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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 rain has stopped, but the sound of falling drops from the leaves of the tree outside my window keep up a steady rhythm. There was a time when it soothed and lulled me to sleep. But not today.

Today I am afraid.

Sleep is out of question. Worry for my daughter’s safety keeps me awake. Is she alright? Had he, had…? I refuse to let my thoughts go any further than that. I recall how the phone had rung just as I drifted off. I want to come home, Mama. Her voice had been barely a whisper. The hairs on my neck stood up as if they sensed something amiss, but I had answered with equanimity. Of course darling, anytime you want. I hardly completed and the call was cut, but not before I heard a thud followed by a scream of pain paralyzing me.

I have been trying to call back repeatedly and all I get is an engaged tone.

May be I am over reacting, I console myself. It was nothing, just a lovers’ tiff. Which married life does not have fights? But that thud and scream you heard, a voice inside my head reminds me. Unnecessarily. I hadn’t forgotten. May be it was the television, I clutch at straws. God knows the television dramas have all the ingredients and fit the bill perfectly. But then, I know my daughter’s voice. I’d recognize it from among a chorus of voices. The distress in them too.

The rain has started again. Restless, I switch on the light and walk to the kitchen on the pretext of getting a glass of water. The truth is I cannot lie still or even sit in one place. What can I do from three thousand miles away? I don’t know anyone in her city. I prowl around the house straightening things, staring at the telephone every now and then, willing it to ring.

At 3 a.m. I find myself in the kitchen making murukku. I don’t remember making a conscious decision about it. There I was mechanically mixing the dough. It is my daughter’s favorite snack. Next, I heat the oil and start systematically frying batch after batch of crispy murukku. And then just like that I decide, in the morning I’ll take the train to her house.

I don’t worry about getting a reservation. Three days in the train in the unreserved compartment wouldn’t be easy. I’ll manage it somehow. What a surprise it will be for her to find me at her doorstep. I’ll bring her back home with me. I am determined about that. She needs to relax for a couple of weeks at least. I’ll tell my son-in-law I am missing her too much. He’ll agree. He has to.

My decision settles the restlessness in me somewhat. I start packing a few necessary items. I won’t be staying long, after all. As soon as the boy who runs errands for me comes along with the morning milk, I’ll entrust the keys of the house, with instructions to water the plants, feed the chickens and a host of other things. He can then get me a rickshaw to go to the railway station.

The eastern sky is lightening from black to a pearl gray when I see the boy walking up the path with the milk packets. He is astonished to find me ready and waiting. I quickly send him off to wake up the auto driver who sleeps in the shop at the junction. As soon as the auto arrives, he puts my bag inside. I give him the last of my instructions and get into the auto leaving him to lock up. He grins when I tell him my daughter will be coming back with me. He is fond of her.

As the auto drives out of the gate and turns left to take the road that goes to the railway station I glance towards my house. The boy is locking the front door. I see him hesitate, look at the door and then back at me. By then the moss covered compound wall comes in my line of sight. So I don’t see him open the door and go back inside to attend the phone or see him running towards the gate and down the road forgetting to lock the front door. I don’t see the shock on his face or the tears in his eyes.

©Shail Mohan 2017

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