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Archive for the ‘short story’ Category

 

Some years ago in a village on the outskirts of a forest lived a poor family. He and his wife were childless. But their anxiety before it could turn into despair was soon over. One morning the folks saw the cut out of a stork on the garden patch festooned with pink ribbons. “It’s a girl!’ they said and folks soon dropped in to wish the proud parents for their good fortune.

The baby was as fine as any child born of sturdy parents with all the good features that sit well in an angel.

The girl had flaming red hair and she made all heads turn. When she became ten, her grandmother who lived in a mansion sent her a cape among so many other gifts that were costly. But the cape was special because she had stitched it herself and spoilt her eyes in the bargain. But it was worth it, she said when she next came visiting in her red cape.

The cape fit her so well she was called Red Riding Hood.

Some three years later she went visiting. Her grandmother lived far enough but Red Riding Hood adored the old woman who made so much fuss about her. Everytime. Besides the grandma lived in circumstances so different that it was a special treat. She could swim in specially heated pool and enjoy the comforts of a well stocked larder and above all love of her grandmother made it all forget the world outside.

Once she went with a custard she made for her and knocked at the door of her mansion. There was none but the grandma. Strangely enough she was invisible but for her overcoat. “ Red Riding Hood how well you look!”came the voice.

“ Thank you,” The girl was surprised to see her covered up. “What happened Grandma! You look a mess!”

“There was a break in.”

“Oh I am here. Let nothing worry you.” she said concerned.

“What have you got in your hand?”

“ Custard.” said Red Riding Hood handing her.

“Oh Grandma!” Your hand is hairy as of a man!”

“There was a break in.”

“But I don’t understand,” exclaimed the girl, “What has it got to do with your hand?”

“Where is the key to family safe?”

“Grandma you know it too well to ask.”

“ Oh Grandma you have a gun in your hands.”

“ Oh it is to shoot you with” said the voice, “and put the blame for the murder on you.”

( from French fairy tales by Charles Perrault)

benny

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You see me here, grown old and feeble. I have been squeezed dry as many who sit staring vacantly and my past keeps coming, recurring nightmare of the waking time.

In my time I was nurse and my oath ringing before me every time I took rounds. But routine takes away something from each and what have I in return? Nothing!

I was a nurse sent to care the old senile hags  in institutions where I worked. I worked to go higher and raise a family that shall be proud of me.

I was also young. I worked while my skin glowed and full twenty years made me curse my work every minute of it. None found me cross or less than my professional image I set for myself.  My smile and my teeth all well cared for made even a smile passed for truth. My body hygiene and appearance impressed my superiors.

Every day I signed the register and took my wards through their paces.  Did I enjoy it? To tell the truth, no Oh no.

I cursed the hags in their diapers. I ladled porridge spoonsful into their dead flaccid mouth wishing they would choke. But for the money that I made I would have thrown the whole filth I daily cleaned on the matron’s head. A battle-axe who never smiled at us nurses nor at the imbeciles whom we cared for. Oh when the director and trustees of the Bethesda Old Home came trooping in she smiled. As on cue we four nurses smiled and trooped the well fed starched straight-laced bible carrying Samaritans to their car. They earned the places in heaven and we kept our jobs.

It was not that we hated the old. Caring them was not of the same league as caring our mother or children. But tell me how long one can bring out her best under all provocations? The old who left under our care just didn’t care for our lot. For them time just stood still. Whereas we walked our line whether we fell short paying mortgage or could not afford an affordable education plan for our young. Our wards just sat in their wheelchair to be moved about and expected clean up the mess they left. OhI hated it. I do not regret it even for a moment. I stoically converted our frustration into work that was all.

As I am in this Home for the Aged do I care? Oh no. Now the nurse, a poison pill has her lipstick all wrong and hair  tucked in her cap,- she tells se is a Goth!, and she finds me as her millstone. I sit all day staring into TV and the nurse need not even see me twitch and squirm in pool of my own filth. She knows it by closed circuit beeps that warn her. Only she switches it off so she can rifle through her fashion catalogues or text message her boyfriend. My calls to ease my distress she treats as mere nuisance and she has learned to swat away as I did in my time. That is routine for you. I know she finds work just as I found: a A filthy business.

This evening the night nurses are planning a pillow fight for the entertainment of us,  inmates. And we are all watching the nurses fight it out. It is playful and it goes spirited and when all the feathers fly helter-skelter,  it is our secret night of horrors. All the feather fluff smelling of urine and shit would need mop after and some hard work. But we are the thing, morons laughing at our own cruel world we only let get this far. This night as hours tick by we only feel our private horror.

We see nurses have just shed their clothes, appearances of civility are gone. They have taken us back when we were as full as they.

Work was filthy for the peaches, the juicy young twenty something and they are us all in their ugly shapes, jeering at us.

Ah now they lug us into the heap of filth and dress us with cunning care, as chickens! It was a costume I never dreamed up! Hideous Jezebels are not done with us yet. As we scramble from mass of bodies, and pulled by hands to teeter and fall back with thud, there are screeches of merriment. There is a professional photographer who is creating a video diary. I know this age even our shame titillates some creep. We shall be in YouTube. It may be a viral hit among the viewers. 

I wept at the injustice of it. One of my tormenters leaned over and pulled out a feather from my toothless mouth to say,’ Nothing personal Martha, Work these days is still a four letter word.’

Now we are a spectacle and our carers have no excuse that they are kept short on money. They make money on us.
Work is still the same soulless aspect,- the world taken through a shredder of hell just gives some compensation for it. Money they call it. 

benny 

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Jamie the water rat- Series

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Puss in Boots ©

(This is a variation of the classic I updated earlier. b)

 

The Chairman of Gridlocks Corporation retired and his town house together with liquid assets he willed to his eldest son; his home in the suburbs he gave the middle son, and Randolph, the third son, got his tortoiseshell cat.

Compared to what his brothers received, mention of a cat in the will was merely chaff. Randolph meant almost nothing. After the will of Pilkington senior was read and his earthly goods divided up his brothers thought their youngest ought to have received more. Directly they set out to make amends.  Randolph got part of the furniture earmarked for disposal, some pots and pans and a pair of calf-leather boots. Having done this the two shut the door on the face of young Randolph and the cat.

Young Randolph had to think of a roof over his head. He moved temporarily to the house of a friend. Luckily Baron Balderdash had a castle and some hectares of ground. Before leaving for a long cruise around the world this baron was certain that he would amuse himself in his estate.

‘Worthington Castle is a pile of ruin. But what a ruin!’ the baron said as he handed keys to him.  Randy thus found himself in a castle where every stone was a slice of time chipped out and halls laid out with fan vaults, an antiquarian’s dream. While his brothers moved to widen their horizons he had a castle moat with drawbridge. The only advantage he could think of was it would discourage bailiffs from coming in, if it came to that..

Worthington Castle was grand but drafty; its demijohn dark and musty. Randolph Pilkington found the wine cellar bare and the larder empty. The cat checked the buttery while the master found some linen to furnish the sleeping quarters. The young master had no choice but settle his few belongings in one room that later he found was the boudoir of Lady Worthington. Looking through the Norman window he had to agree the lady could look at some pleasant vistas while she sulked. He made it his home in transit as it were.

What money he had was quickly spent in food and fuel. Next day a shivering Randy looked morosely about him. He was all alone but his cat purred as if he was purposed to bring some warmth into his life. He asked his cat, ‘How are we going to survive this?’

Puss said, ‘It is a four letter word. But in a time like this I cannot soft pedal.’

‘Is it some riddle?”

‘No, master’ replied the cat, ‘Only work can help you now.’

‘Puss I didn’t know you could speak?’

‘Your mistake master,’ the cat said matter of factly, ‘May I remind you I have nine lives?’

Poor Randy groaned and lay in his bed. ‘If I don’t sleep migraine attack is sure to come,’ and he slept.

On the third day the cat came up to his master and purred, ‘I have one request.’

‘Well what is it?”

“I would like to wear a pair of boots.”

‘Mine or my fathers?’

The puss said he had his heart set on his father’s unbroken boots. Randy laughed his heart out. His migraine was gone and he saw a glint in the eye of his cat. It was queer of course. Then he realized a cat who wished to break a new pair of boots must be prince among cats. He threw the pair of boots with a laugh towards him.

‘You break this new boot, ‘he said, ‘and let hell loose for all I care.’

The cat dug his paws into the boots.

Presto! The puss transformed himself into a man and the wonder of it was he was the spitting image of Randy Pilkington! The size was right and also the wave of his hair and mustache. The cat stroked the tuft of hair below his lips and silkily murmured, ‘mon panache.’.

‘Call me RP,’ said he trying his master’s best coat.

‘It fits me like a shot,’ said the body double after checking himself in a mirror. He admitted the only misgiving of his change was what to wear for an occasion. ‘Do I enroll myself in a suit or casually?’  He asked his master whether he recommended a pinstripe or a mauve shirt for the morning. The master whose shock had still not died down jabbed his finger to a sober grey. RP had some reservations. ‘I am going to the university of Runnymede’, said he.

Not wanting to jump him needlessly he explained that he had rummaged through his papers and was sure a bachelors degree in computer application and information systems was right up his alley.

‘But I am dud in mathematics or in working out figures’.

‘But I feel strong about the subject’

‘Well it is your funeral,’

RP thought his master needed to know a few matters between their relationship. ‘I intend to work and bring home the bacon.’

RP was sure from careful deliberation that he was right to say and say he did,’ Some people take to work like a duck to water and some don’t.’ His conclusion was his master would be a disaster in any workplace.

‘The more I see I know you will thrive only on your supine position.’

Young Randy knew his cat was all industry and eager to get ahead.

‘Trust me, master’ the cat announced as though he had read his thoughts.’I take your place from here and now.’

Before it sank in RP had all the papers in his briefcase and wallet.

‘What is your password?’

Ralph’s jaw dropped.

 ‘I have the bank statements social security number and other particulars.’ RP said and his confidence was awesome. Perhaps he was born to fill his dad’s boots, so thought Randy. So the master quietly clued him in.

‘But there is a heavy cutback and Tories are out to rub your nose on the gravel if you intend to work your way in?’

The cat gave a laugh that was tinged with diabolical cunning. He purred and said, ‘I am going to give work an altogether dimension. You need to learn how and what, from my example.’

There was something strange in the way he said it.

That evening RP came home and said he had to hang out with some students in a pub.

His observation was that picking all the loose information was good for the career. But he was reticent to answer questions in detail.

RP was good at his word. Everyday he went out and bought food from the supermarket swept the hall clean and polished his boots and cooked breakfast and it was quite a treat. Randy could on the strength of it bear life and the ghostly air of a castle as though he were in the Bahamas. The bleak countryside in his mind had brightened up thanks to his incomparable puss in boots.

Two months later a constable knocked at the door and demanded admittance.

PC. Potts the constable on duty said there was an armed robbery in the neighborhood. From several witnesses the law was trying to piece together the identity of the bandit. The law didn’t like the look of things. The young master burst out laughing, ‘And you come to me to solve it?’

 

Image

The constable explained gravely a security van was waylaid and a bandit in boots had decamped with money. Randolph laughed and explained, ‘I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t see anything or heard anything.’ The constable looked at him and his innocent face betraying no emotions hit him that he was wasting his time. Only that he asked in his line of duty if he could produce one who stood alibi. Alas the young master admitted he was alone in that castle and it made him feel very despondent to keep on with a conversation that was to no purpose.

The constable went off. His sixth sense said, ‘Master Randolph could not have even got away robbing old lady of her purse if he wanted to. But his experience tweaked him to consider two pairs of boots that stood innocently in one corner of the room. One had a peculiar cut and evidently made to order by some nob. He filed his suspicion away and went to the police station to report.

Meanwhile Randy did not observe the cat who had just ambled in his tail swishing and he silently jumped on to the cill to take in the back of a constable moving away.’ Well the caller drew a blank, didn’t he?’ he asked conversationally.

The young master wanted to ask how his study was getting on. ‘Application, application is the watchword, ‘he observed.

‘In what sense?’ Ralph asked.

‘Attending lecture is fine but applying it in real situation makes it all the more fruitful.’

Ralph had to observe, ’Work makes you take a moralizing tone as easily as baring your claws.’ Rather peeved he said, ‘I preferred you purr than drop pearls of wisdom. Coming from you it smacks of fish oil. ’

Strangely RP was not to be drawn in and he stealthily went out into the night.

 

PC Potts the constable went back to the police station made his report.

Five months later there was arson and an ATM was blasted. Money was found  missing. Again witnesses found the culprit was seen moving in suspicious circumstances. Some witness could sweat whoever it was intended mischief. Some swore the culprit carried dangerous stuff to blast open the ATM. None however could be sure of  the height or his color. But all of them agreed on one point. His boots were very distinct. The detectives also thought there was something in it. PC Potts immediately unlocked his mental file and informed his colleague about seeing something similar in the Worthington Hall. He was sure it could help them crack the case.

Meanwhile the sergeant in charge of the case found the shoe imprint. Photographs revealed all the more strange feature. The sole of the boot merely imprinted a cat’s paw in the debris of plaster and mortar. The evidence of boots was shooting beyond the realm of probability!

It so happened Randolph Pilkington had to do some business in the city. He took a taxi and called on his bank and checked his account. His cash balance of Pounds 82 s.12 had overblown as though by magic into 3 million! His hand trembled as he pored over the statement. Below he saw a debit entry and it had drawn the entire amount leaving pounds 1000 in his balance. He could from the transaction understand his unknown beneficiary had created a special account for College education.

He probed the manager who was sure that he had come four days earlier and had an interview with him. In order to make sure he referred to his diary and showed the day and the hour. The manager asked if he had any doubts as to it. Quivering inside Randy shook his head and said everything was in order.

Randy took leave of the manager and all of a sudden scales fell from his eyes. There was no unknown benefactor but a criminal mind who had taken over his life.

That night Randy wanted to have a show down with RP but at that precise moment a team of police constables descended from a van. The sergeant who led them was to the point. Politely but firmly he showed a warrant and searched the premises. One had directly swooped in and collected the two pairs of boots. One pair was identical to the description but the sole was as ordinary as any boots of a man size 10.

The sergeant pointed to the sole to his subordinate and hissed, ‘There is no imprint of a cat’s paw.’

One took down the details and photographed the pair. He asked, ‘Whose boots are these?’

‘Mine of course!” Randolph said without blinking. He knew he had to brave it out with them.

They also understood there were none in the castle but a man and his cat.

As soon as the van drove away Randolph confronted the cat and said, ‘You robbed a ATM off Soho and waylaid a publishing form in the middle of the street. Do you deny this?’

‘It all depends,’ the cat asked,’ are you asking RP or to your cat?’

Randy sank into his sofa dejected. ‘Have you ever thought of loss of name or honor if this crime is found out?’

‘Ah,’ exclaimed the cat ,’this crime shall never be laid at my door.’

Randolph could appreciate the gravity of his situation. He sighed and there was a painful silence such as one got to have machete to part it. Randy knew no rancor at what happened and also at that awful realization nothing would undo the damage. He said controlling his mixed up emotions, ‘RP don’t you think we need to make a fortune for living in style and have the best address in town? Perhaps I could have an escutcheon at the entrance with a cat en rampant? ‘

The cat just purred and went around his pair of boots swishing his tail lovingly around it.

‘Tomorrow I have a test. I must read well into night.’ he said. He meowed and went to his corner.

benny

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A Waif of the Desert ©

In Rajasthan anyone who can traverse the Thar desert with the sheer willpower to live is not an ordinary mortal like you  and me.  In the days of Raja Man Singh the desert was a killing field as it is today. One did the trek and lived to tell its tale. 

 Mallika began life with bad strike against her. She was a girl in the land of men. Where the Maharajas fixed their ferocity with moustachios waxed to a point, no doubt his courtiers had their own manliness in so many ways declared. Some used ghee (or clarified butter) to jet black glossiness while the lesser mortals used henna as Mallika’s father. He  sported it in deference to his lowly profession in the palace. He was a water carrier.

Pratap Rana was indigent and he lived with his wife and many sons often outdoor under the shade of a champak. When his wife became pregnant he proudly sat on a charpoi smoking his hooka and all the villagers knew he was thrice blessed with sturdy lads and he shall be lucky once again.  How he waited agog awaiting the arrival for his son!

 Oh no! The goddess must have been displeased at him for something. His astrologer friend was certain.  Mallika a girl was born to him and it was inauspicious. ‘ Contrary to all hopes you have a girl. Now try to please the  goddess somehow.” He advised and left the father.

Pratap Rana could not help thinking how unfortunate it was. And for his family. It was most unfair! The careful financial plans to their future the girl had upset. He had much to worry about. He owed already to the village money-lender and his sons cost him money. His own lands were already pledged and the money he had raised so many times against them had vanished without a trace!  How was he to marry off  Mallika when time was due for her marriage? In those days the infants  were married off in pomp and style though the bride and the groom didn’t see or cohabit decades later. “Where shall I raise the funds for the feast? And the priest!” he asked his wife and she had no answer to that. As a palace employee he also had a standing. He was certain he would not lose his honor before the villagers who didn’t dare to swear or sit in his presence.

So with the connivance of his wife he put the infant in an earthen  pot  and laid in a dry well.

He was sure that no one had noticed it.

He was wrong.

A bandit saw something suspicious in that midnight activity. “ Treasure!” thought the desperado and he quickly retrieved it. “ A girl!’ he exclaimed. He didn’t judge why a father did go to such lengths to bury a child in the secret of the night. All that he saw was a girl who was a goodly child and an investment.  He thought she could be taught to a life in crime and when time came she could be sold to some noble man for a good deal of money.

The same night he spirited away his find across the desert. Something in her told she must live. So through the blazing heat of the day she learnt to stay alive. At nights when robbers sneaked in and out plundering caravans she learnt to stay close to her father. She had much to thank for the man. He was big and powerful; and as gentle as the pillow on which her head  rested. At night while the camels trudged on their splayed foot over the burning sand she had nothing to fear.

The sights and sounds were her lullaby. Mallika heard tingling of bells. She heard her father slurp his tea over a saucer or talk proud things over camp- fire and smiled. Her father brought parrots carved in wood and it squeaked at the press of a button. She had jewellry to wear. Then she was surrounded by chatter of monkeys that accompanied  her company fo hand-outs. She could hear grownup laugh and play as though they were still children.

 When she grew up she knew crime was as any profession honourable. As honorable as her father.  Because he couldnot be any other than a god who saved her when her life hung in a balance. More weighted to the  point of death. She heard storied from the old women who tended her and kept from all harm while men-folk were away.

Her career begain on a crepuscular evening when the thoughts of the old often turn to  some nameless dread.

On such an evening a man in princely clothes. He had come there to track  Azli-Naqli the most dreaded bandit of the province. He had stopped to ask the way and had rode for most part of the day. A twelve year old girl who in such vivacity had chattered with other girls near the well ran ahead of others. She knew them turn off one fter the other. They dared not run beyond the gul mohur that gave such bazing fiery red in the month of May. It was sort of a warnig signal. Not for Mallika. She was breathless and yet the strangeness that wafted in the wake of the rider gave her some hilarity. She caught his stirrup gaily. She like any child of healthy curiosity wanted to know why a prince should come into their hovel that had the smell cowdung put out to dry. ‘Our only priced possession is that tree over there.’ She said. With a laugh he asked,

 ‘Nothing else?’

Remembering a refrain of a ballad she replied,” A  starry sky/ A velvety sky/ diamonds fit for a prince/ I bring to you..’ The stranger had never heard anything like that. So he wanted to see her parents. He also explained why he was there for.

She looked around and saw that she was not seen by others. Neither was the arrival of the stranger. She asked the man to go home and not go about searching into matters he had no idea of. “ Asli-Naqli’s head is all I want to take.” She stood in front of the horse and said with her almond eyes blazing, “ Asli-Naqli is a saint.”

“ No A horrible criminal!”

 “Dare to tell me to my face my father Uttam Malwari is a criminal?” she  asked and before he could realize the connection, she had pulled him down. It did not take much time for her to snatch his dagger and thrust it home.

The villagers in a trice appeared and they were of Thuggis, a caste that lived by criminal profession. They took over and hurriedly sent her away to stay with his father in a fort where he had his hide-out.  “ Just stay there till trouble is taken care of.” They advised her. She just did that.

Mallika had declared war on the good folks of Rajasthan.

The End

 

 

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Some 2.4 billion years ago when the Milky Way started upping its star production, cosmic rays–high-speed atomic particles–started pouring onto our planet, causing instability within the living. Populations of bacteria and algae repeatedly soared and crashed in the oceans

The researchers counted the amount of carbon-13 within sedimentary rocks, the most common rocks exposed on the Earth’s surface. When algae and bacteria were growing in the oceans, they took in carbon-12, so the ocean had an abundance of carbon-13.

Many sea creatures use carbon-13 to make their shells. If there is a lot of carbon-13 stored in rocks, it means life, the origin of which is still unknown, was booming.  Therefore, variations in carbon-13 are a good indicator of the productivity of life on Earth.(ack: wikipedia)

benny

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“At the Creation Time each life form was allotted equal levels of energy to which behemoths complained. Their complaint was, “You have counted us equal with insects which are so many.” “Our energy level is same..”
“Trim yourself to make the most of it.” Advised the Keeper of the Celestial Park.
Taking heed of his advice they became in course of time, elephants which were half the size of their forefathers. Complaints of injustice did not come from the behemoths alone. Bees were angry too. They saw mites lolling whole day among the herds of cattle. They complained to the Celestial Keeper that holding same levels of energy with those lazy blood suckers was unfair. “We buzz all day and by sundown we are a wreck!”
“Make your constant toil, something to remember by.”
The result was that they began producing honey which pleased all. “Give them bees, whatever energy left of mine,” said bears who loved it above everything else.
“Why such kindness?” the Keeper could not understand.
“I am thinking of my cubs.” One wise old bear said,” perhaps self interest. Call what you will.”

In every action and reaction energy is carried across. Every cause and every effect in the loom of Cosmic Nothingness works non-stop. How the wicked prosper by downright villainy stands out. Simple folks believe they are benefited by their lawlessness. But how long? The upright and simple folks also prosper with energy as in this story. Can the bears or flowers thank enough the bees for their yeoman service?
Perhaps a supernova scatters energy suddenly upping the chances of survival for some weak species. Laws of Compensation and Negation are moral co-valence of Supreme Intelligence.
benny

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