Colours and soap
Guy steps into the wool factory. He had just left the College of São Sebastião, where he had been shown the red cobs, and was determined to find the right tone. He had come to find the dyer; he calls the name of António Espiga – he wanted to know whether the latest round of wool had been finished already or not.
– Get me the red ones!
António felt a shiver down his spine, since he was a Benfica supporter. He was one of the proud reds, with new stadium a year ago… But the factory had one or two reds, in other words, members of the party. During those times, in Alentejo, there was no room for word-based tricks. To clear any doubts, he rehearsed:
– Are we talking about the cochineal-type red, the name we have given to the new carmine synthesis? Or the blood-coloured ones?
Guy, whose upscale mannerisms were visible not only in his name, realized the embarrassment and subtly asked for the 2456. There’s nothing like the accuracy of a number to set wool batches, circumventing any poetic names, or affinities and social issues.
The dyer re-emerged with the samples and the stress tests and other quality tests.
He took the opportunity to bring some blues and some yellows. After all, he wanted to show his protégé’s work, to whom he taught everything he knew. In fact, now that they had more work in hands, after the departure of the other founder, Manuel Celestino, a year ago already, Tapetes de Portalegre Lda. needed a reinforcement in its dyeing efforts. A Spanish man had been cogitated for the position already… Herrera, or something like that?
– António! Did they fix the soap? Go to the finishing and make sure you have cut the caustic soda. My wife warned me about that yesterday!
The dyer nodded his head in agreement, leaving his orders in the work table.
The midday alarm rang and the factory was about to make a break. The entrepreneur put his overcoat on and prepared himself to go home. Not without first checking if he had in his pocket the letter from the French man. He smiled to himself, thinking about the surprise that he would do for lunch.
Amid the quietness of late morning, to the sound of the wall clock’s pendulum, the untarnished white tablecloth flaunted, for each sit, the main dish, the soup dish, the cutlery properly aligned and the hoop-adorned napkin, set for each person. But a ritual had to take place before everyone could take their seats. Every day, a white crucible left the factory, carrying the soap test. Mercedes stopped before entering the room, smelling it, feeling the consistency, looking at the colour… and made a decision about what was necessary to add or remove.
– What is today’s launch? Said Guy, youthful, and obviously hungry.
– I’m happy!
– What? Do you know about the trip already?
– No! Because they fixed soap! It’s perfect today! The experienced technician proudly answered.
– Well, Miss Mercedes Fino, didn’t you warn me about that yesterday? He said with a sly smile and opened the napkin. The wool was washed with that same soap every day, a soap heated with wood from the mountains, while using the region’s olive oil. What a triumvirate! Water, firewood and olive oil… the mountains provided everything once more. The boilers ended the day with colours and more colours. The colours that came from the era of Francisco Fino, from textiles of pure wool, when it was carded and combed in the factory itself. But already based on the most modern post-war syntheses.
Guy, relieved to know that the soap had been fixed, changed the subject to the day’s big news and revealed the letter.
Mercedes smiled and, at the same time, was consumed by curiosity:
– Trip? What trip?
– The trip is confirmed! The French will welcome us in his castle and suggested December. It is a bit cold, but, if we organize things in the right way, we are back before Christmas!
– Are we going to France? Is he Jean Lurçat, right? And what is the castle’s name?
– Saint-Céré! And I want to start thinking about some pieces to take. I’d like to set an exhibition in Paris. I can bring Camarinha and João Tavares. By the way, we retrieved the reds of the flowers and of Diana’s bird.
And, already eating the soup, he, still excited, said:
– And today I saw some fine yellows and blues! I’ll get you the samples of Espiga.