Marsha's Choice.

Submitted into Contest #96 in response to: Write about someone welcoming a stranger into their home.... view prompt


Adventure Contemporary Friendship

“For Christ’s sake Shiva, will you get your ass in here and help me?”

The tone in Kali’s voice alerted Shiva and prompted him into action.

He reluctantly turned off the soccer game, rolled over the edge of the divan, and sauntered into the kitchen to see what it was his wife wanted.

“What is it Kali, what do you want?”

Kali’s eyes became a little wild and there appeared to be smoke drifting out her ears and nostrils.

“Are you dumb, blind AND daft?” she bellowed.

“Look around, do you not see all the pots on the fire? Can you not see the crap on the floor and for heaven’s sake, these kids are driving me crazy.”

“I’m trying to pack up for the move and it’s almost like you think I have 10 hands.”

“I swear, if you don’t help, I’m going to eat one of those kids!’

Shiva shivered.

He was well aware of his wife’s fierce temper. On the rare occasion he forgot, he needed only to glance at the necklace of men’s skull’s around her neck.

No, Kali was not a woman you wanted to mess with.

Shiva rolled up his sleeves, looked around and hoped that whatever chore he chose would appease his angry wife.

They had recently decided to move to another country. One very different from the hot humid climes of their homeland, India.

They were going to Canada and had chosen a spot somewhere in the middle, hoping that the balance of living on the flat prairie might bring more peace and harmony into their lives.

They had never travelled to this strange place and were quite excited to discover new terrain and fresh bodies to entertain themselves with.

They’d spent several thousand years in their present location and had become somewhat complacent and frankly, a little bored.

The mundane routine of daily life on one of the most densely populated continents of the planet had worn a little thin for the couple and they looked forward to the change.

They had found an agent who suggested the province of Saskatchewan and had chosen a small town in a rural area, where they planned to purchase the local grocery store.

Kali had toyed with the idea of opening up a children’s clothing store, or even a daycare for preschoolers. Shiva managed to convince her this might not be the best idea, given her temper and her lack of control when angered by misbehaving young ones.

They both decided it would be safer, for themselves and the townsfolk if they chose another occupation.

Meanwhile, over in Canada, somewhere in the middle, lived a woman called Marsha.

She resided in Smalltown Saskatchewan, population: 1,500 souls.

Marsha had lived in Smalltown for her entire life. Her home and much of the surrounding farmland had been in her family for several generations, dating back to when settlers first moved onto the prairie in the late 1700’s. 

Her people first came to this rich farmland from the Ukraine, escaping with little more than the shirts on their backs and just enough money to pay for their passage to Canada.

They were very hard workers and through a process of patience and perseverance, built a life of considerable wealth.

The rich, fertile farmland they staked, was their reward from the Canadian government for being part of a move to eliminate the Indigenous people who had used this land for thousands of years.

 Smalltown was surrounded by a number of Indian reserves, populated by people who had been displaced and settled onto the least productive land the government could allocate.

Over the years, these “First People” had lived lives so marginalized, that poverty, alcoholism and other diseases were the norm rather than the exception. 

Many, from both cultures, accepted the belief that the status quo was a natural evolution and few rose to a place of questioning this somewhat warped perception of reality.

Hundreds of years of colonization by marauding “civilized” cultures had taken its toll. 

The privileged and entitled hid blindly behind a wall of systemic racism.

They refused to explore the possibility that their ancestors had raped, pillaged and stolen what they believed was their due as conquerors.

They were proud be part of a country whose founding fathers had written doctrines with specific instructions on how to eradicate the "Indian Problem."

It was not until well into the 21st century that Canada had to accept a judgement of genocide.

Many Canadians resisted this verdict. 

Fear that they might somehow lose what they believed to be theirs and theirs alone, created a slightly hostile environment. Their neighbours from the surrounding reserves often felt the waves of wrathful energy directed towards them.

They came into town reluctantly, mostly to buy food from the grocery store and when money permitted, alcohol from businesses supplying this highly prized substance. For the most part, they kept to themselves.

Marsha believed herself to be an open minded person, free from the shackles of racism. She considered herself tolerant and if not totally sympathetic when some drunken ‘Indian’ showed up in her small grocery store, she had least tried for kindness, as she firmly escorted them outside.

There were several small businesses in Smalltown and they all both anticipated and dreaded THAT day at the end of the month. The day when the welfare checks were issued, fueling a brief spasm of frenzied spending. 

Marsha’s store had the advantage of having a license to sell alcohol. This was both a blessing and a curse. The income from liquor sales provided a tidy living for her. This income somewhat offset the headache of dealing with the drunks who were the source.

She counted herself lucky. She could at least close her doors at 6:00 p.m., leaving the local hotel and its bar to accommodate the flotsam and jetsam that washed in on the tide of government funded payday.

At the end of the day, Marsha grew weary. She’d reached an age when the routine of running a business became too much and she no longer enjoyed what for her had been a lifelong occupation.

She decided to sell her store and started looking for suitable new owners.

She began locally, but no one seemed interested. Many of the residents were of a similar age to Marsha and had no desire to take on such an undertaking.

The younger people, the townsfolks children and grandchildren, had mostly left for larger cities. 

They used higher education and other professional training to escape the confines of life in rural Saskatchewan.

They would return for brief visits to aging relatives, mostly to appease a nagging sense of guilt. Once their obligatory visits were fulfilled, they returned to their city life, grateful to have escaped an existence that held little appeal for them.

So, Marsha hired a real estate agent who specialized in finding buyers from foreign lands. The target was a rarified group of fairly wealthy people who wanted to escape from countries that held little hope for advancement. People who wanted to provide better opportunities for their children and believed that life in Canada would be the vehicle to achieve this goal.

For Shiva, his wife Kali and their numerous children, the ad for Marsha’s store came at exactly the right moment in time. They had the means to provide a comfortable living for themselves in India, but were intrigued with the possibilities of life in a new, very foreign country.

They got all their papers in order, had their agent finalize the purchase, finished their packing and left for their new home. 

What perhaps they might have prepared for better was the predicament of being strangers in a strange land.

However, this fun loving couple enjoyed such predicaments. They even thrived on creating situations that fed into their craving for a little excitement and even though they strove for balance, the occasional energy of a good storm brought them great satisfaction. They somehow knew that ‘clearing the air’ was a harmonic act of nature. A performance that they were well suited to conduct.

They arrived in Smalltown in mid January. Their arrival coincided with one of the worst blizzards the area had seen for decades. Temperatures dipped to minus forty Celsius and breathing outside became dangerous.

Marsha met them at the store, keys in hand, prepared to give them a tour of their new home.

She did her best to hide her shock at their appearance.

Kali’s exotic sari, extensive henna tattoos and strange jewelry were very startling. She glanced down at her own attire, fur lined galoshes, down filled parka and layers of insulation and realized that this couple was going to provide much entertainment for Smalltown.

She was somewhat taken aback by the blue tone to Shiva’s skin, but chalked it up to his reaction to the extreme cold and his inadequate apparel. 

She spent several hours going over inventory, explaining her bookkeeping system and doing her best to prepare them for the reality of running a business in rural Saskatchewan.

Marsha tentatively edged into the topic of the ‘Indian problem’. She did her best to describe the situation and outline how she and her family had dealt with this tricky situation.

She explained ‘welfare day’ to them and gave them tips on how to handle some of the issues that arose. 

She was grateful when the obligatory tour ended and she was able to escape to the privacy of her little house, blocks away. She joyously anticipated her well earned retirement. 

Just as she was preparing to leave, a dilapidated old car rolled up to the curb. A group of very inebriated natives emerged, laughing, joking and pointing at their car parked half on the street and half on the sidewalk.

They stumbled to the store door, just as Marsha was showing Shiva and Kali how to lock up. She rolled her eyes, gave the couple a conspiratorial look and whispered, “This is what I was trying to tell you about.”

Much to her amazement, Shiva and Kali rushed out to the group and threw their arms around them.

To her utter astonishment, the group of drunks in unison, greeted the pair with a heartwarming “Tawaw”. 

To her total bafflement, they all began chatting in foreign, to her, languages. Even more baffling was they seemed to understand one another perfectly. 

She shook her head, thought of Shakespeare’s often misquoted line, “And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Marsha understood intuitively that a bridge was being built and that somehow she needed to find the way to join. 

She opened her heart and out of her mouth came these words, “Tansi.”

June 04, 2021 16:43

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