Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STRESSED - Begins January 18 / Ends January 25 (01/18/18)
TITLE: A Clandestine Trade
By Ellen Carr
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She waited near a pottery stall, continually glancing around. She knew nothing about the man she was meeting except that he would be wearing a blue shirt. It was better to know nothing. Safer. Was anyone watching her? She checked and checked again.
“I would like that jug please.” Ava pointed to a small brown jug. She addressed the male shop keeper without making eye contact. He wrapped the jug and placed it on top of his pile of cups, not into her hands. She paid him and nodded her thank you. She moved to the other side of his stall. Still no blue-shirted man.
Then she saw him. He was wending his way towards her, stopping here and there to look at the wares for sale. No one must notice his intent.
Ava's hands clenched and unclenched and her heart beat wildly. This was her first time at this clandestine trade. She dare not draw attention to herself in any way.
As the man came close she turned around and walked slowly away, towards the rows of stalls selling jewellery and phones. Merchant after merchant sat on stools, with open cases on their laps. They called out to her as she passed. “Finest gold and rubies. Latest cell phones.” She passed them by with churning stomach. Would the plan work? She knew the man was following her slowly.
Ava paused in the shade of a tall palm tree and waited. The man pulled a stool from his back pack, unfolded its legs and sat on it. Then he set his leather case on his lap and opened it.
“Purses, cell phones, phone cases!” he called out. “Finest leather. Latest technology. Good prices.”
Ava could feel herself shaking as she approached him. She saw him glance at her magenta headscarf and nod ever so slightly. Making sure that no one was close, he took a bag from under his pile of phones and passed it to Ava.
“Thirty ruasta,” he said. Eyes down, Ava passed over the money. The man traced the shape of a fish on his pile of phones and Ava traced one on her wrist. Her heart was racing. She turned and headed homeward with the bag tucked in her basket. A precious cargo; phones loaded with the Bible in the local language.
“Walk slowly. Walk normally,” Ava told herself while every fibre of her body begged her to race. She turned into her own road just as a truck-load of military passed by. A shiver ran up her spine but she slowed her feet with a rhythmic prayer under her breath.
“I fear no evil, for you are with me. I fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Her neighbour Shadi was outside her house. “Salaam, Ava,” she called. And Ava called back. “Salaam, my friend.” She had to stop and chat or else seem rude. And why would she be hurrying when the day was still young?
“How is your son?” she asked, breathing her prayer again: “I fear no evil, for you are with me.” She hoped her voice sounded normal.
“He is well. He will join the army next week, praise Allah!” said Shadi.
“My congratulations! He is a fine young man,” said Ava, her voice as strong as she could make it. And Shadi beamed.
“Good day, Ava. I must go to the market. I see you've been already.”
“Yes, I was up early today. Good day dear Shadi.” She walked on towards her own house.
“Nearly home,” Ava said to herself. “I fear no evil, for you are with me.”
She opened the door of her house and stepped inside. Shutting the door behind her, she went to a lacquered cabinet and rolled it away from the wall. She opened a hidden cupboard in the wall, stowed the bag of cell phones inside and rolled the cabinet back. She sank onto a cushion seat and felt her body relax.
“Thank you Father God. You are with me. May these Bibles reach the people you have chosen.”
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