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THE LAST DEAL OF THE SEASON

A Short Story by Lee McAulay

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Copyright 2011 Lee McAulay. This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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THE LAST DEAL OF THE SEASON

Daoud Mehmet al-Chidi did not like to think of himself as a ruthless man, but he knew a bargain when he smelled it. He squinted out from his tent at the Libyan trader camped in the hot sun before him, the camels drooling and panting, their skinny humps ribbed with sores where the cargo-crates rubbed their bony shoulders.

This morning the wind had changed direction. The end of the trading season had begun and the other merchants were closing up shop, packing their purchases tightly for the trip back across the Sahara to Timbuktu or Djenne. The guards were leaving with them, tall men from the south with indigo robes and deep black skin, their eyes hard and their hands never far from their weapons. Daoud wanted to go too.

He looked at the Libyan. It wasn't a man he recognised; he had the loose curly hair of those from north of the Sahara, though, and a paler skin than Daoud. There had been talk of difficulty on the road, of sickness in one of the desert wells. Some of the camels had died. The man had arrived desperate, was growing more so. Daoud, too, had his woes. But the Libyan didn't need to know, did he? Didn't need to know that Daoud was desperate to trade his wares before the rest of the traders departed with their iron-faced guards.

Daoud's tent was stuffy, the hot sticky wind from the north not yet cleared by the change in the weather. Daoud swatted flies away from his face with a zebra-tail whisk. He was always amazed at the number of flies out here, miles from anywhere, where there was only water and people for one month a year. The flies seemed to return with the water, and the camels.

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