Update: November 19, 2019, 4:42 a.m. “Warehouses and All”

Phil Slattery portrait

Phil Slattery
March, 2015

As I often do, I am having trouble sleeping tonight. So I have been surfing the net and going through my electronic files looking for some flash fiction that I recently wrote and that I would like to submit somewhere. However, in the process of doing that, I ran across some early works, one of which I thought I would share here. I have not published it in any of my collections. It was originally published in the online magazine “Six Sentences” over ten, maybe fifteen years ago. The main requirement for stories to be published in “Six Sentences” was that they had to be six sentences or less in length.

The story is entitled “Warehouses and All”. It is based on a true story told to me in 1989 by a woman who had been an assistant agricultural attache to the US embassy in Somalia. At the time, I was working in the Defense Attache Office in Cairo. One weekend, I decided to take a trip to Luxor to see the temple and Valley of the Kings. The lady and I shared a horse-drawn carriage for several minutes. I forget our destinations.  In the story, I changed the narrator to an American ex-pat working in the Somali oilfields for various reasons. Otherwise, the story is very close to the story she related to me. As you can see, it was quite a challenge to reduce her story to only six sentences, but I believe I pulled it off well. If Six Sentences is still up and running, you may be able to find the original story. I received several compliments on it.

By the way, while I was in Luxor, I stayed at the Jolie Ville Hotel. Apparently, it is still doing well. I recommend staying there if you are ever in Luxor.

 

Warehouses and All

I met the world-weary expatriate American at a garden party in Egypt in ’89, several months after he had left the Somali oilfields. He remembered that outside his barracks near Mogadishu there had been warehouses full of rice donated by foreign charities to combat the perpetual famine. The impoverished, inept government had no trucks to distribute the rice and fighting among factions within the government insured none could be arranged while their arcane laws kept them from simply opening the doors. So the rice sat as starving women tried to glean the few grains they could from what had fallen off trucks hauling it in or from what had leaked out through cracks in the walls. One night he awoke to commotion and found that the warehouses were in flames. “The rice had sat so long that it had rotted, so the government burned it―warehouses and all,” he said with a look that spoke volumes about his exasperation with the world.

Hasta luego.

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