'…Yes. Darling, do you think maybe you’ve been spending—'


'Sejal, I really think—'

'Amma, shh,' she hissed. 'Something might happen and I don’t want to miss it.'

'It is not contagious,' Sejal told the girl on the plane.

'I know. Sorry. So you guys…have the internet in India?'

Sejal laughed. 'We have the internet. Both my parents are computer programmers. Our connection speed was supernatural,' she said, aware that her voice had become draped with a flowery longing.

Her American foster family had assured her parents in writing that they had only dial-up.

The baggage carousel was filled with luggage now, and it was beginning to thin out as passengers took up their lives again and wheeled them out the sliding doors. Sejal saw her bright pink bag, as radiant as a wound, and when it came within reach she didn’t move to claim it.

'What does yours look like?' asked Cat.

Sejal followed it with her eyes.

'I do not see it yet.'

'I can’t believe they lost your bag,' said Cat from the driver’s seat of her black Jetta. 'Those meathead asswipes.'

Sejal smiled faintly in the passenger seat, shifting her feet to avoid the seasick tide of bottles and empty drink cups on the car floor. Sorry about my car, Cat had said when they’d found it in the airport parking garage, but it had turned out she was apologizing not for the mess but for the simple fact that it was a Jetta.

'We should have waited at that counter longer. Or gone to find somebody,' Cat added.

'We can maybe call tomorrow?' said Sejal. 'I’m anxious to see my new home. And my new bed.'

'Oh, right. You’re probably tired.'

'Very tired.'

'Only I think my mom has a special dinner planned,' said Cat, wincing.

'Oh!' said Sejal, brightening even as her heart sank. 'Of course, that is wonderful, no? My first American home-cooked meal.'

'Actually,' said Cat, 'I think we’re going out for Indian.'

The Brown house was larger than Sejal expected. She glanced around it cautiously while Cat and Mr. Brown shouted at each other.

'What were you thinking?' Mr. Brown shouted. 'Were you thinking at all? What is Sejal going to wear?'

'It isn’t my fault they sent her bag to the wrong city!' Cat answered. 'Why don’t you call up those asswipe…'

'Catherine!' Mrs. Brown gasped.

'…airport…bag…people and yell at them?' finished Cat.

'I will call them, but you should have stayed and talked to someone! If you don’t get them looking for a lost bag right away, they’ll never find it!'

'I didn’t know!' Cat moaned. 'Call them then, and stop yelling at me!' She tore out of the room and up the stairs. Mr. Brown stomped into the kitchen. There came from above a whuffing noise, the sound of a door that was too light to slam.

Mrs. Brown was wearing two different kinds of orange. Her small, quiet smile seemed at odds with her outfit, which announced CAUTION: ROADWORK AHEAD. 'How was your flight?' she asked.

'It was my fault about the luggage,' said Sejal. 'I told Cat I wanted to go.'

'You couldn’t know,' said Mrs. Brown, patting at her curly hair. 'But in America we get our bags. They’re not supposed to get lost.'

When she’d first arrived, Sejal had deliberated over whether to bend down and touch the Brown parents’ feet. She considered how it might look in a nation of firm handshakes and high fives, and let the moment pass. Now Sejal could only smile reflexively and glance around the room again. She was finding it difficult to look directly at Mrs. Brown, a condition for which she blamed her father. The woman looked, at the moment, not so much like a gum ball as a goldfish. One of those very round goldfish with the cauliflower heads.

Mr. Brown emerged suddenly with a cordless phone. 'I don’t know how to spell your name,' he told Sejal. 'Could you speak to this person a moment?'

Sejal got on the phone. 'Namaste.'

'Yes, Ms. Namastay,' said a dull voice. 'Can you spell that?'

'No, I was merely saying hello. My name is Ganguly.'

'Please spell it, Ms. Namastay.'

Sejal thickened her accent to molasses as she tried to spell as swiftly and unhelpfully as possible. She hoped each odd stress and pause would string out an uncrackable code between her and the bag she did not want. Then, pleased with herself, she said her good-byes and returned the phone to Mr. Brown.

'Are you feeling hungry?' asked Mrs. Brown. 'We should leave soon to beat the dinner rush.'

'I’ll go tell Cat,' Sejal answered.

'You see what I have to put up with?' Cat said immediately upon opening her door. Behind her, on walls the color of eggplant, were black posters and clippings from magazines. Many photos of girls looking morose in cemeteries. People in complicated outfits; black and red and white material laced up backs; arms and legs waffled by fishnet. A chunky laptop and a cherub-shaped lamp with a counterproductively black lamp-shade stood on a desk so haphazardly piled with CD cases it appeared to be molting. 'Sorry your room isn’t cool like mine. I’ll show you.'

Sejal’s room was through the next door down the hall. It was stupefyingly beige. It had a beige computer in it and an off-white bed.

Neither this computer nor Cat’s antique laptop had stirred more than the slightest pang in Sejal. If she were an alcoholic, these machines would have been weak lemonade shandy. She felt intellectually safe but oddly claustrophobic.

'Your mom wants to leave soon,' said Sejal.

'To ‘beat the rush,’ right?' said Cat in an impersonation of her mother, if her mother had been a dim-witted cartoon bear. 'It’s like, there’s a reason they have a dinner rush — that’s when all normal people eat.'

'Do you think we can wait a bit? I promised my mother I would have a puja in my new room.'

Cat wrinkled her nose. 'That can’t possibly mean what it sounds like.'

'It’s only a…small ceremony about new beginnings. You bathe and burn incense, and offer flowers and sweets to Ganesha—'

Sejal gave a small cry and tented her hands over her face.

'What?' said Cat. 'What’s wrong?'

'Ganesha is in the bag I…lost,' Sejal said.

'Ganesha…Is that the god with the elephant head?'

Sejal thought of her little pink Ganesha figurine in her big pink bag, turning slowly on the dull airport merry-go-round. She nodded.

'The airport lost your elephant god,' said Cat.

Both girls slumped onto the bed.



Plasma TV

TV’S ALAN FRIENDLY strode down the corridor of Belfry Studios, a DVD in his hand. Occasionally he

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