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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)]

“I assume you have come about the letter we sent about your son?”

The Principal looked down at the paper left for him by the clerk, and then up at the woman sitting across the table. Her demeanor suggested meekness and passivity. The husband was the one who wielded power in their household, he concluded. And according to the son, he was on a tour outside the country which is why the mother was here. The oily hair and the tight plait though had him stumped. Very out of character for someone from an…. Here he paused. Who was he to judge people’s appearances?

He cleared his throat before continuing.

“Vishnu has done poorly in almost all the subjects all through this year. But you know that already. His teachers are not hopeful that he will pass the board exams this year.”

Here he stopped to look at the woman. She hadn’t moved. Her face was blank. Truth be told, he hated these sessions. Why couldn’t someone else do it, he thought peevishly. Too late, he reminded himself. He was the Principal and it was his job. He plodded on.

“We can’t have him spoil the hundred percent pass rate of a prestigious school like this. A Transfer Certificate is being issued for him. You may collect it and other documents from the clerk.”

This was usually when the parents protested, begged, made promises, even shed a few tears. But the woman merely nodded and looked down. Was she going to cry? The Principal felt pity well up inside him. Caught between a busy globetrotting businessman husband and a no-good son, hers had to be a voiceless life. She… He paused in his thoughts. What was that commotion outside his door? The door was flung open just then and a woman in her early forties, dressed smartly in a business suit, walked in.

“I am Mrs. Kumar. I just got back today morning from a business tour and… anyway, what’s this about Vishnu not doing well? He has been telling….”

The newcomer’s eyes fell on the woman cowering in her seat.

“Shanta!” She cried. “What are you doing here?”

Shanta started crying now, just as the Principal had feared a while back, but for different a reason.

“Madam-ji. I didn’t want to come. But baby…..”

“Baby, my foot! Shanta, I have told you NOT to call him that. He is not a baby now.” And in a kinder voice she said, “Go and sit in the car. I will be along.”

She sat across from the Principal. He had managed to hitch his jaw back up and don a serious look on his face. The cheek of the boy, bringing someone else here as his mother. He caught himself from his rosy dreams of whacking the boy one on his fleshy behind.

“Look here, Mrs Kumar. This is serious. Bringing someone else to stand in as parent… We can’t have this sort of thing happening.” His voice was extra stern, to cover up for his earlier lapse.

There was silence for a while, and then Mrs Kumar spoke up.

“I need a Transfer Certificate for Vishnu. I have decided to move closer to my work place and am taking him with me.”

The Principal felt the muscles of his jaws loosen. He was spared this one.

© Shail Mohan 2020