Excuses and a new story! The Kitchen

So its been quite some time since I’ve posted any stories on here, with being a new graduate I felt pretty pressured into spending my time applying for endless job applications. But the holiday season is pretty much here, so I thought I would take some time to just relax, rediscover myself and try and get back into the flow of writing.

This ones a little older but still one of my favourites, and reminds me of the good times with my parents, not too festive but still a nice slice of home! (with some footnotes for assistance!)

‘I have to think of something to do with conflict in the kitchen for this week’s story.’ It wasn’t really what she wanted to be thinking about just before her dinner, but this week’s assignment was proving to be difficult for Sanjana. She was determined to do it. With such a broad subject, she was bound to find some kind of idea. Coming into the kitchen to feed her hunger, she saw her parents putting away the Tesco shopping bags, moving swiftly from one end of the room to the other, their movements almost synchronised like skaters on ice. The low friction between the porcelain tiled floor and their socks helping them sashay effortlessly.

‘Conflict…? Like what? What is that?’ her father didn’t really turn around to look at her, he still had on his green suede coat, and the rain had left traces of splattered dark marks on his shoulders. He opened a cupboard door, above the kettle, and shoved in some Corn Thins, a packet of mixed seeds and some PG Tips. Sanjana’s family had made a recent switch from all things sweet to all things that taste like cardboard. She wasn’t exactly sure whose idea this low calorie switch was as everyone seemed to complain about it.

‘Yeah, you know like a fight or something, but it has to happen in some kind of kitchen and has to have, like, smells or senses incorporated into it.’  She handed her father the milk as he walked over to the fridge.

‘Oh…ask your mum,’ he looked over to his wife and poked her with his toe, ‘eyy Pinkye-eh, what should she do?’

‘Hai! What are you doing? Ghandha![1] Don’t touch me with your foot, Yogesh!’ Pinky moved away instantly as her husband’s foot came close to her again for a tauntingly humorous second poke.

‘Move away from me!’ Pinky’s patience was beginning to wear thin and her husband knew that if he stepped any closer he would come close to losing the whole leg let alone the toe.

Sanjana began to see a scenario developing and said nothing to provoke a change of subject between her parents. This would be perfect for her piece and she knew it. Her father, giving up on putting away the groceries, lifted up the lid of the saucepan on top of the white cooker and looked inside. There was no steam, the dinner had been prepared a while ago, yet there was still the scent cardamom pods and cumin seeds diffusing around the house. Her mother had forgotten to close the door whilst cooking again and the tingle of ginger and garlic could be smelt from the living room.

‘The house smells of turka![2] You didn’t close the door again! Every time I come home from work and I can smell lassan[3] everywhere, bloody hell!’ Her father’s temper was always very extreme and over the top but never lasted too long. His temper was what kept Sanjana and her brothers in line, but it was his ability to cool down so quickly that made him slightly more approachable than her mother.

The cupboard doors above the counter top were still half open and bulging with extra bags of chapatti flour and rice, tins of plum tomatoes and tubes of garlic puree. Between the black granite worktop and mounted oak cupboards was the running seam of splash back tiles; stained yellow from the years of making oily curries and frying countless amounts of samosas and pakoras. She had not had a chance to clear up before her husband’s arrival and was now busy with putting away the frozen garlic cubes in the already over flowing freezer.

“Many times I tell your father buy freezer, buy big fridge, he don’t do!”

“Don’t do nain doesn’t do it hunda ya[4]!” Yogesh corrected his wife, “Ekee sal[5] it’s been since you’ve been in this country, more maybe and you can’t even speak the language properly yet!” Yogesh looked over to Sanjana and winked, “And my food isn’t even gharam![6] What is this?” He took a long sniff of the contents in the saucepan, “Chollay chawal![7] I’ve come home to bloody chollay? I should have gotten married to your sister, she was selling for less goats! And makes at least some decent food.”

‘Um…dad? Maybe this isn’t the best time…’ She tired warning her father, but he was hardly listening, caught up in his own mischief.

‘Your sister makes good food and has managed to keep her figure after bearing three children, what about you toddow?[8] You have three children too.’ Her father looked at Sanjana with triumph and pride over his comment.

Sanjana’s eyes shot straight over to her mother’s face and she analysed it to see the kind of reaction her father would get. From the crimson rising from Pinky’s cheeks to her pale temples, it looked like things were about to go the way of the Mahabharata[9].

“Ja, dafa ho, ja![10] Get out from here! Idiot man!” Pinky grabbed a broom from the corner of the room by the bins and advanced towards her husband.

“Hey, I’m your husband; this is no way to treat me!” Yogesh tried desperately to stop his wife from coming closer, but was met by the end of the broom to his crotch.

“You think I’m your naukrani[11]? Make the food, put away the food, and clean up the food! Now you make your own food! Ghando sala![12]” Pinky managed to sweep her daughter and husband into the hallway and held onto the heavy fire door to make sure they could not re-enter her territory. And with a final stab at her husband’s arrogance, yelled “Ja, buddhay ma dhey cucher wich bhet ja[13], I know she is your first wife and your only love!” and slammed the white door shut.

Sanjana was never really astonished or shocked at her parents’ behaviour. It was only when she saw other couples their age acting sane and conservative that she felt that there was something not quite ordinary about her own mother and father. She knew from a very young age that their relationship was one that was constructed by her grandparents, an arranged marriage. She understood that without her grandparents’ help, her parents would never in a million years have dated or even married and in turn she would not even exist. Sanjana loved that even though her parents didn’t know very much about each other before they married; they had blossomed into a relationship where it was acceptable for Pinky to drive Yogesh out of the kitchen with a broom.

She looked up at her father, he was grinning because he had enjoyed annoying his wife, he seemed happy with the fact that he was able to wind his wife up to the extent that she would lose her temper. For him it was a kind of triumph.

‘Why do you annoy her so much? You do it on purpose, I know.’ Sanjana quizzically looked at her father.

‘Of course I do it on purpose! She’s chucked me out of the kitchen, now I can relax while she warms up my food for me. She doesn’t understand jokes; she’s a very gullible person… Any films on tonight?’

‘You have no shame, dad.’

‘Ey Pinky-eh! Make sure you bring my food to the table, and make sure its gharam![14]

Sanjana could hear her mother from inside the kitchen but could not understand half the obscenities that were being yelled over the banging of the steel pots and pans. She heard a plate being violently lifted from the shelf and dropped onto the granite counter top. She then heard it a few moments later being thrown into the microwave oven with the miniature door being slammed shut. A few buttons were pressed and the hum of the machine began.

Sanjana gripped the door handle and opened the door. It was a risky move, but she went in for the purpose of her work, she needed to see her mother’s actions, she needed to remember every part of this argument for her assignment. Pinky turned her head away from the silver sink for a second to see her daughter enter, gestured her over and turned back around to continue washing the dishes. As Sanjana moved closer her mother began to speak loud and clear so that her father could hear.

‘Does that man seem crazy to you? He is making me so crazy, summaj dah ki apna ap nu?[15]’ Her mother seemed to be a little calmer now than before. Her ponytail was becoming loose and some stray hairs from her head were sticking up, but she didn’t seem to care. Her beige Marks and Spencer t-shirt was wet from washing the dishes and little stains could be seen from where the oil spat up at her while she was cooking. The suds had made her hands look like prunes and the gold from her rings shone in the fluorescent lighting.

‘Have I told you what your grandfather said to me about my husband?’ Not this old story again, thought Sanjana. Every time her parents had an argument, her mother would tell her the same tale over and over.

‘Your grandfather, my father, was psychic. He spoke truths about people that no one even knew about. He was having argument with me one night and he said to me my husband would be a monkey who loved his mother more than me. And look what I got? A monkey who just sits with his mother all day long after work.’ Pinky turned away and started to put dishes back into their places in the cupboards mounted above the counter. ‘You choose your husband properly; make sure he doesn’t live with his mother.’

Sanjana wasn’t too sure about the story her mother told her, she knew her grandfather was an amazing man, but a psychic? Perhaps Yogesh was right, perhaps her mother was just a very gullible person.

‘Take this food to your father’, Pinky opened the microwave, ‘tell him if it isn’t hot enough he can warm himself! I don’t want to see his butha[16]. I’m going upstairs to sleep.’

‘Right, okay.’ Sanjana held the plate at the edges and walked out of the kitchen and into the living room where her father was waiting for his meal.

‘Where’s Pinky? She’s gone ruskeh?[17]

‘I did warn you’, Sanjana could see that he was sorry for winding Pinky up and she could see that he was a lot more loving than Pinky gave him credit for.

‘You know I was thinking,’ her father’s guilt seemed to wash away within a few seconds, ‘you can use your mother’s argument as your homework, sorted.’

‘Yeah. Thanks, dad’, Sanjana sighed, emotionally exhausted.


[1] Dirty (masculine- to a male)

[2] Cooking/masala smell

[3] garlic

[4] It’s not ‘don’t do’ its ‘doesn’t do it’

[5] Twenty one years

[6] Hot

[7] Chickpeas and rice

[8] Someone who waddles

[9] Hindu Poem about an epic war

[10] Go, get lost, go

[11] Slave girls/servant

[12] Stupid idiot

[13] Go, old man, and sit in your mother’s lap!

[14] hot

[15] What/who does he think he is?

[16] Ugly face

[17] To sulk

 

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Spider Rickey

They say to be one of the tough guys you have to make your first kill in cold blood. You gotta have your gun at point blank and shoot without flinching.

They say for you to be a man you have to leave all your childhood behind with your mother, ‘cos you aint going to be needing it no more.

They also say that to be one of the Slim Jims, the Cool Cats, to be in with ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly and ‘Lucky’ Luciano, you gotta to be a full blooded Sicilian animal. Now we aint talking about no half Sicilian half American blood here. We’re talking about the full 100% Italian.

I’ve managed to tick two out of the three statements above on my check list. I aint got no mother or other family anymore, but when I did have them they were as Sicilian as the Cosa Nostra. There’s only one thing standing in my way. One thing that will take me from being a run around kid pouring the drinks and lighting the cigars, to one of them. One of the big guys, the top cats, the killers and the givers, the fixers and the breakers. A tough guy. A real gangster. All I have to do now is whack a man.

Holding a gun in a hand that two years ago used to hold a school satchel is a chilling thought for some. For me, its progress. Two years ago I had no idea what I wanted from life, what life even had to offer me. Two years ago I was a nobody, I didn’t even know how to make a White Russian or a Dry Manhattan. Now I got myself a full working memory of all kinds of drinks, guns, suits and even a few names of the top level guys.

Two years ago if you asked for Spider Rickey, not one soul could tell you who that was. Now you ask for him, you get a smile and a nod towards the back of the bar where I pull a few shifts, making things sweet with my landlord as a way of paying for my bed upstairs.

Making a life for myself as someone who carries a gun can go two ways. Either I become a good time cop, taking a salary, a wife and a kid who likes to brag about his old man in class to all those bullies that I teach him to stand up to. Or I take to the back streets, with my name on the pin boards of every cop and police station from here to Hell’s Kitchen. No kid I can disappoint with the lack of support. No wife to slap silly because she’s asked “Honey! What’s happened?” when I come home with bloody hands and a bruise on my eye the shape of a fist. It may not seem like the good life, but I know I aint going to be no rooky cop for the rest of it…

I look down again at the gun I carry in that hand. I raise it so the guy can see I mean business. I’m not alone, I know I’m not. There’s always a couple of the big boys to make sure I do the job right, to make sure I don’t miss. Miss? How can anyone miss a skull a few centimetres, millimetres away from the barrel? I’m getting nervous, edgy. It’s okay, Rickey, I say to myself. But there’s only so many times I can say it before the effect of being okay wears off, and all you feel is the feeling of not being okay. I’m starting to ramble. I can’t back out now, I’ve given up my whole life to be a part of something big, something bigger than the law, something stronger and greater than anything I’ve ever been a part of.

The gun begins to softly shake and I realise that it’s my hand that’s shaking it, the nerves that are causing my hands to move without me asking them to. Breathing is the hardest part. The thought that I might be breathing the same air as a person who’s going to take his last breath next to me because of me, is something that stays with a person forever. I look at his face and think of all the things he could have done to land him here in front of Fat Al, Big Jim and me with the slender beauty of the pistol stuck on the side of his head.

“Do it, kid.” Big Jim’s hand on my shoulder gives me the extra drive. But it’s more than that, much more. I’m not encouraged by his words…I’m enraged. I feel the need to pull the trigger and then turn it onto Jim’s face too. Do it, kid. The words begin to replay in my head, until I just being to focus on one. Kid.

I forget about the others in the room, I forget about the curiosity I had over what this guy had done to have a bullet fuck his skull. I remember why I’m here, to have my picture on the wanted list, to have people speak my name with fear and respect. At the end of the day, that’s all everything comes down to, respect. At the end of the day I’m here to be a man, not just some kid.

I press the magic button that throws me into my new manhood, and with the spray of blood against my face I welcome my new beginning.

The other guys take care of the body, no need for me to do that, I should be celebrating. Some people have Hanukkahs, some have birthdays, rituals and get given gifts. For me it aint nothing like that. For me it’s better. Because for me it isn’t just a show, it isn’t just family and friends pretending that you’ve turned into some man who’s left his childhood behind. For me this is the big leagues.

“Good job, Rickey. Welcome to the family,” Big Jim says to me and I look up and smile as I hand him back his gun. “You keep it,” he says, “You can go a long way with that smile. You can go a lot further with the smile and a gun.”

The Accidental Affair

It’s quiet. But that’s normal. It’s the custom around her for it to be quiet in such a dreary room, where all you can hear is a symphony of laughter from the apartments above and below you. Where the radio makes a mundane crackling static noise in the back ground, and the forgotten cigarette, by the glass of golden malt whiskey, is turning from a line of wrapped tobacco to a line of ash. It’s routine for him to sit there, in his vest and unbuttoned trousers that barely hang on him. It’s typical for him to just sit there and wait for something to happen in his dreary room of his dreary clichéd apartment. But nothing ever does. He takes a swig of his whiskey and clenches his jaw as it travels down his throat. The harsh flaming taste of the liquid scorches his naked throat and reminds him of a woman’s wrath.

Rapping on the door makes him jump, and the attention he had on his drink moves onto the wooden entrance. He opens the door and there stands in front of him a thing of beauty, a specimen of dreams, a feast for the eyes. She leans against the door frame and a stranger’s name escapes from her lips “Oh Johnny…!” But before he can even question it she takes him by his arms and pushes her thick scarlet lips on to his mouth. His confusion is quickly overtaken by lust and he greedily grabs at her breasts. She presses herself onto him and moans into his mouth softly as his hands caress her back and gently tug at her hair. They stagger and stumble towards the mushroom coloured mattress he calls a bed, he is already half undressed. His mind should be wondering what the beautiful stranger is doing touching him let alone taking his clothes off, but instead he is too intoxicated with her seductive scent. His ex-wife’s picture on his bedside table is dropped face down as he suddenly questions why it is there in the first place. But the thought it quickly ignored as the stranger’s red dress falls to the ground, to reveal the most ravishing figure. Her kisses descending along his happy trail until she reaches her destination and his eyes spring open as his head drops back as if on a hinge. They make love. At least to him they make love. To her it is a mere transaction, an agreement.

It is over now. The air is still hot and humid, but it is over. The strike of a match is heard and the glow of the fire creates dark dancing shadows. She hands him the cigarette and looks deep into his eyes. “The agreement?” she speaks with a stern and cold tone…she has changed. He looks at her with a blank expression and she tries again to remind him, “We spoke on the phone, Johnny, I don’t just come over to any stranger’s home, you know. And this isn’t some hot-shot place you got here either, nothin’ like what you said. So come on, don’t blow me over like this, you know I need the money!”

“Harry.”

“What?”

“My name…its Harry.”

She looks at him intensely and she realises he really doesn’t have a clue about the situation, about what just happened, about why she was even here. Maybe she took a right on Second Street but took a left; there isn’t any time to think. She picks up her clothes and leaves the scene of the accident. He doesn’t even call her to stop her, how can he, he doesn’t even know her name…

Stranger in the Work Place

He drove to work and parked his forest green Nissan Micra in his usual place. He typed. He drank tea. He walked around the office to stretch his legs. Joe was the personification of the phrase “any old average Joe.” Apart from the fact that he was a lame weirdo, who never talked to anyone, even if they talked to him first. The only response you would get was a creepy slimy look that would cause people to never talk to him again. But he liked it that way. He liked the fact that nobody would come near him. He enjoyed the fact that they spoke about him in the coffee room, wondering what it was that made him tick. His greasy exterior even sent chills down necks, and as he would plod his way through the clean crisp air and turn it rancid people would stare at him and often think “oh dear GOD!”. But it never phased him. Not once did he think to shower or even to give the appearance that he had tried to clean himself. He fed off their mortified looks as his stench would hit their nostrils.

He drove home using the same route every night at five. He parked his car in front of his house just like he did every night and he turned on the light in his front room. He sat and ate his mundane dinner of beans and toast while watching a horrifically average episode of Emmerdale. Beans dropped down his front leaving a trail of tangy orange sauce behind them.

He left his plate on the sofa and peeled his fat behind from the cushioned seat. He made his way up the stairs and into his bedroom, the negative energy from the work day still fresh in his mind; the looks he got were imprinted hard in his memory…

He opened his wardrobe to reveal strobe lighting and a red Lycra suit, bright blue glistening leather boots and a miraculous scarlet cape. He giggled like a child and thought about all those faces looking at him with disgust and turned to the right to see his reflection in the mirror and broke out into a hysterical laughter. He grabbed his black mask and placed it upon his face, still sniggering. And began to scream, “I AM PROFESSOR ELECTRON! BOW DOWN TO MY NEGATIVE ENERGY, AS I STUN YOU WITH MY BODY ODOUR AND DESTROY YOUR SENSES WITH MY GREASE!”

He began to dance and scream and he switched the strobe lighting on and off and lunged around the room with a beautiful grace. What a freak, what a strange creature. He stretched his calves and hamstrings and took three steps back. Then, like a bolt of lighting he flung himself out of his bedroom window yelling “Germs a-hoy!” and landed surprisingly on his feet! He looked from left to right and saw that the coast was clear and set off into the night to badger forgotten cats and alienated dogs, so that one day they could be his minions.

Fenugreek

It’s incredible that our planet is home to seven billion people and counting. In the comics I collect from the piles of treasure-trash thrown onto the beach, there are pictures of a different world. A world with money, a world with heroes and princesses. Something very different to the beach. To my beach.

I won’t tell you where exactly but on the northern edge of Mumbai is where my world is. My mother makes extra cash cleaning middle class houses, she then comes back to her own make shift house held together with weak wiry string. We have a blue sheet of plastic that has done us the honour of flying across the gutters of the continent to be one of our four walls. The other three are my mother’s old saris, the lime green colour and the once luminous purple boarders faded by the sun. Our roof is nothing to brag about, it is just a few white jagged pieces of plastic and brown cardboard that used to be a box my father found washed up on the beach. Every night as I lay my head I see the words “Dell” and “INSPIRON”, repeating them over and over in my head, wondering what they mean until I fall asleep.  

My father was brought up in a normal house but was then disowned by his family for marrying my low cast mother. So he made a home here on the beach. He jokes and calls it his small beach apartment. My mother mocks his optimism by asking him if he would like the AC on higher, lifting the blue plastic wall from the sand above her head and holding it in place with a stick. Despite their differences in realism, they are in love.

Today there is a panic in my father’s eyes. He does not send me to school, but I am still woken up at dawn by my mother with the same distress in her manner. They begin to talk in low hush voices and my eight year old mind can only take a few moments of concentration before I walk away. In my world if something is serious, if there is something you need to know then there is no hesitation, no difficulty in finding out, no hush voices and low tones. There are no secrets here.

Normally, as I step out onto the sand I can smell the fresh fenugreek Ali, our neighbour, cuts from his plantation. My mother says that he loves to cheat people out of their money, charging seventy rupees for a bunch of fenugreek that is only worth twenty to twenty-five rupees. He says that it is because his plantation is the freshest in all of Mumbai. His secret being the water he digs from under the sand which is sweet, not salty. But as I step out today I am not met with the fragrant scent, instead the smell of waste, normally hidden by the plant, explodes into my nostrils hitting the back of my throat.

I look around and people are dismantling their houses. Men are on top of their makeshift roofs tearing down the foundations of their shelters.  Women are piling their belongings onto the cement of the sidewalk, holding their tiffin boxes and their framed pictures of deities, clutching onto misbehaving children and scolding them.  My world was behaving strangely, not in the nonchalant way that it usually acts. Nasrin, Ali’s wife walks over to my mother and asks why we aren’t doing the same as everyone, why we aren’t making our house look as if it never even existed. She says something about the machines coming, the life destroying bulldozers sent over from the government.

My mother’s face doesn’t look like Nasrin’s. It is not as panic stricken, not as worried. My mother has seen many of her houses torn down, many of her palaces smashed to smithereens. She knows the rituals of the government and their live size toys.

“Let them come,” she says. “Let them come, only when I see them will I believe it.”

She is so strong willed and thick skinned; I begin to think that my father chose her for her brutal approach to life, rather than her feminine charm.

The day passes fairly slow as most of my friends help their families take down their small memories one by one, only to put them back together again once the machines have come and fulfilled their duty. I feel the trembling on the ground before I hear the roaring of the engines and climb on top of my roof to have a better look, above the crowds of people that have gathered. I don’t get to look for too long as my father rushes me down and gets on the roof himself to snap away the thin threads keeping our shack together. They are here, they did come, and it wasn’t just a rumour!

My mother moves quickly now as the machines come closer and closer, tearing down any hint of formation, any scent of a home is crushed under the contraption’s heavy conveyor belt feet. The long arm of the bulldozer is extending, reaching for our house. It gets closer and closer until my mother and father can save no more, until our shack is broken and scrunched into nothingness under the weighty apparatus.

For the fourth time this year, our home is destroyed. A few hours pass and I suddenly look towards my mother who is laughing, she embraces my father and they are both happy. Then I hear her words of happiness.

“The government is going to be busy with an election!” She sighs relief, “They’ll be too busy to be tearing our homes down any time soon for a few months.” With this small piece of news, even I am happy. For a few months my world will remain intact.

I am a Mayfly

I am a Mayfly. I live for a day. My life consists of nothing but coitus. To some this kind of life would be ideal, the best that they could imagine, but I wanted to make something of myself, hit the big city, the high rollers. I had at most a couple of hours to make anything I did count, so what harm could it do to dream big?

My mother laid me and a bunch of others as a pile of eggs on the skin of a murky river and left. She abandoned us and expected the group to just fend for ourselves. But you know what, it’s cool. I’ve lived a good 75% of my adult life already and I’ve learnt to forgive her.  I’m sure she had other things to do with her twenty-four hours than just sit there and waste her one day of life waiting for us to hatch.

So, when I did eventually hatch I moulted my skin a couple of times. I was a nervous Naiad and a late bloomer, so that took a couple more months than everyone else. You see, some people get the wrong idea about us Mayflies. They think that once you’ve hatched, then that’s it, you just fly away and the next day you drop dead as soon as the sun comes up. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that. It takes a good couple of months for us to even grow wings than to lift off the ground! Its only when we grow the wings that the clock starts ticking.

So I had my awkward teenage stage. But, once I came to grips with the fact that my sole purpose in life was to find a female and make magic happen, I got another bomb shell dropped on me. Turns out I’m not at the top of any particular food chain, not even close! I found out I was at the bottom when my friend Jimmy got eaten by a fish. A fish! Not even squished by the windscreen of a speeding lorry! That’s when thought to myself “Handsome, as soon as you grow them wings, don’t waste your day hanging around any puddles,” if you know what I mean!

My main goal in life was to reproduce. Maybe I should rephrase that. A mayfly’s goal in life is to reproduce. But I wasn’t any old mayfly. I was the Mayfly, I was destined for greatness, and I could feel it in my gut! So when I finally grew those silvery beauts on my back I headed straight for the lights, straight for New York City.

Now Mayflies can’t talk, we haven’t got any mouths. Our digestive system is full of air, it’s virtually empty. So there wasn’t much to work with when it came to talking the talk. I was at a disadvantage and my life was already a few hours into the day. That’s when I met a mosquito called Sam. He saw something in me that he hadn’t seen in any other species; two penises! And since there weren’t many other Mayflies around I was unique. Sam introduced me to a couple of High end Ladybirds and told me they would take good care of me. Who was I to complain? I was taken under their wing cases, and here I am a good few hours later, in the prime of my adulthood, minted. Sure, I’m not fulfilling my life’s goal of reproducing, and yes I probably can’t show my face around back at home, but to be honest, being a play boy fly to these red spotted gals means this is turning out to be a very good day.