Autofocus

Daddy I need to pee. Little hands tugged at the man.

Stop shaking me. I’m trying to focus here.

But I need to pee. Badly.

Why didn’t you go before we left?

I did. It’s coming again.

I shouldn’t have got you that soda. Next time you’re wearing a diaper.

I’m too old for diapers.

Ya. Then your old enough to hold it in.

The cars zip by. The little boy hobs from foot to foot. The man waits for the perfect composition.

Please daddy. A silent whimper.

Focus. The camera captures the perfect picture.

It misses the flowing tears.


In response to Bikurgurl’s 100 Word Wednesday: Week 97 challenge, based on a photo by Sebastien Gabriel.

Don’t call… Even a text would do…

Call me when you reach.

Those were my explicit instructions to him as I dropped him off at the airport. Of course I know my kid well enough to know that he would never call. For some reason he hates phone calls. (Perhaps that reason is me. Can hating phone calls be hereditary?)

What I did expect were a few WhatsApp messages.

It’s the first time that he’s left the country alone. Well traveling with a bunch of strangers escorted by some professor who I don’t know, is still classified as travelling alone in my book of parenting. Expecting a few updates is not too unreasonable, right?

Wrong.

Here is what I get…

Day 1: I’m here. The wifi sucks.

Day 2: Still alive.

Night 3: All in good time.

The last being in response to my barrage of messages (3 actually) asking how his day went.

He’s coming back on Day 8. By then I would have probably exited WhatsApp just to keep my phone safe.

I’m tempted to play the sentiment card and ask questions like – What if Manado is hit by an earthquake or a tsunami? How will I know of your welfare? But I shan’t. Knowing him, the response would probably be – Don’t worry, you will hear about it on the news. He can be very infuriating that way.

His father worries too. But he has a silver lining he hangs on to at moments like this. ‘You know he gets his attitude from you‘ he annoyingly provokes. I don’t understand the man. After twenty three years of marriage who doesn’t learn that it is unwise to prod a simmering lioness!

In response to Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt – call.

The circle of life

I am a man of the soil, a farmer.
Wide open fields of lush green or honey brown, paths of mud and stiles, trees, grass, the song of birds and the gurgle of the stream, this is my world. Waking up to greet the dawn, toiling all day until I earn my rest, and then finally relaxing to the music of the insects as they dance with the winds. This is my day.

Not for me are the constraints and confines of city housing.

Yet I sit here today, in a compact apartment, overlooking another apartment, my closest link to the earth being a few potted plants, with a content smile on my lips.

It is the way of nature…

A man feels great satisfaction the day he builds his own home, but he feels even greater pride the day he steps into his son’s home.


Photo by Shivamt25

In response to the 132nd Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge.

He’s cast a spell on me

He’s cast a spell on me, and now I’m his for life. Wholly and completely dedicated to him, I’m at his beck and call.

There was a time when I didn’t believe in spells either. But sometimes I sit back and reflect upon my own behaviour, and I am so embarrassed to admit it, but all the signs are there.
When the morning alarm rings, and the choice between jumping out of bed with a spring in your step, or hitting the snooze button, is dictated not by how soundly you’ve slept but by whether lunch needs to be packed, right there you can tell that somethings not quite right.
If a single cry of pain or a simple tear can have a more debilitating effect on you than eight hours of slogging in an office or a burning high fever, that’s another sign that something is amiss.
The day a pout or a frantic flapping of hands becomes more persuasive than a logical treatise, you know you’re in trouble.
And most certainly, after waiting on someone hand and foot (with little acknowledgement and even less appreciation), if you find that instead of your self-worth being undermined, you instead feel a surge of satisfaction and pride, then that is conclusive proof that you are under a spell.

I am an educated, independent, self-aware woman. This kind of illogical selflessness, subservience, emotional unreasonableness, should simply not be possible. So, as the wise Mr. Sherlock Holmes said, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Most definitely I am under his spell.

Not any ordinary spell. I fear I’m in his thrall.

But spells can be broken, can’t they? Maybe graduation, moving out, getting married, having his own family, or some such even will undo it? Maybe!

And then I think back to the last call for help I made to my own mother, and how she dropped everything to come to my aid, and I realise – Nah. Some spells cannot be broken.

socsbadge2016-17

Written for Saturday Stream of Consciousness word prompt –spell

The photograph

100WW

The man knew this would make the perfect picture.

Rays from a violet sky slithered over gentle mountains to dance delicately across the azure lake. A charming colonial lighthouse adorned the foreground.

Recalling the rule of thirds, he shifted his camera. Nah, the trees took up too much frame. Zoom in. His parents were setting up their picnic on the little bench. Why was his son standing alone? The boy was a mystery.

Anyway, back to selecting the viewpoint.

*

Why choose a viewpoint rather than be the view, the boy wondered. In a quest to freeze a moment of life, why forget to live it!

 


In response to Bikurgurl’s photo prompt for 100 Word Wednesday, Week 15

Goodnight

The silence is a relief. I let myself in and head straight for her room. Maybe, with him away we could have a proper sit-down dinner.

The light above the dresser draws my eye to the partially eaten pizza and open wine. She’s half slumped across the bed, one hand dramatically reaching for something. Her glass perhaps! I pull off her slippers, climb onto the bed, and drag up one leg after another. She mumbles, but is out cold soon. A gauche lipstick smudge mars her face. The pictures on the wall bear testament that she was once pretty, but years of drinking have robbed her of her youth.

“Goodnight mama,” I whisper, making my way to the cold pizza.


In response to: Friday Fictioneers, 14 April 2017
Image by: Dale Rogerson

A man and his need for transport

A man needs transport.

Be it to run errands, visit friends, or go to work. Carpooling or taking the bus is all very good, but there are distinct advantages to having you own transport.

The man at home is rather snappy of late. I’m not sure if it is the age or the stress of everyday life. I just keep telling myself – this too shall pass.
Often arguments get heated, ultimatums are issued, doors slammed. On such occasions the man’s ego requires him to ‘leave this house’ in a blaze of dust and glory.
For this personal transport is crucial.

And since ‘down the block’ is the farthest that a ten year old man needs to go, a bicycle is perfect.

Written for Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers challenge, based on photo prompt by Jellico’s Stationhouse

Making friends at the farm

I stare with dismay at my morose 7 year old sitting by the fence, headphones obstinately embedded in his ears, oblivious to the beauty around him.

Anne’s excited squeals as she helps milk the cows assure me that visiting a farm was a good idea. But Adam…

Suddenly he unleashes a panicked scream.

He’s staring towards the pen at his headphones which are hanging from a calf’s mouth! The young one had obviously sneaked up on Adam and yanked them off.

Now both of them were in some kind of standoff.

Adam cautiously reached forward, but the calf start nodding vigorously and Adam beat a hasty retreat.

Few minutes pass.

Adam makes another attempt. This time the prize is dropped and a hoof placed over it.

Predicament.

Hesitation.

A hand is warily extended.

This time it is met by a wet nose.

Retreat.

Retry.

Wet nose again.

And now something wondrous happens. Gamut of expressions pass over Adam’s face – surprise, excitement, shock, curiosity, glee.

He steps forward and starts stroking the calf’s nose and head.

The headphones are forgotten.

 


In response to Flash fiction for aspiring writers with photo prompt by MajesticGoldenRose

The Very Real Big Foot Problem

He hates shopping. Most of all he hates shoe shopping. He takes exception to the fact that they don’t have “white canvas school shoes” in his size. A year back it was ‘difficult’ but now that he’s a size 12 it’s become ‘impossible’.
The school regulations state white canvas Bata shoes. Bata state that their school shoes only go up to size 10. Predicament.

When did he get so big? I still have his first pair of booties, tiny little things, barely the length of my middle finger, and believe me I don’t have a long slender artistic finger. I stand tall at five feet nothing and my stubby fingers are commiserate with my size. Even when he became my big boy and started school, his shoes were the size of my palm. Then for the longest of time they were just a hand span. O, by the way, if you are marveling at my memory, then don’t. I actually have a little collection of his shoes boxed carefully in the attic. When it comes to baby shoe memorabilia, call me Mama Marcos. Now even I know that displaying them out would be too much, but knowing that when the bird has flown and the nest is empty, I can always visit the shoes, is great solace. Except for the very comfortable grade 7 shoes, I actually used them for my morning walks. Being sentimental does not mean one isn’t thrifty. During the Model United Nations in grade 9, he looked so handsome squeezed into his father’s formal shoes.
But then something inexplicable happened and by grade 10 he was Big Foot.

The patriarch Mr Knowitall attributes it to the Crocs that encouraged the feet to expand unfettered. Had we known what we now know back then, we could have bound his feet and kept them tiny. But the young man doesn’t agree. It is his opinion that after being suffocated all day, his sensitive feet need the breather that the Crocs afford them. As owner of aforementioned feet, he gets to take the final call.

We are all still staring at said huge feet when he turns towards me and whines, “Why mum? Why do I have such abnormally large feet? It’s not fair.” In that instant there is no mistaking him for anything but the boy that he is, the boy who has my heart firmly tucked in his tiny pocket.
Don’t worry baby. Adidas will surely have your size.

To market…To market…To buy a big shoe…

bigshoes

image source http://www.adweek.com/fishbowldc/files/2011/08/bigshoes.jpg


Tiny

Dusk melts to Dawn

As I kick off my shoes in the foyer and wander into the house, my conscience slowly awoke to the strains of Ustad Vilayat Khan. I closed my eyes and stood still, soaking the melody in through my every pore. Raag Malhar with tabla in teental. Nothing more beautiful that the Aftab-e-sitar and Sampta Prasad playing together.
Suddenly the harsh clicking of heels on marble shreds apart the musicality and mother’s high pitch voice jarres me out of my cocoon, “O darling! You’re late. Come on, you need to take a really quick shower and get ready.”

It is only now that I notice – the fragrance of fresh flowers on the sideboard, the humongous flower basket on the obscene garish table that she had insisted on buying at some art exhibition, the buzz of the staff rushing around. The dining table is dressed in a lace tablecloth and the 24-carat gold lined crockery and antique cutlery has been brought out. Those plates terrify me. I keep imagining that someday I will place the spoon down too hard and crack it and that will put mother into one of her infamous ‘moods’ and no one likes her infamous moods, especially not the perpetrator of the crime.

The menu is elaborate with the entrées taking up half the table. Koftas, shami kobabs, golden fried prawns, baby corn fritters, paneer skewers, vegetable tikkas. The main course will arrive after the guests. I can already smell the biryani and tandoori chicken. The curtains have been pulled apart, the french door leading out into the garden thrown open, and the evening sunlight is glittering off mother’s red and gold kanjeevaram silk saree. Even as she stares at me, I focus on the big red bindi on her forehead, the thick kohl rimmed around her eyes, making them appear even larger. Her bangles jingle as she waves me upstairs.

“Whats going on?” I ask her.
“We are having a party son. It’s to celebrate your admission into the country’s premier school of technology. Your father is so proud. He’s invited everybody – our friends from the club, neighbours, his colleagues, and relatives. Go on. I’ve laid your clothes out on your bed.”
None of my friends, I observe. But I say nothing. It is not my opinion that is solicited, merely my presence.

I mount the 32 steps up to my room with an increasing sense of horror. It’s going to be another family circus where he’s going to show off his prized puppet. On my bed I find a new suit in midnight blue raw silk and a crisp white linen shirt. I don’t know where she bought it, I don’t even care, but I also know that very soon we are all going to hear about the thieving sod who designed it and the small fortune that she paid for it.

I don’t know how long I stand there, counting the weaves on it, but when Sally our housekeeper walks in, the room is pitch dark. “Baba, are you here? O baba! Why are you still not dressed? Sir is calling you down urgently. All the guests have arrived. You know how he gets when anyone is late. Please baba.”

Once dressed, I tread slowly down the stairs. The party is in progress and the air is already oppressive with the heat and smell of bodies and food. Discordant chatter, rambunctious laughter and the clanging of spoons have eclipsed the music. I know that I need to shake off this strange fog that I am in and become my happy, fun-loving self again, I need to smile and breathe. Yes, that’s it. Smile and breathe. I try to set my face into a cordial expression; a slight smile, not too much so as to look fake, but not so little that they see the dread and confusion that I am feeling inside.

Mrs. Nosy-parker notices me and lets out a loud shriek. Everybody turns to look at me. I move across the floor, robot-like, returning handshakes and politely accepting congratulations and thumps on the back and claps on the shoulder. I hear them talk about how they expected no less from the son of such a brilliant and successful technologist. The men heartily extended their compliments to my father. The women extoll on my mother’s hard work and sacrifices, of how this was all just the fruit of her prayers.
And while they all effuse compliments, I’m waiting. I’m waiting to feel good about myself. I’m waiting to feel proud that I fulfilled my parents’ dream. I’m waiting to feel like the champion that they tell me I am. I’m waiting to feel.

Do all these people really care; these people dressed in couture, who envy father’s wealth and covet mother’s jewellery and spite them both behind their backs? Does any of it really matter? Do I really care? It’s hard to explain, but somewhere inside there is a part of me desperate to get up and walk away, screaming to be set free.
I cannot bear to maintain this façade anymore. I make my way into the garden, away from the maddening crown, toward the serenity of nature. There is a leaking spout and I contemplate the sound of dripping water.
Slowly the truth sneaks up on me. Today, if I don’t gather the courage to do what I must do, then there is no tomorrow for me. I realise that with absolute certainty.

I sneak around the back way and go up to my room. With a mixed feeling of exhilaration and trepidation I turn my computer on and accept my admission to the K.H. Conservatory of Music.


Radical Authenticity