Friday, March 03, 2006

In the summer, when it drizzles

Another of Shoe-fiend's insidious little assignments:

He dropped the sausages into the smoking oil, and listened to them sizzle. It was a sound he loved, the sharpness of it, the indignation. Like the hissing of some snake, roused rudely from sleep.

I love the sausage in the saucepan, when it sizzles. Wait, who'd said that? It was her, wasn't it? He'd been standing here, in this very kitchen, cooking frankfurters for brunch and she'd suddenly broken out into song. I love the sausage at our lunchtime. Yes, that's right, he remembered now. It must have been a Sunday. He'd called her over first thing in the morning so they could listen to his new Ella LP. Ella Fitzgerald's Greatest Hits. Such a glorious album. He wondered where it was now. They used to listen to it all the time. But that time, the one when she sang the song, was the first. I love the sausage when it fries. He chuckled softly to himself. How much they'd laughed then. How they'd spent the rest of the day making up stupid parodies like that. 'Say it's only a bacon rind / Frying over a non-stick pan'; 'I've got you under my spoon'; 'How high the stove', 'Bacon Street Blues'. And this one of course, the one she came up with first. I love the sausage in the summer, when it drizzles.

Yes, she loved it when it drizzled. She used to go stir-crazy when it rained. He still remembered the first time she'd suggested going out to get wet in it. How much the idea had shocked him then. Two decades of being a good little boy, the kind who knows better than to catch a cold by getting drenched in the rain, had rebelled against it. Two decades of being proper, coupled with an instinctive suspicion of anything that felt like it came out of a Gene Kelly movie. He'd opened his mouth to say no and realised that she was already out there, on the terrace, dancing about in the downpour. Her shirt clinging to her like a kind of white, transparent happiness. Seeing that slight figure give itself entirely to the monsoon, watching the swirling grace of it, he had a sudden vision of what spontaneity must look like. Then she had come running back to him again, her lips mouthing words he couldn't quite make out, her hand taking his. How could he resist her then? He stumbled after her, an anxious smile on his lips, feeling his inhibitions drain from him, a sense of abandon soak him through. That feeling that tells you that is no longer possible to go further than you have already come, get any wetter than you already are. He threw back his head and felt the raindrops on his eyelids, and he laughed, feeling the joy of that moment drip from his hair, the happiness trickled down through his clothes, all the way to his feet.

Yes, those were good times. He turned the sausages over, exposing the charred side. It had been weeks now since he'd had an e-mail from her. He supposed she was busy, what with the new baby and all. Still, she could write. The sausages were starting to stick together. He teased them apart, pushed them to opposite ends of the pan. Maybe he should try calling her. It would be good to hear her voice again. He looked at the sausages. He had time. He could at least go get her number.

He opened his little notebook and stared at the page that had her numbers on it. There were so many of them, most of them crossed out now. Like the scars of old wounds. Her home number, from when she still lived with her parents, for instance. The way her brother would hang up if he heard a male voice asking for her. Remember the time he'd been trying to call her from that PCO booth in Rajahmundry? He'd finally had to pay the woman who ran the PCO to get on the phone and ask for her. And that one, the number of that sub-let in Germany, the one where the landlady didn't speak any English. "Errr...Enschuldigen Sie. Ich mochte en fraulein sprachen, bitte?" That had been a nuisance. And her boyfriends, of course. A whole string of them. Not that he'd ever called any of them. Still, it was good to have the numbers. "In case of an emergency", she said. "You mean like if I'm re-reading Plath and get carried away?"."Idiot." He used to threaten her that if she didn't take his calls he would call up her then boyfriend (whoever he might be) and tell him all about 'us'. Not that there was ever anything to tell, of course.

The smell of burning meat finally made it through to his brain. The sausages! He'd completely forgotten them! The kitchen was filled with grey, greasy smoke. He opened the windows and the smell of wet earth greeted him. It had grown cloudy without his noticing it. It was starting to rain, the first few drops just marking out the earth with their careful decimals. In the summer, when it drizzles. No, wait, that was wrong, wasn't it? It sizzled when it was summer; it must have been winter when it drizzled. He stared at the sausages, examining them. It would take too long to make something else for lunch now. They weren't THAT badly burnt. They would have to do.

The smoke in the kitchen was clearing now. The rain had started up in earnest. On an impulse he scraped the sausages onto a plate, dumped the frying pan in the sink, and, stopping only to take his keys with him, went running up to the terrace. It's been too long since I've done this, he thought to himself, opening his arms to the rain. The children on the roof opposite were staring at him, taking in his tucked in shirt, his expensive looking trousers. What was a thirty year old man, a grown-up, doing prancing about in the rain, you could hear them thinking. He waved at them.

Behind him, on the kitchen counter, the sausages grew slowly cold.

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19 comments:

Nessa said...

Awesome 'flashback' :)

the One said...

Liked this very much. Reminiscent of Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza, one feels.

And congratulations for the Mumbai Mirror citation. One would say that you deserved it, but it seems that wouldn't go down so well ..

drifting leaf! said...

hey...
that was lovely... really... your writing always take me by surprise...
more please...

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Very nice indeed. The work of a sensuous aesthete.

A couple of the parwgraphs could (perhaps) be trimmed. Otherwise, a very parfait morsel.

J.A.P.

Anonymous said...

I loved it...loved it....loved it!
You write so amazingly well, in a manner that makes me wanna dance and get my feet wet in a drizzle this very moment...I wish it rains today:-)

David said...

that was a beautiful piece. you ought to write a book. or two. or three. really.

dazedandconfused said...

Nice, Falstaff. I was wondering what time is the story set in, the present? And which part of the world is the guy cooking those sausages? :)

Rishi said...

Let me begin by saying that, in my opinion, it's always a mistake to ask for opinions. That said, here's my evaluation, for what little it is worth.

First, it fits the assignment criteria. Second, I liked the paragraph starting with "The smell of burning meat finally..." a lot. I'm not quite sure why, but if I had to articulate my [possibly unbearably pretentious] reasons: maybe because it is compact and encapsulates much of the dramatic tension inhering to your protagonist's situation.
OTOH, IMHO [and any other abbreviation that you'd care to insert], your first five paragraphs might [and only might] need some pruning. There's also a bit of repetition that doesn't seem to serve any purpose [that I can see]. e.g., the two consecutive paragraphs that start "yes..." But these are minor quibbles, about the polishing of language, at most. I think your little exercise was worth reading.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Very very nice. I'm a bit worried about putting my own up now :P Oh and I loved Rajahmundry popping in there all of a sudden.

Falstaff said...

Nessa: Thanks

One: Thank you, thank you. Such praise! We are humbled.

Drifting leaf: thanks

JAP: Thanks. To quote the donkey in Shrek: "You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious."

Anon: thanks. I wish you rain.

David: Thanks.

Dazed&C: Does it matter? I hadn't really thought about it much, though I would say Bombay, in the present.

rishi: Huh? Who ASKED for an opinion? Just kidding. :-).

Agree with you and JAP that there is some editing to be done on this, though at least part of the repetition is deliberate - i don't want it to be too tightly structured (it is supposed to be dreamy flashback, after all). But stuff like the two paragraphs starting with Yes is just me being lazy.

Shoe-fiend: Thanks. Good god! you know where Rajahmundry is as well? I used to think it was this really obscure small little town, and it turns out that half the people I mention it to have heard of it / been there. Scary.

meditativerose said...

ahem ... v v interesting!! didn't know about the baby though ...

btw, I know Rajamundhry too ... blame it on my gult past.

Heh Heh said...

Loved it.
"I love the sausage in the saucepan, when it sizzles"
something vaguely obscene about that line.

Rishi said...

>Huh? Who ASKED for an opinion?

The curse of the internet: anything you offer in the public domain is assumed to be up for public judgement. Especially creative writing. :)

Sue said...

Great story. Loved it.I took a crack at Shoefiend's assignment too, and used yours as a guide to learn to work the tenses..:)

BTW, I have been to Rajamundhry too!

Falstaff said...

MR: Yes, I know, I was counting you among the gult-y as charged

Heh: You horrible sadist! We all know how you feel about frankfurters! Stay away from my sausages! Otherwise I'll have Amnesty International on your ass.

Rishi: Ya, ya, I know. As I said, I was just kidding.

Sue: et tu? God! I now know more people who have lived in or been to Rajahmundry than have been to Brooklyn. It's scary.

catch 22 said...

"Her shirt clinging to her like a kind of white, transparent happiness. Seeing that slight figure give itself entirely to the monsoon, watching the swirling grace of it, he had a sudden vision of what spontaneity must look like"

Jus too good. Loved it.

There Is No Baby, Dammit- this blog is Fiction, remember? said...

I think that was beautiful, and errr...very evocative.
Think you need to put post about stepping into the sea now:)

Falstaff said...

catch22: thanks.

no baby: *in chaste hindi movie dialogue voice* "Sab aapki hi kripa hai". And sure there's no baby. Yet. Also, honey, I really don't think you want me posting about all the things you convinced me to try.

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