Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Road to Shimla - by Amita Murray

  Excerpt One
“The first time you saw me, you handed me a glass of bubbly and punched me in the face,” Alice says. She turns to study her husband – if he is still her husband.
Jacob pauses in the act of doing nothing at all. “Nostalgia? You? Shocking,” he says. “And anyway, I did not punch you in the face. You took one sip and only bloody choked on it. I was trying to give you a neighbourly thump.”
“More like a neighbourly hump, if I’d only known,” Alice says virtuously.
Jacob reaches out a hand to her, then stops, takes out his phone and starts doing heaven knows what on it. She clenches the steering wheel, and stares out at Kalka, the last town in the plains before the road climbs up to the Himalayas. Life presses in hungrily on both sides of the car. The rain has formed gullies, and there is garbage swimming its way down – onion peel, soggy cabbage, Band-aid, a plastic bag of Amul Milk, a half-dead lizard, hair scrunchies, a child’s pacifier, known locally and succinctly as a “nipple,” a dirty sock, assorted life debris. continued...

Excerpt Two
He stares at her for a second, and frowns. The road is dark as they head up out of Kalka, their headlights the only foggy beacons of life. Visibility is fifteen feet. Around the curve, Alice sees approaching headlights and creeps closer to the mountain. The approaching truckers skirt the edge of the road, a millimeter or two shy of the sheer, mile-long drop to the valley below.
There is a traffic jam, truckers lined up. An orange-turbaned trucker shouts to another driver who laughs into his beard. Alice catches that it is something about the bearded man’s mother. Beard-man responds with a comment about the turbaned man’s testicles. She inches forward, her foot aching on the brake. They pass a banner advertising hotel rooms at Mountain Dawn View, where the rooms come with a double-bed, clean towels, Star television, and tandoori chicken with Kingfisher beer in the bar, “For the Savvy Customer.” continued...

These are two short excerpts from a very 'place-based' short story. A slightly different version of it was published in Inkspill Magazine in 2011.

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