Skip to main content
Srishti-2022   >>  Short Story - English   >>  Everything Goes

Everything Goes

When the porous membrane that separates one from the outside world can no longer hold its form, it all comes crashing down. Such was the experience of Shankaran that fateful night as he waited in the shadows for retribution. Just? You ask. That is beside the point. The die had been cast.

It rained the night that he planned to do it. It wasn’t a hasty decision nor a wise one, but a decision it was. It didn't heed the advice of grim sobriety nor the wistfulness of a prolonged free life. It came from a place of purpose, something to do, all faculties tied to each cold calculated move meshing into the gears of a certainty that just wouldn’t ease; engineering a destruction that he would have claim to. That will show her.

The ground sank beneath his feet as he made his way through the rubber plantation. It had rained the whole week. Rain that kept at his window panes on monsoons that relentlessly reminded him of the weather. Rain that made his clothes smell of the dank and shimmer with mildew like that yeast infection he got from that woman by the bus station.

The night is half-done. It is smoky, a salmon unturned on a hot stove, the oil dried up by now. It was going to be a long night of stakeout. He realizes that there is no turning back. He is distinctly not at ease. This is not just something on a to-do list, like the one that he maintained when he was employed by the construction company to lay oil pipes across the desert in Saudi. Far from it.  It's something that needs closure. He waits for the impending doom, defiant like a non-repentant pirate made to walk the plank. Splash.

He wasn’t a violent man by nature, in fact, he tried to avoid confrontation of any kind if it were up to him. But the thought of another man with his wife enraged him. He knew from Poulose that morality was but a lack of opportunity and that didn’t sit right with him. It was not that he was a saint himself, but he felt betrayed in a very primal kind of way. Where Poulose gleaned these nuggets from was a mystery to him but Poulose had one ready whenever Shankaran needed advice on a course of action.

As he relieves himself underneath the plantain, a singular raindrop from an overhanging leaf plops on his forehead, which momentarily distracts him from this business of catching his wife’s lover and thrashing him. He touches the wet puddle on his matted hair with the annoyance of a man who thinks he knows what hit him but breaks into a smile when he realizes that the presumed dropping was anything but. He has a good feeling about this whole operation now. He flips out his Canon DSLR that he got at a discount from a flea market and points it at the front and back entrances of his house, adjusts the apertures and realizes that this dastardly paramour wouldn’t be stepping into the light left on at the entrance and even if he did, there was no chance to capture that fleeting moment. He wondered if that porch light would make it easy for a burglar to find his way around the house or would it really act as a deterrent the way it was meant to be.

When he had called in sick at his night watchman’s job at the warehouse to do this, his supervisor wasn’t all that pleased about the short notice given to assign a replacement. But he didn’t have time to think about that now. He finds a spot at the top of a mound beneath a large cashewnut tree at the edge of his property from where he has a clear line of sight to both the entrances of his dilapidated house. The house was built with the savings he had when he got back from the gulf.  But after his Photo studio went bust, the house fell into disrepair. To make ends meet, he tried many jobs but nothing suited him. Things were progressively getting worse at home, his inability to stick to a job became the source of many arguments with his wife. Finally, he applied to a security agency and though they usually only selected ex-servicemen, his friend Poulose put in a good word for him and got him the job. The night work meant that he saw less of his wife and for a while that was a welcome change. All he had wanted was to be left alone.

Poulose was his age and had been his go-to-guy for everything when they were growing up. As a boy Shankaran lost faith in his religion when he found the local temple priest in a compromising position with a neighboring girl for whom he harbored feelings, and this prompted him to want to join Poulose’s church. Poulose advised him against joining any religious organization and to make a clean break from it all. ‘They are all businesses set up to steal your hard-earned money’ was his take on the whole thing. On being questioned on why he still went to church, Poulose’s quick response was that he didn’t want to upset his ailing mother. In middle school, Shankaran saw a fiery protest outside a government building by some college students affiliated to the communist party. The audacity they showed when faced with policemen wielding canes gave him more chills than any action movie he had seen. On the way back from school on the dirt road left unpaved for decades by successive governments that promised roads, and electricity and drinking water, Shankaran raised his fists in protest against the sudden mango showers which led Poulose to wax eloquent on the communist regimes across the world that had collectivized agriculture, eliminated property ownership, killed and repressed thousands of people. Shankaran countered ‘if it weren’t for the communists, we would not have the property we have now. They introduced land reform in Kerala. I heard that in the speech made by the local councilman some weeks back’. But his brief dalliance with communism ended when their local councilman was accused of defrauding the local government of funds meant to provide employment to the rural poor like his mother. 

After high-school, when Poulose boarded the train to join the army, Shankaran cried for the first time in many years in the thatched cowshed behind his house while milking the cows. The households he sold milk to would have complained to his mother about the amount of water added to the milk that day had he been bawling into the milk pots. He had not only lost the company of his best friend but had to give up on his dream of serving in the army with Poulose at the insistence of his mother and the astrologer who saw imminent death in his horoscope if he joined the army.

He wakes up from his reverie when he hears some rustling in the bushes behind him. He grabs a stone and turns around to fling it at whatever antagonizer was lurking up on him. To his surprise and then embarrassment, he finds the beaming face of a very amused Poulose studying him.

‘I suppose you took leave today to try your hand at night photography’  

‘No. I was just……’

‘Listen….you should just talk to your wife’

After Poulose leaves, he thinks about what they talked about. It was true. If it was not meant to be, it was not. No point in making a jackass of oneself. Sometimes everything goes before you can start again.

He rummages through his backpack for the small packet of Tiger biscuit and that quarter bottle of Old Monk’s that he brought along to sustain him through the long night. A grocery bill from earlier in the day drops out. He remembers that his son had mounted a mutiny at the produce aisle of the local supermarket when he refused to buy him the KitKat that he had initially promised when leaving the house. As the rum starts to operate, infusing his sinews with a frivolity characteristic to soft mad children let loose on a playground, he thinks he can face the world again. The feeling that life had become a series of distractions to get from one day to the other has temporarily taken a leave of absence much like the electricity supplied by the government company every few hours of the day. He reminisces the times he and his wife used to stroll in the municipal park when they went shopping into town on festivals with their toddler in tow, when his son would force them to push him up the slide the other way, up the gradient and then slide down with a 'wheeee' and he would scoop him off the slide before his feet touched the ground. And his laughter. A deep gurgle of rapturous abandon.

The immediate sense of urgency to find stillness has run its course, there is just a dull aching now like a blister on a finger that hurts when one types. He takes a pebble and throws it in the general direction of the large puddle that has formed under the plantain tree below. Involuntary displacements.

As he lies on the grassy knoll kissed by the morning dew, a passing crow drops a doozie on his forehead. The second shooter. This time he has the look of certainty of an astute middle-schooler whose algebra is top-notch.

He gets up and wipes off his forehead with a leaf from a shrub. On the other side of his property that overlooks a valley, new developments are rapidly coming in. As he heads back down, the buildings that fracture the landscape seem brilliant at dawn, forlorn cumulus clouds drift by these columns. As is his custom, he opens the front door with his spare keys and changes out of his clothes in the spare bedroom. He doesn’t want to wake his wife and child in the other room. He puts on a pot for his morning black tea on the wood burner. The gas cylinder for the stove has not been refilled despite constant reminders from his wife. As he sips his tea, he runs through the chores and errands for the day.  He hopes to get everything done on time so that he can get some sleep before heading out to the warehouse in the evening.

Dust flits and dances on a beam of light from a distant star, and it swirls into the quiet of the kitchen as last night becomes this morning.

Subscribe to Skywalk Global India Private Limited