Short Story Archive for Emotions:

GYM – Three 55 Word Micro

*Image from wiki

GYM
I

His relentless feet pounded the treadmill punishingly. Readings on monitors flashed bells and whistles.  He sweated profusely.  Then, he slumped over and his life oozed out.
The policy confirmed her worst fears.  His love and latest medical report must’ve driven him to extreme measures to extricate them from debt and her blood turned frigid.

II

The gym director referred Peter as coach for elimination round in gymnastics.
Kelly looked forward to a good workout arriving early.  Peter was reading a book inside.

Involuntarily his eyes rose and he saw her.  Time stood still.
Their past life flashed by as they skated together in the Olympics’ arena.
She had come home.

III

The plying hands on her painful joints were soothing and she fell asleep.
Her belongings hung behind the massage table.  She was oblivious.

The lines were long.  Finally, heart pounding, the desperate mother
purchased lifesaving drugs and left the pharmacy hurriedly.
Shaking hands put back the credit card in the designer handbag on the wall.

Sepia Memories -Revisited

If there were some recourse,
I would take it. A cupful of
grains in my open hand,
a smoothing out,
finding the impurities,

and then removing them
piece by piece. And then,
to be satisfied with
what remains
-Simple Recipes, Madeleine Thien

**

Sepia memories

Swatches of memories
Knock in snatches
Taking by hand
To the places where
It all began

Past’s faded sepia footprints
Heaving on waves of time
Skinny childish legs
Gurgling on wide shoulders
Abiding love, secured

Ebony balustrade
Edging a coiled snake
Staircase aspiring to hit
The roof linking houses back to back
Army of crumbling warriors

Gossiping mynahs with hennaed hair
And hands winnowing grains and
Chatter, flinging in air dramatically
Between cupping warmth basking
In fierce rays of winter’s sun

Stealthy moves behind closed
Doors, juicy tidbits spicing
Steaming aromatic cups
Of “kahwa” saffron tea
With whiff of almonds

Terrace air redolent with rich aroma
Enough to nourish off it rising from
Mouthwatering pickles bound in wide
Mouthed jar bellies simmering in sun

Pitter patter of hide and seek feet
Chasing each other amidst raucous full
Throated laughter, loud screams escaping
Worry free childhood, full of dreams

Jumping off high ledges, scrambling
Up and down tree trunks laden with tart
Raw mango booty, exciting kaleidoscope
Of rich escapades, skinned knees, torn dresses

Somber images of death vigils, funeral pyres
Sheltering in basement with aunts, mom
Amidst sounds of warplanes, siren blasts
in pitch black darkness, hearts
Leaping in mantra chanting mouths

Endless journeys in long anaconda trains
Whistling past in dead of night with firm
Deep olive green berths, perched on upper
Seats dunking homemade biscuits in sweet tea
Steaming in clay cups sold by station tea stalls

Crowds everywhere crowding everything in sight
A sea of colored saris ethnic clothes, shimmering
Gold jewelry and tinkling anklets, bracelets
Trunks, bedrolls, clay goose necked water jars
Monkeys, pealing bells, chants from temples

Swatches of memories
Knock in snatches
Taking by hand
To the places where
It all began

**Kahwa: Kashmir Green tea brewed with spices, saffron and almonds

Secrets in Safe

Secrets in Safe

Bunty, Goldie and Raja, aka the triad sat staring at the safe they had just unloaded from the van as if it were a cobra!  They had never done anything illegal before but in this case the cause justified the means.  

They were all headed back to India during summer break and by a mere fluke they had been privy to a cryptic text message on a fellow passenger’s cell phone.  They had quickly noted down all the info and had decided to investigate upon landing.

Raja’s dad was a bigwig in the airline’s corporate staff.  Through his aegis they acquired full data with copy of fellow passenger’s passport.  Their job had been made easy by this information.  The safe’s secret had to be unlocked to get to heart of the matter.  Excitement tinged with fear was palpable.

Raja was tall and reedy in structure with a prominent adam’s apple but due to his dark liquid eyes, all the girls shamelessly gave him chase in the college campus.  He was shy to boot.

Bunty and Goldie were the extreme opposites and were constantly riding love’s seesaw on an off and on basis.  Bunty was of rugged build, fair and tall and had a wonderful voice.  Hence he too was much sought after. 

Goldie was the nerd of the triad and hence kept them afloat in studies singlehandedly.    Goldie was hooked on workouts, if not busy solving difficult problems.  He spent half of his free time tackling weights.  His body was like a Greek God’s and hence cynosure of many eyes of both genders.

The passport revealed the name of the passenger to be Salim Malik.  The message had come from a girl named Ameena Begum.  On further research they were able to locate the whereabouts of Ameena.  They had to find the alleged safe quickly to get to the bottom of this plot.  Here they faced a stone wall.  They went into a huddle to solve this issue.

Fortunately everyone was from Mumbai which made things much easier.  They solicited aid from   local police station officer (SHO) who thought if this yields some crime in the making, he would make headlines and hence helped them with all means at his disposal.    With inside information from the cell phone service provider they had nailed down the exact location of the house and hence the safe.   The police usually made the rounds in the riot prone areas and hence their SHO with help from his Mohamed Ali road counterpart, effected a raid on Ameena’s house.

Ameena’s father Abbas Baig was a cab driver and father of five girls.  Ameena’s mother Samina Begum was deathly scared of her bully husband and did his bidding.  Hence the children suffered without respite being girls.  The SHO had seen the dilapidated safe hidden in a small alcove in the backroom wall covered by a dirty curtain.  He told the triad that now it was up to them to retrieve, open and put back without anyone the wiser.

The trio rejected the numerous invites from local friends and relations and went into a huddle.   A series of festivals were imminent and the streets would be teeming with processions and an odd blast here and there to create communal disharmony.  Keeping all this in mind, they designed a harmless noisemaker as a diversion and planted it near Ameena’s house.  As everyone ran out, they ran in and retrieved the safe.  

Finally the SHO with expert help pried open the safe and it yielded three neat dollar bundles along with passports of Ameena, Samira and Aamna the three older girls aged 17,16 and 15 years.  All had Saudi Arabia visa stamps in them.  Apparently the girls were being sold to rich Saudi sheikhs.  They were all shook up to confront this human trafficking by a parent.  Now they wondered how Salim Malik their plane’s co-passenger fit in here.  They decided to visit him.

The SHO explained the whole situation to Salim and then he told them of his own heartache.  He was in love with Ameena from childhood but knew her abba (dad) was bent upon encashing all his daughters and had forbidden them from meeting.  They were only able to meet near their school or the mosque at given times.  They communicated via a note they left under a designated stone at a nearby park.  About two years ago Salim had gone to USA on scholarship and had been saving money to buy off Ameena from her Abba.  The information about safe and other details were messaged to Salim by a desperate Ameena who was scheduled to be married within the fortnight to a Saudi Sheikh along with her two younger sisters who had brokered a deal for all three of them paying handsomely to cab driver Abbas Baig, their father.   Now all the pieces fell in place.  The girls were under age and hence this was an illegal trade.  

The SHO openly returned the safe back to Ameena’s house even as the camera’s from all news channels rolled in live action.  Abbas Baig was arrested and all the girls were rescued.  Ameena and Salim Malik were married by the mosque priest and rest of the girls along with their mother were whisked off to a new neighborhood under different names with relevant paper work, ration card etc…  With Salim’s permission, Ameena sent money to her mother each month to meet all the expenses.   No one missed cruel Abbas Baig.

**

Ten years later

Raja, Goldie and Bunty as preplanned inaugurated their brand new NGO called Safe Haven meant for all homeless, abused and society’s pariahs seeking care and shelter.

The Third Eye

The shy blushing bundle was carried in with fanfare.  Finally Sheila Rani Kher had found a bride for lame son Raju who had been afflicted by polio since childhood.  Sheila was actually the great aunt of the bride.  Maya, the newlywed had just lost her parents in a rock fall during a pilgrimage to the family shrine in lower Himalayas.  She was barely sixteen and lack of dowry had brought her to this impasse.  Maya was still under shock and had performed marriage rituals in dumb misery.  Apathetically she curled up on the nuptial bed adorned with rose petals.  Her extremely fair hands and feet were covered with intricate traditional henna designs.  Maya was wearing a ruby red salwar suit (harem pants and top) and her dupatta (scarf) was laced with tiny gold bells studded with gold lace stars.  On her forehead a gold Tikka glittered (forehead ornament) hung by pearls string from her hair.   Her anklets and bracelets made tinkling sounds each time she fidgeted. She had a black and gold bead necklace called mangalsutra around her neck which was the symbol of a marriage.  She was a sumptuous feast wrapped up in gold and rubies.  She waited for her husband with heart in mouth.   

Distant beat of drums could still be heard as women relatives continued their song and dance.   All the men were hung over on country liquor and sounds of puking could be heard sporadically. Sheila had a haranguing tongue that kept husband and son in check and now she was letting loose choice epithets as she and others were forced to clean up after the men.  Still Sheila was very happy as she longed to become a grand-mother. 

Raju was slim, of medium height, fair complexion, high cheekbones, a perfect nose and chiseled lips.  A small neat moustache formed a great base for his twinkling kindly eyes.  His dependency on a cane had not soured him and he thanked god for a wonderful mother.  She massaged his limbs daily and tied a fresh amulet on his arm every other week and fed him his favorite dishes.  He was aware of her mixing various herbs in his food.  He still ate everything knowing it was for his betterment.  The latest concoction had been the flesh of a cactus which an itinerant monk had given to her to enhance Raju’s manliness and strengthen his limbs.  Raju hated the taste but grudgingly ate it as he had implicit faith in his mom’s love.  Raju had a pet mule “Shera” who helped carry him over mountain passes.  He travelled into satellite towns to purchase goods for the family’s dry grocery store when inventory ran low.  This also gave him news of their community, district and state.   Raju had a fine brain and with the help of a kindly headmaster had obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics.  Now he taught English and math in junior classes and was happy with his lot.  He had been bulldozed into this marriage by his pushy mother against his will.  Thus, he entered his bedroom with equal trepidation as his bride. 

Raju and Maya had met briefly at family gatherings only.  Maya was still wallowing in misery and was scared for her future.  She was however savvy about birds and bees as her mother had prepared her well, tutoring her to expertly fend off straying hands and other mauling.  She always carried a tiny dagger on her person.  It was a family heirloom and very ancient.  One peculiar thing about Maya’s mother’s family had been that it was a family of seers and often a child was born with a third eye.  In olden times people ostracized them due to ignorance but these days they were respected and much sought after.

Per umpteen movie scenes of first wedding night, Raju removed the veil covering Maya face and spoke to her very gently.  Listening to his kind tone, Maya lost a bit of her fear and paid closer attention to his words.  He said “First and foremost I wish to express my grief over the loss of your parents.  Rest assured I will not make any demands on you until unless you yourself are willing and ready.  In the interim we can become good friends and understand one another.  Also please do not fear mother even though she is like a prickly pear.  She has a heart of gold.”  Hearing this, Maya’s worries vanished.  Time has a way of passing and it was two years already since Raju and Maya had married.  Now they had become fast friends and Maya was ready for a family.  Raju felt great joy at his chance of happiness finally as he loved kids and longed to be a dad.  Maya had come to love and respect Raju and his parents who had been extremely patient with her.  Maya was not a shirker and helped Sheila in tending home and caring for the cows and kitchen garden.    In nine months Maya presented the family with twins, a boy and girl.  They named them Suraj and Tara after sun and star. 

The kids grew like weeds.  Suraj was a handful whereas Tara was placid.  From early on family tiptoed around her.  They felt her quiet power as though some goddess had reincarnated in their home and treated her with deference.  Tara was born with the third eye and often in sleep she started making predictions that always came true.  Be it the rainfall or lack of it, a birth, death, windfall et al.  Soon whole town clamored after her but she only spoke in sleep state.  Maya protected her daughter fiercely.   She knew well that such a gift could be a curse too.

Tara was very fond of her brother and always covered up for him.  Suraj too loved her very much and even though she was his twin he looked up to her. 

Suraj was playing ball with his friends after school when one of the volleys’s overshot and landed in the bushes.  The kids ran to retrieve it.  By sheer bad luck Suraj got bitten by a cobra that was nesting there.   The quick thinking kids spat out the venom by biting into his leg.  Poison was spreading fast.  Two of them ran to fetch help.   

Suraj’s vitals had become feeble.  The local doctor was trying his best.  The family sat praying non-stop.  Then Tara came running and put her hand on her brother’s forehead.  She started swaying and chanting in a strange ancient tongue.  The venom started transferring from Suraj’s veins into Tara’s.  Suraj stabilized and Tara fell into a deep swoon. 

A week before Tara had had a vision and knew Suraj had a short life span.  She chanted non-stop for two days before the deity appeared.  They had made a pact.  The twins would now each live to fifty and not a day more.  Tara had happily given up half her life span for Suraj.  No one knew about this pact.     

Word count: 1168

note: Third eye means clairvoyance in the Hindu religion 

picture from internet

Twenty Word Story

Memory Album

faded

blue

eyes

dusted

family

album

with

care

pressed

flower

corsage

caressed

lifetime

 of

sepia

memories

with

spider

veined

hands.

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