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of fish and ferns: two (very) short stories

>> Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The boy is oblivious to the muck that found its way on his legs. Dripping ink of black for every step - and he has done many, and in double time. The slippers are a size too big, his sister's, but he didn't have time or Mama would've changed her mind like she always does at a hint of delay. He holds on to her skirt, a purposeful little hand stays hidden in a fold of summery white. 

After what seems to be an eternity, for a young mind and short legs, of navigating through a steady stream of people and palpable stench the boy tenses up. Straight ahead is where they sell live fish. Catfishes to be exact. In trays of woven hemp they squirm, writhe and glisten. The boy's eyes well up with tears, ready to pour at the slightest sign of refusal. She sighs and runs a hand over the wrinkled spot on her skirt where her son's hand had been.

The boy takes out the thread snuck from his mother's rickety sewing machine and has been keeping since the day he hatched his plan. He retrieves the cookie that he nicked from the cookie jar a week ago and goes out the back door to the garden where he had dug a hole. He places the jar that holds the catfish in cloudy water into the hole and proceeds to wind one end of the thread around the cookie. He looks around for a fallen tree limb where he could tie the other.

It is quiet outside where I sit. Only the sound of passing cars from the main street breaks the silence every now and then. Even the leaves are dead to the soft breeze. I had placed my chair on my favourite spot on the porch...the right corner which is marked by an enormous hanging plant, mother's ferns. The tendrils of the plant form  a forest of webs that filter the light from the lamppost beside the gate - creating a cascade of soft, tiny stars that rest on my face and the wall behind me. My head is rested against the wooden panel, a somber universe in the dark, and set down my cuppa on the chair's right arm. Still warm, the coffee. I inattentively flayed the peeling paint that chafed the back of my neck, rubbing the flakes between my fingers before letting them go. My fingers ran out of places to undress finally. All that is left are cold spots with dusty, grainy feel. Ahh my solitude is defined.

I was in front of the computer the whole day. Waiting for you to go online.  Surely you haven't forgotten. My heart sunk with the setting of the sun.

The phone rings 30 past midnight but it's still yesterday in your part of the world. See, I even warp time for you. But I'll be deliberate and patient about the whole thing like I was in front of the computer. Twenty steps to get to the phone, 10 seconds to curb my anxiety, on the sixth ring... 

                                                                                     Can we talk? The last time, I promise.

                                                                                     No. Let's not.

                                                                                     I may as well have fire for breath.

The phone goes dead after the fourth ring. The caller ID says it was not you who called. I look out the window at the glare from the lamppost. No ferns to soften the blow this time.


Shalini June 18, 2011 at 9:28 PM  

You 'paint' your stories, Cris! Beautiful!

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