Today’s prompt was determined with help from WolframAlpha.com and a bit of bibliomancy with The Mythical Creatures Bible by Brenda Rosen.
She stares at me and the beams of her eyes bore through the Times of London, right onto the stump of my tusk. The question forms in her mind, and I hear the butterflies in her stomach—she’s working up the nerve to ask. Krishna, can’t I just catch a flight back to Katmandu and be done of it for once? Is it always going to be like—?
I don’t reply, just throw myself into the cricket scores.
A gentle tap on the page. “Excuse me?”
I lower the paper, extend a lotus flower to her with my trunk.
She takes the flower, breathes deep the aroma of heaven. “It—It is you!”
I nod, wink an eye, try to lift the newspaper once again, only to have her place a hand on the edge of the page.
“I had dumplings in the most exquisite Chinese restaurant while I was here. I guess where you’re from, that’s nothing special,” she says in her husky, Texan accent. “Just wanted to say, your people really know how to cook.”
“I’m Hindu and only do Buddhist on the high holidays,” I say, though I won’t escape what comes next. But I’ve always had a problem with little white lies.
Sure, I’ll write it without stopping. Cost me a tusk.
Of course I’ll get rid of the rats. Cost me my time.
Mom’s taking a bath…. No comment.
The truth comes at a price, the price of argument, of disagreement, of quarrelling. I’d take my mouse, but I’m trying to stay connected to the world, trying to understand the obstacles people face in day-to-day life, and all I’m taking away from it reminds me it’s them—it’s humanity. They’re the biggest obstacles in their own lives.
Holy Shit, I’ve become my father.
“No, I’m pretty sure you were on the counter,” she chimes. “Good Mongolian Beef, too.”
“Definitely not Hindu. Unless the woman behind the counter had a dot on her head. Did she have a red dot?”
The woman shakes her head vigorously. “Oh, no. But you were there.” A man in a ten-gallon hat takes a seat beside her, hands her a boarding pass. “Elmer, look who it is! The guy who owns all the Chinese restaurants!”
I extend another lotus to Elmer. He takes it, sniffs at it awkwardly, then shrugs before passing it to his wife.
“Ain’t you the feller from the motels?”
I nod, a bit too enthusiastically.
“He’s the man from the restaurant,” his wife insists as she swats his shoulder.
Elmer scratches his face, then snaps his fingers. “Nope. But there was that girl there with him on a T-shirt, remember?”
For a moment her face reddens, then she laughs, a hand over her teeth. She’s embarrassed, slightly mortified, and the disagreement dissolves at once. I put down my axe.
The cricket scores forgotten, I turn to the business section when another tap comes on the page. I lower the paper to find Elmer leaning in close.
He clears his throat, tugs at his collar. “Just how many motels you own, anyway?”
“All of them.”