Flash fiction is an umbrella term used to describe any fictional work of extreme brevity, including the Six-Word Story, 140-character stories, also known as twitterature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words)
The light shimmers off your bald pate. I don’t recognize you as you turn around and walk towards where I am standing. How could I? When we knew each other you had a lion’s mane. I used to run my hand through the thick hair, remember? That was in a different lifetime, years ago. I try not to think about it. You look so different now from the person I knew.
When Rani introduces you as her husband, the coin falls and it is all I can do to not start laughing loudly, uncontrollably. Your fleshed out frame, the paunch, the expensive material of your coat, the gold chain around your neck, the aroma of your after shave, they all tell me the story as clearly as if you yourself have in so many words. You have changed your name too to a shortened version of the original.
Did the boss snare you for his daughter or did you offer yourself to be snared? Either way, you have made good your promise to move ahead in life, I have to admit. Ambition, that was what you were all about. How naive I was to think that ambition had been to achieve something worthwhile in life. Isn’t that why I stepped away from your life, erased myself and my ‘tainted’ money as you so disdainfully called the legacy left by my corrupt dad?
Do you know, I now head the institution he started. I have cleaned up his act. There are no underhand deals, no ‘tainted’ money exchanges hands. Every activity is transparent and above board, open to scrutiny by whosoever wishes to look into the details. It took a lot of time and effort. There were days when I felt like giving up the fight, surrounded as I was by those who pressured me to bow to the system. It was an uphill task I had set myself. But I thought of you and persisted. By doing the right thing I felt close to you. And happy.
What irony that you are now on the other side of the fence. Is there anyone who does not know Rani’s father? The most corrupt politician in the state. No, the whole country. Talk about wallowing in tainted money. If that is not enough, Rani drops another bombshell for me. You are working for her father. You won’t meet my eye when she elaborates. You are his all-in-all she says, her father’s right hand man, being groomed as his successor. The light shimmers off the fine English cut glass in your hand as you swirl the contents and pretend to be engrossed in it.
You haven’t said a word and I notice Rani giving you curious glances. You are still staring into your drink when I make my excuses and escape to the restroom. I wonder why you didn’t tell Rani we knew each other. To be fair, I could have too, but didn’t. I felt it was your call. Now you are probably wondering how I know Rani. We were at school together. I ran into her by accident and she invited me over. A small party, she said. You can also meet my husband and children.
I open the tap and wash my hands for no reason, pull a paper napkin and start wiping my hands thoroughly. My reflection looks impassively back at me from the mirror. In the harsh light the lines on my face are accentuated making me look old and haggard. The grays in my hair are prominent. I notice a shimmer in my eyes. Not so impassive after all. The tears spill over and roll down my cheek.
Who am I crying for, I wonder? Is it the love I gave up voluntarily all those years ago? Or the shock of the sudden demise of the idealist who had been my idol, the motivating force of my life? With sudden clarity I realize they are also because I know you are not happy being where you are.
©Shail Mohan 2017