Fiction: ‘Sulochna’s Delight’

A short story by K.Parthasarathi

Sulochana had moved into this apartment recently after her transfer. Her parents were expected to join her after winding up things at their previous place. Her apartment overlooked a lake and the complex had all facilities like a swimming pool, gym, walking pathway and a small store. She worked in a marketing company as Finance Executive. Her parents were looking for a good match for her through matrimonial bureaus and friends. She had come here just three weeks back and was yet to get acquainted with people there.

It was morning and she was going through the daily over her Spartan breakfast. Just then the bell rang. A young man was standing with a small packet in hand.”Are you Sulochana? There is a packet for you”, he said.

“Yes, I am Sulochana.”

“From whom could this packet could be?” she loudly wondered.

The young man, clean shaven and adorning a well pressed shirt, was very handsome. His curly hair did not fail to make a favourable impression.

“How would I know! The name of sender should there be on the packet”, he said with a smile.

Sulochana gathered herself from admiring his looks to the task in hand and said, “Okay, please give me the packet.”

He handed over the packet and said “Yes, here you”, and added, “this is the first time I am coming here. You must have moved in recently” he said in a baritone voice that was as arresting as his looks.

“Yes, yes, I came here three weeks ago on transfer. Thank you very much.” she said

Even after he left, she was still recollecting his pleasant features, without having opened the packet.

There was a romantic novel of Danielle Steele inside and she could not figure out the name of the sender.

Two days later, the same person was there with yet another packet.

He smiled at her and said, “You seem to be getting such packets frequently.”

“Frankly I do not know who sent the last one. I am unable to recall any one by that name. Let me see who the guy is this time” she said. On seeing the packet she said with a surprise, “It is the same fellow. What do you suggest? Should I receive the packet from unknown people? Why don’t you take it back?”

“I think you should accept this time. You can reject the next time or send a letter to him at the address asking him to desist from sending. What was that you received last time?” he asked.

“Some romantic novel. Okay I will take it for now but will surely refuse the next time. Now something personal, I wish to ask you. You speak well in flawless English and must be a graduate. Why are you working in a courier company as a delivery person?”she asked.

“I am a post graduate Ma’m.But I like this job and am doing it willingly” he said with a loud chuckle.

“Pretty strange. How I wish you had some ambition” she said with a touch of disappointment.

He looked at her intently with a grin.

Her parents had moved in during the week with their bag and baggage. They settled down at the new place and liked the ambience. The next Sunday when the three were having breakfast, her dad asked “Sulochi, can you please get me my mobile from my bag in the bed room”

When Sulochana opened his bag to get the mobile, a photo fell. She was surprised to find it was that of the young courier boy, who had delivered the packets. Wondering how his photo was with them, she rushed to her dad and asked him “Tell me, papa, how is it you are carrying this photo of a courier boy in your bag?”

Her dad looked at it and said “What crap are you talking?”He turned to her mom and said “Look at this foolish girl calling him a courier boy” He then turned to Sulochana and said “Do you know his qualifications? He has a doctorate besides a string of degrees and is working in a senior position in a reputed MNC in US. We are in the advanced stage of finalizing him for you.”

“Papa, he is a cheat. He has already delivered two courier packets to me. I know him. He is no doubt handsome and speaks good English. I think he is taking you for a ride” she explained.

“I know this young man’s parents. Anyway they are coming this afternoon to meet you. Let us have this matter resolved then” he replied calmly.

At 3pm they all came in a swanky car. He was accompanied by his parents and sister.Sulochana saw from the balcony that it was the same courier man. After some initial pleasantries, Sulochana was called to the drawing hall. When her eyes met him, he smiled at her with a faint wink. She rose to the occasion and asked him “Have you any packet for me to deliver today?”

His parents looked at him in confusion while her parents were embarrassed. It was then his sister broke the news that he had used this ploy to get a glimpse of Sulochana before this meeting. He had the details of her from his parents. His parents and sister broke into peals of laughter much to the amusement of Sulochana’s parents and, of course, to her delight.

Fiction: ‘Ugly to Start With’

 A Story by John Michael Cummings

We called her Skinny Minnie because she was terribly skinny when we first found her hung up in the chicken-wire fence across the street. At first, even Dad was nice to her, letting her stay inside, near the wood stove. Everybody wanted her on their bed, too, because her coat was soft and clean. She had obviously been an indoor cat, Mom said, wondering where she came from. Her small neck had no collar, but we checked at the houses on our street anyway. Nobody missed her.
When warm weather came that year, Skinny Minnie wanted to go outside. She sneaked out and stayed out for hours, sometimes overnight, and all the next day, too. I started finding her in the backyard, curled up in a sunny spot in the bamboo, sleeping. Soon she came and went as she pleased, and we learned not to expect her. Apparently, she had been an indoor/outdoor cat, as Mom called her.

One time, when Mom and I went for a walk down to the train station to see the river, we saw a silver tabby slinking around the old spur.
“Is that Skinny Minnie?” Mom asked. “Here, kitty-kitty.”
It was Skinny Minnie all right, but she darted off. It amazed Mom that she had wandered so far from the house, and then didn’t recognize any of us—ran from us like strangers.
When I got sick with shingles and was home in bed for a month, Skinny Minnie came to my bedroom window every afternoon. Somehow she was able to leap from the weedy lot next door to the sill of my stained-glass window, where she stood on the narrow ledge and meowed until I let her in. It was lonely in the afternoons, being sick and lying in bed for hours, my brothers in school, the sounds of the town far below, my mother far below, too, on the first floor, two flights down, where she couldn’t always hear me when I cried out. Skinny Minnie was a welcome companion. She kneaded my stomach, but was too light to hurt the shingles on my side. I petted her until I fell asleep.

When I began to feel better, Mom brought me sketch paper and pencils. I sat up and started sketching. Every afternoon, Skinny Minnie lay like a donut on my bed, breathing in and out softly. She was still staying out all night and came in during the day just to sleep on my bed. When she did, I drew her as she slept. Every now and then, I reached over and petted her and admired how her coat felt. I looked at the silver stripes and blotches and tried to show them on paper by using the side of my pencil. I found that I could, without much trouble. Mom put one of the drawings in a frame.
With late spring came high weeds in the lot next door. Then the big bully cats arrived. You could see them swaggering through the new nettles, looking for trouble. My brother threw broken-up bricks at them every summer, but they came back every spring. They came from the Groves’ house down near the church. Mrs. Grove had hair as red and frizzy as copper wire. She had no kids, and her cats and dogs were always dirty and on the loose. Her nephew Dink wandered through our backyard once and spit peanut butter on our swing set. My family might have been lowly West Virginians in the eyes of out-of-staters, but the Groves were really low-class. In the winter, when there were no weeds in the lot, you could see across into their back yard. There was a big pile of coal near their back porch, which was black from the coal being tracked in and out of the house.
Soon Skinny Minnie was getting into fights in the weedy lot. We could hear wild cat screams at night, and when she showed up at the door in the morning, her coat was dug open in places, and bloody sores glistened.
“Oh, poor thing,” Mom said, stooping down to touch her.
She was in too much pain to be picked up and was in no mood to be touched, either. Mom tried to keep her on the back porch, in a box, until she healed, but she didn’t take to it. Instead, she meowed at the door, wanting in. Dad said no, not until she healed.

Even after she healed, no one wanted her on their bed anymore and wouldn’t let her sit on their lap, either, because of her scabs. I shoved her off mine because she was gross. We all did. Then, when she came in one day with more fresh wounds, Dad started chasing her out of the house for good.

“Get out,” he said whenever he saw her, and she shot out through a crack in the door.
Night after night, I heard her crying. A long, painful cry that wouldn’t stop. I covered my ears with pillows, but still I could hear it. The Groves’ fat cats were picking on her. I opened my window and shot my BB gun into the dark, trying to hit her or whatever was scaring her, to make the whole thing go away. But she kept crying, sometimes screaming out the most awful scream. I lay there praying she would die and go away and I would never remember her.

Sometimes whole days passed, and she didn’t show up, and I forgot about her for a while. Then she came back, looking worse than ever. Her soft, perfect coat was matted with sticks and dried blood. She had a limp, too, and half an ear was missing. I couldn’t bear to touch her, couldn’t stand having her near me, either. All she did was sit there and moan, her wounds oozing. I pushed her away. She was gross. At night, she tried to get in through the stained-glass window, but I wouldn’t open it. I could hear her faint meows. They seemed to go on for hours.

When summer came and I was home, I started shooting at Skinny Minnie with my BB gun whenever I saw her trying to come near the house. I could see the small, gold BB hit the side of her body. She jumped as if she had stepped on electricity and ran back into the overgrown lot. My body shuddered. If only she would die, then I wouldn’t feel the embarrassment anymore. That’s how my family was. Whatever it was, if it was ugly to start with, or turned ugly, we were ashamed of it and wanted it to go away.

Still, Skinny Minnie kept coming back, though more and more cautiously each time. A couple of times she looked up at me in the window from the edge of the weeds, as if asking why.

“Oh, poor thing, just look at her,” Mom said whenever she found her at the door and Skinny Minnie held still for her. There were more raw sores everywhere. “Oh dear—Bill, what’d we do?”
Dad said nothing could be done.

I could feel my mother crying on the inside. She hated the way my father ran the house. Skinny Minnie was something else my father did wrong.
One day I realized that Skinny Minnie had not come back in a long time. I asked Mom where she went.
“Oh, I think the poor thing went away to die.”
I just stared at her.
“They do that when they’re sick,” she said.

I did not wonder so much about death as where the place to die was. I checked the spot in the bamboo. I could still see the little impression her body left. I looked out my window into the weedy lot and called out. I went down to the train station and looked around the old spur.

It was just as well. I didn’t want her around, unless her fur was perfect.

*John Michael Cummings is a short story writer and novelist from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. He is the award-winning author of The Night I Freed John Brown.

Book Review: Delhi – 14 Historical Walks

This book authored by Swapna Liddle is a product of putting in loads of time while taking a ‘walking’ route to the most famous monuments of the city of Delhi. The book is a complete package with the details about how to reach the place, the historical background and a step-by-step walk through the place. For the convenience of the tourists, who are not so familiar with the locale, the author has also given information about the issues concerning parking facility, nearest metro station, basic amenities available there and important things to be carried. Special tips (if any), events organized at the particular place and other important bits of news are the highlights of every story.
As the reader goes through the chapter, he feels as if he is himself walking through that monument. One gets a feel of that place; such is the impact of the printed word. An additional benefit of the book is that along with guiding you to the particular place, it also provides you an eye-view into the glorious past and history of the concerned monument or place. The illustrations add to the beauty of the content of the book and also enhance the quality of the information given. The glossary and the timeline of events given at the end of the book are especially very useful. The book not only provides the historical context but also information about the architectural significance. And what adds to the utility value is that the method of describing the architectural characteristics is such as makes it very easy for even a novice reader. The utility of this book not only relevant for the tourists; it will also come to the aid of locals, students of History. It is suitable for all age-groups, both youngsters and adults.
There a few things that might make the reader a bit hesitant in categorizing the book in the best books category. And those deterring factors include a few misprints here and there. The book makes poor reading from point of view of the quality of language used – it is poor on punctuation, there are few grammatical errors too and flaws in sentence structures. The language used in the book is a very simple one but that point can be justified by the fact that this is not a literary piece of work. It is just a compilation of information about different heritage monuments with a view to inspire people to walk to those places to enjoy their beauty.
Overall, we can say that this book is not just for adorning your drawing room bookshelf. It will occupy a place of utility, or might be an important part of your travel bag. Hence, it might make your tourism and journey all the more informative and enjoyable. This will enable you to have a well-guided tour even without a guide.