By Devi S. Laskar
The following is an excerpt from Devi Laskar’s novel “The Atlas of Reds and Blues”
Perhaps it is the spectacle of Mother Nature. The special science field trip in the eleventh grade, on the very day her sister misses school because of food poisoning (someone had laced the brownies with Ex-Lax at the neighborhood picnic the afternoon before). A moment of unparalleled beauty. Their physics teacher consults the newspaper, puts sixty of his students on the yellow school bus, finds his driver’s cap. After lunch on a given Monday they are driven for an hour to a particular field of tall grass just outside Greensboro. Like a master magician, he pulls out sixty special Mylar glasses from a black canvas bag. His students use the special devices to track the moon as it crosses over the sun, the last lunar eclipse in the late twentieth century. Even without the glasses, she knows something is happening: as the sky darkens, the birds fall quiet and the air takes on a strange stillness, a second midnight. It is as if each of the clocks in the world folds hands together.
The divine light in me sees the divine light in you.
Several minutes later as light returns, the birds make a furious noise, heralding the day for a
second time. Then a whole swarm of them abandon their trees by the edges of the field and fly away. She is sixteen, and almost believes she will never again see anything quite so beautiful.
Mother stares at the policewoman through dark sunglasses, and watches her lips purse and then give birth to a frown. “It’s for my safety,” the young officer says, pulling out the cuffs. They are standing face-to-face in front of the entrance to the newspaper where Mother chronicles the dead.
She pauses a second. “You’re going to arrest me for wearing shades?”
The policewoman shakes her head slightly, and a strand of mouse-brown hair escapes the untidy bun at the nape of her neck. “Stop playing. You know why I’m here.”
She did not. “I’m going to be late for work.”
Another officer, a tall, slim man with hair shorn close to his pink head, turns the corner and reaches the two of them—several people glide in and out using the sliding glass doors of the news building and glance at the scene before walking away. She knows none of them, and wishes she could call Editor Dennis.
“You work in there?” The policewoman laughs. “That’s rich.”
Her partner pulls out a flyer from his coat pocket and unfolds it. “You’re wanted on three counts of solicitation, and one count of forgery.”
The muscles in Mother’s face try to rearrange to form a grin, but she knows that humor will not solve this problem, that to laugh would cause them embarrassment, that to laugh would put her own life in danger. “Are you sure?”
“Well, you’re Angela Wallace, aren’t you?” The policewoman slaps the cuffs against her own palm.
“No,” she says as calmly as she can, and pronounces her full name slowly. She looks at the partner. “I have my license in my purse.”
The policewoman stares. “I’m not falling for this again. You’re probably carrying.”
She sighs. “May I see the flyer?”
Her editor’s girlfriend, Lynette, walks out of the building for a smoke.
The policeman turns it toward his partner. On the flyer is a poor-quality color photograph of a dark-skinned woman in an orange jumpsuit, her hazel eyes dead, her skin severely freckled. The only thing Mother has in common with the woman in the picture is the haircut, the feathers and layers.
The partner barks, “Take off your sunglasses, girl.”
She takes off her glasses and holds them in the same hand as her car keys.
Lynette leans in for a look at the flyer. “Are you kidding me?”
Aatif Rashid talks to Devi Laskar about “Second Midnight.”
Copyright © 2019 by Devi Laskar, from The Atlas of Reds and Blues. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press.
Buy Devi S. Laskar’s debut novel “The Atlas of Reds and Blues” here.
Devi S. Laskar’s debut novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues (Counterpoint Press 2019) has garnered praise in The Washington Post, Chicago Review of Books, Booklist and elsewhere; and has appeared on the most anticipated lists in such publications as TIME, Cosmopolitan (UK), Marie Claire, Nylon & The Millions. Laskar holds an MFA from Columbia University and an MA from the University of Illinois. A former newspaper reporter, she is now a poet, photographer and novelist. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from such journals as Rattle, Tin House and Crab Orchard Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She is an alumna of both TheOpEdProject and VONA, among others. In 2017, Finishing Line Press published two poetry chapbooks. A native of Chapel Hill, N.C., she now lives in California. You can find her on Twitter @devislaskar.
Nazish Chunara is a Los Angeles based painter and installation artist whose works explore dimension, history, future, and sound by utilizing geometry and the Gujarati language. Her work has been featured in Venison Magazine and VoyageLA. You can see more at https://zishery.weebly.com/, and can follow her bookish and aviatrix antics on Twitter @chunara_zish and Instagram @zishery.