Friday, October 07, 2005

Fit to be tied

Anna introduced me to the strait-jacket pleasures of 55-word fiction (no more, no less).  Never one to know when to quit, the result was 275/5, which would be pretty decent for a test-match innings, but is sort-of middling in these higher stakes games:

Transported back to 1951, the thought of making money by betting on cricket matches yet to happen was for some strange reason furthest from my mind, which should give you a sense of just how at home I felt with the whole affair. But then: "I wish she'd married either Kabir or Amit. . ."

"Actually," he said - but then he always began sentences that way - "it's really not like that at all," and proceeded to explain, but his words, slippery and articulated with an ease that suggested he liked talking, came to mean something quite different. Her eyes glanced at the screen, and she knew he had seen her.

He recalled the moonless night when the goddess came to him with her alabaster skin, and recalled her pride and his longing, her every touch an honor. He turned to look at the burning city behind him. On the road, now strewn with ash and charred bodies, he felt his son grow tired under him.

He liked all these restraints, whether ropes, ribbons, fifty-five words or that expression in her eyes that signalled others were near, and he knew she did too. It got to where they could barely imagine meeting except in the shadow of limitations that liberated them from distractions like choice, leaving them skin and sweat, distilled.

When Aurangzeb took Hyderabad and came to the Begum's tomb to pray at the mosque next door, he saw that the one-time courtesan had been wily indeed: four anklets - one on each minaret - tinkled through the stone. The Great Mughal, outraged by this whorish conjunction, had another mosque built. It remains, small and cramped.

No comments: