Speeding out of her buildings garage in the East Seventies and then racing her Lamborghini over the George Washington Bridge, Franny Glass found it amusing that Zooey Salinger considered her an absolute dearest friend. Actually, Zooey was being too kind when she exaggerated those words on the finely engraved invitation. The truth was, she saw Franny Glass for what Fanny was, transparent and shallow. Everyone else in their tribe saw her the same way, but, in fairness, that was also how they viewed Zooey Glass and themselves as well. It is how these people are.
Compounding Zooey’s intense dislike of her absolute dearest friend Franny Glass, was the awkward fact that Zooey and everyone within their small universe, knew that Franny had been sleeping with her husband, Zen Salinger, a partner in Salinger, Sacco & Vanzetti, mergers, acquisitions and promotions a specialty.
She also knew, again as did everyone else, that it was Franny who had been the defacto cause for Zen’s fatal coronary in flagrante delicto. Of course, the pending federal indictment and the certain RICO conviction that would follow and then Zen’s mandatory sudden disappearance with the cash in the firms escrow accounts, may well have played a role in his unexpected early demise as well. But, for the time being, gossip being what it is, everyone, simply everyone, was blaming Franny for his death. What Zooey didn’t know, was that it had been such a dreadful experience for Franny, (Zen Salinger dying at the grand finale, not the sex, which was not in the least grand) that she more or less absolutely sworn off sex with married men for an indeterminate amount of time.
All that was behind them now and Franny found it reassuring that the permanently oblivious Zooey Salinger should invite her to a reception at her woodsy-leafy Litchfield place on Pilgrim Way to meet the enlightened Maharishi Yogi Barish.
When Fanny arrived, Zooey planned to take her by the hand and waltz her from one end of her spacious home to the other, making small talk, the only kind of talk these people really know, making sure that everyone, simply everyone saw that they were the dearest and closets of friends. Zooey had no choice in this really. The day would come when she would carry on with someone else man, or woman, and would be found out, for these people always find out, and life would go on as before. She would not be cut out or cut off. She had to ensure that, not only for herself but for all those others in this special tribe they belonged too.
So Franny accepted Zooey’s invitation. Driving at break-neck speed through the Connecticut countryside, Franny was, despite her near complete unreflective nature, somewhat concerned that she lived alone and that age 35, marriage was not on the horizon, circumference, radius or any other Goddamn celestial acronym. She reasoned it away. “A little solitude” she thought “never hurt anyone. Emily Dickinson lived alone and she wrote some of the most moving um….what did she write? Was it science fiction?
Something like that. Anyway, they were some of the best whatever they were type of stories the world has ever known...a lot of them became movies.”
She also recalled that Emily Dickenson went stark raving, barking mad and ended her life in a mental asylum so she decided to think about something else.
Tossing her phone into oxblood Versace bag, she brought the car to a screeching halt
and waited for the wrought iron gates to Zooey Salinger’s estate to open and then raced the car up the gravel drive.
Taking her place among the very landed gentry, she sat shoeless on the silk Zarcharakian rug, sipping a Chateau Lafite and stealthily dripping a drop or two on the carpet because….well just because, that’s why. It is just the way these people are.
There was Zooey Salinger, clad in black Michael Kors One-Shoulder. It was so last season. But, then again, Franny reasoned, Zooey was so last season. She was calling everyone to attention. Standing beside her was a short, swarthy little man dressed in white linen robes and fitted with a Buddha belly. So this was him, thought Franny.
“I like the long flowing white silk robes” she said to herself “Nice effect and so very de riguor for any savior and/or mystique” She noted his salt and pepper beard and his strategically designed mop of hair. “Micelle of Paris” she though “No one else is that good”
Everyone feigned rapt attention as a smiling and crying Zooey once again launched into another retelling of how this little man, the Maharishi Yogi Barish, the Wise Child, entered her life.
It started with a death, but then again, most things about Zooey revolved around death in one way or another. First, it was Zen and then Seymour, her toy Shiatsu, the canine in-residence until last fall last autumn when he went out the window at the Salinger’s Park Avenue place, falling Nine Stories to his death. Actually, it wasn’t the fall that killed him. He survived the fall. What killed him were the giant hooves of a team of hansom cab horses as they pulled away to show another tourist from Wichita dubious wonders of Central Park at night.
As one can imagine, the death just absolutely mortified poor Zooey, coming in the wake of Zen’s death. She was beside herself with grief and not one of her three analysts, the Freudian, the Jungian or even the Mime therapist could pull her from her sorrow. Well the Jungian probably could have, but he insisted she do it herself.
The situation worsened after rumor started that it was not suicide and that perhaps Seymour had been pushed. It was the talk of the summer people at the Hamptons but not of the summer people at Newport because they play tennis.
It was about that time that Dede Bradley came back from Europe, because she was always coming back from somewhere, and was bursting, simply bursting with the news of the Marharishi Yogi Barish who was taking London by storm. Dede told Muffin Walsh who told Geno the hair sculptor who repeated everything he heard anyway, thank God and that was how Zooey heard all about the wonders of the little man.
A the Marharishi Yogi Barish estate in London, Zooey was fairly certain she was in London, she didn’t handle those details, she found her scrawny naked body lathered in tea oils and saturated rose infused yogurt.
By weeks end, the Marharishi inserted in her, among other things, the spirit of Seymour the Shiatsu which assured Zooey that he had not taken his own life nor had he been pushed from the ledge. Rather, as she would later recall, again and again and again, for enthralled hairdressers from Park Avenue to Palm Beach...she didn’t do Aspen because it’s so...so...so...not New York and the people are so...so not New York, that the spirit of Seymour the Shiatsu said he had fallen from that of that window because he a brain the size of a walnut. She was also mentioned, quite often, that Seymour the Shiatsu spoke English. Everyone was so delighted for her.
The Marharishi Yogi Bera was, proclaimed Zooey to all the right people who had gathered in her bar sized living room that autumn, a spiritual genius and all agreed with a hardy burst of applause. Of course, to these people, anyone who had an occasional reflection on the meaning of life beyond Town & Country, was a spiritual genius because, argued many, these people had no souls.
When Zooey was finished gushing on about the little man, the little man spoke, whispered really, whispered and smiled and babbled on for twenty minutes speaking psycho-social babble gibberish intertwined with most of the keywords needed to create spiritual hogwash. It was, thought Franny Glass who was there to judge the performance, a cellular performance.
It was only kismet that Zooey should invite Franny to heat Yogi Bera. Her firm, Salinger, Sacco & Vanzetti, mergers, acquisitions and promotions a specialty, had been watching this little man and was impressed with what they saw and what they saw was money and the potential for more money.
Franny had hired Hal Martini ‘Olive’ Lipchitz everyone’s favorite P.I and learned that the Marharishi Yogi Bera was a fourth generation East-ender from Londoner whose true name was Rajesh Gupta Barish, the western equivalent of Joe Smith. He was raised vaguely Hindu but he had absolutely no interest in the faith because its deep, beautifully simple doctrines confused him.
The firm’s data analysis experts...their term for computer hackers...had determined that the Marharishi Yogi Bera liquid assets were in access to one hundred and fifty million. There was the clothing line, Yogi for Young Kids, and an airline, Flying Carpet Airlines with hubs in New Delhi and Hanoi. There was the Happy Hindu Hotel chain with locations throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. There was the equally profitable Curry Up and Eat! Restaurant chain, assorted real estate holdings, which included an off- shore casino in the Caribbean and a nut farm in Brazil.
The Yogi had everything a money hungry yogi could want. Everything except the vast richness of America. The problem was that the Marharishi was a European phenomenon and what he needed was a single magic bullet that would shoot open the golden gates of the land of milk and honey.
It was an odd twist of fate, kismet if you will, that the Maharishi’s magic bullet to America came in the form of the spirit of Seymour the Shiatsu. Zooey Salinger had introduced the Yogi correctly. She waited for the late fall, that special magical time between the closing of the summer places and the arrival of the first dividend checks from those offshore investments that nice people did not discuss. not without a lawyer present, anyway.
Zooey made sure the yogi had face time, a favorite expression of these people, with that smart-alecky Carlo Saint John River from The New Yorker and of course, Thomas Wentworth Higginson from Charge, Style and Life Magazine just absolutely had to have his ten minutes.
By the end of the month, the Marharishi Yogi Barish was famous in America and so was his ‘Self-Help and Actualization Movement’, or ‘SHAM’. Although it was all explained in his 125 page, ghost written book, The Way of the Christian-Hindu Pilgrim, the basis for SHAM was taken from the Yogi code of life, ‘To know nothing is to know bliss’. The concept was fusion, Judeo Christianity and Hindu principles and that the Yogi had gotten the idea after eating at the Paris French-Chinese restaurant Chinois. When asked if the book was henotheistic, the Yogi replied no, it was for homosexuals as well.
So, now the grinning Guru had every intention of quadrupling his cash by taking his show to the states and lifting cash from the pockets of the fad happy-spiritually starved Americans and the senior partners at Salinger, Sacco & Vanzetti, mergers, acquisitions and promotions a specialty, believed they could help the Yogi with that conquest.
So while the firm wanted his business, Franny needed his business. The remaining partners of Salinger, Sacco & Vanzetti, or more specifically the wives of the remaining partners, the ones huddled in the corner throwing her death-stares, believed that Franny should have been boiled in oil for sexing Zen Salinger to death. Barring death by oil, they made it very clear to their husbands that Franny Glass must go.
Yes, the end was near and Franny Glass, a born survivor, could smell it in the air, and it troubled her. She felt vulnerable, a new sensation for her. That was why she had given herself that ‘A little solitude and Emily Dickinson lived alone’ pep talk on the way up to Connecticut.
He drooled for her. “Hello my lovely” leered the Yogi to Franny when she managed to push, shove and elbow her way up to him. Franny, who stood just over 5’10 with in her Stu Weitzman heels, thought it was rude that the Marharishi, who was surrounded by two massive former Mossad men, did not stand when he met her. Staring at him, she realized he was standing. Franny smiled her best heartwarming smile and handed the little man one of her plasma designed translucent plastic business cards.
“Franny Glass, Costello, Lansky, Siegel and Accardo” he said reading the card aloud. He looked over Franny again and stopped giggling. He leaned in close and lowered his voice to a barely audible whisper and said in a distinct British working class accent “I have the letters you sent to my general manager. But caw blimey girl, had we knewed you looked as you do I woulda called” and then, effortlessly returning to his high pitched south Asian dialect, he said loudly, “You must come to my new ashram”
The Marharishi Yogi International Academy of Meditation was, the Yogi’s financial advisors advised him, the strategically right thing to do. If he intended to conquer America, he would have to give the Yanks what they expected. What they expected was for all of their Marharishi’s to fit their version of authenticity. Their version of authenticity for Marharishi’s everywhere demanded that they lived in Ashrams in India.
So, after they slowly explained to the Marharishi what an ashram is, a buyer was dispatched eastward to purchase a 2,000-acre former maize plantation along the edge of Lake Vembanad in Duta, Arunachal Pradesh, in the easternmost tip of India, under the snow peaked Himalaya Mountains, where Bhutan and Tibet meet.
Franny Glass arrived at Tezpur Airport after a grueling 15-hour, seven thousand mile flight. She had her Henk luggage tossed into the back of a rented ancient Russian made Orbita and started the 200-mile ride north to the Yogi’s ashram.
Five hours after she left the airport, Franny Glass arrived at the ashram, her nerves shattered. The Russian made car had come equipped with a tape deck, circa 1972. After a couple of hours of silence, Franny slammed in an ancient eight track she found in the backseat, a Russian made tape, Yuri Popinov sings Elvis. She turned the volume up all the way and listened to Yuri’s very enthusiastic rendition of A hunk a Bunk of burning Funk and then the tape got stuck.
She hit it, several times but all that did was to make it louder. After a half hour, she kicked it, she spat on it and she threatened it with an injunction. Nothing worked. For the next three and half hours the lyrics “I’m a hunk a bunk a burning funk….yeahhhh!... I’m a hunk a bunk a burning funk….yeahhhh!...” played over and over and over and over again, sung in English in a thick Russian accent set at full volume. By the time she arrived at the ashram, Franny was temporarily deaf, spoke with a distinct Russian accent and had developed an eye twitch.
In stark contrast to the majestic but rugged mountain that surrounded it on every side, the ashram had a by-design laid-back feel to it. To ensure that the local smell of wet mud, cow dung and burning garbage didn’t disturb the nasal sensitive westerners, every two hours, the ashram staff would spray vast amounts of floral aromas and pleasant spicy scents into the air. Meals were prepared by a Parisian chef and each guest cottage was built with a private plunge pool and came equipped with an 88- inch television theater set.
In her massive and beautifully appointed room, Franny found scented candles flickering in the near darkness as magnificently beautiful and uncomfortably sensual Asian women with almond eyes, almost seductively asked Franny to disrobe so she could begin the ayurveda treatment. Surprised but intrigued, Franny slowly undressed and as directed lay face down, across a solid oak table. Slowly and methodically, the beautiful woman with the almond eyes slathered oil, infused with pungent herbs, along the length of Franny Glass’s slender milky white body.
About a half hour after the treatment began, the Marharishi Yogi Barish wordlessly slithered into the room, leaving his two bodyguards waiting outside. The women with the almond eyes slipped quietly outside. He then disrobed and reached out to Franny’s prone body in a way she would have never expected. Feeling the light nudging on her ribs, she lifted her head from her forearms. When her eyes focused, she wondered how that ugly fat mouse crawled so far up the table. Then she refocused. A few seconds later, her curled fist landed in the Marharishi’s groin with a sickening snapping sound. The little bearded man’s eyes immediately turned inward towards his nose. Sucking in an enormous amount of air as he fell to his knees he uttered, squealed really, one word “okay”
Franny leaped from the table and frantically wiped the oil and honey from her body and dressed just as the Yogi dragged himself to his feet. My goodness what magnificent legs she has was the last thought that went through his tiny brain before Franny’s karate kick to his forehead knocked him unconscious.
Dashing out the door, she slowed considerably as she passed the solemn sun-glassed bodyguards, slipped into the ancient Russian Orbita, whispered a her version of a quick but silent prayer that it would start, smiled at the guards when it did and with Yuri Popinov happily singing away, she sped out of the complex and down the Burma Road.
When the Marharishi awoke, he had a severe headache and the sinking suspicion that his advances had not gone over well with the American woman. Worse, if word of his behavior reached the right New York circles and then the press, he was ruined.
He called for his guards. “Find her! Bring her back!” he ordered, “Offer her a free week at the Ashram”
As the guard rushed towards the door, he reconsidered “No, wait. Offer her 50 percent off a half week at the Ashram”. A moment later, as the guards were about to peel away in a black Mercedes with tinted windows, he stopped them again “Make that, ten percent off her bar bill! Now go! Find her!”
When Franny looked into her rear view mirror, one of the few times in her life that she had actually used the device, she spotted the black Mercedes pulling out of the ashram gate and closing in on her fast. The Russian clunker strained to hit a top speed of fifty miles an hour and when it did it shook violently, reconsidered exerting itself, and slipped slowly into second gear.
Franny spotted a cut off from the road that disappeared down a slope. Turning a violent left that nearly toppled her car, she sped down the narrowing road. Moments later, the Marharishi guards, up the main road. sped past her.
Franny kept driving down the road until it turned into what she assumed correctly was a cow path, which is why it was odd that she should have been surprised to see that large black and white cow, running towards her.
Kharaab Kismet hated that cow. He suspected the cow hated him as well, but that was not what had ignited his complete contempt toward the ugly beast. Theirs had always been a complicated, rocky relationship largely because, as cows, go this one was as savvy and spiteful as it was ornery. This is why Kharaab was certain it had trounced into his neighbors tea rows on purpose, performing a sort of bovine ballet as it crushed hundreds of the neatly aligned rows of the precious mint under its mud-caked hooves before the performance ended and she was led away.
The local magistrate determined that Kharaab’s cow had caused $600 worth of damage to the neighbor’s crop. In a good year, a very good year, Kharaab earned $450. In a bad year, which was most years, he earned half that amount. To pay for the damages he would have to sell his tiny patch of land that sat aside the Apatani River and without his land, he had nothing. So the cow, the symbol of abundance, had taken everything he had.
With that recent torrid history in mind, it made sense to Kharaab Kismet to kill that goddamn cow and then, since he had nothing left to live for or to live on, he decided that he would kill himself as well.
He was slightly concerned about how he would kill himself with the wooden club, the only thing he owned resembling a weapon. He was new to suicide. Certainly, beating oneself to death would be very painful and take a long time but he elected to deal with issue when he got to it.
Of course, there was another issue. There always is. Kharaab was a devout Hindu it was wrong to kill a cow, even that smirking weasel that had caused him so much misery and shame because, Lord Krishna appeared on earth as a cow. But, thought Kharaab with a twinge of guilt, not even the great and mighty Lord Krishna would save this cow from his wrath.
Walking about behind the arrogant grazing cow, Kharaab raised the wooden club up over his eyes and screamed “Krishna!” His eyes were opened wide with murderous rage.
The cow’s eyes were opened wide in terror. Nobody’s fool, the cow ran before Kharaab could lower the killing blow. Up the cow path it scurried, running, in as much as cows can run, for dear life itself.
Kharaab didn’t give chase. He tossed the club aside and let out a long miserable sigh. He could not go through with it. He didn’t have it in him to murder a living thing, even that miserable beast of a cow that deserved so much to die.
Now he would have to live with his actions; the contemplation of taking a sacred life was an affront to the great Lord Krishna. He, Kharaab Kismet, whose existence on this earth meant nothing, had spat in the eye of the magnificent and giving Krishna and he was ashamed. So Kharaab Kismet, this good and decent man with the broken heart and the empty stomach, fell to his knees and lowered his head and spoke to the Lord Krishna. Praying aloud, he said, “I fear my anger has driven you, oh great and merciful Krishna, the essence of my very soul and the purpose of my life, further from me and without you, your humble servant is nothing. Forgive me Krishna.”
Krishna, who is a basically good-natured type god, in as far as gods go these days, heard his servant’s heart-felt words and smiled upon him. The cow hit the fan and every other part of Franny’s front engine, killing itself and the car in a single head-to-head blow.
Hearing the crash and the mandatory screams of frustration, from both Franny and the cow, Kharaab rose to his feet and climbed the knoll and looked down at the crash site. Realizing that the car had killed the beast, he broke down in tears of joy. The Lord Krishna, in all his greatness, had heard his prayers and had forgiven him. Better yet, that bastard cow was dead and he hadn’t done it. Tears of joy; great unadulterated, wonderful joy, streamed down his wonderfully weather beaten face.
“Krishna!” He cried as he fell to his knees “Krishna!”
“Let’s not cry over spilt milk” said Franny as she climbed from the wreck and lit a Gitane.
She disdainfully inspected the considerable damage to the cars mostly tin engine and then looked full circle at the endless miles of Himalayan vastness and asked, “Is there a Hertz around here?”
Kharaab shrugged in reply.
“El…el…” she groped for the words “El caro rento”
He shrugged again
“Oh honestly” she fumed lighting a second Gigante to accompany the first “Why can’t you people learn English?”
“I speak English, Mame,” he said in flawless English
“They why didn’t you answer me?” she demanded, also in English
“I don’t speak Spanish Mame,” he said, again using English.
Franny was completely confused and decided not to follow up on that angle. “Well where can I rent a car?” she said exasperated
“At the Tezpur Airport in Assam” he answered pointing over the mountain towards Assam
“That’s where I rented this car” she fumed
“So you can see then, I am correct, it is a very good place to rent cars Mame”
“Would you drive me there?” She asked “I’ll pay you”
Kharaab pulled himself to his feet “I have no car Madam”
“Then how do you get around?” She didn’t believe him. He pointed to the dead cow
“Look” she paused, handed him one of her plasma business cards, and extended her hand “Franny Glass, merger, acquisitions and accounts management…what’s your name?”
Kharaab was fascinated with the card. Like half the people in his village, he was illiterate so the words on the card didn’t matter but he had never seen anything like it. Franny withdrew her hand since he hadn’t accepted it and asked again, “What’s your name? Kay es su namo?“
“Kharaab” he answered still looking at the card
“Well listen Carlton, what’s it worth to you?”
Kharaab returned the card with a sad smile. “I can’t afford it, Madam, I’m sorry”
“No, you idiot not the card…the cow thingy…how much for the cow?”
“The cow is sacred to us. In India we call it the gift of Avataar”
“In Manhattan we call it sirloin. How much?”
Kharaab thought it was amusing but odd that the people in Manhattan named their cows and then continued “The cow’s dung is worth a fortune. It is used as an insecticide, a source of fuel and a fertilizer….and then there are the dairy products”
“My God” Franny said appalled “You mean you people use cow dung as a dairy product?” she waved off the thought “No don’t tell me…look Carol, I’m sorry I killed your little” she turned and looked at the animal’s corpse because she couldn’t remembered what they called those things “Bull cow friend or whatever ….but it was Krishna’s fault. He ran out in front of my car after escaping from the… a...a….um…” again a word escaped her “a bunch of cows where he belonged!" She was dialing her phone and waiting for the signal to connect
"Not a bunch, Madam, a herd", he corrected her respectfully.
"Heard of what?" she asked, her eyes glued to the phone screen
"Herd of cows, Madam"
"Of course I've heard of cows."
"No, a cow herd."
"No, a cow herd."
"What do I care what a cow heard?” She said peering up on the road for the Yogi’s thugs, “I have no secrets to keep from a cow! Look Caribbean, I’ll pay for your little friend but don’t try to milk me on this one”
He considered the vaguely sexual physical act of milking a cow and pondered what his ancestors were really thinking when they explored that option. He was jolted out of his thoughtful trance by the sound of Franny’s snapping fingers under his long, thin nose.
“They moved my eyes up here, buddy boy” she said, “Look. Carmichael…I ….”
“Kharaab” he said respectfully
“Whatever” she said disrespectfully “I won’t take any bull”
“I don’t want to give you a bull, Madam,” he said completely confused
“Well don’t,” she repeated busily digging through her purse.
“I don’t even have a bull,” he said to himself because New York had picked up and was busy making arrangements to bring her home. The bad news was New York wouldn’t be able to get her another car out of the valley until the following morning. The good news was, well actually, there wasn’t any good news.
She slammed the phone closed and looked around the barren hills. “Look, crabby,” she said to Kharaab “Is there a Hilton or anything resembling a hotel around here?”
“Yes” answered Kharaab cheerfully. It wasn’t often he knew the answer to two questions in row “I am told there is a very fine hotel at the Tezpur Airport in Assam….very fine a Motel Six”
Franny, who was at least a full foot taller than Kharaab blew a ring smoke in his face and said quietly “Don’t bust my balls or I swear to God you’ll join your little friend over there”
Despite what he suspected might be a hostile attitude from the American, Kharaab invited her to his humble home to spend the night because she had nowhere else to go. It is the Indian way.
He prepared a reasonably good, if spicy but bland dinner of seasoned rice with bamboo shoots and local herbs, a pile of leafy vegetables and maize with eggs, all washed down with Apong, the local drink made from rice and millet.
Franny, who had not eaten that day and was very hungry, had noted the sparseness of the food and noted again that Kharaab took less food for himself than he had given to her.
“Thank you Kharaab” said Franny Glass when the modest meal ended. There was nothing unusual in the words themselves. It was only unusual that she meant it.
“I should tell you, Karuba, there are men after me. They want to harm me. I’ll go up and sleep in the car, if I stay here, you could be harmed”
The near constant smile fell from his face and Kharaab looked her in the eyes for the first time “You are a guest in my home. No harm will come to you that will not befall me first” and then the smile returned to his face and for the first time Franny Glass smiled at him as well.
“Thank you Kharaab” she said quietly, this time with a smile.
When night fell, Kharaab took a thin, musty blanket from the shed and set on the ground. The lady would have the bed for the evening. He would sleep out under the canopy of stars that shone a brilliant bright blue against the black sky. In so long as gallant souls like Kharaab Kismet roam the earth, the last faint lights of chivalry will never die.
Although she didn’t understand why he did it, Kharaab’s sacrifice wasn’t lost on Franny Glass, an unusual moment of cogniscence for her, but then again the experience of having someone act decently without cause, was new to her. Before she turned in for the night she said “Sleep well Kharaab”
“I doubt it,” he whispered back
Franny slept well. In fact, she couldn’t recall when she had last slept o well and woken up so refreshed and relaxed. Maybe it was brisk mountain air, the dose of healthy food or the unbelievable beauty around her that she was noticing for the first time since she’d arrived.
She joked with Kharaab as he prepared them a traditional breakfast of warm rice, stuffed paratha bread that Franny recognized as crepes, cold butter, cooked spicy aloo sabzi and unsweetened milk. It had been over a decade since Franny had sat and eaten a full breakfast and when it was over, she did something she rarely ever did, she relaxed. She lay back on the ground and stared up at the mountain peaks.
When the man entered the property, Franny noticed that Kharaab’s hands were trembling and he would not raise his eyes to look at the unhappy visitors as they spoke in a language she didn’t understand. She was pretty sure it wasn’t Spanish or Russian. Maybe Chinese.
The man left as abruptly and as unhappily as he had arrived and in his dark and gloomy wake stood Kharaab who slowly drew back his head and sucked in a deep, long breath and then closed his eyes and lowered his chin to his chest.
Franny stood to her feet and walked over to where he was standing and placed a hand on his arm “What is Kharaab? What’s wrong? Who was that man? What did he say to you?”
They walked silently to the river’s edge and washed the morning plates and as they did, Kharaab told Franny about that horrible cow and his neighbor’s field and the magistrate’s decision and how his neighbor, the gloomy man who had just left, had come to evict Kharaab from his land. This tiny patch of earth that had been the home of his father’s father and his father’s father before that. When the story ended, Kharaab lowered his head in defeat and after a long silence, Franny said “Wow..…you mean that cows name wasn’t Krishna?”
That evening after a supper of a mild meat and vegetable dish cooked in yogurt and flavored with fragrant spices, Franny asked Kharaab “How much do I owe you for the cow”
Kharaab smiled warmly at the American. Hers was a noble spirit he thought. Like him she was poor, in fact, he recalled, she was so poor that when they first met, she tried to sell him a plastic card with writing on it.
“We are the humble of the earth” he smiled “We owe each other only our kindness”
“All right you bastard, you won. I’ll pay out” Franny barked as she took out her checkbook
“Now I’m going to assume that cow thing was a Holstein or Goldstein or whatever those things are, right? So what’s the value on that? Six? Seven grand?”
“Well” said Kharaab thoughtfully because he had no idea about what the hell she was talking about.
“All right! All right!” she snapped, “Seven five and that’s it. Now since...um…cowing or whatever it’s called….is your primary source of income which is just a screaming endorsement to bring back vocational training in my opinion, you’ll need to get back on your bare feet, so that’s another year or so to train the new cow to…do whatever you two do together….so what will you gross this year? Twelve, fifteen grand? We’ll call it an even 13 five, how’s that? I’ll toss in another five for stress, trauma and turmoil and….” She said handing him the check form the Bank of New York for twenty-six thousand dollars “That’s that”
Although at the time, handing over the check was a spur of the moment-never-to-be-repeated act of generosity on Franny’s part; her accountants later labeled it a legitimate travel and business expense and wrote it off of her taxes. It wasn’t all that much money anyway, not in the larger scheme and not when you considered the thirty-five thousand it cost to charter the private helicopter that flew her out of Kharaab’s back yard the next morning.
In the end, maybe Franny Glass really was, at her core, a very bad person, although if you were to ask her if she was, she would say it wasn’t so. And she would say it wasn’t so because she could recall once, during a fleeting moment in time, in a place that didn’t matter, the great and merciful Krishna had tested the goodness of Franny Glass’s soul, and for a brief and glorious moment, Franny Glass was a powerful and great spirit filled with goodness, kindness, decency and all those other wonderful but sadly rare things that occasionally allow a mere mortal to stand with the gods.