Ravi called Mrs. Anand the next day in the mid-afternoon. Mrs. Anand was in the basement plucking a headless chicken dripping with blood. She went to a farm in Jaffrey every Tuesday and bought a live tied-up bird home. She would chop off the fluttering chicken’s head and smoke it over the blazing fire pit in the backyard, then bring it to the basement, and pluck it and cut it into small pieces. After which the squared chicken pieces went into a big stainless steel pot with onions and curry powder and became supper. Doing all this ensured Mrs. Anand that India was still alive in her heart. Canadians like Jesse, who had corrupted Ravi’s way of thinking, were all lazy. All they did for their food was to go to an oversized store and buy some animal for dinner that had been dead for days. Unthinkable! Mrs. Anand still had the chicken slime on her hands when the phone rang upstairs in the living room. Reshma picked it up on the second ring.
“Is Mom there?”
“How much money do you want now, Ravi?”
“None, you little twit.”
“Surprise! Surprise! Mom is plucking chicken right now.”
“Why does she have to do that? She can just go to the supermarket and buy the already plucked chicken from there like the rest of us Canadians. She makes such a big mess in the basement.” Ravi shook his head on the other end of the line. “Okay, just tell her to call me the first chance she gets.”
“Yeah, sure,” said Reshma.
Ravi hung up and anxiously waited for his mom’s call back.
After dinner, Mrs. Anand picked up the phone to call Ravi. Bobby came whistling a tune through the living room. Mrs. Anand’s eyes bulged open, and her mouth gaped.
“Whistle nahi karo…nahi karo, Bobby. Cheh bas gaya hai. Don’t whistle. Bobby, don’t whistle. It’s past six o’clock.”
According to Mrs. Anand, whistling past six o’clock was inviting trouble to your household as it awakened the spirits of the dead and attracted them into your home. Bobby stopped whistling and quietly went to his room with his ‘scapeboard.’ And Mrs. Anand, her breathing still labored, dialed Ravi’s number and looked over her shoulder to make sure that Bobby’s whistling had not stirred the spirits in her own living room.
Ravi answered on the other end. Mrs. Anand, pleased that she didn’t have to hear the cow-eater’s voice, said, “It’s my Ravi…my Ravi beta. My son, Ravi. How much money do you need?”
“Jeez Mom, it’s not like the only time I phone you is when I need money. I just need to borrow your van…for ten days.”
“Ten days? Why?”
“Jesse and I are planning a trip to Calgary.”
“Why do you have to go to Calgary? I hear the traffic is crazy there.”
“We just wanted to go Stampeding, Mom, for ten days,” said Ravi in the tone of a ten-year-old, which Jesse despised and which reminded Mrs. Anand that he was still her boy.
“You guys can’t afford that.”
“We saved money for it, Mom.”
“Saved money for it? How long have you been planning this? And you didn’t tell your mother, Ravi? If you didn’t want the van, then you both would have left and never told me. I would have been left wondering and worrying where you went.” Mrs. Anand started sniffling. It was all Jesse’s doing.
Ravi was used to his mother’s elaborate performances. “You will still have the car, Mom.”
Jesse asked in the background if she was crying again. Mrs. Anand overheard. She stopped sniffling as Ravi put a forefinger on his lips, motioning Jesse to be quiet.
Mrs. Anand decided to teach Jesse a lesson for listening in on a conversation with her son. She hemmed and hawed. Ravi pleaded shamelessly. Mrs. Anand said that Mr. Anand was the head of the house and that she would have to talk it over with him. Ravi said that Mr. Anand would say yes if she said yes. Mrs. Anand smiled at that comment. Then she requested that Jesse leave the room as it was hindering her thoughts and ability to make a decision about them borrowing her van. Ravi covered the mouthpiece of the phone and asked Jesse to leave the room. When Jesse went to the bedroom and banged the door shut, Mrs. Anand commented that doors should always be closed gently.
While Ravi waited silently on the other end of the line, Mrs. Anand pondered her next move. If they took Reshma and Bobby with them to Calgary, then she and Anando could have a romantic escape of their own in Elkford. She could wear her plus-size French-maid costume and dust her Anando’s balding head with her pink feather duster. The outfit was stacked at the very back of her closet in the green box where she kept a few other necessities such as the fishnet stockings that went with the frilly mini skirt and the small vibrator that you slid onto your forefinger to enhance anyone’s pleasure.
So she agreed to lend her van. It was quick thinking, especially with Jesse out of the room and the thought of Anando very slowly sliding the fishnet stockings off her thunderous thighs.
She gave Ravi a few more rules to adhere to while traveling in her van.
“You make sure that your wife doesn’t smoke in the van,” she said. “And spraying peach spray all over it like you did last time did not make it smell nicer again, Ravi.”
“You know about that?”
Mrs. Anand raised her eyebrows on the other end. “Hm,” she said, pursing her lips into a tight line.
Ravi thanked his mother, told her he loved her, and let her know that they were planning to leave after supper the coming Friday. Mrs. Anand smiled as she hung up the phone. It was all set. Ravi called Jesse to phone Elisha on her cell.