Out of sight

“What follows is an incident that occurred when I was very young; my mother first told me about it when I had come of an age old enough to understand the gravity of it. For reasons I believe the reader will understand, this incident had made a particularly strong impression on her and the memory of it has been well locked up in a treasure chest, opened every now and then to be read like a storybook, to the eager ears of all the concerned grownups and kids whimpering for a good tale”. - The author

Every day around noon, dad would come home and wait at the gate of our little house. He would then call my name and I would run to open the gate, followed by a quick climb up his bike, where I would sit at the front, hands outstretched and tightly gripping the handlebars. Dad would place his hands on mine and we would ride inside. For a few seconds, I was the driver taking my dad home.

My mother agrees it was a particularly hot summer day, lazy and dull, with a dry wind blowing across the land that spread a fine layer of yellow dust on everything it touched. People generally stayed indoors and by noon, everyone in our little town was either taking a nap or preparing for one. Except for us kids of course, who never slept at the same time as the rest of the world, much to the dismay of our poor mothers.

On hearing my father call, I rushed out of the house, but only the lone gate stood burning in the bright sun. The road was empty save for a few dogs and cats being chased by the homeless kids my mother warned me about. After what they did to old Mr. J’s chickens, I believe all mothers were up in arms to protect their noble children from what they deemed were incarnations of pure evil. If only they knew our secrets.

Perhaps it was a two-year-old’s curiosity, but, when I did not see my father, I opened the gate and went out to investigate. The boys and dogs and cats had all scurried away and vanished in the distance. Having seen my dad come home every day, I knew I had to take a right from our gate, and so I did.

My mom is largely unaware of the details of my little adventure on the road, owing to the simple fact that she wasn’t there. But she believes I must have crossed the old school playground on the way. I remember that playground quite well and all the Sunday picnics we had there, where I was allowed to terrorise old uncles and aunties for a change.

On one such fine picnic day, accompanied only by the neighbour’s kid, I’d brought home a puppy from that playground- a scrawny little stray with a pretty little brown spot on his (her?) belly. Mom hated dogs, as she does all pets, and little brownie was hastily sent for adoption to the sweet lady staying down the road. I cried like any two year old would, and only stopped after a quick trip to the toy store, where I picked the most amazing G.I. Joe action figure, and everything was roses and sunshine again.

A little farther from the playground was the grand lake. Ask any of the townsfolk what their favourite Sunday activity was and they would all chime in unison- lazily paddling a boat while enjoying a Sunday brunch that usually involved all members of the family, including cats, dogs and whatever pets there may be. Mom feared the water, so our boating excursions were rather limited, the only participants being dad and me, with mom's sandwiches occasionally making a special appearance.

Mr. H, the watchman of the lake, snored at his chair under the banyan tree. The gate was unlocked and I pushed it open. The rusty hinges creaked like a piece of chalk dragged across a blackboard. Mr. H stirred in his chair, let out a low grunt and went back to snoring. I walked inside.

I stood at the end of the steps leading down to the lake and watched the golden waters shimmering in the summer sun. The wind gently disturbed the stillness, like someone moving their hand across fine velvet. Farther out on the lake, a lone red boat rocked like a cradle.

I took a step forward. Just as I touched the water, a pair of strong, familiar hands pulled me away.

The lone red boat stopped rocking. 

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