A sudden, involuntary flaring of his tongue, followed by a hideous contortion of his face; apart from this peculiar affliction, Bonifácio Careta was an ordinary child. The villagers believed everyone arrived in life with unique God-given inclinations – some were born to nose-picking, others to continuous spitting, others to limping. They never spent a second glance on Bonifácio.
Bonifácio Careta’s life would have proceeded imperceptibly if misfortune had not brought his peculiarity to public notice.
Bonifácio’s fortune changed irrevocably on the occasion of the long awaited Papal tour of the country and the Pontiff’s brief, unscheduled bathroom stop in Bonifácio’s forgotten village.
While the Pontiff granted the gathering crowd his holy blessing, his holiness’ finger fell with singular exactitude upon the unsuspecting Bonifácio. His Sanctity was drawn to Bonifácio’s angelic face, his perfectly clustered freckles and pleasant manners, the radiant smile that could distract buzzing bees from their business.
Bonifácio was brought forward, kissed and blessed. “Little angel, would you like to come with me and join the priesthood?” The Pope enquired, while continuously patting Bonifácio’s buttocks. Bonifácio’s affliction flared and his tongue stuck out half a metre. The Pontiff, shocked, blessed himself and the child, “May our souls be safeguarded from the devious ways of Satan,” he voiced attempting to push the child’s tongue back inside. Bonifácio did not know about Satan, he merely understood his tongue had a mind of its own. Without warning it darted out, a deranged clock-work cuckoo that caused havoc in the predictable world. His muscles would stiffen and no force or fancy could to return the tongue to its proper place.
After the Pope’s “face to face encounter with the devil,” as the inflammatory press headlined, parading Bonifácio’s pinkish tongue to the nation, sales of papal icons and newspapers doubled. Villagers began to believe Bonifácio Careta was cursed. They prayed novenas. Masses were sung. His mother Alzira, crawled on her knees the entire way to the miraculous Lady of Fátima, seeking Her intercession for his affliction.
1996© paulo da costa