The children don’t understand. What they live and scream for is not squeezed from the machine with stripes intact. No—they must be painted on, by hand, with so much care. It it almost unimaginable, the care.
My partner is a sweet turner. He holds the sweet, and turns it. I apply the stripes. He is my partner. But also, we are in love.
We work and live in the Cormack Candy Factory. Our region is Green Region 3, where sweets are painted, and nuts are shelled. At day’s end, we sweep up the shells, lay down blankets, and sleep. Mr. Cormack charges not too much rent. It is difficult to afford anything, at present.
Mr. Cormack is a powerful man. He is a great and a terrible man. But also, generous. Without him, we would have nothing. Not even a floor on which to sleep.
He is like a magician, this Cormack. I have never before seen his face. I have heard his voice, and when I turned … there was nothing. Is his a pleasing or a nightmarish face? When I gaze at the intercom, I wonder.
One evening, after the sweeping-up…
I was returning my broom to the cabinet in Hall 7. At the end of the hall was a man. His back to me. A black suit, he wore. There had been rumours of a black suit.
I moved forward, though slowly.
He was admiring a painting, this man.
I felt weak, but proceeded.
I was a few feet from him, now.
And suddenly, he turned. Hearing my light tread, he turned. The man in the black suit turned.
I looked at his face. But I did not see his face. For he wore a mask. A jewelled mask.
I trembled. And quit the hall quickly.
In the past, it was my duty to paint one hundred sweets per day, to keep my position. Now Mr. Cormack is insisting on two hundred.
My art is taxing. There is so little time. But if I cannot keep up, and work and live in this factory…
I do not even want to dream of that.
Rolli’s latest book is The Sea-Wave.
Buy him a coffee.