Two Minute Reads

Lashing

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Rage, rage, against the thick, dark glasses of piercing hate. I answer hate with hate, there is fire in the heart that burns so tightly, the blaze so large it will engulf me from the inside out, whole. Arsonist, I let the wild flow out, like rain it pours, like rivers it goes, burning everything it touches, me most of all.

Their gaze is heavy with ash, more ash dusts down each time they blink. But blinking is an illusion, the gaze is hardly broken, for who cares if one laser among a hundred doesn’t open. My thoughts are slower than my intentions, it is upon me to burn this house down before time should catch up. They hear the dust sizzle out and send a smoke, they are by their own due warned, but proud of the pain the glasses watch, unaware that I don’t reserve any claim.

Rage, rage, against the thick, dark glasses of piercing hate. The first lick on the metal frame, it melts away like sand to water, second, far off the frame fears and falls, and slowly I smile. My burns are loud, I won’t live to see the end of them, but I see their gazes flicker, their hate flicker, and mine is all the stronger for it.

Panic! Let yours be the last voice, on earth and below! Cry and scream, then scream once more, until even the sound cracks and falls, like ash.

Let my rage know no saving. No stopping.

Rage, rage, rage, until it ends.

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There, Across Tower Clock

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A man once decided to live across Tower Clock; a green roof, red brick that lent it’s sharp edge to the steep intersection of two streets of the great city of Haule. The pavements of Haule were storybook grey stone, and the flowers in the balconies pink as whale tongues. I can compare because I live on the top floor of a building in the sea workers colony, and the whales my father and other workers pull onto the beach make one final contribution to the aesthetics of Haule; dropping their pink tongues out to greet the sky.

For a while let me pretend I do not wake up to the wail of a trapped sea creature or the anxious yells of workmen suddenly hopeful of getting their wages. Let me be in the middle of Haule, watching the man who decided to live across Tower Clock. The man has a not-unusual beard, just as frizzled and grey-black as real folk do, at least in Haule, but perhaps not in Hollywood. He has a plain red coat, although I like to think it was a plain grey before he bled through.

The man, with his beard anchoring his chin to the lapels of his coat was resting, one noon, when the keeper of Tower Clock poked his hand. His skin, crisp from the salt air from the sea didn’t make her any happier than she had been all last week, observing his presence. He was like the cat downhill, that everyone knew was in the church, never needing to actually see her there. Everyone knew he existed; nobody wanted to see him exist.

In any case, he had shown himself, like whale tongues eventually showing themselves to the sky, and Haule was at a standstill. The keeper, she had heard enough stories for a lifetime. She wasn’t scared of finding her money stolen, or her daughter taken, or even her precious green roof broken in. All she cared, about this unlikeable man and any other, was that he had not looked at her through the queue of windows in Tower Clock.

The man only seemed to care about the gate of Tower Clock. The gate of Tower Clock was the most insignificant component of the building, perhaps of the entire two streets on which Tower Clock stood, and if anyone had noticed this fact before, this in itself would have made the gate significant. But it was too late now, and it was sheer outrage that a man should camp across Tower Clock for seven days and look at the gate, when just behind the gate was the loveliest thirty year old of Haule.

People didn’t age in Haule, they centralized. The farther a citizen of the most ethical city on the planet was from its center, a structure not far from Tower Clock, the younger they were considered, in life, ideas and morals. The fact that I live at the edge makes me an equivalent of a chronologically young babe. Then, the fact that my father lives with me says more about his socially understood intellect than can be said about mine, and consequently whale pulling is not a demanding work. In the center of Haule, in a palace of incongruous white brick, chiseled smooth, sleeps a one month old who had cooed when the priest made a grammatical error in a sermon once.

The keeper of Haule holds the two month old in high regard. She does not, however, hold the man across her home in any. While she waited for him to break his obnoxious, silent, shut-eye reverie, and acknowledge her presence, or more physically, her poke, she decided with each semi-second that his feet had no place on the respectable grey stones of her city. His filthy, hard soles could not walk the smooth-

He opened his eyes. It was like they were never shut.

The waves on the beaches of Haule would have rushed to greet estranged sea drops, and pearls that stiffened from the wax of the sea would have shone to welcome brothers, for his eyes were blue and white and endless and liquid.

She gaped, and it hurt, looking at them hurt, until she painfully forced them to settle on the base of his nose, between his eyes. So hoarse looked his skin that her eyes fled to look at his again, checking if this was indeed the same man. Suddenly, she was grateful that he had never looked at her, and would have knelt by his feet had he not closed his eyes again, not having acknowledged anything.

This is a man who can move mountains, she thought, for that was the only way she knew to understand greatness. She turned, clutched her belly, and slowly went back to her Tower Clock and closed the gate on the man with the eyes of the sea.

The town folk talked. It was Sunday, they had nothing else to do, and they would have done the same had it been Monday. It is of same credit to the people of Haule that nobody accused the sea-eyed man of wizardry. No, they knew much better than that. Of course, he was just a man from Hollywood. In the pastel coloured town they knew, no man had ever had an eye shade too divergent from the grey of spiderwebs. But in Hollywood, the counties and wens they saw on screens, men had all sorts of eyes, all sorts of hair, all sorts of ages too. So of course he was from Hollywood. A minute later they realized that custom required that they go grab autographs, frame them and hang them under every roof in Haulle, like the common clock.

Hence the mob flocked. I watched from where I had watched everything, including the secret nighttime repairing of the infallible Tower Clock. They waved shredded strips of newspaper in his face, their courage as strong as the keeper woman’s before she had seen his eyes. It was the Sunday newspaper, with the front headline announcing the theme of the sermon at church, and a picture of the milk bowl of the cat that was supposed to live inside it. They had torn and passed around the few copies of their newspaper only hours after they had received it, because in Haule only newspaper passed as paper, everything else was a figment of their Hollywood.

Open your eyes, great man, they called. Show us your name, they stretched their arms that had hands that clasped the papers. They willed him to rid them of their wonder, half crazed that they had jinxed it by wondering. They glanced at the keeper through her windows as the minutes passed, deciding, each man by himself, that she had decentered. But at a moment when every strained neck turned forward, the man who sat across Tower Clock opened his eyes.

They saw his sea eyes. They dropped their arms by their sides. They sat down on the intersection of two streets, under the green roof and the blue sky and they saw, awed, the great man from Hollywood. The great, great man who had granted Haule his presence across Tower Clock, the man they didn’t know was born blind.

In The Palace Of Patiala

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The Indian flag soared. Revelry and celebration hadn’t stopped all year, and it
didn’t seem to stop now. Hearts were soaring, memories were smiling, heads
were held high as the massacre was behind them and the sweet scent of
independence hung thick in the air. By now, a government was in place, and such
a government that had the burden of bringing two million people satisfaction
with a common policy, in a common polity. For this, it worked relentless, in dark
and in light, pushing and crooning and sighing with each conquered mass, inching
steadily towards success with each tribe that said yes to Independent India.
Not far from the new capital was the kingdom of lush royalty, the State of Patiala.

The palace swooned over stretches of green pastures, windows cracked open to
let rosy sunlight in, fountains squeaked and burst attempting to touch the clouds.
The maidens admired their chiseled noses in the mirrors as the dasis draped
heavy silk on their shoulders, and the men twirled their moustaches with pride.
The world was impressed with India. In one year, most of the princely states had
succumbed to the power of democracy; covert titles were all that was left of the
royalty. Yet, the Maharaj of Patiala was not celebrating. Today, the man they
called their Prime Minister was coming to steal his land. He would start with
humble requests until he brought the Maharaj down on his knees and forced
negotiation. But the Maharaj was not born yesterday. He had dealt with many a
colonial Viceroys and princesses, and many more Indian kings in far off valleys and
gone on to win their daughters. Today would be just another victory, as had
always been.

The regalia were laid out, as he approached in his purple velvet robes, the smell
of roses fuming. He studied the zari of Benaras, pure gold sewn on his sherwani.
Khaddi silk from the East delicately trapped between diamonds brought all the
way from Britain, were all a small part of his magnificent attire. He had told the
dasis to bring out the finest. Today, the Maharaj had the pride of Patiala on his
mind, almost ready for battle if so required.

Maharaj clapped his hands. An echo raced throughout the palace, and the
servants who waited outside rushed in to turn this mortal into a king. The
sherwani was tied, the jutiyan placed under his feet, endless maroon satin
wrapped over his shoulder and arm. Two men daintily carried a silver tray into the
room, and another two picked the royal turban and set it carefully on the
Maharaj’s head as the sapphires beamed. He put up his hand and they went out
as quickly as they had come. Not a word was spoken, for it was forbidden. The
Maharaj studied his reflection. The Prime Minister shall not win Patiala!

But he was leaving no stone unturned. There was a treasure in the Palace of
Patiala that subdued the fiercest of egos and burnt the envious. It had taken two
years to complete this beauty, in which was enshrined the beauty of Patiala. In its
radiance shined his kingdom’s crop and in its sound the sound of the people’s joy.
The Maharaj walked towards the inner room now, head higher with each step. He
grasped the sordid black box, wondrously gazing at the elegance it had gained
since its occupant. His fingers were steady in this moment of anticipation. Slowly
now, he cracked open the brass lock and twisting the knob, he pulled the lid off.

His eyes ached to see a sparkling sun inside, and he threw the lid away… And
gaped.

It was gone.
A tiger roar shocked all of Patiala, trumpets were blown, and gongs were
sounded, dhols were beaten with urgent strength as soldiers fled into the country.
Catastrophe had struck.

The Patiala necklace had been stolen.

Little Tea Party

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Dylan Thomas once said, “I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me.” Perhaps that was one bright epiphany for him, perhaps the observation of general human tendencies, but it couldn’t have been more true for Anouk even if it had been tailored for her, with a dozen words to spare.

Her beast, her angel and her madman were having a tea party today, each flashing its grin in turn, peeping in and out on her face like children through a curtain. Angel, please let me have angel today, Anouk had listless hope. No longer bundling energy enough to beg, all she could do was hope, knowing only too well that on usual days, she would either hurt someone or get hurt herself. Seldom was she gifted a completely happy day with a bright blue ribbon, and all she could do was hope today was one.

The inner angel spread her wings and beamed, softly silver in Anouk’s eyes as she thrust herself out of bed. Plans for today were deliberately enthusiastic, to cut into a long week of sorrowful routine. She was going to meet a friend, in exactly twenty minutes. On any other day, twenty minutes would have been too less. To bathe, dress and accessorize, a girl needs time. Today this girl had much different circumstances and twenty was enough time to slip into the skirt and blouse, the only skirt and blouse she hadn’t packed.

Good point #1- Upcoming trip to Japan. Surely she could trap her beast in with that, pacifying it that all was well.

Sighing, she picked her threadbare bag, threw in her charger and almost dried phone, some money to get back and a sheet of paper to write the apology she owed her boyfriend.

Bad point #1- She had hurt him.

The beast stirred and the madman’s ears pricked, each possibly wondering whose release this really was. The beast sensed there was probably her own pain involved, and sulked back in his seat, while the madman’s eyes danced like a disco light in a New Year’s party. Without him, she was a lost child with fear brimming in the corners of her eyes. This was the madman’s playground.

The plan, concentrate on the happy plan, Anouk chastised herself and ran down the road, hailing a rickshaw to her friend’s place in less time than she had allowed herself. She had half the day to chill with her friend, and the only real planned thing: trying a variant of lentils for lunch. Then she had her beloved gran coming over to help her pack for Japan. And in between that, she had to finish the apology to win back normal conversation with the man she loved. That was a two to one ratio, in favour of the angel. Hope seemed to be working just fine, for now.

Good thing #2- It was windy and her cheeks flushed with the gale.

The angel spread her wings, the beast cringed.

Bad thing #2- An idiot drove through water spilled on the street, and splashed her legs with a dozen mucky droplets.

The angel folded the wings back in, the madman squealed.

“Anouk!” Mira hugged her at the door, and Anouk visibly freshened. Bonus points for angel, who stretched her arms and flew a few feet above the tea party table. “Mira…” Anouk hugged her back, tight and sincere. It took them two minutes to cover for a month of absence, as each had been busy with their own brand of torture. Together they were only youth and giggles, rolled into hours and hours of effortless company. Quickly, Anouk forgot the injustice of the past week, being framed for something she didn’t do, being humiliated for doing nothing wrong. She deleted the words that ached in her mind, said by her father, said by her teacher, words that were pure hatred and tyranny, words she didn’t deserve but then we are seldom treated how we deserve to be. She purposefully kicked out feeling like a limp puppet, when she realised her parents had gone to her school to defend her but had been far too polite, as decent folk tend to be, far too polite to have gotten due attention. All this was another story, puzzling to an onlooker, possibly puzzling to Mira too. But it was Anouk’s troubled truth. And slowly, it was fading, Bad Points of the past being shot out with a bow the angel had gotten hold of. Oh she was magnificent, gliding over the beast’s scrowls.

“Anouk?” Mira asked, concern visible in her eyes.

“It’s fine. It’s ok now.”

Mira nodded with silent understanding, years of practice coming in play. And in that brief loving gesture, Anouk was suddenly empowered. She straightened her back, two inches taller, and called order to the gathering. The tea party came to an abrupt halt as those present nodded in resignation to the boss, Her. Yes, you listen to me now, she put her hand down on the table, as tea cups and sugar cubes vanished and the party was over. Listen.

The seething pain of her school incident still kindled a fire in her heart, but she had largely accepted that she needed to give it time. Next on the list was her father, a man whose day seemed to start and end with how much trouble he could brew for his unsuspecting family, and her in particular for she was the fiesty one of the lot. Standing next to Mira, for a moment she thought how worthless his attempts would be if she could only just fly away into her future, far far away from him. The angel sat up at the possibility of escape and safety, until the madman winked: What about her sister. Or her mother. So she needed to root it our, not cut the trunk. Very well, and Anouk wondered idly if the beast could help with that. Quickly she reprimanded herself, she was much better than to answer bitterness with more bitterness. She was Anouk, powerful and strong. Anouk, who had willed her life and earned a trip to Japan. A free trip, she thanked her stars. She was Anouk, loved by a man whose mere existence in her life was enough for her to take on her father and all his brutality.

 

Her boyfriend… those present perked to attention as the next agenda flitted into discussion. It was hard for either of them to understand whose arena this really was. Being a matter of love, the angel felt a certain possessiveness. Being interspersed with pain, the madman wanted in. The beast, frankly, was willing to attack just about anything that involved negativity, and there’s plenty negativity in wounded hearts.

It had all been a misunderstanding. She had been talking normally, conversing about his day, and hers. Then he had started getting cryptic again, laconic with his answers and shutting her out, and she became a helpless child again. She tried to pull him back in, saying he really couldn’t do this, he needed to tell her! But the words she chose were wrong, and he felt like she disrespected him. How much further from the truth could that be. Disrespect him?! Her love, her strength, her faith! But her words were wrong, and she had to pay.

And that she was willing to do. You see, perceptions of right and wrong fail when it comes to love. That’s what drives poets mad. That’s what makes men promise the moon and beyond. That’s what puzzles the angel, the beast and the madman and frankly, that’s the only thing worth hurting for.

Anouk smiled a dazzled smile.

Bad point #numberunknown- She had come to no conclusion.

Good point #numberunimportant- She was master of the three voices of her soul.

Bad point stressed- She really had no plan of action, nothing to DO, nothing decided, definite.

Good point stressed doubly- Yes, she had no solution. But she had clarity, and strength. A friend and her time, and new food to try. She had a paper to write an apology on, with a light heart and unbridled love. She had a trip to pack for, and her gran to help. She had him, her boyfriend, always and always by her side, being the very word of ecstasy and the embodiment of something deeper than love. She had no solutions!  And right now, she really didn’t care for one.

A new woman with glittering eyes walked into the house, a deserted tea party fading in the back of her mind, cold.

 

 

The Perfect Snapshot

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The monochrome silhouette of night rushes into dawn. Dawn resists, buying moments for sleep before it has to stretch out over the face of earth. In those fleeting moments, a star dies in the sky, slowly. The last of them has been put out. The moon has been wrapped carefully and hidden. All evidence that there once was night has vanished. For now, it is just mayhem. Venus’ chariot races out of a hidden palace in the horizon, with tails of crimson following the steeds that draw it. Slowly the attack of colour pushes the dark away and pink, the sky awakes. Morning screams, not in ears but in eyes, and glows bright and golden until every inch of God’s green earth is pinched with light.

His eyelids flutter.

He yawns and sighs to the gentle rhythms of another daybreak. Slowly, he is reborn. From a day passed to a day awaiting, his slate is cleared and his mind pushes thoughts to begin motion. He staggers to his feet, pushing himself into morning mode: that automacity of brushing and bathing and grooming and finding himself at the breakfast table like yesterday and the day before. But today he pauses, to lean against the window at the far end of the room. The smell of gladiolas wifts in from eight floors below. Very thin, a smile begins to appear. I watch with bated breath, as morning truly unfolds… with his smile, a heavenly smile. Lyres play in my ears, riddled with laughter from beautiful memories dancing past delights into remembrance, happiness soars, eyes gleam.. as everything, everything becomes rosy. He smiles.

I reach for the camera, hoping and praying the moment lasts long enough. I fill the lens with everything I see. He is still standing, unaware of what is about to happen. And in that second, snap. That moment has been frozen forever.

What memory may so cruelly dwindle into oblivion, what tragedy might one day take away from me, this snapshot would preserve. This snapshot would hold.

A perfect eighteen megapixel, of a perfect person on a perfect morning. This is my utopia.

BJN

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” ‘Scuse me, which exit to come out at the Stateman’s House?”
“6” said the Metro official who had been prompted with the question.
Betty was good with monosyllabic answers. It was pure courtesy that she had framed a full question to ask in the first place, had she known the guy she would have run with a two word question and a hinting tone- “Statesman’s House?”
Gratefully, Betty nodded and started walking towards Exit 6, smiling as she heard the quick shuffle of his feet behind her as he realised the dialogue was over and caught up.
“So, Statesman’s House?” asked her diligently inquisitive tail.
“An important newspaper once, a landmark building now.” she answered with the smile full in her words.
Betty liked how she said Important. She had a way of rounding the Ort that made her feel British, made her feel a master with her words. Words… they empowered her. But she hated how she had totally, utterly, completely wasted a word in her response. A landmark is a stand-alone word. She shouldn’t have said “building”. Of course it was a building, in fact any structure would have done. Grunt. She had decapitated the charm of the word ‘landmark’.
“Umm.. hello?”
The strangely charming voice of her companion brought her back to the real world, as Betty dodged yet another street vendor, this time consciously.
“Geez, how many are there!” he wasn’t used to the streets as she was. He wasn’t used to the country.
“It’s a back lane. And that-” she said, walking on and pointing to a magnificent building of red stone “- is one of the culprits for my intense fascination with this place. The Statesman’s House.”
“Wow. Looks good. So what’s in it now?”
“Don’t know. Never been in. There was a bookstore on the ground floor once.”
Books… all those books with all those words that-
“You’ve never been in? Wha- am I ever going to understand you?”
Betty giggled. “Not if you’re going to walk that slow, mister.”
Jay shook his head and hurried to catch up with this little crazyness he had of a guide, and thought of the day all those months back he had met her online.

“Hey look, I didn’t do nothing, don’t you blame it on me!”

“I’m not, you idiot.”

“Then what are you calling me an idiot for.”

“Cause you are wasting my time, that’s why. Just patch me in through to your stupid boss.”

“I told you, he’s out. Lady, you need to understand how to talk to a Customer Service-“

“Customer Service? Is that you? Well, I am not a customer. Not anymore. I’m giving up your stupid shitty service today and I don’t want to hear from this good for nothing company after that. And just so we’re clear, you never did provide any service, Mr. Customer Frigging Service.”

The line went dead and the customer service helper frowned. First day at the job and already the messenger was taking burns. This was going to be a hell of a job, but Nate needed it, so he better talk more authoritatively with the next angry caller. 

The phone rang again. Nate spent a moment looking at the red light flash at the base of the phone, not entirely willingly to listen to another complaint already but determined to really start with his new job.

“Airphone Customer Service, How may I help you?”

Nathan of the Airphone telecom company believed more in God than he had in the past few years, primarily because he realised he would need divine intervention to survive this job as his first two calls were from angry, shrieking customers. Correction, one ex-customer and one slowly going down the same line.

Ten hours and a billion complaint calls later, Nate flopped lifeless on the couch at his flat, and thought of sleep, only sleep. He checked his phone what time it was; 7.30. Well, that would be a new record, to go to sleep that early. He could call Elizabeth over for a while. He called her, hoping to have in a few seconds the first pleasant conversation of his day.

“Hello,” said a voice so gruffly male that Nate checked the number on his screen. Yep, that was Elizabeth’s number, but that was definitely not her voice.

“Who is this?” Nate wasted no time establishing credentials, he wanted to know right away who was picking his friend, almost-girlfriend’s phone.

But before he got any response, he heard scuffle at the other end, and Betty’s voice in the background, obviously talking to the guy who had answered.

“Who said you could answer my phone!” Betty was saying, but Nate could feel the the smile in her fake angry outburst. Nate wasn’t very happy about that.

“Hello? Betty?”

“Nate! Hi, whatsup.”

“Umm nothing really, was just wondering if you’d like to come over. But it’s fine if you have company.” It wasn’t fine. He was almost screaming inside, get rid of the dude and come to me!

“No, it’s okay. Actually, what if I bring him too. He’s Jay, remember I told you about a guy from Africa who was coming over?”

Jay… she hadn’t told him the name. So, what was the deal with this guy… Nate thought the best way to find out was invite him over too.

“Yeah sure. See you both soon. And hey, bring the Polaroid. Too long since we had pictures.”

“See you.”

The line was dead before Nate even heard Betty’s response. But he had gotten used to that in the day. Now Nate had more pressing matters on hand.

Just who was this Jay and what was he doing to his chances with Betty. He was about to find out.

 

#Note to reader; the post title reads BJN, which are the initials of the three characters in this story. Should this post receive a fairly good response, then stories that follow in this series will contain the same code BJN in the title. So, it’s up to you if you want to read more. I’ll keep ’em coming.