on a Blue Afternoon
from previous issue)
was not thinking about it anymore; Bobby was having a painful
death and she blamed herself for it. She put her hands into
the grille and called the cat again; Hasna joined her soon,
but Bobby did not respond, neither did she move away. The
cat only looked up the window and cried shrilly. Shormi turned
round, gripping a bar and said, "Hasna I can't take this
saw tears rolling down the girl's eyes. She held Hasna's hand
tightly and said, "If the cat doesn't die by tomorrow
night I will kill it with the gun".
started weeping. Shormi put her hand on her shoulder and said,
"Listen, silly girl…I just want to relieve it of
the pain." Then she added, "Just look at the way
Bobby is crying…look…"
then wept, holding each other. Shormi held Hasna's head to
her neck and said, "Silly girl". The cat screeched
even louder as it staggered around to lie on the other side
of the ledge.
was out when Shormi woke up in the evening. Bobby was still
crying. She put on a pair of pyjamas and a short-sleeved shirt
and drank a glass of water from the bedside table. Warm sunlight
came through the mango tree and fell on Bobby's decaying body.
The cat looked up and tried to leap up the grille. Shormi
clasped the grille as Bobby missed it and fell on the garden
below the sunshade before bumping on the edge of the façade
wall. She ran down the stairs, almost toppling over the white
banister, and found Bobby alive. Blood spewed out of its neck
and both of the cat's front legs almost came out of its body.
Bobby tried to get up to her feet when she saw Shormi walk
down further towards the flowerbed. But the cat could not
get up to its feet; it tumbled down and staggered on the thorny
surface with its chest. She reached down, picked Bobby up,
and took her to the house.
waited for Hasna to come before taking any decision about
Bobby. She had placed the cat on a rag and it had not moved
since then. Meanwhile, she fidgeted across the room, holding
both her hands together, praying. She was born in a Muslim
family, but had abandoned the faith as she grew up. The bell
rang and, to her surprise, she found Nasser standing at the
door. He had grown a beard and was wearing a white T-shirt
and blue jeans.
she almost screamed and said, "come in".
looked at him more closely. The long strips of thin white
fabric that had been wrapped around different parts of his
body were gone. Nasser sat down on the sofa bed and as if
to give a reason for the visit said, "I was passing by
and thought you might not dislike it if I drop in".
at his innocence. Bobby's cry came out before she could say
anything. She strode down the flat, ushering him in, and sat
down on the floor. Nasser followed her; and when he reached
Bobby, said, "God…how did it happen".
did not reply; she looked pointedly at the cat's eyes; she
thought the cat had been pleading to save it from its agony.
Cats did not shed tears, she knew, but she somehow felt it
was telling her, begging her, with its brownish eyes, to rid
it of the pain. She looked at Nasser, who was staring glumly
I want to kill her. Do you think it will be wrong if we kill
her now, instead of let her suffer?" she asked.
did not take his eyes off the cat when he replied, "No.
But I don't know how we will do it."
have a gun," she slowly got up and took the gun out of
the drawer. "I don't know if it will work or not. It's
my ex-husband's but he never used it," she said while
leaning on the wall.
you want me to do it?" Nasser looked at her and asked.
she replied and walked down slowly to the rag.
stopped crying and stared at her eyes when she pointed the
gun at her head. She could not fix her aim as both her hands
were trembling. It was almost dark; the electricity had not
come yet and Shormi had forgotten to light a candle. Beams
of red, yellow and blue lights came through the window from
the billboards and fell on the two impassive human figures.
Nasser came forward and put his hands around hers to help
her aim. Shormi turned round, surprised, and said, "Thanks".
now holding her hands, could hear their hearts pounding. Shormi
looked at Bobby for the last time, closed her eyes and pulled
the trigger, but the thirteen-year-old lever failed to fire
the gun. Bobby cried shrilly as she tried again; the gun did
not let her down this time, blood splashed out of the cat's
head and fell all over the blue rag. Shormi, eyes still closed,
turned round, hugged him tightly and cried.
a hole at the giant trunk of the mango tree to bury Bobby.
Both of them cried when she wrapped the cat in a dark chador
and put it in the hole. Nasser replaced the soil and walked
back to the house with the shovel in hand. Shormi followed
her and said, "You need to take a shower".
almost walked up to him when Nasser replied, "I should
go home now".
a day for you…" she opened the main entrance and
said, "But your home is far away from here…"
will take a cab, don't worry," he entered the house,
following her, and said, "But I need to wash my hands
straight and then turn left," she said and replaced the
keys on the windowsill.
put on a brown sari and black blouse after having a shower
while Nasser washed his hands in the bathroom. Electricity
had come a while ago; she went to the kitchen to make tea.
Nasser, meanwhile, came back from the bathroom and stood in
front of the bookshelf; he carefully pulled a book out of
the rack and leafed through it absentmindedly. A copy of Jackson
Pollack's Moon Women hung on the wall of the bedroom,
just above the dresser. He looked through the door, still
holding the book, and gazed at the painting.
clatter of pots and spoons came out of the dining room, as
he looked back at the book. Shormi called Nasser and told
him to have a cup of tea.
you reading something?" she asked, sipping at her tea.
really," Nasser replied, "I was just browsing through
one?" she asked, smiling; she was half-sure he had already
forgotten the book's name.
forgot," he smiled meekly and sat besides her. "I
feel really sad for the cat," he continued.
had cried a lot since the evening and the bath could not take
the signs of it away from her face: her eyes were still blood
red; and there was a pinkish glow about the edges of her nose.
She crossed her legs and sipped at the tea again. Nasser thought
she might start crying again; he put a hand on her hand and
put the cup down, looked at him and said, "Thanks."
stared back at her watery eyes, held her hand and said, "You
look good when you cry".
a teardrop rolled down her cheeks and fell on the saucer,
and said, "I know that".
laughed and said, "Let's go for a walk."
to the bedroom and opened a drawer at the side of the dressing
table. As she was rummaging through it to find a lipstick,
Nouman called. He was sorry, he said; he should have informed
her earlier that dad had been with him, he continued. But
Shormi stopped him and said it was ok. She also said that
she was about to go outside with a friend, so she would not
be able to talk now. Nouman was surprised and he could not
hide it; he said sorry twice before hanging up.
(To be continued...)
(R) thedailystar.net 2004