Jay shook his head and started wandering toward the clouds of steam rising all around The Mystery Chickpea. I admit, he thought, it doesn’t seem the likeliest of loves. But there’s something there that we can’t deny. Shouldn’t deny. And why should we? I can have Jade and still be a traveler.
Behind the steam, the old man waited. The folds of his white clothes wrapped around him like a robe. The shining white fabric was as clean as if it had just come from the laundry.
Jay glanced down at the three bubbling pots. Fresh and dried splatters covered the pots and the top of the cart. How could someone who makes this sort of slopple be so clean? he wondered.
The old man’s dark face was patchworked with wrinkles and lines, yet it had the smooth suppleness of a younger man’s face. If not for the white beard that wound down to the old man’s chest, the face would have seemed not ready for shaving. His brown-and-black eyes reminded Jay a little of Rucksack and Kailash. Behind the beard, even, it seemed as if there were similarities in his face.
Maybe they’re from the same region, Jay thought.
Jay waited but the old man wouldn’t ask what he wanted. Finally, Jay remembered: he can’t talk. Jay pointed at the three pots. “One of each, please.”
The old man nodded and served up a bowl.
Jay’s stomach rejoiced as he ate. At last, a meal! He felt like he’d hardly started the first bowl before it was empty. The second bowl went just as quickly. Finally, after the third bowl, Jay felt full again.
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