Ashamed to Narrate This

The rain still sprayed at my face when I decided to step out from under the overhang. The wind was harsh, sending stormy clouds hurling into one another in a confused somersault. I decided to brave anything just to attain home and sleep well before tomorrow’s marathon.

I had never in my 21 years exercised my limbs, except only to wave at one of my parents to get me what was away from my arm’s reach. But I was running this marathon tomorrow because she would be there.

Locating my bike in the dark was difficult. All of them in the line were glistening with cold pimples on their naked skin.

When I finally identified, there came a lash of wetness, back to back, upon my back. Post a short struggle to start the vehicle, by which time I had become as wet as a dripping leaf, I took to the road, driving as fast and as slow as I could manage on the glossy surface.

It was raining pins and needles. Icy cold prickles syringed my nape, making me cringe as if in embarrassment. The new monsoon freezed my exposure. I struggled to view the road through the coloured water on my glasses. Blinking red, constant yellows. An occasional green granting us permission to move, in a smudged tone. It was like running around in a pub, pushing through a hybrid of psychedelic colours; but since my knowledge of pubs sprouted only from books and films, it felt immature to imagine this. Also, I had to concentrate on the road.

I left OMR and scurried into the service road. And immediately regretted. I was cutting through the logged rainwater, sending waves on both sides and inviting some quantity into my shoes. They were new shoes and new socks, bought especially. I lifted my feet and placed it awkwardly on the crash guard. Thankfully the road was empty with no audience.

*

I hurried up the steps and stopped outside the closed door. Shaking my shoes and wringing my socks, I dislodged murky water in the corner of the veranda and silently reclined my shoes on the wall. As I pushed open the door my nose picked up the acrid smell of extinguished candles. Father was there on the sofa, sitting with no vest, and not bothering to towel his wet chest, mother emerged from the kitchen carrying a ladle, sticking to the insides of which was hot pulp of some vegetable.

I crossed the hall on my toes into my bedroom, and stretched the socks on the clothesline there. ‘Why are you drying them here?’ Mother asked, following me.

‘I want them ready for tomorrow’s marathon.’

‘Don’t you have another pair?’

‘This is Puma.’ I hoped she would appreciate that.

I had dinner, but only a little, prompting a question from my mother, ‘You can’t eat properly either when you are too happy or too sad. Which one is it?’ I thought I blushed.

Ashamed to Narrate this

Original illustration by Swathi Venkateswaran*

All I knew next was jumping onto my bed. I had slept like a dead. In the morning, I responded sharply to the alarm – later a great surprise to mother, father and the alarm clock – and hoisted myself and beamed at nothing. While telling myself that I was a brisk young man ready to run a marathon, I jumped down from the bed and landed on the pool of water formed overnight from the clothesline. Shluck! Something dragged my feet and I banged my left arm on the frame of the bed. There was a momentary blankness; freaky heartbeats and mind full of emptiness.

I brought myself to existence, like pushing the head out from a dark womb, and searched for meaning, looked for cause and effect from my position on the floor. I tried to get up, to open the door my parents were banging, but I was lying flat on my back with legs undecidedly hanging in the air, unable to voice anything except buckets of breath.

*

But all is well that ends well, isn’t it? She called me after returning from the marathon, asking in a tone of concern (I would like to assume) why I didn’t show up that morning.

Should I ask her to read this?

 

*You can find her other amazing artworks here.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Lost in Beauty

FLASH FICTION #16:

Encouraging night. He kissed her cheeks and licked powder. Sucked her lips, but only rubbed off a bitter chunk of red paste. Simply wanted to hold her by her exposed arms, but his hands kept slipping down their polish.

He wondered if he would feel a woman behind the veneer.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Anatomy of Love

Flash Fiction #14:

When Koushik met Ramya for the first time, he changed his image of the girl he had always wanted to fall in love with.

It was a New Year’s Eve party. As an antonym of the people she was with, Ramya stood in a corner, away from the maidens laughing and dancing. She was a wallflower.

During the next six months, Koushik built his mind and body, all for that day he would go and speak to her to champion her heart. Wanting and needing and coveting and dying to be her ‘Yes’ candidate, he took care not to let slip the confidence and courage that had never been his.

On the marked day, he walked into her classroom after smelling his breath and adjusting his sleeves. Ramya was there, distributing to her classmates her marriage invitations. ‘It can’t happen without you, Shreya,’ she said to a girl in the front row. They went for a long embrace.

Koushik felt deeply disappointed. But when he met Shreya for the first time, he changed his image of the girl he had always wanted to fall in love with.

The Idiot

Flash Fiction #13:

In haste, he inserted his feet into the casuals instead of the black leathers and climbed down the two floors. Arjun, roaming in his territory at the parking lot, pointed out the blunder with a filling bark. Pausing, Tommy looked down to see his formal trousers reaching his casual shoes. He climbed up the steps in twos and corrected the footwear, but forgot to collect the helmet from beside the shoestand. Another filling bark from Arjun and Tommy again climbed the two floors. He took his helmet and some heavy breaths.

Tucking his shirt in, he walked to where his bike was relaxing under the drumstick tree. A few nosy stems from an overgrown branch lovingly scratched his helmet as he kickstarted his bike.

He was about to exit the parking lot when Arjun again barked. This time it was an overflowing bark; just too loud. Tommy braked and checked the side-stand – it was safely lifted up. He turned to Arjun questioningly, and got an indicative bark again. After confirming he hadn’t missed anything, Tommy ignored the further barks as he sped away.

With his project status meeting due in 1 minute, he was flat out like a lizard drinking when the junction signal switched making him come to a sudden, swerving stop. If he hadn’t forgotten his helmet, he would have escaped the irritating red.

An old man sounded his horn from behind him. Tommy stayed. But as the oldie didn’t seem to let go easily, Tommy tilted his bike and created way for the deathbed Honda. The oldie, once at par with Tommy, slapped his helmet – tup!

His Project Manager would have begun addressing the team. Tommy lifted his buttocks from the seat, stretched his left palm and brought it harshly on the oldie’s wrinkled cheek. The neighbouring cab driver had to step out to keep the frail man from falling. Tommy then rode away, leaving the lizard twitching on its back on the hot tar.

Dear Aaila

FLASH FICTION #12:

Salim sweatingly pedaled to the stop. He had to be there at 8 to meet Kajal, but was late by many minutes. If not today, all his dreams would go shapeless.

Kajal was standing on the pavement tapping her foot in expectancy, waiting to receive the letter from Salim and deposit it with Aaila. It was the last day of her college, and the first time she was postmanning a love letter.

After handing over the letter and receiving promises that it would find Aaila, Salim turned his bicycle around. Kajal, in hurry, stepped down the pavement to cross the road. The sound of a large vehicle coming to a sudden stop, and the synchronous exclamations of the passersby tapped Salim’s instinct. There was no Kajal; only her blood squeezed out by the front tyre.

Salim didn’t sleep that night. He cried, hit himself on the forehead and went on hunger for days. He knew it was his fault. Only if he had arrived a bit earlier that morning… Aaila would have received his love letter.

How Edison Didn’t Invent

an illuminating conspiracy

Flash Fiction #11:

After another day of excessive, obsessive experiments to invent the electric light failed, Thomas Edison decided to take a stroll to clear his thickly wired mind with fresh air.

At the end of the pavement, on which he didn’t know how he had come, for his mind was still jiggling in the dingy laboratory, his eyes caught a flicker. One, two flickers. Approaching the small, tattered boy sitting there under the oil-light post, Edison’s heart went tup-tup-tup-tup-tup. The boy was meddling with a carbon filament.

Of course! How stupid am I to have not realised this. Carbon. High resistance and low voltage.

‘Son, what do you do?’

‘I work in the mines, sir. After work, I do this, sir.’

Thomas Edison spared some currency and conscience. After a year, he patented the Electric Bulb under his own name.

The boy? He died in his 54th year as an unknown miner.

Pickle Man

FLASH FICTION #07:

The thick-bearded, smelly orphan this story is about had survived beside the same large dustbin for all his 52 years. Both belonged to a dark alley of a city that doesn’t need mention here as it is a fact that more or less all cities have poverty prospering in their dark wombs. The alley’s only visitor was a Constable from the local police station who made the regular midnight patrol.

Our man had a wagging tongue for a particular brand’s lemon pickle. He used a fingertip of the pickle from its glass bottle as a relish for his daily dinner. Since he didn’t like the idea of stealing the pickle bottle from the supermarket round the corner, he stole the required amount every month from his choice of unconscious people – one type bent over their smartphones in bus stops and the other type were engaged in finding deep meaning in the back seat of cars that came most nights and stopped at the end of the alleyway for an hour.

At the start of his dinner one night, he discovered that his pickle bottle was missing. To say the least, a volcanic madness gripped the simple mind. This was only just, as anyone sane would agree that the pickle shouldn’t have been stolen from an animal that breathed only to taste it night after night with no other wish or thought in the world.

After a violent bout spent kicking the dustbin and searching the nearby gutter from end to end, he noticed a veiled and wrinkled figure squatting somewhere in the same alley. He searched her belongings with high hopes, and upon their ruin, lifted a nearby block of stone and dropped it on the fragile head.

The next morning, the police carried him away to their quarters. The man, with his sticky face from hours of sobbing and mourning, was taken by walk and not as usual by the police jeep lest he contaminate it. Within the building of righteous officers, after he was booked for murder and locked in a cell, he saw the patrol Constable having breakfast with his pickle bottle for relish.

Sadly Happy

(Based on the great writer Sujatha‘s short story)

FLASH FICTION #05:

Chandran and I, in our private corner of the factory canteen, were speaking about the health insurance he had taken for his newly-born. While I was showing aversion to insurances and saving schemes, Chandran, in his responsible tone, explained the advantages of saving for the future. He sharply departed for his shift when the bell rang, leaving behind his close friend carelessly picking his teeth.

Thirty minutes later, I received a call notifying me of the death of Chandran in the nitrogen-chamber of the assembly hall.  As I was his only close friend, the management asked me to personally visit his house with the HR, and break the news of his death to his young wife.

After a reluctant travel – reluctant because I wished to stay away from this whole episode – in the management car, absorbed in the sudden, radical change of the normal course,  we reached his modest house. The HR rang the bell and urged me to step in front of the closed doors.  A child was crying far inside. My would-be wife swung open the doors.

The Ant who Wanted to Rule the World

Flash fiction #01:

After the lazy ant’s pregnant wife bitterly brought before his sleepy eyes his own unindustrious (which she considered unantish) self, he resolved to prove to himself and her what he was capable of doing with a little determination… he thus walked out of their wooden gallery to conquer the world! Pleasantly dreaming of what he would do once he had put the world under his feet, he walked unseeingly across the crawling baby’s way to her mother’s milky breasts. She made the kingly ant into nothing with an unintentional pat of her padded palm.