She killed the cat. With the creature gone, she wouldn't need to bother about hair all over her new cushions, scratch marks on the kitchen top and dead mice in the doorway. Her husband would inquire about Tubby. Feigning ignorance will not be hard. She had managed to get rid of four pets before this. King, the terrier, had been the hardest. She started poisoning his food at first, but the bastard was tough. One day, out of frustration, she increased the dosage tenfold. It ended with King exploding all over the kitchen. A hurried clean-up had not been enough when her husband found the dog's tongue on the faucet in the sink.
When Alice cut a slice of the fruit cake, she noticed something crawl through a plum and into the other side. She kept slicing till she cut the maggot in half. This was unacceptable. It was July, but she had taken such good care of her Christmas cake. Alan had told her he would be back in an hour. That was the twenty-sixth of December. "Save some cake for me." he joked as he walked out the gate. The clock on the wall had stopped ticking, and Alice knew not what the time was. She had a feeling it was a little too late.
Ravi was too hairy for his age. His classmates called him Dadu, which meant grandfather. His moustache had begun to sprout when he was seven. He didn't shave for a week that summer and it covered his lips like a flap. By the time he was ten, pubes had begun to appear. Now at eleven, his legs, hands, back and chest were covered with short, tight curls. Summers were the worst. His school uniform made a rustling sound in the morning and by the time it was ten, he would be a sweaty mess. That's why he never learnt swimming, but he was handy with a razor.
When I was ten, I stole a custard apple from a roadside vendor. My mother said she was ashamed of me, and that I might grow up to be a thief. This was two days after I told her I wanted to sell bread in the park that we were walking through. "Is this why we are sending you to such a good school?" The narrow cemented path through the field was chipped, and in ten years time it would disappear completely. My mother would die of throat cancer, and I would be working for a multi-national company selling stocks.
The only source of light was a tiny hole in the corner of the door. Through it a beam of sunlight came driving through. It lit up a thin tunnel of dust you could see clearly from out of the darkness. I could hear rats squeaking in the kitchen that mingled with the racket the crows were making outside my window. Eight thoughts raced through my head, only to be replaced by new ones instantly. I lay down on the couch, feeling the springs press into the back of my head. On any other day this would be uncomfortable. Today, I just stared at the cardboard patchwork on my ceiling. I was definitely stoned.
They called it the lung machine. I was, at that moment, thinking about Moby Dick resting peacefully under a whaler. The vessel, a little bigger than the creature's blowhole. "He's not breathing. We've put him on the ventilator." "For how long?" "We can't say." Two days I had spent in a pale blue waiting room that smelled of syringes, ointment and feet. The doctor's white coat had a stain near the name tag. I stared at it as she explained that his heart was too weak to pump blood. "You dropped something on your coat." "What...?" "I think its ketchup."
The knife sharpening man was back. He had a special horn on his bicycle that announced his arrival. It sounded like a cross between a fart and a cry. Three sharp bursts: that was the signal for the neighbourhood to bring out their knives, scissors and other sharp instruments that were going blunt. Sparks began to fly as he started pedaling. He would place a knife between two wheels, as the people around him would move back a little. Without a mask and his head bent low, the knife sharpener looked like orange sparks were flying out of his head.
The stream bed was sandy, and you could feel the grains move underneath. Sam said it felt like she was going to fall backwards. She commented on how the cows, from the other bank, never entered the water: "I think it's because the crows on their backs give them good advice." As the stream curved and we reached The Big House, the water began to get dirty. Balls of hair went floating by, some of them getting stuck to the marble stone jutting out of the water. The inscription already fading: "For Sam, who knew it all before The Stream..." I turned to look at her and she was nodding vigorously. "I did."
She put her hand in my pocket. Her cold index finger touched my thigh through a tiny hole. "You have absolutely no money?" It was going to be tough to get home, tonight. "We're going to hitch a ride." It was an unspoken rule: no hitchhiking back from The Smith. We got lucky with a pale green pick up truck. "Into town?" "Yeah." "Not a problem." Over that worn out highway, I decided to strike up a conversation. It turned out he sold Bibles for a living. Yes, it was surprising, but then he said they were all handwritten by him.