the-south-asian.com April 2003
Page 1 of 4
'KNOCK AT EVERY ALIEN DOOR' by Joseph Harris
'KNOCK AT EVERY ALIEN DOOR'
This is the concluding chapter of 'Knock at Every Alien Door' by Joseph Harris.
THE JEWEL IN THE WALLET
My friend, Sgt. Richard Perone, was a happy man when searching for precious stones. He hailed from Philadelphia, with one consuming passion to return there, marry his high school sweetheart, and take over his father’s prospering jewelry business.
I vacillated between admiration and dislike of his ardent and often expressed goals, for like all single-minded people he could sometimes be a bore. He seemed interested in nothing else. While others went in search of more mundane pleasures, Richard's perennial quest was for jewels in the shops of Dacca or in any area military leave would allow him to go. I made the mistake of asking his advice about a pair of opals I wanted to buy for my future wife. I had seen them in a shop in Dacca, but had hesitated because of the price. He insisted on accompanying me not only to appraise them but also to see if the merchant was one he already knew.
We both managed to get passes and as we approached the shop one day, he pulled me aside as I started to enter.
"I know this guy," he said, moving me out of view of the mustached Moslem who sat at a counter in the back of the shop.
"I've done business with him before. Let me handle this."
He sauntered in with his best Italian charm, a smile on his face and greetings on his lips. "Salaam, Mukerjee, we meet again."
The merchant, his fez slightly frayed, looked up from his reading at the counter.
"Sgt. Perone, I am happy to see you again. It has been a long time."
His greeting was a namaste, which literally meant I. bow before thee. When Richard introduced me, the merchant gave no sign of recognizing me. I was glad for that. Perhaps it meant bargaining power for the opals.
"The rubies," Mukerjee said, "you still have them, Sgt. Perone?"
"I sent them home."
"To your lady friend, I believe."
Richard's reply was a broad smile and a nod. He had told me they were sent to his father for the family business, as were all his purchases in India.
"A very good bargain. You are very shrewd, Sgt. Perone," Mukerjee said. "The rubies were worth much more, but I let them go because you are my friend. You should not prevail on our friendship again, for I am only a poor merchant. Not rich like you and your American friend."
"I thought you liked Americans, Mukerjee."
"Sgt. Perone, you know how much I like Americans. Very good friends, Americans."
His fingers fluttered to his chest and then out in a gesture for understanding.
"But how is Mukerjee to live if his prices fade like magic before friendship. How is poor Mukerjee to live if he gives his stones away?"
His look became the masque of tragedy. "It is you who are shrewd and wise, Mukerjee." Richard's handsome face had the commanding look of one who knew what he was doing, and his dark eyes flashed with good-willed humor.
"You have two prices. One for your Indian friends and one for your American friends."
"No, no." Mukerjee's thin hand fanned in protest before his face. "One price, my friend, one price for all people. I am a very respectable merchant. Not one who sells his merchandise in the streets. You do me injury to think of me as one who does his business in this manner."
|Copyright © 2000 - 2003 [the-south-asian.com]. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.|