"You're Nadia's little brother, aren't you?" Shukri blew out a puff of smoke into his face.
The boy barely flinched. "Not so little."
"How old are you?"
"Hmph. And what do you want?"
"The truth." He folded his arms, staring up at Shukri hungrily.
"About?" Shukri turned his back to the boy, running his finger against the dusty titles on the shelves behind him.
"My abah. You knew him, didn't you?"
Shukri's finger stopped on a thin tome abruptly.
"He used to come here. I know that. Tell me about him."
"And how do you know that, little boy?"
"My name is Adam."
Shukri turned to see the boy standing behind him, staring at the book his finger lay on. "Well, Adam, this is a very interesting book," he said with a smile. "I believe it belongs to you." He pulled it off the shelf and wiped it on his sleeve.
"Me?" Adam took the book from Shukri's hand and turned it over and over.
On the first page was an inscription:
For Adam, when he starts asking questions, as he surely will. Mahatma Tash.
"How did he know?"
"You come from a long line of questioners, Adam Tash," Shukri said, smiling. "I think it's something in your blood."
"Kak Nadia never asks questions."
Adam thought about that. "Well - she doesn't sound like she's asking questions..."
"But she gets answers all the same, doesn't she? It's a rare skill. Now run along, Adam. Read that book carefully and keep it safe. Don't let anyone know that you have it or what's in it."
"Do you know what contraband is?"
"Well, that's it right in your hands."
"You wanted the truth about your father, didn't you?"
"Well, that's it. Now you have it."
Adam bit his lip as he looked at the black, leather-bound book in his hand. It could have been anything, really. A daily planner, a journal, a fancy quran, a classic novel.
"Don't think you're old enough yet?" Shukri asked, holding out his hand.
"I'm ready," Adam said, gripping the book tighter.
"Good. Come back and see me when you're done reading. Now, I think Nadia's looking for you."
Adam ignored the voice that was calling his name. "How do I know you'll still be here?"
"Don't worry. I will be."
Adam stuffed the book into his backpack. Shouldering the pack, he walked out of the room, turning once to see Shukri still looking at him pensively. Shukri gave a small wave and turned back to his papers.
Started thinking about my failed 2010 NaNoWriMo novel (which I intended to be a kind of Malaysian dystopian thing), given the level of amusing/annoying things that Malaysian politicians have been saying recently. I was trying to get more background on Adam's father, but somehow I'm not there yet.
Maybe I'll get there in another installment.