“You hatching some kind of scheme?”

I’m currently reading Quichotte by Salman Rushdie. The central character, Quichotte (Quixote) and his wholly imaginary-though-becoming-tangible son, Sancho, are traveling across the country to reach the beloved Salma R (Dulcinea) in New York. Quichotte is a U.S. citizen of Indian extraction — “dot, not feather” he notes — and has dark skin. Because Sancho springs from his imagination, he too has dark skin.

At a campground in Lake Capote, Colorado they are poring over a map to determine their next step and one of the nearby campers sees this and raises a ruckus.

“What is that?” the white lady said, jerking a thumb in the direction of the map. “You hatching some kind of scheme?”

“We are travelers like yourself,” Quichotte replied mildly, “so it is not unreasonable that we should map out our route.”

“Where are your turbans and beards?” the white lady asked, her arm extended toward him, an angry finger pointing right at him. “You people wear beards and turbans, right? You shave your faces and take the headgear off to fool us? T u r b a n s,” she repeated slowly, making a swirling turban gesture around her head.

“I think I can say without fear of inaccuracy that I have never worn a turban in my life,” Quichotte replied, with a degree of puzzlement that displeased his interrogator.

“You got a bad foreign look to you,” the white lady said. “Sound foreign too.”

“I suspect few of the campers at Lake Capote are from around here,” Quichotte said, still smiling his increasingly inappropriate smile. “It’s a destination for visitors, is it not? You yourself must have driven some distance to get here?”

“That’s something. You asking me where I’m from. Imma tell you where I’m from. I’m from America. Who knows how you got here. This ain’t a place for you. You shouldn’t be allowed past the border controls. How’d you get in? You look like you come from a country on that no-entry list. You hitch a ride with a Mexican? What you lookin’ for in America? What’s your purpose? That map. I’m not loving that map.”

They manage to escape the campground, but later on they face a similarly hostile crowd at a breakfast diner in Oklahoma. I expect there will be other such incidents as I continue reading the story.

Rushdie never disappoints me.

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