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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

10 December, 2004

Hang your head Tom Dooley, Hang your head and cry,
You killed Poor Laura, Poor boy you’re bound to die.

The lines were stuck in her head like an unending refrain. Try as she might, she couldn’t get the words out of her mind. Hardly had it faded away, that it started all over again. Perhaps it was good that there was music in her head. It meant she still had the fighting spirit in her. She was still alive. And then, music had always been the essence of her being. It filled her heart with joy, spreading light in the dark corners of her soul, making her steps lighter, her eyes shine with suppressed glee, her mouth curve into the hint of a smile. Just as it did now.

“So he thought he had her beaten and subdued did he? Crushed her wings like he had crushed that fragile butterfly last week? He wished.”

She’d spent her lifetime, dedicated to serving him. She met his every whim and fancy, toiled all day to keep his house clean so he could entertain his guests with pride and they could comment on his beautiful “home” and his good taste. Ironed his shirts, laundered his trousers, and ensured his tie was knotted perfectly for that important meeting with the German Chancellor. Gave him his vitamins every morning with the glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, poached eggs, bacon and warm toast, just the way he liked it. . Cooked and served him gourmet meals night after night. And then she lay back, like a dutiful handmaid, praying it would end quickly tonight. Praying fervently throughout that she’d conceive and get the excuse to avoid this nightly torture for at least a few months. But it didn’t. It went on and on and on…

It had been fifteen years now. Fifteen years of negating her identity and preserving his. Fifteen years of servitude. Of broken dreams. Of dissatisfaction. Of unfulfilled yearnings. She’d accepted it as her fate, plodding on listlessly through life, doing what he told her to do, dressing as he told her to dress, seeing the world through his eyes, seeing herself through his eyes. What had he said before he left for work today?

“Look at you. You look like a whore with that disheveled hair. You could have combed it back into your usual chignon. And those crimson lips? Didn’t you wipe that blood off, before doing the eggs?”

He left a few minutes later, leaving his breakfast unfinished. He’d grab a Subway on his way to work. The eggs were cold. And the toast was not crisp enough.

“I thought you’d have learnt by now. Such ineptitude won’t do. You better not screw up tonight. These people are important. I can’t have them thinking I married a useless bimbo who can’t even look good, leave alone prepare a decent meal.”

She’d listened quietly, her head bowed down. Cleared up the remnants of breakfast after he left, then gone to wash the blood her face, rub some ice on her lips to reduce the swelling and improve her appearance before the maid came. He’d never beaten her before this. But then, she’d never refused him before this either. could she have? What he had asked her to do…a cold chill ran down her spine as she remembered. Shaking her self, she shut her eyes and focused on emptying her mind of the pain. She was good at that.

She slid in her favourite CD into the Sony Music system and started wiping the Swarvoski crystals. After the maid left, she entered the kitchen, having planned the menu while she worked. Quickly removing the vegetables from the refrigerator, she started slicing the onions finely to prepare the gravy for the chicken. Chop, grind, mix, sauté…soon the aroma of spices filled the air. She reached over and switched on the exhaust, continuing to stir the Kheer with one hand, lifting the lid of the other saucepan to check if the gravy was ready.

As she chopped the coriander for the chutney to go with the Shaami Kebabs she planned to serve with the drinks, she remembered this song she’d heard a few years ago. It sang the tale of a woman, much like her, who worked without pay for thirty years, negating herself for him and his children, and then one day, she met him at the door with her bags. She had a job now. One, that paid more than the current job of being a wife. “He thinks he’ll keep her’ wasn’t that the refrain? Perhaps she too, could…”

The acrid smell of spices burning wafted to her nose and she abandoned the coriander, running over to turn of the stove. The gravy had burnt a little while she was lost in her thoughts. She’d have to make it all over again. He wouldn’t leave her in peace if there was even a hint of the burnt smell in the gravy. She picked up the knife and began slicing the onions again…

Hang your head Tom Dooley, Hang your head and cry,
You killed Poor Laura, Poor boy you’re bound to die.

[I could do with suggestions for a title - I waited quite a few days before posting this here, hoping one would hit me, but since it won't come, I turn to you for inspiration!]


Blogger SPECKLED_BAND said...

Lovely fragment, Geets! How about "To Have, and to hold..." for a title? From the Christian marriage service, used ironically...

10 December, 2004 21:03  
Blogger zigzackly said...

Er, it's "Hang down your head Tom Dooley"

Titles? Hm. "Refrain" suggests itself to me.

Feedback-wise, i found the descriptions, her thoughts going smoothly, but the spoken words seemd forced. Too formal, somehow.

10 December, 2004 22:17  
Blogger Pincushion said...

You've built up the picture of an apparently placid facade of an existence with great dark horror filled depths..liked it immensely.
'Negation' was the title of my verse..and somehow it seems apt for this piece of prose too :-> ..or maybe 'Remnants' ?

11 December, 2004 00:45  
Blogger Pragya said...

I had a person such as the protagonist of your story in mind when I wrote my poem "Dreaded Destination" below. One day she is going to blow and sweep everything in the wake of the explosion.

Actually have been meeting quite a few women of a certain age and circumstance who fit the bill here, to a tee.

11 December, 2004 07:46  
Blogger Geetanjali said...

Ah Peter - acutally I had typed those lyrics out as "Hang down your head..." but when I checked some websites out, to confirm if I've got the lyrics right, they informed me I assumed I've got a wrong version of the song or something! So I was right...good to know that!

Thanks S_Band, Peter, Pincushion, & Pragya for the comments and suggestions :-)

Pragya you got what I was trying to aim at - that she's very close to snapping...infact the refrain was meant to give it a menacing feel. I actually pictured "poor Laura" standing with a knife over Tom! But then - they say the writer has to write and leave it to the reader to make what s/he makes of all the reactions are welcome!

11 December, 2004 10:10  
Blogger raindanseuse said...

Wow! This provoked a lot of anger in me. You've squeezed a long time period into a little piece and yet the flow of thoughts don't seem disconnected. Sometime at a spiritual class I'd heard that the best way to disconcert an oppressor is to give them no reaction at all. I see in this sory that it makes you a stronger opponent. There's definitely an aura of strength around your protagonist.

13 December, 2004 00:15  
Blogger Max Babi said...

Geet, a nice tight little piece with a foreboding air of vague premonition... good work.
Suggest titles : The Boor / The Glinting Knife / Sweet Confusion / The Rumble Of Death ...


13 December, 2004 03:39  
Blogger Geetanjali said...

Thanks Sonia & Max - I didn't notice these comments till today, sorry for the late acknowledgement! :-)

16 December, 2004 15:23  

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