Excerpt from America for Beginners by Leah Franqui, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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America for Beginners

by Leah Franqui

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui X
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
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    Jul 2018, 320 pages

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19
New York

Although it was unusual for him, Ronnie had decided that he would accompany Satya and Rebecca on their first day with Mrs. Sengupta. As it was Satya's first tour, and Rebecca's first experience with the company, he told himself that he was being a responsible boss, but in reality he was excited to be back on the Circle Line. It was the one tourist activity he actually enjoyed. Looking at himself in the bathroom that morning, he giggled in anticipation as he combed his thinning hair. It was six thirty but he had to leave soon if he was to be there at eight forty-five, his customary fifteen minutes early for clients.

Getting out of the train, Ronnie followed a slim but round pair of buttocks up the subway stairs and out into the sea of people that was Times Square. He liked following women up the stairs, especially when the weather was nice and their bodies weren't restricted by bulky coats. He enjoyed the denim-clad view for a full two minutes before realizing that the person he was following was none other than his newest employee, Rebecca. She struggled to roll her two suitcases down the crowded sidewalks of Times Square, and Ronnie rushed up to help her, almost receiving a smack in the face with her purse as thanks for his pains.

"Mr. Munshi! I'm so sorry, I thought someone was trying to steal my stuff."

Ronnie reeled back, hurt. He recovered quickly.

"You're right on time, I see," he said approvingly.

Rebecca knew she was in fact early, but she felt it wise not to argue the point. Instead she smiled and nodded. "I like to be prompt. Is Satya with you?"

Ronnie shook his head. They arrived at the hotel and stepped into the lobby. Ronnie didn't see Satya anywhere. He had repeated his injunction that the guide be early at least five times when they had spoken the previous day, and he had also mentioned that he himself would be accompanying them on their first day of excursions, which should have been an indicator that the boy should be on his best behavior. As he looked around the lobby there was no sign of Satya, no one who appeared to be remotely Bangladeshi, just a few Mexican people cleaning.

"I know it's too early for me to check in, but do you have a place where I can store my luggage?" Ronnie opened his mouth to respond but realized that Rebecca was talking to the person at reception, who helped her lock up her bags and place them in their luggage room. Ronnie checked his watch. It was 8:50. By his calculations, Mrs. Sengupta would have finished her breakfast by now and was, presumably, checking on her appearance before making her first entrance in front of her awaiting audience. For all their claims to modesty and simplicity, he found these Indian aunties by and large to be a vain lot, always conscious of their need to make an entrance, of their gold jewelry and their fine purses, and he felt it part of his job to accommodate them, exclaiming over their smooth skin and dark hair, which he knew owed more to dye than to youth.

"Mr. Munshi?"

A quiet voice behind them made both Rebecca and Ronnie turn, catching their first glimpse of Mrs. Sengupta. The plainly dressed Indian woman in a simple white sari, no jewelry and no makeup, surprised Ronnie, but he had no time to register his surprise because he was too upset that Satya himself had yet to appear. It was unconscionable for the guest to have arrived before the guide. If he could, he would have wanted to give the impression that Satya had been waiting in the lobby since the previous evening, standing at attention in anticipation of Mrs. Sengupta's every whim. This was not a good start, not a good start at all. Ronnie fumed, internally, while presenting Mrs. Sengupta with a slightly oily smile and bending over to touch her feet respectfully. He then stepped back, indicating Rebecca as if he were a game-show host.

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Excerpted from America for Beginners by Leah Franqui. Copyright © 2018 by Leah Franqui. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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