Anjali Deshmukh
Chance of Conviction 2
Read Part 1

No, you're wrong. You've got the wrong idea...maybe.

It was a lucid day of blue sky beating down, lowering itself towards the horizon and coating the rough stones in yellow whiteness. There are signs of wear and use, but very few people were around. No one, actually, except for two young men who were on the ground by a low table. It's really a board, an old recycled piece of furniture balancing on uneven stones that are hidden underneath the cover of a bright cotton cloth, yet another recycled thing. Spread out on the board are incense, ashes resting in a crooked line, candles, plastic idols, and fans. Maybe hundreds of fans, made of dyed feathers, paper, thin plastic. The two were sitting at the edge of a dapple of shade cast by the row of cherry trees that are still shedding blossoms right now.

That was probably a quiet time of day, a between-time of quietness leaping across spaces of crowded, shuffling figures ushered through mahogany doors.

Actually, it was quiet except for the sound of crows lining the branches of cherry blossom trees, flapping their wings and piercing through the branches with their shrieks; they hunted for the fall of crumbs from the two men eating their lunches in the trees' shade. But the two didn't notice a thing. They ate in unison, synchronism that suggested that they could be twins from the way they were dressed. Paisley cotton shirts, torn fringes, dirty cuffs. Dirty black hair restrained with worn pomade. It's like they left practically the same mark here, symmetrical shadows of history. The only difference in their thin frames is in their shoe size, a nine and a nine and a half. A small but important detail. Brothers, maybe, but no, not twins.

"Are you almost done?' nine and a half said, closing his steel tin with a snap. He wiped his mouth on his right sleeve.

"Hey, do I look like I'm done?" It's true. Nine was still eating; his little container lay open by the edge of the tablecloth, unlatched and interrupted.

"So-- do we play today?" said nine and a half. From underneath the table, he pulled out a large, hollow wooden globe, carved with vines and leaves.


"Yes, now."

"But we've been planning to play for a year now, and all of a sudden you've brought the game here, today, out of the blue?"

"This morning, I woke up and I just couldn't stand the smell of incense any more. It makes me sick. I thought, if I have to sit here and smell this stuff one more day--" his eyes squinted, his shoulders scrunched up in frustration, "--then I'm just going to explode!"

"Well, I don't like selling fans either, but what if I'm not ready! This isn't just about you, you know. You can't play without me!"

"Well, I could find someone else!"

"Yeah? Well good luck, then!"

"All right, all right, calm down. Listen, nothing's changing. We've been waiting and waiting for the last year, and nothing's changed. We come here, we sell, we eat, we watch the crows stare us down like we're already half dead. Carrion. That's what I feel like, sitting here, like carrion. What are we waiting for?"

"The right time."

"But what's that?"

"When everything feels right, when everything lines up and tells us that from this moment on, we're sailing in the perfect wind tunnel, on the perfect water current. You can't rush these things."

"Well, what if it is the right time? And what if the right time doesn't exist? What if you're waiting around for nothing? You can't just sit there forever. And what if the perfect moment passed us right by? How do you even know you'll recognize it?" Nine groaned in frustration.

"Here we go again."

"That's right! I want something to change!"

There was a long silence in the conversation, and nine and a half must have gotten up and brushed off the dust from his faded jeans. He started pacing around the table and around nine, leaving a neat little oval of footprints for posterity. The crows were enthralled, eyeing nine's abandoned lunch and clapping their wings.

"All right," said nine quietly. "Maybe you're right. Maybe this is the sign."

Nine and a half stops and eyes his seated companion suspiciously. "Really? Clear sailing?"

"Clear sailing. I hate sitting here just as much as you."

Nine and a half probably let out a cheer, sending some of the ashes of the incense flying, and then sobered up to reach for the wooden globe. There's still a lingering scent of sandalwood underneath the table. From inside the globe, he removed two game pieces.

"All right, so are you ready?"

"I'm ready," said nine, holding his breath.

"You do the honors. You get the first throw, it's only fair."

"Ok. But you tell me where to stand." Nine and a half lead him out into the sun, where the brightness beat down and evaporated the shade, and faced his companion to the tree-lined path escaping from the courtyard where they stood. "All right. You're ready."

So, you see?: Nine closed his eyes, inhaled sharply, and threw with all his strength. He shrieked. He shuddered at the glinting colors falling from the sky, sparkling. After exhaling to shed his nervousness, he turned to nine and a half and wiped away the beads of sweat lining his temple. "You'd better go get them. It's your turn."