About the Author

Anar Ali

Books by this Author
Night of Power

Mansoor Visram wakes to a fluting sound, a distant melody like a muezzin’s call. He half-opens his eyes. Dark fields extend to the horizon and merge seamlessly with the night sky. A perfect circle. The prairie hills are massive fro­zen waves. He feels something pecking at his feet. He lifts his head. A small domed shape bobs up and down at his feet, hammering at his icy body. The bird flies up and hovers over his chest. Her body is brilliant blue; her crown golden. Her breast is plump and glazed with rhinestone tassels instead of feathers. Mansoor is amazed that she can fly. He swipes the air and tries to catch her, but she flies up and out of reach. He plants his hands on the snow and struggles to stand, his veins a map of frozen rivers. The bird flies ahead of him and waits, like a siren willing him forward. A few steps and he falls to his knees. His clothes are an armour of ice. In the distance, the city lights are a pale smudge in the sky. He tries to stand again but his body jars, like a ship caught in icy waters. “Get up, Visram!” he orders himself. “Move!” Instead he falls, curls in the soft snow, and drifts off again. The bird lands on his shoulder. She nudges her way up to his ear and begins to sing.

Chapter 1

Mansoor tries to clear the frost from the glass door of his store with a handkerchief. Instead, he creates a pattern of semicircles over the front sign, M.G. Visram & Son Dry Cleaners, Inc., Suiting Canada Since 1987. Outside, a thin, sharp snow is falling, the flurries visible only under the street lamps. It’s past seven in the morning and still pitch dark. The winter sun will not rise for at least another hour. Most of the stores in the shopping plaza, located in an upscale neigh­bourhood in southwest Calgary, are closed: the travel agency, the hairdresser, the dentist’s office, the video store. Only the dry cleaners and the twenty-four-hour convenience store are open, like fluorescent snow globes in the dark.
   Mansoor turns around and inspects his store, just as he does each morning. It’s a small space, only five hundred and fifty-three square feet, but it’s well organized and this gives him a great deal of satisfaction. Gold frames pock the wall above the cash register, like a collage of family photographs. In one, a dollar bill, the first one he earned in Canada, from August 1973. In another, his business licence, and yet another, his pledge to his customers. “I may not have the answer, but I will find it. I may not have the time, but I will make it.” Against another wall, a short bookshelf holds his books with titles like In Search of Excellence and Men’s Strength & Power Training, as well as biographies of men like Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Neil Armstrong. The front of the store is separated from the back by a glass wall, allowing his customers to see what a well-organized operation he runs. Rows of suits and shirts, swathed in plastic, hang on a conveyor belt like headless men.
   In the backroom, he flips open a calendar to an image of a lone Arctic wolf. A note under today’s date, January 21, has been circled in red and starred. Banker, 3:30 p.m. Mansoor is ready. Fully prepared. He has been for months now. He needs the funds for a dry-cleaning plant, which is central to his new business plan. He has been waiting even longer to share his plan with his son, Ashif. He is the only one who will truly understand its enormity and significance in the marketplace. He is, after all, a brilliant businessman. Just like his father. Tomorrow, Mansoor will finally get his chance. Ashif is com­ing home for lunch when he is here from Toronto to attend important work meetings.
   Above Mansoor’s desk hangs a massive portrait of his father, a copy of the original photo that hung in all of their stores in Uganda, next to the image of Idi Amin, decreed by law, and one of the Imam, expected by the community. A trinity of men. In the photograph, his father stands proudly in front of his flagship store in Kampala. He is tall and rotund, his body weight proof of his wealth. He is in an ivory three-piece suit; a gold pocket watch, purchased in London, hangs from the vest pocket. His hands rest regally on top of a cane with a silver lion’s head. High above him, the sign reads, Visram P. Govindji & Son, Established 1929.

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