FLAGGED

A (very) short story, for the first time here.

I like to take stories for a walk, and with this one I went to a Portugese cafe I like, drank coffee and ate custard tarts, and watched and listened. The other inspiration came from Alistair Fruish, who I saw read extracts from a story he'd written using entirely single syllable words.

 

Ruy's foot hurts from the job he did a few days back. A man with a van picked him up and drove Ruy and three more men to a place none of them knew. They dug pits and put tins of stewed meat in them, then piled earth on top of the holes. Ruy saw that the tins bulged and so not to take them but one guy, a Turk, found ways to store some in a bag he brought. With few shared words Ruy knew it would be hard to tell the Turk leave the meat be.

His foot throbs and Ruy drinks beer with his friends. They meet once a week to swap news and see skin and hair like their own. There are black guys here of course, but Ruy and the crew tut that they are not the same. On his own Ruy is not so sure. He talks and works with guys of all shades and they seem much the same. They long for home, and wish they chose not to come here. Since the vote it has changed. One of the van men has a flag at the back that Ruy knows means jobs just for whites. 

The songs they play here make Ruy and his friends smile and weep. Guys and girls come in, move to the pulse. Drums bring new life to Ruy's feet and though the left one aches he lifts both in a slow show of red shoes and bright socks that make him think of loud birds and salt air. 

Cruz brings them more beer and play fights with Ruy. This is part of the night as much as Ruy's red shoes and the song they sing when there is no more cash and thoughts of home swell and bring sweet pain. This is not what they signed up for, and they can hold it just so long.

Cruz is smart, spots the hurt spread and rise. That's when she puts the big screen on, and Ruy and the gang watch their team kick that ball round the pitch. Ruy used to play well - was the star in his town's team - but with his foot the way it is he's not sure now. Best give it a rest. Sleep, and a new van. There's more rank meat to hide. 

Soon, they will go back to the flats and rooms they rent. And dream of Portugal, Brazil, Angola.