For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“Final Request”

Joakim Marie Machado de Assis


One century departed, another came into being, but the lesion in Nicolau's organism remained. His father died in 1807, his mother in 1809. Three months later his sister married a Dutch physician. Nicolau now lived by himself. He was twenty-three years old, a dandy and man about town—but of a peculiar sort. He could not meet another of his set who either had more noble features or was wearing a specifically fine waistcoat, without experiencing a violent pain, so violent that he sometimes had to bite his lip till it bled. Other times his legs grew wobbly and he reeled, or from the corner of his mouth there trickled an almost imperceptible thread of foam. The rest was no less cruel. He would be disgruntled; at home everything seemed bad, uncomfortable, loathsome. He hit the slaves on the head with plates, which were also broken, and kicked the dogs; he was not quiet ten minutes; he did not eat, or only a little. Finally he would go to bed. Sleep repaired everything. He woke up affable and kind, soul of a patriarch blessing all, kissing the dogs between the ears, letting them lick his face, giving them the best he had, calling the slaves the most intimate and endearing things. And all, dogs and slaves, forgot the blows of the night before, and ran at his call, obedient, adoring, as if this were the true master, and not that other man.