Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Left Behind

It was two days after he'd moved in that he first noticed the package. He was trying to fit all his stuff into the tiny kitchen of his new apartment, and he peered into the space beneath the sink and there it was. A package the size and shape of a man's head, tightly wrapped in black polythene.

What could it be? he wondered. Obviously it was something the previous occupant had left behind. But what? Probably just some detergent or cleaner or something. It was the most logical thing to find, tucked away under the sink that way. But in that case, why wrap it so tightly? What was the black polythene trying to conceal? Could it be a bomb? No, no, that was ridiculous. Or was it? It would be a pretty smart way to trigger an explosion - just plant the bomb in an empty house, and when the new occupant comes and opens it - BOOM!

No, no, he was being paranoid now. Why would someone want to blow up this non-descript little apartment building. It was all these security announcements, everywhere he went. All right, so it wasn't a bomb. But what then? Something disgusting or macabre, no doubt. Could it be some sort of poison? Or a dead animal perhaps, its decaying carcass. Or something bloody and loathsome left over from a secret midnight mass. Could it be something human? Some body part, perhaps, or even (the thought made him sick) a foetus? No, not that, not that. But perhaps a murder weapon of some sort - a knife, with flakes of blood along its edge, a gun. Something that would incriminate him if he touched it, left his fingerprints on it. How he wished he'd noticed this package earlier.

He touched it gingerly, prepared to withdraw his hand at the slightest threat. Nothing happened. The surface felt hard - metal perhaps, or glass. Nothing soft or decaying, thankfully. Though, of course, whatever it was could be inside a jar. Very cautiously, he lifted the package up, holding it between thumb and forefinger, prepared to drop it at the first hint of danger. There was a slight tinkling sound from the package, but otherwise there seemed no reason for alarm.

He decided to open it. For a moment he considered calling the super and asking him to be present, just in case. Then he thought - what if it is just a jar of detergent or something? I'll look like a complete idiot then. Carefully he pulled apart the knots that the package was tied with. Two purplish oblongs fell out. He started back. What were these things? Insect wings, perhaps? Maybe whatever it was in there was being eaten by dozens of cockroaches. Maybe the whole thing was just swarming with bugs and the minute he opened the package they would come pouring out and climb all over him, seethe up his arms and onto his face, climb into his nostrils and eyes. He would try to brush them off, but there would be too many of them. Stung and bitten by their tiny jaws he would fall to the floor, blinded, and the insects would slowly feast on him and no one would hear his cries.

Or what if some of the insects in there were poisonous? What if this package he was opening was full of live scorpions? What then?

He stared at his hands, so white against the black of the package. He had long, delicate fingers, the fingers of a pianist. Could the package those fingers were unwrapping be Death? Was this how the unsuspecting died? Oh, come on, this was Manhattan, for god's sake, people didn't just leave live scorpions sitting under their kitchen sink. But what if someone had?

He took a deep breath and continued to open the package. The knots were tight, and came apart very slowly. He realised he was holding his breath, afraid of what might burst from the package. Afraid of how it might smell, or what the fumes might contain. Finally the top of the package was open. Trembling with fear, he peered inside.

The package contained two clear vases. One squat and round, like a goldfish bowl, the other tall and narrow. Two plain, harmless little vases, spotlessly clean, with no insects in sight (the oblong pieces, he now realised, were petals). He pulled them out of the package, placed them on the kitchen sill, stared at them. Someone had kept flowers in this house. Someone had left these vases behind because he or she knew how difficult it was when someone gave you flowers and you had nothing to put them in. Someone had wished him flowers too.

He slipped the round vase into the polythene, put it back under the sink. Then he filled the other vase with water and took it into the living room and placed it next to the window. It danced with sunlight. He looked around the room at all the boxes he was still in the process of unpacking, all the clutter of the things he had brought with him, and a great sadness overwhelmed him. There was something missing from his life, something he had forgotten to pack when he moved. He stood by the window, staring down at the empty vase for a while. Then he put on his coat and went out to buy himself some flowers.

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25 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey idiot,

nondescript doesn't need a hyphen.

"It was all these security announcements, everywhere he went. All right, so it wasn't a bomb. But what then? Something disgusting or macabre, no doubt." Did you lift this from some child's essay?

"He touched it gingerly, prepared to withdraw his hand at the slightest threat." ooooohhhh, 'gingerly', 'slightest' threat. a novelist, you'll never be.

"Carefully he pulled apart the knots that the package was tied with." why not "He carefully pulled apart the knots that the package was tied with." or "Carefully, he pulled apart the knots that the package was tied with." problems with grammar?

"He had long, delicate fingers, the fingers of a pianist." <-- very original, this.

"There was something missing from his life, something he had forgotten to pack when he moved." Ah yes, without an existentialist crisis, all amateur fiction would be incomplete.

go back to school. and not some bong school this time. try a place where they speak english.

Anonymous said...

hey idiot,

nondescript doesn't need a hyphen.

"It was all these security announcements, everywhere he went. All right, so it wasn't a bomb. But what then? Something disgusting or macabre, no doubt." Did you lift this from some child's essay?

"He touched it gingerly, prepared to withdraw his hand at the slightest threat." ooooohhhh, 'gingerly', 'slightest' threat. a novelist, you'll never be.

"Carefully he pulled apart the knots that the package was tied with." why not "He carefully pulled apart the knots that the package was tied with." or "Carefully, he pulled apart the knots that the package was tied with." problems with grammar?

"He had long, delicate fingers, the fingers of a pianist." <-- very original, this.

"There was something missing from his life, something he had forgotten to pack when he moved." Ah yes, without an existentialist crisis, all amateur fiction would be incomplete.

go back to school. and not some bong school this time. try a place where they speak english.

Anonymous said...

ha ha..someone really loves you Falstaff :|
but admittedly this piece didnt 'sound' like you...neither was the ending a surprise...

Girish...!

pointblank said...

Not quite like you this time. But still, has the lonesome feeling attached to it just like Dream no. 380. I mean, clearly, the person didn't expect flowers from anyone!

And this anonymous person looks like the one from the previous post. Wonder what made him/her come back?! Looks like you have an e-stalker, desperately but unsuccessfully trying to take you on, scared to even reveal his/her identity! Has all the makings of a loser!

MockTurtle said...

Falstaff, I had an hour to kill, so I did some research. Do you know who your anonymous flamer is? - It's that jackass Lindsay Pereira, remember him? He obviously spends his free time Googling himself and found your piece on him.
He reacted by launching a vicious (but belated) counter-attack (in triplicate as usual) at the end of that post and then, realizing that people had moved on, decided to stalk you.
Read this piece of his, you'll see the similarity in writing style.
Maybe he'll do a little write up against bloggers next on Rediff.

MockTurtle said...

Now I'm sure that I'm right - Lindsay wrote this piece against copywriters on Rediff.
It was mildly slammed on this blog and as usual, Lindsay found it while Googling himself and sprang to his own defence (see the comments section at the bottom).
But get this, he went on to make the lame claim that he found the blog "surfing for, interestingly, blogs focussing on the tsunami".
Apparently Mr Pereira is a writer for Rediff by day, but by night he turns into the Blog Retaliator - boldly defending himself against his web-based critics.
Maybe someday he'll also learn to hit the 'submit' key just once.

Falstaff said...

Girish: Yes, amusing isn't it. It's a good thing I don't have pigtails, otherwise they would be getting pulled a lot.

I feel so proud though - after all, hate mail is the surest way of telling that you've arrived in the blogosphere.

pointblank: Yes, I think it's safe to say that it is the same person. see above.

MT: Interesting. The possibility had occured to me - a) the fact that these comments started with that post seems suspicious b) as you say, the style seems familiar and c) it's clear that this person has a personal grouse.

I'm reluctant to make accusations though, especially on evidence that is both flimsy and circumstantial. All of this could be just coincidence. But thanks for the research - people who're interested in the commenter's identity can follow the links and draw their own conclusions.

Overall, of course, the question of identity is fairly irrelevant. It's not as though anyone is taking these comments seriously, least of all me. Hopefully the gnome will eventually get tired and go away. If that doesn't happen, I might just have to break his / her heart by pointing out that I'm not bong.

MockTurtle said...

Flimsy evidence?
Consider the facts of the case.

1) The rants began on your post on his crappy interview - that also provides motive

2) In an attack on a previous critic, Mr Pereira begins with "I'm assuming you are a copywriter. So, first of all, let me correct your copy", followed by his pointing out his critic's bad grammar and lack of commas, and then ends with "Go back to school, Ashwini, then send me a message." That is a modus operandi that is too similar to his post on top of this page to be a coincidence.

3) His response to another blogger's criticism demonstrated his writing style to consist of a series of doubly spaced paragraphs that all began with lower-case letters. Again too similar to this rant on your blog to ignore.

4) ..and finally, like the Boy Named Sue, I believe having a name like Lindsay makes you grow with a chip on your shoulder and Mr Pereira's cannot brook his thin skin being pricked by critics.

Me Lud - I rest my case.

(Ok, I know I'm jobless, but I'm watching "Law and Order" as I write this and it inspires the lawyer in me)

drifting leaf said...

Fal...me thought your piece was good...vases...wishing someone flowers...i like the idea...

anon sounds like he is in school!! behaving very much like he's 6.5 years old!

? said...

mockturtle.

you a lawyer??? sure would make a good one !!

Dexter said...

ha ha ha! entertaining comments ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow, more experts at analysis, tying loose ends, making connections. LOL. Damn, you people kill me :) Poor Lindsay. Someone should tell her she's being dragged into this.

Anonymous said...

Wow, more experts at analysis, tying loose ends, making connections. LOL. Damn, you people kill me :) Poor Lindsay. Someone should tell her she's being dragged into this.

Anonymous said...

Wow, more experts at analysis, tying loose ends, making connections. LOL. Damn, you people kill me :) Poor Lindsay. Someone should tell her she's being dragged into this.

Anonymous said...

Wow, more experts at analysis, tying loose ends, making connections. LOL. Damn, you people kill me :) Poor Lindsay. Someone should tell her she's being dragged into this.

Anonymous said...

hey 2x3x7...nice one...a sense of lonliness...encompassing...like falling in an abyss with no ending...

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Falstaff, if you're not paranoid, you do a damn good job of knowing how it feels. How about leaving out the last bit and ending the piece where he starts to open the package?

Maybe you should pay this anonymous commenter a small honorarium for amusing us. In multiplicate, at that. Such an industrious little anal orifice.

By the way - I did not stake a claim to the entire love song, just the "attendant lord" passage and that too on behalf of all little grey 9-to-5ers. Hands off! I was here first! Bwuhahahahaha!

J.A.P.

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