Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Government Nouns

Job - The Wheel Seat

Slopped in hot pleather-sweat, dribbling into the starch of her sari to make a paste, she wishes she didn’t have to answer the phone that was hidden in the third zipper from the left in her handbag. Plonked on the wheel seat, the van’s dunce chair, the pariah of all seats, she lets it be, the muffled rings going relatively unnoticed as the van inches and brakes through office traffic. At every jerk, the sudden spills of somebody’s lunch heave into the air in old-oniony throngs. Morning smells in the privately owned van that plied middle-class Government working women. From counting notes in home economics envelopes to counting notes for the Officers they worked for, in mysterious packages handed under tables, in boxes of sweets, or beneath the flowers in a bouquet. The irresistible temptation to swipe a note or two for a kilo of tamarind, or malt.

The van grumbles to a halt at a traffic light, as her phone rings again, ungiving, interrupting the usual chit-chat over yesternight’s soaps. She senses the angry stares around in the trickles of mustache sweat that creep into the sides of her lips. She digs into the bag and fetches the phone out, flipping it open.

In what feels like a slap to her face, moments later, she is talking to her empty left palm. Gone.

The women begin screaming and yelling at the two miscreants on a motorcycle that zuzz-zzuzz through the vehicular gaps, past the lights and into the turning traffic. The driver hears the commotion and offers to chase the thieves down, but he is shot down by blaring horns against his effort to pulse his way through the traffic. Helpless, he scratches his oily hair, then sniffs his finger nails.

“What should I do?”

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