I was not about to step aside for Kaptan Berker.
His gaze on the front of the room, the middle-caste barge master smoothed his greasy hair and sniffed like I was a fool for not reacting to his general magnificence. The many bells on my headscarf jingled as I shook my head. Magnificent belly maybe. He didn’t run a full ship. Just a barge. My back to the man, I leaned against the floor-to-ceiling elephant tusk that marked the license line’s half-way point.
The light from the window’s pointed arches had gone from morning’s white to noon’s yellow as I’d waited behind middle-caste merchants and low-caste sailors like myself. Only now could I stretch my neck and glimpse the bearded men and steely-eyed women whose seal rings would allow me to continue shipping small loads of grain and poor passengers across the sharp waters of The Pass.