One year ago today; Memories of our stories
FLASHING MY SHORTS
by Sal Buttaci
Flash fiction has taken the country, if not the world, by storm. Readers have taken to it like bees to the proverbial honey. Reading short-short fiction reflects the times we live in, the hurried pace of our compact day. It allows one on the go to grab the brass ring of reading pleasure in the space of only a few pages, to read a complete story with all its required story elements intact, in no more than 1,000 words. Where were these 164 stories when we struggled through the heavy tomes of our high-school days? I wrote Flashing My Shorts because I love a good story, but I don't love having to tread page after page through extensive detail in order to reach the resolution. Maybe it's my impatient nature. Maybe I like story-hopping, closing down one story and moving on to another. Sort of like delicacies at a smorgasbord where the diner can try this culinary gem and then have enough belly room to try another and then another and then...well, you get the point. Flashing My Shorts, published by All Things That Matter Press, is not an autobiographical tell-all of an obscene flasher who writes his collection from a prison cell somewhere in West Virginia. The flashes are brief fictions. They are the shorts I wrote, not wear. And I did my best to vary the stories so the mix contains tales of horror, love, science fiction, crime, humor, madness––you name it, you'll find it in Flashing My Shorts. My hope is that visitors who come to Amazon.com will order a copy. Hey, maybe they're in a hurry, don't have time for lengthy novels, and will suspect mine might be right up their alley. I wish I could tell them all this is the flash-fiction book that will pay for itself in good reading entertainment pleasure. They'll have to find out for themselves. And if they love it, they might want to order my second flash collection called 200 Shorts.
Flashing My Shorts is also available as an e-book and in an audible copy. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984259473/ref=tag_dpp_yt_edpp_rt?ie=UTF8&red\ Love the idea of your works. Pattimari and I have trouble lifting some of the giant books we find in shops, let alone, trying to write one. I don't think we have that many words in our vocabulary for a 1000 page story. Thanks. Peter
Susan Day's Story
Story 1 – Introducing Clarence the Deaf Snake
Clarence was born when the sun was high in the sky and the earth was dry near a small town called Dunolly in Central Victoria, Australia. He hatched under a flat rock on a hill. When he was old enough his mother allowed him to go outside exploring on his own.
“Don’t go too far!” she warned. “Or the currawongs might gobble you up!”
Clarence stuck his head out from under the rock and looked upwards. “What isss all that bluenessss?” he whispered.
Then he looked down. “What isss this brownnessss?”
A dark shadow shot over his head. Clarence ducked back under the rock.
“Car-car! Car-car!” the currawongs cried.
But Clarence didn’t hear them. He waited for the shadows to pass then he went out again. He lifted his head above the yellow grass.
This time he saw the birds fighting with each other in the trees. “They’re very quiet,” he thought.
Then he felt the wind on his face. He noticed the leaves moving. “What’s causing that?” he wondered.
He stretched up his head and looked around the dry paddocks, “It’s very quiet. I can’t hear a thing.”
Clarence saw a big creature eating grass. He watched what it was doing. Then he stuck out his tongue and tasted the grass.
“Yuck!” he said. “That tastesss awful! Why is it so quiet?”
Then Clarence suddenly realised, “I must be deaf! Oh, no! What am I to do?!”
He slid over to the big animal.
“Ssscuse me,” Clarence said politely. “What are you?”
The kangaroo looked down at Clarence and snorted. Clarence felt something cold spray on his face.
“I’m a kangaroo,” she answered.
Clarence didn’t hear her.
“I’M DEAF!” he shouted. “BUT I CAN SSSEE YOU HAVE LONG EARSSS. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO HEAR FOR MILESSSS!”
The kangaroo twitched her ears and nodded.
Clarence brought the tip of his tail around and felt the side of his head.
“No ears!” he gasped in horror. “I’ve got no earsss! That’s why I’m deaf!”
Clarence saw a big, brown round thing. It was plodding noisily through the grass.
“Scuse me!” Clarence yelled.
The wombat stopped.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
“Hi! I’M CLARENCE WHAT KIND OF CREATURE ARE YOU?” Clarence shouted.
“I’m a hairy-nosed wombat,” the wombat answered.
“I CAN SSSEE YOU HAVE SSSMALL ROUND EARSSS. CAN YOU HEAR SSSMALL ROUND THINGSSS?”
“I can hear all manner of things,” the wombat stated proudly.
“I’M DEAF! NO EARS!” Clarence yelled.
He tapped the side of his head with his tail.
“Oh, I am very sorry to hear that,” the wombat bowed his head and left.
Clarence saw a lizard. He rushed over to it.
“SSSCUSE ME,” he shouted. “WHAT KIND OF CREATURE ARE YOU?”
“I’m a shingle-back lizard,” the old lizard hissed. “Why are you shouting?”
“ARE YOU DEAF?” Clarence asked.
“Of course not!” the lizard said. “Why do you ask?”
Clarence didn’t hear him so he kept on shouting.
“YOU DON’T HAVE ANY EARSSS LIKE ME,” Clarence explained. “YOU MUST BE DEAF!”
Clarence patted the side of his head with his tail. “SSSEE?”
“No! I have small holes behind my eyes. I can hear perfectly fine I’ll have you know! Now, be off with you!” the lizard hissed and opened his jaws showing Clarence his big, wide blue mouth!
Clarence jumped in fright and shot off quickly.
Clarence sat by the fence. He was very sad.
“I don’t like being deaf. My life will be awful. What ussse is a deaf sssnake?”
Tears fell onto his cheeks.
His mother came to find him. She slithered across the paddock and stopped when she noticed he was crying.
“Whatever is the matter?” she asked.
Clarence told her that he was deaf and she might as well leave him for the currawongs to gobble up because a deaf snake was no good to anyone.
Clarence’s mother smiled. “You can hear me, can’t you?”
Clarence lifted up his head and looked at his mother.
She was right. He could hear her.
“But how?” he asked.
Clarence’s mother lowered her head to the ground.
“Do what I’m doing,” she instructed her son.
“With your jaw on the ground you will be able to hear the sounds other creatures make.”
Clarence tried it.
He lowered his head until his jaw was sitting in the dirt. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Just over to his right he could hear tiny tip, tap sounds.
“Now, stick your tongue out,” Clarence’s mother said.
“That’s a mouse,” she explained.
Clarence listened again. Sure enough he could feel the sounds of tiny mouse steps. His tongue could smell them. His tummy rumbled.
“Now do it again,” he mother said.
To Clarence’s left he felt the sound of heavy, hard footsteps. He stuck his tongue out and smelt man.
“Be wary of that sound,” he mother warned. “Keep well away!”
Clarence nodded and he understood. Then he laid his head on the ground again. He closed his eyes and shot out his tongue.
He felt the sound of the currawong’s wings above him.
He felt the sounds of the crickets chirping.
He felt the sounds of flies zooming through the air.
“So, I’m not deaf?” Clarence asked. “What a relief!”
Clarence’s mother smiled but then she frowned.
“Now, hurry home before the currawongs make a snack out of you!” she warned. “They are not fussy and will eat baby snakes, deaf or not!”
Clarence heard that loud and clear. He laughed and zipped through the grass.
“Catch me if you can!” he called to his mother as he disappeared into the soft, dry grass.
To read more of Clarence’s adventures click here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00X5GTIZE/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00X5GTIZE&linkCode=as2&tag=susdayaut0e-20&linkId=P7OV2A4KTCGZL2OD
Keep your nose to the ground, and there's nothing you can't learn; ha. Peter
“Rosie ... Rosie, where are you? Where’re you pumpkin?” cried Emma, frantically looking for her one evening. They were playing hide and seek in the barn. She could not find Rose. Looking around, she thought she saw a small, thin shape on the edge of the farm, near the fence. Emma found some strength. She walked towards her. The closer she came, the more distinct the shape became. It was Rosie all right. But she was not alone, although she looked it. Someone else was present. This unseen creature did not have a shape. Rose clearly seemed to be talking to the likeness of a spirit. Her index finger was up against her nose; she stood there lecturing. The moment Emma came nearer, Rose turned around to face her. She looked at her completely though another portal. Her freckled nose sensed something. It appeared a bit flared. Her eyes were cold and transfixed beyond the immediate. Emma was afraid. She held her by the shoulders and shook them slightly, looking intently into her eyes. That knocked her out of it. Rose smiled at her mother.
“Rosie, you scared me. What just happened?”
“I don’t know. I heard some voices and I was listening to them until you came.”
“Voices? What voices? What did they say?”
“I don’t know. They told me to walk to forest Aden.”
“Forest Aden? Oh my God. That’s a long way away. And it is dense. You will never come out of it alive if you went there.”
“I know,” Rose said quietly.
“Do you? I hope so.”
“I know,” Rose said it again.
“Oh! My darling Rosie, what’s come over you?”
Rose shrugged and then ran inside the house leaving her mother quite out of wits. Then she went straight up to her room. In the meantime, Emma stayed downstairs preparing dinner. It was bangers and mash, Rosie’s favourite. At dinnertime, Emma called Rosie to come downstairs but there was no response. She went upstairs to find to her dismay that Rosie was fast asleep. She didn’t try to wake her up.
It was early morning when the dusk had just settled in. Rose suddenly woke up and sat on her bed urgently. Peering through the curtain drawn window, she noticed an opaque day shrouded in darkness. Her own room seemed somewhat dark as well. Except for a rhythmic creaking noise of the bed coming from her parents' bedroom, there was no other sound. Then those horrible whispers became audible. More and more, she seemed to understand every whim of the whisperer and their instructions. Rose nodded and smiled, and then took the blanket off. She moved her legs to the edge of the bed and then stepped gently down on the floor. In a trance, she got up and walked towards the door. She opened it gingerly, and set a foot out into the dim corridor. By now, cocks had begun to crow heralding a pale morning; red streaks appeared across the sky. Rose walked towards the staircase landing and stopped. Changing her mind, she turned back around and walked past her parents’ bedroom. The bed stopped creaking. Her bedroom door still ajar, she entered quietly. Through the window, she saw the day slowly come to life. Rose picked up her doll sitting on the armchair by the window and tried to gouge its eyes out. Put it out of misery. Motionless, demented poor creature, knew neither to talk nor to move. What good was it to have an effigy of a child capable of only cold death-stares? Unless it could be given life, it served no other purpose for little Rosie. Rose looked at her and bade her to walk. In a moment that doll actually did walk a few steps? And then it sat down on the floor abruptly. Blink! It blinked. Rose was suddenly playing God with her. Good doll! There was then a sudden thud, and Rose fell down on the floor, just at that point when the doll had also stopped walking. She could probably make her talk too, only if she hadn’t fainted. Her eyes turned and she convulsed.
Emma was on her way to the toilet for a fresh morning shower. She had a smile coined around the corners of her pastel lips. Now that she was the gardener’s wife, it was much better than being wife to a gold-digger. If that gold nugget had not been taken so rudely from him, they would be swimming in wealth today. No matter, this wasn’t such a bad life. Her hands were full, as she devoted herself to the domestic tasks of making bread and pie, not only for the family but also for sale. The sign on the farm-yard had it writ in large, FRESHLY BAKED BREAD AND SHEPHERD’S PIES FOR SALE WITH PICKLED LEMONS. A pastoral atmosphere was infused with fresh flowers around the kitchen.
Emma entered into the shower humming an Australian tune, Up There Cazaly, a song that rung in her ears since yesterday. She had heard it on the loud radio when she went to get green grocery from the corner store there. With her sharp business sense, she thought of setting up a farm café. Initially, she thought, she would sell breakfast only, serving generous platters of omelette out of farm eggs, freshly baked bread and fruit. Nutritious breakfast was not available within a thousand mile radius of this area. The farmer would really not mind at all if she had started this and earned an extra bit of money. Emma lived happily in her own world oblivious to the existence of a deed between the farm and the orphanage. She turned off the shower, put her robe on and came downstairs to make breakfast. On the way to the landing, she stopped by Rose’s room. Opening the door, she found little Rose coiled up on the floor with all her toys around her. The doll looked up in a vacuous stare. Emma rushed in and crouched beside her.
“Rosie, Rosie, wake up. Why’re you on the floor?”
Rose had still been quite mute. For a while, Emma thought, she should perhaps call an ambulance as her chest heaved from fright. Eventually, Emma saw her eye-lids move a somewhat. She sat down by her side and started shaking her with both of her arms. Young Brown came running in his open robe and stood on the doorway frantically searching for answers. Rosie finally opened her eyes.
“What was that all about?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t remember,” Rosie said, her speech breaking up.
“You were sleeping here on the floor darling. Did you fall over?”
“I already said, don’t remember. Leave me alone,” she cried.
Emma stood up, walked a few steps away from Rosie and stood by her husband.
“Come along then, breakfast will be ready shortly.”
Saying so both parents turned around to get out of her room. The door was ajar. They looked over their shoulders and saw their daughter looking at them bewildered as though she had just woken from a dreadful nightmare. And so it was, a dreadful nightmare, except that she did hear careless voices which also gave her powers to move objects.
Emma came down the stairs thoughtfully with Brown. Rose’s behavior troubled her. Rose talking to herself; Emma thought, maybe she had an imaginary friend. Imagination could play tricks with people’s minds, particularly, if the person was of an impressionable age. Emma brushed off her anxieties thinking that it was probably nothing of consequence. She picked up eggs from a basket, one too many and cracked a few half a dozen in a bowl. Whisking it through milk and butter and a pinch of salt, she looked at her frying pan on the stove and turned it on. Eggs turned frothy yellow with a vigorous whip. She poured the beaten eggs in the frying pan. Noises on the landing distracted her, as Rose came downstairs skipping. A smile spread widely on Emma’s lips. Rose took some plates out and a loaf of bread from the bread-box to set the table. Covered in red checked table cloth, a few chaotic bunch of Iris lavender lay at a corner of it. Rose touched its delicate texture; the tiny leaves wet from dew drops of the early morning. Emma saw her caressing them.
“Who put them there, Rose?”
“How do I know? I thought you did.”
“Me? No, today I didn’t get a chance to go out, yet, I didn’t change any flowers.”
“It is a bit odd. What’s going on?”
She shrugged her tiny shoulders and said nothing but kept on looking at the flowers. They seemed to have been left here with somebody’s signature on them. Emma brought the hot omelette to the table and served each a dollop on the plate. While Brown came down dressed and showered, Emma began to cut the loaf of bread in even slices. They all sat down to have breakfast.
“Well, I want to open a small breakfast café,” Emma initiated the conversation, over her heavily layered buttered bread.
“That is a good business plan. Where will you seat them, my tweety Sparrow?”
“Outside under the Pergola, I’d call it Breakfast Cafe.”
“I would do the waitressing myself and the cooking too - fresh farm omelette on toast and fruits.”
“When do you want to start?”
“Okay. I don’t mind. But you don’t need to, you know.”
“I know. There will be some initial costs, buying some furniture so on n’ so forth.”
“No worries. Let’s just get started with two tables and six chairs.”
That was settled then. Emma was to start a home-based family business. Brown poured himself another cup of tea and winked at Rose’s grim face. Rose looked at him somewhat disgruntled and lowered her head.
“Anything bothering you?” Brown frowned.
Emma looked at them through the corner of her eyes. Taking a dab of extra butter on the tip of her knife, she laid it slightly on a second slice of bread. Rose looked at them both ready to divulge the secret she had been harboring. Her parents looking eagerly back at her; she blurted out.
“I hear voices, when nobody is around.”
“What do you mean?”
“I also have dreadful nightmares.”
A few dumbfounded moments passed. Emma put her toast down on the plate and regained her speech.
“What are they telling you?” Brown asked suspiciously.
“Oh, I don’t know. Horrible things. They are just...
Rose got up from her chair and ran. She ran upstairs to her room and then banged the door shut. Emma followed her and so did Brown. They knocked on her door. There was no sound. They tried to open it by force. It was locked. No number of knocks would make Rose open it. Finally, Brown broke down the door with a heavy push of his shoulder. It was empty. There was no Rose. The window was open and Rose was gone. Nobody could guess how she might have escaped from such a height.
The room was untidy with all her toys scattered around in a heap. Emma walked over to her writing desk, and picked up some of her drawings. These were pictures painted in hectic red, and russet; dominant dull colors in the background imparted utter non-sense. Emma turned each one over, trying to make sense. At the bottom of the pile, some hollow depressing paintings caught her attention. There was one with a dagger. Drops of red blood oozed from its serrated tilt held over its victim. It was a female. She looked closely. Oh the horror! She found out that the victim was none other than Emma herself, brutally being murdered by her own; Rose, her beloved daughter. Her hands trembled and the paintings fell down. She looked at her husband, who came to stand by her. Both looked perplexed. With one hand over her mouth, Emma laid her aching head on Brown’s shoulders. Tears were frozen on their tracks. Fear paralyzed her. Emma sat down on the edge of Rose’s bed staring out of the open window. What seemed like a promising bright morning melted a second into sullen emptiness?
“We need to find her,” Brown said pulling himself together.
Emma nodded. They turned around to go downstairs. She leaned on Brown. Cautiously, they dismounted each stair one at a time. Suddenly, they heard a shriek coming from the toilet. They went back up, ran towards the toilet and Brown opened the door, while Emma stood nervously at his elbow. Rose lay there in a pool of her own blood with a pair of scissors laying by her side. Brown rushed in and snatched a towel immediately off the bathroom rack and it pressed down over it. Then he picked her up. Without so much as a word, they ran back downstairs. Emma in the lead took three steps at a time, stumbling, towards the phone. She picked up the hand-set to dial emergency.
Rose appeared to be conscious, but she had bled profusely. Often rolling her eye, she barely uttered a word, except a few incoherent sounds – help! Help me please. She tried to cut a vein on her wrist. Just as the ambulance came, Brown had already reached the edge of the farm carrying her. In a moment of utter panic that was the best he could think of. Emma followed shortly behind.
Today, the dog barked blinking rapidly. The paramedics pulled up. They took her off his hands and laid her down gently on the stretcher covered in white. One man held an oxygen mask over her face, another sat down to put a bandage around Rose’s tender wrist. With Rose safe in the ambulance, one of the men turned towards Emma to say that there was room only for one in the ambulance. Either Emma or Brown could come with them. Emma jumped in. Slowly, they drove the ambulance out of the farm leaving Brown in the shadows of the flying dust spawned by its wheels. Minutes passed then the dog walked closer and nosed him on the leg, trying to bring him back to senses. Standing there, not knowing his next course of action, instinctively, he jumped into the UTE parked at his elbow. The dog accompanied him, as he let it in to sit beside him. Without the dog, he felt lost. On his way to the hospital, Brown looked grimly outside the window at this beautiful morning. ‘Apple of my eye, my Rosie’, he muttered. She suffered hard times equally since those heady days of the gold rush down by the mountain stream, surviving on borrowed money from friends and family. Although Emma had a miscarriage, but Rose was there from driving them insane. ‘What’s got into Rose?’ he thought miserably. The UTE approached the hospital building. It was difficult to find a park as usual. Brown drove through many interwoven lanes peering away for a park. His dog sat solemnly blinking at the stupidity of the world with an expression of worldly wisdom. Finally, Brown reverse parked into a spot under the shade of a dense Jacaranda tree, as a car behind him angled out.
He looked at the dog, and turned off ignition. ‘Stay here.’ he nodded. The dog seemed to nod in agreement. Brown opened the door, and slid out with left foot first and then the entire bulk of the body. Almost immediately, another spot came available, a much better one. The dog barked and Brown smirked. He walked away towards the hospital. Absent-mindedly, he entered the building and went up to the receptionist to ask for Rose and Emma. The receptionist looked at him over the rim of her reading glasses and muttered.
“They’ re not here. They have been transferred to the Boomerang Mental Hospital over by the seashore.”
“Really? And when did that happen?”
“Not long. They were taken on the same ambulance.”
“Can you give me some direction?”
“It is not far just up the road close to the train station. They should be there by now. But mind you, visitors are not allowed after six ‘o’ clock. So hurry up.”
“Okay, okay, I’m out of here.”
Brown turned around hurriedly and strode up to the door. Back in the UTE, the dog curled up to one of his leisurely naps. Brown walked towards his car panting every moment. Anxiety gripped him like Anaconda’s brawny bind around its victims. Brown felt sick. He stood under a lush Jacaranda tree and started to throw up near his UTE. Petals of the tree descended gently on his head giving cold solace. Irritatingly, Brown shook them off his shoulders. Jigging on his bottom, the dog woke up and barked incoherently through the open window of the UTE. The continuous barking of the dog egged him on towards the UTE. He opened the door and took his seat at the steering wheels. They made eye contact and the dog cowed down closing his eyes. Brown turned on the ignition.
The mental hospital was up the road as the receptionist had told with her pin-point accuracy. And parking was quite easy this time. The short distance from the car park to the hospital building was not such an onerous trip. What was more difficult though was coping with this situation within the framework of his frayed mental state, chest tightening followed by shortness of breath. Brown could not get out of the UTE. He lay passive resting his head on the back of the driving seat, while the dog blinked unacceptably at him. Jerking noisily, the dog raised himself up on all four. He wanted to be let out. Let me out; he barked loud and clear. Brown did just that. The dog had to go on a nature’s call. In a minute, he came back and jumped back into the front seat. The world that he knew, he thought was crushing down. He felt, he was going to lose both, Rose and Emma. His life was going to take a bad turn. That was for certain.
Dragging himself out of the car, he walked sloppily down the hump on the road towards the mental hospital. The receptionist smiled at him as he entered the building. He walked a few odd steps towards her desk and scratched his beard and asking at the same time about Rose’s ward number. She was soon to be taken into a separate cabin, he was told. For now, he could take the lift to level three. Ward 3. Bed 2. That was fine. He said thanks indifferently and made his way upstairs. At the elevator, he stopped and pressed the button. He looked up and found that the elevator was on the seventh floor. It stopped briefly on level three. As it came down, the door opened and out came Emma with a group of people. Emma saw Brown and came towards him to stand by him. Brown looked at her with a deep frown.
“Well?” he asked.
“Not good. Not good at all.” Emma whispered.
“What do you mean?”
“Her head is a muddle.”
Brown took her elbow and they both moved out to the reception area and sat down next to each other in the chair. He held her head between her palms and looked at her eyes swimming in water. There was no need to talk anymore at all. Her expressions said it all. Their daughter would have to languish in the mental hospital indefinitely. Sighing discreetly, the couple continued to hold hands and then got up to leave. As they moved towards the door, they heard someone call them from behind. Halting together, the couple looked back and looked at the person calling them. That was a male in a white medical coat looking at them.
“I thought I would still find you here,” he said.
“Well, what is it then?” Brown enquired.
“I’m an assistant psychologist. My name is Thomas Selby, I’m here to give you this,” he said bringing a note closer to them.
Brown extended a coarse thumb and took it between the index finger and the thumb. He looked at the psychiatrist in anticipation. Of course there was none, only the note sticking out like a sore thumb. Emma peered over the note, as Brown slowly opened it. It was from Rose, scribbles of a room full of drawings of various shapes on the roof and the wall. What a ruckus! The note created confusion in the parents as they looked at the assistant.
“Go home,” he said. “That’s all she asked me to give you.”
“This is bloody nothin’!” he said.
“I don’t know what’s in there, care to show me?”
“Here! See it!”
The assistant saw nothing else but spiral etchings of many shapes and sizes. It was but a web of spider net. Looking at it briefly, he returned it to Brown and then turned around on his heels and walked away. Emma and Brown stood there for a moment or two and then slowly got their bearings back. They walked through the glass door silently and then stepped outside. In anticipation of a storm, the sky lay thick in heavy blackness. Bitter winds cut through the bones in jagged tremble. Coupling their hands still together, they plodded against nature’s odds until they reached the place where the UTE was parked. Emma entered through the passenger side. Brown sat awkwardly in the driver’s seat. The dog sensed trepidation but gave them the assurance of its companionship. No one spoke a word, as Brown drove the UTE under the drooping heap of the Pine, the rhododendron, and the Jacaranda.
Finding meaning in all of this was difficult. Was there one after all? Happiness deserted them when Emma was just getting started. Time travelled with such precision that it knew exactly when to tarnish a moment of joy. That which smeared grief on Emma’s cheerful demeanor; she had worn in the early hours of this morning. Angels of joy and sorrow danced in unison, each taking a step at a time on the mahogany floor. They were inseparable and insuperable.
They were home soon. Brown turned the UTE around in a reverse position and then turned the ignition off. He looked at Emma’s pensive face.
“Look, I know this is serious that our only daughter should go mental, but we’ll get through it. One day at a time.”
“I’m afraid to go to her room now. I don’t know what I’ll see,” Emma said despondently.
“I don’t know. Don’t think I’m not afraid. I’m very afraid. We must depend on each other for support. Do you understand that?”
Emma nodded coldly and opened the door; her fingers had gone frozen as did every limb in her body. Aggressing slowly, she waited for Brown to hold her hand. He gave her a tight hug saying gently,
“Now, be strong for me, okay?”
Emma nodded calmly.
Walking towards the house, Brown kept Emma close. Brown let go of her only to put in the key through the key-hole. The key had not turned.
“What the hell?” Brown cursed softly.
Emma licked her dry upper lip with the tip of her tongue. Sweats were beginning to spring up. She put a jittery hand on the door knob and it opened it readily as though it was never locked. Brown looked at her darkly. She raised her eyes and said clearly in a shaken voice.
“I can swear that door was locked when we left, because it wasn’t opened all morning.”
Turning the knob, they entered. Everything around the room seemed impeccable. Not one thing was out of place. Not even the kitchen towel. Whoever broke into the house appeared not interested in stealing one bit. Brown and Emma gave each other an awkward look and shrugged. Emma felt dry in her mouth. She walked a few steps hesitatingly towards the kitchen tap. Grabbing a glass left unwashed from last night, she filled it up with the gushing tap water and drank it breathlessly. Brown stood uncertainly.
“Should we go upstairs?”
Emma nodded and followed him as he made his way up the stairs. Their hands brushed slightly on the balustrade. Each small step at a time, the couple finally reached the upper landing of the stair-case with their hearts beating madly. They tip-toed towards Rose’s bedroom and as they came closer, they were both overcome with a strange sensation. They felt, they were here - not here; there and everywhere. No matter, they continued to proceed and gripped each other’s arms as they did so. Hesitatingly, they opened the door of the bedroom slowly. What they found in there stopped them in their tracts. The walls of the room and the ceiling chalked up with indecipherable images that they had never seen before; walls which were once white, were so no more, but smeared with elongated little boxes etched in ink. Squinting slightly, they realized that these were small coffins, each made out of a wooden toy-box. Emma’s knees gave in. Brown picked her up by offering his hand. She took it and struggled to stand up. With deep, disturbing frowns, they began to retreat from the room by taking a step backwards, until they were on the landing. Then they both ran down the stairs in haste.
“Call the police, at once!” Emma said breathlessly gripping on the balustrade until her knuckles turned white. On tenterhooks, Brown followed obediently. He picked up the phone and called police. They got out fumbling and waited for the police in the front. The dog was gone! He was nowhere. Brown looked around.
“Where’s the bloody dog gone?”
“Don’t know! Don’t ask me?”
And then the Police came. The car crept in through the farm gate. A middle-aged policeman with a port belly got out of the car and stood before them with a notepad and a pen in his hand. At first they couldn’t say anything. When they saw the police raise an eyebrow towards them, Brown cleared his throat and began to tell what he had found, while Emma gaped on. The police took notes and asked if he could see the room. They nodded in agreement and walked together into the house and upstairs. Down the hall, the door could still be seen slightly ajar. The police peeked and then entered. There was nothing on the wall. It now looked freshly washed in virgin snow-white color.
“What’s goin’ on?” The police man asked.
“Coffin marks! They were all over the place!”
“Coffin marks? What the hell are you talking about? To me the walls look as new as today?”
“I see what you also see. A white, chapel-wall,” Brown uttered in disbelief.
“Well, can you explain? You’ve just wasted police time with your bloody non-sense.”
It irked him as he struggled to find a meaning in all of this.
“It’s not! It’s not nonsense. You must believe us.” Emma pleaded.
“Yeah, try that again and you will be taken to the mental hospital.”
“That’s where she is,” Emma said lowering her eyes.
“Our daughter. Our Rose.”
“Oh, yeah. I might go around tomorrow to have a chat with her then.”
“Please do. We need help,” Emma said. “No one will believe us.”
Brown handed over Rose’s scrap to the police, the queer image of the spiraling spider web. The police saw it and put it between the pages of his diary. He turned around on his heels and walked towards his car, leaving the couple clinging on to each other on the dust-ridden russet grounds.
It was uncharacteristic that the dog would have gone missing suddenly. Clouds began to roll and the winds picked up howling through the leaves of the gum trees. A pair of window shutters opened in the trying winds and closed abruptly; the hollow winds cried out - world’s a market-place forever changeable. There it was a sullen light passing through a sudden slit in the clouds. On the main door, there were deep nail marks filled with black suit. Whatever tried to carve words on this wooden plank, they couldn’t finish it. Emma rubbed her palm over it. Their lives were changing.
And then the dog barked. Brown turned around on the threshold; the dog stood agitated under the slit of the sky which had now closed. It cowed and nosed itself into dust in an effort to hide. The couple saw it but was happy that it had at least returned. No more, no more of this. Emma put the kettle to the boil. The noise from the kettle distracted her slightly; she looked outside through the window in a trance. Brown came by and stood with her. She felt her strength returning.
A dust storm picked up; tiny particles of dust carried by the wind had sprinkled everywhere. Brown ran outside to bring the dog in. It was quite hopeless to see anything through this thick powder of dirt. But he called out and the dog ran to him through this unimaginable mist. Emma made egg sandwiches, brewed tea in a floral tea-pot. Brown came along and sat down on a stool at the kitchen counter-top. Emma put a sandwich on a plate and poured a cup of tea in a cup for both.
“It has cleared up,” Emma said breaking the silence.
“Hope it stays that way,” Brown responded contemplatively.
“What’s goin’ on?” Emma asked.
“I wish I had the answer. Let’s give it a rest and focus on your cafe. What do you say?”
“Oh! How could you? At a time like this! I’m having trouble breathing. I want to sell and move out.”
“We can’t. We have a contract with the orphanage. Can’t sell.”
“What? I didn’t know that! What do you mean?”
Brown kept quiet. This uncanny hold of the orphanage in their lives was something they couldn’t cope with. But that was the only existence they had. Their fate was sealed somewhat. The orphanage, as it were had become a symbol of tyranny. It assumed dictatorial powers like the Pharaohs, in the land of Egypt from whom no reprieve was possible. It operated under strict guidelines.
“We’re free to leave not by selling it but giving the farm back to the orphanage,” Brown said suddenly. “Nothing can or will hold us here if we didn’t want to stay. But Rosie being in the hospital now, I don’t know how that would work out. Besides, we still have no money. Most of it goes back to the orphanage in the way of renting, remember?”
Emma was listening. What if it didn’t re-occur? The policeman didn’t see anything. Perhaps, that was the end of it. Maybe, it would all have disappeared upon Rosie’s health returning. There were possibilities, of course, but what happened here needed to be assessed. She felt she was on a fast train of fluid thoughts; thoughts shifting as did the landscape outside of the chugging coach.
“I’m tired,” Emma said yawning.
“Take a nap, while I check on the pigs.
She got up and walked a few paces towards the stairs. Brown slurped the remaining tea in a gulp. He didn’t see Emma go up the stairs but walked out of the back door which swayed slightly in the winds.
If indeed dreams were portals to another world, then this was it. Emma didn’t get changed as she reached her bed but flopped on the blue patched quilt. Her spirits floated on fairy-floss of pink clouds. Swimming and sitting up and down looking at the world go by. She had passed into a deep sleep dreaming. Suddenly, there was something, an apparition that appeared in deathly black hollowness, wavering in the back-ground. There was a shriek and Emma woke up with a jolt. She looked out through the window to a strange coloured evening. Colors of the rainbow were all spread out on the evening sky. Once the mesmerizing numbness passed, she got out of bed; her senses were starting to return.
In this great cycle of life, there was one self-governing portal for both life and death. All emotions passed through it. Life led to death and to rebirth in a sardonic random way. Where were we going with all this, life, death and afterlife?
Emma looked at her watch. She napped only for ten minutes. But it felt like an eternity. She plodded heavily down the stairs. In the kitchen downstairs, she pulled a chair by the fly-screen and looked out at the melancholy evening. There was nothing much to do except wait for Rosie to come home. A sense of life’s beginning on a time, space continuum and its ending was gradually closing in. Childhood, adulthood and old age appeared like a movie travelling through this portal where each became the other. One acted out the role, and when it exited, the time was up. What endured, of course, were the achievements of life. And that was the long and short of it. A tale told by many.
Suddenly, boredom gripped her. Nothing else was left to be done. Rosie was probably never going to get better. She would not bear another child. Filling a glass of water from the tap, she saw how darkness slowly engulfed the earth. One had to have a purpose in life. Her purpose was family. Her mind was gradually slipping away. Her life was not a success, but a miserable failure. And it was going now, nearly gone and gone with the wind it was; life breaking up into tiny particles, blown away in the dust. Where did dust come from, the earth and the rocks? She was riding a fast train through past, present and the future. A child crying. Mum picked her up. Next was school. Running the corridors of schools in black denim skirt and white shirt; wedding in white in the chapel hall. Another child crying. Rosie. Oh! Rosie was born in the hospital. Rosie growing up. Rosie left home. Emma sat down. She put down the glass on the counter-top. Alone, lonely...she sank; she was sinking. Then all became blank...Emma cried out for help. She felt trapped. Her breathing constricted. There was no escape. None, what-so-ever! This life came with strict natural parameters like invisible barbed wire. No one could escape them. People suffered but continued to live within it. Emma didn’t die. She certainly felt like it but she lived. She stood up and turned a few dim lights on.
She found some potatoes in the pantry. An idle pot sat on the stove. She took it off and held it firmly in her hands. She felt like hitting her head with a bang but decidedly put it under the tap and turned it on. Halfway through, she pulled it out and placed it roughly on the stove spilling some water over. Taking the potatoes then, she plunked three of them in cold water covered and turned the fire to a high. That was dinner. Mash and vegetables was all she could think of. They needed to be well for Rose. Fetching a frying pan from the cupboard, she greased it slightly with vegetable oil before placing it on the stove. The hot oil self-organized itself like independent cells coming together from every aimless direction on the scalding pan. Then she rolled in the vegetables. She fried them over and around until they turned a perfect golden brown. Emma appeared normal. No emotional turmoil showed from the outside. Through the kitchen window, as she peered into the dark night, she saw a shadow coming closer until it was visible under the porch light. Brown had just entered the house. He opened the kitchen door and closed it with a rattle.
“Ah, that smells good.”
“Mash and vegs.”
“Sure, sounds good.”
Brown went to wash himself as Emma began to prepare the mash. She took them out of the boiling water with a spoon and then fetched a bowl at her elbow. Then she peeled the potatoes and started to crush them under the spoon into the bowl. She held the bowl with one hand to stop it moving too much. The potatoes were mashed thoroughly until creamy smooth. She took two plates out and put a dollop of potato on each plate, and some vegetables and placed the plate on the counter-top. Brown came all clean for dinner. He picked up an unsoiled fork lying on the counter-top and sat down digging into the mash hungrily. Emma did the same. With a mouth full, Emma turned towards Brown and said,
“Why don’t we have another child?”
“How can you think of another, when our Rosie is still in hospital?”
“Life goes on. Or does it not?”
“Yeah, but it still is too early?”
“No, it’s not. My life is not forever. I cannot hold it back because Rosie is caught up in mire.”
“Have you gone mad too? We eat because we get hungry but to make plans – that’s outrageous.”
“Why is it outrageous? You haven’t given up on my plans for the cafe. Neither have I stopped breathing yet, have I now?”
“You’d better grow up Emma. I don’t want to have this conversation with you as long as Rosie is in hospital. Can you understand that?”
“No. I can’t. If I didn’t grow up, it’s because of you. You never let me. You took me for granted like your dog and held me on your palms like a pet bird.” Emma uttered stubbornly.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you encourage me to do anything, ever?”
Brown put down his cutlery and looked at Emma frowning furiously. He thought the stress was starting to show, impinging on her sanity. He decided to not to carry on with this conversation anymore but to get up and walk away. He pushed the stool behind and without a word edged out of his corner where he was sitting down and walked straight towards the stairs and up. Emma looked at him impishly through her eye lashes as he reached the landing of the stairs before his shadow disappeared in the dark. She finished her dinner and then collected the plates and cutlery including Brown’s half-eaten one to the basin by the stove. There she put them in and started rinsing them one after another mechanically. As she looked outside, she thought of pulling down the blinds all the way down to block the darkness. Extending an arm towards the chain, she started pulling it; then it got stuck. Irritated, she swore softly and briefly looked outside to catch a glimpse of something. Red eyes; a couple of burning, red eyes looked straight at her for less than a second before it disappeared.
“Wh! What was that?” she muttered. She decided it was perhaps just hallucination. The blinds were drawn and she thought nothing of it: passing lights of traffic on the road. Her attention was turned towards the dishes.
“Emma, Emma, come at once!”
She heard Brown. Somehow, she didn’t like it. Emma wiped her soaked hands in the kitchen towel and ran up-stairs.
What? What is it?” she screamed.
“I found something,” Brown said kneeling down in the front of the walk-in-closet.
“What did you find?”
He held out his palm. It was a trinket box. He looked at her and with a shine in his eyes and hiding a smile in the corner of his mouth.
“What of it? It’s just a trinket box for crying out loud.”
Emma took it from him. Her fingers shook as she did it. And then very slowly, she opened it. Her eyes popped out. It was but a nugget of gold from the gold rush days when Brown’s little piece was stolen.
“Oh my God! How did it get here?”
“I don’t know. I found it in a shoe box when I was looking for my pyjamas.”
“Show box? What shoe box? This is incredible!”
“It is. But it also shines as truly as the metal itself. We’ll keep it for Rose’s treatment,” Emma said.
“Okay, my Robin. Whatever pleases your restive soul,” he smiled.
“Where should we put it? The orphanage can’t know about it. Do you hear me?” she said.
“Yes, yes of course. They can’t.”
In a sudden flash, Emma remembered the pair of ‘burning bright of the night’ downstairs in the kitchen.
“But that’s impossible!” she said aloud.
“I ... I ...,” she stammered.
“I just saw a pair of red fire balls dancing in the darkness.”
“Just a while ago. It was but for one split second.”
“What the heck?”
“We’re under attack,” Brown said.
“Super-natural, alien attack, stuff that we see on TV,” she said.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Explain it then. Go on!”
“I don’t know. What’s go’in on?” he said
“I’m too afraid to sleep,” Emma uttered nervously.
“I wonder if there is any logic behind all of this?” he asked.
“If I didn’t know any better, everything happens for a reason,” she said
“Yes, but for the gold nugget to appear like this, is beyond any rhyme or reason, or is it?”
“Should we ask for help? Let authorities know.”
“Definitely not,” Brown said resolutely. “They’ll turn against us. They’ll think we stole it.”
“Let’s just keep it then. It was ours to start with ... wasn’t it? ... Until someone took it from us,” Emma mentioned.
“It was. God works in mysterious ways.”
“For now, let’s just be happy in his ways.”
Although, they felt that the matter was resolved; somewhat, they felt uncertain about it. Grimly at the edge of the bed, they sat looking at the trinket box. The expensive metal now gleamed brightly at their feet where Emma had placed it. Hoping that it wouldn’t disappear she closed her eyes and then opened them to test that it was still there. She also pinched herself several times to validate its existence into their bedroom. She picked it up again, caressed it with her thumb, took it out of the box and bit it literally between her teeth as Brown looked on. No, it was solid and it was gold. It was hard to understand the workings of the Creator, but she couldn’t help but wonder if Rosie’s visions had to do anything with it.
“I’m tired,” Brown said at last. “You can stay up and continue to look at it, if you like. But I’m going to bed.”
Brown rolled over in his bed and tucked himself under the quilt. Emma did the same, except she put the nugget back in the magical trinket box and put it under her pillow. She feared that if she left it out of her sight it could vanish. Of course, it hadn’t. It had not vanished. Not in a day, in a year or ever until Rosie inherited it in time. However, that was a different tale soon to be unlocked.
Emma put the nugget under her pillow and reminisced as she walked towards the closet.
“I never was that clever, you know?” she seemed to be telling Brown changing into her night gown in the closet.
“What’s gotten into you now?”
“Oh, just this that I really never made any serious decisions in my life ever. I have kind of led a parasitical life if you like.”
“Well, you’re thinking of the cafe now.”
“Yes, I know, but it would also probably not work either. I mean realistically speaking, who in the right mind would come here, in the middle of nowhere for a coffee. Even if we do get an accidental client, there wouldn’t be enough to run a business, surely.”
“My mind’s elsewhere. I still can’t think of how the nugget got here in that shoe box.”
Brown said lying on the bed. His arms across his chest and his legs entwined. He looked up at the ceiling while he spoke.
“How could we be so silly as to think that supernatural didn’t exist?” he said.
“I don’t know. It’s too hard. It hurts my brain when I think about these things. The nugget is here and we must keep it. That’s all.”
“This simplistic arrangement can’t save us at all. I hope you realize that”, he said.
“Who are you calling stupid? You think, I am a complete idiot don’t you?”
“No, I didn’t say that now. Did I, my mad Magpie?”
“You did so. I shall not sleep with you in this bed tonight. I’m going to sleep in Rosie’s bed.”
Saying so, she grabbed her pillow and her nugget and stalked out of the room.
Easily said than done. Both Emma and Brown tossed and turned on their own pillows. There wasn’t anything in the semblance of sleep in either of them. With their eyes wide open they stared into nothingness. There was total silence. Apart from a few twinklings’ of stars, masses of dark void pressed down. Moments passed. She couldn’t sleep a wink. Presently, a pale light peeked through, as darkness peeled off. She felt she was in slumber-land; a land of the living dead, withdrawn. The same thoughts returned; an anguish of life appeared to be too short; it melted away so easily into bleak oblivion. She felt, she passed through space, a path designated by ethereal time. Her spirits soared like a falcon ... despaired ... and more ... it fell into a dungeon of dark depression. Lying there like a fallen log of a dead pine. She heard from her bed a roaring noise of the wild wind knocking on the shutters of the window. It was like an ancient calling of the nemesis to wake her up to the fact that surely an end was closing in.
Emma felt groggy. Her eyelids were heavy and half-closed, as she got out of bed. She raked the nugget out from under her pillow and looked at it. Taking it on her palm, she studied it, until it gleamed in the morning light. Bemused, the nugget still sat on her hand when she decided to step out of bed. She stumbled onto the carpet and searched for her slippers with an unsure bare-foot. Sliding into them, she made her way towards the bedroom door, opened it and angled her head out. Squinting her eyes, she peeped across the corridor towards Brown’s room, she felt that his feet lay heavy under the blanket of his bed, unmoved like a thousand bricks fallen on them. With a grimace, she then entered the bathroom. She felt in her heart out of necessity and much out of love that she must forgive her husband. He has been a protective. Through the window, she saw the vast open farm and its much needed work as the winds blew mercilessly over it; incredible work they did for the orphanage! Could this nugget change their fate somehow? She pondered and she pressed it hard in her hand. Certainly, the nugget had to be bequeathed to Rose. Both her fortune and future lay on how she used it. The nugget of good luck, she decided. Its magical appearance must mean something good, not evil. Looking further afield through the white wooden window, she heard a faint knock on the bathroom door. Startled, she moved slovenly towards it and turned the door knob to open it. Brown stood outside in disheveled clothing and hair. They both looked at one and another but did not smile. Not even a smirk. He waited for Emma to get past him. As soon as she did it, he entered and closed the door with a bang. Emma’s ankle got caught in a pinch and scuffed under the door. Her pallor became red. The redness remained. Something related not just with the ankle but appeared to be more insidious. She went down the stairs towards the kitchen. Hurriedly, she took a glass from the sink left from last night and filled it up with the tap water. She felt hot. A sudden sensation of hot flushes sprang from within, not quenched with one glass. Before she could finish it, she topped it up three times, while water ran unheeded.
“Emma, where in the devil’s name are you?” Brown’s voice thundered down the landing above.
“I’m here! Downstairs!” she answered meekly.
And when she looked up, she saw Brown’s shadow cast a look of apparition on the dim staircase; his big, masculine body descending with a peerless glower about him. Emma was frightened. Charcoaled liner on the lower lids of his eyes stood out ghastly in a brooding gaze; a gaze most sharp, cutting through Emma’s soul with the force of an incisive weapon of the Jedi knight. Emma cowed. She had not seen such unsightly dark lines on those eyes before.
“What was all that about last night?”
“What of it?” Emma gulped the water in three clumsy attempts, causing it to fall over.
“The nugget is supposed to bring us luck, not war.”
“Depends on how it got here.”
“What if it didn’t get stolen in the first place? Maybe, it accidentally rolled into that box, which reappeared after so many years,” he paused and then said. “It’s possible for things to go missing around the house and found many years later.”
This unearthly episode was most improbable which beguiled a rational explanation. So, they gave up looking for one. What mattered now was its safe-keep. The phone rang suddenly frightening them. Emma startled nearly dropping the empty glass from her hand. Brown picked it up at one swift stride.
“Hello? Brown speaking.”
“Good morning. This is Stella the receptionist from the hospital. Sorry to call you this early.”
“Well? What is it?”
“Rose? What about Rose?”
“Could you come to the hospital now? There has been an emergency.”
“Emergency? What sort of an emergency?”
“You need to come. You need to come down now.”
“Okay, I’ll be there.”
His hands shook as he put the phone back on its cradle. Emma looked at him with eyes wide open. Not one word was spoken, but he took the UTE keys off the hook hanging by the phone and went upstairs to change, signaling Emma to do the same. Emma hurriedly rushed up following Brown. And panting awkwardly, they were soon in their master bedroom. She looked again at Brown’s eyes; the dark lines had disappeared by now, as he came back to his normal self.
“What did the woman say?”
“Nothing much, said t’was an emergency. We got to go.”
“Ow? What happened? Is Rosie okay?”
“I don’t know!”
Emma asked no more. They quickly got out of their night clothes. She put on a plain white dress and sandals; snatched her bag from the wardrobe. Brown put his shorts on as both came down the stairs. Brown struggling with the zippers, he took a moment. Neither of them realized that they had lost the nugget for the second time.
“Hurry up, now!”
“Give me a second this bloody zipper won’t move.”
They ran as fast as they could to the UTE. Emma got in through the passenger’s door on her seat and Brown on the drivers. The engine choked a few times and then it started. Down by the same route as last night, the UTE raced. No one spoke but wore a deep frown of troubled thoughts. Finally, when the UTE arrived at the hospital, they parked somewhere without thinking and both got out in a real hurry. In they walked breathlessly through to the reception foyer. The receptionist handed them a note that read, meet me in room number 202 imme__
WOW! There is no way you can leave us hanging on with this ending. Waiting for next issue. Peter
BY MANGALAM SHIVA FROM PONDICHERRY, INDIA.
Kishore was telling his wife Anjali “Dear, I am going to Bangalore by tomorrow morning flight for a week. I have kept cash for the house expenses. Take care.” Maya, their daughter, seven years of age told her father “Daddy, why are you going out again? You returned only last week from your trip. I will miss you Daddy.”
“Maya, I have got office work in outside cities that is why I have to go out frequently. I miss you and Mummy very much.” Anjali had tears in her eyes. She had a strange suspicion that Kishore was drifting away from her since last one year. He spent at least fifteen days in a month out of their home and on the other days he was very busy with his business in Mumbai. He left early in the mornings and came very late in the nights. He did not spent any time with her or Maya.
On Sundays and other holidays, in the absence of Kishore, Anjali took Maya to parks, zoo, museum etc to keep her happy. She helped Maya in her school home work. “Mummy, why Daddy is not coming for the parent-teacher meetings in the school? Only you are attending the meetings. Both the parents of the other students come for the monthly meetings. The teacher asks me why my father is not seen in the meetings.”
“Maya, your father is very busy, that is why I am attending alone. Whenever he is free, he will come with us.”
Anjali started getting information that Kishore went to other cities with his Marketing Assistant Vidhya and they were seen together in Shopping Centers frequently when he was in Mumbai. She did not suspect anything initially but Kishore’s behavior and indifference to her made her believe that he was untruthful to her. When Anjali asked him about this he shouted at her “How does it matter to you? I am providing you and Maya with all facilities and comforts. Vidhya is a very intelligent person assisting me greatly in my office matters. You are always grumbling and complaining about me. I am disgusted with your attitude. You are jealous of my having some fun in my life.”
Anjali got wild and screamed at him “You are married with a ten year old daughter. You have some responsibility to me and to Maya. You cannot neglect us and have fun with your assistant. Are you not ashamed of yourself? You have to stop this.” Maya was listening to their quarrel and got frightened. When her father slapped her mother, she started crying covering her face. She started hating her father. “How can he do this to my dear Mummy?” She consoled Anjali after her father stormed out of the house. Her parents had frequent quarrels since then. Maya was very much disturbed by this acrimonious atmosphere in their house.
Kishore decided to divorce Anjali as he concluded that he cannot continue their marriage. His wife was always nagging him and was suspicious about him. Life was becoming miserable for him since she was always angry with him. He had already talked to Vidhya about their marriage once the divorce was settled. Anjali did not protest. Once Kishore had decided to part with them, there was no point in pleading with him. Maya who was twelve years by then understood the situation. Kishore gave the house and substantial funds to Anjali as alimony payment. He regretted parting from Maya but he did not want to delay the divorce proceedings asking for her custody. Anjali cried in the nights regretting her pitiable life. Maya watched her silently and felt angry with Kishore for treating her beautiful mother shabbily. Anjali started worrying how she was going to bring up Maya alone.
Anjali took up a job to manage her time and finances. Maya felt sad for her mother who had been ditched by her father for no fault of her. Maya started brooding over this which only magnified the hatred and anger towards Kishore. But she did not allow this to disturb her studies as she did not want to disappoint her mother. Anjali understood the turmoil faced by her dear daughter and she pacified her with soothing words.
Maya graduated in Commerce with additional qualification in Computers. She got a job in an Audit company. She shunned all boys in school and college days. She kept away from the male colleagues in any personal relationships. She firmly believed that all males were cheats and they ill-treated their female partners. Anjali continued with her work and started looking out for an alliance for Maya. It was becoming difficult as the families of the boys asked about Maya’s father. She had to tell them about their divorce. The talks stopped after this.
Maya refused to get married as she had seen her mother suffering. Also she did not want to leave her mother who would be all alone after marriage. Roshan’s parents, family friends were in regular contact with Anjali and they liked Maya for her beauty and smartness. Roshan also came with them and became friendly with Maya who enjoyed his jokes. His family knew the entire picture of Kishore’s rotten behavior with Anjali and Maya. His parents discussed among themselves and decided to ask Anjali about Maya’s marriage with Roshan. Anjali was happy that her friends came forward with this proposal.
“Maya, Roshan’s parents came yesterday and gave a proposal for your marriage with Roshan. You know him to be a good boy and he is quite friendly with you. Both of you can live happily as you know Roshan and his parents.”
“Mummy, I do not want to leave you alone after we get married. Also you know how I feel about men. Most of them are selfish, crude, and untruthful to their partners. You have suffered immensely due to cruel treatment by your ex husband. I am really afraid to get married”
“Maya, all men are not cruel and selfish. It was my bad luck that your father behaved badly with me. Not all men will do the same. Also I am getting old. How long can I protect you? After my life is over, can you live alone and face this cruel world? You need to have a reliable man to take care of you in future. You trust me that I will get a good partner for you. After marriage you both will be in Mumbai only. You can come and stay with me for a few days whenever you feel like.”
Maya thought over this and agreed for her marriage with Roshan. The wedding was conducted in a sober manner. Only a few close relatives and friends were invited for the marriage. Roshan loved Maya and ensured her happiness. His parents stayed separately in a nearby suburb and the young couple was left alone to take care of themselves.
Things were wonderful for one year for Maya. But she was all the while watchful of Roshan. She always looked out for any deviations in his behavior and attitude to her. Roshan got elevated in his office responsibilities and had to put in more hours in his work. Maya had nagging doubts about Roshan’s coming home late.
Roshan was telling Maya “Dear I am promoted in my office with more responsibilities and I am getting double the previous salary and perks. My bosses expect me to put more efforts and get top results. That is why I am coming home late. I feel bad that I cannot spend more time with you.” Maya kept quiet.
One evening Roshan came with Yamini and introduced her to Maya as his Personal Secretary recently appointed. Maya was stunned at the beauty of Yamini who was very open and friendly with Roshan and Maya. She watched the friendly banters between Roshan and Yamini. The way they laughed at each other’s jokes made Maya to burn inside. After having snacks and soft drinks, Roshan went to drop Yamini at her residence. When he returned home, he found Maya sulking in the bed room. She was not prepared to talk to him. Roshan was confused by her behavior and left her alone.
Maya’s doubts increased day by day as Roshan was spending more time in the office than with her. She started imagining that Roshan must be having fun with Yamini in his cabin. That woman must be teasing Roshan without any shame and laughing openly. One evening Roshan came home with Sanjay his colleague and his best friend, along with Yamini. The three of them had great time teasing each other and about their bosses in the office. Maya felt that she was isolated and could not bear the intimacy among the three. She served them dinner and then retired to the bedroom. She started crying as she could not tolerate the happiness in the face of Roshan in the company of Yamini.
Next morning Roshan told Maya “I am going to Bengaluru on office work for four days. You can go to your mother’s house if you want.”
“Are you going alone or with Yamini?”
“I will be meeting some important customers for finalizing large orders for the company. Yamini will have to be there to give me details and take notes of the discussions.”
Maya started wondering whether history was repeating. Her father too started his affairs by going to Bengaluru frequently on work. She went to her mother’s house in the evening and confessed to her about the doubts in her mind. Anjali scolded Maya. ”Are you crazy? You are imagining things and torturing yourself. Roshan is a good person and I am confident that he will not do anything wrong. If you continue to sulk and irritate Roshan, then you will propel him to depend on that girl Yamini. Stop suspecting Roshan and try to be nice to him as you were after your marriage. Don’t bring doom to yourself by your suspicions.” Maya did not argue with her mother.
When Roshan returned home, he seemed to be very happy that
his company secured new business worth crores of rupees. Maya imagined that he must be happy due to
the company of Yamini as they were together for four days in Bengaluru. Maya
just could not get past her nagging doubts and worries. Sanjay came in the
evening to say hello to Maya. ‘What the hell is going on between my
husband and that bitch?' Maya's patience was at its lowest ebb and she was
ready to burst.
Sanjay knew that she was serious. 'Look, Maya. There is nothing going on between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I'd say.'
'Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Sanjay . . .' she rolled her eyes in disgust. 'That's what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Sanjay, not for a married man.
Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extramarital dalliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.' She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, 'Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?'
“Maya, there is nothing between them, believe me. I am close to both of them. I would have easily known if there is anything brewing between them. These things cannot be kept hidden for long. Roshan loves you immensely. You are unnecessarily worked up and insisting on suspecting your husband. You know, such behavior from you will push him to go away from you.”
“Sanjay, I want to believe you, but the bad experiences my mother and myself had for years with my father will never allow me to completely believe men. I do not have the self confidence and conviction to trust Roshan fully. I am always having the nagging doubts when I think of that person Yamini. Tell me what should I do?”
“Maya, if you trust me, I will talk to Roshan to take you to consult a psychiatrist. There is no stigma in meeting him as you need analysis and treatment for your emotional problems.”
After much deliberation, Maya agreed to his suggestion as she was also convinced that she must be rid of her mental disorder and lead a happy life with Roshan. She could not continue to corrupt her mind with suspicions and uncertainties. She did not want to lose Roshan forever. Better sense prevailed on her in giving her consent to Sanjay.
Sanjay talked to Roshan about this and they consulted their family doctor who suggested meeting Dr.Ganguly, famous psychoanalyst in the city. He was highly qualified and experienced in treating mental disorders in young and old patients. He deeply analyzed their hidden reasons for their ailments and odd behaviors. He agreed to meet them.
Roshan met Dr.Ganguly separately for 30 minutes while Maya waited in the reception. After he came out, Maya talked to the Doctor for an hour with breaks in between. He understood the real problem with Maya. But to go deeper into the background, he asked them to come with Maya’s mother on the following Saturday.
Anjali had discussion with Dr.Ganguly who discovered many details about Maya’s mental turmoil. He had another session with Maya. He had the expertise to gain the confidence of his patients and to dig deeper into their hidden mental layers to bring out the real cause of their mental disorder. He helped Maya to take out her deep hidden uncertainties, suspicions, hatred and fear of rejection by Roshan.
Dr.Ganguly had a few more sessions with Maya and made her relax and shared jokes with her. He called Roshan inside and had a joint session with them. “Maya was having disorders like obsession, paranoia, and mental trauma due to the sad experiences in her young ages. She has to overcome these symptoms gradually.” He prescribed some medicines to calm her nerves, to be taken for a month. He asked Maya to go for long walks in the mornings and to perform Yoga under some expert guidance. He advised her to relax and listen to soothing music in her free time. Dr.Ganguly told Roshan “Take leave for a few days and go with Maya to some hill resort or sea side and spend quality time with her. This will instill confidence and assure her about your care for her.”
It took six months for Maya to shed all her inhibitions about Roshan. Yamini got engaged to be married with her friend Rajesh. Maya felt ashamed to have suspected Yamini and invited her for lunch on a Sunday. They hugged each other when they met. Tears were flowing from their eyes.
A great story and happy ending. Sadly this story repeats itself over and over in our society. Peter