I don’t usually write stories. I write essays, poetry and straight dope posts. But not stories. so for some reason at three AM last night, I decided to write a story in my weblog instead of a more relevent post on Halloween. It was written on the fly in the middle of the night with no forthought about where things like plot an characters were going. But I’m still pretty proud of my first story.
Pratihba and the Dragon
Pratihba really wanted a burrito.
She knew she ought to be laying seductively on some embroidered bedcloth coyly sipping perfumed yoghurt and listening to the bells around her milky brown ankle faintly shimmer. It would have been a good scene. She was beautiful- long sculpted nose with just a bit of hawkishness to it, long eyes that are capable of flashing like a young maiden eyeing the local cowherder in a Bollywood film right before the scene when they almost kiss, and long black hair that looks like how swimming through mercury must feel. But that same hair was laying like a dead wet lump around her face, slowly soaking through the dirty sheets. Her eyes were itchy. Her nose was peeling away in white patches of dead skin with the first cold of the season. The only tinkeling came from the windchimes outside, which were fairly howling in the rain and wind.
Pratihba knew exactly what she would do with this burrito. First she’d peel away the foil, as it always set her on edge to even think that it might get close to her fillings. She’s put exactly five sugar cubes in her tea since she was a child. Her pretty smile was laced in silver. Then she’d focus on the beans- how they go from round little pebbles to earthy mush in her mouth. Then she’d get to the rice which was thinly flavored with chicken stock (her mom would kill her if she knew!). After a few more bites, she’d hit the sour cream gold mine. They always lumped it all in one spot. Once she hit that, it’d be over. She’d douse the rest of the burrito in hot sauce and consume it a breathless flurry of bites.
It was a good thought. Good enough to keep her just hungry enough not to fall alseep during that hour she spent in bed trying to find the courage to put on some clothes and make the two block long trek to the Taquaria El Dragon.
She dressed in front of the radiator. Jeans over pajama pants (warmer that way), two woolen sweaters, feet shoved sockless into dress shoes. No umbrella. For a moment she thought ruefully that her hair had just dried from her shower. She grabbed a powder pink beanie and ran out the door before she could decide to go back to bed.
She was just half a block away when the lights started going out.
Water splashed into her dress shoes as she hurried through the puddles to get to warm and safe pools of light coming from the taquria. But then the dragon came. She couldn’t ignore that.
“No way” she thought, “I’m still holding that stupid beanie”
Pratihba stopped. She looked up. The dragon was red and looked like more like a big stupid worm than anything else. She was still caught on the incongruity of it. Who would have thought you’d run into a Chinese dragon? It flapped it’s useless little wings and undulated a bit. She threw the now soaked beanie at it, screamed, and ran to the Taquaria.
Pratihba realized that she probaby hadn’t seen a dragon. She willed herself to walk to the counter as if nothing had happened. She was sleepwalking. She was just going to order her burrito and everything would be fine. She’d go home and call her mom and talk about her baby sister. It’d be alright.
“One super veggie, please”, she said, pulling out three crumpled ones.
“OHhhhhheeeeeeyiiiiiii” wailed the ghost behind the counter. He had an old Mandarin style pigtail and a black padded jacket. His wife, an old woman in a flowered silk dress, grabbed Pratihba from behind. The woman ghost was much stronger than Prathiba. Prathiba passed out.
She woke up in the kitchen. The ghosts looked strange wandering around the dirty chrome of a modern commercial kitchen. The six burner stove was on full blast- six rings of blue flames. In the corner, some old tortilla chips began to smoke under a too-close warming lamp. It was unbearably hot. Even the ghosts looked uncomfortable as the stood around looking etheral.
“This place is going to fucking burn down. Who are you?” Pratihba screamed. The ghosts looked unconcerned. Pratihba walked over and turned off the stove and the lamp.
“Who the fuck are you? You need to get out of here! I just wanted a burrito. I hope to fucking god you didn’t kill the cooks because…” she said as she picked up a chef’s knife.
The ghosts looked at each other and chuckled. Then Prathiba noticed the wall behind them. She’d never been in the kitchen before. the brick was covered in old red paint. A rusted fuse box said “China One Cafe”. She had always wondered what the old taquaria had been. For a moment she had some crazed thoughts about the plight of the Chinese Railroad workers. Then she remembered that it all led up to her being in a kitchen with a bunch of ghosts. Prathiba tried to look mean.
“Who are you!” she demanded.
The female ghost stepped forward.
“We miss our restraunt. It is cold out there. We have nowhere to be. The family that owns the Taquaria is on vacation to Arizona. I hoped we could try it again for just a day. How was I to know that making burritos is much harder than making roasted duck?”
Prathiba thought this made some kind of sense.
“Why the dragon?” she asked, just to clear up the rest of the story.
“To scare any customers away. All I have to cook with is beans and tortillas. I can’t possibly make anything good.”
“So you arn’t interested in being dangerous? I mean, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you guys are good ghosts, right?”
“Oh yes. Of course. It’s not our fault we’ve been damned to walk the Earth forever.” Said the woman, looking back at her husband for reassurance.
Pratihba remembered that she had to call her mother. That could wait. But she knew what her mother would do in this situation. She invited the ghosts to her house for some tea and pampadums. The etheral couple gladly accepted. They stayed up all night talking. Even the tactiturn man began to tell stories about his long gone life. The dragon (who seems much smaller when you get over the fact that he’s a dragon) was curled up in front of the radiator.
Pratihba enjoyed having the company so much that she invited the ghosts to stay in her house. Every wednesday she stopped by the farmer’s market for a fresh batch of vegetables and then the Asian grocery for various ingrediants. The ghost couple preapared the most wonderful food imaginable. Every night they would gather at Prathiba’s table and watch as Pratihba ate their creations. Eventually Prathiba began taking boxes of their food to lunch at work with her. Her friends ate bits of this and pieces of that. From there a small catering firm developed. After many years, full of much laughter and joy, Pratihba and the ghosts bought the old Taquaria El Dragon, allowing the previous owners to retire to sunny Arizona. They ran that restraunt until the day Pratihba died. When Prathiba’s soul began to fly away from her, she quickly grabbed hands with the ghosts. The trio flew up into the heavens, to the unknown that meets us all one day. The dragon looked mornfully for a moment, and then began to make his own way back to the forests where he could frolic with other dragons.
You may not believe this story is true, but if you look in the kitchen of the old abandon Taquaria El Dragon, you wills till find a fuse box that says “China One Cafe” on the side. And you will see payrolls with nary a cooks’ name on them sitting in Prathiba’s little desk in the corner of the kitchen. Make of that what you will.