The Metro people stood apart at his shop’s counter. They took turns talking so Linh had to turn back and forth.
‘It’s a generous deal, Mr Nguyen, and I just want you to hear it from me. We buy out your remaining lease. We give you an incentive payment to start up anywhere else you wish to,’ the taller boss one said.
Linh noticed the corporate embroidery of the red waratah logo on the man’s NSW Government sky blue business shirt. And the way his navy blue COVID mask was chosen to match.
Linh turned away from the counter and chose a blank key to put on the cutting machine. Doing something would help him say less when he wanted to say more. He picked a green blank key and started cutting.
The Indian card reader at the end of their arcade had once told him that green drew fortune. Like the American dollars Linh’d secretly collected during the war back home.
‘I’m sure, Mr Nguyen, you’ve talked to your daughter. She would have told you that we don’t have to offer even that and can compulsorily acquire to build the Metro,’ the woman said.
Someone had done a good job replacing the heels on her shoes, Linh saw. Her face mask wasn’t from the Chinese dollar store either.
The Metro. A Parisian name for a train to take hi-vis labourers and IT workers from the western suburbs to their jobs, Linh thought. They wanted to build their Parramatta station 25 metres below his shop.
His shop whose thousands of cut keys, repaired shoes, stitched up handbags, and engraved dog tags had paid for his family’s house in Canley Vale, visits back to Saigon for his wife, and his daughter’s law degree at Sydney Uni. He loved hearing his customers say: “Wow, that’s great” when picking something up.
His shop where during quiet times, he’d watch Vietnamese soap operas on YouTube on his iPhone and drink sweet coffee. Where he’d think about his village and the changes that came, and the boats at the end of the war, and the Lidcombe t-shirt factory where he’d saved enough from repairing sewing machines to first set up.
His shop away. Away from his youngest son who liked to embarrass him by showing him Tinder; away from making Sydney modern; away from change.
‘How about it, Mr Nguyen?,’ man asked.
‘I can go talk to Tracey directly,’ woman added.
Linh twisted the gauges and ground at the key. It screeched like the sulphur-crested cockatoos who ate the almonds his wife put out by the Hills Hoist in their backyard. Sparks flew.
He removed the “key”. Flipping the plastic shield off his face, Link used a wire brush to smooth edges on what he’d made. He remembered Tracey’s advice about what others in Parramatta were getting.
Happy with the result of his work, Linh put a tiny metallic “$” on the counter for the Metro people to see.
‘Very valuable,’ Linh said.