Accompanied by the mulatto woman, he took over the refuse collection of the southern parts of the small city, adding up in scribbles on paper napkins collected at the cheapest restaurants they could find, small, dark, dreary places with owners who didn’t seem to mind that they had turned one of the tables into an office, the napkins into copy paper, the serving boy into their own office boy-cum-receptionist-cum-delivery boy. Or at least these restaurants, a different one every day, didn’t mind as long as they kept buying food and drinking endless quantities of grainy packet drip coffee. They could break even at five hundred homes, assuming petrol prices remained steady and assuming there were no unforeseen costs, of which of course there had been plenty already. But five hundred was a good number, and as a quick rule of thumb any staff growth needed to be commensurate with the acquisition of another five hundred homes.
At night, away from the restaurants with their smells of cheap oil and coffee grinds, away from the start-stop sound of their single painted yellow garbage truck, and away from pens, paper clips, invoices, taxes, receipts, accounts receivable and payable, debtors, creditors, 30-, 60-, and 90-day terms, away from the headache of needing to massage the company into shape even though it was still so unbearably tiny that at any time it could be bought out by one of the bigger companies with what amounted to the total amount of their weekly petty cash, and away from the engulfing feeling of simultaneously walking on a high precipice, falling from the sky into eternity, and sinking forever into the cold murky waters of some unknown and unnamed underwater trench where the sea creatures were as yet unknown to science or man, the two of them were happy, after a fashion, and later they would remember fondly those tired nights spent on the balcony just large enough for two second-hand wicker chairs, where they sat drinking wine straight from the cask, watching as stray cats picked their way through overgrown foliage that promised one day to subsume the apartment fully into the green, brown and grey embrace of nature.
Oh yes, they were happy then.
* * *
The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website. I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.