Sao Paulo - 23 Degrees South

Excerpt – 23 Degrees South


Feeling rather full of himself, Hart, the newly minted Senior Manager for the Maytag Corporation in Sao Paulo, Brazil sat comfortably ensconced within the safe confines of his palatial new office. He rocked back and forth, slowly checking out the deep lean of his stylish, graphite black, Aeron chair. On his faux oak desk lay an old guidebook covering all things Sao Paulo. Not even on the job one week, he still puzzled over the uncomfortable fit of his title. How the hell can I be a senior manager at twenty-two? He felt very much the impostor. How did I rate an assistant too? Carmen dos Reis sat at her desk a few steps down the hall. Slight, curvaceously built, dark skinned, with stunning blue eyes, and dark lustrous hair. She gave a lilting, intoxicating Brazilian rhythm to everything she did. Hart spoke three languages and none of them adequately described Carmens beauty.

He’d been thumbing his way through the dog-eared guidebook, studying up on his new city. So Paulo was founded by the well meaning, goal oriented Jesuits way back in 1554. It sits on a plateau precisely 2,493 feet above sea level, forty-five miles from the Atlantic coast. For Hart, who grew up only a few miles from the ocean, he may as well have been in Iowa. He felt sure at some point he would grow to enjoy his new surroundings, but still had nagging doubts. Putting down the book for a moment, he swallowed hard against the depression he had battled from an early age. Its called a Dukkha, and you’re lucky to have it, that was the unsolicited advice from his Buddhist Studies professor at UCLA. Depression sucked. It wasn’t a gift from the gods; it was a scourge that 10 23 Degrees South 23 Degrees South 11 arrived at all the wrong times. He hoped his luck would hold since he hadn’t suffered a bout in quite a long time. Learning about his new surroundings helped keep things on an even keel. He never enjoyed surprises; they forced him off-balance.

Once again he paged into his new distraction. Back in the early days the Jesuits ruled all things. Jesuits were famously regarded as the Popes Paratroopers, his First Responders, the Vatican Seal Team whose mission profile directed them to splash down amongst the unsuspecting in all corners of the world and show them the one true way of all things. These stouthearted foot soldiers of Saint Ignatius Loyola were nicknamed Jesuits by the folks on the other side of the door. If your Renaissance doorbell rang, and the guy on the stoop wore all black, you could trust that he was not there to sell you the latest Michelangelo print. Jesuits wanted to talk about Jesus. Jesuits translates as one who uses the name of Jesus with relentless frequency. Let us say Jesus at breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea time, on the way to the mall, waterfall, or nightclub. Jesuits prefer Jesus over tiramisu, mud pie, filet mignon, and any fresh fish including rare, seared Ahi. The infamous acronym–WWJD–What Would Jesus Do originated with the Jesuits back in the darkening days of the late Renaissance.

These road warriors conceived Sao Paulo as the mission center for their frequent traveler club members: participating nationally affiliated early settlers and, reluctantly, the local heathens. If you were not a Jesuit, or well-connected royalty, then you were lumped into the category of godless nuisance native or heathen. As far as Team Jesuit was concerned, heathens served no productive purpose unless they could be converted to the right side of the holy ledger. Those that would not buy in for whatever reasons were simply designated as road kill. They squatted in the middle of the progressive highway, disrupting the missionary victory drive towards the Holy Trinity: civilization, salvation, and incorporation. The Jesuit advance guard brought the Holy Spirit, but they also traveled with their calculators. New World Wealth Management, or the upside of global colonization, occupied a large chunk of the Jesuit mindset whether they landed in Borneo, Boston, or Brazil.

Looking out his window at the street below, Hart considered this history. He hadnt seen many black robed Jesuits cruising about the tragically hip streets of modern Sao Paulo. Perhaps they were horrified by how far modern Brazil had strayed from the marquee they hung up way back when. Perhaps they considered the country a job well done and had simply moved on. A quote at the top of the next page in his guidebook stopped him cold:

That which you are seeking is always seeking you.

Hart uttered the phrase aloud to no one in particular. He unconsciously retooled the adage into a personal question of reflection. How in the holy landslide of Roman-numeral-numbered Popes, he wondered, would a 17th century, twenty something Jesuit priest on an obligatory recruiting pilgrimage know anything about his circumstances? Logically, of course he wouldn’t, but the saying still applied to his personal life. For some time Hart had realized how much of his time had been devoted to passively hanging a line over the side of his metaphorical rowboat and waiting for a strike. His paralytic life strategy had centered on aggressive anti-seeking, at least until he fell into Brazil. Now he was simply afraid that he might have let the big one get away. He pushed those thoughts deep down into a cavern of his brain marking them for later exploration. Internally, he labeled the quote enigmatic and mysterious, but mostly too damn irritating to dwell on for longer than the two seconds he had given it. He thumbed to the next page.

It was at this precise moment of uneasy reflection that Harts best friend Simon burst into his office, knocked over the luscious Carmen, and to the best of his recollection, shot him point-blank in the neck.

Neal Rabin - Author | CEO | Surfer | Musician - Copyright 2024