Tiny Tales - Drama
Tales of mystery and human drama
All stories, photos and other content (c) Ajesh Sharma, unless otherwise specified. No portion of the stories below may be used for any reason without the express, prior approval of the author. You may use the Social Media Share buttons to share links to with due credit to the author.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Paint me, then, take pictures. I want to be famous after I’m gone.”
The gallery was crowded. It was summer and the long, cold, fruity drinks flowed across the halls. The conversations centred around the art that lined the walls. The courage of the artist seemed to be the dominant theme. The courage to buck the commonly held traditions of nude photography.
Nobody mentioned the courage of the model, the 77 year old with a mastectomy, who was forever to remain in the photographs, her body painted in vivid colours.
A gentle cross-breeze barely caused the light curtains to move. She stood at the window looking out over the lake.
The water was blue and calm. She watched the white boat with the brilliant red and white striped sail move gently into the distance.
It was a Saturday. She had woken up with a headache, she said.
“Just a tiny one. You go ahead. I’ll stay in and rest up. I’m sure it’ll be gone if I just take it easy for a bit.”
Now she stood there, her gloved hands cupped around the coffee mug, gazing at the boat, remembering the young blonde with the frizzy hair smiling up at her companion.
The boat was now getting smaller in the distance. She waited to make sure there were no other boats around it before she pressed the button. The sail, the red and white sail, was on fire, quickly extinguished as it fell into the water. The boat itself was reduced to tiny bits of debris.
She washed out the coffee mug, picked up her bag, took a last look at the room and left without closing the door on her tiny encounter she would not forget.
He re-read the document, and sighed.
Why did it have to come out as it did? Messages received from friends, writer acquaintances, industry experts flitted through his head as jumbled ticker tapes and banners floating by in a sea of grey matter interspersed, oddly, with pink and blue flotsam and jetsam.
“Plays don’t sell.”
“Nobody will read a play”
“Plays are meant to be performed, not read”
“Heed this, make it a novel!”
He remembered the helplessness of the time as word after word went down. When it was done, it was done with stage directions, and speech tags. Spent, drained and utterly exhausted from the uncontrollable weeping that accompanied every edit of the two years, he hit submit and went to sleep.
A few acknowledged having a copy. Most reviews, generally positive, came from strangers.
One night he had a dream.
A middle-aged lady dying in a hospital, her ex-husband at her side. The scene plays out as she fades away.
He wrote it down as a short story.
In his head, it is screaming to be a play. He drinks coffee heavily now. It helps to mute the yelling.
Some day, soon, there will be a reckoning.
9-Feb-2022: Bright Young Man
It was a dark and silent night; not quite wholly dark, just enough.
He was a bright kid, everyone said but nobody ever thought of checking his cuffs at exam time.
Now he sat in the corner office, his body tense, his eyes seeing nothing through the broad windows. His company was worthless, its stock value equal to the value of horse piss. Fifteen thousand employees were too many they said. It was a great product line, but nobody checked his books.
He heaved himself out of his big leather chair and strode towards the twin doors. He fired up his car. It was small and red and very, very fast. He drove out onto the highway that ran by the edge of the sea. His eyes, set, his wrists taut, he sped through the night.
The corner seemed to leap into the path of the car. His wheels were no match for the curve.
People came and said words that sounded nice, as they stood by his casket of polished cherry. When it was over, they went about their life.
Such a very bright young man. Pity, he ended up that way, they said.
18-Jan-2022: Dashed Hope
Todd sighed and opened the door and got out. He walked around the car and held the door open as Summer got out after collecting her bag.
“Let’s get this over with. The saving grace is Jim always has that great brisket. He really does know how to wring the best out of it”, he said.
They walked up the two steps to the front door and rang the doorbell. Jim pulled the door open and stood there with a big grin on his face.
“Come on in! Good to see you guys. You’re bang on time to see me get the finishing touches on the dinner.”
“Todd was just saying how great your brisket always is, Jim.”
“Yeah man, you really have that one nailed”, said Todd.
“Whoops! Man! Sorry! We’re not having brisket. Cynthia said we should try something different. Andie doesn’t eat red meat.”
Todd clapped his hands to his head. His eyes bulged and his mouth let out a silent scream.
"Oh, Ed's flying me to Australia on Monday! I'll be at the Rugby Finals!
"Wow, Rhoda!", cried Megan.
"Yes, I'm so excited! After the game we're going out into the outback. I've always wanted to see what's it like. Read so much about it. Dying to see it."
"You guys are going to have so much fun.", said Tom, "By the way, you better get those rhododendron bushes planted before you go, Eddie boy!"
"All ready for the planting. Beds are dug."
Four weeks later, the distraught Ed Miller filed a missing person report for his wife Rhoda Miller.
23-Nov-2021: The Pirate
Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night, the lonely sea pirate sat on the deck with his wooden leg beside him and his parrot on his shoulder.
He was lonely. He was sad. He was bearded. His one-eyedness matched his one leggedness.
He wondered about the sea, the storm, the jagged lightning that broke through the night. He had just started to wonder about the light and the meaning of life when it hit him.
I’m here to tell the tale of what might have been.
I met the young lady programmer heading out around noon.
“Lunch?” I said.
“Oh, I’m done.”
“Done for the day.”
“That program you were working on?”
“Yes, it’s done.”
“Ok,” I said, willing my eyebrows to stay firmly in place.
The next day, I asked her about the program.
“Oh, yes. It’s done.”
“Oh, I haven’t seen the output. Has Rita seen it?”
“No. Do I have to show the output?”
“Uh yeah. It’s meant to be delivered to the customer. And so it has to pass a QC check from either Rita or myself.”
“Oh”, she said.
“Run it. Let’s see the output.”
The printer, supposed to run for multiple pages, printed a line or two. She brought it over.
There was a heading and one line of data. The code contained no loop at all. It could never have scanned all the data and fulfilled its objective.
I define the word “done” differently.
Rita said, “You hire for looks, so what do you expect”, after I’d fired her.
A baseless accusation. I have always hired for curiosity. She had been curious about my black coffee.
Which she didn’t like.
I should have fired her then.
07-Sep-2022: The Print Buffer
It was an open plan office, long before open plan offices were a thing, due to extreme financial issues.
He sat at his desk, drawing flow diagrams. From the corner of his ear, he could hear the two new programmers arguing in whispers. He heard the printer go, stop and more whispered debate.
He spoke without looking up.
“Can I help?” asked.
“No, no, we’re fine”, they replied.
He went back to his diagram. The whispers continued.
“Are you sure, I can’t help?”
“We’re trying to print this report, but the columns aren’t lining up”, said the shorter of the two ladies.
“Initialize the print buffer at the beginning”, he said and went back to his diagrams.
There was a lull before the whispered argument broke out again.
He spoke, “Ok, talk to me.”
The taller one spoke.
“The book, Philippakis and Kazmier, doesn’t say we need to initialize the print buffer.”
“Yeah, but every COBOL compiler I’ve seen expects you to flush the print buffer. Trust the old man and initialize it.”
He went back to his diagram. After a hurried whispered consultation, he heard the printer go.
“It worked”, she said.
The taller one resigned the next day.
As a little boy, he made a cardboard clock with hands that moved. His teachers took pity on him and sent him off to do other things; playing the part of a shepherdess, in a skirt, or a waiter, singing in the chorus, where his voice could be camouflaged.
At work, a line was drawn in the attendance register after 9:15am. He was consistently below the line, until one day when a roar of joy from the corner office signaled his on time appearance. When he resigned they gave him a clock which he installed in his bedroom. The batteries never got changed to it was perennially stuck at 2:46am.
Now a grandpa, he has multiple clocks in the house, and the oven and alarm system also show times. With the Daylight Savings Time, he sets half the clocks to EDT and the rest to EST. All he has to do is remember which clock to look at. A couple of clocks haven’t moved in a few years.
Asked, he said, “Time is an abstract construct, based on an inexact movement. Tycho had a false nose and you can’t trust a guy with a false nose.”
He spent about 11 years of his life designing attendance systems.
13-Jul-2022: Stand by your man
“Guilty”, said the foreman.
Tessa stood by her man, as the press pushed microphones into their faces.
“My husband may have been guilty of many small white lies in his life, but he did not kill that woman”, she said clearly into the cameras.
Then the led him away. She watched him disappear down the corridor before turning and walking away to her car.
Once inside the house, she kicked off her shoes, poured out a healthy dose of chardonnay and lay back on the couch.
She hadn’t lied either. Fred hadn’t killed that slut Marsha.
“Alexa, play some music, country music,” she called out.
Tammy Wynette came on singing “Stand by your man”.
Tessa giggled and took another gulp of the chardonnay.
29-Jun-2022: She's Right!
She shooed everyone out of the room and shut the door. As she turned, the coughing stopped.
“Well, what is it?”, she asked him.
“How did you know I wanted them out of here? Never mind. 60 years of knowing me”, he waved her to the chair.
“The doctor says two weeks or three at the most. I wondered if I should write a letter.” he said.
He said, “I see Rahul and Rajiv, my son and grandson and I see the life they lead, the sort of stuff that drives them and I …”, he tailed off at the look in her eye.
“And so you want to write a letter to show them the error of their ways and bring them to the primrose path of glorious life and all its wonders”, she finished it for him.
“I wish you’d tone down that sarcasm a bit. I mean, I only have two weeks to live.”
“Maybe three. Too late now, I’m 82, you’re 85 and almost dead. So if I can’t change and you shouldn’t even bother, why do you think your letter is going to change anyone?”
“I hate that you’re right all the time!”
30-Mar-2022: Bored Blogger
Todd had been flirting with his blog for nearly ten years.
Nobody read it, but he could not bring himself to give it up.
There had been a time when he had conducted conversations with fellow bloggers from around the world. US, Germany, Spain, Gibraltar, Italy and India among others contained bloggers who came over to read and comment. He went over to their blogs and commented on their fairly interesting anecdotes. This minor network had long since evaporated.
This was a period in Todd’s life when he felt that he would make some sort of impression and maybe gain a minor role as regular correspondent in a magazine of some sort. One in its infancy or one that found his style interesting enough to foist on their readers. Many years of this with not an iota of interest from anyone around the world had finally convinced him that it was not to be.
Now, he blogged when he felt like it; weird self-satisfying posts that amused him and made him feel, for a brief moment, a small glow of confidence. The lack of response usually meant that by the next day he was bored again.
2-Feb-2022: Dirty Boss
Mr. Dasgupta invariably wore white shirts and a tie, when he should not have worn a white shirt and tie, mostly because the collars and cuffs of his white shirts were dark with sweaty grime, his tie was greasy and black and the lenses of his thick glasses coated with a year’s supply of dust, sweat and Calcutta smog. He smoked incessantly, never flicking the ash off his cigarette, leaving me wondering when the long tendril of ash would fall off, and whether it would fall in his teacup or his lap.
He was, without doubt, the filthiest human being I had ever met that wore a tie and spoke English perfectly. He was completely unaware of the air of squalor that surrounded him.
One day, he sat smoking his ash tipped cigarette, under two lizards running around over his head.
When the male lizard jumped his mate and commenced sexual intercourse, the pressure was too much for the two of them. They fell, in a twisted, writhing heap onto his head and from there down his shirt front to his lap before leaping to the floor. We all flinched, except Mr. Dasgupta, who sat there laughing as the two lizards scampered across his shirt, onto the floor and across the room.
Such was my boss.
10-Nov-2021: The Train Conductor
The soap opera went through fifteen tense moments in the airtime allotted to it between the main focus of the show, the advertisements selling everything from TVs to underwear.
Then the lights were turned out and they slept. He dreamed of Saturday nights with no trains to manage. He was on stage, playing, living, being the tablas, cut off from a life that offered him little in the present and nothing for the future.
She dreamed of the little warm and then cold bodies she had once held in her arms, her tears of joy mixing into a rain of sorrow.