“Fuck me,” Carter sighed as the strip-mall signs flashed by, yellowed transparent ovals covered indifferently with generic line drawings and fading public-domain fonts, “Christopher Columbus was right, you know? He was just early.” From the passenger seat, Marisol scrunched her face at him in the expression that he had come to think of as no comprendo.
“What do you mean, Columbus was early?” Carter flicked on his turn signal and slowed the rental car before making a hard right.
“I mean, look at the names of the storefronts. ‘India Bazaar’. ‘India Grocery’. ‘Amul India’. And that mini-mart, it used to be a United Dairy Farmers, now it’s just a generic Indian mini-mart. The name… they probably picked it out of a hat or a turban or whatever. What I’m saying is that Columbus came here from Spain looking for India, right? He was so stuck on it that he used the name “Indians” for the Native Americans who lived here. Well, if he came here now he’d have all the bona fide Indians he could stand. He just got here too early.”
“I don’t understand,” Marisol replied, in a deliberately level tone clearly meant to counteract the riding tide of his agitation. “I see also a Hertz Car Rental, and a Pro Golf Unlimited. It is not all India theeeeees and India thaaaaat.”
“You,” Carter stated with resignation, “are the dumbest God-dammed bitch on this planet.” Marisol looked straight ahead and said nothing back. The silence stretched for long moments as they passed the graffiti-covered brick end-cap of the mini-mart. Carter coughed, once, in place of an apology. “Since we’re here,” he said, “I might as well show you the old neighborhood.”