Revolution, Chapter One: The Shop On the Corner, Part Two
This is chapter 1 of a serialized novel appearing on Art For Liberty weekly. Read from the beginning here.
At sunrise, when Sindamo was finishing the first batch of the day, George Hela arrived at the bakery. The first and last thing most people noticed about Sindamo’s mid-twenties guard was his earnestness. He was quiet and simple, possessed of an implacable dedication to his job and little else. Sindamo had hired him because he needed someone to look after the store when he had to go get supplies or go to the kitchen to bake during the day. Also, since the police and army were totally unreliable, Sindamo needed some muscle in the store to deal with any potential robbers. With a simple “Good morning, boss,” George pulled up a stool and assumed his position behind the counter.
Sindamo greeted his guard and handed him the first batch of bread to put on the shelves. George might be for security purposes, but he still had to help out around the shop.
The first customers of the day, workers on their way to the oil fields outside Lomboko, arrived a half-hour later. By the middle of the morning, Sindamo had sold off the first couple batches of bread and decided it was time to make the treat of the day. He told George to mind the store as he went back into the kitchen. Ingredients for items more complicated than bread were often hard to come by and most residents of Lomboko were too poor to afford anything but bare necessities, but Sindamo always scrounged enough to make at least one batch of tasty treats every day. Word would go around Lomboko that Sindamo was baking something good, and within two hours, all of the special batch would be gone.
One of his children had miraculously found a pound of chocolate in the Kwange marketplace yesterday, so the treat of the day was chocolate chip cookies. He had just taken them out of the oven when the bell on the front door rung, indicating that someone had entered the store. Carrying the cookie tray out of the kitchen and into the store, Sindamo saw the tall, smiling, broad-shouldered fortyish man waiting for him.
“John Tangwishon, how the hell do you always know when the treats come out?”
John laughed. “I have my ways, Thomas. I’ve got to make sure to get at them before the bastards on King Street.” Almost all of the affluent bureaucrats who comprised Ko Hamilton’s governing machine — the ones who organized tax collection and foreign aid dispersement — worked on King Street. Since they were well paid by Hamilton and more than a few of their number skimmed some payments off the top, they were always the best customers for the more expensive treats.
Sindamo sighed theatrically. “You probably pay one of the kids to tell you. You just want me to think it’s one of your super-secret mercenary tricks.”
With the smile still on his face, John replied, “Just because you bribe children to be the brains of your operation doesn’t mean I do.” He didn’t respond to the jibe about being a mercenary. He never did.
No one really knew what John did. He certainly looked like a mercenary. He had a commanding, well-built figure, a confident gait, and an attractively masculine face marked by a jagged scar on the left cheek. His close-cropped hair and clean shirt marked him as someone who could afford to take care of his appearance. Whatever Tangwishon’s business was, it provided him with enough disposable income to afford Sindamo’s treats. Every day, Tangwishon somehow managed to arrive at Sindamo’s shop right when the batch of treats was coming out of the oven. He would often linger in the shop and talk with Sindamo, and today was no exception.
“You’ve seen today’s Locketon Gazette, I assume.” Sindamo nodded. “Well, what are you going to do about it?”
Sindamo shrugged. “We don’t know that the hornets are coming here. They just locked down the Kwange Marketplace today. It’ll take them a while to sort through that mess. After work today I’ll take everything I can out of the bakery and take a day or two off and see what happens. If they come here, I’ll give them the scraps left over and then I’ll be alright for at least a couple months.” Then a thought came to Sindamo. “Why don’t they ever come after you? Where do you live, anyway?” Tangwishon had been coming into the store for years and though Sindamo liked him he still knew very little about the mysterious man.
A flicker of a grin flashed across Tangwishon’s face and disappeared instantly. “They haven’t come after me because I don’t own a store. They’ll never find what I own because they don’t know where I live. And they don’t know where I live because I don’t tell people. That’s the problem you’ve got, Thomas. You’ve got more than most other people in Lomboko, but you’ve got it sitting out here in the open. Sure, you’ve got George to stop a starving thief,” Tangwishon gestured to the burly young man, “but that’s not going to be enough when the hornets come. And they’re going to come.”
Sindamo sighed. “We’ve talked about this before. I built this bakery. If it wasn’t for me, this building would still be a hollowed out wreck. It’s mine. You might be safe, but you’ll never know what it’s like to actually own something you’re proud of and make something out of nothing.”
“You’re a good man, my friend. But Oraanu isn’t a country for good men. Someday, you’re going to find that out.”