The riots had been going on for days and, while Mo disliked the new government as much as the next guy, he was getting tired of living in a war zone. Every wave of protests brought a wave of repression and new deaths, spurring another wave of protests. The air was crisp and sharp – electric with the sense that a resolution is coming and it will involve blood on the cobblestones. Either the government would fall or the police would crush the movement once and for all. Mo didn’t know which way things would shake out, only that he was running low on food and with most of the grocery stores either locked up tight or looted things were looking bleak.
He picked his way through the streets carefully, doing his best to avoid both the protest encampments and the police who had taken to savagely beating anyone they caught alone who might be even remotely connected to the movement. The protests and reprisals had mostly been focused in the city core so he figured his best bet was off in the suburbs. As a student, Mo was nowhere near being able to afford a car and the cobblestones all along here had been ripped up to form barricades anyway – which of course meant no buses. Fortunately, this early in the morning the sun was barely in the sky and the streets were mostly empty.
A steady walking pace took him out of the city core and into the neighboring town, 5 kilometers in about an hour. The farmers coming in from the country to sell their produce were as unable to make the trip in as most of the people in the city were of making the trip out and they had set up an impromptu market in an abandoned lot. Either the local police had been paid off to leave them alone or someone higher up was smart enough to realize police need to eat too and had given permission – no one was talking about that part of things and Mo didn’t ask. One stand in particular caught his attention – piled high with fresh peaches from a farm just outside the city, the fruit which had been destined for urban markets was starting to go soft and over-ripe.
The farmer was desperate to sell and practically giving the crop away. It was ironic – in past protests the farmers had been key in setting up roadblocks and supporting the movement but this time around the urban unions has declared the strike in response to the murder of union activists without stopping to consider the impact that the timing would have on their rural comrades. Coming at the peak of the harvest it could hardly be worse! Mo would have expected the man to be more upset but he seemed resigned to it
“Revolutions aren’t about convenience my young friend. Sometimes you can choose when to fight and sometimes the fight chooses you.”
Maybe so. But for now, Mo was more interested in choosing the best ripe peaches. He picked 6 and handed over the money – both men laughing because there was no way to know if the paper would even be worth anything in a month.
He walked through the market and ate his breakfast (sticky peach juice inevitably running down his chin and into his beard) and almost tripped over a group of ragged children playing tag among the stands. Many of the merchants had food they knew they couldn’t sell and that was going bad and had turned a blind eye to the little hands that were helping themselves. A few days of such feasting had put the kids in a fine mood – years of worry and hunger erased from young faces, at least temporarily. For kids who usually got by on scraps, a crate of fresh peaches was a treasure more precious than anything to be found in the presidents palace.
Watching them play, Mo wondered what future held. Maybe the President’s forces would drown the movement in blood. And maybe the revolutionaries would win and end up being just as bad once in power. The world is uncertain and people almost never get what they deserve for good or ill. But watching the kids laugh, oblivious to all of it, Mo felt something hard in the pit of his stomach start to melt. The cynicism he wore like armor starting to crack. He smiled.