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April 2018, vol 14 no 1

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David J Kelly

A small clutch

An Indonesian village shop is a curious place. In smaller villages they have arather restricted selection of items on offer. In the shop where I stayed the rice was kept in large sacks. The rest of the perishable goods lived in a glass-fronted wooden cabinet in the living room. The glass front allowed prospective customers to browse, but usually they just asked for what they wanted. It wasn’t unusual for them to learn the shop didn’t have it. Despite the shop’s shortcomings, there was always a steady stream of people buying kretek, Indonesian cigarettes, heavily spiced with cloves. I estimated cigarettes were the core business, keeping the shop afloat. Indeed, there was a wider choice of cigarette brands than there was of instant noodles (a firm family favourite). One day, around midday, a child, perhaps as young as 5, came to the shop, bearing a creased and crumpled bank note. He spoke quietly to the shopkeeper, from the doorway, without coming inside. The shopkeeper went to her cabinet, took an egg from the large cardboard tray and solemnly exchanged it for the note. The child took the egg in both hands, with great care, and set off home at a gentle pace. I couldn’t help thinking that such tenderness would have pleased the hen that laid the egg.

mental scrapbook
with each flick through
more loose leaves fall out