Part 4, Life on the Left Side of the Fast Lane


Part IV (copyright by Reynold Conger 2010)

(Look for previous installments in prior posts.)

(Amna and Ron are in the garden discussing how to investigate Usman’s disappearance when they hear a door open.)

At the sound of the door opening, Ron tried to take a step away from Amna, but she clung to him saying, “It’s only the houseboy’s wife. She has been helping him with the dishes, and now she is going back to their quarters. Kiss me, so she thinks she knows why we are out here in the garden. She has seen my sister out here with her fiancée.”

Ron felt guilty kissing a girl much younger than his own daughter. In fact, this girl was almost young enough to be a granddaughter. The kiss also reminded Ron how much he missed his wife’s kisses.

When they heard the door of the servant’s quarters bang, Ron let go of Amna, and she took a step away from Ron. “If only Papa would let me marry a man like you. It’s so nice to be in your arms.”

“Amna, use some common sense. Your father may approve of this as a cover for our discussions, but I doubt that he would be pleased by even the suggestion that I may have seduced you.”

Amna sighed, “I dream of that also, but you are right. I should not cause my parents to worry.”

“If I make some discrete inquiries about this brand of smuggled cigarettes, or if I were to see someone smoking them, how will I recognize the package?”

“It’s mostly white, with two red bars near the top of the pack and a big red circle in the center. It’s the brand Cedric smokes.”

“Cedric Shah, the quality-control engineer?”

“Yes.”

“I did not realize you were acquainted with the men at the factory.”

“Papa has taken the family to the factory to show us how the we make our income. Of course, that was only a formal introduction.”

“If you know his brand of cigarettes, Amna, I suspect you have had more than a formal introduction to him.”

Amna turned her back on Ron. “Promise you won’t tell Papa.”

“Amna, I hope you aren’t in trouble.”

Amna turned to face Ron again. “No, we have been very proper. At the end of Ramadan every year, Papa holds a big party for all of the managers and engineers. That has been our opportunity to meet and talk. That is the only time, honest.”

“I believe you, Amna.”

“Cedric is friendly and intelligent. We have talked a lot at those parties. He has a great sense of humor.”

“Yes, Cedric is one of the brightest engineers in your father’s factory.”

Amna sighed again, “He stays fit playing football. In many ways he’s a lot like you.”

Ron laughed, “I’ve never learned to play soccer, which is the game you call football.”

“Well, he’s trim and athletic. If we were in America, I would tell Cedric that I would be his girl friend if he would only quit smoking.”

“It sounds like you should ask your father to arrange a marriage between you and Cedric.”

Ron could hear the shock in Amna’s voice. “That is quite out of the question. Cedric lacks the social status to marry into my family.”

Ron dropped the subject and asked a few more questions about Usman before they returned to the house.

The next day at the factory, Ron asked for quality-control records to review. He spent a half an hour in review until he found some unusual data. He then asked Cedric to come into Usman’s office for a discussion.

As they discussed the validity of the data, Cedric shook out a cigarette and placed the pack on the desk. While Cedric was lighting up, Ron casually looked at the pack. “Are these any good?” he asked.

Cedric blew the smoke out of his lungs and said, “Mediocre. I didn’t realize you smoke.”

“I don’t, but I’m curious.”

“They’re strong. They satisfy my nicotine craving, and they’re cheap. I can’t afford to smoke a brand that tastes good.”

“If you quit, you would save all that money and be a better football player as well.”

Cedric took another drag. “True, but I’m hooked. I’ve tried to quit.”

“Perhaps if you had a beautiful woman encouraging you, you could do it. How come a handsome fellow like you isn’t married?”

“You know our custom of arranged marriages, don’t you?”

“People have told me a little about it.”

“My father has invited several available women to dinner so that I could give my opinion. Quite frankly they were all cows, and besides I’m in love with a different woman.”

Ron laughed, “That makes it simple. Ask your father to negotiate with that girl’s father.”

With a shocked look on his face, Cedric took one long last drag on the cigarette and stubbed it out. “That would do no good. I lack the proper social status.”

“What a pity.”

“Look. Perhaps in America one can meet a girl at a party and fall in love with her and marry her in spite of the low social status of one’s family but not here.”

“If you were in America you would have to please the girl, not just her father. You might have to do something like give up cigarettes before she would go on dates with you.”

“I would do anything to win the hand of this girl, if only her father would accept me. Of course he won’t, not in a millennium, so I don’t tempt fate. The only time we see each other is at the party at the end of Ramadan.”

“The company party?”

Cedric eyed Ron cautiously before he answered, “Yes.”

“Why would this brand of cigarettes be any cheaper than any other brand?”

Cedric handed Ron the pack. “Do you see any tax stamp? These are brought in from Afghanistan at night.”

“Smuggled.”

“Yes, and to save you the trouble of asking, anyone can buy them through one of the salesmen who work for Mohammed Ali, the man who Usman is afraid will marry his sister, Amna.”

To be continued

Next installment will be posted in 3 weeks.

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About Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher. Now writing fiction. His books are CHASED ACROSS AUSTRALIA, MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR and REDUCING MEDICAL COSTS (AT THE COST OF HEALTH). He has also started a series of novelas called THE RICHARD TRACY SERIES. Residence: New Mexico, USA Hobbies: gardening, animals and running. website www.ReynoldConger.com
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One Response to Part 4, Life on the Left Side of the Fast Lane

  1. Amanda says:

    Can’t wait for the next posting!

    Amanda

    Like

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