A church bell tolls, a single strike, noise that pierces her ears
Rosy’s eyes dart, seconds-hand ticks to the thirtieth minute of ten, gems on her Rolex’s disc glow
Morning sunlight, sans warmth, casts shadows on her pale skin; buildings countless, occasional trees, as her Benz gains momentum
Thanks she, God’s mercy, clear sight even at sixty
No need to rush, Rosy hisses, sweat erupts on driver’s forehead, hints of glee on goose bumps on her skin
Pleasure perverse, emits shameless, unleashed grudges quell AC’s chill
Horrible prison cells, memories etched forever; in body or soul, it doesn’t matter, the torment revisits
Small town, metropolis; systems corrupt, pain remains same, inflicted out of frustration
Guards bulky, potbelly sporting, pant walking
Batons and canes, sleek and slender, nestle in cavities
Fence eats the crop, convicts mumble
Peace necessitates violence, guards rumble
Rosy, a pawn, gets shuffled; wrong to right, right to wrong, like all those inmates; many guilty, some innocent, all condemned to the same fate
Wronged by birth, a family in poverty; wronged by fate, a victim of abuse
Right by affiliation, a noble cause; right by choice, an advocate of social change
Wrong again, by being in the right place
Right again, by being in the wrong place
Joining a revolution against injustice, choice of the right place, system says, Anarchist
Lands up in jail, the wrong place, yet fights for the right cause, society says, Insurgent
Wrong for being right
Wrong for being right
She leans back, she can raise her voice now, send it farther than the bell’s toll, let it resonate; no one will so much as raise an eyebrow
Right choice, right move, judge himself a rebel, within his heart, evokes human rights, and sets her free
Jails him in nuptial bond, she scores a home run, touts the trophy
Scars of incarceration, remain a laceration unhealed, bleeds forever
The boy, sitting next to her closes his eyes, an only grandson
Remain awake, she coos like a dove, only fools choose to miss the experiences
Open your eyes and train your ears, know your world; feel the breeze on your skin when it blows, it doesn’t last forever
The boy smiles, she ruffles his hair, grooms it back to order with her fingers
The car enters the school’s gate, approaches the open ground
The assembly awaits, principal presiding, waiting for over thirty minutes for the Queen’s grandson to arrive, keeps invocations at bay
The prince exits
Put on the aura, that mask of superiority, she whispers, you’re the master of all
Heaving a sigh, the boy blows a kiss her way
Roll the window down, Rosy commands
She puts her hand out, beckons with her middle finger
The principal stoops by the door side, shame more than age weighing his shoulders down
Here, she says, offering him a check, you asked for a hundred thousand, it’s a million; a school for the blind is a necessity
Thank you, ma’am, says the principal
Rosy leans out, gestures him to bend further
You know what, Mr. Thomas? She whispers into his ear, You’re just a pile of garbage in human form
Aloud she says, You’re most welcome
Rosy leans back on her seat. Roll up the window, she tells her driver, spite vented
Rosy stood sweating.
A single drop of tear rolled down the corner of her eye. No more would flow, because she’d already mastered the art of containing emotions.
Her fifteenth birthday gift, on August 1, 1975, from the English teacher, would ever remain etched in her memory.
Thomas, a young graduate in English literature, had just joined the school a couple of months ago, and he had instantly earned the reputation as a master of the language. Also known for his unique ways of punishing the guilty, he’d become sort of a terror among students in no time.
One of his favorite methods of punishment was sneaking his hand up the half-trousers of boys; skirts of girls, and a pinch that would last longer for the latter.
For boys who wore full-length trousers and girls anything other than half-skirt, he went for an ear.
“Will you, ever again, forget your homework?” he’d ask, repeat the question more than a dozen times, his hand hidden all the while. For a girl, it’d be a couple of dozens, often more, if the girl happened to be plump enough.
Rosy had always watched the torment of her classmates, so she promptly did her homework; except for yesterday.
Her father, in celebration of the impending birthday of an only daughter, had brought home a bottle of arrack, a dirty brew that stank like millipede’s shit. She’d never smelled it, but her mother had told that they put millipedes into the vat for speeding up fermentation. So, she presumed the millipedes would defecate before they rotted, and the liquor would carry the stench of their feces.
Father stayed busy throughout the night, arrack’s demons unleashed; Rosy grappling with those monsters, Mother, cursing her destiny.
Even the first time default didn’t go unpunished, not in the teaching regime of young Thomas.
“Will you, ever, Rosy…
Closing her eyes, she kept counting. Was she so plump, that he continued even after twenty-four?
She wouldn’t have minded the pinch. But his fingers that fumbled between her legs, unseen by the class, left a torment from which she’d never escape.
“See, she stands there,” he said, “like a statue.” He held his hand up, shook it a couple of times. “I have to hurt my fingers, pinching, to tame you sloths.
Teachers, in those days, were revered as Godly figures, an authority parents looked up to, reformers of societies.
Rosy scraped her notions, casted reverence aside.
You, Thomas, you’re just a piece of millipede shit, Rosy thought, that God had unwittingly rendered in human shape.
The single drop of tear had, by now, dried on her cheek.
The church bell tolls seven
Rosy exits her Audi, checks her diamond-studded Patek Philippe; she hastens up the flights of steps leading to the church, defying age with her agility
Morning mass, a Sunday ritual she’ll never want to be late for, begins at seven
She pauses midway, waits for her maid, Cathy, ten years younger, yet struggling to keep pace
The one who takes care of Rosy, the only one Rosy cares for other than her family; only one that fulfills her needs, other than her husband
Faster, Rosy says
Cathy pauses, hands on knees, slightly bent, heaves-in a few deep breaths
The church throngs with people, swelling bodies and thirsting souls, seeking redemption from sins unending
Inside the church, approaching the altar, Rosy’s mind sheds worldly thoughts
The Red Sea parts, feet clamor, as the masses pave way for the queen to pass
They bow, a presence they revere, their palms folded in salutation
Rosy returns their gesture, a hint of a smile creasing the corners of her mouth
A most pious gesture, Rosy places her hands on Cathy’s shoulders, leads her to the altar, to a place reserved for the ‘family’, a servant honored
Rosy kneels, only after Cathy does so, making sure that her maid remains comfortable
She prays to her God, the one whose grace sees her through
Rosy partakes in the Holy Communion, remembers the suffering, recognizes the love of God, purifies her soul and thoughts, Cathy close by
In the eerie silence that follows the Holy Communion, it happens
Rosy farts, a failure of body system’s control
A child sees the king naked, laughs
Others follow suit, a wildfire roaring through a jungle, dry grass and twigs crackling
Rosy sweats, tremors shake her body; feels her dignity melt, ripple down her legs, wipe the masses’ feet clean
Rosy eyes drill into Cathy’s, Stupid cunt, her spiteful hiss reverberates on the walls
James Chacko, a retired judge, Rosy’s husband, sits silent as the inspector thrusts an envelope towards him.
“It’s an open and shut case,” the young officer says.
“I know, a poor woman’s regret, having desecrated the church’s sanctity.”
“This suicide note,” the inspector continues speaking “it’s conclusive enough. The ME found it hidden inside her bra during the autopsy.”
“What?” James asks, as if surprised, and then says, “I mean…” He feels relieved that the officer hasn’t noticed his confusion.
“I also gathered she made a public apology in the church the day before,” the inspector says.
A sudden pain gnaws James’ guts. “Thank you, inspector… I think I’ll leave.”
If he stays longer, the gnawing may intensify; he may end up revealing that Cathy was illiterate.
Hareendran Kallinkeel lives in Kerala, India, after a stint of 15 years in a police organization and five years in the Special Forces. He writes fiction, mostly short stories. His works have appeared in several online/print journals. Recent publications include Pif Magazine, BlazeVox, New Reader Magazine, As You Were: The Military Review, Reality Break Press, and Palabras Journal. His works are forthcoming in Djed Press and Bryant Literary Review. Image: [H] Maqbool Fida Husain - Untitled (Triptich), flickr: cea +