Prayers of the Elder
by Eric Freedman


She sells papaya in halves and quarters on a diesel-choked, New Delhi street. The heat smacks hard as she labors to fill the belly of her skeleton frame, maybe bring some sugary laddoos to her many grandchildren.

The creases of her raisin face wrinkle as she smiles at my approach. My big American hand holds out a twenty-rupee note. Her smile pushes higher the sallow, yellow bulbs of flesh that were once toned muscles atop beautiful cheekbones. The jellied skin hanging loose on her ribs is exposed from the side of her sari as she turns to get me fruit.

Smiling, she takes my money.

Nodding, she watches me scoop hunks of orange flesh in a small metal spoon and slurp them off with dry lips.

Hoping I will give her money just for the hell of it, her bright face begs.

Smiling because she's prayed to Ganesh, and to Krishna--praying even now.


Until a small stream of urine snakes down her leg, soaks the leather of her sandal, and forces her from the table to finish peeing in the dirt and watch me walk away.


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