Advertising Piece

Bernardo used to work at an office in Downtown Rio and usually had lunch at a place called “Greenery,” a kind of healthy fast-food joint. The food was great and the staff was friendly. At the entrance, there was a large, collective table made of rustic wood, and a separate room on the side with several tables to accommodate two or four people each. Bernardo used to sit in this side room and had lunch by himself, with a newspaper or magazine on the table to browse through while eating.

On a busy day, the side area was crowded and Bernardo ended up sitting at the collective table in the main room. He didn’t have any room to open up a paper or magazine. While Bernardo was eating, he let his eyes wander around the room. That was when he suddenly saw a poster with the following header: “The Ten Commandments of Greenery’s Fresh Food.” Item number seven read, “The truth is in the green―that is why it’s so real.” Bernardo was offended by it.

He looked for a woman standing at the entrance and asked what that sentence meant. She greeted him first, then introduced herself. Her name was Alexia. Then she said that Greenery believed that the truth was in the green. Bernardo waited for her to complete her thought, but Alexia did not go on. After a few seconds, Bernardo told her he could read that from the poster. The young woman was a little surprised, and asked him whether he had understood it. 

Bernardo said that he did, he had understood it, but that the sentence was so absurd that he had only got it while using the stupidest part of his brain. He also told her that, after reading the sentence again, it no longer made sense, because he’d need to be very conniving and lazy in order to get it. Noticing that the woman did not react to his comment, Bernardo tried to be more objective and asked her what kind of truth the poster was referring to.

“Oh, I don’t know anything about that,” Alexia smiled. “The truth about the green, about health, about a healthy diet,” she couldn’t help but add.

Bernardo then thought she could be trying to have an honest, intellectual exchange with him. He probed further.

“And what does green have to do with truth? What relationship is there between a color and a possible truth about something that can be offered in said color?”

Alexia, hands on waist, looked like she had just swallowed sour milk. She told him she didn’t know the answer to his second question, but would do her best to answer the first one.

“We believe vegetables, which are green, are the foundation of a good diet. Lettuce, for example, is something that is featured in almost all dishes at Greenery,” she said.

“Yes,” Bernardo replied. “But what does it have to do with the truth?”

Alexia gave Bernardo that look from head to toe. “Are you pulling my leg?” she asked.

“No,” Bernardo reassured her. “I think you are the ones pulling my leg.”

They were staring at one another and the air got thicker.

“Do you want me to call the manager?” she asked.

“Could you do it right away?” Bernardo retorted.

Alexia walked down the narrow corridor. Thirty seconds later, she walked back behind a tall man who looked health. He was wearing sunglasses on top of his head, at an attempt to hold back the long bangs that insisted on covering his forehead.

“Good afternoon,” the man offered a handshake, which Bernardo accepted. “My name is Sergio. How may I help you?”

“Well, I’d like to understand the meaning of item seven,” Bernardo told him.

“Item seven?” the manager asked. “We only have five combo options on the menu, sir, not seven.”

“I apologize,” Bernardo started to explain. “I meant item seven on the Ten Commandments, there on the wall,” he pointed at it.

“The truth is in the green―that is why it’s so real,” the manager read it aloud. “Well, it’s part of our message. We’re a healthy food chain. Green is the basis for our dishes, and we like to spread the message that eating more green foods means being closer to their nature.”

“And what does nature have to do with the truth?” Bernardo asked.

“Well… We believe that the more natural something is, the more real it’ll be,” Sergio explained.

Upon hearing that, Bernardo anticipated a million questions and arguments he would have to refute that statement, but he felt extremely tired and irritated at the same time. In order to make it short, he mentioned items he could see on the manager in front of him.

“Glasses, watch, clothes, shoes, wallet, money. None of that is natural,” he said. “I suppose you’re being fake then.”

Sérgio gawked. He asked whether Bernardo was happy with his meal at Greenery. Bernardo said he was, that he didn’t know a better place in the neighborhood where he could go for lunch, that he was very happy and had even recommended the restaurant to several co-workers.

“But that has nothing to do with any truth,” Bernardo added. “Don’t you think you’re being frivolous, mentioning the truth like that? Why don’t to you stick to the food, which you do so well?”

“What’s your name?” Sergio asked.

“Bernardo,” he replied.

“Bernardo…” the restaurant manager repeated. “Okay, let me explain it to you: This is an advertising piece.”

An advertising piece, Bernardo thought to himself. That explains it all! You are allowed to lie in advertising.

“Are you allowed to lie in advertising?” he asked Sergio.

The manager said they weren’t lying, but expressing the restaurant’s believe, and that it was unfortunate that Bernardo didn’t agree with it, but it was hardly a problem. “We can all believe in whatever we want. After all, this is a democracy.”

“Not only do I not believe it, I think it’s frivolous, misleading, and unclear.”

“You have all the right to think so,” the manager said.

“Would you like to hire my services to copyedit your advertising pieces?” Bernardo asked.

“No,” Sergio replied. “The message is aligned with our beliefs.”

“I’m sorry for you. Maybe you gotta be a little dumb nowadays in order to be successful,” Bernardo said, looking at the crowded room. “Unfortunately to me, and fortunately to you, my stomach and my brain not always agree on everything. I may come back… No, I will come back, because your food is indeed good. But I’ll only come with my stomach; I’ll check my brain at the door. You could keep a freezer by the door, so all clients could keep their brains fresh. If I didn’t need food, I’d come hard on you… But a fellow’s gotta eat, right?”

“My friend, you should stop thinking for a few minutes!” Sergio exclaimed, squeezing Bernardo’s shoulder.

“Do you think it’s that simple?”

“I imagine it isn’t, at least not to you.”

“No, not at all,” Bernardo got it off his chest with a sigh.

Sergio looked deep in Bernardo’s eyes, then pulled his employee to the side―she had been right behind him all along.

“Alexia, give this poor man a free meal, would you?”

LEONARDO VILLA-FORTE was born in 1985 in Rio, where he still lives to this day. His first book, O explicador [The Explainer], was featured as one of the Top 15 Books of 2014 on a list compiled by a Brazilian newspaper.

He works as a copyeditor and teaches workshops. He has recently earned his Master's Degree at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and defended his thesis on appropriation and non-creative writing.

Leonardo updates a blog called MixLit and is involved in the urban literary effort Paginário, which have been highlighted by the Brazilian media. He has published short stories in literary magazines and collections both in Brazil and in England, including Modern Poetry in Translation.

His most recent book, O princípio de ver histórias em todo lugar [The Principle of Seeing Stories Everywhere], was published in November 2015 by publisher Oito e Meio.

Translated by