As he ate his lunch, Atanasi Sapat, from time to time, looked up to view the new entrants to the restaurant. Perhaps, he thought, he could size up the timber dealers. He also looked at how Anita Pese considered them, because any interest she would have on them, might indicate his interest, too. And, particularly if she looked his way, he would consider that it would be the person she wanted him to meet about going to the Gorome forest. Yet for a considerable time, Pese merely went to the client and took their orders and served them. There was another other girl attendant who served the customers, but Sapat took no concerted interest in her since he considered that Pese was his useful contact.
Presently, a pot-bellied man sauntered into the restaurant, looked around and then went to a table at the corner, to the right, where Sapat sat. Immediately, Pese went to the customer. They engaged in a conversation, and by the way
she giggled familiarly at him, Sapat regarded him as a regular customer.
She went to get his order, which included two sachets of Animal Whisky. Sapat thought that with his bulging stomach, he could easily imbibe the stuff; and not be the worse for it. After she had served him, Pese came to his table.
“OK, EE,” she addressed him, glancing in the man’s direction, “That man you see there, is a driver of a Hino truck, and he is one of the people who ferries logs from the Gorome forest. I have told him about your wanting to travel there; he says you can go and talk to him about it. Since you haven’t finished eating, I can transfer you to his table and you talk about going to the forest.”
“Very well, Pese, let me join him,” Sapat rejoined.
He stood up and let Pese gather his plate of food and bottle of soda on to a tray that she had carried along. She went ahead of him and set his plate of food at the table, opposite to the pot-bellied man. At the time, the man was biting off a corner of the satchet of the Animal Whisky and sucked the fiery liquid into his mouth.
Sapat sat down and waited for the man to contain himself from his drink; and then he greeted him: “They say when a person is eating, you do not greet him, but since you are drinking, I can say, Hallo.”
“OK, hallo to you, too, You haven’t continued with your meal either,” the man said, indicating the plate of food before Sapat. “That girl told me that you can be my customer; and that, you want to purchase timber from Gorome forest. O.K, I am here. In a short while I shall be driving there. So, talk,” the man added.
“I am Emilio Emong. As the girl told you I want to buy some timber. I am especially interested in poles which can be used for scaffolding. I am a dealer in them for some builders in the city; that means they should be long and slim trees. Are they available in the forest?” Sapat finally asked.
“Call me Genatio. All kinds of tress are available. You will talk to the people cutting them so that they select the kind of timber you are after. To fill a lorry like mine will take time. And of course you have to pay in advance sizing the number of poles that will fill the lorry,” the man called Genatio said.
“O.K.,” Sapat said. “Shall we finish eating first, and continue the conversation later.”
Presently, each of them fell to his own plate of food before him, Genatio from time to time sipping from his sachets of Animal Whisky, while Sapat drank from his glass of Stoney. Genatio considered Sapat as not the kind of person he usually dealt with in this timber business; but then he thought that one could not place a ceiling on the kind of people dealing in the trade. Perhaps Sapat was merely dealing to sell it to builders in the city; and apart from knowing the type of timber they wanted, he had no interest at all in it, save for the money it would bring him.
On his part, Sapat sized up Genatio and considered that he had to be very circumspect on what he told him. You never knew the persons you dealt with, he thought. He was on very slippery ground where information was concerned. Again, he mulled in his mind that there were people of all types who were informers of the Government.
And considering Genatio, he could not be certain that the man had not grown fat from the easy proceeds of people in the Government.
Sapat also thought that if Genatio was a regular trucker of timber from Gorome Forest, then, most certainly he would have come to have been affected by the events that he, Sapat, was investigating. This would have been especially, since the attack on the Prime Wife’s convoy, more than a month ago, would have interrupted his business of ferrying timber from the forest.
Also he had to be cautious about the manner in which he would talk to Genatio, lest he suspect that he was not actually a timber dealer, but had other interests. He had to talk gingerly, while all the time assessing the direction the conversation was going; and not divulging his intentions. In this case he had to deal with the issue of Genation leaving him behind at the forest area, while he tried to reconnect with the villager he had initially interviewed on the story. This had to be carefully handled.