Cultural sights and sounds were bombarding their brains.
January 5, 2014
A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental
“Let’s try to get in touch with this favorite guy of Nigel’s, the top one on the list. He is the most fluent in English. Since he is a businessman, he probably already has a lot of contacts,” Angus suggested while trying to gulp some the strongest coffee he had ever tasted.
After their heavy breakfasts, Angus called the man on the phone. Without giving too much information, he explained that they were tourists who would like directions to his store, a type of granary. He named landmarks they had made note of on their journey to the store, and other areas.
“It must be very hard to call oneself a businessman for any length of time in a place with an economy such as this,” Skeeter commented as they followed the man’s directions.
When they got to the store, they looked around at the merchandise, like interested shoppers, before introducing themselves as the callers.
“I doubt if there are any honey pots in here, but I am looking anyway,” Skeeter whispered.
The store, with an amateurish wooden plank floor was filled with barrels of different grains in different states of grinding that he bought from the local growers. There were whole grains, waiting to be ground, whole grains that had been ground, plus some refined flours and meals. It was a crude set-up but the owner had made sure that it was a clean operation. He also had a refrigerated case filled with locally made cheese and bottles of milk, half of it goats’ milk. There were a couple of home made chairs lashed together from branches for patrons who needed to sit down, and there were a few leather goods made by local craftsmen—belts, pouches and simple wallets.
When the other customers were gone, Angus walked up to the man behind the counter and asked. “Are you, Phomello Rojo, the owner?”
“Yes, I am Phomello Rojo.”
Angus continued, “We are friends with Nigel O’ Conner.” Angus displayed Nigel’s business card.
“Nigel? Yes, he is a good man.”
“We are visiting from the United States for a very short period of time and need some help while we are here. We will pay good money. Are you able to leave your shop to run errands and such? I know it would probably be difficult,” Angus asked .
“Pardon me a minute. “Masamba, is that all you need today?” The little boy nodded. He had placed a large block of cheese on the counter and carefully counted out the money. The grin on his face was so wide, that Skeeter thought it would tear his face. He picked up the block of cheese and went through the open door to a waiting oxcart. “The cute little Masamba comes in about once a month to get cheese for his family. He does not live here, but in a tiny outlying village.”
“Aw,” said Skeeter, “he is cute.” She found it hard to concentrate on anything, because of all the new cultural sights and sounds bombarding her brain. She was taking it all in.
Like most children that she had seen there, Masamba only had on shorts with an elastic waistband—pull-ons—his were red, flowered. He was barefooted. Women wore long floral skirts and tube tops or tank tops. Some were barefooted, some wore flip-flops or home made leather or straw sandals. Some of the women wore turbans, most did not. Some men, such as Phomello, wore western trousers and short-sleeved cotton shirts. Others wore long shorts, such as American basketball players wear, and went shirtless.
“I am sorry for the interruption. He is always in a hurry to get back to his family. He once told me he has many chores to do to help out. Yes, Mr. Angus, I can get free if I need to. I have my young brother come work in the store sometimes.”
“We don’t want to hurt your business. When could you get free to talk to us? We have a list of other names, but Nigel has told us that you would probably be the best person to help us.”
“I will have to contact my brother. We don’t use phones much here. Just a moment.” He walked to the doorway and looked about. He saw a group of children playing with sticks, and motioned to one of them to come to the doorway. “Go get my brother. Tell him to come to the store. I will give you a surprise!”
Phomello turned to Angus and Skeeter. “This may take awhile. If my brother is easy to find, it will be soon. This is the way we must do things here. We find a willing messenger.”
“Good! If your brother can watch the store for awhile, we will go somewhere and sit down to discuss the reason we need your help and what it is, exactly, we want you to do for us.”
Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.