The Uptown Gal With a Downtown Edge

In just a few long strides, the elegant woman clicked black heels across the expanse of the opulent lobby and smoothly parked herself and her wheeled luggage by the registration desk. She rested her handbag on the counter, ready to take out her wallet if needed.

“You have a reservation for me? Jeena Mann. That’s Jeena with a J. And Mann – with two Ns.”

The clerk at the registration desk logged into a computer, looked up and smiled. There was a friendly yet distant air about Jeena that usually got her prompt, courteous service.

“Yes Ms. Mann. Welcome back to the Mayfair. We have upgraded you to the executive room on the top floor.  If you need anything please allow us to assist you.”

“Thank you Ian,” Jeena said noting the lapel badge. “Perhaps you can check on show ticket availability for tonight. Comedy or drama will be fine. No musicals.”

Jeena walked up to the elevator and allowed herself a long sigh. Today had gone badly. She had traveled to London for a routine planning meeting that turned out to be anything but routine. She blamed overconfidence for not having anticipated how budget negotiations would go. How could she have missed the changed  dynamics in the room with a new director in the mix? What would she do next?

At fifty, Jeena, looked forty and was at the peak of her professional career. She dressed to create an aura of uptown chic:  enough flair to draw attention but conservative enough to blend in. This uptown Jeena who skilfully negotiated thorny contracts, was admired for staying calm under pressure and for her ability to have empathy with a great diversity of people.

This was the Jeena most people met.But uptown Jeena harbored another; one with a downtown edge that only a few got to meet.

It was getting to be midnight. Unable to sleep, Jeena looked out of the window: the sidewalk was deserted with only an occasional bus rumbling along on the main road. Is it safe to go for a walk at this time? Why not? she thought. Decision made, she could already feel energy flowing into her body as she changed into frayed jeans and faded black t-shirt. She shrugged on her leather jacket and grabbed the black and white checkered men’s  scarf she carried just for such an outing. How amazing, she though as she made the final preparations, that I have fallen into my old routine so effortlessly. So naturally.

Jeena stepped out onto the sidewalk along the main road. She was nervous at first and felt awkward as it had been several years since she last did this. The yellow glow of  streetlights cut through the fog as she walked. Each step gave her greater confidence till she ventured off the boulevard into a back alley. She sidestepped an upturned trash can and passed by the drunk without flinching. She  carefully noted details and markers, counting the doorways so she could work her way back when she was ready.  That was her trick – no matter how well she knew an area she always retraced her steps back rather than try a new road. Like a little memory game to hone her observation skills and build confidence.

It happened on the way back when she turned the corner from the side road onto the main sidewalk.

Maybe it was the sharp turn she made as she exited the back alley or maybe it was the fog or maybe she was tired and had started to relax now that she was almost back to the hotel, but she didn’t take the corner well and bumped into the man leaning against the building wall.

“Excuse me,” she said. She stepped away to avoid him, trying to regain her balance.

“What’s your hurry luv?” He stood blocking her path. He accentuated a threatening stance with a crooked leer.

She saw a muscular man of medium height and build, dressed in a tweed jacket and slacks that  had seen better days. He was clearly stronger than her so she decided it was best not to make eye contact. She looked over his shoulder; the entrance to the Mayfair was visible in the distance – too far for the night watchman to see her or help if anything was to happen.

She was on her own.

“Excuse me,” she repeated and tried to get past him keeping fists tight to control her shaking.

“Hey, can you spare some cash? I need to buy train fare to go back home. To Scotland. Its far from here.” He was eyeing the small black money pouch peeking out from under her jacket. “You know how it is – spent all my money at the pub and now you come along as my guardian angel.”

“Here – take it all. This is what I have.” Jeena unzipped the outer pocket of her pouch, took out a five-pound note and flipped the pouch upside down to show that it was empty. This was all part of the plan. She carried some money in a visible place so it was easy to extract.

“That’s not enough.” He leaned over and swiftly grabbed her pouch. He opened the inside zipper and with a flourish held out another ten pound note.  Ok. This too was on plan.

He would expect her to hide something. Let him find it.

“Ok. Ok. Really – this is all I have.” He was so close now that she could see his brown, stained teeth and smell the alcohol on his breath. To get some distance, Jeena backed up one step, unhooked the pouch from her shoulder and held it out at arm’s length while trying to get around him.

“Give us a kiss then. This is not enough money.”

This was not what she had expected. Usually after she showed an empty pouch she would be left alone. Where had she gone wrong?

Then she realized her mistake. Backing up was a mistake. Now she was up against the wall and he had his arms on either side of her pinning her down against the wall. She could not move.

“No kiss,”she said putting both hands on his chest in an effort to push him back.

He moved one arm down to her hip and started groping around the back. Worse! What does he want now? Think Jeena. Think.

All senses on alert she focused in the moment. Then she realized what he was doing and she almost smiled. Out of habit she had packed away all credit cards, personal identification, passport and extra money in her suitcase before setting out for the walk.

She knew he would find nothing in her back pockets and she had no money belt under her shirt. She never wore a money belt believing them to be trouble because you ended up having to practically disrobe to get any money out. Plus it showed a lack of trust.

She let him grope for  bit so he could see for himself that she had nothing on her person. More importantly it gave her time to coil her muscles so when suddenly, using the back of the wall for support, she pushed hard he had to step back to keep his balance giving her enough room to get away from the wall, onto the middle of the sidewalk.

“I don’t want to” she said. “give you a kiss, hug you or give anymore money. I have been good to you. Now it is your turn. You have enough for bus fare; go home now.”

Maybe it was the confidence in her voice, or the subtle shift in power when she was the one telling him what to do or maybe it was the concern of someone wanting to get a drunk safely home,  but all of a sudden he turned around and started to walk away.

Jeena stood her ground and watched him walk and then break into a run. Just then a bus stopped close by. Jeena asked the driver as he opened the door “How much is the bus fare to the last stop?”

“Five pounds.” Now she knew she had been right about the money. “OK thanks. No I am not getting on. Just asking.”

From a distance the man shouted, “I just want some love.”

The bus rolled away and Jeena took a satisfied breath. She had wanted to make sure the man saw her talking to the bus driver. She wanted him to know that he could not con her; that what she gave him was because she wanted to.

Not because she was afraid.

When the man had disappeared Jeena walked into the Mayfair lobby and up to her room. She got into her pajamas, and called her husband back in California. All well he asked. All well she said.

“Did the negotiations go your way?” he asked.

“No. I didn’t see some things coming. Maybe I was losing my edge. But its ok now. I’m back.” She did not say anything about the walk. Why worry him? “Good night darling. See you at home tomorrow,” she said as she turned off the light and instantly fell asleep.

 

Skyler Power

Skyler Knight Walker had been aware for some time now that he was born with a special power. He had discovered it one night, a few years ago, when forgetfully, he ventured out of his hideout without the bubble suit. At that time, he didn’t think much of it. After all, there was not too much more in the forest he could see than he could with the suit. It was probably one more thing that set him apart from others who lived in the city. It was good of course. He felt more alive because he experienced sensations that he did not in the suit. He loved the breeze as it played on his cheeks and the cool moist touch of leaves as he brushed past them. But that was about it. Skyler had not yet discovered that he tired less, ran faster and felt emotions that others did not.

So it came as a surprise when one day he discovered that he needed to keep his power a secret or he would surely be terminated.

As Skyler had grown older, he took to crossing the low wall that separated the forest from the city without his bubble suit. It was just a bit more comfortable and at night he only saw stray dogs, cats and other household animals roaming the streets. He saw no danger in it. It was strictly against the rules for any citizen to be out between the hours of midnight and 4 am but the only people out at that time were the night patrolmen and as long as he avoided them he could roam freely. They had orders to shoot curfew violators on sight. Since this was not something they really wanted to do, they would talk loudly, bang their heavy batons on the pavement and occasionally even shoot a stray cat.

By the time he was 10 yrs old Skyler knew every boulevard, building and back alley in the city. One day he gave food from his pocket to a stray dog and the dog wagged his tail so happily that Skyler found himself going to visit the dog the next night and again after that. He named the dog Rudy and started going to the same back alley to look for Rudy every night. He did not realize that his night walks became less random and a little more predictable.

It took the patrolmen about a week to start suspecting a night walker till one day they lay in wait in an alley near the dog.

Another reason Skyler could avoid the night patrolmen easily was that he could smell them long before they saw him. So that night when he found Rudy wagging his tail but smelling of patrolmen he was immediately on his guard. Still, that they would shoot at him was something he had not expected. After all, his was a peaceful country.

He ran fast, ducking behind large trash cans that pinged in pursuit.

“Catch him. He is Tribal.” He heard them yelling as they followed. “If we take him alive, even better, but we get a bounty in any case.”

Skyler eventually cleared the last hurdle to the forest road, wondering all the while. Why they were chasing him so hard for so long?

Taking shots at people was rare. It was much worse than the normal punishment for being out at night without a work pass. Skyler, realized he was doing something worse than breaking the night curfew though he did not know what.

He ran a circuitous route back, instinctively knowing that he should not reveal his hideout.

It was only after he was safely back home, taking deep breaths to slow his heart rate down that it occurred to him what the commotion was about. What had the patrolmen said? Had they called him Tribal?

What gave him away? What was a Tribal?

It must be the bubble suit. He wasn’t wearing it and they all had suits on.

That was his special power. The dog Rudy loved him for it. The patrolmen wanted to catch him for it.

Good or bad, his power was enough to get him terminated. He remembered the letter his Great Granma had given him.

Maybe now he was to embark on the journey he had been born to take.

From now on, he resolved he would be more careful. And his nightly forays took on a new purpose: to discover the mission he was born to fulfill.

Why Do I Blog? A Crisis of Identity

More specifically, why do I write on a blog site?

After about 2 years of maintaining Ramn Wright  I have stumbled upon the answer through sheer dumb luck. Or you might say it was written in stars.

Soon after I wrote my first post , I knew why I should not blog. It takes time away from my “book-writing”; I spend gratuitous time tallying likes and comments and my blogging skills have not improved. And I am not even going to mention the guilty pleasure of philandering with fonts.

Now, not knowing why I do something does not stop me from doing it and its also not something that concerns me. But a few weeks back I found out that some publishers will not accept material that has been published online. So I asked myself – why do I write online? I love software but I am not writing software. I love my professional writing but that is not what Ramn Wright is about.

So why do I blog? It was just yesterday that a series of tangential events led to an epiphany of epic proportions.

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Color Me Happy

Pistachio ice cream, Tangerine whip. I read the names of the colors as I hold my mother’s hand by her index finger, tightly, while she chatters on with the man behind the desk of the paint store.

What kinds of names are these I think: not green, not orange but pistachio ice cream, tangerine whip!

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Allison, has never mentioned colors in this way. In fact we are learning about colors of the rainbow and I know the seven colors ROY G BIV by heart. Mrs. Allison says I am a good student and very smart because I raised my hand in class the other day and explained how a rainbow was made by the sunlight reflecting through those tiny droplets of water. Actually, I am not so smart. What a cool trick Mrs. Allison has taught us – that’s what helps me remember the colors; but Pistachio ice cream? Where is that in ROY G BIV?

Pistachio ice cream is what I love best when I come home after school for my afternoon snack. Tangerines are my favorite fruit because I love the smell of citrus oil that sprinkles on my hand when I push my thumb through the skin on the top to open the fruit. My mother gives me fruit as a treat after I do my homework and I usually do that after I come home from school in the afternoon before I go out to play at my friend Anna’s house.

Today, I ran all the way home from school since my mother and I are shopping for new paint for my room. My mother is so confident as she talks to the man behind the desk and I squeeze her hand to let her know I am still there. She loves me and I love her and we are going to get a color that suits us both. And this is it I realize. We are happy as we shop and Tangerine whip is the color of happiness like ours, Pistachio ice cream is the color of love like ours and that’s why these colors are not just green, not just orange but also ice cream.

She bends down and hugs me. “Happy Birthday Sweetie.”

All The World We Cannot See

Dear Granma,

I am writing this note from my Bubble in the Incarceration Habitat. I have committed the most heinous of crimes: Newborn Endangerment. To that they have added Torture and Treachery against the State and a trial date will be set.

But I cannot wait for the trial. They don’t know about the Hideout. Yet. It will take them a week or so but that will be all you need. That is why I cannot wait.

I did what I had to and I have no regrets. I would do it again. They know this and cannot allow any more people to find out than already do. So a trial will not be allowed  and if it is it will be a sham. An open trial could lead to a rebellion on a scale we have not seen since your days.

Despite detailed planning, something went wrong with my Bubble. My womb got stressed and I went into labor while riding a public bus on the way to work. State Agents rushed me to Healers Habitat and my baby was born there and not in the Hideout as I had planned.

My baby is a boy, Granma.

I did the unthinkable.

I snatched my boy from the doctor, slapped his bottom and cleared his nose and lungs. He let out a scream.

At first they were in shock. The doctor recovered first and set emergency procedures in motion. Sirens went off. I was put on life support and charged with Newborn Endangerment. Baby was moved to Infant Nebulizer.

But what can they do? He is breathing air already. The computer will have no checklist to handle the situation. They will let him be while they figure it out.

They won’t drown him. At least not yet.

I want my baby to have the life I have heard in your stories from 100 years ago. I want my boy to breathe fresh air, eat ripe fruit, make friends, make love and yes if it must be so, make enemies.

I want him to see everything not just what shows on the Bubble Visor.

I suppose they will close his air passageways. I don’t know. I am hoping you get this in time. As a notarized Breath Elder you have some rights we do not. You are allowed to see more.

The State must control us – else the deviants will destroy society as we know it. I know that. I know that State Scientists are working to create the perfect Global Habitat.

But I don’t want to create this New World.  I think the scientists have gone too far; we are ruled by paranoia and the confines of our Habitat get tighter everyday. We choose not to see the world to avoid danger and have adapted our bodies so.

My son will stop this madness.

I ask you one favor Granma. Take Baby to the Hideout. He will survive on his own there. You can leave him there and no one will know. He will come out himself when he is ready.

Tomorrow I will ask for a visit with you and give you this letter. Then I will unplug myself to create a distraction.

Hideout details are in the enclosed map.

Note: This post was inspired by The City and the City by China Miéville.

I was intrigued by his world in which our habits of “unseeing” allow us to ignore that which does not directly affect us. But he posits no explanation, scientific or otherwise; Rather he presents it as a thriller in police procedures.

I have tried to imagine how his world might come about. The title is a nod to a favorite book.

I Pledge Allegiance. Twice.

APJ Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India passed away on July 27 2015.

August 15 2015, India turned 68 years old.We celebrated independence day and honored APJ: his dedication to science, education and patriotism to India.

In these days of deep divisions, I believe, in death Abdul Kalam wanted to send us a strong message.

APJ, a Muslim born of Indian soil, wanted to remind us what life of a good human being looks like: learning that leads to acceptance of all; dedication to the soil befitting a patriot, generosity for its own reward. APJ, who had the highest honor in India had never held on to any money that came his way. He wanted to remind us what it means to be Indian.

Born in India, living in America, I celebrate July 4th as well as August 15th.. Because I celebrate America, does not make me less Indian and vice versa. There is no conflict in my soul about divided loyalties. I pledge allegiance to both flags. I think this comes from having spent my early years in independent India with role models like APJ.

I was born in 1948, independent India. My parents, instilled in me a sense of responsibility: to nurture and develop what they had strived so hard and so long for –  in birthing a nation based in secular values; where we awoke to a morning of church bells that pealed alongside Hindu chants and Muslim namaaz. We said Eid mubarak and shubh Diwali irrespective of religion. Festivals were for celebrating – for fun, for a chance to get together. We went to midnight mass on Christmas eve and sang carols.

We spoke different languages but always understood one another. We ate meat or we did not: it was a choice Different food, clothing, customs were to be celebrated.

Every child knew Nehru’s mantra: Unity in Diversity.

Prior to independence, India had British colonizers and even before that Muslim invaders and kings. With independence all that was forgiven. At home and school, we were taught to respect every citizen of India and to respect our differences. We knew history but we found it filled with gifts: the unifying English Language of the Raj, art, music and poetry of the Mughals and mystical food flavors of the subcontinent.

We took pride in being multi-hued.

So today when July 4th rolls around, I feel just as patriotic as I do on August 15th. Because in America also we take pride in celebrating people of different races, different religions. We work towards forming a just society with freedom and opportunity for our citizens. We broaden our minds with music of the world.

We don’t let history divide us.

Blogging 101 -Make a prompt your own – Prompt – what does being patriotic mean to you?

Breath of Life

Some topics are best said in verse. All Lives Matter by Elan Mudrow where “gunshots take only a few seconds” and “breath shortens in fear, or is it in readiness..?” is one such poem.

First, I was drawn to the idea of allowing our breath to take over in times of stress. Breathing is the first sign of life and first responder when life is threatened. Humans are hardwired for fight or flight. Breath can help decide – run from danger or face it to breathe again.

Second, Vibrant of Blabberwocking! fame, besides posting fun comments about my post on themes advised I take up Pranayama, otherwise known as breathing exercises. I used to do them so I can say with certitude that a daily Pranayama habit has magical therapeutic qualities: a few seconds with your inner OM give 24 hours of a sharply honed mind-body connection. But I have stopped. Why?

I normally don’t follow poetry blogs, but I appreciate that a good poem can juxtapose complexity and  commonality with such simplicity that it takes your breath away.

Blogging 101: Day Nine: Get Inspired By the Neighbors

Day Five: Love Your Theme

A funny thing happened at the gym. There I was, sweating on the treadmill, thinking about themes, not getting anywhere. Then it so happened that I looked up and the TV monitor facing me advised “Life is too short. Have an affair.”

Before you get the wrong idea, let me just up and say I love Blogging 101. In fact I love it so much, this is my second time taking it.

So why do we try new themes? We try new themes because they are there. One thing I can tell you: I Love  themes.

In fact when I have a writing block I just go and fool around with themes. Its easy come easy go, no commitment, no hard feelings. And nobody knows; like you are Vegas bound instead of your desk. With themes, hours flit by like seconds while seconds seem like hours when I write. That critic inside me is silent. And those widgets – best toys ever – some give instant gratification and for variety others confound me (bugs – a programmer knows and loves her bugs).

Day 5 assignment says “nobody is going to spend more time on your blog than you.” Right there in the middle of the page.

Now I’m not calling that a low blow –  it’s just fact. I am practical that way.

I tried the Basic Black: sometimes I fancy myself a minimalist. Then I tried a theme heavy on the photos because my professional life is pixels (not pixellated please) and I feel obligated. I tried a verbose theme because I find myself introverted too.

Like the TV said – every theme speaks to me because I have no idea what I will be day-to-day.

Yes, I try themes more often than I like – a guilty pleasure and I don’t want anyone to know its 3 hours I could have spent writing. So I go back to the theme I have had since I started my blog.

How about you?

Otter! Otter!

Otterville : A Play in 2 Acts

Sea-otter-bay_11

Ivy lay on her back and stared at me. On cue, she rolled, flipped and squealed. Then the rest of the company came onto the water tank and took on their roles. Quite a few were gymnasts; but there was no shortage of clowns either – fools, as Shakespeare might cast…..

Ivy stars as junior surrogate mother after having successfully played companion animal for many years. 3 recently rescued wild pups (who supposedly know nothing) must be taught to groom themselves and crack open shellfish to get at the nourishment inside. Even though otters in the wild  have one pup only, Ivy is up to the task and shows no favoritism among her 3. But there must have been one that was special.

Act 1 ends with one baby otter lying on Ivy’s stomach as she floated away off-stage  – on her back.

Do you know why otters lie on their back?

Unlike other cold water inhabitants, Otters don’t have fat to keep warm. They have hair. By trapping air into mega-millions of hair on their body they create a protective fur. It’s why Otters were almost hunted to extinction. But the feet (flippers?) and hands (flippers?) don’t have hair so they stick them out of the cold water to prevent heat loss. Well that’s what the narrator said but I am convinced it’s because Ivy was waving at me; and she soon had baby otters doing it too.

I waved back.

Act 2: Simulation Stimulation. Four fully grown adult females squeezed, whacked, slimed, swirled and smashed plastic tubes that had fresh frozen shrimp (nothing but the best for our players) trapped inside The tubes dangled about and moved but the otters persevered. It could be sheer merriment or it could be purposeful. Suddenly, one player popped up against the Plexiglas wall just in front of a fellow audience member, who happened to be a boy of about 7, and went – whack!

The look on the child’s face – Priceless!

Cast members floated off-tank as we clapped and called Author, Author; or should I say Otter! Otter! 

Being ex-HP and connected (yup that’s us – high-powered and well-connected as I used to say about my router) we got us a photo-op with Julie Packard (tallest one in the back row). We also got a backstage tour because we includes EmGee – otter stage hand and scrubber extraordinaire; among other things she keeps the sets clear and clean so everyone gets the best seat in the house.

JuliePackard

I bet, each one of us in an audience of about 50 felt the otters performed just for us. Isn’t what they say about Sir Whatchamacallhim;  when he says “To be or not to be….”  it is just for you?

otters2

Credits                       

Producer : David Packard

Director : Julie Packard

Playwright : Monterey Bay Aquarium Staff

Pics : Internet and Betty

Route 15 From Las Vegas

“..two roads diverged in the wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference…”: Robert Frost

Roy jammed the 10 gallon hat on his head as he settled down on the hood of his Pontiac thunderbird. This time it looked to be a long wait and the sun was a scorcher. He squinted into the sun and stared sullenly at her retreating figure.

He was in no mood to chase her.

Ten minutes later and she still hadn’t looked back. Roy shifted his position on the hood trying to get comfortable but it wasn’t working. He was sweating buckets already. 5 more minutes, unless she turns to look back, I am riding this baby right back home he thought.

Teach her a lesson.

She walked straight ahead, in the middle of the highway:  swaying slightly in high heels, white dress hugging her slim waist but swirling below the knees, the tiny yellow sunflowers just about disappearing in the folds of the skirt but reappearing with every long stride.

He could clearly see blonde hair flowing down her swan neck, glinting as they caught the noon rays.

But he couldn’t see the welts on her bare shoulders. She was too far for that.

Roy almost forgot they were there. They don’t matter he thought. She heals fast.

She shimmered in the desert haze, ethereal, with an inborn ease that seemed unaware of the sweltering sun. God, she’s beautiful. Sexy too.

And totally unprepared for the desert road. He grinned. It must be at least 140 degrees he figured.

Route 15 out of Las Vegas going to Los Angeles stretches straight as an arrow for miles and miles with no shelter on either side, except for the tall thin electric poles that barely cast a shadow in the midday sun. even the shadow of a passing big rig can be a relief. Not much traffic today. No special reason he thought. It is midweek. No weekenders that typically crowd the highway, just the odd trucker and random traveler.

Nothing to do but wait.

Roy tilted his hat for a better shade angle. He couldn’t take his eyes off that swaying body. Should he just get in the car, drive up to her, open the door, and ask her to get back in? It would be so easy. So much easier than baking in the sun, he thought.

No. This time, dammit, it’s going to be different. She would look back; wave for him to come get her. Then and only then he would go get her. Roy waited.

She kept walking away.

Beautiful yes, but obstinate as a mule. But, didn’t he know that already?

Last week for instance, she embarrassed him no end: tried running away again and when he went to get her she complained about the sex. He had had to discipline her before she let go of her whining. But this time he hadn’t stopped himself – the marks showed and she couldn’t go to work. He made up a bullshit story at the club.

He saw her for the first time when she was trying to run away after a beating from her father. They lived in the same trailer park. The yelling and shouting was so loud, he had to go see. He had brought her home and told her old man to leave her alone or else.

That was two years ago.

Could she stay in his trailer? Just to cheer her up he said okay for one night. But she had stayed on. That’s how she had moved in with him, walked into his life with nothing but the clothes on her back.

On her birthday, all of eighteen, she was the picture of innocence in the white dress with yellow sunflowers she had bought from Goodwill. Just for fun, they sat at the bar and she said “I do” as they exchanged plastic rings. Roy played savior in full cowboy regalia, his work outfit.  It was her idea and he played along, but somehow it changed things.

The flabby bartender had winked at him “found yourself a young ‘un I see”. “Mind your own business” he’d snapped. But she hadn’t minded.

Back then she had been grateful. As she ought to be he thought.

Roy had helped her get a job as a waitress at the rodeo club where he ran the mechanical bull. Turned out she was a hard worker. Customers liked her so much that Roy got more prestige at the club whereas before the boss had barely tolerated him with his drinking and his frequent no-shows.

He wasn’t sure when he started disciplining her; as he called it. He had to when she tried to run away. She didn’t like his drinking; thought he couldn’t handle it. The nerve of her.

But not this time: let’s see how far you go missy. She is the one who needs me not the other way round.

She waited tables but she also looked for other jobs. Seemed like she was never satisfied. Hadn’t he taken her in and helped her stand on her feet? The club wasn’t high class enough for her. She wanted him to get a better job too. But instead he stopped going to the club all together preferring to hang out at the trailer and drink cold beer, watch TV. She made good money in tips.

Then one day he said “why don’t you become a pole dancer? It’s more money and you can keep the extra.” She just looked at him and said nothing.

Sometimes she would say Vegas is no place for me if he asked but mostly she stopped saying much. Last night she was very quiet, very calm. She hadn’t mouthed off in a while and she even grilled a burger for him. They sat outside the trailer and just hung out. It was nice: like it used to be. She even had a beer. “I took an evening off from the club” she said.

Then this morning she said “let’s go for a ride Roy” and he had agreed never suspecting what lay ahead. They just rolled out of bed, got in the car and roared down Route 15, laughing, hair flying, getting along just fine.

In the car she showed him the plastic ring on her finger. “You know, once you saved me Roy and I am wearing your ring. You are a special person to me Roy.” Then she went all high-brow like she sometimes did.

“It is not just a road. Don’t you see Roy, it’s the highway to a new me: not scared, not afraid, and not crying. Who knows? Just imagine, me, Roy, doing what I want. That’s what this road is – start of my new life.”

“What you see is what you get,” Roy had said. “All I can do is ride that bull. As for you, babe, you are a damn good sight by that pole and this ain’t nothing but miles of a dusty hot highway; hot enough to fry a lizard before she can scoot off.” He couldn’t remember what more he had said but it sure set her off good.

Roy sighed. She will be back. A few days and she would forget all about it. He wasn’t ambitious – food, beer, bed and now he had her.

Roy was tired of waiting. He decided to get in the car. He turned the ignition on,  more to convince himself that he indeed was going to leave her on the highway than anything else. But he couldn’t move. He turned it off.

It was even hotter in the car than out. Another 5 minutes. That’s it.

Roy couldn’t be sure now because of the dust-haze. She seemed to be slowing down but he could see her back was still ramrod straight; the stubbornness running right through her spine, into that fragile looking neck and head. Looking at her who could say she worked in a run-down Vegas club? And that’s what started it.

Now he remembered. All he said was there’s nothing wrong with pole-dancing. “Not everybody gets to be a movie star.”

“Just because I grew up in a trailer don’t make me trash. Nobody is holding me back, not even you Roy.”

The car was still moving when she opened the door and Roy had to slam on the brakes, veer off the road and stop as she jumped out and started walking. It’s a wonder she didn’t break a leg or something.

Well, she’s a natural-born dancer with balance and fast on her feet too. One hundred and ten pounds of pure muscle, she finished the eight-hour shift at the club without even breaking a sweat. How far can she walk before she falls or just plain passes out? She does have the queenly walk. You got to give her that

Roy tried willing her into looking back. If she looked back, and saw him relaxing in the car, that would be like meeting halfway. That’s good enough for me he thought. She doesn’t have to walk back to me. Just look back now; come on look back.

For God’s sake, just turn your head and look.

Looks like there’s two of her now.

Roy rubbed his eyes and peered again. No, just one of her but sure looked like she was wading in a cool cool lake of blue water. She didn’t look like she was even uncomfortable and here he was with sweat pouring out of his armpits, his forehead, his neck, everywhere.

She may be stubborn but she ain’t got the guts to leave. Roy had patience. He’d seen her moods before, especially after one of her beatings. She always came back to him.

Roy thought he must have nodded off because he almost knocked his head on the steering wheel, startled by the noise and gust of wind created by the lorry thundering by. For a moment he panicked; he couldn’t see her at all now. But the lorry slowed down and eventually came to a stop. The dust settled. He could barely make out a hazy form on the road beside the lorry. There was some waving and gesticulating and Roy’s eyes watered with the strain of looking.

She’s going to wave the lorry driver on and she’ll wait for me. Then I’ll go get her.

The lorry raised a cloud of dark fumed dust as it left the side of the road and got on the main highway. When the haze cleared Roy squinted in the sunlight to see again.

The spot where she had stood was empty. No sun-flower-dress figure stood by the roadside. In the distance he could see the lorry picking up speed as it got into the right lane.

Shit! Roy started the Pontiac, gunning it into speed. Shit, shit, shit. She didn’t look back even once.

Damn that lorry. He couldn’t even see it any more. Roy maneuvered the Pontiac off the shoulder onto Route 15, wheels spinning, a cloud of dust in his wake, ten gallon hat blown off his head, foot jammed on the gas pedal. Good thing it is a straight road with nowhere else for the lorry to go.

Roy was sweating still. But it wasn’t the sun anymore. Adrenaline coursed through his veins heightening his senses and he felt the car pick up speed. He noticed the plastic ring on his hand gripping the steering wheel. What had she said about the ring? She would always wear it?

Her way of saying thanks buddy, but it’s over now.

She ain’t coming back.  Roy eased his foot off the gas pedal.

Hadn’t it worked out just fine last time she walked out of her home with nothing but the clothes on her back?

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neerja2014

neerja2014

aspiring, perspiring, trying: yes. writing: sometimes publishing: tomorrow

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