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)
Charu walked in when I was on the floor looking for the pink beads. The blues and greens were on my mattress, safe for the time being. I peered underneath the cot and saw a couple of them glittering in the faint light that seeped in.
“What are you doing, Grandpa?”
Charu is the youngest of my grandchildren and six years old. She and her parents are down for their annual visit.
I was not about to tell her of the pink beads. What if she took them away? Children loved shiny baubles and my pink beads were the shiny kind. They held my most cherished memories about Suchitra, my wife.
I don’t know what she told her because Charu was back in a few moments with her aunt.
“Have you lost something, Papa?”
Gayatri is my eldest daughter, the one who takes care of me now that Suchitra has left, gone on ahead leaving me to fend for myself. It has been ten long years now.
Fortunately, by then I had found the pink beads that had strayed and tucked them away with the others beneath my pillow.
“Nothing.” I said.
“That’s your favorite answer, isn’t it Papa?” Gayatri smiled.
I hate it when she smiles like that, as if I am a little boy. I wanted to tell her sternly that I was the father and she my child. In fact I did tell her that. But my voice sounded suspiciously like a sheep bleating, not one filled with authority that I would have liked. I cleared my throat to try again.
“Of course!” Gayatri replied before I could make a second attempt.
She kept the bowl she was holding down on the side table. Ugh! Oats. I didn’t want oats. It tasted like cooked blotting paper. Not that I have ever cooked and eaten blotting paper. The thought made me smile.
“Ahh, someone is happy today!” Gayatri said in a singsong voice. “Care to share the joke, Papa?”
“No.” I replied shortly.
“Okay, if that’s how you want it.”
Of course that’s exactly how I wanted it.
I then heard her say,
“Come on, Papa. Sit over here while you have your porridge.” She pointed to the table and chair. “Let me change the sheets for you.”
Panic filled me.
Being able to funnel my thoughts in an orderly manner and store them in appropriate segments of my brain came easy to me all my life. I didn’t realize what a blessing that was till the edges began to blur. I had to do something about it. That’s when I started threading my thoughts like beads. Red, green blue, purple… and my favorites, the pink ones. They were all color coded with the pinks being about Suchitra, my wife of sixty years.
But now, fear made me shake. I hadn’t yet threaded safely, the new pink beads I had found just yesterday and now they could very well be lost. I should at least funnel them into the right receptacles before Gayatri pulls the sheet off the mattress. If she pulled them now, the beads would scatter all over the floor and be lost. I didn’t mind the green and blues getting lost. But the pink ones were special. I couldn’t lose them!
“No.” I said stubbornly.
“Come on now, Papa. Be a good boy!”
“I am not your boy!”
I was glad to notice my voice sounded firm this time. Yes, firmness, that’s what I needed right now. “No!” I added, “I am not your boy!” That sounded even better. I was pleased with myself.
In all this, I failed to notice how she had skilfully maneuvered me towards the table on one side of the bed and pulled the sheet off the mattress. It had happened before I could even blink. Tears of frustration stung my eyes as I saw the pink beads fall, bounce off the floor and roll in every direction, mixing with the blues and greens.
“No!” I screamed, “No!”
Now it would take ages to separate them by color and that I could start on only after finding them all.
“What’s the matter, Papa?” Gayatri asked.
“My pink beads! My pink beads!”
Stupid girl! Look at her mouth hanging open in surprise as if she hasn’t ever heard of beads. No wonder she could never get through college. Couldn’t she see the beads lying scattered all over the room? What’s the matter, Papa, indeed!
“Leave me alone!” I told her shaking myself free.
Bending down I slowly started picking up the pink beads. The greens and blues could stay there for now. First I’d rescue the pink ones. They were about Suchitra.
“This one is from 1954, our wedding, where’s the next one? Ahh there it is! We moved to Visakhapatnam, this one is from later years, when we had the housewarming party for our first home. Where’s the one which…”
From somewhere faintly I heard Charu’s voice ask her aunt what Grandpa was doing, there was nothing to pick up, and then again, why Gayatri was crying, and of course she could see tears in her aunt’s eyes. I didn’t pay attention. I had to find them all. The pink beads.
©Shail Mohan 2018