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¡°How can we do that?¡± said the cats, ¡°We have
this roti. If we come up, the roti will fall.¡±
¡°Oh, very well,¡± said the monkey. He came
down and sat on the ground. ¡°Now what¡¯s the
matter,¡± he asked.
¡°Monkey,¡± said the white cat, ¡°this black cat is
very greedy. to eat the full roti. But I saw the
roti first, so it is mine.¡±
¡°But I picked up the roti from the road,¡± said
the black Cat. ¡°So it is mine.¡±
¡°You tell us who should eat this roti,¡± said both
the cats together.
¡°Hm,¡± said the monkey. ¡°Let me think.¡± He
closed his eyes for a minute. Then he said,
¡°Give me the roti. I shall break it into two
pieces. Then you can eat one piece each.¡±
The black cat gave him the roti. The monkey
tore it into two pieces. Then he looked at the
pieces in his hands and said, ¡°Oh, one of the
pieces is bigger than the other. Let me make it
equal to the other piece.¡±
The monkey took a bite from the bigger piece.
He looked at the two pieces again and said,
¡°Oh, now the other piece is bigger. I shall make
both equal.¡± And he took a bite from the sec-
ond piece.
The cats got worried. They did not want the
monkey to eat up their entire roti. So they
said, ¡°Give us the two pieces now. Never mind
if they are not equal.¡±
¡°How can I do that ?¡± he said. ¡°That would be
cheating. I must give an equal piece to both of
The cats just sat and watched. They saw the
monkey take a bite from the two pieces, turn
by turn.
At last the monkey said, ¡°It¡¯s no use giving you
the two pieces now. They are too small.¡± And
before the cats could stop him, he ate up both
the pieces.
The poor cats were very hungry. But their roti
was gone. They said, ¡°We will not fight again.
If we find some more food, we shall share
equally and leave the monkey out of it.¡±
And they both went away to look for a mouse
to eat.
The Cab Ride
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. I got
a call for a ride late one night.
When I arrived at 2:30a, the building was dark
except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would
just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then
drive away.
But I had seen too many impoverished people
who depended on taxis as their only means of
transportation. Unless a situation smelled of dan-
ger, I always went to the door.
This passenger might be someone who needs my
assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to
the door and knocked.
¡°Just a minute¡±, answered a frail, elderly voice. I
could hear something being dragged across the
After a long pause, the door opened. A small
woman in her 80s stood before me.
She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat
with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of
a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon
The apartment looked as if no one had lived in
it for years. All the furniture was covered with
sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no
knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the
corner was a cardboard box filled with photos
and glassware.
¡°Would you carry my bag out to the car?¡± she
said. I took the suitcase to the cab then returned
to assist the woman. She took my arm, and we
walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thank-
ing me for my kindness.
¡°It¡¯s nothing¡±, I told her. ¡°I just try to treat my
passengers the way I would want my mother
¡°Oh, you¡¯re such a good boy¡±, she said.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address
and then asked, ¡°Could you drive through down-
¡°It¡¯s not the shortest way,¡± I answered quickly.
¡°Oh, I don¡¯t mind,¡± she said. ¡°I¡¯m in no hurry. I¡¯m
on my way to a hospice¡±.
I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were
¡°I don¡¯t have any family left,¡± she continued,
¡°The doctor says I don¡¯t have very long.¡±
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
¡°What route would you like me to take?¡± I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the
She showed me the building where she had
once worked as an elevator operator. We drove
through the neighborhood where she and her
husband had lived when they were newlyweds.
She had me pull up in front of a furniture ware-
house that had once been a ballroom where she
had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she¡¯d
ask me to slow in front of a particular building
or corner and would sit staring into the dark-
ness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the ho-
rizon, she suddenly said, ¡°I¡¯m tired. Let¡¯s go
We drove in silence to the address she had
given me. It was a low building, like a small
convalescent home, with a driveway that
passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as
we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent,
watching her every move. They must have
been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase
to the door. The woman was already seated in
a wheelchair. ¡°How much do I owe you?¡± she
asked, reaching into her purse.
¡°Nothing,¡± I said.
¡°You have to make a living,¡± she answered.
¡°There are other passengers,¡± I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent down and gave
her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
¡°You gave an old woman a little moment of
The Reading Room 2019 December/January
Pg 5 - The Sunshine Express
Treasures From The Inbox
If you get email, you
get stuff. Sometimes
it is spam, sometimes
it is a true gem.
Here is one of those
gems worth sharing:
joy,¡± she said, ¡°Thank you.¡±
I squeezed her hand then walked into the dim
morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was
the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn¡¯t pick up any more passengers that shift.
I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of
that day, I could hardly talk.
What if that woman had gotten an angry driver
or one who was impatient to end his shift? What
if I had refused to take the run or had honked
once and then driven away?
We¡¯re conditioned to think that our lives revolve
around great moments. But great moments
often catch us unaware, beautifully wrapped in
what others may consider a small one.
On a quick review, I don¡¯t think that I have done
anything more important in my life.
Two Cats
Once there were two cats.
One was white, the other was black. They were
One day they went for a walk. The white cat saw
a roti near the road.( Roti: round, baked cake
made of wholemeal bread, chapatti)
¡°Ah,¡± said the white cat. ¡°There¡¯s a roti there.
How nice!¡±
The black cat ran and picked up the roti. She
opened her mouth to eat it, for she was hungry.
¡°Stop!¡± said the white cat. ¡°I saw the roti first,
so I shall eat it.¡±
¡°But I picked it up and so I shall eat it,¡± said the
black cat.
Both wanted to eat the roti. So they said, ¡°Let us
go to the monkey who lives on the mango tree.
He will tell us what to do.¡±
The two cats went to the monkey. He was sitting
on the mango tree.
¡°Monkey,¡± said the cats, ¡°please come down
from the tree. We want to ask you something.¡±
¡°Why don¡¯t you both come up then?¡± asked the