by Annie Dawid
“Gwen, did you get Dr. Bernstein’s report on that girl?” Dr. Javed Singh asked his assistant.
“Totally clean, she said. In better health than most of the kids with homes she usually sees.” Gwen put the folder on her boss’ desk. “The dad, too. Skinny, but otherwise healthy.”
“She checked for sexual abuse?”
Gwen consulted the report. “Yup. Nothing. Are you surprised? I was.”
“In my country, as you know, most of the population is much poorer than the people we see here. But, if you’ll permit me to generalize, Indians are in better spiritual shape. In that way, the father reminded me of men at home whose inner lives are more evolved than their material ones.”
Sun slanted onto Gwen’s desk, highlighting the photograph of her dogs. Once she’d wanted children and a partner, but a few years on the job changed her mind. “I didn’t talk to him much. But the girl seemed okay to me. I just assumed he molested her. That’s pretty sick.”
Dr. Singh shrugged. “Not when three-fourths of our caseload are abused. This culture! I know you don’t like it when I complain about America, since I brought my family here to take advantage of what the U.S. has to offer, but my god — it is sick when it comes to sex.”
“That’s why I’m so shocked: they’re homeless and jobless and isolated, but they seem to have a healthy father-daughter relationship.” Gwen looked at the clock. “It’s a good way to end the week. Unusual.”
Smiling, Dr. Singh gestured her away. “Usually you’re so depressed by the end of the day. Go early.”
Gwen gathered her things. “Thanks, Boss. Say hello to Supriya and the kids for me.”
Before leaving, he read the report again. In India, people without homes were legion, most never expecting anything different. But in the United States, it seemed, everyone dreamed of a mansion and many vehicles. A Hummer. He wanted his children to be humble, despite their immersion in American values. Before going home, he turned off the lights and meditated, hopeful.
Annie Dawid teaches creative writing at the University College, University of Denver. She was Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, from 1990 to 2006.
Annie won the 2016 International Rubery Award in fiction for her first book and the Music Prize from Knut House Press in Fiction. Other awards include the Dana Award in the Essay, the Orlando Flash Fiction Award, The New Rocky Mountain Voices Award (drama), and the Northern Colorado Award in Creative Non-Fiction.
Most recent publications include Tikkun and Litro. Multiple websites feature her short works, including TubeFlash, Octavius, Nowhere, We Said Go Travel, Structo, and Fiction Attic Press. Her three published volumes of fiction are York Ferry: A Novel (Cane Hill Press, 1993); Lily in the Desert: Stories (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2001); and And Darkness Was Under His Feet: Stories of a Family (Litchfield Review Press, 2009).