(A Short Fiction by Sidharth Vardhan
February 2, 2018
Part two of two – the first of this story can be read here.)
Back in their home Daya had kept returning to the subject of the corpse for a while and mother had kept asking her to not think about it until finally mamma was irritated and told her to never mention the subject again. Of fear of her mother’s scolding the child didn’t mention it though she kept thinking about the corpse. Then finally she was distracted by her favorite cartoon serial. Though the memory of the corpse kept on seeking the attention of her consciousness but, with time the later find it easier to not give too much attention to the memory as the physical evidence was no longer there.
It was while she stepped out of the car upon their return from shopping trip (her mother had avoided the corner where the corpse was when leaving for the mall and while coming back) that the central event of this second part of this story took place.
She saw Toffee running towards her to greet her. And in its mouth was what she thought to be a polythene. (He was used to carrying around such things around in his mouth and playing with them.)
Only as Toffee moved closer, she discovered that it had the corpse in its mouth. The dog sat close beside her and put the corse down and breathed heavily, it’s tongue struck out with that same curl of lips which, Daya had always believed, was its smile.
But why was it smiling now?
“Dirty dog. Shame on you.” mama said as she shoed it away.
And even Daya who usually defended the dog couldn’t speak up. Yes, couldn’t it see what a nasty thing it had been doing! For there was definitely something nasty about it – though she couldn’t and didn’t try to define what.
And yet animal had that same innocence in its face which she had loved, it still wagged its tail and its eyes were still full of love when it saw her. He had done something bad and yet it wasn’t bad. The contradiction was unbearable to her, her whose world was divided into good and bad people.
Even so, as she discovered on one of the repetitive efforts of the dog to meet her despite mamma’s scoldings that one of the bird’s claws was missing. And it didn’t need another moment to realize that Toffee must have eaten it. She shivered – Oh no! how could he? And suddenly she was crying.
Mamma, seeing her crying took her inside. “Toffee is a dog, child, dogs don’t know what is right or wrong.” Mamma, who was our of her indignance, told her. “But one of its claws was missing Mamma. Toffee must have…..” She broke out unable to finish the sentence. Taking a moment to digest the uneasy thought, mamma told her “animals eat each other child, all the time. Dogs do too.” Toffee didn’t, not because it was vegetarian – because the corpse was already rotting before he reached it, and it didn’t smell good enough to eat. But Daya had no way of knowing it.
That animals should kill each other was something so difficult to imagine. It was the idea of violence that was unbearable to her.
That night when she saw the egg on her plate, it struck her even more powerfully – they, she, did it too. And suddenly she was crying again. She no longer hated Toffee for what it did. It was the knowledge of how deeply cruelty is embedded in the life of humans and animals that devastated her. She would be in a sort of trauma for next couple of days. Slowly she would recover and was as normal as any other kid as far as the rest of the world is concerned and only mamma would notice the change – her eyes would no longer glitter when she smiled.
copyright – Sidharth Vardhan