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Fun And Games
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

This contribution is part of a series:-
1. The Most Frightening Thing In The World (15-Dec-2010)
Given the right circumstances, love can be the most frightening thing of all.
2. Fun And Games (10-Jan-2011)
Why are children the best soldiers one can imagine? This is Part Two of the Bisaria Quartet, and follows 'The Most Frightening Thing In The World.'
3. Malaka (13-Feb-2011)
A girl wanders alone through a land ravaged by civil war.
4. The General (15-May-2011)
The General made a mistake when he spared the woman, and a worse mistake when he let her bear his child. This is the concluding part of the Bisaria Quartet.

Page 1

The day the Karibu came to Janduís village, the crops had finally been harvested from the fields and the preparations were being made for the annual harvest feast. With the war and the drought, the crops had been poor and the feast meagre, and nobody had the glow in their faces of former years. But they had decided to hold the feast anyway.

Komalo was the greatest storyteller of the tribe, so great indeed that his name was known to all the clans this side of the Black River, and even the Giro people of the Six Villages had occasionally invited him to go and tell his stories in their gatherings, in their strange uncouth tongue. Komalo had always come back from these occasions full of laughter and hilarious anecdotes of the Giro and how he had intentionally mispronounced the Giro language. Everyone thought Komalo was very funny, with his bald shiny head and huge belly, and when he told his stories everyone knew when a laugh was coming from the way his eyes would crinkle up and his double chin wobble.

When Komalo walked the streets, the youngest children would run after him, pleading for a story, and Komalo would turn round, if he werenít too busy, and tell them one of the old favourites, the tale of the hippo and the elephant, or the hawk and the monkey, or the story of the tailor who had not been paid. They would all laugh in the right places and everyone, Komalo included, would go away satisfied afterwards.

Jandu was getting too old to run with the young kids after Komalo, but not so old that he could ignore the fat man altogether like the teenagers with their football crazes and their radio sets and girlfriends. He would, like the other eight-to-ten-year-olds, come "by accident" upon one of Komaloís impromptu storytelling sessions and find something to do within earshot. Komalo would look at these children, busily rearranging pebbles and scratching at tree bark, and grin broadly, and raise his voice just enough so they could hear him clearly. It worked out fine for everyone.

Today, however, Komalo was uneasy and worried about something. It was so clear to see that it was itself a worrying thing, so clear indeed that even Jandu, never the most observant of the boys, could see it. The fat man walked with his usual heavy tread and smiled at the kids who followed him, but he said nothing to them, and only frowned and shook his head when they demanded a story. This had never happened before. The children fell back and stood in the street, silent and dejected. Jandu watched the children and felt more disturbed than he cared to admit. He was glad his sister Rakti wasnít there today. She was one year younger than he and still ran after the storyteller, clutching her old doll. Today she was at home, because their mother had told her to help with the preparations for the feast.

Everyone was used to the other adults, the parents and teachers and the others, being worried. Everyone was worried about something or other, and the refugees who had passed through the village a few weeks earlier had not helped things any, with their tales of mayhem that nobody wanted to believe. One of the refugees was an albino woman who had stayed overnight in Janduís parentsí house and had asked them to leave with her before it was too late. Janduís mother had smiled and made promises to think about it, and the woman had shrugged and shaken her head and gone on her way. Little else had happened since then and the flow of refugees had thinned to a trickle and then stopped altogether, so the children had almost forgotten them. Only the parents looked strained and unhappy, and husbands quarrelled with wives more and more often. Jandu stayed away from home more and more these days because of the quarrels.

Only yesterday Ė last night Ė his father and mother had fought, rising voices that had turned to a couple of hard blows while Jandu and his sister had crouched under the thin bedsheet and tried to sleep. After that their father had stormed out of the house and their mother had spent the hours crying softly, which they had never seen her do before. For once she had seemed less like a domineering bully and more like someone who might actually be a human being. In the end Rakti had crept out and tried to calm her down. She had snapped at her daughter at first but in the end had allowed the girl to sit with her and at last she had stopped crying.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:6.26 / 10
Rated By:19 users
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