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Creator's Awards'20 | Word runner up | Lakshay Kumar

The floor and the beer mug

(Short Story on the topic “A Day in your life")

By Lakshay Kumar

Part 1 - The Beer Mug

Folks called him Chimney because he smoked like one.

"Want it?" He asked me one evening, dangling his half-eaten subway barely a centimeter from my mouth.

He does that kind of stuff when he's annoyed.

"No thanks" I said as politely as possible, to annoy him further.

He shrugged and tossed the tuna sub down the 12 storeyed balcony.

I dragged my chair further behind the railing, whistling the tune of an old song.

The balcony, where Chimney and I spent more time than any other place in Gurgaon - was L shaped and opened to his bedroom via a French window.

Consisting of recliners, a coffee table and a glass railing, it faced two directions—the North and the North East.

The longer side of the L provided a helicopter view of the Golfcourse Extension Road where I'd avoid looking because it gave me the feeling of being stuck in a jam.

The north east view spanned over a scenery mostly consisting of vacant plots with only one exception—a four storeyed lounge in the middle of nothingness.

On weekends like these, the terrace of the lounge would send beams of disco lights dancing in the Gurgaon skyline.

Magenta, Crimson Green, Amber, Flame blue.

On some rare occasions they'd emanate all at once.

During such times, the lounge looked like a submarine, searching for the seabed in the night sky.

Once when I told Chimney that, he gave me an amused look and burst into bouts of condescending laughter.

I smacked his head in response.

Then we got into a fight.

It was that kind of a balcony, facing that kind of a lounge.

We were that kind of people.

And those were the times we hung out in.

***

"I'm so bored, I feel like crying." I announced the day in my life when this story takes place. "Bored." I repeated, that Friday evening.

"Boredddd." I shouted inside Chimney's ear.

"What the hell should I do, then? Huh?" He shouted back "Dance!?"

"Yeah dance." I said and made a plssp sound with my mouth.

Then I did it again.

And again and again and again.

"Plssp plssp plssp plssp"

That really infuriated him.

So much so that he stood up and started dancing for real.

Like for real, he started dancing, the frustrated moron.

Eventually he got flustered and took his seat.

"Do you remember Newton's law of Gravitation?" He asked me while pouring beer into our respective mugs.

We do that turn wise.

"What about it?" I asked

"The law states that a particle with a very high mass exerts a force that pulls a particle with a very low mass towards it." He nodded at me.

"Ya so?" I asked, looking at his hands.

The guy really needed to cut his nails.

He took another sip.

"Doesn't that imply that if the forces of gravity keep acting, the distance between the particles would go on decreasing?" He said.

"Look Chimney, I had commerce in 12th," I informed him, "And besides, how do you know that she's attracted to you as well?"

He licked his lips and massaged his temple.

Smiled a little.

"She'd be, don't you think?"

"Did she imply that?"

"No but she ought to be."

"How'd you figure that?"

"Well she's bound to be."

"Do you even hear yourself?" I removed the sticker on the bottle opener and inspected it, rolled it into a small ball of paper and threw it away.

Then bent down to tie my shoelaces.

"Didn't you do that like half an hour ago?"

"They keep opening by themselves."

"Here, let me give it a shot," he said

This was a nice strategy to ensure that I'd hear him out, it really was.

I mean, what kind of a person would tell someone to shut up while they'd be tying their shoelaces?

But Chimney did not say a thing while at it, he didn't say a thing.

That's when I realized that the situation might be a little more serious that what it appeared. "Hey are you alright?" I asked him

"You really want to know or are you just being polite?" He asked me. "Just being polite."

We turned silent after that.

I played with a deflated football, while Chimney chain-smoked.

After a while I started smoking and he played with the football.

It was always like this.

We'd say stuff to each other for the heck of saying stuff.

Then turn silent and chain-smoke.

"What's wrong?" I asked him.

"The gravity's too strong this time," he said, tilting his head, tracing the lights of the lounge with the tip of his Esse light.

"And what are you planning to do about it?"

"Honestly? I have tried everything," he said, “kept myself occupied, unfollowed her on social media, stopped looking at her pictures, stopped imagining what I'd say to her when I met her next. Yeah right, as if my feelings are under my control," he smirked.

"As if the gravity is under the particle’s control," I echoed

He gave me a look.

I chuckled.

"It's not the gravity that's the main concern," he nodded

"Then?"

"It's the decreasing distance that I'm afraid of," he glanced at the submarine, angst written all over his face.

"Why?"

"What happens when the distance approaches 0?"

"The particles collide?"

"Yeah."

"And what happens after the collision?”

"Nothing happens to the particle with the higher mass," Chimney said

"What happens to you?"

He pondered over it for a while.

Then picked up his beer mug from the table and dropped it on the floor. It shattered into pieces.

***

Part 2 - The floor

"Can I sleep here tonight?" Bonu asked her older sister while standing at the door.

Tanu kept her copy of "The Brothers Karamazov" on the bedside table and reached out towards the water bottle lying on the pillow next to her.

She drank from it and put it on the table as well.

Then cleared the pile of clothes on the bed to make space for her younger sister. Bonu thanked her and removed her slippers.

Then snuggled under the covers.

For some reason her sister's bedroom was always cooler, even though each of their air conditioners were of the same company.

It had got nothing to do with Tanu's room being west facing, since by that logic it shouldn't have been warmer during winter days.

Which it was.

Let's face it, she had the best room in the house.

Must be because they love her more, Bonu had concluded once.

"Whatchya reading?" She asked Tanu

Tanu ignored her.

Bonu sighed and looked at the roof.

She had known her older sister for 22 years now.

No way in hell was she going to sense the vibe.

Why are older siblings so full of themselves?

Maybe because they're more loved, Bonu had concluded once.

"Tanu?"

"Hmm?"

"Keep this there."

"Ok," Tanu turned the book upside down and kept Bonu's bra on the bedside table. Then opened the book again and continued reading.

"Tanu?"

"Hmm?"

"Pass the water bottle."

Tanu closed the book again, this time making a show of it.

Then passed the water bottle to Bonu.

She waited for her to finish drinking.

Then kept it back on the table too.

"Tanu?"

"Hmm?"

"Decrease the fan speed."

"Ok."

"Bonu," Tanu said before Bonu could say "Tanu" this time.

"Yes?"

"Just shut the f**k up and go to sleep."

"Please don’t talk to me like that.."

"Shh, sleep."

"Ok," Bonu said and covered her entire face with the AC blanket.

***

"What's wrong baby, tell me no?"

It had been five minutes since Tanu had been trying to get the blanket off Bonu. But she had it tucked beneath the back of her head.

"Get lost," Tanu heard a muffled voice say to her.

"Come on, tell me hey."

"Get lost."

"Tell me na."

"Get lost"

"Tell me na."

"Get lost."

"Tell me na."

"Get lost."

"Tell me na."

"I don't know man," Bonu revealed her face from under the covers.

Then pressed her cheek against Tanu's thigh, "I don't know

"Hey, you're all sweaty," she dabbed Bonu's forehead with the bed sheet. Then stroked her hair, combing them behind her ears with her fingers. "What's the matter, little baby?" She cupped Bonu's cheeks and asked her. "I don't know, I just feel weird."

"About what? Is it the chain-smoker guy again?"

"Hey don’t call him that."

"You only told me that he chain-smokes."

"I told you many more things about him. You can't just identify him with this one trait of his."

"What other traits does he have little baby?"

"Stop calling me that or I'll punch your .." Bonu rolled her hand into a fist and declared as a matter of factly.

"Aww, how cute, say that again," Tanu pinched Bonu's nose and shook her head. She slapped away her hand and gulped.

"He's kinda tall and he has this weird energy like you know he's always ready to explain stuff to everybody." Bonu sat upright, like she was ready to explain stuff to Tanu in a similar way, "And he's great with words you know.

Like he can really put his thoughts into words you know.

He's not very bright but not because he's stupid or anything.

It's just that he's always thinking about something so he's never really there in the moment. It's kinda cute this habit of his.

At times it starts to get really annoying though.

But you know whenever that happens, a switch goes off inside his head and he suddenly becomes very attentive.

Suddenly becomes so self aware you know.

Like a cute little puppy, you know."

"Puppies are self aware?"

"I don't know.

And this guy he never talks directly.

Like he always uses symbols and all."

"Symbols as in..?"

"Ok so last week I texted him if he wanted to go out for lunch, you know what he replied?"

"Only if I can have you for dessert," Tanu yawned and hovered her palm to and fro from her mouth.

"No. Wait I'll show you," Bonu said and got out of bed.

Then rushed towards her room and got her phone.

Tanu read Chimney's reply out loud, "The voltage is getting too high and there might be a short circuit soon.

But screw it, let's go :p "

Tanu burst out laughing after reading it.

"Stop laughing! What is that supposed to mean? What voltage? What short circuit?" Bonu squeaked like a child, as if directly posing the question to Chimney's display pic.

"You should've asked him."

"That would have made me appear like I care too much."

"Aww so are we in primary school again?"

"What did it mean, man.

What voltage? what short circuit?

I want to know!

I want to know, what the hell!

He's so confusing ..

Damn I don't want to talk about him."

"Gosh Bonu you're such a little girl," Tanu laughed and kept the book aside. Then switched off the lamp and snuggled with her younger sister.

"He thinks I'm heartless," Bonu said sliding back inside the blanket, he thinks I'm heartless and that really bothers me," she grabbed Tanu's face.

"Heartless? Did he say that?"

"No, he implied it"

"Why would he?"

"Because I was being heartless during that lunch."

"How can someone be hea..."

"I was being too intimidating to hide my vulnerability but I came across as a bit too insensitive and then while driving to that training that day he forgot where was the bonnet button of his car and I laughed and it's been a week and he hasn't texted me."

"A week isn't that much, isn’t that button always below the steering wheel?" "Yeah it is, but he fumbled and I laughed.

F**k I shouldn't have laughed like that.

Now he has unfollowed me on Instagram and he doesn't even call me and .." "Hey calm down," Tanu pressed her cheek against her little sister's, “shh." "What's you view anyway?" Bonu asked her.

“About this chain-smoker guy?”

“What the .."

“Ya ya sorry the tall weirdo, well I’d rather not tell you that."

"???"

"You might not like it, Bonu."

"I want to hear it."

"Well I think you should stay away from him."

"And why do you say that?"

"Look this isn't a movie ok?

Guys like these, their sensitivity is attractive no doubt.

I know what you must be feeling.

But I think he is in that phase where he is discovering himself right now, from what I've gathered, you're way more mature than him.

It will be extremely toxic and damaging for the two of you.

For him more than for you.

This guy needs a mother not a lover.

I'd say just forget about him."

"Yeah that's what I'm also saying screw him, let's eat something."

"Now that is escapism."

"Let's eat something," Bonu reproachfully gazed at the wall next to her as if Chimney's face was projected on it. "Let's eat something." Bonu looked away from it and fetched her phone from her pajama pocket.

Then opened Zomato and said, "My treat".

"Cool," Tanu got up to take a piss.

"Yeah," Bonu agreed.

After spending fifteen minutes on the app she placed the order.

For herself she ordered a Hot brownie Chocolate Fudge and for Tanu a Regular Chocolate Fudge.

"What do you wanna watch?" Tanu asked her as they waited for their order to arrive, "Breaking Bad?"

"We've watched the entire thing twice."

"So?"

"Look you're obsessed with the show to the level where one of the songs in it's soundtracks is your alarm tune, but I'm not ok?"

"Ok what does the baby of the house wants to watch?”

"Death Note."

"You've watched it with every single individual of our family and our extended relative circuit already, Bonu."

"Yeah but not with you, come on let's watch it, you'll love it."

"Wont you get bored you've already watched it 8 times."

"I'll observe your expressions."

"You're so weird Bonu."

"Says someone who takes the MBTI test on behalf of people to see which type they'll get." "Shut up, it's scientific."

By the time the order arrived they were on episode 2.

They had their respective ice-creams while watching episode 3 and didn’t talk much except Bonu telling Tanu that she would take her advice.

And she had meant it too.

She knew since the first day she had met Chimney that the guy wasn't sorted. And why should she bear the burden of his emotional crisis?

Who'd bear the burden of her own then?

Him?

Ya right.

By episode 4, Bonu was fast asleep, with her mouth open.

It was a peaceful, deep, satisfied sleep.

The kind which people usually get when they've made a rationally sound decision before closing their eyes.

***

Part 3 - The Beer Mug

"What should I do?" Chimney asked me, gazing at the lounge through his closed fist, as if it were a telescope lens.

"Do you really want my advice?"

"No."

"That's what I thought."

"Is it any useful though, your advice?"

"It's great," I said

He closed his eyes and laughed silently.

Only his chest moved when he did so.

"Will I like it?"

"You might."

"Ok fine, what is it?"

"I'm sorry I changed my mind, I can’t give it to you now."

"Come on."

"Sorry."

"Hey I can’t even refer to stories about us, her and me, I really need your advice." "Why can’t you refer to stories?"

"Because there aren't any," he chuckled.

"Yes sir! There are stories about poor guys and rich girls, ugly guys and pretty girls, introverted guys and cheerleaders.”

“None about guys like me and women like her," he blew smoke through his nose. I promptly fetched the football from under the table with my shoe.

It was awfully good weather.

I finished my beer and rested my back against the velvet cushion.

"Which one was about an ugly guy and pretty girl?" I kept my feet on the table, next to his. "Beauty and the beast."

"Hmm," I agreed, eyeing my shoes.

My laces had opened again.

"Wonder what would they call it if there was one," Chimney wondered "A story about you and her?"

"Hmm."

"Let me think.. ," I said, "The floor and the beer mug?"

He looked impressed.

Nodded his head like our Maths Teacher in ninth standard.

"Hey do you remem .."

"I know I did it like him," he looked amused

I smacked his shoulder. He shook his head sportingly.

"You wanna hear a joke?" He asked me after a while.

"Sure."

"Knock knock" Chimney said

"Who's there?" I replied

"Madam" he said

"Madam who?"

"My damn foot is in your door call the ambulance" Chimney slapped his thigh and started laughing.

He laughed for the next five minutes.

After that he slapped my thigh and laughed for another two.

That's the thing with Chimney, he starts slapping thighs and all while laughing. It didn’t last for much longer though, his laughter.

"Shit man" he said to me eventually. His voice seemed to be coming from a distance. "What happend?" I asked

"I mean .. ," he shook his head again and took a real strong drag.

"Yeah?" I shrugged

"Shit yaar.." he burst into tears behind a cloud of smoke.

***

Part 4 - The floor

It was around 5 am when Bonu was jolted awake.

Tanu was still glued to the laptop screen and shivered from head to toe when Bonu touched her shoulder.

"Are you mad?" She squeaked "I don’t have a spare heart Bonu, if this one fails, I die," she scolded her.

But Bonu didn't respond.

"What happened?"

Bonu still didn't respond, just kept staring at the wall.

"Will you tell me what happened?" Tanu shook her from the shoulders. "I just had this really weird dream," Bonu looked at her and confessed. “What did you see?”

"Well there was this large green patch of land, like the one near Golfcourse Extension red light.

I was sitting there, chilling.

Then out of nowhere, a beer mug fell from the sky and struck the floor right next to my foot. And you know what?"

"What?"

"Nothing happened to the mug, it stayed absolutely intact," she sniffed, "but a huge crack developed on the floor." Bonu said narrowing her eyes, "And and..." Bonu said and threw her arms around her sister and started sobbing silently.

"What happend?" Tanu gasped, holding her.

"I love him, Tanu, I love him very much.

Please help me" Bonu started sobbing.

Tanu was taken aback by the sudden outburst but held her sister as tightly as she could, even as she stared at the paused episode on the screen.

How a crack on the floor in a dream made Bonu realise her feelings for Chimney was beyond her.

"Hey come on, don’t cry like that.

By the way you were right, this show is awesome.

I can’t wait to finish this episode." Tanu declared cheerfully in a hope that Bonu will get it and let go.

But she didn't loosen her grip, not even by a degree.

Out of her 25 years on this planet, Tanu had spent 22 living with Bonu. She had realized by now that her younger sister wouldn't get the vibe.

Why are younger siblings so sappy?

Maybe because they're pampered more, Tanu had concluded once.

Five minutes later the 6 AM alarm in Tanu's phone went off and the song "It is such a Good Night" by Charlie Steinman blasted throughout the Chopra house.

Outside the window the sky had turned that shade of blue which is every kid's favourite in the oil pastel set.

Another day had begun it seemed and with it, another opportunity.

An opportunity, which the two sisters were currently unaware about.

You see, as they sat hugging each other in the room, Chimney was parked right opposite the house, waiting for a decent time to give Bonu a phone call and ask her to come out. I was sprawled out on the back seat, lying half asleep, with my shoelaces open again.

An hour from now, me and Tanu would still be in our respective spots. Me, at the back seat, her peeping out of the bedroom window ; While Bonu and Chimney would stand dumbfounded, staring at each other at the doorstep of the apartment.

For a while both of them would try to act smart, perhaps as a last resort to retain their sanity. And soon, when this attempt would fail, they'd come closer and with moist eyes, hold each other.

"Hey I think I love you or something" Chimney would say, caressing her cheek.

"I've known that since 2 months or something" Bonu would declare looking into his eyes "you shouldn't have taken too long to say it or something. Chimney damn it, are you stupid or something?" She'd ask, emphasizing on the "or something" to tease him.

"Hey, are you teasing me or something?" He will say before she'd nod her head and lean forward to kiss her lover.

And as their lips would meet, the sky would turn pink and the clouds would take the shape of red hearts. The shattered beer mug would repair itself and a row of flowers would blossom from the crack on Golfcourse Road. The submarine lounge would play "Dear Heart" by Henry Macini, Newton would give a standing ovation from heaven above and yet another day of my life would come to an end.

***

The End


 
 
 
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