Dogs of the City
Fixed outside tourist shops selling prayer wheels and mountain flights was a pack of boys in shirts shredding fast. Some days you saw them sprawled on the sidewalk, limbs tracing broken trajectories, eyes following specks of dust that might open to another universe.
Other days you saw them trailing tourists for the day’s income. Their feet sputtered, their arms arced, their tongues swam through languages: German, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, French. Their faith — collapsing now, surging then — rested on the first world’s guilt for the third world’s abandoned.
Bonding the days together was Dendrite: a cheap adhesive you throw into a plastic bag and inhale. This they did between everything else.
Dolls in a Row
That night his father didn’t come home. When he and his mother heard the knocks, he was half-asleep, feeling with certainty that it was too early to be day and too late to be night. He had been dreaming of the dining hall, where his giant family convened for meals, sitting all along the walls. It didn’t seem to have a ceiling. It was more like a terrace. You felt the sun, and you heard the neighborhood dogs, the city crows, the babies in the distance. The plates were made of banana leaves, as usual, and the food served out of large buckets, as usual. But the walls kept shifting. As family members trickled in, the hall expanded. As mothers stepped out to grab their children, the hall shrank. When the children came pouring in, the hall grew. He was looking at this scene in amazement when he heard the knocks. People in the dream seemed to stop and stare at the door.
Pushpa put her face an inch away from the wall and spread her hand slowly against it. Her skin was terribly wrinkled, her short fingers moving with the ridges, puddles, and cracks of her age. The whole place was damp, she decided, from days of sobbing her mistress had engaged in. The vapor of grief had completely soaked the palace. First, the majestically carved wooden doors had flung open, and then, the high heels of her mistress had hurried up the stairs before Pushpa could even turn around from polishing the golden frame of an enormous painting.