Written by K Vish
Illustrated by Natalie Nelson
What is a strand of golden hair doing in the bathroom sink of an all-brown household? This is the question on Mother’s mind as she stands before the basin to wash her hands. It lies in the drain, coiled like a centipede, shimmering in the lazy sunlight of a Sunday afternoon. Mother gingerly lifts the strand and uncoils it, spreading her arms apart to hold it taut. It is long, too long to fit in a single gaze; her eyes traverse its length, left hand to right. Bright and glistening gold.
They have never had any foreign visitors, they have no foreign friends. As far as she knows.
She knows that there are certain kinds of white men who wear their blond hair long, in a ponytail or open like a foreign Bhadrakali, but she is certain that it is from a woman’s scalp. She winds the ends of the hair around her index fingers and yanks firmly. See, it does not snap: a woman’s hair, she confirms, even though her own hair is thinning and breaks quite easily. Turning, too. The henna is coloring it a dull maroon that announces age as loudly as white. She should switch to dye.
This could also have been dyed. But no, it shines with the certainty of real gold. She would test it with her teeth if she could.
Father and Son are in the living room, watching cricket.
Do we know any foreigners? she asks them.
There are many kinds of foreigners, but only one kind really. There are Chinese and there are Africans and there are Foreigners, from Foreign. White skin, blue eyes, blond hair.
Neither Father nor Son replies.
They are much more common now, foreigners. So many five-star hotels in the city, are they full of Indians or what? Still, not so common to be leaving hairs in one’s drain.
Mother spools the hair around her left index finger as she ponders the possibilities. Father is not a cheater. She finds it odd that she even considers this. Not because he is a man of integrity; he simply has no will to cheat. He never chate anyone in his life.
Chate, bate. Yesterday my husband bate me, Mrs. Neighbour confides in her sometimes. She is only slightly distressed when she says it. Not bruised or anything. The Neighbours are Northies but they are decent folks, thinks Mother. Not prone to scandal. Mr. Neighbour must mean no harm.
Mother consoles Mrs. Neighbour and thinks at least it’s some kind of attention, which is more than what Father gives her. When she leaves, Mother goes into the bathroom and gives herself a few hard slaps on her bum and savors the sting.
Has Son found some foreign girl to do foolings around with? Come now, really. All that boy cares for is cricket and PS3. Come home from college PS3. Friends come over PS3 PS3. Full weekend PS3 PS3 PS3. Dishoom dishoom drrr drrr. Unless its cricket, and that’s usually only when Father wants to watch it. When she asks Son to stop with the games, he makes a noncommittal sound. She tells Father to ask him to stop and he tells him porum da padi da do you want to fail again and he says five minutes five minutes and five minutes come and go and he is still drrr drrr dishoom dishoom.
No, that boy has no time for or interest in girls, local or imported.
She thinks of the days when she composed Son as he swelled in her, not long before she stopped going to work, a line of verse for every bus stop on her daily commute. What’s the use of poetry, it never comes out the way you want it, only embarrasses you afterwards.
She stands behind Father and Son. Look here, she says, holding out her finger with the golden hair wrapped around it. Look here I said!
Plktsch, Father says, not ungluing, Paadupaduthathey.
Four thirty is time for tea and bondas. Mother mashes the potatoes, spices them, rolls them into little balls between her fingers. Then she covers them in batter and deep fries them until they are crisp. And golden.
Cheat chate, beat bate, eat ate.
K Vish is from Chennai, India to South Bend, Indiana, where the University of Notre Dame grants him an MFA in the near future. He has written works for children such as two picture books involving monkeys and short stories in anthologies with titles like The Moustache Maharishi and Other Unlikely Stories. His writing for grownups is or will be in The Pinch, Pithead Chapel, Out of Print, and others. Find him at fikshvish.wordpress.com.
(Updated Dec. 2013)
Natalie Nelson grew up on the dusty Plains of Oklahoma and has been drawing all her life. Currently based in Atlanta, Ga., Natalie is a freelance illustrator with a penchant for the Pioneers that were so geographically close to heart during her youth. Working through multiple mediums, she draws inspiration from Maira Kalman’s all-inclusive art, the written works of Billy Collins and Flannery O'Connor, and the ever-elusive symbiosis between past and present. Natalie was accepted into American Illustration 32 and has had her work featured in various galleries and publications.
(Updated Nov. 2013)