The Sweet Stripener


The children, don’t understand. What they live, beg for and dream for is not squeezed from the machine with stripes intact. No — the stripes 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; also, where nuts are shelled. At day’s end, we sweep up the nut 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 all 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. When I gaze at the intercom, I wonder, what his face must look like. If it’s a pleasing, or a nightmarish face.

One evening, after the sweeping up, I was returning my broom to the broom cabinet in Hall 16. 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. Trembling, I moved forward. He was admiring, a painting, this hidden man. I became weak. But proceeded. I was … perhaps six feet from him, now.

And suddenly, he turned. Hearing my light tread, he turned. The man in the black suit turned.

I looked up, at his face. But … 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. The thought of it, makes me shake. 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 think, about that.