Flash fiction- it had happened again

Standard

It had happened again! How could I have been so stupid?  I had sworn never to do it again. Worse, I had been caught doing it. They say there are low moments of your life- when you are so humiliated that you wish that the ground opens up and swallows you whole. I had been caught, and even more embarrassing was the fact that I was topless and my companion was standing in the corner of the room sobbing.

I guess I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

I walked into the medical store and slyly slid over a piece of paper to the person at the counter. The shopkeeper was an old acquaintance who gave me a questioning look as if to ask “what the hell?”. I just urged him on with a nod to comply with my request and said” put it in a brown paper bag, don’t want anybody to see it” The shopkeeper gave me a conspirational nod and put the package in a plain brown paper bag and slid it towards me. I hastily shoved the package in my jacket and made my way briskly to my motorbike. I drove back to my house stopping to pick up my companion on the way.

images

I snuck back into my house and checked to see if the coast was clear. Package in hand, I beckoned my companion as I sprinted up the stairs to my room and locked it after she was inside. I drew the curtains to shield the activity in the room from the outside world.

“Hurry!” she said as I opened the package

“Take off your shirt or it will stain!” I nodded and took my shirt off.

“Hurry someone might come soon. Open it! Open it!” she demanded

“Ok ok!” I replied as I took the package out of the brown paper bag.

As I was opening the package someone started banging on the bedroom door.

“Crap! Someone’s here! what do we do?” she asked panicking

“Stay quiet!” I hissed at her

“Open the door! Why is it locked?”

I signalled my companion to stay quiet

“I know you’re in there, I saw your bike outside.” I heard the jingling of keys and the sound of a key being put into the lock. I looked on as my companion scurried to the corner of the room, quietly sobbing, looking for an exit where there wasn’t one.

I grasped the package tightly looking for a place to stash it. Unfortunately, in times of panic rarely do you get a moment of clarity, and I ended up stuffing the package in the shirt that I had taken off.

There was a moment of silence before the voice outside the door said “Fine, if you are not opening the door, I will”

There was click of the lock and the door swung open letting in a rush of daylight which temporarily stung my eyes. My companion stood silently in the corner of the room sobbing.

My brother walked in the room and looked around briefly before he grabbed my shirt which was now stained as the contents of the package had melted. He extracted the package from the shirt, a few drops dropped on the floor.

“how could you let him do this?” he asked my companion

She gave a sheepish smile as she showed him the chocolate I bribed my sister with.

“You are diabetic, you can’t run around doing this anymore!” he yelled at me as he left the room, throwing the ice cream into the dustbin. I stared longingly as the package contents melted into a small puddle at the bottom of the bin.

“Next time don’t take off the shirt!” my sister remarked as she left the room munching away on the chocolate.

Bhuttay Wala

Standard

I am a bhutta wala- the man who sells inexpensive corn cooked on an open flame with the option of spicing it up by grazing lemon dipped in a spicy masala on the sides of the corn.

Kids love me, at least they used. I remember when I used to stand outside a school and my cart was flocked with children exclaiming”uncle! Uncle!” at the top of their voices. Those were the days- the kids almost always bought enough from me to cover my expenses.

Times change, so did I. My black beard turned white with streaks of black on my chin, my face was now permanently wrinkled due to the constant squinting in the Karachi sun. Ptv lost its position as the sole provider of entertainment and with the outbreak of so many tv channels, I was faced with a new challenge. People were now talking about thing called hygiene, it never mattered before, but now it was threatening my livelihood.
Now before kids reached my cart, their parents would swiftly move them away saying that “Uncle was dirty, chee”. The children would then go to buy a packaged treat- usually a cake of some sort. I never understood what the problem was. I am a clean enough person, I bathe regularly- whenever we have some water. At most twice a week. Due to the water problem I get my clothes washed once a week, but they don’t get very dirty. I always wipe my hands on my shirt after putting some wood to sustain the open flame.
Gradually things became so bad that I had to look for a job, I parked by ancient cart at home. 30 years after working I got my first job as a night guard in a cake factory.
What I saw in the factory was disgusting, the flour used for the cakes was stored openly and on a number of occasions I saw insects in it. The finished product however, was very attractively packaged, with a glossy pack and bright coloured packet.
These were the treats that today’s children eat readily. If they saw how these tasty morsels were made- I bet you they’d go “chee” and come running back to the bhuttay wala uncle

Jab She met Me

Standard
The chocolate made an impression

The chocolate made an impression

It’s funny how you search for something for a long time, you don’t find it. The moment you stop looking-it finds you.
My friend and I were travelling by bus not too long ago, we boarded the bus and sat in our allocated seats, we were cracking jokes, which come to think of it, weren’t all that funny, but still we were laughing our heads off. In between the laughter and the fives, I saw her from the corner of my eyes boarding the bus. She had long black hair, brown eyes and an anxious look on her face as she located her seat. She had a window seat, when she sat down, she looked out the window and waved goodbye to her acquaintance who had come to see her off, she gave a small smile and then busied herself in making herself comfortable.
Now, I’m not one of those ‘taroo’ type guys who stares at girls wide eyed with a fully-focused-stare-at-them-till-they-are-in-my-sight type of guy; but she was someone who in my view; deserved a second glance and I must confess, I glanced at her more than twice.
As soon as she sat down, I nudged my friend and asked, “What do you think?”
My friend glanced at her once, shrugged and said “OK” I sat there a little puzzled by his reply.
There were four seats in a row in the bus separated by the aisle with two seats on either side. My friend was sitting on the window seat, I was sitting next to him, she sat as I mentioned above on the window seat and between us sat an old lady, who was busy chatting away on her cell phone informing whoever was on the other end in a rather loud manner conversing all the while in Punjabi that she had boarded the bus. I could see that the raven headed beauty (yes- these were my exact thoughts at that time, problems of being a romantic) was bothered by it.
So our journey began, with me slyly stealing glances at her, only to have my stares blocked many times by the fidgety old lady. She wouldn’t let me stare in peace. Instead of staring directly at her, I stared at her reflection in the windows on my side. My friend had settled down, ear phones in place, eyes closed, head bobbing rhythmically to some techno tune with crappy lyrics blissfully unaware at the stare-athon I had just begun. In hindsight, this was a master stroke, no chances of getting caught by the old lady or anyone else for that matter. I spent almost 2 hours like this staring and thinking of something to say to her. Should I say something smart? Should I be funny? Should I be myself? Should I keep it simple? and just say ‘hi’? Will that be sufficient?
As I was going through all the different scenarios in my head, funnily enough, none of them had a good ending for me, I heard loud laughter. I looked to see who was laughing, it was her, she had seen some funny commercial playing on the TV in the bus, found it funny, and now apparently, telling the whole bus she found it funny. My friend looked at her like any normal person would in that situation with an eyebrow raised and a ‘what-the-hell?’ expression on his face; he then rolled his eyes and muttered something about bad manners. I on the other hand, was intrigued and even more determined to make a lasting impression on her, in a good way.
Yes, you are right, I live a lot inside my head and tend to over analyse things; by the time I had decided my opening line- which was a food related query, the bus had stopped for a twenty minute break. As soon as I opened my mouth, she rushed outside the bus, leaving me thinking, am I that repulsive?
We (my friend and I) also got off the bus to stretch our legs, bought some chocolates: Bounty which forms a very critical part of the story and some other snacks for the remainder of our journey. When we sat down, I noted that a small victory had been achieved, the old lady had gotten off and the girl was now sitting with her back to the window and resting her legs on the empty seat. I was now gathering courage to talk to her. She had two cell phones on her lap fiddling with both of them to switch them on somehow and as luck would have it, they didn’t turn on. After a few minutes of trying, she gave up with an exasperated sigh, and that was my window of opportunity to make contact with her. (I have chosen these words, for me it a very alien experience)
Taking a deep breath, my heart started pounding very quickly, despite the air-conditioning of the bus; I could feel a thin sheen of sweat forming on my forehead as I turned towards her and open my mouth to speak. Before I could utter one syllable, she eyed my phone in my hand, clasped so very tightly, and asked me if she could borrow it to make a call. I remember nodding but not sure whether I said something or not. She took my phone called a couple of numbers and then left a text message with whoever it was she was trying to call. She returned my cell and that was that. Meanwhile, my friend was feeling up for a chat, but I was determined to talk to her. I politely asked her whether she was from the city we were going to, when she answered in affirmative; I then asked her the question that I had been thinking over and over to initiate conversation with her, were there any good places to eat?
Apparently she was a foodie, she burst into details about what to have and what not to have, all three of us exchanged names, education, a brief family history and a love for food. When the discussion of chocolate came up, I asked her whether she liked bounty, she replied yes, this is where I like to believe I made a lasting impression. I offered her our bounty (actually my friends, I had eaten mine), to which she so sweetly said that she never refused chocolate, I then asked for half the chocolate back, which she gave back. I popped that half in my mouth as my friend watched both bemused and a little annoyed at the stunt I had pulled with his chocolate. After this conversation flowed freely between us, jokes were shared, some life experiences in strange places. As our journey was coming to an end, she told us to call on the number that she had called, it was her brother’s number, and he would happily guide us during our stay in their city. I got off the bus looking for the cab we had booked, after which I wanted to say goodbye to her, unfortunately for me, she left after saying goodbye to my friend, while I was looking for the cab. On the ride to the hotel I was kicking myself for not asking for her number. I slept that night for the first time in my life thinking about a girl I had just met.
Early next morning the beeping of my phone woke me up. It was a WhatsApp message from an unknown number saying “Hi”, when the profile picture loaded; it was the girl from the bus. Miracles do happen.