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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 clarified butter was smoking hot when she dropped the broken bits of nuts into it. Not just any nuts. They had to be cashew nuts. That’s what her son liked. And whatever he liked, his sister all of three liked as well, which was why she had thrown in an extra handful into the wok on the stove. She now transferred the lightly browned nuts to the vessel containing the payasam, fragrant rice boiled in thickened milk. Sugar was added later on in the proceedings, or the milk would curdle. Her mother’s words from long back still rang in her ears. A little powdered cardamom completed the dish, giving it its signature flavor.

She carefully spooned some into each of the two small bowls she had taken down from the shelf. This had been the evening’s request and she was glad to oblige the children. After all she got the opportunity to do so only on weekends. Setting the bowls on a tray, she walked down the corridor. She could hear the television playing long before she reached their room. Tom and Jerry were at it again. That is the only show her daughter liked to watch these days. The little one was not interested in her brother’s games of pulling out imaginary guns or swords and vanquishing non-existing enemies. Maybe all that would change in a year or two. She had watched that happen with her friends’ children.

Reaching her destination, she pushed open the partially closed door with her elbow. As soon as she stepped into the room, she noticed her son appeared to be kneeling in front of the curtained window. ‘Have you started your prayers early today?’ she teased him. Setting the tray down on the small table, she seated herself next to her daughter who was so engrossed in the antics on screen that she took the bowl proffered without ever taking her eyes off the screen. Jerry had outwitted Tom again and the little girl smiled showing off tiny pearly teeth and dimples as she plunged her spoon into the bowl of payasam.

‘Come on, son! I made the milk payasam just as you asked. Lots of cashew nuts!’ She turned to peer at him from where she sat. The light from the lamp didn’t quite light up the corner too well. She realized her son hadn’t moved at all. For no reason a sudden fear clutched her heart and she went cold. She stood up and swiftly moved towards her son. ‘Get up!’ she said, even before she reached him. ‘Get up!’ she repeated as she kneeled next to him, trying desperately to untie the knot around his slender ten year old neck with fingers that felt like lead. ‘Open your eyes!’ she cried out again and again, though she realized he would never open them ever.

Her wails could be heard in the farthest house on the street. Those who heard her stopped whatever they were doing, their hearts in their mouth. Something bad had happened and they rushed out of their homes to offer help and ameliorate the pain of whoever it was whose heart was broken so. On reaching they found that nothing they did would ever mend this heart again. They stood rooted to the spot at the heartbreaking scene that met their eyes unable to stop their own tears. Only one or two had the presence of mind to call for an ambulance and inform the police, while someone else quickly grabbed the three-year old and took her outside to be with their children.

In the meantime on the television, Jerry beat Tom senseless, then threw him under a bus flattening him into a cat-shaped mat.

[This story is based on true events, more than one that I know of, where children tried to enact scenes (of hangings) from movies/shows, not realizing how dangerous and fatal the outcome can be.]

© Shail Mohan 2021