Dry among Spraying Mountains

An Indo-Fijian Short Story, Second of Three Parts

Prashil Kumar – 

An hour ago, Pal had lain in the middle of his sugarcane farm on the wooden planks.  Pal had previously lain on the wooden planks when his newlywed daughter had fled her marital home to seek refuge at his door.

“Womaniser, party freak, alcoholic,” were the words associated with the man Pal had chosen for his daughter.

But Pal had opted to go blind. He had chosen to become deaf. The only thoughts he had were the comfy, shimmering life which awaited his 19-year-old daughter.

Consequently, the return of his daughter made Pal speechless.

His tongue would not budge as his eyes were glued to the pinkish flesh with traces of charcoal black marks on the very fingers which he had kissed passionately when she had completed her first doily at the age of ten.

Pal had imagined her daughter to be someone very special who could spin incredibly unique patterns of doilies out of ordinary cotton threads.

This led Pal to seek a groom who he could believe to be equally special. The speciality of Pal’s chosen one was that at the age of 27, he was selling and buying real estate like one plucks a basket of lemons from their orchard one fine Saturday morning, puts them for sale by the roadside and within an hour departs home with their pockets full of jingling silver and bronze coins.

Uttering the expletive again, Pal hissed at the sea of fountains as he rested on the wooden planks. As usual, the sea of fountains tolerated his cursing without any complain. They never complained. They knew that Pal was only able to wed his daughter with all the pomp he could afford because they existed.  Hence they stood tall and proud.

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An hour ago, Pal had lain in the middle of his sugarcane farm on the wooden planks.

Pal had lain on the wooden planks after paying a visit to his teenage son in the nearby industrial town 15 miles away. His son’s body covered in sweat from the midday blazing temperature and thereafter his body soaked from the afternoon pour flashed Pal’s youth in front of him as he stood at a distance watching him. His tongue flicked inside his mouth as he struggled to converse with his son when they caught up, at the end of the day.

His son’s skinny legs which swayed an inch with every step he took with the sack load upon his shoulders made Pal wonder if his life was repentance for sins he did not know he committed. Pal screamed his lungs out the expletive word once he returned home to face the sea of fountains.

The sea of fountains gaily swayed in the cool evening breeze brought by the afternoon shower. They had bestowed Pal the opportunity of raising his only son who was at least breathing fine in front of Pal. So once again, they stood tall and proud.

If we notice, the line- “lain in the middle”- is written in every paragraph before that paragraph describes the one other similar time Pal had lain at the same spot, in pain and sorrow.  That line ‘an hour ago,’ (present time), relates to the ‘Pal had lain’ (past times). Instead of merely stating the occasions Pal had lain on the planks in the middle of his farm, the story reminds the reader that an hour ago, Pal had been where he used to be at painful times of his life such as the day when his father passed away and the day his daughter returned home.

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