The first of the remixes are in, and this was by Martin Lewis. An interesting approach – not so much re-writing, but edited and processed in a different order, which gives it a different tone, and makes it perhaps little leaner than the original.
Edit: Martin explains the process.
Politicians Have Other Things To Talk About
Salam, on the long walk home from JJB Sports. Women walk by, skirt material in obvious short supply, but he isn’t interested. Half an hour later he criss-crosses three alleyways, hears four different types of music from reggae to rock. ‘Cunt.’ The word is whispered from the darkness. With no one stopping to make more of it, he assigns the comment to his paranoia.
Baseema’s father sits sulking in his study, door locked, hundreds of old copies of car magazines scattered across the floor being the only evidence of his tantrum. He seethes with anger. An image of the Sikh boy, Salam, enters his mind.
‘Baseema, you have brought upon this household great shame,’
‘I know, Father, I’m sorry.’
‘This will not do.’
‘He doesn’t take it seriously though,’ Baseema said.
‘This is supposed to make it better, no?’
‘But I love him!’ Baseema said, tears pooling on the tip of her chin.
‘I won’t hear anymore of it.’
‘But, I do.’
‘His reputation is bad.’
‘He’s got a job…’
‘Selling trainers and baseball caps, no?
She shook her head, then left the room to the sounds of ‘Suhana Safar Yeh Mausam’ while her Uncle Indra nodded his head to the rhythms as if in a permanent state of trance. If only her father would agree, she thinks, realising that not all fathers in her culture think like he does.
Salam glances over his shoulder across the road where neon signs offer every kind of food at a discount rate. Music blaring from shop doorways. As long as Salam is in people’s vision – under anyone’s gaze – he knows he can remain safe. Finally, a car pulls up. A taxi. A girl opens the rear door, makes a move to get out, then pauses. She gestures for him to come to her, the subtle and teasing tilt of the wrist. Cautiously, she beckons him to the car, a small gesture, a tilt of the wrist. Her name is Baseema and she’s all he ever dreamed of. Trouble is, like most dreams, she’s almost out of reach.
The car door closes. He looks at her, then to the rear-view mirror, at the driver’s eyes, white eyes. ‘I’ve missed you,’ Salam says. ‘I tried to text.’
‘He took my phone.’
She nods. ‘I’ve not got long.’
‘Where we going?’
‘Who knows,’ she says, and he doesn’t want to think about any of the double meanings behind her words.
When they kiss again he notices something’s not quite right, the texture of her lips perhaps. With all the suddenness of an emergency stop, she lurches back, holds his face, and says, ‘Salam, he’s going to kill us.’
‘Bas,’ Salam says, in a state of shock.
‘He gets what he wants.’
‘We could leave the city,’ Salam says, filling with hope.
‘But he’ll kill you,’ Baseema says. ‘He has car dealerships everywhere!’
‘Then what d’you suggest?’ Salam says, his hands out wide.
‘This is Anish,’ her father said. Baseema smiled awkwardly at the introduction.
‘Hullo,’ the boy said.
They held each other’s gaze for about a second, maybe less. She was so bored of him already, and he’d only said the one word. Her father slapped the young lad on the back. Too skinny, she thought. Would there be any choice in this? The boy in front of her was nothing more than a business transaction.
‘Baseema?’ her father said.
He was one of the most well respected Hindus in the East Midlands. Her father insisted on her studying Business Studies at university, that it would give her a head start. It was her father who had made this decision, to arrange for this meeting with this boy, someone no older than she was and who seemed more frightened than was really necessary for the occasion. She liked to decide things for herself.
They are running through the city centre, heading towards the bus stop, the rain fizzing on the pavement. ‘I can’t run forever,’ Salam says.
‘I’ve told you, you’ll find out when we’re there.’
‘Where the hell’s there? Where we going?’
‘To solve our crisis, innit.’
They clamber onboard the 193, condensation on the inside, rain on the outside, a cluster of faces damp and miserable. Ten minutes later they disembark at Wollaton, near the small cluster of shops the other side of the Ring Road.
‘Here we are,’ she says.
‘Here. The answer to our problems.’
‘Oh. Who is she?’
‘Witch.’ The word strikes Salam hard.
They knock on the door, regard the garden. The dull churn of the road in the distance. The door opens of it’s own accord, like some ridiculous horror movies Salam watches with Dave after shifts in the stockroom at JJB Sports.
‘How . . . ‘ Salam says.
‘Koothay!’ she says, waving her hands in despair, surprisingly energetic for someone so old. With more bustle than a street market crowd, Salam and Baseema enter the house and shut the door. After they are seated on the floor in a room covered with drapes, the woman – the witch – brings ghee sweets and tea.
‘What is it you want?’
Salam shrugs, stares at Baseema, who, with a sigh, begins their story. After ten minutes the witch gazes towards them and it occurs to Salam that her eyes are pointing in different directions.
‘You wish for protection only?’
A silence. She points to Baseema.
Baseema says, ‘I don’t want my father hurting.’
‘A simple task, although the will of the gods will determine the full outcome,’ the witch says, then leaves momentarily in a haze of aromatic smoke.
‘It is done, isn’t it,’ the witch says.
‘What, just like that?’ Salam says.
In the sanctum of the bus, they kiss again, Salam’s hands sliding in an explorative fashion along Baseema’s thigh. On a mayo-stained computer in McDonalds, Baseema in the queue for two chicken burgers, large fries and a Coke, Salam hits Google, curious to find out a little more about the witch. Baseema approaches with the scents of CK One and fried food. He grins as she pecks him on the cheek.
A promising Saturday opens up.
Uncle Indra watched his brother open the boot of the car. Indra walked around to see inside the boot, and his eyes widened in shock. He has a nagging sensation he’s out of his depth.
Indra spoke in Hindi. ‘Brother.’
‘I’m her father.’
Indra said, ‘Where did you get the gun?’
‘Best you don’t ask.’
‘When is a good time?’
‘Whenever you feel it necessary,’ his brother said.
‘Where shall we get rid of his body?’
‘I have any number of business channels through which to dispose of it.’
‘A good choice,’ Indra said.
It comes back to him in staccato drunken images- dancing with Baseema. Now, his Pepsi drunk and him needing to urinate in the next half hour, chips beginning to form a not-unpleasant starchy residue in his gums, Salam stumbles, lagered up, across the vacant roads of the city.
Forest Fields, 4a.m. The streets are a blur. The alley is long. Shadows seem longer, darker than before.
Chip wrapper falls to the ground as Salam lurches backwards from the three tall men. Two clicks – he knows knives have been drawn. The other holds a long metal pole, points it in Salam’s direction.
‘Leave her alone, cunt.’
‘Leave who alone?’ Salam says, thinking it a useless thing to say.
‘If it isn’t you, Salam, it’s gonna be her, innit.’
Before he knows it the metal bar is brought into his stomach repeatedly, folding him to a right angle.
To one side he suddenly notices a shape – notices it only because it glows white. It is an ethereal business, a brightness not even the streetlamps can match. The animal gazes across them as if it’s reading a menu. The tiger ghost regards Salam for what seems like a day before commencing with the meal.
‘What,’ Salam says, staggering upright, ‘what took you so long?’
A sudden kick sees Salam fall forwards. He grasps the metal railing of a fire escape for steadiness, turns, is confronted by an old man holding a gun.
‘Enough, Salam, lad,’ the man says.
‘What?’ Salam says, eyeing all the time the barrel of the gun.
‘You have come close to Baseema too much, no.’
‘I love her,’ Salam says.
‘I know what it is.’
‘Love is being able to pay for food, pay for a house, a car.’
‘No, that’s money you’re talking about,’ Salam says, a hint of daring in his voice, ‘not love.’
Sweating, Salam glances above, sees the shape of an eagle swooping between buildings, the same ghostly texture as the tiger. A scream, and the man is lifted into the air, the draft from the wings scattering Coke cans and newspapers around the alleyway. The eagle returns, empty clawed.
‘Enough of this,’ Salam says.
The eagle stares blankly.
‘Let’s go to Baseema’s house.’
The eagle squawks something that could be a reply, leans forwards as if to beckon Salam onto its back. Salam obliges, says, ‘Drive steady, all right?’
With another thick downdraft that sends a bottle skidding into the wall, they rise from between the buildings, at rooftop level then far beyond, providing Salam with a view of the city. A few minutes later, Salam lands outside a detached Victorian house in Mapperley Park and Baseema runs out shouting.
‘Come on, Bas, we’ve got dinner plans.’
Salam struts like a cocky, urban Mowgli, rain streaking down his shirt. ‘Arey!’
Salam approaches, calls back the ghosts. ‘This is our doing.’
Salam clicks his fingers and the tiger pounces, thumps Baseema’s father into the floor in a sliding arc of mud. ‘See?’
‘Kaminay! And what if I do not?’
Salam calls for all the creatures to back off, for the tiger to give some space.
‘If you hurt her,’ her father says, ‘I won’t let any creature stop me from getting you.’
‘You’ve been hurting her enough already, don’t you think?’
‘So you’ll get rid of this Anish dude?’ Salam says. The tiger roars as if to back up the point.
Baseema’s father nods. She stares at her father, the look on her face indicating she’s too fearful to even move. The tiger grunts a blast of air into his face. ‘Go, go,’ he says, waving his hand to her, unable to take his vision off the muscled creature pinning him to the ground. She runs over to Salam, holds his hand, and the ghosts disappear one by one into the rhododendrons, with Baseema’s father rubbing the back of his head in disbelief at the scene.
That weekend, Salam and Baseema return to the house of the witch to say a thank you. A flock of starlings begin to carve arcs into the sky, liquid-like movements.
If you listen carefully you can hear a growl.