Let’s continue from where we left off last time.
We’re now in Caucagua’s Triangle, just a weird-shaped convergence of roads. I told you about the sawmill and the brick factory, but there’s also a so-called “supermarket”, which is little more than a glorified trucker stop where you can find a few things like ham, cheese and bread (just stuff to build an impromptu sandwich-on-the-go). And beers.
Everything here is sold at frontier town prices (at least at three times its value) since there isn’t any proper competition to keep things at bay. I avoid this place as I would with the Plague, but I’m only going there today with an objective in mind: They sell beers, so I’m always checking the locale’s trash containers for empty aluminum cans.
Well, this day I’m lucky, and I find about 60 cans, which is just a little hair above 2 pounds. This, added to what I’ll pickup along the way, will probably get me between 4 to 6 pounds of saleable scrap metal. Well, what else is there to do? With the whole country’s economy in shambles, no jobs and being paid a pittance for clearing land plots, it’s either this, start begging on the street or perhaps mug people with a knife. Do you have better suggestions?
I sincerely doubt that you do. Viable ones, I mean.
Well, back to the main road. I’ll be taking the path that will lead me to Caucagua’s downtown. Along the way I’ll meet el barrio La Tablita (Little Wood Plank Borough), which started life as just another motley group of shanties. Here, the wood and corrugated sheet metal structures have been slowly replaced by more solid brick and mortar buildings, but you can still see the traces of the former Shantytown it once had been here and there, particularly in the jumbled up layout of the streets. Raw sewage runs in the open in what should be the road’s rain gutter. There is trash everywhere, piled up in mounds that the only local garbage truck only picks up once a week. The smell in the air is rancid and reeks heavily of days-old rotting food.
Fear not, we won’t dally long in this place. But as I’m leaving the area, I hear a Psst! sound coming from the corner of a street that leads to an alleyway. It’s a young girl about 12 years old, who’s trying to call my attention. I make a questioning question from afar. She wants me to come closer. Since I refuse to do her bidding, she approaches me with determined stride. She wishes to offer me her body for the price of a meal.
Now, you must realize it’s very customary in this place to see 10 or 11-year-old girls carrying a big pregnant belly around (my home country is among the places with more underage pregnancies in the world; the government even gives these kids a grant that encourages the practice), but I’m not into dealing with this Lolita.
Not my personal taste. It may be of the liking of all those who read these lines, and then continue with their lives without caring that these things happen down here, but not mine. Also, it could even be a trap (she’s very pretty, mind you), and if I ever accepted such an offer, most probably this girl’s boyfriend would be expecting me down that alleyway from which she emerged, awaiting in ambush with a gun.
Well, it must have been the real deal anyway, since she starts proffering me a long series of gay-related insults as I walked away with a rotund No! coming out from my lips (shades of Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie anyone?).
Well, I’m almost out of Caucagua’s belt of misery… not that you’d notice, given the conditions in which most of the downtown area’s buildings are. My next stop before leaving it will be the guy who buys scrap metal; I have been lucky today, and I was able to collect 5 pounds of cans and a few insulated copper wires. The copper doesn’t bulk enough to merit selling it right now, so I keep it in my pocket to strip it bare when I arrive back to my house, later today.
The spot where I dump is little more than a corrugated sheet building with large doors at its front. The guy who buys this stuff barely acknowledges my existence and then parsimoniously weights my cans, pulls out a wad of the local currency, which is little more than colored-toilet paper these days and counts the bills as if I didn’t have any other place to go than being here, waiting for him to finish.
Of course, I’m now ready for my main errand, which is…
Oh, didn’t I tell you? Silly me.
I’m in search for fresh batteries so I can finally use my digital camera.
By the way… I spent four hours walking up and down this accursed town, visiting every bookstore, pharmacy or bazaar to see if I could buy some.
Batteries, yes, I found… but no one could guarantee me that they’re any good (some of the packs were covered with a thin coat of months-old dust).
So I walk back home empty handed. I’m not plunking money into dead batteries, folks!