chapter 3, The Bawa

As the half-noon shift siren wound to a scream like some robbed giant woke in the frozen city, Clerk pushed the broom under shelving and between bins, gouging for garlic husks and kernels of red pepper.  He swept round canisters of dried fish and pickling spices, pulling dust and spilled tea into his path on the wood floor.  In glittering window light, he stooped for a coin.  Heads raised, the turtles in their tub ogled the bobbing, funnel sleeve.  The last moan of the sAiren trailed and expired.  The reed broom handle creaked.  Outside, voices were piping within a clamor of grating snow shovels.

Shadows of chill ghosts played across ranks of oil, vinegar, and salt.  He turned around.  Between mullions, bicycles and motor carts were gliding beneath elms nestled like sponges.  A biretta and a bear-lined tippet dangled beside the window frame, and clumps of snow trailed off to a curtain of beads that ticked and swayed while a fat beard and head shifted behind.

“Oh, good day, Bawa.”


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