A short fiction with the words "Is this the new normal?"
|My father ran away from an orphanage after stabbing a warden who had no human feelings. That was the watershed moment for him. He was eleven then.
I was oblivious to my father’s traumatic childhood. He was a gentle soul with a crinkle in his eyes when he smiled. Never the verbose sort, he commanded respect and love from everyone around him. I worshipped my father.
“Indira,” he would say, and I would scamper to his side, my heart filled with joy. Most of the time, it was to tell me some inane bit of news, but I cherished these interactions.
I lost my mother two years after I was born. No one talked about it, but from the sketchy bits I gathered from the staff, it was a road accident. My father often held the faded photograph of their wedding reception to his chest, closed his eyes, and hummed an old Hindi movie tune.
I must have been around ten when I first asked him what he does. I knew he ran a business, but not more.
Our conversation went this way.
“Appa, what is your business?”
A quick smile and “I am a businessman, Indira.”
“I know, but what business?”
A passing cloud on that benevolent face and a response. “I am in the gold and diamond business.”
I was excited though I had never seen either of these substances in the house. I intended to rectify that situation.
“How come you never bring any gold home? I want to see!”
His lips pursed in conflict.
“I don’t bring any work home with me, Indira. Have you ever seen me doing any work once I get home? I don’t even have people related to work coming home.”
I nodded, my curiosity unsatiated.
The topic never recurred until I completed my college degree in the US. And it dramatically reared its head.
I had a job offer but wanted to spend some time with my father in India before I embarked on the rat race. The reason for his decision became clear to me only when I returned.
My second day back, and I was still jetlagged. A torrential downpour woke me up at four in the morning. The stomach complained incessantly, and I needed to quieten it. I stepped softly down the wooden staircase to the kitchen.
A voice arrested my descent.
“Sir, I have to do it tonight. Madha will testify tomorrow.”
I peered around the staircase into our living room.
A tall stranger stood in deference to my father, who sat in his favorite rocking chair next to the side table with a lamp casting eerie shadows around it. In the moonlight streaming through the french windows, my father’s expression was clear. Gone was the serene visage. A grim and determined look dominated.
“Jayant, take care of it.” He waved his right hand expansively.,
Jayant gave an imperceptible head shake. “I know where he is, sir.”
Jayant stood with his back to me so I couldn’t see his face.
My father sighed. “Do what you can. Otherwise, we’ll leave it to fate. I can’t conceal my work forever from her. But my life is over if Madha testifies.”
He looked defeated, and my heart went out to him though nothing in the conversation made any sense.
Jayant whipped around, and I barely managed to step back into the shadows.
I don’t know what came over me, but I decided to follow him.
I ran to my father’s study to get the car keys.
It was on a bookshelf, and in my hurry, a book behind the keys fell.
I froze, but my clumsiness went unpunished.
Something caught my eye.
In the rectangular space caused by the book’s fall, steel glinted through.
That day was my voyage of discovery.
I moved aside two other books, and a safe manifested itself. It was unlocked.
Inside lay a beautiful handgun complete with a sleek silencer. Irrationally, I grabbed it and ran out. Jayant’s car turned the corner on our street.
With headlights dimmed, I tailed the blue sedan at a prudent distance. The rain thinned, and the city lights became dimmer as we drove, a mysterious stranger and a confused girl, unwitting partners in the unforeseen events to unfold.
Suddenly, he pulled off into a small dirt lane. Hesitating briefly, I followed suit.
A farmhouse appeared in the distance. Multiple police vehicles protected the contents.
Jayant stopped the car and stepped out into the sugarcane field that enveloped the nondescript abode.
My heartbeat was off the charts.
I parked well behind and followed in his wake through the crops.
Jayant was a few hundred yards ahead.
I went around the house to get a better view.
In the brightly lit dining hall, I saw a man poring over some documents. I recognized Madha from one of my father’s photographs with his staff.
Scratches of conversations reached me.
“Are you sure you know exactly what to say?”
Madha nodded. “Yes, sir, I will tell everything exactly like you trained me to. Then…”
A flurry of activity cut off whatever else he was going to say.
One of the cops out for a smoke surprised an over-eager Jayant. Being a professional, Jayant made a quick getaway with the police in full pursuit.
Gunshots rent the air.
Three cops rushed to Madha and brought him out of the house to a waiting car.
All I remembered were my father’s last words to Jayant. I pulled the trigger.
The silencer ensured that it took a few seconds for the cops to realize what happened.
By then, I was gone.
Sweating and shaking with disbelief, I headed home.
A brightly lit house welcomed me.
My father stood at the front porch.
I made my way unsteadily towards him.
“Welcome to the business Indira,“ were the astounding words from his mouth.
He smiled, turned, and walked inside.
Is this the new normal?