Parvathi dabbed her forehead with a wet washcloth and glared past the sun’s beams at the rickety sign her father had put up thirty-five years ago. Being able to stand in front of his auto-shop and hear the ear-piercing howls of mechanical engineering at work brought her a great sense of pride, yet she also felt anxious at the idea of what her father would think of what she was doing beyond the storefront. She’ll have Ghale take it down tomorrow. That should take some of the weight off of her shoulders. Then again, how many times had she thought that? She averted her eyes from the sign and turned her gaze upon the city streets with anything but genuine interest. The shop was nestled, hidden even, in one of the more dense parts of the city, where the people walked shoulder-to-shoulder to the distant rhythms of car horns. Business would always be decent. Just the way she liked it.
She wore a red-orange coverall- practical given her work, but in keeping with her innermost desire to look fashionable and feel vigorous. It was symbolic of her and only her. It was also her favorite color, and it had been her mother’s favorite color. Not only did it combine the pure intensity of her passion with a hint of her courageousness, but it was also outlandish and she knew that. She had to stand out to a certain degree if she expected the world to see what the underground world feared. Fear, she thought. Fear is what kept her on top, and she had the firepower to back it up.
The sound of music coming from the back room brought her back to her senses. It was that annoying shit with the bells and chants that Ghale always blasted in the afternoons on his break. Even though Pavarthi hated it, she hadn’t bothered to tell him to stop listening to it. Tanisha didn’t like it either–too old-fashioned, too conservative. She was always a new age kind of gal. Her forbearing and dominating personality is what attracted Parvathi the most. She looked up at the sign once again. “ADHIKARI MOTORS” it screamed back. She thought of her father, then of her mother, then of Tanisha, then of herself, then of Ghale’s music. One thing at a time.
She slipped her aviators off and marched into the back room past some of her workers fixing various scooters. Aside from some neon eyesores, it was dark and smelled of weed. Ghale was seated next to his radio with a Sterling submachine gun draped over his shoulder and a joint plucked under his moustache.
“Need me to take down the sign today?” he quipped.
“Turn off the fucking music,” she snapped.
“But it’s about to get the best part!” he protested, shaking his arms cartoonishly to the beat. “You gotta feel the music, Pavarthi!”
She suddenly pulled out the collapsible knife from a pocket in her coverall and carefully and nonchalantly made a clean cut from Ghale’s wrist to his shoulder. The thin, reddish line soon oozed out onto the floor. He cried out in pain and gripped his arm, heaving and aching.
“I’m not in the mood, you ape,” she growled. “Turn off the fucking music!”
Ghale nodded steadfastly. “S-sorry,” he cried. “I got a little carried away.”
“Damn right you did. No more of that garbage!”
She tucked the knife back into her pocket and noticed two other armed men watching with shock and awe on the other couch as they counted stacks of money next to meticulously wrapped baggies of pure white goodness.
“Get off your fucking asses and bandage him up before he bleeds all over my father’s shop!”
They scurried away and dragged Ghale along with them.
Pavarthi grimaced at the bloodstain on her coverall. She scratched her hooked nose–the one thing she was self-conscious of–and tried to remember how much Tanisha had told her she loved it. Yes, Tanisha. It was hard being away from her. The image of her father crept back into her mind and cast a shadow of dejection over her. It was five hours till closing time, but maybe she could leave and visit Tanisha at the gardens where they had shared their first kiss under the stars to the tune of “Dancing Queen,” coincidentally before she herself had become a queen, as the trains rattled past and past and past to the next city over where police would soon find her grisly handiwork.
“I salute you, Mother!” they would soon cry.
Soon they would all salute her.