“Warehouses and All” by Phil Slattery.

Once again, I thank Lucy for publishing another of my works. This was originally published in 2009 by Six Sentences, which challenges writers to tell a story in only six sentences. It is a wonderful exercise in being concise. I had written the story in another, much longer form a few years before that. I think that one was published somewhere, but I am not certain. This story is based on actual events. While I was in Egypt in 1989, I happened to meet an assistant agricultural attaché for Sudan. She relayed this story to me as having actually happened in Sudan. The witness to the event was not an oil worker though. That was my invention. When I wrote this version years later, I was in a hurry and couldn’t recall whether it happened in Sudan or Somalia, so I arbitrarily chose Somalia. The overall theme of the story remains the same in any event.

Lucy's Works and Co

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…

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