So we will be waiting for your high-tech team to predict who will hit The Wall first and how big the effect was on each of them.”


Sunday, March 21, 2010

It is Sunday morning, and the small garage-turned-church is completely packed with people standing up in the back. Eder and Gelita are sitting near the front in their place of habit behind each of their families.

Pastor Francisco in his usual attire has just begun to deliver his sermon. “As everyone knows, once a year I like going back to the basics, or the ABC and D of our faith. A is for Agape or love. B is for Baptism in water and in the Holy Spirit. D is for The Day that we are all anxiously waiting for, the second coming. And today is C day - The Great Commission. Please turn your Bibles to the last chapter of the first gospel of the New Testament, Matthew 28:18.

‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’

That is very straight forward. Not much explanation needed. Now everyone turn to the end of the second gospel, Mark 16:15.

‘And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”’

Wow, now if that doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks, nothing will!

I could go on through each of the four gospels, but I believe you get the point. Every single one of the New Testament authors mentions this very important task that Christ has put in front of each and every one of us. Now a lot of people like to believe that this is the task for the church or for the pastors, but that is not the case. Christ is very clear that he expects all of us to do His work, and He expects us to do this every single day of our lives – not just on Sunday or Thursday, but every single day. So the question you have to ask yourself – am I doing enough to spread the gospel every single day? To follow in his footsteps and teach people how to love one another? ….


Before I give the final blessing I wanted to give everyone some good news. As you all can see we have been growing very fast and we need more room. We have been trying to buy this empty lot of land on the other side of this wall, and I am happy to announce that the contracts were finally signed this past week!”

Everyone breaks out into applause – clapping and yelling.

Pastor Francisco allows the chatter to die down before continuing. “Next Saturday we will have a good old fashion church raising event. We have bought all the bricks, sand, mortar, and steel that will be delivered this week. We already have this one wall, but we need to raise the other three walls so that our carpenters, Pedro and Eder, can install the roof. We will start at 7 am sharp, and breakfast and lunch will be served. We need all the help we can get, so invite your friends. And one additional last thing, Eder and Gelita, I would like to see you afterwards if you have time.

Okay, please bow your heads and close your eyes…….”


Eder and Gelita give the Lord’s peace as they shake each and every member’s hand, and then sit back down as they patiently wait for Pastor Francisco to say good-bye to everyone.

“I wonder what he wants to talk to us about.” We didn’t do anything wrong did we?” Eder wonders.

“Oh, Eder, stop worrying so much. He probably just wants to talk to us to see how things are going. You know since we married and moved into our own house more than six months ago we hardly see Pastor Francisco except in large groups like church and picnics.”

“Yeah, I believe you are right. We really should make a point to set some time to visit him, our parents, our friends, and everyone else.” Just as Eder is finishing his sentence, Pastor Francisco comes back to the empty church.

He turns one of the chairs around to face them, and begins to smile. “So, tell me Gelita, how many months are you – two or three?”

Gelita and Eder stare at each other with surprise written all over their faces. “Well how did you know that? We have not even had time to see a doctor and do an official lab test, only the pharmacy kit.” Gelita asks.

“Oh, come on, you know I have some very good connections.” Pastor Francisco is complete cheerfulness.

“If the laboratory tests come back positive, that would mean I am three months pregnant.” Gelita announces proudly.

“Then let me tell you what you probably don’t know, I am almost positive it will be a baby boy.”

Eder glimpses smugly at Pastor Francisco. “Well you are wrong about not knowing. Gelita already told me that she is sure it is a boy.”

Gelita with her deep inner elation radiates joy all around her. “Just call it mother’s intuition. And please don’t tell anyone, we were waiting for the lab result to tell our families.”

“You two don’t have to worry about that. I am definitely not one to gossip. So let me ask you one more question; have you already picked out a name?”

Eder again turns toward Gelita who does the same before continuing. “Why yes, I already have a name in mind, but I am going to wait until the last month before deciding with Eder.”

Pastor Francisco smiles contently. “Well that takes care of one of my “dreams” or “visions”. Now I have to tell you about the second one.”

Eder and Gelita turn to one another with a slight surprise.

“I see Gelita continuing to strengthen her gifts and use them to bring more brothers and sisters into Christ’s family. Her evangelical sermons and her work with the sick children are true testaments of God’s power. But, now here’s the big news, I see Eder turning into an enormous cornerstone of our church. Eder, you will help more people into knowing and following Christ’s path than both Gelita and I combined. I am not talking about hundreds or even thousands, but many more than that.”

Eder draws a complete blank on his face. Everyone and time pauses.

Then Eder awakes. “Pastor Francisco, you are surely mistaken. You must have the wrong Eder or the wrong person. Maybe your dreams are askew.”

“No Eder. I would not have said anything to you unless I had seen it many times over. I am telling you this now because I have been compelled to.”

“You can’t be right. Both you and Gelita are true cornerstones, have gifts, have huge hearts, and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. I can’t even seem to get the Holy Spirit to even notice me.”

“Eder, for you to be able to do what I have been given the privilege of seeing, you most definitely will be baptized. There is no doubt about it.”

Then Gelita grabs Eder’s hand and stuns him even more with her next words. “Eder, I have seen this too.”

Eder stares at Gelita for the longest of time. “Okay, give me more details. Tell me exactly what you both saw and what I have to do.”

Pastor Francisco is the first to reply. “Eder, you know deep in your heart that it doesn’t work like that. We don’t have all the details and we don’t have a clue when these events will happen, or even if all of this will happen at all. The future always depends on what decisions you make and what paths you take.”

Eder continues to be more than a little anxious. “This almost seems like a conspiracy. At least give me a little bit more information. Was I real old? Did I have white hair or going bald?”

Pastor Francisco again is the first to reply. “Yes and no. Sometimes you are older and sometimes you are not. I believe that maybe this is because it changes depending on your state of mind, your state of affairs, or maybe the reason again is because we are not meant to know the when.”

Gelita again squeezes Eder’s hand. “Eder, Pastor Francisco is telling the truth. Please don’t get upset or continue to worry. The important and joyous fact is that you have been chosen for something really big in God’s plan.”

“And Eder, just so you know, from experience, I know that for this to happen that you will have to go through some very, very important tests to prove your agape for God. For you to be able to do something this big, the tests will surely be just as big.”

Eder sits and pauses with his eyes wide open. “So this is like… good news, bad news… which do you want first? Now I am really worried.”

Pastor Francisco giggles at Eder’s reaction. “Just remember the answers are always readily available, just by reading the Bible or just by asking Him yourself. You might want to prepare yourself by reading and studying chapter one of James’s epistles.”

Eder again becomes silent as he contemplates the words that he has heard. Gelita and Pastor Francisco watch to see his next reaction.

Eder finally smiles and gets up from his chair. “Okay. I understand. Like my grandfather use to always say, let’s just take it a step at a time, and we will always get there.”

Gelita and Pastor Francisco smile big at each other.


Mile 18

Announcer: “The leaders just passed the halfway point of the world-renown Copacabana Beach and the Mile-17 marker. Their time continues to impress - 1:17:02, which estimates to a sub-two hour marathon of 1:58:49! The crowds continue to roar, clap, play samba, and just generally make a lot of noise each time the Reverend da Cruz and Eder dos Santos go by. This encouragement has to help. We also just found out that our Brazilian TV audience has risen to an unbelievable +90%! There are approximately 202 million people living in Brazil, and they are almost all tuning in! I suppose they are asking two important questions: who is this Eder dos Santos? Will we see a historical sub-2 hour marathon today? Thomas, any answers?”

Co-Announcer: “Well, on the sub-two hour marathon, the real experts have all predicted that, yes, it will happen, and that it will probably happen in 10 to 25 years. Most of them will tell you that the weather conditions will be ideal on a perfectly flat route with a runner that has been drafting and has been paced by other, “Throw-away” runners, but most importantly a runner with a great mental-edge. The perfect weather conditions would be a cool, dry, cloudy day with no headwind or a constant tailwind. Cool and dry temperatures typically cited are 40-45oF, which is roughly 4-7oC, and 20% relative humidity. This would allow the athlete to cool his body much more efficiently. We started the race at 16oC and 42% relative humidity, and now we are up to 18oC and 49% humidity. So we are close, but not at “perfect” conditions. The runners have benefited from cloud cover which also allows for more efficient body cooling by shielding them from radiant energy. And the wind has been very cooperative; there would have typically been a morning headwind coming from the Southeastern direction. There was no wind at all, but now as they go back, the wind has appeared out of nowhere and is providing an added “push”, right at 13-14 km/hour, which is just under the record rules regulation of 4 meters per second. This race course is very flat, but not perfectly flat, so that definitely costs them some seconds. But, the biggest intangible factor of all is the mental factor; what the mind can will, the body can do. It is by far the largest factor and the only one that cannot be measured. Maybe the Reverend is praying while he is running and that gives him a mental factor advantage, or maybe Eder dos Santos is in deep meditation and that gives him the mental advantage. All we can do is sit back, relax, and watch what unfolds…”


Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010

A normal Saturday evening in Eder and Gelita’s simple abode. Their basic two bedroom house is in a developing neighborhood near the city’s industrial sector. They are both on the wine colored sofa in the fully furnished living room, only missing a television by design. Eder has his feet propped up on the dark stained coffee table with Gelita’s head in his lap that he is softly stroking. Gelita is laying down taking up the rest of the sofa wearing her favorite simple white dress. Both of her hands are resting on her enormous stomach that is ripe for birth in the last month of pregnancy. She has her barefooted feet propped up on the armrest at the other end of the sofa with a small pillow behind her knees.

“The baby is really kicking hard today. I wonder what is getting him so upset.” Gelita says with her never ending smile.

“Well maybe he is just tired of being so cramped up in that little bitty space.”

“What do you mean little bitty space? Look how big I am.” Gelita lightly taps her hand on her oversized belly.

“You do have a point there.”

“I think he is a champion runner like his father and is just raring to get out and start winning races.”

“That reminds me, I forgot to tell you that now that I have won eight 10K races in a row, counting the one last week, Tropical Fruit has now agreed to move me to the accounting area.” Eder’s talking at an ever increasing pace. “Starting next week I don’t have to work in the plant anymore!”

“Eder, that is just great! It is what you always wanted.” Gelita erupts in glee.

“Now I can really start doing something at work that can actually help the company. And guess what, they are giving me a salary raise!”

“I am so happy for you Eder. You are…..” Gelita suddenly stops in mid-sentence. “Now that was no kick, and it was the third one in the last ten minutes.”

“What is it? Is something wrong?”

“I think it’s time.” Gelita replies with a calm, sweet voice.

“Time? Time for the baby?” Eder gets up from the couch and helps Gelita to the sitting position.

“Well, you know I have never done or felt this before, so I am not totally sure, but I do believe that I am going into labor.”

Eder’s emotions begin to swell. “Well…well…let…let’s go to the hospital. Do you want me to carry you to the car?”

Gelita grins brightly. “Eder, just be calm. I am not lame and I can easily walk to the car. Now just go into our bedroom and get that red suitcase by the closet door.”

“What? You mean you have already packed a bag?”

“Why yes. Everything I will need for the baby and me for one or two days in the hospital is right in that suitcase.”

Eder is amazed as he goes back into their bedroom to retrieve that small piece of red luggage. He quickly carries the bag through the front door and out to the car. He hurries back in to the house to find Gelita already with her white sandals on and walking slowly to the front door. He grabs her right arm and helps guide her to the front passenger seat of his white sedan that has Tropical Fruit written on both sides in a rainbow of colors. Within in minutes their car pulls up to the emergency entrance at the back side of the Bebedouro Santa Casa Hospital. The hospital appears to be deserted with only two nurses dressed in white uniforms with white tennis shoes and white caps sitting behind a simple, white wooden desk at the entrance. Eder rushes to the desk. “My wife is ready to have her baby!”

Both nurses look up at the same time and smile. Gelita has already made her way wobbling to the desk. “Hello Gelita.” Both of them say at the same time.

Gelita compliments both of them by name. The taller one pushes a wheel chair behind Gelita and gently places her inside. She pushes her down the empty granite hallway to one of the attending rooms with Eder in close pursuit. The other nurse has already paged the doctor who had been doing his rounds – checking on his patients.

In an orderly and efficient manner, the nurse has helped Gelita change her clothes to a white patient’s gown, set her down on the patient’s examine chair, taken her pulse, and measured her blood pressure.

Dr. Lopez walks in and sees Gelita and Eder. He can’t help but to smile. “So, are we ready to have a baby?”

Eder is still in a slight state of shock so Gelita answers. “Well, I think so, although I could be wrong.”

“Gelita, I know you too well and don’t believe you could be wrong. Are you feeling contractions?”

“Yes I am. And they are about 3 minutes apart.” Gelita offers again with her calming voice.

“Well then, let’s not waste any more time. Let me see if you are dilating.”

Gelita slowly gets out of the wheelchair and lays down on a gurney. After a quick examination the doctor’s eyes turn as big as coins. “The little guy is already trying to stick his head out. Are you feeling any pain?”

Gelita glances and smiles at Dr. Lopez. “The pain is unbearable, but the joy washes it away.”

“Well let’s go. Let’s get this show into the operating room.” Dr. Lopez says with a more urgent voice as he sends a meaningful glance to the nurse.

The doctor and the nurse quickly push Gelita’s gurney down to the end of the hallway and into the operating room. Another two nurses are already waiting in the always well prepared operating room.

One of the nurses stops Eder at the door. “The doctor thinks it might be better if you wait just for a couple of minutes outside and catch your breath.”

Eder slurs his words. “O...oh…okay.”

The nurse disappears behind the white wood swinging doors. Eder begins robotically pacing back and forth in front of the heavily stained wooden doors, taking three steps in each direction before turning 180 degrees.

In what seems like seconds, the same nurse reappears. “The doctor says you can come in now.”

Eder goes in slowly behind the nurse through the door and is greeted by Dr. Lopez who is just taking off a surgical glove and offering his hand. “Congratulations Eder! Your new baby boy has come into the world!”

Eder is now in complete shock as he walks his way up to Gelita who is lying down and smiling with her baby crawling on her chest. The newborn baby boy is crying just a little and trying to raise himself on all fours.

Gelita with a divine voice speaks to Eder. “Eder, say hello to Jose Pedro dos Santos.”

Eder walks slowly over to the side of the bed, bends over, and presses his lips on Gelita’s forehead with his eyes softly closed. He pauses in this position for close to one minute.

He peers deeply into her eyes. “Love, are you okay?”

“Of course, actually, I am even better now.”

Eder turns his glance to his new baby boy, bends over, and presses his lips on the baby’s head for almost one minute. “Jose Pedro dos Santos. What a great and joyful day this is!”

Eder turns back to Gelita with a glow on his face. “You named him after both my grandfather and my father?”

“Well you talk so much about your grandfather and all of his famous quotes, this was the least we could do to honor him.” Gelita responds with a soft even voice.

“Okay, I can understand that. So then why did you also add my father’s name?”

“Oh Eder, a father is always a father. Besides, now no one has to change the name on the furniture store.” Gelita flashes a huge grin.


Friday, Dec. 31, 2010

A huge crowd is gathered inside and outside of the mansion-turned-restaurant, Tardelli Pizzeria. All eyes and ears on fixed on the wide-screen TV’s: one outside that is hanging over one of the large windows and the other one inside on the back wall. Everyone is dressed with at least one piece of white clothing and most everyone has multi-colored, pointed hats with silver glitter on top of their heads – the normal attire for New Year’s Eve. Gelita, in a glamorous all-white dress, is seated at the largest table directly in front of the back wall TV with her three month old baby boy, Jose Pedro, in her lap. The baby is also dressed in a white shirt, white shorts with white suspenders, white socks, and white tennis shoes. At the table with Gelita are all of her family, Eder’s family, Nilton and Martha, Ivan and his date, Ana Maria and Jonas, and Pastor Francisco. Noticeably missing are both Eder and his father. Every once in a while one of the patrons yell out. “Go Eder.” “Now’s the time.” “You can do it.”

The TV announcer is crackling away with an ever increasing rhythm in his voice. “The lead runners have just now passed the 9.5 kilometer marker and we are into the final five hundred meters. The two favorites to win this race are neck-in-neck. Jose Costas from Portugal and Eddy Bai from Kenya are at least 30 meters in front of the next five runners who are balled up together. Behind them is the only Brazilian runner with any chance at all of picking up at least a bronze medal, Eder dos Santos. He is wearing white shorts and a white shirt that has Tropical Fruit written on the front and back in multiple colors of the rainbow. He has moved up from 15th to 8th place in just the last 200 meters and is kicking very strong. He has become famous for these ridiculously fast finishes as he seems to draw huge amounts of energy from unknown reserves. The local crowd here on the streets of São Paulo are going crazy, yelling and screaming encouragement to Eder. And here he goes, right past the ball of runners like they are standing still! I cannot believe this. How does he do it? He is now in third place and it looks like he thinks he has a chance at catching the two leaders who are still running side-by-side. Eder dos Santos is providing the entertainment on this New Year’s Eve night. Look at him go. There is only two hundred meters to go and he is now only less than 15 meters away. The two leaders are also sprinting towards the finish, but their sprint is no match for Eder’s. This is unheard of. We are going to have one of the closest finishes we have had in the last ten years. Of course the favorite that is creating all the noise from the crowd is Eder dos Santos from Bebedouro, a small agricultural city in the heart of the state of São Paulo. He is only two or three steps behind going into the last 50 meters. Jose has moved into first place by one step. Eder has moved into second place, only one step behind. Now they are tied coming to the finish line. Eder moves ahead, he is in first place! He is pulling away – one step, now two steps.

He crosses the finish line! Eder dos Santos from Brazil has come from nowhere, from way back in the pack to win the famous, prestigious São Silvestre Race! There is now an early New Year’s celebration here in the streets of São Paulo. The confetti and streamers are going off along with the fireworks! The party has started! What a dramatic come from behind win! Eder dos Santos is the first Brazilian to win this race on their home soil in the last ten years – the waiting is now over. Let’s try to get our assistance to bring Eder over so we can talk with him. There is Eder now – he is shaking hands and congratulating all the finishers – what a good image of a true sportsman. Looks like he is moving towards the crowd and he is shaking hands and getting a lot of pats on the back. It looks like he is looking for someone, maybe his wife. There, the crowd is moving out of the way to let someone through. Eder is going through to meet him…there; it seems to be an older man. It must be his father. They are hugging each other and not letting go. What an emotional scene!”

Eder yells into his father’s ear as he hugs him. “Dad, this was for you!”

Eder’s dad is in tears as he can barely get the words out. “I am so proud of you!”

“Ever since I was a boy you told me I could make it here.”

Pedro is completely overcome with emotion as he tries to muster words. “Just running and finishing the race was good enough – I never imagined that you would actually win it!”

“Well if I was going to run I might as well win!”

The TV crew finally catches up with the two of them and escorts them to the camera and the interview area as the crowd continues to yell and scream congratulations to Eder. Finally, the interviewer meets Eder and gives him a hug. “On behalf of all Brazil, Congratulations Eder!”

Eder flashes a big smile. “First let me thank the Lord our God for this and all that he has done for me. And then, thank you and thank all of Brazil for cheering for me – I couldn’t have done it without them!”

The crowd erupts into a big round of applause that lasts for several minutes.

“You are the first Brazilian to win our own race in the last ten years. Tell me, how does it feel?”

Eder continues in an excited high pitch voice. “What can I say other than it feels great!”

The crowd again begins another minute of yelling and screaming.

The announcer waves his hands to quiet the crowd. “You were just unbelievable in the last kilometer of this race. Your exploits on finishing your races with fantastic kicks might have just been hype, but not anymore. All of Brazil and this part of the world now know that you are for real!”

The multitude again erupts into applause and cheering.

“So tell us, how do you do that? Where does that burst of energy come from?”

“For sure it comes from Above. He wouldn’t allow me to run like that unless it was for a special purpose. And let’s not forget my fellow runners, I have to thank them because I believe they help bring out the very best in me. And, finally, the prayers and cheering from the fans fills me with the rest of what I need.”

The crowd once again lets out a huge roar.

The interviewer once again waves his hands to the crowd to lower the volume.

“This race clearly puts you in the elite group of being one of the top 10K runners in the world. The London Olympic Games are coming up in two years. Are you planning on representing Brazil and bring back the gold?”

“That would be a great honor to represent my country in the Olympic Games.”

Clapping and applause again dominates and the interviewer pauses as he waits for it to subside.

“So, tell us, is this your father here with you?”

Eder looks at his dad, hugs him, and plants a huge kiss on his forehead. “Yes, this is my one and only dad. He brought me to this race when I was only 7 years old and told me that I would be one of these elite runners if only I walked the straight and narrow path.”

“Well, it looks like his prediction came true. Tell us Mr. dos Santos, how does it feel?”

Pedro tries to calm his voice before letting go with words as he hugs Eder. “This is like a dream come true. What more could a father ask for than to have a son like this!”

The mob cheers and brings tears to Pedro’s eyes.

The interview pauses for the noise to die down. “Eder, is there anyone else you would like to thank or say hello to?”

Eder looks squarely into the camera as he speaks into the microphone. “If my wife, Gelita, and our son, Jose Pedro, are still watching, I love you and can’t wait to see you in a couple more hours.” He blows them a kiss before continuing. “And to my mom, my sisters, and the rest of my friends and family from Bebedouro – Happy New Year and may the peace of God be with you all!”

The crowd can no longer control themselves as the noise goes to even higher decibel levels and the fireworks begin exploding. The scene at Tardelli restaurant is also pure pandemonium as Bebedouro has even more to celebrate on this special New Year’s Eve!


Mile 19

Announcer: “The local crowds at the end of Copacabana Beach continue to generate a lot of noise as they cheer for the sleeping Eder dos Santos who is only slightly behind our lead, the Reverend da Cruz from Angola. They just passed the mile-18 marker with a time of 1:21:29, projecting a 1:58:42 marathon! They are just getting ready to make a right turn at the end of the beach and will turn back to the two tunnels heading towards Botafogo Beach. Thomas, what as your crew dug up on this sleeping hero?”

Co-Announcer: “Well, we know for a fact that he is not really sleeping. If you notice that at every water stand, which are strategically placed at each 5 kilometers, Eder does open his eyes to grab his bottle, drinks it, and then closes his eyes again as he glides back into the same exact position behind the Reverend da Cruz. We do know that his heart rate is extremely low compared to all the other athletes. Our monitors show him holding steady right at 136-137 beats per minute for the first 18 miles. The Kenyans, the Ethiopians, and the Reverend da Cruz have very good heart rates right at 143-144 bpm that have gone up approximately 1 bpm over the last 5 miles, which is very normal. Their body temperatures have all gone up a tad to 38oC, or 100.5oF, except for Eder who is slightly cooler at 37.5oC or 99.6oF. This does point to the fact that Eder is running more efficiently, so maybe he is meditating.”

Announcer: “Well, that might make sense. Anything on his history? Where is he from? How did he get here?”

Co-Announcer: “Ok Abe, here you go: Eder dos Santos, 30 years old, was born, raised, and lived his whole life in Bebedouro City, right smack in the heart of the state of São Paulo. Bebedouro means “The place of water” and at one time was the orange juice capital of the world. Now most of the orange groves have been plowed under to plant sugarcane. Eder won a lot of local races before beginning to train seriously for his favorite event, the 10 k. He actually won the prestigious Brazilian São Silvestre Race on New Year’s Eve 2010, and was rated in the top 10 during most of 2011. But that is where we lose the history. We are trying to find out the rest of the story and will get back with you shortly, Abe.”

Announcer: “Ok, thanks Thomas. The leaders are coming up on the 30 km-marker, and the time is 1:24:23. Still projecting a sub-two hour marathon…..”


Saturday, March 21, 2012

The scene inside the Santa Casa Hospital where Eder is robotically pacing back and forth just outside the operating room’s wooden doors is virtually identical to one and a half years ago. The only quite noticeable difference is that this time Eder is hand-in-hand with his 1.5 year old son, Jose Pedro, who has to run two quick steps for each one of Eder’s. They are both dressed in identical soccer uniforms that consist of white shirts with black trim that have the word “Corinthians” and a number “10” written in black on the front and back. The shorts are black with white trim. The Corinthians soccer team from the city of Sao Paulo is one of the most popular teams in all of Brazil.

The doors open, and a nurse appears dressed in an all-white uniform that has noticeable dark red bloodstains on the front. “Congratulations Mr. dos Santos, you have a new son!”

Eder and his son walk slowly through the doors on the white marble floors as if they are walking on clouds. The new baby boy is wrapped in a slightly blood stained white sheet and is crying in Gelita’s arms.

Dr. Lopez shakes Eder’s hand. “Congratulations Eder.”

Eder goes through the motions of shaking the doctor’s hand but does not utter a word as he continues to walk softly towards Gelita’s bedside.

Gelita’s face glows in a faint, white light. “Eder, my love, say hello to our second son, Eder dos Santos Junior.”

Eder’s emotions get the best of him as he breaks into tears and begins to sob with joy. He bends over and kisses his new son’s head, and plants another kiss on Gelita’s head. “Honey, I love you so much.” He pauses. “Are you okay?”

“Just a little wore out. I really thought it would be easier the second time around.” Gelita musters in a soft, tiring voice.

Eder lifts Jose Pedro in his arms to see his mother, and his new brother who continues to cry. “Jose Pedro, say hello to your new brother, Eder Junior.”

Jose Pedro smiles and says the only words he knows in his limited vocabulary. “Dada. Dada. Dada.”

Gelita, the doctor, and the nurses all laugh. “We are definitely going to need to work on new words.”

Gelita’s laugh quickly turns to a grimace.

Doctor Lopez realizes she is still in pain. He takes Eder a couple of paces away from the bed and whispers in his ear. “Eder, I’m sorry, but we are going to have to ask you two to go back outside just for a bit. Your new son is some fighter. He was trying to come out feet first and we had to turn him inside the womb.”

Eder’s eyes are wide open. “Doctor, is she going to be all right?”

“Of course, she is doing fine. We just need to make sure we have stopped all the bleeding. Please be patient and give us a little more time.”

“Okay Doctor, anything you say.” Eder walks back over and kisses Gelita’s smiling cheek before taking Jose Pedro’s hand. “Let’s go son and tell everyone the good news.”

They walk back outside where both Gelita’s family and his own have already heard the news and have hurried to the hospital.

Eder closes the doors behind him and proudly announces in a deep, brave voice. “It’s a boy! Eder dos Santos Junior. Both mom and baby are doing great!”

A cheer goes up from the small group as they shake his hand and pat him on the back.

Mr. Rodriguez is the first to comment. “Another Eder in Bebedouro; is he going to be another championship runner?”

Eder grins from ear to ear. “Oh, I have a feeling that this Eder is going to be a boxer and a fighter like my dad always wanted.”

Eder’s dad lets out a chortle as he grabs Jose Pedro in his arms. “Whatever Eder Junior decides to do, I have no doubt that he will be a champion just like his father and his big brother.”

As the crowd continues to chatter, Gelita’s mother takes Eder to one side of the waiting room. “Eder, tell me, is Gelita really doing okay? Why can’t we go in to see her?”

Eder embraces her shoulders and whispers lightly in her ear. “The doctor assured me she is doing fine and is in no danger at all. There were only some minor complications during delivery.”

“I knew something was not right, I felt it. She must be in a lot of pain.”

Eder murmurs again. “If she is in a lot of pain, she really hides it well.”

“Eder, I really have bad feelings about this week. Are you going to be able to run in the Olympic trials?”

“Oh, don’t worry about the trials. I only have to finish in the top three to qualify and I could probably do that by walking.”

“Yes, but Eder, you’ll have a lot on your mind. Your second son was just born. Gelita will need some time to recover unlike her first child. And you haven’t trained very hard these last two weeks.”

“Oh, Mrs. Rodriguez, you are either over-estimating the competition or under-estimating my speed. And Gelita will be out of the hospital in no time. Don’t worry. Things will work out all right.”

“Well, I will continue to pray. Let’s put on our happy faces and get back.”


Saturday, March 28, 2012

An announcer of a local television is talking in a deep voice into a microphone with a symbol of what appears to be a green eye inside a yellow square. The camera also has the same symbol. “Welcome back everyone to Olympic stadium track in Sao Paulo - host for the London Olympic qualifying. Next up is the start of the 10 k race. We have a select group of 25 runners warming up and almost ready to line up on the starting line. All of these runners have qualified by running one of the 25 fastest times in officially recognized events over the last 18 months. The big favorite of course is Eder dos Santos from Bebedouro, a small city in the interior of the state of Sao Paulo. Here is Eder now wearing his now famous Tropical Fruit track shirt. He has is also wearing the number one as he is the fastest qualifier for this event.”

The camera shows Eder stretching out as he does some deep knee bends on a dark cloudy day.

“Eder is unbeaten over the last couple of years. He has won every single 10 k race that he has raced, including our most famous competition that attracts top runners from around the world, The São Silvestre, held every year on New Year’s Eve. All of his times have been world rankings and his two best times place him as one of the top five 10k runners in the world. But what really make him a crowd favorite is his exciting finishes. He always ends his races with a full out sprint that drives the crowds nuts as he leaves the competition in the dust coming off his shoes.”

The official calls the runners to the starting line.

“Okay, it looks like we are ready to get under way. I just hope that the rain holds out a little longer with these threatening clouds. They are calling the runners to the starting line. Eder along with the other top ten qualifies will be in the front row and the others will be placed behind them. They are ready to go. Let’s listen in to the start of the race.”

The track steward dressed in a white and black striped shirt with black shorts calls out to get their attention. “Runners, are you ready? Please take your mark.” He pauses for one second as he raises his right arm with a small black pistol. “Get set.” One more second elapses before he fires the gun with a bang. The runners take off in a sprint down the clay-reddish flat track with painted white lines to the first curve.

The announce picks up the race call. “A great start with no problems as they all head to the first curve. This will be the first of 25 laps around this 400 meter track. We will be switching back and forth from this race to the field events so please stay tuned in. All the runners are still in one large group jostling for position as they are half way into the first curve. There does seem to be some pushing going on. It will probably take one lap for them to begin to form smaller groups and lines. Here we…wait a second…one of the runners has been pushed and has fallen into the infield…oh no! It appears to be Eder dos Santos! Yes, it is Eder dos Santos. I can’t believe this. He is trying to get up, but he is limping. His left ankle is in pain. Oh my, oh my! He is trying to limp and run, but he is obvious in lots of pain. He goes back into the infield and is sitting down. Oh, this is terrible. He is beating the ground. He is out of the race. The trainers are running to the far side across the infield to where he is sitting. The stadium is only half full but there is a deafening silence. Looks like one of our favorites will not be in the London Olympics later this year. He must be in a lot of pain as he is yelling and crying. The trainers are working on his left leg. We have our crew heading towards the infield, so as soon as we know something you will be the first to know. Surely his family and friends are watching and are also in disbelief along with the rest of us. Our prayers go out to Eder and hope that his injury is not serious. Let’s go to a commercial break and we will be back in a moment.”

…. As the broadcast comes back, Eder is being taken away on a stretcher. Eder has both hands covering his face. The race continues but the field events, as well as the crowd, are frozen as they watch one of their most popular athletes being taken away on a bright orange stretcher.

The announcer is also obviously emotionally touched as he comments on the scene. “Our field crew has confirmed our worse fears. It is not just a sprain but rather Eder’s Achilles tendon has been ruptured. Eder is in great pain and is unable to move his foot up or down. Our specialists are saying that this could be the end of Eder’s career. He will definitely need surgery plus four to six months of recuperation. The problem with this type of injury for middle and long distance runners is that they almost never make it back to world class because of the grueling training distances that they need to put in. The scarred tendon tissue just does not mend completely. Brazil has definitely lost one of its best chances at an Olympic medal in London. This is very unfortunate folks as we may have just seen the last of one of our countries up-and-coming, brightest track stars. But let’s not lose faith; let’s not forget to pray for Eder that he will find his way back.”


Mile 20

Announcer: “Okay, we just spotted our lead runners again as they have just came out between the two tunnels en route to Botafogo Bay. The Reverend da Cruz from Angola is still our leader with the Brazil favorite, Eder dos Santos, glued to his right shoulder since the beginning of the race, and with his eyes still closed. They just now completed 19 miles with a time of 1:26:06. Once again that time is projecting a sub-two hour, 1:58:49 marathon! Amazing! The two Kenyans and the two Ethiopians continue to enjoy drafting rights behind the leaders, and apparently with no intention of switching anymore. Thomas…”

Co-Announcer: “Yes, looks like they can just draft and enjoy the pace after convincing the Angolan to take the lead way back on Mile 14. Of course with this strong tailwind, drafting is not as important. Abe, we did find out that Eder dos Santos suffered a terrible injury during the very first lap of Olympic qualifying back in 2012. He was bumped to the inside edge of the track, twisted his foot, and completely ripped his Achilles tendon in two. After that, we are still trying to find out how he came back and why is he running marathons instead of 10-k’s. According to the experts, he is too tall to be running marathons at 6”1”, or 1.85 meters. The average height of all the marathoners is right at 5”7”. He is probably one of the tallest to run this race in the last 10 years. The theory goes that taller runners have too much body mass to carry during the 26.2 miles and therefore burn too much energy. However, get this; Eder only weighs 160 pounds, or 72.6 kg, which gives him a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 21.1. He looks much heavier than that, but he must have an exceptionally light bone structure. All the other lead runners are right at 5”6”, or 1.67 meters and weigh in at close to 152 pounds, or 69.1 kg. That gives them a BMI of 24.5. So, yes, Eder is hauling around 8 pounds more and his taller frame does create more wind resistance, but our super-duper computer is contradicting the experts by giving him an advantage over the other, shorter runners.”

Announcer: “What? Eder has the advantage over the other runners? So how do you explain that?”

Co-Announcer: “According to our technical team, it is because of two huge factors: the bobbing factor and the stride factor.”

Announcer: “The bobbing factor? What the heck is that?”

Co-Announcer: “The primary objective of each runner is to use 100% of his energy to project his body forward. The problem is that this is not possible. To run, they have to lift their legs to take the next stride. The same thing applies to lifting their arms as they run. These actions are necessary but an inefficient use of energy. In addition, in the process of each stride, the runners propel their bodies up and down, like they are jumping instead of running. This is a huge waste of energy. The elite long distance runners are very, very efficient at minimizing this waste of energy and have bobbing factors of less than one inch, or 2.5 cm. Eder’s is approximately 0.8 inch, or 2.0 cm, which is more than 20% more efficient than the other runners. And get this, the bobbing factor efficiency is multiplied by the stride factor, or how many times this inefficient action is repeated over the course of the race. A typical marathon runner will take anywhere between 35,000 to 50,000 strides during the race depending on the length of their legs. Because of his height, Eder’s stride is extremely long at 158.4 cm. Our program is predicting that Eder will only take 26,633 steps during the race! That is another 15 to 20% less than the other five leaders. The other advantage of taking fewer steps is the slip factor. With each and every stride, the runners shoe will slip backwards ever so slightly. In addition, their foot inside their tennis shoe also slips backwards ever so slightly. This is also multiplied by the number of steps each runner takes during the race. Our special zoom cameras have tried to measure this for each runner. The Angolan runner, the Reverend da Cruz, has the lowest slippage. Eder comes in third place. But, when you multiply this by the number of strides, Eder again comes out on top.”

Announcer: “Ok, Thomas, that all makes sense, but what is the bottom line?”

Co-Announcer: “The bottom line is that Eder is running much more efficient, and is conserving so much energy, that we are predicting he is the only runner that will not hit The Wall. The original energy estimate without taking any factors into consideration for Eder to complete this race was 2955 kilocalories. But this was for the average marathon runner at his weight. His new estimate is only 2544 kcal. Because of his higher weight, his estimate for the amount of energy stored in his body at race time was 2183 kcal, compared with only about 2000 for the lighter runners. All the runners take 2-3 energy gels at the 10-mile and the 20-mile markers. Each energy gel weighs about 35 grams and stores about 100 kcal. That is another possible 600 kcal of energy available, but the problem is each body is different and can only digest or use about 60-80% of the energy in the gels. Still, the computer tells us that Eder will easily have more than 2600 kcal available – he will not run out of energy. He will have extra energy reserves at the end of the race.”

Announcer: “Wow, that would be incredible. Of course, a lot of other things could happen along the way, so let’s wait and see….”


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gelita in a white and red striped dress is tying her son’s, Jose Pedro, shoes on an overcast and cloudy Sunday morning. Her other son, Eder Junior, is already dressed in a soft, light-blue jumper and playing in the dark blue baby carriage as he lays on his back. Eder is lying on the sofa watching television with his left foot still in a white cast and elevated on the dark stained coffee table. His two light brown, wooden crutches are propped up against the wall beside him.

Gelita finishes the knot on Jose Pedro’s red tennis shoes and glances at Eder. “Honey, are thought you said you were going to church today?”

Eder answers in a soft, whiny voice without looking away from the television. “My foot still hurts. I think it would be better if I just kept it elevated and rest today.”

“But honey, Pastor Francisco said that he can give you a place in back where you can keep it elevated.” Gelita replies in her ever-soft voice.

Eder finally looks up from the television. “Yeah, but just the getting up and trying to walk on crutches makes it hurt. Plus, getting in and out of the car also hurts.”

“But honey, it has already been four months. You’ve been able to go to work every day for the last couple of months, so why can’t you go to church?” Gelita continues to insist in a deepening voice.

“Well it hurts when I go to work even though I keep it elevated there also.” Eder’s voice also starts to go deeper.

“Have you ever stopped to think that maybe it is supposed to hurt? Maybe that is part of the healing process.”

“Oh, yeah, you really think so?”

“I think your heart is hurting more than your foot. You just don’t want to face up to other people. The only reason you are going to work is because you are worried that Tropical Fruit will cut your contract.”

Eder’s face turns towards a redder shade. “Well you can think and say what you want, but I am still not going to church. And don’t try to bring Pastor Francisco back to the house again or I will go to bed like I did last time.”

Gelita pauses and contemplates for several seconds before continuing. “Honey, I’m sorry. I had no intentions of fighting with you, especially on Sunday.”

Eder refocuses his attention back to the television. “Okay, apology accepted.”

Gelita lays one of the two black Bibles in her hand next to Eder. “Here is a Bible for you to look through on this special day. You will be in our thoughts and our prayers.”

Eder does not respond as Gelita pushes the carriage out the front door towards the car as Jose Pedro quickly follows behind. As soon as Gelita leaves, Eder gets up from the sofa, turns the TV off, and begins to do stretching exercises with cast and all.


Several months later, Eder, dressed in his traditional Tropical Juice uniform, is sprinting towards the finish line alone on the black asphalted training track as his trainer is looking at the stopwatch in his hand. Eder crosses the line and the trainer stops the watch.

Eder walks back, out of breath. “What was the time?”

“One minute, 53.5 seconds.”

Eder lowers his head. “Still too slow.”

“Eder, you’re pushing too hard. You just got the cast off two months ago and just barely finished therapy.”

Eder, bent over with his hands on his thighs, looks up. “I have to get back in shape for the race next month. If I don’t finish in the top three, I might lose the sponsorship and my contract with Tropical Fruit.”

“Eder, stop worrying about Tropical Fruit. They are not going to drop you. You are still their poster boy – the only Brazilian to win the São Silvestre in the last decade.”

“They said my name recognition with the public has already dropped considerably. They told me I am not pulling my weight anymore.”

“But killing yourself to get back in shape this fast and risk hurting your foot again is not worth it.”

“My tendon is only bothering me just a little bit. I feel like I am getting it back.” Eder stretches his left leg back with both hands on the ground.

“Well, I can tell you if your body is willing there is no doubt that you have a heart.”

“Okay, enough of the chatter. Reset your stopwatch, I am going to run another two laps.”

Eder quickly takes off down the track as his trainer starts his stopwatch.


Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013

Eder walks into the half empty, sparsely light furniture store and sees his mother alone. Her face lights up as her only son plants a big kiss on her right cheek and gives her a huge embrace. “Hi mom. How are you doing?”

“Well, I am doing much better now that you are here. How come you never come by anymore?” She asks in a tryingly sweet voice.

“Well, besides work, I have been training hard. Where is all the furniture? Why is this place half empty?” Eder asks looking around the store.

“Oh, it’s just a seasonal thing. Sales are down a bit, so your dad had to let some of the help go.”

“Seasonal thing? I don’t ever remember the store being this empty. Are we losing customers to the competition?”

“Well, maybe. You know we had to raise prices just a bit to help pay for the extra help and maybe that did turn some people away.”

“But, mom, you always said we can’t sell furniture and less you have it on the showroom floor.”

“Oh, Eder, come on. Don’t worry about it. We will be okay. We don’t have any debts and we make more than enough to pay the bills.”

“How’s dad doing?”

Eder’s mom saddens as she looks down and away. “Same old, same old. He has his good days and his bad days. You should go over to the shop and say hello. He would love to see you.”

“I’m not sure I’m going to have enough time. What about Elaina and Elizabeth, where are they at?”

“Elaina and her friend are doing okay with their boutique, but I do think paying all that rent is hurting them. And your sister, Elizabeth, she is running around with some questionable friends. She is getting harder and harder to talk to. She says she doesn’t need to go to college since her sister Elaina didn’t go.”

“Mom, it sounds like you are losing control. How can you and dad let that happen?”

“Well, you know dad. The last baby in the house and he doesn’t want to lose her. So he kind of takes it easier on her.”

“Well pampering her is one thing but letting her do whatever she wants is not good.”

“Your dad must know something we don’t because he keeps telling me that she is going to turn out just fine.”

“He always has been hopeful and optimistic.”

“Speaking of optimistic, how is your foot doing?”

“It still hurts just a tad bit when I run hard or sprint, but I am almost back to the same form as I was last year.”

“Well that is good news. I am very glad to hear it. Are you ready to run races?”

“I have my first race in two weeks – the 10K city race at Ribeirão Preto. We will see if I am ready to climb back to the top.”

“Oh, we know you will – we all have faith in you. Pastor Francisco keeps telling everyone that this injury was only a test of faith.”

“He says that does he?”

“Yes he does, and speaking of which, when are you going to start coming back to church?”

“Oh, mom.”

“I never see you in church anymore.”

“But, mom, I still pray every day. I have not lost faith. This race is very important for me and I have been training hard and heavy every single day, including Sunday’s”.

“I am not sure missing church is the right thing to do. It is only a couple of hours on Sunday, why can’t you train before and after?”

“Mom, stop, why do you think it is so important?”

“Because it is. Your strength comes from being complete and in balance… and that means with God, family, and friends.”

“Mom, come on, give me a break.”

“Son, you of all people should know that Eder Jofre and Eder dos Santos didn’t win because they were the best, it was usually because they had the biggest heart.”

“Mom, Sunday morning is always my race condition day. I train all week and simulate a real race every Sunday.”

“Well what about the other days – there are gatherings every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. Why don’t you go to any of those?”

“It’s just too hard to find time. As soon as I finish work, I have to train until it’s dark. By the time I get home, take a shower, and eat, it is already too late.”

“Son, it’s all about priorities. If it’s important enough, you will find the time.”

“Mom, you’re starting to sound like Gelita.”

“Probably only because we both are right. When are you going to start listening?”

“Mom, I didn’t come here to fight.”

“I know, I’m sorry. It’s just we don’t like seeing you stray from us.”

“Just give me a little time to get everything back in order. You’ll see.”

“We won’t give up on you and we will definitely keep praying for you, son.”

“Well that is very encouraging.”

“I suppose the one good thing about all of this is that we get to see a lot of Gelita and the boys.”

“You do?”

“Why yes, she brings them here almost every day. Your dad really enjoys having them around. That Jose Pedro talks up a storm – kind of reminds me of you and your grandfather. You would follow Jose around and bug him almost the whole day at that early age.”

“Huh,…Really?...I don’t remember Gelita telling me any of this.”

“Maybe she has and you’re not listening. Did she tell you that her work at the hospital is the talk of the town?”

“What? What do you mean the talk of the town?”

“Her work with the sick children at the hospital has spread like wildfire. People from other cities are now bringing their kids to the Bebedouro hospital.”

“Really… no, she did not mention anything about it.”

“Our church continues to grow every week thanks to both Pastor Francisco and Gelita. We are back to standing room only again. Pastor Francisco is going to have to go to two meetings every Sunday instead of one.”

“Well it doesn’t surprise me one bit – they both have special gifts.”

“Son, we all have special gifts. We are just not very good at developing them and using them.”

“Yeah, and I am still waiting to find mine.”

“But I’m telling you, you won’t find it unless you maintain a close relationship with God.”

“Back to that again. Are you going to restart the Go-to-Church fight?”

“No. And I didn’t say go to church. You can have a relationship without going to church – it is just harder for most people.”

“Come on mom, I still pray every day - before every meal and before going to bed.”

“Well if you feel that is enough and you are sure God feels it is enough, we will leave it at that.”

Eder pauses with a blank face and his eyes looking into the distance as he reflexes on their conversation. He smiles and hugs his mother. “You know what they always say, mothers are always right.”


Mile 21

Announcer: “Our lead group of runners has just made it halfway down breath-taking Botafogo Beach-Bay and past the mile-20 marker. Their time came in at 1:30:48, which is once again an impressive 1:59:02 marathon clip! The order has not changed. Our leader and pace setter is the Reverend da Cruz from Angola with the very popular Eder dos Santos from Brazil right behind him. Behind them are two Kenyan runners and behind them are two Ethiopian runners. The number of fanatic fans continues to increase as they line up on both sides of the road, stand on benches, rocks, cars, or anything they can find to just catch a glimpse of history in the making!”

Co-Announcer: “This was also the last chance for the runners to take energy gels, and our technicians are confirming that all the leaders each took three 35 g capsules, which should come out to exactly 300 kcal of energy. Now remember that depending on each individual, they should be able to digest or process about 70-80% of that energy. There is also about 50 mg of caffeine which also seems to give the runners an extra boost.”

Announcer: “Thomas, what about the water stands?”

Co-Announcer: “The water stands are every 5 kilometers so there are still two stands left for them to get a drink of water. The normal runner will sweat or evaporate about 20 milliliters of water per minute as they try to cool their bodies down. That is right at 270 ml per each 5 kilometers where the water stands are at. This is almost as much as a can of soda that they would need to drink. But, the typical marathon runner can only drink or stomach about half of that amount so they end up dehydrating or losing water weight during the course of the race. Our high accuracy scales are detecting exactly the sweating rate of each athlete, the amount of water they were able to put into their stomachs, and how much weight they have lost. Once again, Eder dos Santos is the big winner. Look at his graph (the graph is projected on the screen). He is only sweating 16.3 ml/minute compared to 18.6 ml/minute for our leader, the Reverend da Cruz. Both of the Kenyans are amazingly at the exact same rate of 19.2 ml/minute. Most of this makes sense because Eder’s body temperature is only 0.6oC higher than normal, while the other runners are already more than 1oC higher. Abe.”

Announcer: “Well, everything continues to point to the fact that Eder might be meditating or calming his mind to accomplish this. We will continue to track his data as we get closer and closer to the finish line…..”


Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013

The Ribeirão City 10K Race is in the last 1000 meters through the windy asphalt on an overcast day. Eder is in fourth place and only 20 meters behind the group of the first three runners. Everyone is anxiously waiting for Eder’s famous come-from-behind, spectacular finish that has been his trademark for the past decade. The TV / radio announcer’s voice booms with excitement and ever-increasing energy with each stride that take the runners closer to the finish line.

“Andre, Marcos, and Luiz are practically stride-for-stride for the first three places, but everyone has their eyes on Eder in fourth place. He is only 20 meters behind and this is his favorite part of the race. He will turn on the after-burners at any moment now and should easily sweep into first place. The crowd cheering is louder and louder. There goes Eder! He has increased his speed, his legs and arms are pumping faster. He has already closed a couple of meters. The other three runners must know what’s coming – they are also increasing their rhythm, but for sure it will not be enough. Eder is coming! He is closing in - there is now only 15 meters between him and the medal runners. The crowd is going wild. This is what we all came for – Eder dos Santos, the first Brazilian in ten years to win our own São Silvestre – he always ends his races in an all-out, incredible sprint. The gap is now only 13 meters, but it does not seem he is closing the gap fast enough. There is only 500 meters left. Is there going to be enough time? The crowd definitely thinks so…they want to see history-in-the-making, they want to see him break records. Come on Eder, come on!”

The announcer pauses for a moment. “The gap is still 13 meters. Time and distance is running out. Eder is having a hard time finding the magic. The crowd that was cheering for Eder is dying down. The distance is now even starting to increase. It looks like he is back to 15 meters back. This is substandard for Eder to say the least…..But the crowd still has an exciting race to cheer about as the three runners are all neck-to-neck. Here they come towards the finish line.. it looks like it will be Andre or Marcos. Luiz has fallen off the pace. It’s going to be Marcos…’s going to be Andre. YES! He breaks the tape just a half step in front of Marcos. Luiz takes third one meter back. Eder is 20 meters back still pumping his arms and running as hard as he can. The crowd is still applauding his effort, but for sure they are disillusioned. Here he comes to the finish line with another runner coming up right behind him….looks like he will overtake Eder. This will be a first – Eder being passed during the last meters of the race. Yes, he does get passed, Eder drops to fifth. Eder is gasping for air and is walking away in a daze, by himself. He doesn’t even congratulate the other runners. He is surely upset. This might very well be the end of the Eder era.”


Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014

The rainy season is in full bloom with a nonstop pitter-patter sound on the windows and roof. Eder is sitting at his gray desk at the dimly lit Tropical Juice office, typing diligently with his dark eyes locked on the black and white computer screen. His friend Raul has come up behind him and startles Eder by placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Good morning Eder.”

Eder has turned around with lightning speed and recognizes Raul. “Good morning Raul. You surprised me.”

“Sorry about that Eder, I didn’t mean to. You look like your deep into your work again.”

“Yeah, it really helps me keep my mind off other things if you know what I mean.”

“Yes, I do. Anyway, the big guy wants to see you.”

“You mean Edson? He wants to see me?” Eder asks with wide eyes.

“Yeah, he asked me to tell you to go to his office right away.”

“Did he say what he wanted to see me about?” Eder again asks with a hint of desperation.

“No, sorry. But there are two dudes in black suits with him that I have never seen before.”

Eder’s face turns a shade whiter from a sudden loss of blood circulation. “O….okay….thanks.”

Eder gets up slowly and deliberately. He walks sluggishly up the long aisle of office workers, busily typing with no time to notice Eder. As he approaches the office manager’s enclosed space, he spies through the glass window and immediately recognizes the two men in black suits sitting in front of Edson – Carlos and Rubens, the original talent scouts that signed him up to run for Tropical Juice. As Eder walks through the opened gray door, all three men immediately stand up.

Edson is the first to speak and brings Eder from his stupor. “Good morning Eder. Do you remember Carlos and Rubens?”

Carlos, the taller of the two, raises and offers his right hand. “Hello Eder.”

Eder musters up the strength to raise his hand and feels the cold, sweaty hand that has been offered to him. “Goo…good morning.”

Rubens also offers his hand. “Hello Eder.”

Again Eder barely blurts out a greeting. “Good morning.”

Edson again brings Eder out of his trance. “Eder, please close the door behind you and have a seat.”

Eder turns and closes the gray door behind him and looks down at the black leather chair that has been noticeably added for this special meeting. Eder is the last to sit down as he continues to move at a deliberate pace.

As in their very first meeting at the Araraquara track and field stadium, Carlos is the first to speak. “Eder, I am sorry to say that we are here to bring you bad news. Our company has decided to cancel your contract.”

Eder looks deep into Carlos’ eyes, trying to understand. The room is eerily quiet for several seconds before Eder finally speaks. “Does this mean they don’t want me to run anymore? They don’t want to train me?”

“Yes, that is basically correct.” Carlos replies somberly.

“But…but…why? My times are getting better and better. I am almost close to the same level as before my accident.”

“Eder, the company waited patiently, and helped you recover, and then helped you train for the first six months after the accident. But, you have not won a single race in the last 12 months. In fact, you have not even placed in the top three – not a single medal.”

Eder continues to reason with him. “But, I am getting closer. I was less than a second from third place in the last two races. Please, ask them to be patient for a couple of more races.”

Carlos” voice and manner grow firmer. “Eder, the decision has already been made and there is no going back.”

Eder lowers his head, now realizing that there is no sense in arguing.

There is another eternal pause that lasts several seconds. Then, Edson slides a check and a single piece of paper in front of Eder. “Eder, here is your final payment and we need you to sign this document.”

Eder looks up with wide eyes. “You mean I lose my job, too?”

Edson looks at Eder with sad eyes. “I’m sorry Eder, but yes, terminating your contract means you lose your job, too.”

“But, but, Edson, I am a good hard worker. I thought you liked my work? You always told me I was doing a great job.” Eder is wide-eyed and becoming more desperate with each passing moment.

Edson looks down. “You only have this job because of your sponsorship. We only accommodated you here in the office. You are only like a part-time assistant, like a spare tire.”

“Oh, Edson, please, I can’t lose my job. I have two small kids and a wife to take care of. I can take a cut in pay. I can work full days now that I don’t have to train. But, please, don’t take this job from me too.” Eder has been plunged into the extreme depth of anxiety as tears well up in his eyes.

Carlos continues as he recognizes that Edson is at a loss of words. “Eder, this job, your car, and all the other benefits were all part of the original contract. There is nothing Edson can do. The corporate office has thought long and hard, but unfortunately has had to make this very tough decision. We are very sorry.”

Eder’s face grows darker red. “So, that’s it, I lose my job, my car, and my career? Just like that, and I am out the door?”

“The company is being very nice to you with this termination check. It is more than they had to pay by law. It should help you and your family get through the next couple of months until you hopefully find another job.” Carlos continues with a firm, cold, and callous response.

Eder stares himself into a stupor for almost a minute. He slowly picks up the check to examine it closely. He lays the check back down on the desk, picks up the black ballpoint pen, and signs his name on the bottom of the document. He picks up the check and stands up. The other three men also stand up at the same time like a synchronized dance. Eder quickly turns around, opens the door, and walks out without saying another word.


(Six months later)

Andrezinho’s Bar sits on a corner lot just two small-city blocks away from Pastor Francisco’s church, competing for patrons at the opposite ends of the spectrum of life. Night has fallen and the rains come and go – at times in sprinkles and at times in buckets. The small, simple bar is dimly lit by two bulbs each hanging from two wires coming from unfinished holes in the bare-concrete ceiling. The floor, walls, and even the concrete bar are covered with gray-and-white square ceramic tiles. The bar has four gray plastic tables each with four gray plastic chairs. The two corner sides facing the street and sidewalk are completely open with a metallic roll-up door typically used for single car garages. The other two walls are decorated with old posters and calendars. The bar itself has six simple, wooden bar stools sitting in front. Behind the bar serving the patrons is Andrezinho, an older man in his 60’s, very thin build and with gray-white hair. On this particular week night there are only three patrons; Eder, Milton, and Ivan. Each of them have a small glass resembling jam jars but filled with golden, foaming beer.

Eder has just finished topping off all three glasses and emptied the dark, brown beer bottle encased in Styrofoam. “Bottoms up!”

Eder empties his glass in a matter of seconds as the other two only take small sips.

“Ok, Eder, we have to get going.” Milton says as he sets his half empty glass on the bar.

“What? Already? It’s still early, why do you have to leave?”

“Eder, it is already 9 pm on a weeknight and we all have to get home to our families, including you.” Ivan replies.

“Oh, come on, our families can wait.” Eder says while slurring his words.

“Well if I miss dinner one more time, my wife says I will be eating in the doghouse.” Milton says seriously but with a laugh.

“Oh, you party-poopers, you can’t walk out on friends. Andrezinho, give us one more saideira (last one).” Eder shouts to the bartender.

The bartender opens the special yellow refrigerator designed to keep the beer bottles right at the freezing point. The dark brown bottle instantly forms white crystals on the outside has he slides it into the Styrofoam holder.

Both Milton and Ivan have already lifted their heavy bodies from the chair. “We’ve already had our three saideira’s – this one is for you.” Ivan says.

“Yeah, we are going to run while it is only sprinkling.” Milton adds.

They shake hands and depart, leaving Eder alone with the bartender, Andrezinho. “Hey, Eder, I need to run home to grab a quick bite to eat. Do you mind tending the bar for a half hour?”

“No problem. Go ahead, take your time.”

“Thanks Eder. Just help yourself when you need a beer.”

Andrezinho walks out the door onto the rain-soaked sidewalk and disappears into the night, leaving Eder all alone.

Eder gazes into his glass in between swallows. In a couple of minutes he sees movement out of the corner of his eye as someone comes in from the darkness. He turns and looks to see his father looking much older and frailer than he has ever seen him before.

He is wearing a white dress shirt and blue dress pants as he lowers his umbrella. “Hello son. How are you doing?”

Eder raises his hand to shake his father’s more out of natural instinct than anything else. “Oh, I guess I am doing as fine as can be.”

His father wraps his arm around his sons shoulder, giving him a half hug while Eder continues to sit. “Gelita told me that I might be able to find you here.”

“Yeah, it is usually not too hard to find me here at my home away from home. So, why are you all dressed up?” Eder says as he continues to slur his words.

“I just walked down from Pastor Francisco’s church.”

“Is church already letting out?” Eder asks as he looks up at the simple round clock on wall above the bar.

“Not yet. There is still maybe a half hour left. Your mom, Gelita and the boys, and all your friends and brethren are there. Do you want to go join them?”

Eder smirks. “Yeah, I’m sure Pastor Francisco would like that – me with my belly and head full of beer.”

“I am sure he would not mind at all. He would be overjoyed at seeing you finally walk back into the House of the Lord no matter what state of mind you are in.”

“Well, maybe some other time. Not tonight.”

“Son, it has already been two months since you left Tropical Juice and Gelita says you are not even looking for another job.”

“Oh yeah, did she tell you that? Well, I did find another job, look; I am working as a bartender.” Eder gets up and pulls another beer out of the refrigerator. “Do you want a drink?”

“No thank you, son.”

“Okay, suit yourself.”

“Son, I came here to ask you to come back and help me with the furniture store.”

“Oh, now I see. Now I know why you came here. You came here to laugh at me.” Eder’s voice becomes clearer and louder.

“No, son, there is no way I came here to laugh at you.” Pedro replies and covers his mouth as he clears his throat.

“Oh, yeah. This must make you so glad to see me fail. You would really enjoy having me crawl back on my hands and knees, begging you to let me work for the store again.” Eder is just a half pitch off from the yelling scale.

“No, no, son, it is not like that at all.” Pedro coughs. “I am the one begging you to come help me.” Pedro coughs again. “I need you.” Pedro’s voice has also taken on a higher tone and he clears his throat twice more.

“Come on. I know you better than that. You are laughing at me from inside. Well, I tell you what, you can take your store and go to hell!” Eder’s face is contorted as he delivers the final words.

“No…no...uh, uh” Pedro begins to cough as he tries to talk. His coughing becomes continuous and uncontrollable as he bends over and can’t control it. This goes on for more than a minute.

“Just get out of here old man and leave me alone.”

Pedro continues to cough in a bent over position as he turns towards the exit, uses his umbrella for a walking cane, and limps out of the bar to the darkness of the sidewalk. The coughing dies down as Pedro walks farther and farther away.


Mile 22

Announcer: “Our lead group has just passed the mile-21 marker with a time of 1:35:12, which projects a 1:58:52 marathon! They are getting ready to cross over from Botafogo to Flamengo Beach. The impressive and majestic Sugarloaf Mountain is just off to the right of the runners, but of course they won’t be bothered with noticing, especially our sleeping runner, Eder dos Santos. Thomas, it appears that the two Ethiopian runners are starting to fall behind?”

Co-Announcer: “You are exactly right! They both are now at least three steps behind and the distance is increasing. They are not able to keep up or maybe they are working a new strategy. To be honest with you, they are actually maintaining the same pace, but our leader, the Reverend da Cruz, has actually increased the pace. Can you imagine that? Even at this extremely fast pace he is finding the reserves to actually run faster and faster.”


Monday, October 26, 2015.

A hung-over Eder with droopy eyes, uncombed hair, and week-old clothes is slumping in his favorite living room chair with the television blaring away a soccer game rerun. His oldest boy, 6-year old Jose Pedro, is chasing his younger sibling, Eder Junior, around the coffee table pretending that he cannot catch him. Eder Junior lets out a constant screaming laugh as he tries to run faster and faster in the closed circle around the small dark stained table. Both are dressed in identical clothes, the traditional Brazilian soccer team uniform of yellow jerseys and knee-high socks together with royal blue shorts and black tennis shoes. The only difference is Jose Pedro has a green number “1” on the front and back of his jersey while Eder Junior has a number “2”.

Gelita enters the room dressed in a dark red dress with small vertical white stripes that goes down past her knees and with a matching purse book under her left arm. Her silky black hair is neatly arranged in an oversized bun on the top of her head that enhances her round, glowing face. A touch of the glow dims slightly as she observes her husband assimilating with his chair a little more with each day that passes.

“Eder, can you please watch the boys for a couple of hours?” Her always soft choir-like voice disturbs Eder from his slumber-like state.

“Wha…what? Where are you going this time?” Eder mumbles from his chair and make-shift bed.

“Honey, you don’t remember? We talked about this yesterday. I am going to a job interview for a position at the Objectivo School.”

“What? You’re going back to work? I don’t remember talking about that.” Eder replies with an ever-deepening voice.

“Honey, we already went over this several times and agreed that this is our best option.”

“I never agreed to that. A women’s place is in the home.” Eder sits up straighter in his chair.

“Eder, you said it was okay since it is only temporary. It is just to help us pay the bills for a couple of months.”

“No! No! I will become the laughing stock of the city – a complete failure.”

“Honey, please don’t think like tha…tha…” Gelita is unable to finish the sentence as she closes her eyes and stumbles to sit down on the sofa.

The boys stop running and turn their heads towards their mother.

Eder receives a rush of adrenalin as he gets out of the chair. “Gelita. Gelita. What’s wrong?”

Gelita still has her eyes closed with her head buried in her hands with her elbows resting on her knees.

Eder is beginning to panic as he places his hand on her back. “Gelita, please say something! Do I need to call an ambulance?”

Gelita tries to speak. “Some…some…something is wrong.”

“What is wrong? Please tell me.” Eder is overcome with desperation. “Please say something.”

“Some…some…someone in your family is in trouble.” Gelita stumbles over her words.

“Who is in trouble? Who? What kind of trouble?” Eder’s questions come in rapid-fire.

Gelita suddenly opens her eyes, lifts her head, and looks at Eder. “We have to go help them!”

She abruptly stands up, takes one step, and falls like a tree that has just been cut. Her body is as straight as a wood plank as she drops to the floor. The right side of her forehead just catches the corner of Eder’s favorite chair that turns her body slightly to her left side before coming to a full stop on the floor. Eder is at her side in an instance to turn her on her back. The small gash on her forehead has already started to ooze with dark red blood. She is completely unconscious. The two boys, who have been mute and motionless while witnessing the events unfold, now begin to cry. Eder urgently puts his ear on Gelita’s chest to confirm she is breathing and has a heartbeat. Eder then closes his eyes and pauses for several seconds as he tries his hardest to think. He opens his eyes, stands up, and quickly disappears through the door way and into the kitchen. In less than a minute he comes back into the room with a damp, white rag wrapped around several pieces of ice in one hand and a telephone in the other hand. He kneels down over Gelita’s motionless body and applies the rag to her forehead to stop the bleeding. The white rag instantly begins to change colors as it soaks up the dark red fluid. Eder dials the numbers into the phone and then places the phone to his ear while he waits. The phone is finally answered after two quick rings.

“This is Eder dos Santos, at Project “H” Road, number 1181, in Jardim Parati II. My wife has fallen and hit her head and is unconscious. Can you please send an ambulance as soon as you can?” Eder’s voice is firm, steady, and clear.

He tries to calm the two boys with a gentle voice as they wait for the ambulance to arrive. In less than 15 minutes the red and white ambulance with a siren screeching pulls up in front of their house. They rush through the opened front door with a portable stretcher and within no time at all are coming back out carrying Gelita to the opened rear doors of the ambulance with Eder and the two boys, each holding one of his hands, right behind them. A small group of neighbors has already gathered around the street and the parked ambulance to see what is going on. Everyone packs into the ambulance, the doors are closed, and the siren comes back to life. After several minutes of speeding through the streets of the city they pull up to the entrance ramp of the hospital. Eder’s heart misses a beat as he notices that one of the two lanes of the hospital’s emergency ramp is occupied with his father’s black, 4-door sedan with both of the front doors in the open position.

The paramedics with the same robotic efficiency displayed at Eder’s house quickly place Gelita on one of the hospital’s gurney. Eder, hand-in-hand with each of his sons, drags them along as he tries to keep up on the way to the emergency room. Eder anxiously looks around inside the hospital entrance but does not see any sign of either his father or mother. Once inside the emergency room the station nurse begins to question the paramedics on the patient’s vital signs as examines the cut on Gelita’s forehead. Eder and the boys look on.

The nurse looks up at Eder and the boys. “The doctor will be in soon. You can stay but the boys are going to have to wait outside.”

“But…but I have no one to look after them?” Eder says in a sorrowful voice.

“I’ll call one of the candy-stripers to help look after them. So tell me, did she just hit her head or did something else happen?”

“Well…well she was acting real strange and feeling bad. She sat down to try and recover. Then she got back up and was screaming about someone needing our help. She actually fainted and then hit her head on the way to the floor.” Eder answers in a tearful voice as he tries to remember everything.

“You mean she was actually unconscious before she hit her head?” The nurse tries to clarify.

“Yes, that is right.”

Just as Eder completes his sentence, Dr. Lopez abruptly walks into the room and is surprised to see Eder and the two boys. The doctor is speechless as he quickly walks over to the bed and is surprised to see Gelita in a coma-like state and notices the cut on her forehead.

“Our very own Gelita, oh, what has happened to you?” Dr. Lopez asks as if he is questioning someone not physically present.

The nurse is quick to answer. “It looks like she fainted from some sort of traumatic event and hit her head while falling. Her vital signs are all normal. She is not under any duress and we could probably easily wake her up with just normal ammonium salt.”

“Let’s get the kids out of the room first and let me talk with Eder.” The doctor replies.

At that very instance, almost on cue, a teenaged girl wearing a red and white striped shirt and pants walks through the door. The nurse gently grabs each of the two boys hands who reluctantly let go of their father’s hands.

Dr. Lopez pulls Eder over to the corner of the room. “Eder, do you know that your mother and father are in the other emergency room just down the hall?”

Eder’s lower jaw drops open and his skin flushes paler. “I…I..saw their car in the entrance. Wha…what happened?”

“Your dad is in a coma.”

“Oh no. What’s wrong with him? What happened?”

“We are not sure yet, but it looks like he had a brain stroke and a heart failure at the same time. Your mother says she heard a voice telling her to take your dad to the hospital, and so she got him into the car before it happened.”

“Oh, my. What is happening! This is terrible!”

“We believe that it happened in the car, right before they arrived at the hospital. She got him here just barely in time.”

“Is he going to be all right?”

“This all just happened, so it is way too early to tell. He is stable for now.”

“Maybe that explains what Gelita was feeling. She said my family was in trouble right before she fainted.”

“Let’s go wake Gelita up and see how she is doing.”

The nurse has come back prepared with ammonium salts and a sedative in case she needs to be calmed down. She is waiting for the doctor’s instructions. The doctor nods his head and the nurse breaks open the small glass tube wrapped in a cotton gauze layer. As she places it under Gelita’s nose, Gelita immediately opens her eyes.

She looks around, sees Eder, and begins to yell. “Eder, your dad needs help! We need to help him! Eder, listen to me…”

Eder grabs Gelita on each of her arms and looks directly in her eyes. “Gelita. Gelita. We already know. You both are here at the hospital.”

“Where is he? How is he doing?”

“His is in the next room over and is doing okay.”

Dr. Lopez takes one of Gelita’s hands between both of his. “Gelita, do you know who I am?”

“Why yes, you’re Dr. Lopez.”

“How are you feeling? Do you hurt anywhere?”

Gelita gently lifts her other hand and touches her forehead. “Well, my head seems to be throbbing.”

“Just on your forehead?”

“Actually, my forehead hurts the worse, but my whole head feels like it wants to explode.” Gelita’s voice is much calmer now.

“Okay. Well, we are going to have to do a MRI scan on your head to make sure you don’t have a concussion. Do you feel well enough and calm enough to do the scan now?”

“Yes. But really I would like to see Eder’s father before I do.”

Dr. Lopez pauses, then looks at the nurse, and then looks at Eder. “Okay. Let’s wheel her over to the next room.”

Gelita’s face brightens as her gurney is pushed out of the emergency room and down the hall to the next room. As they come through the swinging hinged doors, Eder sees his mother looking over his father as if talking to him.

She looks up, sees Eder, and immediately runs to hug him. “Oh Eder.”

Eder is overwhelmed with emotions at seeing his father in a coma and begins to sob and cry.

Eder’s mother opens her eyes and sees Gelita being pushed in a gurney. She breaks off the embrace and runs to Gelita’s side. “Gelita, what’s wrong? Why are you in a bed?”

“Oh, I just fell down and hit my head. Nothing big. I’m okay.” Gelita replies in a soft soothing voice.

Mariabela notices the cut and nasty bump on Gelita’s forehead and gives it a soft rub. “Yeah, you do have a bump on your head, but at least you are in better shape than Pedro.”

Gelita looks over at Pedro in a deep coma with the heart monitor and the mechanical respirator hooked up to him. “How is he doing?”

“Well, the doctor says he is stable for now, but it was a close call and we are very lucky that he got here in time.”

“What happened to him?”

“They think he had a brain stroke and a heart failure at the same time, but they need to run more tests to be absolutely sure. We will just have to be patient and pray to God.”

“I know he is in God’s hands.”

Both Gelita and Mariabela turn their heads towards Pedro lying in the hospital bed. Eder is in an uncontrollable weeping with his head buried in his arms at Pedro’s side.


Mile 23

Announcer: “We are coming to the very end of Flamengo Beach and back to Gloria Bay. The leaders have just passed by the 35-km marker with a time of 1:38:35.4. That would calculate to a finishing time of 1:58:38! Our leader, the Reverend da Cruz from Angola, continues to pick up the pace ever so slightly! And now the Kenyans are having trouble keeping up.”

Co-Announcer: “For the first time since the race started, the two Kenyan runners, Ken Masa and Simon Bett, are now losing contact with the leaders. There is now a 5 meter gap between the leaders and the Kenyans. So, just like the two Ethiopians on the last mile, it looks like the Kenyans are falling back and are probably starting to climb The Wall. The two Ethiopians are now a whopping 42 seconds behind the leaders – they have definitely felt some effects of The Wall. It looks like the only athlete able to keep up with the fast pace is our sleeper, Eder dos Santos, who is just along for the ride.”

Announcer: “Just along for the ride is right, and what a ride this is! The Brazilians fans are living it up - it’s as if it is Carnival time again! They just went past the mile-22 marker and the time clock shows 1:39:32, equal to 1:58:36! This is just exciting to watch!”

Co-Announcer: “Abe, we all agree with you on that point, this is extremely entertaining! Once again, the heavens have been very, very nice with the weather. The cloud cover has shielded the runners from the overheating effects of radiant energy and which has also kept the temperature from going up so fast. We are now at only 19oC, or 66oF. It is already 9:40 am in the morning here in Rio, and the temperature would normally already be up around 30oC, or 86oF. The relative humidity is holding right at 53-54%. There was absolutely no headwind in the first half of this race, and now going back there has been almost a constant tailwind of 13 to14 km/hour.”


Eder and Gelita are each sitting in wooden chairs with black padded cushions directly in front of Dr. Lopez’s oversized desk in his old fashion office that probably dates back more than 50 years with very high ceilings and granite floors. Eder is still in the same clothes while his uncombed hair and red eyes displaying the effects of the events from the night before. Gelita in her red dress seems out of place next to Eder. She has a small bandage over the cut on her forehead.

Dr. Lopez has deep concern tattooed on his face. “Well Gelita, just as it usually is with most things in life, I have some good news and some bad news.”

Gelita and Eder turn their heads and look at each other before turning back to Dr. Lopez.

“The good news is that you do not have a concussion or any other complication from the bump on your forehead.” Dr. Lopez pauses and takes a deep breath before continuing. “The bad news is we believe we found signs of a tumor wrapped around parts of your brain just inside your skull.”

The room is eerily quiet for the longest of time as each takes turns looking at each other.

Eder is the first to speak and does so with an agitated voice. “A tumor? How is that possible?”

Dr. Lopez takes another breath. “Please, stay calm. Remember, there is still a lot of testing to be done before we can confirm anything. Tumors in any part of the body are not uncommon. This could be something she has had since childhood. We just need more time to run some more tests.”

“Okay, so when can we start the tests?” Gelita replies with a soft, even voice.

“We can start as soon as you are ready. We need to do what is called a contrast MRI scan where we inject a small amount of an iodine solution in your veins in that certain region to highlight the abnormalities in that area. It would be better if we did the test before your next meal.” Dr. Lopez answers back.

“Ok. Ready when you are.” Gelita answers with a slight smile.

Eder, in contrast, buries his head into his hands.


Monday, Nov. 2, 2015

Beside the Santa Casa Hospital there is a small, quaint chapel built as part of the original hospital more than 100 years ago. Beautiful and impressive stained-glass windows that depict the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross evenly embedded in the thick white walls of concrete are the only source of light inside the primeval chapel. The simple, oversized granite altar and the intricately beautiful wood carvings behind it are testimonies of an age gone by.

Seven days have come and gone. Eder is sobbing and kneeling on the pad in front of the dark stained pew of the ancient chapel directly underneath the ninth station of the cross where Christ falls for the third time.

“Almighty God, please forgive my sins and help my wife and father. If this is a test of faith, please tell me what to do.”

Eder looks up and continues talking as if to himself. “Test, test of faith. What did Pastor Francisco say about the test of faith? Read James or was it Judas? No, it was James chapter one.”

Eder looks around on the wooden church pew and finds an old black Bible. He picks it up and quickly opens it up to James, chapter one, and begins to read aloud.

“James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Eder has not noticed that Pastor Francisco has entered and walked up behind him in the empty chapel. Pastor Francisco lightly places his hand on Eder’s shoulder. Eder turns around, recognizes Pastor Francisco, and stands up to hug him. They embrace for more than a minute with Eder continuing to weep on Pastor Francisco’s shoulder.

“Oh Pastor Francisco look at what I have caused.” Eder utters in between sobs.

“Now, now Eder, calm down. What exactly have you caused?” Pastor Francisco replies in a soft, soothing voice.

“I fought with my dad and now he is on his deathbed.” Eder continues talking and sniveling. “I ignored Gelita and my family and now she has a growing, malignant, cancerous tumor wrapped around her brain.”

“Now, now Eder, some things are just meant to be. They happen as part of the plan.”

“No, no. You are wrong. I have brought this down upon us all by turning my back on God.”

“Well I am sure God is not pleased that you turned his back on him, but I am sure he has not given up on you.”

Eder finally stops moaning as he looks straight into Pastor’s eyes. “Do you think there is still time? Can he heal both of them?”

“Never underestimate God’s power over everything. You above everyone else should know this having seen Gelita’s gift of healing.”

Eder pauses for the longest of time as he stares blindly into the Pastor’s eyes.

“You are right! What do we do now? Please, tell me what to do?”

“All you have to do is open up your heart. Just believe! Fill yourself with Love; Agape; Faith; Talk to God. Ask forgiveness. You know what has to be done. You’ve been training for this your whole life.”

Eder pauses, then he looks away and up with both hands still on each of Pastor’s shoulders. His contorted face quickly turns peaceful as the multi-colored sunlight shines on him through the stained-glass window. He closes his eyes and smiles whole-heartedly for the first time in years as he is transported into the world of light for just a fraction of a second. He opens his eyes “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God is here!”

Eder lowers his illuminating eyes at Pastor Francisco. Pastor Francisco looks deeply into Eder’s eyes. “Wow! Now that was fast!”

Eder kisses Pastor Francisco on the right cheek. “I love you so much! I have to go. I have to find Gelita.” Eder turns and darts towards the church exit.

“Eder, I probably don’t have to tell you this, but all your sins are forgiven!” Pastor Francisco yells in an ever-increasing voice as Eder is departing.


Eder has quickly ran out the chapel doors, up the car ramp entrance to the hospital, pass the hospital entrance hall, and into his father’s intensive care room. Gelita, in a blue jeans and a white shirt, is sitting alone beside the bed and reading a Bible. She looks up just as Eder rushes through the swinging doors and instantly recognizes a glowing happiness in his eyes. She stands up and sets the Bible on the bed just as Eder crosses the room in four quick steps. Eder zealously embraces Gelita with such passion that it sets her face aglow. After several seconds, they both ease up just enough to allow their lips to come together. They are immediately thrown into a world of nothing but light where they can see each other’s hearts and can communicate thoughts without speaking a word. They break their lips apart and look deeply into one another’s eyes with pure joy on their faces.

Gelita is the first to break the silence. “Well, it’s about time! It’s good to have you back.”

“Oh, Gelita, I was so wrong and I am so sorry…”

Gelita quickly cuts him off in mid-sentence. “Now stop that. Your errors have already been forgiven. Only happy thoughts and happy words, ok?”

Eder’s smile deepens even more. “Okay honey, you got it!”

Eder looks around the room for the first time. “Honey, where’s the boys, mom, and my sisters?”

“They just left. They went across the street to eat a pizza for lunch. I took the lunch shift.”

Eder looks at his dad lying motionless on the bed with only his lungs going up and down with the respirator. “How is dad doing? Did the doctors say anything at all?”

“He is exactly the same as when he came in a week ago; a stable coma.”

“Do you think the doctors can bring him out of the coma? I really need to talk to him.”

“The doctors don’t want to risk that at all. They can’t believe that he is still breathing. They don’t know what’s keeping him alive.”

Eder’s face grimaces ever so slightly. “I would really hate to have my last words to my father be the ones I gave him at the bar that night.”

Gelita grabs Eder’s hands to console him. “Your dad is a very special person. I am sure that he has already forgiven you.”

Eder stares into Gelita’s eyes and takes her hands softly into his. “Gelita, do you think your gift of healing will work on dad?”

“I am not sure why, but my gift seems to be limited to children less than 12 or 13 years old. I have tried several times on older people but with almost no luck at all.”

“We are all alone, what do you think? Let’s give it a try?”

Gelita looks up and smiles. “Well, it is worth a try.”

Eder shines with happiness. Gelita gets closer to the bed and bends over to place one hand on Pedro’s head and the other hand on his chest. She closes her eyes. Within seconds her hands start to glow. After several seconds she removes her hands, pauses, and then opens her eyes.

Eder is ecstatic as he looks at Gelita. Gelita seizes both of Eder’s hands with the same magical hands that were just on Pedro.

Eder is overcome with anxiety. “What happened? Did it work?”

She gazes up into Eder’s eyes. “Eder, I am very sorry, but it is just not part of the plan.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand? Your hands seem to glow.”

“Eder, you know better than anyone that there is a time for everything.”

Eder glances away. “What I wouldn’t give just to be able to talk to him one last time.”

Gelita continues to smile. “Just be happy that he has lived such a great life in the footsteps of Christ.”

Eder looks back into Gelita’s eyes and smiles. “Yes, you are right. And the plan is the plan, and no matter the outcome we will continue to love God with all our hearts.”

Gelita suddenly closes her eyes and pauses for several seconds as if she is receiving a special message. “Well if this isn’t your lucky day Eder. Come here, quickly!”

Gelita is all joy as she takes both of Eder’s hands and places them on Pedro’s chest with her hands on top of his. All three of them are instantly transported to the world of light. They stand in a triangle facing each other. Pedro seems to be 10 years younger and full of happiness.

Eder is the first to speak. “Father, I am so sorry for the way I treated you these last couple of years and...”

Pedro quickly cuts him off. “Son, just stop that right now. You know full and well that all your errors have been forgiven. Gelita and Pastor Francisco already told you that. In fact, I forgave and forgot within seconds of walking out of the bar that night. I knew you were not in the best of shape and that you were under a tremendous test of faith.”

With strong arms and stronger emotions, Eder embraces his father and plants a huge smacker on his left cheek. “I must be the luckiest son who has ever lived to have a father like you!”

“And I must be the luckiest father that has ever walked the face of this earth to have a son like you. I am so proud of what you have done, but better yet, of what you will do. Now, just let me go on to bigger and better things, so you can get on with the plan.”

Pedro turns to give Gelita a soft kiss on her left cheek before he hugs and kisses Eder one last time.

They are all three quickly transported back to the intensive care room with Eder and Gelita now standing at the side of Pedro’s bed. Pedro smiles. After several seconds, the respirator stops and the heart monitor begins a flat-line that sets off a loud continuous beep. Eder bends over top of his father’s motionless body and begins to cry a mixture of both tears of joy and tears of sorrow.


Mile 24

Announcer: “The Reverend da Cruz from Angola is still our leader with the Brazilian favorite, Eder dos Santos, still glued on his right shoulder since the start of the race. They are right in the middle of the gorgeous Gloria Bay as they pass by mile marker number 23. Their time is an impressive 1:44:00, which will put them at the finish line in a blistering 1:58:33! The two Kenyans have now fallen 23 seconds behind, and the two Ethiopians are now 97 seconds behind. Thomas…”

Co-Announcer: “Yes, it is clearly now a two horse race, and the crowds are going berserk! Our computer program is predicting that Eder is in much better shape between the two of them and should emerge as the winner. He will have much more energy reserves and should be able to finish very strong.”

Announcer: “Well the crowd would certainly love that! What a way for Brazil to celebrate on the last day of the Olympics.”


Eder and Ivan, in dress pants and black shirts, are the front two of eight pall bearers leading an enormous procession down Campos Sales Road that stretches from the West side of the city all the way to the East side where it ends at the city’s only cemetery. The other pall bearers also wearing black shirts are Nilton, Gelita’s father – Mr. Rodriguez, Jose Pedro, Pastor Francisco, and Lorenzo. Only Pastor Francisco is wearing a black suit. The eighth and final pallbearer is Elaina, breaking with tradition of all-men; she is dressed in black jeans and a black shirt. Each of them has their arms at their sides gripping the brass frame supporting the simple, non-stained wooden coffin containing Pedro’s remains. Directly behind the coffin and the pall bearers are the rest of Eder’s family mixed in with Gelita’s family. Thousands and thousands who knew Pedro are in the procession behind the family to pay their last respects to an honest man, well-liked by everyone. The crowd is heading into the early morning sun that is just making its way above the tall eucalyptus trees surrounding the cemetery. The coffin is placed above the dos Santos Family mortuary that has been opened just hours earlier in the middle of an enormous number of gigantic and monumental stones, all in straight rows. Like most Latin American countries, there are no individual graves but rather generations and generations of families are buried together in the same elaborate concrete vault. The dos Santos Family vault has the names and dates of five generations of family members chiseled on the main headstone going all the way back to 1885. There is even enough space for more than another five generations.

Pastor Francisco has just opened his black weathered Bible and the crowd is completely silent and at full attention. “Let us bow our heads and pray. Mark 13:32; “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” A similar passage can be found in Matthew 24:36; “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

My brethren, this is all about the fourth pillar that I like to call “D” of “ABCD”. This is the “Day” that we all need to be prepared for - the day of the second coming or the day we meet our maker while in-waiting for the day of the second coming. Our house and our lives need to always be prepared for this moment in time that can come without notice. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that our special friend, Pedro dos Santos, had been preparing his whole life for this special day and is now in safe hands, our Lord’s hands. He gave me a very special request during one of our last conversations that I am compelled to comply with. Pedro dos Santos asked me to keep the sermon short and to make sure that no one dwells in sadness on his account. He demanded laughter and joy at his funeral – and this is quite an unusual request. So at this moment in time, please turn to the person on your left and make them smile or laugh. Tell them a joke. Tickle them. Go ahead – do it now. No, I am not kidding. We cannot end this ceremony or leave this place until everyone is smiling or laughing. As we are doing this he asked me to play Barnabe’s Jokes – one of his all-time favorites. Enjoy and be merry. Amen.”

Pastor Francisco stops, closes his Bible, starts to play the soundtrack of old-fashioned jokes that date back to the mid-60’s on the sound system, and begins to look around with a smile on his face. Everyone looks at each other with wide opened eyes. They finally realize that Pastor Francisco is serious after several moments and after Baranbe begins to tell jokes. Then it starts, with a couple of giggles at first that quickly spreads like wildfire. Within minutes, everyone, including Gelita, Eder, Elaina, and the rest of Pedro’s family, is laughing out loud. The laughter and smiling continues as everyone walks past the coffin on their way out of the cemetery.


Three months later.

The furniture store is completely abuzz at a mid-day hour on a normal weekday. The store is jam-packed with new and different kinds of furnishings and household decorations that stretch from one side to the other and from the front to the back. There are more than fifty patrons – couples, families, and single parents – walking around with small pieces of white numbered papers in their hands as they wait to be attended. The big number display with red lights moves from “87” to “88” with a loud bell. Everyone looks up hoping their number is next.

Gelita, dressed in blue jeans and a red-white striped shirt, is inside an area in the far back corner of the store separated by a small, white wooden fencing. Hanging on the wall is a sign with big letters “Gelita’s Pre-School”. She is surrounded by small, preschool toddlers ranging from 3 to 5 years old, including her own Eder Junior plus a couple of new kids that families are allowed to leave in the area while they shop around. She is writing simple words that begin with the letter “D” with a red marker on a huge white board.

Eder, neatly clad in blue jeans and a white shirt, has a clipboard in his hands as he is showing a newlywed couple a living room set right next to the pre-school area. He excuses himself and walks over to Gelita, touches her on the shoulder to get her attention, and then gives her a small kiss on her right cheek. Gelita’s smile deepens as she turns back around to the white board.

As Eder walks back to the main counter after writing up the newlywed’s order he runs into his mother, Mariabela, who has also just finished writing up an order and has that worried look on her face.

“Eder, oh Eder, what are we going to do? Too many customers for us to wait on and everyday seems to bring more and more.”

Eder gives her a smirk. “Sounds like you’re crying on full stomach. Maybe we will have to hire more help.”

Out of nowhere both Elaina and Elizabeth appear and seem to have overheard the conversation. “Help is on the way! Just give us a couple of clipboards.”

Mariabela draws a look of amazement. “But girls, who is going to take care of your clothes boutique?”

Elaina grins from ear to ear. “We just closed the door and hung up an “Out to Lunch” sign.”

“But what about your customers?”

“Oh mom, stop worrying. Our peak is always in the evening after school gets out. Besides, this was part of the deal with Eder when he let us open up our store next door, remember?”

Eder quickly hands each of them a clipboard with a huge grin. “Yes, that’s right. I’m glad you remembered. Now get to work. And don’t forget to greet each patron with: May the Peace of God be with you.”

Each of the girls takes one of the clipboards and hit Eder softly in the back. “You got it big bro.”

As the girls walk away to call out the next number for the waiting patrons, Mariabela grabs Eder by the arm. “Letting them relocate their store inside our warehouse next door was a stroke of genius. Elaina was so happy, she hired Elizabeth to help her. And Elizabeth is so happy that she signed up to take college business administration classes this summer.”

“It was the right thing to do. It helped them out not having to pay rent and plus this a much better commercial point in front of Tardelli’s Pizzeria and in front of a principle bus stop.”

“Yeah, they said the same thing.”

“And now look, they’re going to be able to help us out with customers during our peak hours.”

“Yeah, one big happy family again!”


Friday, April 15, 2016

The beautiful reddish-orange-yellow glow of the setting sun across the dark blue sky brings evening to the furniture store. Eder and his mother are sitting next to Gelita’s corner where Gelita’s day is also winding down with only a couple of preschoolers waiting for the parents to pick them up. The store is still open but typically very few customers shop at this hour. Pastor Francisco appears out of nowhere and slightly startles everyone. He is with Eder’s old trainer, from the pre-Tropical Juice days.

“Good afternoon, and May the peace of God be with each and every one of you.” Pastor Francisco announces with a booming voice.

Each of them takes turns greeting Pastor Francisco and his friend with peace.

Pastor Francisco continues the conversation. “I brought Eder’s old trainer, Melchisedec or Mel for short, with me to talk with Eder.”

Melchisedec pauses and then begins to speak in his usual hoarse voice. “Eder, I am not sure you know but I live just up the street.”

Eder answers back quickly. “Why sure we know. This is Bebedouro, everyone knows where everyone lives.”

“Well I have always been an early riser and have noticed you running every morning, Monday and Thursday, for exactly two hours. You start out at 5:30 am and get back at 7:30 am. The other days you only run for one hour.”

Eder, along with his mother and Gelita, are slightly surprised. “Okay, well it’s good to know someone is watching over me.”

“These last couple of weeks I have followed you in my car at a distance so you wouldn’t see me.”

Everyone begins to look at each other as Eder is even more surprised. “I thought I felt someone was following me. So where is this leading to.”

“Every day you seem to run at a faster pace and every three days when you get to the stadium oval you add on one more lap, or 400 meters. I am not sure if you know this, but you are now running 39 kilometers in almost exactly 2 hours!”

Everyone looks at each other not really understanding. Eder appears to look to a faraway place in a complete daze.

Pastor Francisco finally explains to everyone. “Eder is running almost a complete marathon twice a week at world class pace!”

Eder looks up. “You know I was meaning to measure the distance I was running but really never got around to it.”

Mel continues the dialog. “When I see you run pass my house every day you seem to be in a daze with your eyes almost shut and pure joy in your face. You run like you’re walking on clouds.”

Eder’s face and eyes gloss over as speaks without focus. “Yeah, you are probably right. When I’m running I reach levels where I can hear angels talking to me.”

There is a long pause of complete quiet as if everyone is praying in silence.

Pastor Francisco glances at Mel and breaks the trance. “Well, go on Mel. You got everybody’s attention.”

Mel directs his attention back to Eder. “Eder, there is still one more marathon left that is an Olympic qualifying race. It will be in the streets of Sao Paulo in three weeks.”

Eder glares at Mel. “Oh, come on Mel, you don’t seriously think I can qualify for the Olympics do you? Plus, I am sure you need to register at least a month in advance.”

Mel looks straight into Eder’s eyes. “Yes, I do think you can qualify. And, by the way, I signed you up last week.”

Eder’s face goes completely blank. Time is suspended as he shifts his eyes from Mel to Pastor Francisco and finally to Gelita. “After all the troubles racing has brought me. I couldn’t do that again to Gelita and my family. No way.”

Pastor Francisco quickly responds. “That is not the real truth. Your athletic skills are a gift from God. Using them brings you closer to Him.”

Gelita chimes in for the very first time. “Pastor Francisco is right. Your gift was only temporarily taken away as a test of faith. To humble you and to set you back on the right path. This is without a doubt the right path. This is what He wants you to do.”

Eder closes his eyes and bows his head as if he is consulting a higher authority. After several seconds of eternity, he looks up with a huge grin. “I will run for His glory!”


Saturday, May 7, 2016.

The last Olympic qualifying race is in the final three kilometers. Eder is more than a kilometer in front of the second place runner. Eder is wearing white shorts and a white tank top that has black lettering with the words “Moveis Jose-Pedro-Eder, Bebedouro, SP” written on both the back and front along with the number “88” on a white square attached to his shirt. Eder’s entire family: Gelita, the boys, Mariabela, Elaina, Elizabeth and along with Pastor Francisco and Mel are together in the fifth row of the stadium track with a small portable TV in their hands.

The announcer on the TV is calling the race. “Three kilometers to go and Eder dos Santos is way out in front by more than three minutes and will easily win this race. His official time right now is 2 hours and 3 minute. It is just too bad that it looks like he will fall just short of qualifying for the Olympics on this hot, muggy day – far from ideal for a marathon race. The time to beat is 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 58 seconds. Eder would need to run the last three kilometers in less than six minutes to get the third and final spot on the Brazilian Olympic team. Only a miracle can help him now. In less than three more kilometers the runners lead by Eder dos Santos will be running through the tunnel and into the stadium for the final 400 meters, one final lap around the track…..”

Gelita raises her head and stares into Pastor Francisco’s face. She raises her hand to meet his hand. At the same time she raises her other hand to grab Mariabela’s hand that is standing beside her. This sets off a small chain reaction and within seconds they have formed a human circle that even includes the boys. They all glare into Gelita and Pastor Francisco’s faces and see that they have closed their eyes and are mediating. They immediately do the same. Time passes.

The announcer’s voice blares from the small TV. “… This is incredible! Eder dos Santos has really picked up the pace these last 2.5 kilometers. He is coming through the tunnel and onto the stadium’s track right in front of the finish line. Here he comes by the grandstand and finish line. Only one lap to go and look at him go! He seemed to give the crowd a big smile as he came by and it looks like he runs with his eyes almost closed. The small crowd here is spurring him on as they get louder and louder. Eder must have heard our calculations – he ran the last two kilometers in less than four minutes! That is an amazing two minutes per kilometer! Can he keep this pace up for one more lap after more than two hours of running on this merciless day? I am not sure if our spectators remember Eder, but he was once the biggest name in Brazilian Track and Field, but that was several years ago and at the 10,000 kilometer distance. He was highly rated, one of the world’s top ten middle distance runner, and even won our own São Silvestre Race. It looks like he really wants that final spot on the Olympic team in a bad way. Half way around the track and only a half lap left to go. Wow! I just saw his split – he ran that last 200 meters in less than 24 seconds. He is at a sprinter’s pace but it looks like he does it effortlessly – almost as if he is jogging. Too bad also that he had no competition to run with him and spur him on in the early stages of the race, that also could have helped him with the earlier pace. He has been all alone for more than 20 kilometers or more than half the race, setting his own pace. That is very hard to do. Here he comes around the final turn. The small number of spectators is on their feet. They sense it too – he is running to beat the time. Here he comes to the finish line. Let’s keep an eye on the clock. There it is, Eder dos Santos has won this marathon! His time is 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 53 seconds! He has qualified for the Brazilian team! Eder dos Santos will be running for our country in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro!

Eder’s family and friends are jumping up and down, clapping and yelling, as Eder gives them a wave, blows them a kiss, and looks up into the heavens with an illuminated face.

Mile 25

Announcer: “Folks, we just passed the mile-24 marker, only two miles left to go in this fantastic final event of the Olympics. Our two leaders, the Reverend da Cruz from Angola and Eder dos Santos from Brazil have just passed by the Santos Dumont Airport and are heading towards the Port Market. The huge crowds are going crazy! Their time was 1:48:38 which calculates to 1:58:41 at the finish line! We are seeing history in the making! Never have two Olympic marathoners ran the first 24 miles this fast! So Thomas, what do you think now?”

Co-Announcer: “I’m a believer, Abe! It is obvious that they can do this in less than two hours. Both runners are looking very strong. They do have the last small climb to get through, from the port to the city. The two Kenyans, Ken Masa and Simon Bett, are now 33 seconds behind. They lost another 10 seconds to the leaders over that last mile, but are still on pace to also finish in less than two hours. Abe, can you imagine four runners in less than two hours in the same race!”

Announcer: “I can imagine anything happening on this special day in time! Our number of international viewers has jumped tremendously in the last half hour. Word is spreading fast, probably through the social media and the internet. Our team is estimating that more than 2.5 billion households worldwide have tuned in – can you believe that – almost half the world’s population has tuned in to watch this race. That would surely be a mark never before seen history. Back to the race, in fourth and fifth place are the two Ethiopian runners still side-by-side, and now already 3 minutes behind and still falling fast. The next group of runners, which also includes one Brazilian, Joshua dos Santos, is more than 5 minutes behind, which would still be a very respectable and fast marathon of around 2:04:00.”

Co-Announcer: “Yes, this looks like this will be the marathon of marathons, no doubt about it. Abe, we have finally gotten the rest of the story on our sleeper, Eder dos Santos. After he severed his Achilles tendon while trying to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, he made several comeback attempts but just did not have the edge and ended losing his contract with Tropical Juice. He disappeared completely from running competitively for the last three years. But, now get this, his father passed away less than 10 months ago, his wife was diagnosed with terminal brain tumors at about the same time, and he ran his first competitive race and his very first marathon only 3 months ago when he qualified for the Olympics. This is only his second competitive marathon that he has ever run in his life!”

Announcer: “Now that is unbelievable! How can anyone explain how he is competing for an Olympic gold medal with a world record and a sub-two hour marathon in just his second ever marathon?”


Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. (Two days before the 2016 Rio Olympic opening ceremony.)

Another busy day is in progress at the furniture store. Gelita, dressed in blue jeans and a light red shirt, is in her corner with more than 20 preschoolers and has just drawn the word “love” on the whiteboard and winks at Eder as he ambles by with an elderly couple looking at bedroom furniture. There are more than thirty patrons strolling around and waiting for a showroom clerk. Elaina, Elizabeth, and Mariabela are all busy with customers. A couple of teenaged boys run up to Eder, each with a black felt marker and a white tank top with the words “Moveis Jose-Pedro-Eder”, identical to the one Eder was wearing when he qualified for the Olympics. The shirts are free as part of a sales promotion with the purchase of any major piece of furniture.

The taller of the two boys blurts out. “Eder, Eder, can you autograph our shirts?”

Eder blushes ever so slightly. “Now boys, where are our manners. You’ll have to wait a couple of minutes for me to finish showing furniture.”

The elder woman is quick to respond. “Oh, Eder, go ahead, we can wait.”

Eder picks up the marker and begins to sign one of the white shirts.

The shorter of the two boys chimes in. “My parents told me that you are going to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Are you Eder?”

Eder’s face darkens a bit more. “Well, I can tell you that I am for sure going to try my best. That I can promise you.”

Just as Eder is finishing signing the second shirt the entire store freezes in a state of shock as the cries and screams of children drown out all the other noises. Eder is one of the first to realize that it is coming from Gelita’s Corner and makes a quick dash to source of the commotion. He is the very first to arrive and finds Gelita lying motionless on the floor on her right side with her eyes closed. As he kneels down beside her he notices blood oozing from her left ear. The children have become silent as Eder quickly and effortlessly picks up Gelita’s lame body and walks in big, quick steps towards the store truck. Elaina instantly realizes the direction Eder is heading and hurriedly opens the passenger-side door. Eder softly lays Gelita down on the sofa-type seat and asks Elaina to sit down next to Gelita to hold her in place. Eder enters the other side of the furniture truck in a flash, starts the engine with a roar, and squeals the tires as he lets the clutch out on the gearbox. In a matter of minutes the mid-size truck rumbles up the Santa Casa Hospital ramp. Gelita is quickly placed on a gurney and wheeled into the emergency room.


Announcer: “Oh no, Eder is starting to fall off the pace just as they approach the Port Market with less than 2 miles to go. The Reverend da Cruz has broken that invisible string that has tied these two runners together since the start of the race and has already put several meters between them. The super-noisy Brazilian crowd with high expectations of a gold medal in the final event might just have had their hopes dashed. This is too bad. Do you think Eder has hit The Wall?”

Co-Announcer: “It might just be that, but our technical team is not convinced. They really thought that he was the only runner in this competition that was conserving energy throughout the race and would not have any problems with The Wall.”

Announcer: “Ok, well let’s keep a close watch for the next couple of minutes.


Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (Two days after the 2016 Rio Olympic opening ceremony.)

Gelita has been in a stable coma for four days. The medical team had decided to operate as a last ditch effort. Dr. Lopez and another doctor, both still dressed in green surgeon gowns with the heads covered and their surgeon masks lowered down to their chins, open the doubled-doors leading to the waiting room. Eder, Pastor Francisco, Elaina, Elizabeth, Mariabela, and Gelita’s parents all look up immediately. They have instantaneously formed a small semi-circle around the two doctors.

Eder is the first to speak in a tearful voice. “Please, tell me she’s okay.”

Dr. Lopez immediately recognizes the despair in Eder’s eyes. “Yes, yes, she is out of the coma and is doing fine.”

The whole group jointly lets out a sigh of release.

Dr. Lopez continues. “Eder let me introduce you to Dr. David Campos. He is a renowned brain tumor specialist that works in the Cancer Treatment Center up the road in Barretos.”

Dr. David has just removed his surgeon gloves and shakes Eder’s hand.

“Yes, of course, I’ve heard your name before.” Eder replies as he shakes the doctor’s hand.

“Good to meet you Eder. When I heard our beloved Gelita was in trouble I drove down here and told Dr. Lopez that I wanted to help.” Dr. David answers back.

Eder’s face turns to shock. “You…you know Gelita?”

“Are you kidding? There isn’t a doctor in the state of São Paulo that hasn’t heard of Gelita and the work she’s done here. In fact, I have sent some of my worse children here – the ones in the terminal phase that even I had given up on – and she has helped cure almost every single one.”

Eder is amazed and dumbfounded along with the rest of the group who turn their glances to one another. “I….I had no idea….”

“Yes. We surely don’t want to lose Gelita. She is very special. But, the news is not very good.”

Eder is jolted back to reality. “What is it, doctor? What is happening?”

“Her brain tumor has practically doubled in size.”

Eder closes his eyes; his face contorts, reflecting a deep and profound sadness. “How can that be? Her last scan showed the tumor was shrinking.” Eder can barely talk as he holds back tears.

“Yes, you are right. I have looked at all the scans, starting with the very first one. There is no logical explanation. It almost looked like the tumor would eventually shrink so much that it would disappear, and just like that it is twice as big as the very first scan.” Doctor David emphasizes with a click of his finger.

“So what do we do now? Are you going to try to remove it? Or radiation treatment?” Eder’s voice has an obvious tone of desperation.

“No, neither one. Because of the location and the way it has spread, neither of those was ever an option. In fact, it is a small miracle that she is still alive. The tumor had crushed her brain against her skull. I was able to remove a piece of her skull and relieve the pressure.”

“Can I see her? Can I talk to her?”

“Yes you can, but I ask that you go one at a time. She is still a little groggy from the surgery, but she miraculously seems to be back to normal.”

“Thanks doctor.” Eder turns abruptly towards the double doors and heads towards the ICU – intensive care unit.

As Eder rushes into the room his saddened heart is instantly filled with joy as he unexpectedly sees a huge radiating smile on Gelita’s face. Her head is wrapped with a white strip of cloth similar to a mummy. Her right arm is connected to a heart, temperature, and blood pressure monitor that is making ticking and whirling sounds as the graph updates. He flashes to her bedside, grabs her left hand, and kisses her left cheek.

“Oh Gelita, Gelita, how are you feeling?”

“Eder, I am walking on clouds! How long have I been sleeping?”

“Sleeping? You’ve been in a coma for the past four days!”

“Four days? Wow! That is a long time.” Gelita rolls her eyes as she tries to remember what has happened.

Eder bows his head and begins to weep. “Gelita, I am so sorry. I know I caused this. I should have never started running again.”

“What? Are you crazy? That’s right, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at the Olympics in Rio.”

“With you in a coma, are you kidding, there is no way I am going to run!”

Gelita looks straight at Eder with a strong focus look as she grabs his arm. “No. No. Eder, you have to run. Now I remember. That is why I came back, to tell you to run.”

Eder quickly raises his head and stares back at her with wide and teary eyes. “Came back? Came back from where?”

“Our world of light, where else do you think I’ve been.”

“Our world of light? For four days?”

“Yes, just like when I was baptized except this time it must have been a much longer time. Eder, it was unbelievable! The things you feel and see.”

“But, for four days?”

“There is no feeling of time. I think it must be a place somewhere about halfway to Heaven.”

“Halfway to Heaven?”

“Eder, please forget about that for just a second. Did you miss the Olympics?”

“I missed the opening ceremony. The team directors excused me when they heard about my situation. The Marathon is the final event on the last day next week.”

Gelita lets out a huge sigh of relief. “Great! I am just in time.”

“Please, Gelita, there is no way I am going to run that race with you in this condition.”

Gelita’s expression turns stern. “What condition are you talking about? Do you really believe that you or I or anyone else has anything to do with my “condition”? Just stop for a minute and search your heart.”

Eder pauses for several seconds as he ponders deep inside. “But why? Why is this part of the plan? Tell me what you saw.”

“Eder, you know very well that as humans we are incapable of being able to even understand a small part of His plan. And there is no way I can reveal anything that I have been shown and entrusted with.”

Eder bows his head. “Oh Gelita, I don’t want to lose you. I can’t stand to be away from you for even one day. You can’t imagine how much I suffered these past four days thinking that I would never talk to you again.”

“Eder, deep in your heart you knew that you would talk to me again and you also know that you have to run that race. You just have to get better at understanding the messages.”

Eder’s face brightens up. “How did you know that? You can read my thoughts, too?”

“I have always been right beside you and closely connected, you know that.”

“But Gelita, you cannot imagine how I would feel if I go to Rio and you get taken away.”

Gelita pauses as she glances off to the distance. She closes her eyes to meditate for several seconds before turning her attention back to Eder. “Eder, this is what I can tell you as a fact. I promise you that if you go to Rio and run that race, you will definitely see me again!”

“Are you absolutely sure about that?”

“Yes I am!”


The announcer is talking on a big screen television hanging eight feet off the ground in a corner, Gelita’s Corner, of the furniture store. There are hundreds of people gathered together with their eyes fixed on the big screen, some of them sitting in the small pre-school chairs or on the furniture store sofas, but most of them are standing. Just underneath the big screen are both Eder’s and Gelita’s family congregated together. In the middle, Gelita is laying slightly tilted up on a hospital gurney covered in pure white sheets. Her right index finger is clamped with a heart monitoring sensor that has a black cable connected to a small green screen on a cart placed next to her bed. Her smallest son, Eder Junior, dressed in the yellow and blue Brazilian soccer uniform is sitting next to her on the bed.

Announcer: “This is not good at all. Eder has completely fallen off the pace and is now more than 20 seconds behind our leader, Reverend da Cruz. The two Kenyan runners are about to overtake him and that will drop him into fourth place, and out of medal contention. The plus 40,000 spectators here at the Sambódromo finish line watching on the big screen monitors have gone completely silent. They also cannot believe what is happening. Eder seems to have lost his way. His eyes are still almost completely closed and he is not even running a straight line as he heads into the small bus stop tunnel just past the Port Market. We will lose live coverage of the runners inside the tunnel, but for sure Eder will lose his second place position…….

Eder Junior tilts his head up to his mother. “Mommy, what’s wrong with daddy?”

Gelita looks down at her son’s worried face. “Oh honey, he is just thinking about us. He’ll be all right, don’t you worry one bit.”

“Okay, mommy, I believe you.”

“Hey honey, would you like to put this clamp on your finger to see your heart beating?”

Eder Junior’s eyes brighten up wide. “Sure, can I?”

“Well I don’t see why not.” Gelita quickly slips the clamp off her finger and puts in on her son’s finger in a fraction of a second. The heart monitor does not even miss a beat.

Gelita bends her head down and kisses the top of her son’s head. “I love you. I love you a lot. I love your brother and your father, too.”

“I love you, too, mommy.”

“Mommy is a little tired and is going to go to sleep, okay honey?”

“Okay mommy. I’ll make sure no one wakes you up.”

Gelita closes her eyes with a beaming smile on her face.


Eder continues zig-zagging inside the tunnel, completely lost and disoriented. He begins to see images of his wife, Gelita, over the last 16 years. Time stops – he sees Gelita turning around in church the very first time he laid eyes on her; he sees Gelita grin at him during the last lap of the Bebedouro 10K race; he sees Gelita look at him as he walks up to the window at Jonas and Anna Maria’s house; he sees Gelita beam at him on their first date at Tardelli’s Pizzeria with his family at the table; Gelita turning around just before going into her house at the end of their first date; Gelita eager to deliver furniture; Gelita catching her first fish; Gelita arguing with him in the car; Gelita healing with her hands at the hospital; Gelita accepting his marriage proposal on a rainy day at Tardelli’s; Gelita on their wedding day; Gelita giving birth to their first child; Gelita smiling at him with her toddlers at the furniture store;

… And then he hears her voice very clearly, “Eder, Run into the Light”.

What? Can he be dreaming? How can this be? This cannot be real. What is happening?

He is suddenly transported to the world of light right in front of a glowing Gelita dressed in an all-white robe.

She stretches out both her hands to grab both of Eder’s hands. “This is the moment you have been waiting for – your Holy Spirit Baptism!”

Eder is immersed in illumination with his heart filled with nothing but pure joy. “But, Gelita, how can this be? What is happening to you?”

“Eder, don’t worry about me. I have fulfilled all of my life’s purposes here on earth. This was all part of the plan. And by the way, I told you that I would see you one last time.”

“But, but…”

“No need to ask questions anymore. You now have all the answers you need just by asking. Now just go.”

Gelita yells loudly as their hands come apart and she begins to move farther away. “Run into the Light as fast as you can.”

Eder opens his eyes and sees the light at the end of the tunnel and begins to run as fast as he can, still with the vision of his wife in a brilliant glorified light with her hands outstretched.


At the furniture store, Gelita’s head tilts to the right and comes to rest on the top of Eder Junior’s head as she appears to be sleeping with a shining cheerfulness on her face.


Announcer: “Folks, the sun has just come out from behind the clouds. It looks like we will have bright sunshine and blue skies for the rest of the race. Everyone has their eyes fixed on the end of the bus tunnel and the suspense is killing everyone. Who will come out of the tunnel first, Eder or the Kenyans? It won’t be long now…. And, here they come. It is the Kenyans! Ken Masa is now in second place, followed closely by Simon Bett in third place. And now the crowd has to be wondering, where is Eder? How far back is he now? Just remember they are all more than 55 seconds behind our leader, Reverend da Cruz, who looks like he will walk away with the gold for Angola in both an Olympic and World record time. He is even still on pace to break the two hour barrier. Wow! That would be something. And Eder dos Santos from Brazil has just now emerged from the tunnel almost 15 seconds behind the Kenyans, but, wow, look at him go! It looks like he has been shot out of a cannon! He must have caught his second wind inside the tunnel and looks like he has jumped over The Wall. My, oh my, look at how fast Eder is running. Thomas, what do you make of this?”

Co-Announcer: “I think you are absolutely right, he has definitely caught his second wind and, if there ever was The Wall, he surely blasted right through it. He looks like he is running as fast as a 400 meter sprinter, and this is after running more than 24 grueling miles. I think he got a burst of adrenalin inside the tunnel and now the cheering, crazy crowd will help to spur him on. I will have my crew keep track of his splits every 200 meters to see how fast he is actually going.”

Announcer: “Ok, we will watch and see. Just to remind our audience, we now know that Eder had become very famous in Brazil for his tremendous finishes, but that was all at the 10 kilometer distance. This is only the second marathon competition that he has ever entered in his life. Let us go back to our leader, the Reverend da Cruz, who has just made a sweeping left turn and is now going by the Old Catholic Cathedral, Our Lady of Candelaria. This will lead him right through the downtown Rio area. Remember, this is the last stretch that has a constant gradient leading up from the old port area to the city. If anyone has not hit The Wall, this would be the most likely place it would show up for them. Look at the crowds on both sides of the street! They have more than doubled since the first time through here during the first two miles – they are standing more than 20 deep on both sides! Plus there are twice as many heads sticking out of the windows on all the high-rise buildings lining both sides of this stately avenue. They seem to be cheering for the Reverend da Cruz. Remember that both Angola and Brazil share some of the same history and heritage as they were both originally Portuguese colonies. He is very comfortably in front of the Kenyans, almost a full minute. That is huge in a marathon race. He is still easily on track to become the first ever athlete to break the two hour barrier. What an impressive and steady pace the runners have maintained during this race, but it looks as if the Reverend da Cruz is going to be the only one to stay on that pace. Let’s check back in with our second and third place runners, that is where all the excitement is right now.”

Co-Announcer: “Excitement is definitely an understatement. Eder is only seconds behind the Kenyans. He made up that 15 second deficit in less than 600 meters, which is very impressive! And there he goes, he just now passed both Kenyans like they were standing still! Eder dos Santos is back in second place and the crowd is delirious! The Kenyans are looking around, they don’t know what to think – where did this guy come from? My crew just told me that he is averaging 29 seconds per 200 meters. He ran that last 400 meters in a mind-boggling 58 seconds. That is less than 4 minutes per mile! You might not believe this, but mathematically there is still a chance for him to catch the first place runner if he continues to sprint and make up time at this rate. My team has been saying all along that Eder has been conserving energy, almost like he was meditating. He just might have the heart, or should I say gas, to pull this off.”

Announcer: “Well that would be something – can you imagine an exciting finish for our very last Olympic event. Reverend da Cruz is just now passing through the downtown area. He looks as comfortable as ever as he continues to run at this world record pace and he is almost a full minute below the two hour pace. The spectators for sure know what is going on as they have certainly raised their decibel level. This will be a historic event and one to remember as we close out the 2016 Rio Olympics. What a beautiful day this has been for both the runners and the spectators. The weather has been cool all morning on this very bright day and now even brighter with the sun fully out from behind the morning clouds. This event has shown off all the great sites of this marvelous city and all the while with the world famous Christ Redeemer Statue looking down on us, perched up high on Corcovado Mountain. Thomas, do you have an update on our second place runner and home country favorite, Eder dos Santos?”

Co-Announcer: “Eder has rounded the wide left curve that takes him past the Cathedral and he is running at the same break-neck pace as he heads through the downtown area. Unbelievable! In the last 600 meters he has put 15 seconds between him and the Kenyan runners and has cut 15 seconds off the first place lead. He is only 45 seconds behind the Reverend da Cruz. At the current rate both athletes are running, we are projecting almost a tie at the finish line. The huge crowds on both sides of the streets are cheering loudly as they encourage him on.”

Mile 26

Announcer: “Our leader, the Reverend da Cruz from Angola has just passed the 40km-marker with a time of 1:52:40.5. He has definitely slowed down a bit coming up the last grade, but still predicts a sub-two hour, 1:59:17 marathon. He has taken a cup of water at the very last water stand, drank about half, and has thrown the cup down. Wait a minute….folks, you are not going to believe this! Reverend da Cruz is slowing down right before the mile-25 marker. He is holding his left side and slowing down and now walking. He is bending over, obviously with cramps and pain. He is down on one knee. Oh my, oh my, this is really too bad. He has definitely hit the wall. He tries to get back up, walks three strides, runs for two and then stops again. He is again on one knee. Our leader, Reverend da Cruz, has stopped running. Oh, look, he is getting back up, let’s see if he can get going again. He takes two steps walking….. he begins to jog for two steps, and he goes down on his knees for the third time. He is now on all fours and crawls away to the side of the street. Oh, how sad this is to watch. Of course no one can offer any help because he would be disqualified. It looks like he is giving up and getting out of the way of the runners who will surely pass him.”

Co-Announcer: “This is really very sad to watch and too bad. He was on a world record pace and would have won the first ever medal for Angola. In the meantime, Eder dos Santos was only 30 seconds behind is quickly coming up. He’ll be there in less than 15 seconds. The crowd cannot believe this and is screaming and clapping and yelling….”

Announcer: “Yes, Eder is running at a very fast clip and will pass him in a couple of seconds… Wait a minute, it looks like Eder is slowing down! He is slowing down! He is stopping near the Reverend da Cruz. I cannot believe this. The crowd here in the Sambódromo is in a hush along with the spectators on the street. They also cannot believe what is happening.”


Eder stops, bows down, and touches Iehoshua on the left shoulder with a glowing right hand and simply says with a clear, steady voice, “Keep the Faith”.


Announcer: “I don’t believe it! It looks like Eder has stopped to try and help the Reverend da Cruz. What is he doing? Doesn’t he know that he is in an Olympic race?”


Iehoshua looks up and at first sees a glowing man, and then Eder’s face comes into focus. “What? Why are you telling me this?”

Eder says in his ear, “This is a message from above.”

Iehoshua closes his eyes and sees a message. He then reopens them and says, “I am so very sorry about your wife.”

Eder says, “Don’t be. That has to be part of the plan.”


Announcer: “The two Kenyan runners will pass them both by in about 5 seconds. This is unbelievable. How can this be happening?


Iehoshua quickly jumps up as if he has awoken from a slumber. The Kenyan runners have just passed them at full speed.

Iehoshua says to Eder. “Let’s go!”


Announcer: “I don’t believe it but it looks like Iehoshua is getting up. He is up. They are going to run together, but the Kenyans have already passed them.”


They both begin to jog side-by-side; they look at each other, each giving the other a huge smile and then quickly break into a full stride. They both see Gelita in a glowing white robe with a big smile on her face as she seems to be floating away into a strong light from above. They both break into a full sprint and quickly begin trying to erase the distance between them and the Kenyans as the crowd breaks into a frenzy – yelling, cheering, and stomping.


Announcer: “Well it might end up being an exciting race after all. Eder and the Reverend are chasing after the Kenyans, but are at least 15 seconds back. We are into the last mile. Did anyone get the time at the 25-mile marker?”

Co-Announcer: “Yes, we did. Actually the Kenyans were the first to run by the marker. Their time was right at 1:54:42.5. That is equivalent to 2:00:18 seconds. It looks like they are still on track for both a world and Olympic record, but they probably will not break the two hour barrier here today.”

Announcer: “Ok, the Kenyans, Ken Masa followed closely by Simon Bett, have already passed by the Campos de Santana Park. They run straight for another three quarters of a mile or 1.2 kilometers before they make a sweeping left that will lead back into the Sambódromo for the last 600 meters to the finish. Wow! Eder and the Reverend seem to be closing the gap very fast. Did the Kenyans slow down?”

Co-Announcer: “Actually, no. The Kenyans are still running at their same pace. Both Eder and the Reverend da Cruz just ran that last 200 meters in 28 seconds! That is a fast sprint, especially for a marathoner! The Kenyans are still running right at 34 seconds for each 200 meter. They cut six seconds in just 200 meters! Unheard of! They will surely blow by them in another 400 meters.”

Announcer: “Well the crowd is sure enjoying it! They can already taste victory, but are still holding their breaths. So they are now only 9 seconds behind and, as Thomas said, they will be catching up to them before they reach the Sambódromo. This will be the fourth time that Eder will have passed the Kenyans – quite unusual for a marathon like this.”

Co-Announcer: “Yes, quite unusual, but remember that this has definitely not been a normal marathon. The first two passes happened as they were taking turns helping each other with drafting. ….. Okay….Here comes the moment the fans have been anticipating, their Brazilian runner, Eder dos Santos, running only his second marathon in his career is about to take the lead – or at least tied for the lead.”

Announcer: “And there they go! They just passed the two Kenyan runners like they were only jogging. The two Kenyans look at each other in utter disbelief. Where did they get this energy reserve? How can they be doing this?”

Co-Announcer: “In the case of Eder, like we have been saying all along, he has been a very efficient running machine today, so he definitely has the extra energy reserves. In the case of the Reverend da Cruz, he is probably running on vapor fumes … and is probably relying more on mental or psychological reserves than anything else. But they both seem to be smiling, which is quite unusual. Also, we have noticed that Eder is not running with his eyes closed as he seemed to be doing for the greater part of the race. We will definitely have to ask him after the race is over, if his eyes were completely shut or not. My team really finds it hard to believe. The leaders are getting ready to turn into the Sambódromo, so back to you Abe.”

Announcer: “Yes, here they are, making the final turn of this fantastic race. Eder dos Santos from Brazil and the Reverend Iehoshua da Cruz from Angola are running side by side as they come into the dome for the final 600 meters. Wow! Our technical team just noticed something. If they can finish the last 600 meters in under 1 minute and 24 seconds, they will become the first ever runners to break the magical 2 hours in the marathon event!”

The Finish

Announcer: “Looks like the crowd also realizes this as they are all on their feet and roaring. Why does Eder run side by side? It looks like he has no intention of passing the Reverend da Cruz, but rather is only interested in finishing together. This is unbelievable! We are witnessing history here today. They are keeping the same pace, 28 seconds for the last 200 meters with only 400 meters left to go. The Kenyans have also just entered the stadium, about 12 seconds behind. Thomas, do you think it is possible that they can finish in a tie for the gold?”

Co-Announcer: “It is highly unlikely even if Eder wants to tie he will not accomplish it, especially with today’s technology on photo-finishes. If there is one hair of a difference on any part of their bodies as they cross the finish line, the high tech, high definition, super-duper, photo-finish camera will pick the winner. Does everyone remember the close race we just had yesterday? Here is the photo-finish picture of the 400 meter dash that was won by the American Eli Moses. He won this by less than 1 mm that the camera picked up over his compatriot Jeff Hughes. Someone should tell Eder that he won’t be able to make it a tie, so just run and win the race for his home crowd!”

Announcer: “The crowd is on their feet, yelling, cheering, and jumping up and down. This is their moment. They don’t seem to care that Eder is running for a tie. Only 200 meters left to go. They just finished that last 200 meters in another 28 seconds and believe it or not, they seem like they are picking up speed. The two Kenyan runners are now more than 15 seconds back, out of contention, and will end up fighting it out for the bronze medal. What a thrilling race, full of beauty, pageantry, and emotions down to the very end. We are for sure going to have our closest finish in the history of Olympic marathons as neither runner seems willing to run past the other. And here they come to the finish line. They are stride in stride, almost as if they are running as one. It is definitely going to be a photo-finish and the crowd is creating a deafening noise as they are going berserk, while cheering the runners on. And they break the tape! It is a world record time and they have broken the magical 2 hour barrier - the barrier that has stood the test of time!


One thing is for sure; both Brazil and Angola have just won their first ever gold and/or silver medals in the Olympic Marathon! We will have to wait for the technical review to see who takes the gold. What a race! Whew, I am exhausted just from watching. The official time is 1:59:58.2. The crowd continues to roar – they for sure have faith and believe that Eder has won the gold.


And here comes the Kenyan runners sprinting for the bronze medal. Looks like it is going to be Ken Masa, no Simon Bett has drawn even, no wait… wait... and Ken Masa takes the bronze with a burst right at the end. It will be another couple of minutes before any other runners cross the finish – what a huge difference in the time for the first four runners compared to all the others.


Both the Reverend da Cruz and Eder kneel on the track, thanking God, and are now hugging each other and waving to the fans. They have just shaken hands with the two Kenyans and have given them each a hug. …And here come the flags… they both are getting their countries flags to drape around them. Looks like they will be running the victory lap together, but we are almost positively sure that only one of them will be declared the winner.


The Photo-Finish judges are taking much longer than usual. Can we get a message from their booth? Can we send someone up to the photo-finish judges and see what is taking them so long? The crowd continues to go crazy as everyone is anxiously looking at the overhead screens.”

Co-Announcer: “Yes, we have sent our team to the judge’s booth to see what is going on. Usually the judges are very quick about announcing the official winner. There might be something strange going on. Just a second, we are getting a message now... what? I don’t understand? You say they cannot decipher who won?”

Announcer: “Folks, looks like there might be some confusion at the photo-finish judge’s booth. They say the image is blurred from a bright white light? Looks like a third person? That cannot be – they have at least 4 or 5 different cameras, all at different angles, at least one of them should be working.”

Co-Announcer: “My team says all the cameras captured the same image. Looks like they are going to flash it up on the big screens in just moments…. “

Announcer: “The crowd has become quiet as they anxiously wait for the final result – everyone in the stadium has fixed gazes on the screens. And there it is folks – it is official! It has been declared a tie! The crowd is going nuts! Looks like they don’t care that they have to share the gold medal! The two runners continue to hug each other. … And here comes the official photo-finish picture….


Well, will you look at that! Both runners look as if they are immersed inside the glaring light of a third runner. No wonder the judges could not declare a winner – you cannot even see the edges of each runner because of the glare. Do you think someone popped a flash bulb at that very instant or maybe the rising sun reflected brightly off a window? Can we get our technical advisors to tell us what it is?


Look at that, both runners are kneeling, closing their eyes, and bowing their heads. Some of the people in the crowd are doing the same thing.

…. What? The word going around the stadium is that the image is an angel or someone sent by God. I can just imagine the headlines in the internet and the newspaper tomorrow – ‘God, Angola, and Brazil win the Marathon Gold’.

Thomas, what do you make of that?”

Co-Announcer: “I can tell you that I have never seen an angel before, and for sure never a photographed image. I have only seen paintings and drawings. But, I for one am a believer, so maybe it is an angel and maybe our good Reverend da Cruz had something to do with that.”

Announcer: “Well, that is something to behold, it is making my heart tingle!”

Co-announcer: “Mine, too! Also, just to be clear, some of the locals here in the booth are explaining that the people are not bowing to the image of the angel, which is clearly prohibited by the Bible, but rather they are bowing in reverence to God, who surely must have sent the angel.”

Announcer: “Yeah, that makes sense – what a very special event to end the most spectacular Olympic event of all times.”



Three hours after the race.

Both the Reverend Iehoshua da Cruz and Eder have taken a special police escort to the Rio de Janeiro international airport, flown a private plane to Ribeirão Preto, and then took another special police escort to Bebedouro. Their black four-door sedan coasts slowly through the crowded streets behind the flashing black and white police car with red lights flashing but no siren. The thousands and thousands of onlookers gathered in front of the blue and white Moveis-Jose-Pedro-Eder furniture store part like water in front of a slow moving ship, making small waves as the two cars slowly inch their way forward. Ivan and Nilton open a door on each side of the black sedan. No clapping, no cheering, not a single word is spoken as both Eder and Iehoshua gently climb out of each side of the black sedan that has come to a stop in front of the store’s main entrance. Ivan hugs Eder who returns the silent embrace. Nilton embraces Iehoshua as he gets out of the car. As they move to the front of the car, Nilton gives Eder a huge squeeze as Ivan does the same with Iehoshua. Everyone has immediately recognized the two instant celebrities that were making history on national and international television just hours before. A narrow 1.5 meter wide path has miraculously opened up leading from the parked black sedan all the way to Gelita’s Corner in the far back section of the store. Eder and Iehoshua walk hand-in-hand through the parted sea of people, some are crying, some are in a daze, and most of them are stricken with sadness. As they approach the vacated corner of the store, their eyes meet with the eyes of both Eder’s and Gelita’s family along with Pastor Francisco who all gathered around Gelita’s body lying flat on the all-white hospital gurney. His mother, Mariabela, is holding Eder Junior who is still dressed in his Brazilian soccer uniform. His second son, Jose Pedro, dressed in the same uniform is sandwiched in between Elaina and Elizabeth, with his head just barely above the portable bed. Beside them are Gelita’s two brothers, George and Gregorio, who are alongside their mom and dad. Pastor Francisco is at the very head of the gurney. Every one of them are either weeping or have red eyes with dried up tear reserves.

Eder walks directly to Gelita’s side and stops as he looks down on her porcelain white face with a smile that now seems to be cast in stone.

“Oh, Gelita, my one and only Gelita, how special and rich you made each life that was lucky enough to know you.”

Eder can’t control his emotions as he releases a flood of tears that have been dammed up for the last three hours. He kneels down in front of her and begins to weep uncontrollably, quickly forming a pool of water on the floor. This immediately sets off a chain reaction of crying, starting with everyone surrounding Gelita and quickly spreading to everyone inside the store, and even bringing tears to everyone outside the store. Even those who had dried out their tear wells now find extra reserves.

With Pastor Francisco on one side and the Reverend Iehoshua on the other, without saying a word, they each grab one of Eder’s arms and bring him back to his feet. Each of them grab one his hands and place them on Gelita’s body.

Eder is instantly transported to a world of light, nothing but light – no floor, no furniture, no sky, just light.


Time stops.


Eder immediately stops crying and begins looking around as if he lost something or someone. He hears a choir-like, feminine voice coming from above. “Why do you cry on this special day? And who do you seek?”

Eder replies. “Gelita? Gelita is that you?”

The voice responds. “No. You know very well that Gelita has gone to a safe place.”

“You are Gelita’s special angel?”

“Yes, well I was, but now she has no more need for me and so I have been reassigned to you.”

“Reassigned to me?”

“Yes, I am yours to help, guide, and nurture.”

“So, what’s next and where do we go from here?”

“That all depends on you. Would you like to have a small glimpse on your possible futures?”


Before Eder can respond he sees several visions, one right after another:

- Standing beside Pastor Francisco in a matching black suit on the podium in a brand new church filled with thousands of people.

- Raising his hands with the Reverend Iehoshua in front of +50,000 at a service in the Sambódromo.

- Being introduced by the Reverend Iehoshua at his new church in Angola.

- Inaugurating a new wing called “Gelita’s Corner” at the Bebedouro Hospital with Dr. Lopez in front of thousands as he leads them in prayer.

- Attending George and Elizabeth’s wedding with Pastor Francisco at the new church with all the family’s present.

- Standing beside his happy faced mother as Eder Junior is baptized by Pastor Francisco in the same place he was baptized.

- Celebrating Jose Pedro and his wife’s wedding party in the exact same park where he and Gelita were married.

- All the families sitting together and laughing at the Tardelli’s Pizzeria.

- And lastly, Eder Junior at the Bebedouro Hospital with Dr. Lopez holding up his new born baby girl as he kisses his beautiful wife with angels floating around the room that only he can see. He walks up to Eder. “Dad, we want to name her Gelita!”


Eder is instantly transported back to the furniture store as he raises his hands up from Gelita’s body. His face radiates with pure happiness. Everyone around him suddenly stops crying, wondering what happened to Eder.

Eder stares at each and every one of them with a glowing smile. “Please, everyone close your eyes and place your hands on Gelita.”

Eder Junior and Jose Pedro quickly close their eyes as they put their hands on Gelita. The rest are slightly puzzled and hesitant but comply with the special request.

The last one is Mr. Rodriguez and instantly they all hear the same angelic voice that only they can hear. “Okay, now, Gelita is already safe and in her special place. Enough tears have been shed. She specifically requested nothing but laughter at her wake and funeral. So Pastor Francisco, you know the rest.”

Almost as if he knew what was coming, Pastor Francisco has hit the “play” button on the store’s sound system. Barnabe, the master joke teller, has started with one of his oldest and favorite jokes. They all open their eyes and look into each other’s puzzled faces. Within seconds, Eder Junior and Jose Pedro have recognized the joke and begin to laugh out loud. In no time at all, everyone gathered around Gelita has broken into uncontrollable laughter, a laughter that is so earnest, it quickly becomes contagious as it spreads throughout the furniture store, and in no time at all, there is laughter in the streets, once again…


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