Nothing- Excerpt from The Light Horse © J.D. Brayton 2020
Gwailor Province, India – 1839
At first light, Anil tethered the male goats together, laying a satchel of feed and goatskin full of water across the back of the nervous colt for the journey to the temple. Few words passed between the priest of Kali and I. The sun was just above the horizon.
Before he and one sadhu departed, he gave us all a blessing, bowed slightly, and bid us farewell. “I’ll see you in two days’ time at the house of Purusram.” Then he looked over at one of the sadhu, an emaciated creature, naked and burned black from the sun, standing beneath the tree, arms outstretched, in ecstatic prayer.
“This man is Nothing. Nothing is blessed by our Mother and covered by the ash of cremated pilgrims. Nothing will remain with you. Nothing will protect you, Fandoor.”
“I do not want him here.”
“Nothing is not a choice. Nothing is guided by dharma. He is a blessed soul. Bindachul Ke Jae, Fandoor Das Gupta. May Bhowanee guide you.”
“Bhowanee Ke Jae. A safe journey, honored Kala Ram.”
I stood watching the dust of Kala Ram and his remaining sadhu, who walked behind him leading the goats. Kala Ram himself led away the prize colt by a simple rope halter. They sang invocations as they disappeared beneath a rise in the trail. I was happy he was gone, but certain he was an augury not to be ignored. Taking my prize colt and breeding males was a small price to pay to be rid of his prying eyes and chastising tongue.
I looked at Nothing under the tree. Anil stood chewing betel nut with Lakmel, who was wordlessly brushing the dust from the coat of my stallion, Kala, with a comb.
“Lakmel, feed the sadhu some chapatti and dal. Leave him fresh water.Otherwise, ignore him.” Lakmel laughed a little and spit red juice into the dust. “We must ignore Nothing now.”
“Careful, Lakmel,” I said, my irritation giving way to mocking, “Nothing will hear you, and Nothing may place a curse on your head.”
“We should all be so lucky.”
“He is mad and blessed of the Mother.”
“His stink alone could fertilize the tree.”
“He is Nothing. Remember, Lakmel. Nothing is our guest and Nothing our gift.”
“The new priest is generous in leaving us Nothing.”
The Light Horse – a new novel by J.D. Brayton
Coming in April 2020