In Vitória, my girlfriend’s aunt and uncle took us out to a lunch counter for some feijoada. Along with the uncle’s workmates–all policemen–we sat out on the sidewalk patio around a plastic table, drinking cold beer and fried pork skin while we waited for the stew to be served. To the right of our table, there was a little stand in the corner looking out onto the sidewalk. It was a kind of miniature podium, and a fat man sat behind it, writing on little scraps of paper. I was told this was a jogo do bicho stand–an illegal (yet more or less tolerated) Brazilian street lottery. In the game, you pick from one of 25 animals (hence the lottery’s tile: “the animal game”), the animals have a series of numbers assigned to them–if your animal/numbers are picked, you win a prize.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the operator. Sweaty, obese, and maybe a little touched, he stared furiously at his tiny scraps of paper and wrote on them with a sort of gleeful energy. I convinced Suzanne to take a picture of him, but by time we got out our camera, he had slowly stood up from his perch. He moved the stand off the sidewalk and into the restaurant, leaning on it like it was a walker. Then, he shuffled off towards another shop, leaving the stand behind.