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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)]

What a day this was turning out to be! Chaos from the word go. I had made a promise to my friend. How the heck was I going to keep it? This was my budding business and she had shown great faith in me by giving me the order for the party. But now my very credibility was at stake.

First Chandra had to rush off to the office earlier than usual. That meant an early breakfast. It was followed by the discovery that Dhruv was running a temperature. A call to the doctor and a coaxing of something to drink and medicines later, he was now sleeping peacefully. Unlike his little sister. When Rohini woke up, she liked the world to know about it. Her screams could probably be heard from the last house on the street or the city center itself. She had a voice, that one, and used it to the maximum whenever she saw fit.

Out of the two worker bees I have assisting me in my work, the one who was my right-hand man had called to say he was taking the day off because his mother had had a fall. Probably a ruse to shirk, I grumbled to myself. The other one wasn’t really good at any ‘assisting’ to speak of and mostly did the shopping and delivering of stuff. He was now out gathering the last minute stuff. That left me, the all-in-all, employer and employee rolled into one, and the girl with the permanent scared look who washed the dishes and did the cleaning up. What was I going to do?

Rohini’s wails grew louder as I entered the room. Nobody really knew why she woke up screaming and continued to be cranky for a while after waking up. Was it nightmares? Each one who knew us had a different theory to offer and I was tired of listening to them. Chandra was inclined to the view that she took after his maternal uncle who was always in a foul temper on waking up. He and his cousins made sure they were never in his vicinity till he was in a better mood. Ha. But Chandra could afford to make jokes about it. He was even now sitting in his cool and quiet office, not having to listen to the wailing.

With Rohini in my arms, I walked back to the kitchen. The scared-looking girl aka Sumitra was laboriously cleaning the big alloy wok. I told her to leave it aside for the moment and to start kneading the dough. It would dry up if left unattended too long. Her jaw dropped an inch. Me? she asked as if I had asked if she would do the lead role in my next movie, that is if I were a director or producer. Yes. you, I said firmly. She had to step up and help me today or we were doomed.

I warmed up Rohini’s milk and waited for her to finish, then took her to her play pen. Surrounded by her toys, she’d be quiet for a while, and I could keep an eye on her from the kitchen and make sure she did not get into any mischief. I went to check on Dhruv. He was still sleeping, the fever seemed to be subsiding. Pulling back all the stray strands of hair that had escaped, I retied my hair as I hurried back to the kitchen.

“Get the cutter and start…. ” I stopped mid-sentence. I was about to tell Sumitra to roll out the dough, so I could cut small circles from them, put the filling in, fold them close, and get ready for baking. What I saw was her closing the door of the oven with a satisfied smile. On the kitchen counter were bits and pieces left over from the cutting of the rolled dough. What had she done? I was horrified. Her smile froze on her face when she saw my shocked look. I ran to the oven and peered inside.

I preheated the oven while I was rolling out the dough, she said in a small voice, answering my unspoken question. Hmm… They looked good, every single one of them perfect clones of each other. I slowly let out my breath. Have you done this before? I asked her. Yes, my father worked in a bakery before he was in the accident, and I helped him. Why the heck hadn’t she told me this! As if I had asked her, I chided myself inwardly. I had hardly given the girl a second glance when taking her in to do the cleaning.

So, I asked her, can you cut these into thin slices, apply the melted chocolate and roll them up into wheels? She nodded. A sudden smile lit up her face. Gone was the scared look. I watched her for a while. She was good at it, no doubt. The phone rang. It was the boy calling from the hospital. His mother needed to have her leg put in a cast. He had to take a couple of days off till his sister could come over from the neighboring state. Don’t worry, I told him. Look after your mother. He seemed anxious. But Ma’am, what about the party orders for today? I assured him I’d manage and rang off.

Sumitra was nearly done with the sweet wheels. Samosas next? she asked before I could even open my mouth. This girl has been observing things. I nodded suddenly feeling lighter, and turned my attention to the next job on hand. Today wasn’t that bad after all. Chandra could sit in his cool and quiet office and crunch numbers. I preferred the heat and sweat, and also the hustle and bustle of my own job. What’s more, I was going to do my friend proud today. But the icing on the cake was that I had found my new assistant.

© Shail Mohan 2020