What Pegman Saw – Silence is golden

 “What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

WPS - Silence is golden 180728

Béatrice Hotel,  Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo | © Noé Diakubama, Google Maps

Silence is golden

We lunched in the Beatrice Hotel. The tablecloth was heavy and gleaming white. Cream curtains with a delicate carmine print covered the window and made the dazzling midday glare bearable.

Priscilla, of the International Women’s Media Foundations African Great Lakes Reporting Fellowship, scowled at the gold rim of her plate.

“I hope you realise this is paid for by wealth from conflict minerals?” she said.

“So, tell me about it,” I responded.

“Where do I start? Miners dying of lung cancer? Their children with birth defects? And all so you can have a cheap smartphone.”

“Show me!”

She furtively passed across some photographs. “Come and see,” she urged.

As she left, she said “I’ll pick you up from here tomorrow, six a.m.?”

I nodded.

As soon as she left, I was on my phone.

I didn’t hear her scream as the car hit her, reversed over her, and roared away.

25 thoughts on “What Pegman Saw – Silence is golden

    • Dear Josh
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Slavery is a continuing evil. Some of it we can’t affect – but some of it we can. The Western electronics industry is far from conscientious when it comes to verifying the source of their raw materials. We can potentially influence that.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Kelvin
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you found the story’s denouement brutal; that was fully my intention. The trade in conflict minerals is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It certainly causes premature deaths and birth defects. Worse, although most Western companies claim compliance with schemes to minimise trade in conflict minerals, in most cases they are far from diligent in auditing this themselves.
      As consumers we can change this approach.
      So, a brutal story to illustrate a brutal and shameful trade.
      The “International Women’s Media Foundations African Great Lakes Reporting Fellowship” is, as far as I can make out, a genuine organisation that has investigated conflict minerals in DRC.
      With very best wishes
      Penny
      PS I’m delighted you seem so much better now, and it’s great to see you feeling so creative!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Dahlia
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed the ambiguity of the narrator’s involvement, but it highlights a point that I could improved. I want the crucial thing to be that the narrator was responsible for Priscilla’s murder, but made sure he didn’t hear the scream. In that way he resembles the multi-national corporations who profit from omitting to take proper care of whether their supply of cobalt is official, or whether it’s from conflict ore. They too are guilty of the premature deaths of miners, and the children with birth defects. They ‘don’t hear the scream’ even though they cause it.
      So, thank you for reading so carefully, and commenting on a detail that I needed to know!
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Penny for sharing your thoughts which are laudable. Yet I would like to say that the hint of something larger is sometimes more effective than an actual fingerpointing. The hint grows stronger, leaves a mark and lingers on long after the story is over and done with. At least that is how I feel – provided of course that one latches on to the hint. Hope you are having a wonderful holiday 🙂

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  1. ouch – the ending was like BAM!

    and my favorite part of reading here today had to do with little details – imagining the gold-trimmed plate (and recalling how a teacup I once had did not do well in the microwave)
    and then the “cheap smartphone” – almost an oxymoron but maybe not – maybe you touched upon where we are at as smartphones really are everywhere and some cheap!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Yvette
      Thank you for reading and for the detail of your comments. Such feedback is very useful in helping me to improve. Knowing that the descriptions really matter, even in an ‘action’ story like this one, is very helpful.
      Although smartphones aren’t cheap, they would be more expensive if Western corporations traded more justly with suppliers of the materials that go into their phones. As consumers, we may shrug our shoulders about unjust trade practices, but in practice this means unstable governments, and exploitation of workers amounting to slavery.
      With very beat wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

      • well that really sheds light on a lot of the pricing and other dynamics (learn so much on some of the rabbit trails with flash fiction)
        – and wishing you a good day

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  2. Such a strong story – well researched and well told. And that end is particularly shocking as we’re so used to our narrators being the good guy. This narrator is most definitely not that! I loved your details in the hotel – those curtains – and that final line is powerful for being so bluntly worded. Well done Penny

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  3. Very cruel twist in the end where she transforms from an uninformed potential ally to the cause, to a soulless informant for the enemy. Well done. I think delicate details like yours are essential in portraying true cruelty.

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