Sohrab Homi Fracis won the Iowa Short Fiction Award for Ticket to Minto: Stories of India and America. It was also published in India and Germany. Individual stories and novel excerpts have appeared in Slice Magazine, The Normal School, Fifth Wednesday Journal, South Asian Review, The Antigonish Review, Weber Studies, Other Voices, and other magazines. He is on the critique faculty of the Florida Heritage Book Festival. He was Visiting Writer in Residence at Augsburg College, and taught creative writing at University of North Florida, where he’d received his M.A. in English / Creative Writing. He was a Florida Individual Artist Fellow in Literature, a Walter E. Dakin Fellow in Fiction at Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and an Artist in Residence at Yaddo.
From “The Mark Twain Overlook”
The apex, of course, was the sunset together at the overlook and the epiphany afterwards. While this is a story about Zubin Commissariat, Christina Lopez, and, not least, Muscatine, it’s not a story of Zubin and Christina in Muscatine, except in passing. A woman hankering to get herself and a possessive daughter out of a small town; a man moving through, unwilling to be her vehicle. Clear enough that it would end. Zubin just didn’t anticipate exactly how. His reluctance, despite prompting, to utter the love word became one loose rail on the track. The marriage word then had to appear, wrapped in Christina’s most seductive perfumes and dresses and home-cooked dinners (with Monique away at her grandparents), and was also side-stepped. He assumed then that the final switch, sending their cars off on separate tracks, would be thrown by the event of his contract coming to an end at Bandag. But Christina threw it instead, much ahead—she was not one to stay behind and turn nun.
She found a teaching position at a middle school in New Orleans, not very far from her Texas roots, cooked one more dinner for Zubin, then, all excited, told him of the offer and her intention to move there with Monique the next term. Would he like to join them? Finding a programming job in New Orleans should not be a problem, she would think. Now that he was no longer her train out of Muscatine (need never and may never have been seen as such, he had to concede), he was left with the option of either agreeing to go or asking her—them—to come with him, instead, to wherever his next contract took him. A section of his mind would have liked some stable center in a roving life, and he felt enough for Christina that in intimate times he’d wished he could have used the love word without misleading her. But another section was not sure quite how much, other than black hair and disgust for the Buchanan right, they had in common. And yet another section was strongly reluctant to become Monique’s instant-and-unwanted daddy.
As afternoon slipped into evening, the servant girl climbed out a window onto a ledge underneath. No more than a foot wide, it ran along the side of the drab yellow, reinforced-concrete staff quarters overlooking the Indian Scientific Institute’s tennis courts. Veer Paintal and Abhinandan Ghosh were hitting balls to each other on the advanced courts for students, clay courts of a surprisingly odorless, dried cow-dung variety. It was their daily habit to get out and play after class. Veer saw the girl first, as the descending sun reached warmly around him to illuminate her. She had her back to them and was lowering herself from a third-story window onto the reinforced-concrete ledge several feet below. Her supple but short, toffee-brown arms grasped the windowsill, and bare, cracked feet groped the wall above the ledge, flaking off pieces of faded yellow plaster before touching down. Like heavy leaves, the larger chips fluttered almost thirty feet down and spattered against the flagstone pavement.
“Abhi, look at that!” Veer shouted, pointing with his racket.
By the time Abhinandan turned fully to look, the woman was inching left, hugging the wall, toward what appeared to be an upside-down, burn-stained frying pan lying half on the ledge and half on air, its handle pointed at her. Students on the other courts looked up too. The syncopated fwop sounds of racket strings on balls trailed off and a mild commotion went around—whistles, surprised laughter, encouragement, some lewd commentary.