Flash Fiction- What is normal?

Standard

He didn’t have the most normal reaction one expected at the loss of a parent. There were no tears, there was no grief. If I were to identify with the one emotion that he displayed it could perhaps be cataloged as relief. The kind of relief one experiences when a great and terrible burden has been lifted.

Then again, he wasn’t the most normal person, how many people you know would list a bullet proof jacket as their ideal gift? Sameer was, for lack of a better word, unique. We first met as toddlers in the playgroup in our neighbourhood.  All the other children would be kicking and screaming all over the place (yours truly included) he would just sit down in a corner with six blocks of “1,2,3” and ABC. He would build two perfect towers one- one for the alphabet and one for numbers, both towers would be perfectly straight with one plastic cube perfectly placed on top of the other. After admiring his work for a minute of two, he would bring the tower down and start the whole process again.

I had never seen him smile.

Sameer lived at home with his parents, his uncle and his uncle’s wife his father’s only brother. Growing up, we were not financially comfortable, our living quarters were cramped and the occasional meal would be skipped but the sense of community made life a lot more easier. There was a principal of fairness instilled in us from the very first day of education. Whatever we brought from home would be pooled in to one huge communal meal. Sameer never brought any lunch throughout our schooling life. Sometimes, I gave him my lunches so that he could share it with the class as his. That’s how our friendship started.

Sameer always had a methodical approach to every thing he ever did, be it stacking blocks as a toddler or tackling any task. I remember when we were in 8th grade, someone donated a bunch of computers to our school, some 5 or 6 monitors were dumped in a large crate and all the wires, keyboards and mouses had been shoved in another box.

The computer systems donated were ancient, dusty, huge and heavy. They had been in a corner of a warehouse gathering dust for god knows how long. Just opening the flap of the box released a puff of dust in our faces. The students of the 8th grade had been instructed to assist the teachers in assembling the computer systems. No one in our school knew anything about computers, but Sameer volunteered to assemble them. Sameer and I stayed back after school to assemble our school’s computer lab which was basically made up of five broken tables pushed together a long extension board which Sameer fashioned from loose sockets, switches and floor boards. He worked very methodically but there was a touch of elegance to his work which made it seem like an artist was working.

After 5 hours of tedious labour, we finally managed to turn on the computers, I think it was in that time that our friendship bond really strengthened. That day we opened up to each other about our dreams. We asked each other what we wanted from our lives. I said that I wanted money, success, comfort and luxury, Sameer on the other hand after some hesitation muttered- “Peace”.

After that I found out that his father was an addict and use to regularly beat up his mother, Sameer had never told me this, the one thing that his father had taught him was never to air his dirty laundry in public. Every new bruise was explained as the result of a “fall”

One day he “fell” so hard that his arm was broken and his mother had also “fallen” with him which resulted in her breaking her ribs. People had asked her what happened and she just brushed it off like her son and said that she had fallen.

Now what I’m about to say next is just speculation based on the facts that I pieced together.

After the aforementioned fall where Sameer and his mother got injured, he complained to me about too many rats in his house. I suggested he get some rat poison from the hardware store around the corner. At the store, Sameer discussed his rat problem and asked for some potent rat poison. When the shopkeeper asked him how much he needed, Sameer replied “Enough to kill a rat no matter how big the bastard is” We took the poison to his house and grinded the small squares into fine white powder and placed it on his center table. We clearly labelled it “Rat Poison”.

I greeted Sameer’s father who only responded with a dazed look. He noticed Sameer standing next to me and asked him “Sameer when will you teach me how to read?”

Sameer did not respond and left the room, beckoning me to follow him.

A few days later, I saw a lot of people gathered around Sameer’s house, an ambulance was parked outside his house. His uncle and aunt were arguing with Sameer’s mother about something.
“But don’t you want to know how he died?” Sameer’s uncle angrily inquired, his aunt was bobbing her head in agreement with her husband.
“We all know how he died,” Sameer’s mother began “Why spend money finding out what we already know?”
“Don’t you owe it to him to find out?” Sameer’s aunt protested
“No.” Sameer’s mother’s eyes flashed dangerously signalling the end of the matter.
I had joined the crowd who were now enjoying watching the drama unfold
An acquaintance in the crowd whispered that Sameer’s father passed away from a drug overdose in the morning. Sameer spotted me in the crowd and beckoned me inside the house.
“Help me tidy up, we’ll be having a lot of visitors soon” he requested picking up shards of glass with his hands. I spotted a small translucent bag sealed lying on top of the sideboard with the sofa. Sameer picked up a similar bag from the center table marked “RAT POISON”, resealed it and placed in his pocket.
“At least the rat problem’s solved”

No need to say goodbye- flash fiction

Standard

“How much could it hurt? A few moments of pain and then what?”

“Depends on what you believe. If you’ve been a good person then those moments of pain will be all that you feel. If not then those few excruciating moments will be the least of your worries.”

“Why?”

“An eternity of suffering awaits you. They say the real journey starts afterwards, this was but a little stop before your final destination.”

“What’s the other belief?”

“The other belief is that there is nothing afterwards, so a few moments of pain will be all you feel. You will fade into nothing- it is an escape route.”

“I want an escape how do I get it?”She asked anxiously

“Look for an opportunity” He replied, beginning to caress the beads in his rosary. His eyes were focused on the ground,
“Until then my child,” He glanced up making eye contact with the veiled lady for the first time during their meeting. “Have patience” he advised giving her a sympathetic smile. His kind black eyes again focused on the ground as he started meditating again indicating that their meeting had ended.

She got up and thanked the “Pir” (Holy Man) for his counsel and left the little room. She quietly and swiftly made her way back to her house, grateful for the veil on her face to avoid recognition from any acquaintance in this neighborhood filled with residents bearing questionable morals.

Maria entered her house from the back door, as quietly as possible to avoid getting caught by her paranoid husband.

She was virtually a prisoner at her house. She took off her veil as she stood in front of the mirror, something which she seldom did these days. Hazel eyes stared back at her as she stroked her cheeks lightly, it was exactly as the nurse in the burn ward had predicted. The burns had healed, but the scars remained.

She hated her reflection now, her beautiful face, her pride, was now horribly disfigured and the reason she decided to wear the veil outdoors.

Her husband had thrown acid on her face a few months before when he saw that she laughed at her neighbor’s son for making a funny remark about her husband. What started as a harmless joke quickly escalated into a shouting match. In a fit of rage, her husband got the bottle of acid from under the sink, opened the cap and grabbed her by the arm.
“Laugh one more time! I dare you!” He snarled at her.
Scared, she could not muster any response just a broken, throaty and sobbing apology, as she felt the first sting of the liquid pierce through the flesh on her face leaving her writhing in agony.

It was a full two hours before she got medical help. After this incident she started covering her face citing religious reasons- a white lie she told to avoid uncomfortable discussions.
The bottle of acid was still there, half empty, under the sink.
It was after the incident that someone referred her to the Pir. His suggestions didn’t make much of a difference to her life, but she did breathe a little easier being able to discuss with someone the issues bothering her with a degree of comfort without being judged.

That night, she was going to take an opportunity, her patience was wearing thin. She needed to get out.
She was very polite to him that night- extra attentive to his needs. She also made him a cup of tea before sleeping, something she hadn’t done since the acid incident. After he fell asleep, she got the bottle of acid from underneath the sink and dribbled some on his slippers. She then left to pack her things, which didn’t take very long give the limited number of worldly possessions her husband had allowed her to own. She then stood by her husband’s head and emptied the acid bottles content on his face and torso. The silent night was pierced by a blood curdling scream as her husband awoke to the agonizing sensation of stinging flesh. The scream intensified after he stepped in to his damp slippers.
She watched in silence the pandemonium unfolding in front of her- her husband sprinting blindly in the house trying to soothe his burning flesh. She called an ambulance and slipped out of the house. At 3 in the morning, she watched from a far as an ambulance finally picked up her wailing husband as the ambulance passed by her, she wondered if she should do something. She started to move in the direction of the ambulance and then stopped. There was no need to say good bye she thought as she walk into the graying skies.