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Karen McBryde

The Hot Spot

The phone rang. Jane was cleaning up after pancakes, water running, pots clanging. Lawrence was in the bedroom, at his computer, ringing phone just to the right of the mouse. It rang. She couldn’t get to it; she was elbow deep in dishwater. It rang. He couldn’t stop working for three seconds to pick it up? It rang. It stopped. That’s how the war between them was waged, silence disrupted by shrill little clashes.

Jane dried her hands and yelled, "I’m going to the Hot Spot. Who wants to go with me?"

"Me!" David said, running into the living room.

"Me." Sarah, his twin, echoed.

Jane walked into the bedroom to get her shoes. Lawrence was sitting at the desk, hunched over his laptop. (She’d asked him to move the computer to the living area. Bedroom computers are worse for marriages than TVs, she’d said. Spare me the feng shui lecture, he’d said.)

Jane slid her feet into her a pair of worn leather flip-flops.

"What do you need?" Lawrence asked, pushing his glasses back with his thumb.

To get out of here, she thought. "Milk," she said.

"Why do you go there for everything?"

She hated when he did this, treated her like she was one of his freshman students, his questions the path to some larger shared truth.

"Why not?"

"I don’t like the guy who runs the place."


"He’s rude."

Sarah stood in the doorway. "I can’t find my shoes."

"Have you checked under your bed?" Jane asked, following Sarah to her room. Hashie was the first friend Jane made in New Zealand. She’d left Lawrence and the luggage and walked two blocks in pouring rain in search of a quick lunch. When she walked in the Hot Spot, Hashie handed her a cup of coffee. He told her, "buy the green kiwi fruit not the gold and put those homemade looking meat pies back - that’s where old sheep go - buy the Mrs. Macs from Australia."

"I get to push the button." David raced to beat his twin sister to the elevator.

Hashie probably was rude to him, Jane thought as they walked to the Hot Spot. After all, didn’t rudeness beget rudeness? Lawrence had never come off as friendly, or even personable. His full lips were chronically chapped, from nervous licks, necessitating numerous coats (sometimes three a conversation) of chapstick. His eyes tended to travel around a room rather than fixing on the person addressing him, giving the impression he was more interested in something in his periphery, than the speaker. Social tics to those who knew him, rude to those who didn’t.

A man, shorter and darker than Hashie, was leaving the Hot Spot, as Jane and the kids walked in. He held the door for them.

"What time do you finish?" Hashie asked the man.

He answered in his native language. Arabic, Jane thought.

"Go. I will see you then." Hashie dismissed him.

"Hello, Hashie," Jane said in a singsong voice as she picked up a newspaper from the rack next to the door.

Hashie came around from behind the counter to greet Sarah and David. "Hello my new little Kiwis," he said in a heavily accented voice. He was wearing a blousy, sand-colored shirt and brown slacks. He had curly black hair and skin that never lost its tan. Just under his left eye was a quarter-sized mole that was slightly raised.

Hashie kneeled down on one knee and held the lollipops behind his back. "Which hand?"

"That one!" David punched Hashie’s left shoulder.

Hashie pretended to fall backwards, reaching his left arm out to David as he went. "Take it! Quickly!" David snatched the purple lollipop from his hand.

Sarah pointed to the same arm David had chosen. "Aha! I am never able to trick you, little one," Hashie said as he handed another purple one to Sarah.

It was not lost on Jane that Hashie always had the same color for both of them - a man who understands children. Jane laughed, reading the front page of the Auckland Herald. "Did you see this headline, Hashie? ‘Elderly Woman Attacked By Toddler’."


"Therein lies the beauty of a place this remote. A biting toddler is the only villain they could drum up." Jane shook her head.

"The villains are plentiful where I come from." Hashie said each word precisely, in a staccato manner.

Jane glanced up to see if his face reflected the anger she heard in his voice. But he was looking down at the counter, making a notation in the notebook he kept next to the cash register.

"Where do you come from, Hashie?" Jane was glad he’d brought it up. She’d been wanting to know.

"Pakistan." He looked up at her when he said it.

"Do you miss it?"

Jane could tell by the meditative look in his eyes that he was thinking about his answer. She liked that about him. His talk was never small.

"Yes, I do miss it. But this is best for my family."

"Hashie," David said, gripping the counter and standing on his tiptoes to see him better.

"Yes, my friend."

"What’s that spot on your face?"

"David!" Jane put the paper down and reached for him.

"No, no. You mustn’t be angry with him. He is an observant child. That is good." Hashie leaned over the counter, resting on his forearms. "There’s a story that goes with it. Would you like to hear it?"

David nodded slowly, already caught up in Hashie’s next words.

"When I was a young boy, not much bigger than you, I was sent by my mother to a neighbor’s house for milk. I took the milk from the neighbor and was almost home when I saw three of my friends sitting on the sand playing a game that young boys played then involving six stones and a string. ‘Hashie’ they yelled, ‘Come and play with us.’ I knew that my mother needed the milk right away, so like a good little boy I said, ‘I cannot play now.’ They began to tease me because that is what young boys do when there’s more than one. And I didn’t like being teased, so I said ‘I will play one game.’ They shifted to make room for me in their circle. Once I sat down, I forgot all about the errand my mother had sent me on. We did not hear the wind howling. We did not feel the sting of the sand as it began to answer the wind’s call, not until it was impossible to see the game we were playing. Then it was too late. Here you have rainstorms. Where I sat playing, we had sand storms. I stood up to run to my house, which was no more than 100 steps away, but the sand blinded me and I tripped over the jug that held the milk I was to take to my mother. I fell to the ground. When I did, my cheek hit something much harder than sand." Hashie lightly slapped the side of his face.

Sarah jumped.

"I did not mean to frighten you, little one." Hashie chuckled and patted the top of her head. He returned to his storyteller’s voice. "I had landed on one of the stones from our game. Eventually the wind went away taking the sand with it. I heard my father calling for me. I stood up and yelled ‘Papa!’ He picked me up and carried me to the house. My mother sat me on her lap and told my father, ‘Bring me a wet cloth and some oil.’ But nothing would take this spot off of my cheek. Do you know why?" Hashie asked, looking from David to Sarah.

David shook his head.

"It was God’s way of teaching me to do as my mother and father tell me. From that day on, whenever I was tempted to disobey my parents, my fingers traveled, on their own, to this spot on my cheek," Hashie moved the tip of his thumb across the mole "to remind me of the thing that happened when I went astray."

"Does it hurt?" David asked.

"Not at all. And I’ll tell you a secret, I am glad it is there. It has saved me from trouble on many occasions." Hashie laughed. "I see your cheeks are nice and smooth. That tells me that you are a good boy and do as your mother and father say."

David nodded.

Lawrence was sitting on the sofa when they walked in the door. David jumped up beside him. "Hashie told me a story."

"What sort of story?" Lawrence put his papers on the table in front of him.

David looked confused so Jane answered, "A story about his childhood."

David repeated Hashie’s story to his father, with Jane filling in the details.

"You know that’s not a true story, that Hashie made it up?" Lawrence asked. He pulled a tube of chapstick from his pocket.

"It’s real. The spot’s there," David said, tapping the skin just below his eye.

"That’s a mole son. Hashie was born with it."

"No he wasn’t. It happened when he was my age."

"That spot on his face did not come from…"

"Drop it Lawrence," Jane interrupted him. "David get your bathing suit, and tell Sarah to grab hers. I’ll take you to the Hot Pools."

"Sarah!" David ran down the hall.

"I can’t believe he told that story to a seven-year old," Lawrence said.

"Why? They loved it. Maybe David will take it to heart and do what we tell him."

"What the guy was really saying is, ‘if you follow this straight and narrow path, you will be redeemed. If you stray, you will end up blind and dead. Islam 101.’"

"How do you know what he really said when you weren’t there?"

"Because I’ve heard the story and I know what this Hashie guy’s real agenda is."

"You have a talent for that." Jane walked into the kitchen.

"For what?" Lawrence followed her.

"Spotting hidden agendas."

"Quit seeing what you want to see. The guy hates Americans."

"How many times have you been to the Hot Spot? Two?"

"Enough to know I’m not going back. Last time I was there he and the kid behind the counter were laughing it up about the latest suicide bombing."

"How’d you sort that out?"

"Hashie was speaking to the boy…"

"His son, Ahmad," Jane interrupted.

"He had a stack of Heralds on the counter. He was saying something to his son, stabbing his finger at the front page. He threw his hands out, shouted ‘BOOM!’ and laughed. The story he was pointing to – it was the one about last week’s Tel Aviv suicide bombing. When I handed him money for the paper, he stared back at me with this real macho screw you look in his eyes." Lawrence took the singing kettle off the stove, poured water into a cup, and dropped in two bags of herbal tea.

"So you think there’s some sort of Islam versus America thing going on?"

"Or Muslim versus Jew." Lawrence took his glasses off and wiped them with the tail of his shirt.

"You’re kidding."

"I’m dead serious."

"How do you imagine Hashie pieced it together that we’re Jewish?" Jane asked.

"We, Jane, are not Jewish."

Your choice, not mine, she thought. Jane had wanted to convert, but Lawrence had discouraged it. He’d never understood that it was something she wanted to do for herself. She’d stopped believing in her parents’ God at a young age. She was the lone product of a dispassionate union, a marriage held together by inertia, by what it lacked rather than what it had to offer. She longed to be a part of something deeper, older, more resonant.

David ran into the room, Sarah behind him. "Where’s your bathing suit Mom?" Sarah asked.

"Dad doesn’t believe Hashie’s story." David kicked at Sarah’s swim bag.

"We’re done talking about that. Do you two have towels?"

"Hurry up. We want to go," David said. They walked back down the hall.

"Apparently, Hashie is a different person in your presence than he is in mine." Lawrence lowered his voice. "God knows what David’s said to him. You know how he loves to tell people ‘I get to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas.’"

"He says that to other children. That’s kid-speak for I get more presents that you do. I’ve never heard him say it to an adult. I can’t believe you’re threatened by the neighborhood Pakistani grocer."

"That’s why I didn’t tell you about it before. I knew you’d make it my thing. You have an unbelievable need to see the world, every person you encounter outside our home, as an ally. And you’re willing to overlook the obvious to seal your vision. But once you come through that door," he pointed to the door of the apartment, "I’m the enemy. You pick apart every word that comes out of my mouth, sift through every sentence, looking for fault."

"That’s the way it works with relationships, Lawrence. You expect more of the people you choose."

"In my family – we had expectations. But we spotlighted the ones that were met. That’s called loyalty. You reserve yours for strangers."

"Let’s go kids," Jane yelled, walking to her room to get her bathing suit.

Jane sat on the edge of the steaming saltwater pool, and slowly lowered herself into the water, water that was warmed naturally by thermal activity beneath the ground. She floated on her back, two-thirds of her body submerged, muting the sounds of splashing water and squealing children. She thought about what Lawrence had said, that she found only fault in his words. She let her mind drift back eight, ten, twelve years, watching the evolution of their relationship fly-by in reverse, to a time when she savored his words, when she was hungry for the knowledge that he shared freely and exuberantly, when she would ask him a question and he would answer it with a book on her pillow, a book he’d take and read to her from, a book she’d take out of his hands when he fell asleep with it on his chest, a chest that felt like the slats of a wooden chair when she’d lie her ear against it to listen for echoes of the asthma that had robbed him of a boyhood, giving her a clear view of the sharp hipbones that rose up, and made his abdomen a valley, hipbones that cut into her when they made love, reminding her then of the asceticism she so admired about him, his denial of the middle class trappings (leather arm chairs, Lays potato chips and Miller beer) her father had exalted. She’d spent a lot of time lately, trying to retrace their steps, trying to get back to when things had been good between them. And of all the things she had done to try and get back there, convincing him to make a trans-hemispheric move a part of his year’s sabbatical was the most audacious. She’d thought if she could just get him away from all of the things that annoyed him so – David’s first grade teacher, the neighbor’s cat, the woman who chaired the Econ department at George Washington, Oprah – she could get to what lay beneath the annoyances, to the impulses that had once made him curious and impassioned. She thought a change in view might improve his attitude.

Jane was an early-riser, so she was accustomed to tiptoeing around the bedroom in the morning. She slid open the dresser drawer and pulled her sweatpants out.

"Where are you headed?" Lawrence pulled the pillow from over his face to peer at her.

Jane started at the sound of his voice. "To get the paper."

"You won’t have to do that after today." He tucked the pillow behind his head and watched her, squinting to see without his glasses. She took off her nightgown and put it in the top drawer of the dresser.

"Why’s that?" Jane pulled off her panties and tossed them into the rattan basket in the corner of the closet.

"I subscribed to the Herald. It starts tomorrow."

"They deliver here?" She turned to face him, then regretted it. She didn’t like the way he looked in the morning, his thinning oily hair clinging to his forehead like wet black noodles, his dark blue eyes flat, useless without the glasses lying on the nightstand.

"Of course. They put it in our mailbox."

"I still have to get dressed to go down for it." She pulled on her sweatpants.

"But you don’t have to walk outside."

She hated it when he pretended to do her a favor when he was really doing himself one. "Actually, I enjoy my morning walk to the Hot Spot." Jane had watched her father control every move her mother made, down to taking the book out of her hand at night to make her stare at the television with him. She figured all those years of holding it all in - the petty insults, the friendships he’d blocked – caught up with her, the suppressed misery developing a life of its own, working its way through her body like a vine, killing her two weeks shy of her sixtieth birthday.

"I need to get going." Lawrence stood up and stretched.

"You’re teaching? It’s Waitangi Day." She didn’t want to be angry with him today.

"I need to put in a couple of hours on the book. I’ll try to be home by lunchtime." He walked into the bathroom.

"Let’s go somewhere this weekend."

Lawrence turned the shower on and stuck his head back into the bedroom. "It’s Wednesday. Doesn’t leave much time to plan."

"Why don’t we just drive up the Coromandel? There are more motels than people." She cringed, anticipating his response. They’d been there before – camping – with April and Graham, a couple Jane had met through the twins’ school.

Lawrence had agreed to the trip only after Jane rented the tent, a six-sleeper, substantiating her threat to go with or without him. "Is this not the perfect introduction to New Zealand?" she’d asked him on the way there, her hand on his thigh, Crowded House in the tape deck, seduced by the view from the car window, 180 degree turns winding into three-quarter panoramas of the South Pacific, views that could only be had by those willing to travel the unpaved portion of Highway Two that ventured out onto the Coromandel peninsula, a long skinny illogical land finger that never quite broke away from the mainland. Kiwis were campers, and the country reserved the most beautiful spots for them. "They camp because they can’t afford hotels," Lawrence had said. "The ones who can have gone back to the UK."

By the time they got there, the campground was full. Graham had reserved a spot for them, in a clearing just in front of the toilets, "Sorry mate, the beach spots were taken." He and his friends laughed when they unloaded their tent. ("That’s a manor, where are the servants?") It took four hours to assemble, the last two spent working under the glare of the car’s headlights, in front of a semi-circle of lawn-chairs filled with drunk men. They’d spent the next day sitting on the beach listening to Graham rant about fat American teenagers, the Bushes, Bill Clinton, circumcision - pointing to David, "I can’t believe you let them chop off half his root". After that, all Kiwis were Grahams to Lawrence.

"You’re kidding."

"No I’m not. I’ve never seen a more beautiful place…"

"I’m still not over the last trip."

"That’s why I want to go back, under different circumstances.

"We’ve hardly seen Auckland."

"You’ve hardly seen Auckland." She yanked at the sheets.

"I came here to finish the book Jane, not sightsee." He stepped into the shower.

She took the kids to a Waitangi Day celebration at the top of Mount Victoria. They walked along a path that wound around the base of the mountain, alongside the ocean where they’d seen seals, fat and lazy like slugs, sleeping on the rocks and then climbed up the small mountain through bush thick with ferns and flowering vines growing over arthritic weather-beaten trees. When they got to the top, there was a group of young Maori men, shirtless and wearing skirts made from long skinny strips of bark, performing a native dance. The kids had been transfixed watching the men - elaborate designs tattooed across their faces, enormous flat pink tongues hanging out of their mouths - make music by stomping their spears and grunting. They were so different from the colonial Kiwis, the Pakeha, with their pale egg-shaped faces and compact built-for-farming physiques.

The crowd, which was about half-Maori and half Pakeha, sang the national anthem, first in Maori, then in English. Jane marveled at the marriage of these two vastly different cultures – how peaceful it was, the Maori weaving, melodically, on bare feet, through the Pakeha world, commanding respect for the myths and rituals that defined them. She believed it was the isolation that made it work. Stuck on this small island nation in the middle of the South Pacific, with nowhere to run, they’d grown to appreciate their differences. That’s what she liked best about this place, the contrasts, the exotic landscape dotted with sheep, the dark Maori with their mysterious tattoos sprinkled over of a nation of fair-skinned colonialists.

Lawrence opened the door before she finished turning the key.

"Where have you been?" he asked in the controlled monotone voice he used when he was angry.

"Sightseeing," Jane answered. David and Sarah slipped in under his arm.

"I rushed home at lunch-time, expecting to spend the rest of the day with you and the children. When I found the apartment empty, I assumed you’d be right back, so I waited. After an hour or so, I walked to the park to see if you were there. I came back, thinking you might have returned while I was out. Still no one. I have now been waiting," he checked his watch "for three hours." He let the door go and turned to walk back inside.

She caught the door and followed. "It was my understanding, after our conversation this morning, that you’d do your thing and we’d do ours."

"No." Lawrence turned to face her. "I said I’d be home by lunchtime."

"What? You wanted us to wait around for four or five hours, until you decided to pack it up and come home? I’m fucking tired of waiting." Jane walked back out the door.

She made her way to the Domain, a public garden in the center of downtown Auckland. It started to rain, tiny drops so light she didn’t feel their touch. It was raining the day they arrived in New Zealand. Coming in from the airport, observing the people trudging along without umbrellas or rain jackets, she’d asked the taxi driver, "Where’s the rain gear?" He’d laughed and said, "They don’t know it’s raining."

Once she entered the gardens, the plants and trees enveloped her, the sounds of nature – squawking birds and humming insects – replacing the city sounds. She stopped to read the placard in front of a circle of enormous rotting stumps. It described how the early European settlers set out immediately after arriving in New Zealand, to clear the land for planting; how it took as many as six men, seven days and twelve axes to chop down and remove a tree that would have taken one man, two days and one axe to rid the land of back home; how the age of these trees - some had been around for more than a thousand years - was hidden in their root systems - root systems that were as much as ten times larger than the trees they supported; how, most of the settlers gave up and planted around the roots, making the fertile soil difficult to farm.

That evening, Jane and Lawrence took the kids to the pizza place on Parnell. Jane drank three glasses of red wine. Lawrence drank one Guinness, and a glass of water. Jane drew fish on the paper tablecloth and Sarah colored them. Lawrence played hangman with David, until David got hung up on the word "penguin" and quit.

Just as they were getting ready to leave, David announced, "I need to take a piss."

Jane tried not to laugh and Lawrence stared back at him, speechless.

"Piss is kiwi for pee," David elaborated.

"No son. P-I-S-S is an extremely rude word no matter where you live," Lawrence said.

David shrugged. "That’s what my friends say."

"I don’t care. If you say it again, you’ll be punished."

David skulked to the toilet.

"It’s a cultural thing, Lawrence. Kiwis are freer with their language. Shit, amongst other no-no words, is used indiscriminately here, on the radio, on television. I’ve even seen it on a billboard. I imagine piss is much the same."

"A nation of inbred farmers, who could give a wit about language, or education for that matter." Lawrence shook his head.

Jane was too tired to argue with him. He was right, they didn’t care so much about education. There was a time when he would have made this a topic for a discussion rather than a pronouncement, when together they might have tried to figure out why education had become so much less important to these colonialists. Did the incredible challenges of the land (the absence of indigenous mammals that starved the majority of the first Maori to arrive, the difficulties the colonialists encountered trying to farm the dense forests of the North Island and the climatically extreme – from tropical to artic - South Island, the erupting volcanoes, bubbling mud, and earthquakes) force them to focus on the external? Jane had taken to having these discussions with herself.

She went to bed when they got home and tried to read.

Lawrence came in just as she was turning out the light and said "It’s been a while."

Jane was surprised. She was usually the one who initiated sex. She sat up and pulled her nightgown over her head. He turned out the light and crawled in beside her.

"Dad! Look what Hashie gave me." David ran into the bedroom. He held the bag of stones and a thin rope out for Lawrence to examine. "It’s the game from the story. He’s going to teach me how to play."

"Me too," Sarah said.

Lawrence took the bag and laid it on the desk in front of him. Then he turned and said "David."

"I have a good idea." Jane reached over Lawrence’s shoulder and took the bag, handing it back to David. "After Hashie shows you how to play, you can teach your Dad. Then you and Dad and Sarah can play it together."

"Come on, Sarah. Let’s practice." David ran down the hall to their room.

"You don’t know how to play," Sarah said following him.

"I don’t want David going to the Hot Spot again." Lawrence shut down the computer.

"I will not stop going just because you think Hashie gave you a weird look."

"I don’t care what you do. I said I don’t want David going there. He obviously worships the guy." Lawrence stood up.

"In David’s world you’re either a good guy or a bad guy. I won’t let you try to convince David that Hashie, who has never been anything but kind and generous to him, is a bad guy. How would you go about it? ‘You’re Jewish David and Hashie’s Muslim. Muslims hate Jews, so he’s just pretending to like you. He really hates your guts.’ That’s a lovely lesson to teach a seven-year old boy."

Lawrence started to say something but walked away. She followed him. "Do you not think it’s absurd that we’re fighting over the guy I buy milk and bread from?"

Lawrence turned to face her. "Let’s assume I was being paranoid, that Hashie didn’t think blowing a bunch of Israelis to bits was a laughing matter. Let’s assume he doesn’t know I’m a Jew. Let’s just say he gives me the creeps, at some gut level, that it’s a combination of things, the way he talks to his son, the look in his eyes, the crap he chooses to sell in his store, the people who’ve happened to have been there when I’m there. If you encountered someone in your life, who made you feel that way, would you want me taking Sarah and David to visit them daily?"

"But who’s it going to be next Lawrence, giving you the creeps?" Jane asked him.

The twins had a two-week break from school beginning Easter weekend. They flew to Queenstown on the South Island and rented a car. Jane wanted to drive down to Wellington and take the ferry across the Cook Strait. Lawrence said it would take too much time.

The cold Lawrence had when they left Auckland turned into a sinus infection. They spent the first day of their vacation searching for a doctor to see him and prescribe antibiotics. He spent the next two days inside the motel room with the shades drawn, waiting for the medicine to cure him. Jane and the twins went white-water rafting and hiked around Lake Wanaka.

Lawrence joined them for their last full day in Queenstown. He stood with David and Sarah while Jane bungee-jumped off the Kawarau Suspension Bridge, the original bungee site. The bungee cord burned the skin in the bare space between the bottom of her jeans and the top of her shoe.

A young bearded man slathered the wound with antibiotic ointment then taped a bandage across it. "You can have another go at it, if you like, with socks on," he laughed, "free of charge."

"You’d be paying if we were in the States," Lawrence mumbled.

"What’d your partner say?" The man asked looking at Jane. "Does he want a go?"

Jane smiled and said "What do you think Lawrence?"

"I think this country needs to stop insulating operations like this one from liability." Lawrence turned and walked off.

"Is he always that grumpy?" the man asked.

Jane and the kids stood and waited to see a Japanese teenager jump. She’d been in line to go before Jane, but chickened-out at the last second. Her eyes were closed and she was rocking back on her heels, her ankles shackled by the bungee cord. Her mother stood facing her, rubbing her arms, chattering in Japanese. Her father kept lowering his camera, and gesturing with his free hand, a backwards, out-the-door-wave. Finally she stepped off the platform, letting out a tiny scream as she went.

They drove up the east coast the next day, to Christchurch. Staring out the window, Jane felt the real loneliness, not just of this trip, but of their time in New Zealand. The sky was gray and the wind was blowing, kicking up sea spray that hung in the air. Jane noted the cragginess of the coastline, jagged towers of volcanic rock taking the place of sand dunes, thousands of years of battering by corrosive salt water failing to erase the boils that covered them, boils frozen black just before bursting. She watched the long perfectly formed waves, as if they’d been rolled by hand, hit the rocks, converted to churning gray foam and mist just before making shore - denied their destiny to gently unfurl on the white sand.

High winds delayed their departure from Christchurch so they didn’t arrive in Auckland until late Sunday night.

Jane had to pull the twins out of bed to get them ready for school Monday morning. She was making their lunches when Lawrence walked in with the paper.

"Looks like you might have to have to find a new Hot Spot," he said tossing the paper in front of her.

"We can talk about it later. I have to walk out of here in five minutes if I’m going to get the kids to school on time." Jane moved the paper to the side. He hadn’t mentioned the Hashie thing in weeks. She thought it was a dead topic.

"There’s nothing to talk about. Just read. It’s front-page news." Lawrence tapped the article with his long thin finger.

Jane took the paper and read:

Local Grocery Owner Held for Questioning

Ashasheim Bulha, proprietor of the Hot Spot Grocery located on the corner of Hopetoun and Howe Streets, has been picked up by the police for questioning in connection with a series of arrests that have been made in Australasia over the past five days.

Immigration officials arrested two men last week at Manila’s international airport, after discovering they were carrying components that could be used to make explosive devices. One of the men was later identified as a member of Jemaah Islamiyah, an extremist group seeking to establish a giant Islamic republic linking Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines to the Middle East.

According to Fiona Marchand, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Helen Clark, a trace of the cell phone records of one of the two men arrested in Manila revealed phone calls to Mr. Bulha. Ms. Marchand stated that charges have not yet been filed against Mr. Bulha. Mr. Bulha, a citizen of Pakistan has been living in New Zealand, on a Multiple-Entry Visa, for three years.

When she finished reading she looked up at Lawrence. He was smiling, his eyes shining. She hadn’t seen him this happy in months.

Karen Lea Mcbryde is currently working toward an MFA at Queens University of Charlotte.

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