Excerpt: Salman Rushdie's 'Luka and the Fire of Life'


After a sleepless night, Luka got up before dawn and crept into his parents' bedroom, as he had done so often in happier time s. There lay his father, Asleep, with tubes running into his arm to feed him, and a monitor showing his heartbeat as a jagged green line. To tell the truth, Rashid didn't look cursed or even sad. He looked ...happy, as if he was dreaming of the stars, dancing with them while he slept, living with them in the sky, and smiling. But looks weren't everything, Luka knew that much; the world was not always what it seemed to be. Soraya was sleeping on the floor, sitting up with her back against the wall. Neither parent woke up, as they always used to do when Luka was sneaking towards them. That was depressing. Dragging his feet, Luka made his way back to his own room. Through the window he could see the sky beginning to lighten. Dawn was supposed to cheer people up, but Luka couldn't think of anything to be cheerful about. He went to the window to draw the curtain so that he could at least lie in the dark and rest for a while, and that was when he saw the extraordinary thing.

There was a man standing in the lane outside the Khalifa residence, wearing a familiar vermilion-coloured bush-shirt and a recognizably battered Panama hat, and plainly watching the house. Luka was just about to call out, and maybe even send Bear and Dog to chase the stranger away, when the man threw back his head and looked him right in the eye.

It was Rashid Khalifa! It was his father, standing out there, saying nothing, but looking wide awake!

But if Rashid was outside in the lane, then who was sleeping in his bed? And if Rashid was sleeping in his bed, then how could he be outside? Luka's head was whirling and his brain had no idea what to think; his feet, however, had started to run. Pursued by his bear and his dog, Luka ran as fast as he could to where his father was waiting for him. He charged downstairs barefoot, stumbled slightly, took a step to the right, felt oddly giddy for a moment, regained his balance and hurtled on through the front door. This was wonderful, Luka thought. Rashid Khalifa had woken up and somehow slipped outside for a walk. Everything was going to be all right.

Excerpted from Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie. Copyright © 2010 by Salman Rushdie. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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