>Short Fiction-It Rained That Night

>Sandra Torres adjusted her scarf around her neck for the fourth time and squinted through the semi lit path.The road ahead was a strip of a pale grey flecked with specks of white.She was on her way home after a late night rendevouz with her boyfriend of four weeks.As she walked,she mused on what she would tell her husband.The lengthy explanations,lies really,were getting stale and monotonous.She needed a new excuse.The sky overhead rumbled deeply once,dark water heavy clouds gathered around a bravely shining moon,ready to pour their tears onto an unsuspecting earth.The street was fairly deserted,except for young,adventurous lovers,bookworms trying to finish twenty books in one night and lonely old people wishing they had someone to talk to.As Sandra trudged through the street,she wondered where it all began.

The last house on the street was not a creepy place at all.In fact,a cheerful wreath of daisies greeted anyone who came up to the huge oak door.But for some reason unknown,people stayed away from the house.They would be all right while walking past the other fifteen houses.But as they approached the sixteenth house,an unspoken fear would grip them and make them uncomfortable.The house had no history,no unsovled murder mystery had occured and it certainly did not rest on a graveyard.”It’s just….something,”people would say.Of course,this ‘something’ riled the lone inmate of the house,Sam Terrence Wilson.A forty year old kind looking widower,Sam had recently shifted to the neighborhood.He was quiet,kept to himself and never bothered anyone.Nothing much was known about his history or previous neighborhood save for the fact that he had lost his wife to a strange illness.The neighborhood kids would make fun of him but all that stopped one day when Larry Muldoon almost ended up being viciously attacked by Sam’s dog,a German shephard, Rover.From then on,kids and adults alike avoided the Wilson residence.For someone who had just lost a wife,was living in a huge house with only a dog for company,such alienation,no doubt,made Sam quite angry and restless.
You see,I am Sam.

Mike Torres was fast asleep in a huge comfy mahogany bed when little raindrops began pattering his windowsill.The bed had been the first joint piece of furniture he and Sandra had bought after their marriage.It always gave him a sense of comfort and belongingness.The severe cold he had caught a couple of days ago seemed less threatening now,after he had gulped down half a bottle of cold medicine.The depressants in the syrup had finally worked and Saturday night found him fast asleep on the mahogany bed.
Theirs was a modest middle class house,burdened by mortgage payments.Mike was a junior lawyer at a local law firm in the city and even their combined incomes were barely enough to meet their needs and expenses.Their marriage,perfect to begin with,was under a considerable strain now,what with Mike’s terrible work hours and Sandra’s job as a children’s nurse.It was rare to catch them together at home,one would always be away.Lately,Mike had noticed that Sandra seemed preoccupied with something and always came home much later than her shift ended.He had tried asking her about this a couple of times,but she had remained evasive.
Outside the window,the raindrops began falling with a little more enthusiasm now.Mike snored on,blissfully oblivious to everything.He turned to shift sides and in doing so,knocked over a glass of water over the newspaper.The seeping liquid slowly blurred the black words from the white background.For the past several months,reports had been arriving of mysterious deaths.The victims were all women and the cause of death was almost always a fatal neck wound.In most cases,the bodies had been found without a head.The cops were as puzzled as the coroners and medical examiners.Nobody had ever seen the perp,so there was no description with the police.The community lived in a state of total fear,anybody could be the next victim.It was just a matter of time.

Sandra knew that she was being foolish,walking home all alone on a night like this,nonwithstanding the reports.She looked above at the sky,now menacingly black with angry flashes of lightning in between.As the rain fell on her face,she increased her pace.At this moment,she just wanted to be home.She wanted to snuggle up to her husband under the covers on the mahogany bed.The torrid affair with Jim was mere desperation,Mike was the only man she would ever love.Now,hurrying through the desolate street,Sandra made a decision.She would come clean.No more lies,no more far fetched explanations.She would tell Mike everything and clear her conscience.
Wait.
What was that?
Something had darted behind her.She could feel her heartbeat escalating.Gulping nervously,she turned.
“Oh god,it’s you Officer.You scared the hell out of me.”
Officer Barnes was on his beat,an overweight man with the face like Santa Claus,frowned at her.
“What are you doing alone on this street,Mrs.Torres?It’s dangerous.Haven’t you heard about the killer?”
“I….I..um was visiting a sick friend Officer.On my way home.Wouldn’t want to end up dead,”she nervously chuckled.
Officer Barnes shifted his weight to the other leg.
“Come on,let me get you home now.”
But Sandra was already leaving.”It’s quite okay Officer.It’s just three blocks from here.I’ll be fine.”
With that,they parted.

Callie and Jake were yelling again.This time,it was a bath towel.Jake had left it on the bedroom floor again.Callie,in the middle of a loudly contested argument,stopped suddenly.
“Hey,isn’t that Mr.Wilson?”
Jake squinted through the window.Sure enough,Sam had just locked the front door and was out on the street.
“What is he doing out there on a night like this?He’ll be soaked.” Callie had forgotten the argument.Jake silently thanked Sam.
“Uh…look hon,if Mr.Wilson wants to go out for a walk,that is entirely his business.” He stepped forward and stumbled onto the wet towel.
He knew from her eyes that her sermon would last all night.

Being lonely is a choice I made.Some people need other people to tell them how nice they are,how pretty they look,how their cooking is the best in the world.That kind of talk makes me sick.All I want is a faithful dog and a television.And I have them.Adults bore me,kids are inconsequential to me and companionship is like a perfuntory appendage.True,I had been married once.But it was a forced decision.I kind of felt bad when Jenna died.She was like a scared mouse around me,never contradicting,always speaking in an inaudible voice.Nice to have around.
Walking in the rain somehow soothes me.When rain is pouring down my head in torrents,I am at my peaceful best.I am actually in search of food for Rover.You see,my little angel eats a lot.A lot.I managed to chain him tonight.Hopefully,I can find something soon.

Sandra almost ran the last two blocks,trying to evade the rain.Her red and blue scarf was soaking wet and useless now.There.She could spot her block.Two more minutes and she would be home,nice and warm.So engrossed was she in scurrying that she failed to notice a small elevation in the ground.She tripped and fell,tasting murky rainwater mixed with dust.She cursed and got up when she had the strange feeling that she was being watched.She looked around.All quiet.She turned to go when something or somebody caught hold of her arm.
She screamed.
“Hey,hey,take it easy,it’s me,Sam.”
Sandra clutched his arm and her terrified gaze met his.
“Oh dear god,it’s you.Sam,something….some..thing has been chasing me.Or looking out for me.I’m so scared.”
Sam guided his hand around her trembling shoulders.
“Now,now.No need to fear.I’ll take you home.I was worried for you,Sandra.”
Bright flashes of lightning shone down upon them.Sandra thought she saw something strange in Sam’s face,but dismissed the thought.As they walked together,a thought struck her.
“Sam,what are you doing here at this time of the night?” She turned to face him.
Sam stood before her,his six foot three inch frame suddenly looking grotesque and frightening in the moonless night.He smiled at the same time as another streak of lightning flashed by.
Then,she saw them.
There they were.Two hideously long and pointed teeth growing on the sides of Sam’s mouth.The smile grew wider,the teeth now fully visible.Sandra could feel her heart stop.
Sam took a step forward.
“Sorry Sandra,you see,Rover is hungry.”
A scream which had worked up her throat stayed inside and Sam grabbed it and gazed at it lovingly.The rain was still pouring as the two gleaming teeth gleefully dug themselves into the white throat.

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>That Soapy Feeling

>Some of my soapy observations:

Whenever there is a bereavment in the family,all the characters sport matching white dresses that seem to have sprouted on the spot.Wonder where they procure them from so fast.

When a leading male character gifts his wife/girlfriend a saree which is still yet unopened,the very next moment the wife/girlfriend produces a matching designer blouse with her exact measurements.Telepathy at work?

The female characters of any soap opera are always dressed to the hilt at any given time but even so,whenever they have to go out to buy veggies,they have to “dress up”.

A typical soap opera family almost always consists of aged grandparents,parents,aunts,uncles and their menagerie of children.The children deserve a special mention.If there are two sons,one of them will be the golden boy of the family and the other,the black sheep.If there are daughters too,the eldest is always a God fearing pious soul who tries to set an example for her younger siblings.

The daughter in-law is a very peculiar feature of any soap.There are two kinds of the species.Type One is the Ultra Pativrata Bahu,who will weep at a moment’s notice,bear the insults of her in-laws,forgive any and everybody within three miles of her,leave the house with a suitcase which is always kept packed for cases like these.Type Two is the Wronged Bahu,who is always misunderstood by everyone.Even her smallest intentions are viewed with suspicion.This type of bahu usually transforms into the vamp.

The vamp(no connection to Luigi Vampa) is perhaps the most colorful and snappy characters of any soap.They wear the most outgrageous outfits and accessories and their heavy kohl lined eyes do most of the talking.They get to have the most fun,what with treating their in-laws like dust,heaping insults on anybody who is less than a vamp,take delight in harrassing the Type One Bahu and indulge their grey cells in cooking up the most ingenious schemes to turn everybody out of the house.They are usually taken down a peg or two in the end by their long suffering spouses and/or the Type One Bahu.

The characters always have a family business which is flourishing nicely till the Black Sheep (refer to point four) decides to enter into it.Then,it all goes downhill and while Black Sheep goes baa-ing all over the place,the rest of the characters tear their carefully set hair in anguish.

A soap opera house is not a house.It is Buckingham Palace’s grandfather.Their houses are big enough to conduct two large scale weddings simultaneously.I always wonder,who the hell manages to keep it so spick and span at all times?The poor servants of the gargantuan household receive no mention other than being summoned to hear an earful from the Vamp.Ramu kaka is the eternal name for any servant of the house.He is almost always old,hobbling,has an unmarried daughter and a wayward drunk for a son.The Type One bahu is the one who usually bails him out.

Most of the female characters never work in any soap opera.I never did understand why.

The older characters are medical miracles.For instance,the reigning Ba of a popular serial lived for almost five hundred years.They just simply refuse to die.The rest of the soap keeps on taking generation leaps by leaps and bounds;other characters get replaced;new faces come in and they too leave after the next leap but our in house Dadaji and Dadiji stay put.They should be taken in by our cricket team.Abhi to boht centuries baaki hai mere dost.It is as if our soap opera makers have discovered some sort of a herb or tonic which preserves youth.That explains why even after the children of the lead pair have grown up and have kids of their own who in turn grow up,the parents and grandparents still look Just Married.

God save us all from these soaps.I am switching to bodywashes.

>Short story-Forty Minutes(fiction)

>
It was probably the worst day of the businessman’s life.A very lucrative deal had just slipped from his fingers,he had been told by his boss to “rethink” his options before coming to office again and the icing on the cake was the divorce petition filed by his wife,who had had enough of his erratic schedules and high handedness.
So here he was,clearing out his office,muttering profanities every now and then.A chance reflection in the mirror re-acquainted him with himself.A haggard looking,tired thirty seven year old man,with severely depleting hair,an impending divorce and an uncertain future.
It was fairly late at night when he staggered into the parking lot.There it was,a shiny black Honda City.His baby.He remembered loving it more than his own kid.The thought of losing his only child cut through his heart like a bullet through butter.Misfortunes,as they say,come uninvited and in large numbers.His baby wouldn’t start,no matter how hard he tried.Frustrated beyond belief,he aimed a well delivered kick at the car and started walking towards the exit.The nearest bus stop was about half a kilometer away.As he walked,the businessman thought about his life.
* * * * * *
“Please,one more time grandpa,”cried the excited child.His grandfather,an old wizened man smiled wearily,creasing the sides of his mouth.This was the child’s first trip to the local fair,and he had been excited about the prospect all week long.It was his seventh birthday today and his grandfather wanted to spare no expenses to make it memorable for him.
“No baba,you’ve been on this ride enough number of times.It’s getting late now,we may miss our bus home.” The child gingerly stepped out of the hanging car and grabbed his crutches.The right leg was alright,the left had been smashed by a drunk driver last year and when gangrene set in,the government doctor had chopped the leg from the knee joint.The duo started walking slowly,the grandfather stooping and wheezing breaths in between,the child hobbling but smiling throughout.They did not have much,a small stone hut,a few kind neighbors around and the paltry pension of the grandfather.But they did have one thing beyond any measure.And that was love.
* * * * * *
The businessman cursed all the gods he knew as he sat in the dingy bus,now thankfully devoid of crowds.Just a few people,a college girl chewing gum,two worn out budding musicians,the conductor and a middle aged man.The businessman’s thoughts were entirely on the divorce proceedings which would commence two days hence.At this conjecture,he wanted to have total custody of his son.He was so lost in his thoughts he did not even notice when the bus stopped to pick up new passengers.When he finally decided his rebuttal in court and some of the smugness returned to his face,he looked at the two new faces seated across him.
Like all people,his eyes strayed to the crutches and then to the empty socket where the leg should have been.”Poor kid,what a wretched life,”thought he and looked out of the window.A marriage procession was going along the opposite side of the road.The businessman gazed at the happy revelers, the bursting crackers and the radiating face of the bridegroom.He wanted to shout out,”Don’t.Don’t get married.It’s all a great big lie.” But something held him back.Swirling memories of his own wedding came back to him and he hastily withdrew his eyes from the street.The grandfather smiled at him.He managed a half smile.The child,eyes glistening like diamonds smiled next.The businessman got tired of smiling.He was about to gaze at the street again when he felt the touch of a small hand in his.The child had extended his hand with a small candy,like the ones found in fairs.
“It’s my birthday today.We’re returning from the fair now.My first visit.”
The candy was duly accepted with a startled thanks.As he ate it,he thought of the umpteen times his son had come up to him with the hope of receiving a hopeful word of praise,a hug or simply a look of love.His heart ached for his son now,but it was too late for anything.He glanced at his watch.Twenty minutes till home.The child turned to the grandfather.
“Dada,for my next birthday,I want to go to that fancy city mall and watch a movie.Will you take me?” This brought forth a sad knowing sigh from the old man.He patted the child reassuringly and silently wiped a tear from his eyes.Next year was too far away,he did not know how they would survive the next week.He’d spent a considerable amount on taking his grandson to the fair and treating him to a few delicacies.The kid deserved a good birthday,at least.But now,they were close to broke.Maybe Ramlal would lend them some money to last the week.Earlier,the thought of asking for monetary help from neighbors would have been an anathema to the old man,but now,basic necessities had upstaged pride.The child continued his banter about how wonderful the fair was and gleefully recounted how he won himself a blue teddy bear by throwing hoops.The businessman glanced at the teddy bear clutched tightly in the boy’s hands.His heart gave another mighty tug as memories flooded through him.He never had time for his little boy.All his time was spent in the office,creating meaningless presentations he did not believe in to impress people he did not care about.Money does strange things to people,and in his case,it made him completely deaf and blind to his family.True,he had a hefty bank balance,almost as fat as his waist circumference but he no longer recognized his wife and son.They were simply persona non grata.He had everything,yet nothing.The old man and his grandson had nothing,yet they were richer than he ever would be.
* * * * * * *
The bus stopped.The girl and the musicians got down.A sudden bout of coughing engulfed the old man and left him gasping for breath as he recovered.The child,just about to drink the last of water from his bottle,stopped and handed it over to his grandfather.The old man drank the water and patted the child on his head,who promptly leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.Their eyes met,a smile of contentment reached their hearts.The bus stopped once more.The two got up slowly and went up to the door.As an afterthought,the child turned to the businessman and waved with his little brown arm and got off the bus.
A warm glow,unlike anything the businessman had ever felt before,slowly made its way from his heart to his face.A beatific smile lit his face as he suddenly understood what he had to do.An old man and a little boy on a bus had taught him one of life’s most important lessons in a matter of forty minutes,something that years of therapy had failed to do.As he leaned on his arm,letting the cool night air breeze by,he felt a dead weight fall off his chest.The bus jerked to a stop.As he got down,the businessman had made a decision.He walked towards his house with a light step and a light heart.

Short story-Forty Minutes(fiction)

It was probably the worst day of the businessman’s life.A very lucrative deal had just slipped from his fingers,he had been told by his boss to “rethink” his options before coming to office again and the icing on the cake was the divorce petition filed by his wife,who had had enough of his erratic schedules and high handedness.

So here he was,clearing out his office,muttering profanities every now and then.A chance reflection in the mirror re-acquainted him with himself.A haggard looking,tired thirty seven year old man,with severely depleting hair,an impending divorce and an uncertain future.

It was fairly late at night when he staggered into the parking lot.There it was,a shiny black Honda City.His baby.He remembered loving it more than his own kid.The thought of losing his only child cut through his heart like a bullet through butter.Misfortunes,as they say,come uninvited and in large numbers.His baby wouldn’t start,no matter how hard he tried.Frustrated beyond belief,he aimed a well delivered kick at the car and started walking towards the exit.The nearest bus stop was about half a kilometer away.As he walked,the businessman thought about his life.

                                                                  * * * * * *

“Please,one more time grandpa,”cried the excited child.His grandfather,an old wizened man smiled wearily,creasing the sides of his mouth.This was the child’s first trip to the local fair,and he had been excited about the prospect all week long.It was his seventh birthday today and his grandfather wanted to spare no expenses to make it memorable for him.

“No baba,you’ve been on this ride enough number of times.It’s getting late now,we may miss our bus home.” The child gingerly stepped out of the hanging car and grabbed his crutches.The right leg was alright,the left had been smashed by a drunk driver last year and when gangrene set in,the government doctor had chopped the leg from the knee joint.The duo started walking slowly,the grandfather stooping and wheezing breaths in between,the child hobbling but smiling throughout.They did not have much,a small stone hut,a few kind neighbors around and the paltry pension of the grandfather.But they did have one thing beyond any measure.And that was love.

                                                                  * * * * * *

The businessman cursed all the gods he knew as he sat in the dingy bus,now thankfully devoid of crowds.Just a few people,a college girl chewing gum,two worn out budding musicians,the conductor and a middle aged man.The businessman’s thoughts were entirely on the divorce proceedings which would commence two days hence.At this conjecture,he wanted to have total custody of his son.He was so lost in his thoughts he did not even notice when the bus stopped to pick up new passengers.When he finally decided his rebuttal in court and some of the smugness returned to his face,he looked at the two new faces seated across him.

Like all people,his eyes strayed to the crutches and then to the empty socket where the leg should have been.”Poor kid,what a wretched life,”thought he and looked out of the window.A marriage procession was going along the opposite side of the road.The businessman gazed at the happy revelers, the bursting crackers and the radiating face of the bridegroom.He wanted to shout out,”Don’t.Don’t get married.It’s all a great big lie.” But something held him back.Swirling memories of his own wedding came back to him and he hastily withdrew his eyes from the street.The grandfather smiled at him.He managed a half smile.The child,eyes glistening like diamonds smiled next.The businessman got tired of smiling.He was about to gaze at the street again when he felt the touch of a small hand in his.The child had extended his hand with a small candy,like the ones found in fairs.

“It’s my birthday today.We’re returning from the fair now.My first visit.”

The candy was duly accepted with a startled thanks.As he ate it,he thought of the umpteen times his son had come up to him with the hope of receiving a hopeful word of praise,a hug or simply a look of love.His heart ached for his son now,but it was too late for anything.He glanced at his watch.Twenty minutes till home.The child turned to the grandfather.

“Dada,for my next birthday,I want to go to that fancy city mall and watch a movie.Will you take me?” This brought forth a sad knowing sigh from the old man.He patted the child reassuringly and silently wiped a tear from his eyes.Next year was too far away,he did not know how they would survive the next week.He’d spent a considerable amount on taking his grandson to the fair and treating him to a few delicacies.The kid deserved a good birthday,at least.But now,they were close to broke.Maybe Ramlal would lend them some money to last the week.Earlier,the thought of asking for monetary help from neighbors would have been an anathema to the old man,but now,basic necessities had upstaged pride.The child continued his banter about how wonderful the fair was and gleefully recounted how he won himself a blue teddy bear by throwing hoops.The businessman glanced at the teddy bear clutched tightly in the boy’s hands.His heart gave another mighty tug as memories flooded through him.He never had time for his little boy.All his time was spent in the office,creating meaningless presentations he did not believe in to impress people he did not care about.Money does strange things to people,and in his case,it made him completely deaf and blind to his family.True,he had a hefty bank balance,almost as fat as his waist circumference but he no longer recognized his wife and son.They were simply persona non grata.He had everything,yet nothing.The old man and his grandson had nothing,yet they were richer than he ever would be.

                                                  * * * * * * *

The bus stopped.The girl and the musicians got down.A sudden bout of coughing engulfed the old man and left him gasping for breath as he recovered.The child,just about to drink the last of water from his bottle,stopped and handed it over to his grandfather.The old man drank the water and patted the child on his head,who promptly leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.Their eyes met,a smile of contentment reached their hearts.The bus stopped once more.The two got up slowly and went up to the door.As an afterthought,the child turned to the businessman and waved with his little brown arm and got off the bus.

A warm glow,unlike anything the businessman had ever felt before,slowly made its way from his heart to his face.A beatific smile lit his face as he suddenly understood what he had to do.An old man and a little boy on a bus had taught him one of life’s most important lessons in a matter of forty minutes,something that years of therapy had failed to do.As he leaned on his arm,letting the cool night air breeze by,he felt a dead weight fall off his chest.The bus jerked to a stop.As he got down,the businessman had made a decision.He walked towards his house with a light step and a light heart.