MIGRANT
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Contemporary Literature
 

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 12, Number 2
(Fall 2017)

Copyright © 2017
by Leah Browning, Editor.

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in the
Apple Valley
Review
are retained by
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Fiction by Murali Kamma

      The loud ring, waking me in the middle of the night, was so
unexpected that at first it didn’t seem real.  Then, reaching for my
phone, I wondered if something terrible had happened somewhere
to somebody I knew.  An accident, perhaps, or a death.  But when
I pressed the button to talk, all I got was the dial tone.  Was it a
misdial, then, or a dream?  When I heard the ring again—distinctly,
jarringly—it chilled me to the bone, and for the first time I wished I
had a gun.  Unbelievably, it was the doorbell.  After lying still for
what felt like a long time, paralyzed by uncertainty, I got out of bed
and walked gingerly to the living room.  Strange as it may sound,
given my misgivings, I was ready to open the front door.
      But I’m jumping ahead.  To understand what happened next,
let me go back and talk about Sam’s Diner.  It was called Sam’s,
almost always, just as its owner—Sampath—was simply known as
Sam.  An affable bear of a man, with twinkling dark eyes and a
stylish drooping moustache that accentuated his rakish looks, he was
a decade older than I was.  While we weren’t close friends, I got to
know him fairly well because, as a bachelor, I often ate at his
restaurant.  
      Sam was gregarious and attentive, never failing to greet diners
and ask how they liked the food.  He remembered not just the names
of his loyal customers but also the dishes they preferred, which
sometimes appeared magically on their tables even before they’d
spoken to a waiter.  It seemed as if he knew most of the people
worth knowing in our township, whose main artery went past the
restaurant and led to a multilane highway, where you could see—if
you stood on the commuter rail station’s platform and looked
down—a glittering river of metal surging towards the city.  Like
many residents, I avoided the highway and took the train to work.
      It didn’t take me long to realize that Sam’s extra attention went
to folks who had some standing in the community, and it was on
their tables these special, unasked-for dishes appeared.  He often
embraced these customers, even hovering near their tables in case
they needed anything—and there was more than a touch of fawning
in his usually charming manner.   
      “It’s good to know these people,” Sam once said, with a
satisfied chuckle, after a county official—I don’t remember what his
job was—left the restaurant.  “You never know when somebody like
him will come in handy.  You and I are in the same boat.”
      “What do you mean?” I said.  “As migrants?”
      “We’re immigrants, my friend, not migrants!  We came on a
plane.  Migrants are the folks I employ.  Now,
they came on a boat,
a real boat.”
      I knew exactly what he meant but didn’t say anything.  Focusing
on my plate, I was relieved when I heard a voice greet Sam, pulling
him away from my table.  A customer had just walked in.
      A word about the food, which was naturally a big reason for the
restaurant’s popularity.  Sam’s was like no other eatery I knew,
specializing in quirky fusion dishes that were a hodgepodge of
cuisines and cultures.  They had, I thought, outrageous names—but
it all worked, somehow, and several dishes were outrageously good.  
For instance, you could order Wasabi Noodle Samosas as an
appetizer, Pesto Chicken Kabob Tacos or Fish Vindaloo Burritos
with Kimchi as an entrée, Baked Masala Fries with Chili Mayo as
a side, and Spicy Chai Vanilla Ice Cream with Lychees as the dessert.  
The prices, fortunately for me, were not outrageous.
      Sam’s employees had worked on ships, mostly in the kitchen,
before ending up at his restaurant.  He wasn’t easy to work for, but
the pay was decent, which perhaps explained why they stayed.  
Always gracious as a host, Sam could be mercurial as a boss; not
infrequently, his temper flared when he was in the back.  But while
his impatience with employees wasn’t hard to miss, he could also
be quite friendly—and generous.  When there was a need, he loaned
or even gave money from his pocket.  Occasionally, he took his
staff on a shopping expedition, and if one of them got sick, he
accompanied him to the doctor’s clinic.
      Sam, as far as I could tell, never berated his workers in front of
customers.  Except once—which came as a shock when I witnessed
it.  First, though, let me mention how I met the young man who faced
Sam’s wrath.  After dining at the restaurant one day, I was driving to
my apartment, only five minutes away, when I spotted Rahim on the
sidewalk, heading in the same direction.  He was an employee in the
kitchen—and though I’d seen him a few times at Sam’s, we hadn’t
spoken yet.  There was some daylight left, but it was quickly fading,
as was the crepuscular charm of the fall evening.  Switching my
headlights on, I pulled over to the curb.
      Turning his head in surprise, he saw me and broke into a smile.
      “Rahim, right?  Going home?  I can drop you.”
      He hesitated.  “No problem.  Not far.  I can walk.  Thank you.”
      I could have ended the conversation there and kept going.  He’d
recognized me, obviously, but was still reluctant to accept my offer.  
Instead of leaving, I asked him where he lived, a question that
seemed to unsettle him.
      “Going to store,” he said, pointing.  “Not going home.”  
      I was almost in my apartment, still mulling over the encounter,
when it struck me that Rahim didn’t want me to find out where he
lived.  Maybe he was embarrassed?  Clearly, despite his claim,
Rahim hadn’t been going to the big grocery store—because, as a
pedestrian, he’d have known to turn by now and take the easier,
shorter path that led to the shopping center.   
      My one-bedroom apartment, just behind the shopping center,
had a kitchenette so small that I scarcely bothered to cook, relying
instead on takeout and Sam’s, which frequently became my hangout
for reading or doing computer work, not just for eating and drinking.  
Sam usually chatted with me.  Inevitably, after a few minutes, he got
drawn to other customers, some of whom, being as outgoing as he
was, greeted him heartily and made small talk.  Though married—
happily, I figured—and a father, Sam liked to flirt with attractive
women.  But he did it unthreateningly, and as good-natured fun, that
they didn’t seem to mind, at least outwardly.   
      Twice, without a warning, Sam tried to introduce me to young,
presumably unattached women.  His efforts fell flat, with awkward
smiles and puzzled expressions—and to my relief, he didn’t repeat
the experiment.
      “I didn’t know this was a singles bar,” I said.
      Sam laughed.  “You’re a young man, but I always see you with
a book,” he said.  “You should go out more, my friend, and meet
girls.”
      After my encounter with Rahim, I saw him work as a waiter—
twice.  The first time, Sam was in the restaurant, processing a credit
card payment at the cash register, when I heard a loud crash.  Turning
just in time to see a plate slice through the air like a missile, barely
missing a diner, I also saw a couple of large bowls shatter on the
floor, their contents splattering messily.  Rahim was on the floor, too,
looking bewildered.  Silence descended, as everybody watched,
only to be broken again by an outburst from Sam.
      “
Saala . . . clumsy, useless ass!” he said, rushing towards Rahim.  
“You want to injure my customers?  Don’t you watch where you’re
going?  Get up and clean the mess.”
      Then, shifting his attention, Sam apologized profusely to the
family, who seemed shocked more by his reaction than the accident.  
Indeed, so was I, since I’d never seen Sam lose his cool in front of
customers.  It was puzzling, uncharacteristic of him.  Any shouting was
done behind closed doors—behind the scenes, as it were, away from
the neatly choreographed action of the decorous front section, where
the customers dined quietly.  He must have been having a bad day.
      Rahim got up—nobody asked if he was okay—and, picking up
the dishes, went to get the mop and bucket.  Feeling tense, I left
without placing an order.  They were busy, anyway, and the thought
of reading my book while I waited was no longer appealing.  Opening
the car door, I looked up when a squawking sound caught my
attention.  Large birds, with long black necks and brownish bodies,
were making their way across the evening sky, which was a bold
mix of gold and grey, while the sun—now a fiery red ball—began to
sink rapidly in the distance.
      Were they Canadian geese?  I didn’t know much about birds,
but I remembered reading how these geese formed a V-shape during
their fall migration, not unlike a squadron of jets in the sky.  The article
also said that changes in temperature and light triggered migrations,
as did the need for sustenance.  Did birds also migrate when the
ecosystem changed?  Probably.  In the case of humans, major
upheavals—caused by civil war, for instance—did trigger large-scale
migrations.  
      Rahim seemed considerably younger than the other employees,
but appearances were deceptive and it was quite possible that, as one
of the “boat people,” to use Sam’s ugly term, he had worked on a
ship before coming here.
      Oddly enough, the next time I saw Rahim at the restaurant when
I dropped in for a meal, he seemed more eager to talk to me.  Sam
wasn’t around, and Rahim was again helping out in the front.  “Did
you like food, sir,” he said, clearing my table.  “Can I get anything
else?”
      “It was good.  Thanks.  I’ll have some coffee.”
      “No problem, sir.  I bring now.  Can I ask something if you have
time?”
      “Of course.  You know my name, so you don’t have to call me
sir.”
      Rahim smiled and nodded, but he still didn’t use my name
without the prefix Mr.  He asked if I could help with a letter.  I was
puzzled—until he explained that he wanted to put his work experience
down on paper and draft a letter.  I assumed that he wanted to apply
for other jobs.  Would Sam approve?  Most likely not, but I had no
qualms about helping Rahim.  Scribbling my address on a napkin, I
told him he could come to my apartment any evening.
      But he didn’t come.  Correction.  Rahim did show up—although
the hour was so late that it was the middle of the night when the
doorbell rang, arousing me and filling me with dread.  Foolish as it
may seem, once I got over the initial jitters, I went to the living room
to investigate.  My adrenaline must have kicked in, for I switched on
the light and said, boldly, “Who’s there?”
      A burglar wouldn’t make sense, so was it a drunk or a juvenile
delinquent?  I didn’t feel brave, to be sure, and my right hand, holding
the phone, trembled slightly as I got read to dial 9-1-1.  But then I
stopped—for I heard a familiar voice.
      “Sir, Rahim here.  So sorry for disturbing . . . for coming now.”   
      I felt a flurry of emotions: annoyance, bewilderment,
apprehension.  “This is a very odd time,” I said with irritation.  “Why
did you come now?”
      “Something happened . . . at restaurant.”  He hesitated.  “Don’t
know where to go.”
      Did he want to rob me?  However, despite the oddness of the
situation, I didn’t feel threatened.  And I believed him.  Maybe I had
an inkling all along that it was him, making it easier for me to
overcome any hesitation about opening the door.
      “Sir, it’s Sam . . .”
      I quickly unlocked the door.  Standing in the hallway, a
disheveled Rahim looked shaken and out of breath, as if he’d been
running.  From where, from whom?  He looked past me, anxiously,
perhaps wondering if anybody else was in the apartment.  His shirt
was torn, as if he’d been in a scuffle, and there was a reddish bruise
on his cheek.
      “Sam,” he said again.  “We had fight . . . in restaurant.  Need
help.”
      “What?  Come in and tell me what happened.  I’ll get some
water.”
      Hesitantly, Rahim entered the living room and looked around.  
Asking him to sit, I went to the kitchen and got some water.  He took
a long gulp, draining the glass, and put it down with a sigh.  Declining
my offer to refill, he said, “Thank you.  Can we go?  To Sam’s.  I tell
as we go.”
      “Okay, let’s go,” I said, picking up my car keys.  He evidently
had a good reason for hastening to the restaurant, and I didn’t want to
stall him.
      For a few weeks, Rahim said as we walked down the stairs,
he’d been sleeping in the restaurant without Sam’s knowledge.  The
scheme was simple—Rahim had managed to make a copy of the key,
and he knew the security code.  He left once his shift ended, only to
return after the restaurant was closed.  We didn’t get into where he
spent his time waiting, or why he’d become homeless.  That night,
Rahim had just fallen asleep in the restaurant, when he suddenly heard
the door open.  He opened his eyes, startled, just as the lights came on.     
      “What the hell is going on?”
      Rahim, shocked, saw Sam staring at him, his face contorted in
puzzlement and anger.  He also seemed drunk—his eyes were
bloodshot.  Rahim was frightened.  He couldn’t say why Sam had
returned to the restaurant so late, after it was closed for the night.  
Maybe he’d forgotten something?  What Rahim did know, from
gossip in the kitchen, was that Sam had been under stress lately
because of arguments with his wife, who hadn’t visited the restaurant
in many days.
      Things got out of control quickly.  When Rahim said that he was
just sleeping there temporarily, until he could find new
accommodations, Sam lost it and lunged forward, calling him a “lying,
thieving, cheating bastard.”  Rahim backed away and tried to speak
again.
      “Worthless scum . . . how did you manage to sneak in?” Sam
yelled, advancing again.
      Trying to fend him off, Rahim held his shoulder and pushed him.  
That only enraged Sam, who swung his fist.  Struck in the face, Rahim
staggered backwards—and, as his body touched the table behind him,
he unintentionally reached for the knife lying there.  He’d kept the
kitchen knife close by at night, but it was just a precaution.  Robberies
were uncommon in that area.
      Seeing the knife, Sam spat out, “Think I’m of scared you . . .
you slimy son of a . . . ?”
      “No . . . no . . .,” Rahim said, quickly removing his hand from
the knife.  But it was too late.  As Sam flung himself on him, it
devolved into a full-fledged fight—although without the knife,
thankfully.  It all happened so fast that Rahim, still in a daze, couldn’t
quite say how Sam got knocked out.  From what I could gather,
Sam passed out after he struck his head on the floor.    
      Rahim panicked.  He sprinkled some water in his face and
shook him, but Sam didn’t open his eyes.  He didn’t know what to
do, and was afraid of calling anybody.  He didn’t say why, though I
assumed it was because he lacked proper documentation.
      “You could have called Sam’s home,” I said.
      “Yes,” he replied, not looking at me.  “But afraid . . .  Did not
know what to say.”
      Then, remembering me, Rahim continued, he shut the door of the
restaurant and ran all the way to my apartment.  We had by now
reached Sam’s in my car, and from the road we could see a police
cruiser parked close to the restaurant.  Its lights were flashing, but I
couldn’t tell if anybody was inside.  Rahim moaned and lowered his
head, as if he was trying to hide.  He seemed scared.  Sam’s car, I
noticed, was parked near the front door.
      The road’s emptiness was unusual, eerie, as though we were
driving through a hastily abandoned town.  The absence of vehicles
didn’t stop the traffic lights from changing, dutifully, to red—and then
back again to green.  How we took things for granted.  So much had
to work smoothly, even at this ghostly hour, so that we could lead
comfortable lives.
      Did Sam regain consciousness and call the cops?  Regardless of
what happened, they’d have come right away when summoned by
Sam.  Hope he was okay.  Instinctively, without making a left towards
the restaurant, I kept driving until we reached the next intersection.  
Rahim didn’t speak—so I was right in thinking that he didn’t want to
go to Sam’s anymore.  Glancing sideways while waiting for the lights
to change, I said, “Seems like there’s a policeman at the restaurant.”
      “Don’t know why . . . don’t know why the police came.  No
major problem.  Knife not used.”
      Alarmed, I looked again at Rahim’s clothes, visible in the pale
light of a street lamp.  No, there was no blood anywhere.  Well, who
knew what really happened?  In any case, I didn’t want to make him
do anything; it was entirely up to him.
      “Should we go to the restaurant and check on Sam?”
      “No . . . no . . .,” he said, his voice quavering.  “Sir, please, can
you drop at train station?”
      It didn’t take us long to get there.  Pulling into the deserted
parking lot, I stopped the car and, without turning off the ignition, took
out my wallet to give him some money.
THE BOOK
OF BEGINNINGS
Fiction by Murali Kamma

      Handing the unmarked and sealed white envelope back to me,
Tony wondered aloud if it contained anything important, before
adding, I’m surprised you didn’t open it, CK.
      I was tempted, I said, but I’m also . . . well, after all, it’s not
mine.
      Tony frowned, or so it seemed as he puckered his lips to sip his
hot tea, the act making his bushy eyebrows curve inwards.  When he
put the cup down and picked up the book I’d shown him, he was
actually smiling.  His first name was longer, not to mention unusual—
but just as I preferred using my initials, CK, he liked to be called
Tony, no doubt seeing it as an easy-to-pronounce alias that would
smooth the passage of a new immigrant.  It created a bond between
us.  Though I’d migrated several years before Tony—and though,
unlike him, I hadn’t experienced political and economic strife in my
native land, forcing me to leave—I felt that we were in the same boat,
so to speak, making our unsteady way to a still-unknown destination.
      We’d met on the day he moved into my apartment building.  
Standing next to his car, he was untying the mattress and box spring
from the roof when he saw me pull into the parking lot.  Stepping out
of my car, I greeted him.  He turned towards me, smiling, and the
rope dangling beside him coiled like a wary snake.  Returning my
greeting, he politely declined my offer to help—but about twenty
minutes later, there was a knock on my door and I saw him standing
outside, a sheepish grin on his face, and heard him say that, yes, he
could indeed use a hand if it wasn’t an inconvenience.  His apartment
was on the same floor, directly across from mine.
      Maybe the envelope has some information about the owner,
Tony said.  It’s thick.  Isn’t it odd that you saw it in the book before
anybody else?  Did you ask anybody at the thrift store?
      Well, I said, the books are usually donated, and the employees
who shelve them don’t have the time to check.
      Hey, you may get lucky!  Chuckling, Tony added, I feel like
we’re children again, with an envelope that will lead us to a secret
treasure.  When do you plan to open it?
      I shrugged, laughing uneasily.  I was relieved when the
conversation shifted to the book, which he began to leaf through.  
Called
The Book of Beginnings, it was a collection of essays by
writers who had made a fresh start in life after suffering a major
setback.  It was about second chances.  I was enjoying the first
essay, which involved kleptomania, and hoped that the writing in the
rest of the book would be just as vivid, nuanced, and painfully
honest.  I could relate to it.  Following my recent divorce, my
emotions were still raw and I was struggling to move on—although,
unlike me, the writer had to overcome a crippling illness that wasn’t
only depression but also the warped behavior it triggered.  The voice
was bleak yet mesmerizing.
      I like the title, Tony said, putting the book down.  We’re
embracing new beginnings, too, aren’t we?  As a poet said, In my
end is my beginning.  One day I’ll find the time to read books—like
you, CK.  But not now.  There’s too much going on, too many
things to do.
      Indeed, we have miles to go before we sleep, I said, drawing
a smile from Tony.  His bright, searching eyes, framed by those
luxuriant eyebrows that arched so expressively, were his most
distinctive feature, lighting up when he smiled, which he did
frequently.  Though younger than I was, his greying hair and receding
hairline gave him an older look, as did his stocky build and a slight
limp that made him walk slower.  We didn’t get a chance to chat
every day because of his long hours—Tony had two jobs—but if he
was home when I returned from work, we often had tea together or
shared a meal, sometimes even going to a restaurant close by.
      I wasn’t embracing my “new beginning” as readily as Tony.  
Still in shock over how quickly, how unexpectedly, my marriage had
unraveled, I still longed for my now-former wife more than I cared
to admit.  I felt unmoored, a little lost.  Tony’s company helped, as
did my newfound passion for reading and, on weekends, movies.  On
weekdays, after an early dinner, I read until I went to bed, watching
TV for a little while only when I was tired but couldn’t sleep.  I read
haphazardly, keeping a tally of the books I finished.  My choices
were based on reviews and whatever caught my eye when I browsed
online, in the local bookstores, or at the public library, which I began
to visit again after a long gap.  I also started going to thrift stores
when I realized that they were a good source for inexpensive books.  
My list of books to read kept growing.  
      But my in-laws—rather, my ex-in-laws—wouldn’t have been
impressed much, I’m sure, by what I was reading.  They were highly
educated, had good jobs in academia and government, and saw
themselves as intellectuals.  I knew they’d been a little baffled when
their daughter chose to marry me, although I must add that they were
always courteous.  From the start I sensed their skepticism over their
daughter’s choice for a husband, but to their credit, they didn’t try to
dissuade her and remained gracious with me even after the marriage
ended, rather abruptly.  As for their daughter, well, it’s still distressing
to talk about her.  I’ll leave it at that for now.
      I think it would make for a good series, Tony said, and it took
me a moment to realize that he was still talking about the book.  One
title could be about people who set off on a quest for unusual
adventures.  
The Book of Wanderings . . . how does that sound as
a title?
      Nice one, I said.  Another one could be
The Book of Endings.
      He made a face.  Don’t be so gloomy, CK.  You have much to
look forward to.  You’re not old.  I think
Beginnings is a better title
for us.  You should go out more instead of sitting here and moping.  
It’s better to move on.  I’m sure you’ll meet a wonderful woman
when you’re ready.  How about dinner tomorrow?  We can go
somewhere.  Today, I have to go to work.
      I wasn’t in the mood, to be honest, but knowing that a free
evening was a luxury for Tony, I didn’t want to turn him down.  We
agreed to meet the following evening.
      Okay, my friend, I’ll go now, he said, standing up.  Let me
know what you find in the envelope.  You’ve made me so curious!
      Well, let’s open it now, I said, and looked for my paper cutter.  
I regretted mentioning the envelope, but now that I’d piqued his
interest, I felt guilty about keeping him in the dark.
      Always upbeat, unlike me, Tony was a spirited fighter who
chose to focus on the bright side.  He had to be resourceful, I
suppose, given what his family had to endure in his war-torn country.  
Never one to give up easily, he’d managed to get out first and then
find a safe passage for his wife and daughter to a third country.  But
now they had their visas, Tony said, and would join him—hopefully
in a few weeks—after he bought their plane tickets.  That’s why he’d
moved into this larger apartment.  I marveled at the determination
and drive that had allowed him to surmount what to me seemed like
impossible obstacles.  My gripes seemed so trivial.  All the same,
knowing that he wouldn’t be alone for long, I felt a twinge of
jealousy—and I felt sorrow when I realized our friendship might not
be the same once his family joined him.
      We wouldn’t be two bachelors anymore, and he wouldn’t
have the time to hang out with me.  With his family keeping him
increasingly busy, I would recede in importance.  His wife would use
his real name, but I’d continue to call him Tony.  That would be a
real marker, separating family from friends.  Tasting the bile rising in
my throat, like poison, I felt ashamed to be having those thoughts.   
      Tony was detached from his fellow countrymen, though he
didn’t shun them by any means.  I sensed that he saw the close-knit
expatriate community as a reminder of the past, a past he wanted to
forget.  He was all about the future, about making a clean break,
about moving on, about assimilation.  The fact that I had no
connection to his past was surely an attraction.  As for me, I was
drawn to his warmth, his unshakeable optimism, and, of course, his
drive.  We were different—and certainly, we wouldn’t have become
friends if we hadn’t been neighbors first.  
      His wife, I knew, would never say to him what my ex-wife had
said to me once, in the heat of an argument: You’re not ambitious
enough, and think opportunities will magically land in your lap without
making the effort.
      As Tony watched me, I sliced open the envelope and shook it,
letting loose a stack of crisp $100 bills.  There was a stunned silence.  
I noticed the disbelieving look in Tony’s eyes as he saw the bills land
on the coffee table.  Incredible!  Bringing his hands together as if he
were about to pray, Tony added, I’m shocked, despite what I said
earlier.  Is there anything else in it?
      I checked the envelope thoroughly.  No, I said, picking up the
money.  Here, please take as much as you want.
      What . . . are you crazy?  He laughed.  It’s your money, he said.  
My friend, it’s your unexpected bonus from who knows where.  Do
you think somebody left the envelope in the book deliberately?  I’ve
heard stories of people doing good deeds . . . spreading joy
anonymously.
      Tony, the envelope wasn’t in the book, I said, a little agitated.  
I didn’t—     
      What?  He looked astonished.  Where did you find it then?
      On the floor, I said.  I think it fell out of the book when . . .
when I removed it from the shelf.
      Tony didn’t say anything.  I still wasn’t being truthful—but when
I saw the embarrassed look on Tony’s face, I fell silent, hesitating to
change my story again.
      I think I know what happened, Tony said.  He looked up,
smiling broadly.
      What do you mean?
      CK, that’s a nice story—but it’s not true.  Come on, do you
really expect me to believe that you found an unmarked envelope full
of cash in a thrift story?  You’d have said something to them.  This
sounds more like a movie you might have watched.  You made it up,
didn’t you?  You wanted to have some fun.  The money is yours.  
You put the cash in the envelope—
      Really?  Why would I do that, Tony?
      Perhaps you were trying to share the money?  I appreciate the
gesture.  I’ll tell you why I think it’s really your money.  You said you
found the envelope a couple of days ago, didn’t you?
      Yes.
      Well, CK, let me tell you what happened last week.  You were
in the kitchen, so you probably didn’t realize that I used your
bathroom.  Guess what I saw there?  This book, my friend.  
The
Book of Beginnings
.  Tony was grinning, clearly enjoying his ‘aha’
moment.
      I shrugged my shoulders, as if to say that it didn’t make a
difference.  I went to the store almost every week.  Okay, maybe the
envelope fell out of another book, I wanted to say.  So what?  But I
didn’t say it.  I also didn’t say what else I’d done last week when I
bought
The Book of Beginnings.
      On that day, a nifty digital recorder, which looked practically
new, caught my eye as I was browsing in the thrift store.  No, I didn’t
need one.  But for some reason, I picked it up and, after casually
looking around, slipped it into my pocket.  Almost immediately, I
became tense, nervous.  I’d never done anything like that before, I
think.  While walking around, the recorder seemed to be burning a
hole in my pocket, and I wanted to get rid of it as quickly as I could.  
Which I remember doing, unobtrusively, before walking out of the
store.
      Tony was still standing, waiting, as if he expected me to
challenge his interpretation.  But I silently continued looking at the
bills, wondering why they suddenly felt warm in my hands.           
_________________________________________________________


Murali Kamma is the managing editor of Khabar, a monthly
magazine based in Atlanta, Georgia.  He has interviewed numerous
authors for the magazine including Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai,
William Dalrymple, and Pico Iyer.  Kamma’s fiction has appeared
in
Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts,
Rosebud, The Wagon Magazine, Asian Pacific American Journal,
South Asian Review, AIM, Setu, The Missing Slate, Eastlit, and
elsewhere.  The
Atlanta Journal-Constitution and India Abroad
have published his columns, and he received a Gamma Gold Award
from the Magazine Association of the Southeast (MAGS).
   


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