Thirty seconds before the car decimates the side of the mud hut and causes the walls to bleed wet earth, Jyothi smashes her clothes against the creviced stone in front of the house. The pads of her fingers are wrinkled and the RIM soap that she uses causes her to sneeze-the color of the fine spray of saliva on her orange blouse-piece is slightly darkened by the betel nut stains that coat the enamel of her teeth. She tries to retrieve the last pulpy residue from beneath her gums, and her lips are leaking red. It is the color and texture but not the metallic flavor of blood.

Her eyes are tearing as the sharpness of the smell tears at her sinuses and the saltiness, too, is nothing like blood.

She pulls at her braid, an oiled and a tight coil of growing rope falling heavily on her bare back. Here, the blouse was cut open to accommodate heavy, drunken bruised kisses which were a trophy of losses shoved onto a stone floor, stolen by the outhouse, or caught on the straw mattress covered in beetles. Her legs are still punctured with the splinters of hay and straw bunched up and uncomfortable against the thin red cotton cloth that took days to dye.

It's too hot to breathe, and the dry heat causes the cracks on the tongue that make it impossible to speak or to do anything but concentrate on breathing. The half-dead pig that walks along the patches of thick, determined grass is also roasting in the sun, trying to survive until she gives birth to squealing piglets, fat in their mother's congealed fluids. The afternoon air is ripe from blood, mucus, and that spicy animal flavor of dirty musk.

The only road that leads up to their hut snakes through the leafy, fragrant carepak and ferns that cover the dirt path. Jyothi's bare feet have memorized the puddles and footprints created from the bulls that she leads from her hut and into the field in the early morning and then back home in the sultry evening. She can't see anyone from the small shelter that the straw roof on sticks shoved - haphazard - into the ground, provides.

She walks along the path again leading out into the main road where a cow sits chewing cud. Her feet are burning from the stored heat of the asphalt. This is not a normal sensation but a break from the wet mud that soaks itself between her toes crusts on her feet. Even vigorous cleaning under the metal pump can't clean them.


There's her name out in the open. It's followed by the sound of squealing tires echoing the screams of the pig giving birth next to the liquor stall across the street.

It is a signal for her to move aside, shouted through a window-she watches with her sari held around her legs as the black car comes from her periphery and into the focus of her vision. It turns onto the path, plowing through the puddles and bull prints -the pallu of Jyothi's sari trails behind her as she runs after the car her soapy hands drying in the heat and the speed of her sprinting. Her anklets smack the skin beneath her ankles raw. She wraps the erstwhile ends of her sari between her legs, letting her bare knees hang out in the open as if that will propel her forward.

The collision is ferocious. It eats through the walls of her house. She can hear the clanging of utensils. The can of kerosene has just been used and kept outside the house or else that would have burned whatever might have been rescued from the crash. Jyothi stands, heaving, holding her pallu away from her. She knows why they are here, why they have come, why they ran through her house. Her hands have become wrinkled and dry and feel uncomfortable in the heat. Licking them off one by one to stave the stiffness, she can taste the bitterness of RIM soap. Though it is not possible, she hopes anyway that it will kill her.