The Lion On The Foyer Rug

It was a massive golden beast, as awesome in its beauty as its quiet ferocity. “But how did it get there,” you ask. It happened one cold morning last winter. I had just gotten ready for work and was stepping out of my room on the second floor when I spied my six-year-old son by the stairs. He was looking down at nothing in particular. He didn’t look too happy. “What’s the matter, man?” The question elicited no change in expression, just a dull “Nothing.” Well, I knew that was untrue. You see, like any father worth his uniodized sodium chloride, I know my son. I suspected it had something to do with him realizing he had fallen asleep the night before wearing his Thomas the Train pajama pants without matching Thomas the Train pajama shirt, rather a plain old “soft” shirt – his preferred term for a white tee. Maybe it was something else. But I was faced with two options  – to either engage him and let him talk his problem out, or to supplant his current preoccupation with another. I chose the latter without hesitation. I ran my hand over his head and invited him to hold it as we made our way down the stairs. He let his left hand slide on the bannister as I let my right shoulder graze the wall, each of us contributing our shuffle to the silent melodies of morning time. Our stairs bifurcate at a mid-level landing, one flight goes to the right and ends in the foyer, the other goes left and […]

The Sound of Bangles

New short story, The Sound of Bangles, is up on Channillo. Matthew Lambton of the East India Company matches wits with an elderly lady in a hamlet on the banks of the Yamuna. — — — 1763 Somewhere Between Agra And Azizpur The cool water revived Matthew Lambton. He blinked to adjust to the afternoon sun stinging his eyes. He wiped the water from his face, and almost immediately winced as the pain at the base of his neck returned. The memory of what he endured resurfaced. He sprang up on one leg and peered around him with the exaggerated wariness of a hunted animal. The trees swayed silently in a soft breeze. Sun beams pierced the thick green ceiling of the forest and found their soft destination in the dust. They were gone. He had counted six brigands, armed with knives and sticks. His mount was gone as well, with all the West-African trinkets he had hoped to take as gifts to Azizpur. Also gone was the youth he had employed as his guide. He cursed himself at his imprudence in breaking protocol and ignoring the oft-repeated advice he had heard over the years to be wary of strangers. “Paani peeyoge?” Read more.

Living

This was it. Samuel Elijah Perschbacher kept his eyes fixed on the gaggle of tots playing in the dirt. But that wasn’t where his head was. He had picked her out when she got off the bus on the other side of the park. He followed her every move – looking about innocently, stranger in town, casual conversation with a passer-by, asking for instructions, brush sleeve here, cough there, looking in purse. Oh she was good. He watched the lady in blue circle around till she was at his Two o’clock, then she made a beeline for him seated on the parkbench. A brown bag sat next to him. He watched without looking how she floated toward him like an angel. Slow but sure steps clicked on the pavement. They echoed inside his head. It helped him focus. “Excuse me. Is anyone sitting here?” *  *  * Read the rest of it on Channillo.

A Change of Heart

My most recent submission to my short story series, The Gulmohur Tales. Abdullah Rasheed stepped off the quaint cobblestone pavement and entered the coffee shop. At thirty-two, he was an attractive man with large, caring eyes, a prominent nose, and a headful of wavy brown hair. His lips blended into ruddy cheeks in an ever-present smile. A lean and muscular frame showed through the snug apparel he wore, topped by a bright orange Cashmere sweater and a tan sports jacket – attire that a certain brand of confident yuppie specializes in pulling off without even trying.

The Night Visitor

A long time ago Walad rubbed his eyes to mark the end of another long day of toil. He slipped under his blanket and felt the first wave of fatigue break over him when he heard a knock at the door. It took some effort to break out of sleep’s sweet embrace, but Walad managed it somehow. He threw a shawl over his shoulders as he ambled over to the door of his little cottage and opened it cautiously. An old man stood on his doorstep. He was dressed in robes of white and gray. His long flowing beard spoke to many years of wisdom and wise company. His eyes sparkled with a curious intelligence and a thick hood covered his head but for a lock of gray that floated down a high cheekbone and curled up into his beard. “I… am Sanad. I have journeyed four days from Alqaryah,” he said. Walad’s eyes went wide with excitement and he ushered the old man into his cottage and onto the only chair that occupied his living room. He then rushed into the kitchen and brewed a pot of tea for his guest. Walad poured out a cup for the old timer and enquired after his journey, for that was from the etiquette of receiving a weary traveler. He knew the old man must have news for him, but decided to wait until the news was dispensed at his guest’s own moment of choosing. The gray-haired Sanad took long sips of […]

The Wager

Surat, India 1904 “I can prove it, darling.” William Mortimer smiled smugly at his wife. He lay back on the toasty blanket and stretched himself out in the late afternoon Surat sun. Rachel laughed lightheartedly. “There is no need for that, dear. I don’t savvy your silly diversions.” William chuckled. Then all of a sudden, as if seized by a revelation, he sat up with excitement. “How about a little wager, woman?” He had that familiar childish sparkle in his eye. Rachel still had trouble deciding whether she loved it or loathed it. She smiled and returned to putting away picnic paraphernalia. The sun still had some degrees left to climb down before extinguishing itself in the silver waters of the Arabian Sea. “Come on. It will be jolly good. If I fail to prove my point, I shall, ” he paused for effect, “take you with me to Ahmedabad. You’ll join me and the Commissioner on our tours of the schools. What do you say to that?” That got Rachel’s attention. Staying at the bungalow and mingling with the locals was undoubtedly enjoyable, but traveling the land – now that was far more appealing. “And what do you intend to exact from me if you win?” she asked, keeping her eyes fixed on his. He shrugged his shoulders, “Nothing, really… except that you do my bidding without question.” Rachel rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Never!” William laughed aloud till tears streamed down his face. “Very well then, it […]

A Bus To Triplicane

Just released a new short story on my Channillo series The Gulmohur Tales. Excerpt below. — — — — Madras, India July 1996 John Perry sucked thirstily on his straw, tilting the coconut into just the right angles to get the straw into every last pocket of sweet water. Nectar! Using his free hand, he wiped the sweat from his brow and grinned to see his second handkerchief surrender to complete saturation. The first one still clung to the back of his neck and began to feel like a part of him. He handed the coconut back to the vendor with a nod and a sincere “Thank you”. The man smiled back as he lopped off the cap surrounding the mouth of the coconut and and cleaved the shell open with a single perfectly aimed strike of his machete. He handed the open halves back to John, and gestured to him to use the fibrous cap to spoon the tender white fruit out with. John responded excitedly, transporting chunks of the sweet kernel into his mouth. “Good?” Asif enquired as he handed the vendor his own spent coconut and waved down the offer to cut it open. “Mmm hmm,” John responded without interrupting his snack, his face contorted in a show of pleasure that needed no explanation. It was John’s last day in Madras. Asif had played the role of tour guide extremely well. A chauffeur by profession, he was on  loan to John from a friend. Asif’s mandate had been […]