Vertex

This was the story I wrote for my college contest. I didn’t win.

The objective was to write any poem/ short-story or an essay. The first line of the story is the topic, BTW.

I switched on the tape and watched the screen. The gray dots etched on the black screen slowly disappeared to give an indifferent sound which was neither sound nor music. A blinking red dot at the bottom had letters REC blinking and counting seconds. As I was cutting the film to edit for ‘Headlines India’ for the following day, my pager keeps continuously buzzing. I work as a video barber for a private television network which telecasts news sponsored by political parties between detergent commercials. It is almost evening time and the news I’m editing will probably be the breakfast news. The two messages are from my brother. 7:28 p.m < Wer r u? > 7:33 p.m < w8n.. cm fast> Dropping the tape at the editor’s cabin, I rushed to pick him up. There was heavy traffic and my bike’s rear-view mirror was broken by a woman who was running on the road.

(20.2.09)

He spent his last ten rupee note on tea and bun for the constable. Fortunately, or he can consider it rather unfortunate that his daughter wasn’t one of the bodies the police had found in the outskirts of the city. The colony watchman, neighbours and even kids don’t mind him. Not a single wish, greeting or not even a polite smile. His wife had a heart attack recently and subsequently all the usurers of the town are sneezing on his doorstep. The clowns of the neighbourhood seem to have picked the rice bowl from his kitchen to feed stray dogs. Cobwebs are populating in his Khakis and his razor is brown with rust. The grocer refuses to give him oil on debt. The last drop of oil at home had just dripped down. The clock’s pendulum has stopped oscillating without oil. Never mind, who needs to know the time if his union is on a strike.

(27.2.09)

“Love is like cigarettes”

“Burns the ecstasy and kills after the excitement?”

“Pervert! No…”

“Then, why so?”

“The pleasure gets you addicted and when you try hard to quit, you run crazy and the desperation doubles itself. The addiction is twice as mighty now.”

“Then let us try it. I won’t meet, see or even talk to you for a month. Let us test your postulate. What say?”

“I’m sure you’d lose.”

“It is Jan 20. I’d call you up on Feb 20. Take care, cya.”

“You serious on this boy?”

“I do smoke. I do love. I’m addicted.”

“Drop me at home. Let us enjoy some eleventh hour romance.”

“I came by bus. I’m going to wait for it again.”

(20.1.09)

The day was running ahead of him. He knew that the brake valves had to be tightened, but already he punched his card late. He just cruised into the sea of the city’s traffic hoping for a makeover later. My brother was checking his offline messages when I started to work. I took his bike after giving him some pocket money.

“You win. Love is like cigarettes.”

“You too, you win. You smoke.”

“I love you!”

“Love you too.”

“Meet you at the cafe after class.”

“Done”

“You do smoke. You do love. You’re addicted.”

“I’m leaving now. The romance quota is over”, she was smiling.

“Drop me at home. Let us enjoy some romance after ages!”

“I came by bus. I’m going to wait for that again”, waved his hands and walked back.

(20.2.09)

It was a roadside Ganesh Temple. None knew about her. She was in rags with some thick hair which was oiled a century ago. She surely is starving but her teeth told that she had been eating stale food. Dogs barked at her, kids played games around her. Moms in the colony used her to frighten babies which refused to eat lunch. She was dormant normally, except when a bus passed by. She curses the bus in a loud, undecipherable language and then comes back and settles down in her dock. The locals rarely noticed her or her actions. Newcomers to the place even ask addresses to her. Residents consider her one among them. Few of them even feed her. None came in search of her. She never spoke a word or even looked us. Her only excitement was the buses that pass by. But when infants play with bus toys, she keeps staring at them.

(20.3.09)

“I came by bus. I’m going to wait for that again”, waved his hands and walked back.”

“Hey! Watch out- A kiss on your way!” He turned.

Smiles exchanged, the romantic addiction was pulsating in them when they had that orgasmic smile on their faces split by a sidewalk. The brakes were just as fine when he paused for the pedestrians and took a turn. As the signal was about to ripen from green, he squeezed in a bit too fast just when the ‘L’ board car interrupted. A steep turn and some lad in the road was thrust to the other side of the road. The guy wouldn’t have meant to cross the road this way. She yelled and fell there. A part of the crowd tried to wake her up with soda. She hit and broke a bike’s mirror as she stood up and ran away screaming on the road. The college crowd around realised that it was their junior who was killed and started beating up the bus driver. An accident grew into a prestige issue and took the shape of a bus strike demanding apology from the college students. I just arrived at the scene and found my brother’s white shirt turned red. I took him to the hospital and signed the Police reports. I switched on the televison and watched the screen the next day morning, it showed the video I stitched. The headlines were the accident and the violence after that. The newspaper lying over there had headlines about the Bus driver who the Police had told me about. In the second page was my brother’s condolence message. In the third page, there was an advertisement reading Girl missing. I had recently seen her somewhere.

(21.2.09)

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