The Late Buka’s Last Customer

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He ate slowly after the accident.

Despite the sharp pain, his saliva had not stopped streaming and giving up had never really been an option. She tapped her feet, counting and recounting her money as he chewed each spoonful of stewed beans in slow motion. Every other minute, his careful teeth found another stone which joined his broken molar on the table. By the time he chinked the empty china with his spoon, the street was as silent as the buka and there were more than a dozen tiny stones around his lost enamel. ‘Sorry, o,’ she said once more as she cleared away briskly, sweeping the stones and his tooth into the bin and rinsing her plate and her spoon in the sink. ‘That’s how bottom-pot beans use to be: is sweet o, but all the stones in the whole pot is there.’

From across the room, she pulled the last chilled sachet of water from the freezer. To save time, she lobbed it across to him, but it was getting dark and his full stomach had slowed his fingers somewhat so that the sachet burst into a flood of tears on the floor beyond him. She cooed her regrets and gave him a warm sachet instead.

She reached for his plastic chair and he rose to go as she took and stacked it away with all the rest, ‘I hope say you enjoy the food, sha.’

He probed the new gap in his dentition for the last memorable morsels of his meal, weighing the piquant yielding of her slow-stewed beans against the culinary negligence of her stones. Deranged words like fantabulous trembled on his tongue, but the taste of blood filtered from the stump of his missing tooth and he shrugged grudgingly, ‘Is okay.’

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