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On Saturdays Mr. Mathur came to the apartment to teach my mother the Hindu way. A retired jeweler, his life was now devoted to spirituality. He wouldn’t take money so my mother often gave him little presents of flowers or fruit. Her job at Paramount did not pay much, which meant sometimes on Saturday mornings she grabbed a pair of scissors and walked around the block, returning with a couple of our neighbor’s Bird of Paradise blossoms. Every day at Paramount the producer made her cry and every day my mother hid in the Ladies Room until she got over it. One Saturday she overslept and said to me, “Go to Ralphs and get an orange to give to the teacher.”
January was orange season and the orange turned out to be six cents, no tax. Outside the store someone was calling my name. Freddie. Since preschool he had been in my class. Now we were sophomores together at Uni High. More importantly, Freddie straddled a cherry red Honda scooter. He said, “Wanna go to Hot Dog On A Stick?”
My mother and I used to go all the time, except now we were nearly full time vegetarians. In high school, she had worked at Hot Dog On A Stick, wearing the crazy hat and squashing the lemonade. I would have liked to have worked someplace after school to earn some extra money but she said I couldn’t because of my poor grades.
Freddie and I sat on a concrete wall eating the hot dogs and watching the sun bang off the ocean. The scooter belonged to his uncle and his uncle was in the Marines. Freddie was pretty sure his uncle would give him the scooter if his uncle got posted to Okinawa.
“The guru,” Freddie said. “What does he do?”
I pointed to the hot dog. “This is a delusion. Once you begin a life of meditation, you can see that.”
“The hot dog?”
“No. The wanting the hot dog.”
“No.” Even my mother did not meditate all that much. She lay in bed with the pillow over her head.
By the time we got back to the apartment, the lesson was over, but Mr. Mathur was still around, standing with my mother on the sidewalk, and pointing to something in the sky.
A daytime moon. Only half of one, tilted towards the sun, a silver tennis ball that floated just above the palm tree.
“Oh, hello, Freddie.” My mother smiled when I handed her the orange.
I hadn’t thought about it before, but were the moon and the sun ever supposed to be in the sky together? One gave way to the other, right?
“Where did you get that scooter, Freddie?” my mother asked.
A narrow white cloud was streaked across the sky. At the beach today children had been playing and I felt the urge to join them though Freddie and I were too old to play in the sand.
“My uncle,” he said.
Mr. Mathur was pleased with the orange. An orange was an excellent fruit, he said, the color especially. Man could never produce anything as amazing as an orange. He peeled the orange and split it into four parts, one for each of us. After he ate his part, he folded the peel in half and ate that.
The orange was delicious, the best six cent purchase I had ever made. Also I have never been able to replicate that moment.