Revolution, Chapter One: The Shop On the Corner, Part Three
This is chapter 1 of a serialized novel appearing on Ars Gratia Libertatis weekly. Â Read from the beginning here.
An hour and twenty-five customers later, Tangwishon was still talking with his friend. Â Their conversations were like European wars of the 17th century. Â The eager participants often covered the same ground, but there was always a new twist or variation that had to be worked out.
Sindamo and Tangwishon were some of the very few citizens of Oraanu who had received an education of sorts. Â In addition to his years at the mission, Sindamo spent most of his personal profits from the bakery on second hand books from Ben Linkarf’s store. Â Characteristically, Tangwishon never explained where he learned about astronomy, philosophy, politics, or any of the other subjects he and Sindamo talked about.
The original conversation about the hornets had gradually turned to government generally, then to other governments. Â They were at the heightened pitch of an argument about whether the European Union would survive the latest debt crisis when the bell rang, announcing another customer.
It was Martha Togo and her eight year old daughter, Mary. Â Tangwishon smoothly transitioned from his conversation with Sindamo and gave an expansive greeting. Â “Hello, Mary! Â You’re looking lovely today!” Â Mary smiled and shyly murmured her hello to Tangwishon. Â “And Martha, good day to you too! Â You’re looking well well, so I guess that means everyone else is worse off.” Â Martha couldn’t help grinning at this very old joke.
Martha was a rarity in Oraanu — a single woman who ran her own business. Â The only reason this could happen in her case was that too many powerful men owed her favors for anyone to think of robbing or violating her.
She was a doctor of sorts. Â She hadn’t gone to medical school. Â Indeed, she hadn’t even gone to high school. Â However, someone had taught her how to read and she had devoured every medical book she could get her hands on as she was growing up. Â After apprenticing at the Lomboko Hospital for a few years, she had known enough about medicine to open a shop where she set bones, treated whatever diseases she could with the limited drugs she had access to, and gave medical advice. Â Tangwishon always said that Martha did better business when the people of Lomboko were suffering from more illnesses, and he was right. Â The country of Oraanu was poor enough that Martha never lacked business, and so could afford luxuries like Sindamo’s treats.
Martha responded with the very old response to Tangwishon’s very old joke: “Well, John, we can’t all be good-hearted, pure mercenaries like you. Â I have to settle for healing people.” Â She looked at Thomas. Â “And how are you, Thomas? Â Anyone die from eating your bread today?”
Sindamo gestured back to the kitchen and answered deadpan, Â “Not too many. Â You’ll have to wait on the human heart pie you ordered. Â But, I do have some chocolate chip cookies if you’re willing to settle for less.” Â Mary’s eyes lit up at the mention of cookies. Â Her mother noticed the cue and bought a half-dozen for the rest of the week, giving one to Mary at once.
“You’re quite the salesman, Thomas. Â I’ve got to drop off Mary at school and then head over to the Kwange Marketplace. Â The hornets are getting feistier than usual. Â They killed a couple merchants and wounded a dozen people. Â I’m going to go see if I can help.”
Before Sindamo could say anything, Tangwishon responded. Â “Are they still there? Â The hornets, I mean. Â It could still be dangerous. Â I’d better come with you.”
Martha nodded, trying not to smile too obviously. Â “Thanks, John. Â Thomas, thanks for the cookies, and have a good day.”
Sindamo nodded. Â On his way out, Tangwishon said to him, “Listen, we’ve got to figure out something to do about the hornets. Â Let’s have dinner together tonight and talk it over. Â I’ll get us some meat in the Marketplace and you can cook it.”
Sindamo agreed, wished Martha luck, and watched the three of them leave. Â He sighed inwardly, regretting that he hadn’t offered to help Martha. Â He wasn’t as quick-witted as his friend John.
Sindamo was not Tangwishon’s opposite; he was merely unremarkable in every area where Tangwishon was distinctive. Â Tangwishon was tall, Sindamo was of average height, maybe even a little shorter than normal. Â Tangwishon’s face was manly and handsome, complete with the lines and scars proper to his mysterious background. Â Sindamo had the kind of reserved, intelligent face more proper to a librarian or a serious professor. Â Tangwishon was solidly built; Sindamo was, like many of the citizens of Oraanu, underweight. Â And, unfortunately for the moment, Â Tangiwshon was suave and smooth talking and could act quickly and decisively. Â Sindamo was more of a planner.
Sindamo shook his head and got back to work. Â He had more food to prepare. Â Two hours later, he was taking a batch of harder, cheaper loaves out of the oven for the afternoon rush of workers when the bell rang out front, announcing another visitor. Â When Sindamo returned to the storefront holding the pan, he saw three rifle-armed soldiers in army fatigues standing behind a tall man wearing a dress shirt, tie, and suit pants.
The hornets had arrived.