Short Story 15 of …

blog post
This is the 15th in this series of those not accepted by journals for publication also has its first line from The First Line Literary Journal. This is the third of four submitted as a group to the journal.



Ravi in the Mix

The Simmons public library was a melting pot of the haves and have-nots, a mixture of homeless people and the wealthy older residents of the nearby neighborhood. Ravi Reynolds could identify with any one of the demographic representatives. He’d been in each. As the adopted son of the professor and his wife in Iraq, he’d been quite privileged. In the foster system and as a student, he was one of the have-nots. He hadn’t considered himself completely homeless since being in the Syrian refugee camp with his mother, but he’d slept and ate in a shelter since shortly after his arrest and release. And there had been multiple nights in the back of his Volvo.

Ravi didn’t quite fit in with the usuals at the library, but neither was he rejected or shunned. He’d managed to maintain his one or two day worn clothing by using the washer dryer for staff and volunteers at Thursday Night Mission. The khakis weren’t pressed like they were from the commercial laundry, but if he grabbed them in time, they were nearly wrinkle free. Having permission from Boss to get mail at Grimm Street 7-24 Market and having copies of his income tax return with the address provided what Ravi needed to legitimize residence for a driver license renewal. The license authorized him a library card. His original and renewed passports qualified him for an enhanced license. The by the month phone gifted by Boss allowed him to be contacted by casual labor entities that had no concern about his undecided legal status. Most work offers were pay in cash, but Ravi refused those – he needed to prove his honesty if it came up in court and he didn’t want undue risks to his character.

But Ravi was still without real job, student status, car, and clue about what might be next in the court.

When he was a boot boy at the camp in Iraq, he learned to play chess and would often be challenged with a free shine for a loss and half price more for a win. His adopting father also challenged him, and he was in the chess club at the boarding school. His foster parents didn’t play, but he was able to pick up a few games with college classmates and on the public board in the park near campus. While watching a pair of grey hairs play, he asked to take on the winner. He did and ended up playing several games a week. No one asked where he learned until a man named Berman observed a move sequence and asked, “Where did you learn that set of moves?”

Ravi was quick to reply, “My adopting father in Iraq. He was a college professor.”

“So, I asked because I’ve not seen it in years,” the man said. “Most casual players would not use it. And now young man you may call me Moshe.” Ravi’s new chess friend apparently spread the word because many more of that generation challenged him. He enjoyed the games because it took his mind off the challenges outside the library. Ravi won a casual impromptu tournament and was questioned about being his age and nearly always at the library. He explained, but mostly to Moshe Berman and learned he was from an Ashkenazic community near the library. In the same week, he and Aaron Penna of the Ashkenazi chess players volunteered to represent him in court if so needed.

One condition of Ravi’s release required him to check in at the court each Monday or Tuesday if Monday was a holiday. Another was that he had to be signed up at the state unemployment office and visit it once a week. His first week in the routine was a lesson in travel time. He had to have a stamp from the unemployment office verifying he was job searching when he checked in at the court. He didn’t want for time, but it was frustrating that he had to walk more than necessary in the rain. Ravi changed his routine. He was sure the one question about arrests which he answered truthfully to each prospective employer got him the does not meet requirements notation.

Ravi was well settled into his routine: clean up the kitchen and dining area after breakfast, clean up himself, except court days go to the Simmons public library, read the newspapers, read one of the hope-for class required books or journal, play several games of chess, return to Thursday Night Mission for the evening routine. Boss called now and then and asked if there was anything new. Only once did he call about a letter. Ravi had him open it. It was a formal does not meet requirements letter.

A court secretary called on a Thursday. “Mr. Reynolds,” she said, “you need to be here at 10 tomorrow morning. I can’t give specifics but check in with Judge Michaels’ office a few minutes before that time. Ravi shared that he’d miss the mini tournament scheduled for that Friday. Moshe Berman and Aaron Penna volunteered to drive him and if necessary, represent him.

Representation wasn’t necessary. Jordan Swain was seated at the defendant’s table. Ravi was called to the witness chair and her court appointed attorney asked, “Is the defendant seated here,” he pointed, “known to you as Jordan Swain, aid to Dr. Philip Wilson at Grimm University?”

Ravi answered in the affirmative, and the assistant district attorney asked the same question, but didn’t wait for an answer before asking a second, “Have you ever had any contact with her outside her workplace at the university?”

“No sir.”

“Not for coffee, or on a break on campus?”

“No sir.”

The defense attorney stood and asked that Ravi’s statements be entered as verifying his clients written statement to the court. Judge Michaels ordered it and Ravi was dismissed. On the way back to the library, Moshe said, “I got to talk with that young lady’s rep. He has to prove that she wasn’t involved in the drug case and was just duped by Philip Wilson. It’s going to take testimony from the man Crenshaw and or Wilson to confirm that. ADA Johnson was a snake when I went against him a few times and could call you any time. The young woman has family in the area so she will probably continue to be out without bail. For your sake, avoid any contact with her.”

“I’ve avoided the university campus and anyone I knew there since my arrest, so it not likely I’d see her or anyone else connected except in court. I’ll admit that there was another aid I could have been interested in, but oh well.”

Moshe’s friend asked, “Was she a friend of the Swain woman?”

“I surly don’t know. I never saw them talking, but they shared office space for at least two quarters.”

“Reason enough to avoid her too.”

Moshe said, “Changing the subject, Mrs. and I have discussed having you as a long term guest. We took our basement apartment off the market as a rental a few years ago and it’s been vacant. You could stay there for payment by yard maintenance. That will also keep you from having a retail place as an address.”

“And,” Penna said, “that would cut another tie to others in your case.”

Ravi was surprised and said, “Thanks, but I don’t want to burden anyone.”

“You are the one with the burden, but you’ve fit in more than you may think.” Moshe said. “It’s fully furnished including a washer and dryer. The entrance is separate, so you may come and go without any disruption to us.”


Ravi Justified is next.

As my octogenarianism continues, my mind wanders as I wonder.
Or could it be that my mind wonders as I wander?
It is a fact that I have opinions – or is it?