That afternoon, if Neeru had known how a few minutes can be enough time for life to exact its dues, she might have done things differently. She might have taken care to lock doors behind her. She might even have stayed put on that front porch swing, leaning back, feet skimming the tiled floor, to and fro, to and fro, as warm air blew from the ceiling fan... The only sound Neeru heard was of fountain water spilling from a pot held on the head of a half-naked stone goddess, who flaunted her bold curves under a lemon tree in the far corner. Neeru could sit here for hours and daydream about, oh, so many things her new world, which she had known for less than a month, had to offer.
Some numbers I want them to know: fifty—the age of the man they knocked over; fifteen—my age when I met him as a child bride; twenty-five—how many years I had been his wife; fifty thousand—the amount we had got for our farmland to pay for my sick parents’ hospital bills; two—bottles of rat poison we had bought to end our constant worries about work and money; one—the number of times I had been pregnant, and he had gone from the happiest to the saddest I had ever known.
Patty Somlo’s latest short story collection is titled ‘The First to Disappear,’ after the first story in the book. And, in a way, all the stories here are about people looking for things that have disappeared from them — whether that is a way of life, a person, an object, a pleasure, or an ideal.