Tabula Rasa

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Imperfect Copy

A Novel by David Carroll


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Short Stories

Tabula Rasa

Imperfect Copy: Chapter 10

by David Carroll, 1994

It had been a slow morning. There was nobody else here at the moment. Just the two of them, and Andreo hanging round somewhere in the background.

Ajlmo Dunstaro stood in his stall, his hands firmly planted on the counter to keep him steady. He could only meet the girl's gaze for a moment, looking through him, burning behind its dark cover. He dropped his head, sullen, subservient.

She, of course, had been grinning, and her incomplete knowledge of the language couldn't keep the smugness out of her voice.

'Some milk,' she simply said. 'And, yes, some... steak. Minute steak? No, whatever have.'

He only nodded his head lower and retrieved what she asked for, the stock contained in low drawers, with ice above and the cold below.

He poured a careful quantity of the creamy milk into the largest compartment of her own container, and pried apart three rump steaks, also to be placed into the little portable larder. The steaks were very cold, had only been thawing for a few hours, the meat split whilst frozen and brittle.

The transaction finished, he replaced the milk and remaining meat, and stood there again. She hadn't moved, still looking at him.

'Some plums,' she said. 'Yes, I think.'

He got out the appropriate box, his hands moving of their own volition as he shifted the few sickly tomatoes he had to one side. They knew where everything was. He put the box on the counter, and she casually reached past those hands and selected two of the pickled fruit.

Maybe she licked the juice from her fingers, once she'd finished. He didn't know, just transferred the requisite amount across, using the tongs.

He knew she was smiling, as she picked up the larder and went to join her friend.

Ajlmo kept his eyes down, even now. Afraid she would look back and see the truth, see what her arrogant gaze had missed. The gleam of triumph in his eyes.


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