• Manuel had passed the fish on his way up the road. It was eighteen to twenty inches long and its silvery scales were covered with dirt. The gill flaps opened like two gash wounds on the sides of its head as it thrashed helplessly in the gutter. Next to it a boy leaned against the railings, his rod and line dangling out over the floating garbage and the stream of brown, stinking waste which trickled from a pipe in the wall below. The boy wore a faded pair of football shorts. He was perhaps nine or ten years old, barefoot and grubby, and his skin was marked with insect bites.

    The fish gasped, then made one last convulsive leap, throwing itself in the direction of the river, and landed on the pavement with a thud. There it lay motionless for a moment, exhausted no doubt by the effort. The boy looked down at it, turned and kicked it back into the gutter.

    Manuel had not paid much attention to the fish as he was preoccupied. He had just been to look at an apartment and he was considering how he could afford the rent. Accommodation was hard to find in the city and a place like this didn't come up very often. The apartment he and his wife were currently living in was so small their six-year-old son had to live with his wife's parents during the week. They had been trying to move for two years. He took out a cigarette and leaned against the railing, looking down the street at the boy fishing.

    Further along the quay two figures were approaching. He watched as they wandered slowly towards him. They looked to be in their early thirties and were obviously tourists, Americans he would guess. The woman had shoulder-length reddish hair and pale freckled skin. She was slim and athletic looking. Her partner was tall and flabby, his stomach protruding from under his T-shirt. He wore knee-length shorts, sunglasses and his long hair was tied in a pony tail. They came slowly along the dusty street of warehouses. Tourists were not uncommon in the city but they usually kept to the old port with its rococo churches and stately customs house, or took the organized cruises along the reef. It was rare to see them in this district and Manuel assumed they were lost.