He was just nearing the end of the line; the terminal the terminus, what ever it was called. The journey had been long and arduous and totally of his own creation.

She had gone to Tescos and got winter veg, stock (not the cans which look like beer, but the “finest” sold in a bag, like the Aarak in the bar at the truck stop. “Aarak” daubed by the hand of a maniac it seemed, in blood red under the counter, the proprietor behind a wire grille, like a post office; this place expected violence and assaults. Usually 2 bags of the finest washed down with a paprika seasoned pickled egg in a dirty glass; the water in the basin in which they sit covered the glasses in filthy spittle and countless germs. The water was only fresh once a day, right at the beginning, even then was it clean? 2 bags and then home to beat the wife, these were the sort which haunted the truck stops, where the train ended and the busses began.

He alighted the train at Gorakhpur, in darkness, the seedy cafes illuminated with insect killers, shit there were millions of mosquitos here, “zip, zip, zap, fffzzttt”. Trucks and busses idling, diesel fumes in suspension, clothes taking on the blackness, lungs breathing the blackness, “Gorakhpur is a gas chamber” stated the local newspaper from the diesel rainbow puddle.

She peeled and sliced the vegetables, squashing the garlic, which she’d seen Jamie Oliver do on the telly,  lentils be damned, she was through with Dahl, soups were the way forward. Conversely in a cupboard far far away in Wiltshire, a mother was looking at a bag of green lentils from Waitrose wondering what the hell to do with them.

She knew he wasn’t here, she knew he’d taken the train, she knew he’d be back like an Australian boomerang begging for mercy. He had a short fuse, she lit it and then waited for it to detonate, explode and cool off, then he would come crawling back, she loved him and his misplaced passion.

He entered the Aarak bar, swilling the glass in the filthy water, shaking it out, shaking off the germs back into the stagnant water, what the hell was he doing? He asked the teller for “one”, who cut the bag open and poured it into the glass, offered him some “Thumbs Up” orangeade, radioactive in colour, or “Limca”, actually radioactive and banned in most countries. He took the orangeade, he wasn’t an animal. Watching the orangeade and Aarak mix like oppositely charged magnets in the glass, swirling in opposing directions like oil on water, he drank it down, grimmaced walked back to the basin and placed the glass back inside, the orange residue twirling upwards into the dark germ soup.

She was simmering the soup now, far too much jaggery, she’d slipped earlier, she must curb her opium use, maybe tomorrow. She needed to sour the broth, a touch of Kachri should do the job. The clock said late, she was starting to fade now, the soup was nearly done, and he hadn’t returned.

“Never mind, he’ll be back for sunrise”

She turned the gas off, ladled a quantity of soup into a bowl, and replaced the lid, it would keep, and if necessary would freeze. He’d be back sooner or later, he always was.


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