Three thousand Sanskrit scholars tried their hand at opening the door. None had a key.
They gave up. Turning to leave, one realized that they could smash the plate glass. Scholar #11 took one of her arm rags, borrowed another from Scholar #1,382, and wrapped her fist and forearm like a mauve-grey gauntlet. “Wham,” then a second try, “Arkkkksh,” shattered. Simple.
But first, the four nearest made sure to pick up the pieces and took some of their rags to mop up the unseeable bits. They were concerned for their brethren’s and sistren’s bare feet and glass dust floating into the wave of their robes.
Upwards of seven of them file up the stairs, one calling out in a medium-voiced, “Hello?” Empty stairwell, no response. There did seem to be a dog that was taking notice, barking away in the unit above. #278 was a little jigged by this—prickled skin on his neck: not a fan of dogs.
And as they filed up, one called back for seven more to join them. The rest of the lot was milling about on the wide sidewalk. Some, bored, crossed over to the dry grass median and sat in circles. Traffic in both directions slowed, drivers staring. A few scholars self-assembled into discussion groups about Viswamitra or the Rig Veda. Some sat nearby in twos and threes, launching into discussions of the French and Italian cheeses they liked best or easiest airline flights they’d ever taken.
And the fourteen inside, meanwhile, began to search for what they knew had to be there: a painting (they weren’t sure why they needed it) and the book.
The book was no longer available at libraries worldwide, but I had mentioned it in passing to a typography artist in Chennai. Word must have gotten ‘round.
It was a book I’d kept on my shelf that sought to identify the origin of Proto-Indo European and what living language was closest.
This they could find, and did, right there in the library-Caliente-bedroom, on the shelf with the language study books. “Yooreka!” They yelled in unison.
Three of them passed it between each other to ensure they agreed that it was indeed the book, and O it was!
#11, having grabbed a pink lady apple in the kitchen to answer his stomach, came back down the hall and saw it: the portrait of my husband and the one of me hanging beside it. These they realized they should keep together as a pair: our portraits as us done up as elder seventeenth-century Dutch merchant burghers.
They were collectively thrilled, for they’d attained their goal. “Ayo!” one yelled out the window, waving his arm to his colleagues. Those below responded with the same.
Anthony St. George lives with his husband in San Francisco and is currently working on a speculative fiction novel, “Ann History,” and short stories for the accompanying short story collection, “The Warring States.” He has never met a hike or a bird he hasn’t liked. He tweets @asgriobhadh