Written in Red Ink

Dec 30th, 2011 | By | Category: Short Stories

“It’s hot outside,” he entered in his diary, “I hate when it’s f***ing hot!”

Sean sat at the desk beside a large window in the central room of the house. The landscape had long shed its green coat and now, dressed in gray and brown, stood wilting against a hard sun. In a sparsely populated town such as this, one could gaze at the simmering horizon far ahead through their windows. But it was no business of Sean as to what went outside. Lately, he kept himself to his diary.

“It’s so strange to start today’s entry this way. You always know how it’s going to begin and never how it’s going to end… except today.”

“Atlanta Acers won the championshi…” A sudden outburst snatched his gaze away from the diary. “Kelly Johnson’s stunning gown…, L-o-o-o-o-o-ving f-e-e-e-ling in my h-a-a-a-a-rt…, For all your home repair needs, these new sets of household tools work wonders!…”

His pair of black eyes met the flickering images on the television screen. “As if the constant chattering in my head isn’t bad enough,” he thought.

Sean turned to the man sitting close to the far right wall of the central room. With his legs raised up and resting on the television table top, his father continued to tap the television remote buttons incessantly.

“They turn out s**t and p**s, these television channels,” Sean thought staring at him, “and we lap it up like brain dead zombies.”

“Francois hopes to shoot the film…, The investigation into the meltdown is being led by a fresh committee comprising of Chairman of The Economic Exchange Commission, Chief of The Federal Bureau of Financial Code Compliance, Chairman of The Securities and Banking Model and Director of The Federal Bureau of Investigation.” A pretty young woman, dressed in business suit, continued her report onscreen.

Sean’s father, in his late forties, with thick white-haired stubble, had finally found something of interest on the news channel. He lowered the remote next to him over a wooden table with the glass top.

Slumped into a chair, his father resembled a sloth, making very little movements; only when he scratched the tip of his nose or dug his fingernails in the skin folds of his neck. His eyes, though, never left the screen once.

“After being appointed as the Chairman of the inquiry committee, Supreme Court Judge Nathan Rustig Holding rushed today to meet the President on plans for the way forward. The meltdown has led to a complete fall of the banking system with top investment banks and high-profile bankers going down like deck of cards, taking years of hard earned financial securities of common men with them.?

“Over the last eight months,” he wrote,“that’s the only piece of news he has been concerned about.”

His father lowered his left arm and picked up a grey leather holster resting against the leg of his chair. The smudgy movement around the corner of his eye provoked a quick glimpse from Sean, before getting back to his diary. “That and his Colt Python.”

His father placed the holster on top of his large heaving paunch. He unzipped it and gave a slight jerk, letting the double action handgun slip into his empty palm. His fingers ran over the six-inch barrel before curling in a tight grip around the butt of the gun.

“His ritual with the gun is not much different than mine with this pen.”

While Sean poured his thoughts out on the page, his father dipped a black cotton cloth into a small plastic bottle and began wiping the gun metal with the wet fabric, “it helps us channelize, I believe.” A white square box with black lettering, .357 Magnum Cartridges, sat close to the old sloth on the glass table top.

“I doubt that there is any speck of dust on that thing, but, from the tip of the barrel to the butt, he?s going to rub every square inch of the metal clean and do it all over again each day. While in one pocket of the trouser he carries the gun, loaded, all around the house; in the other, he keeps spare bullets along with some money. Every afternoon, he puts on a shirt and walks out of the house only to return late at night, with a pungent whiff of alcohol in the air around him. That?s when mother confronts him. She bangs the doors of the house; he shouts and hits in return; and they curse each other with wailing kids around. When left with no energy to move a muscle or shoot through his dirty mouth, he drops dead on the bed only to wake up next afternoon and begin his ritual yet again.”

The gray and messy haired sloth blew out a large cloud of smoke, tapped the cigarette over the ashtray and got back to cleaning the bullets before feeding each one to the cylinder of the gun. It was then, that a squeaky voice startled Sean and pulled him back into his environment.

“He isn’t crying, playing next to daddy!”

Sean could only catch a glimpse of the receding figure of his little sister, Chloe, 13, as she drifted out to the backyard with the same pace with which she had moved in to check on their youngest brother, Percy. The two year old had occupied the territory around his father’s chair with his toys.

“I might have been a few years older than Percy,” he wrote, “when father first took me to hunting and showed me the guns. He loved hunting and back then, he loved having me around. From then on, each summer meant a new wilderness where I progressed further with my education in wildlife and firearms. Soon, we had a new land cruiser to move around in. Mother was happy too. She told me we were growing when we moved to a big house. I didn’t know what it meant, to grow. But I saw more and more of smiling relatives, neighbors and friends around us. ‘We are so happy,’ she said it often. We were. But I didn’t know why.”

This special edition takes a look at the impact of the financial catastrophe on millions of families across the nation…” Sean now found himself away from the background noise, lost in the space between his pen and paper.

“Soon, other things became a lot more important to me; I too had found our happiness appealing. Then, eight months back, few rumors began circulating before the news came in and it led to more rumors. Much of it, gradually, turned out to be true. And it gave me the answer of a question long forgotten. Why were we happy earlier? Mother had said we were growing–cars; house; furniture; holidays; money. And now our sources of happiness were being taken away from us. We needed these, not each other, to grow and to be happy.”

Sean’s father now held the gun at the television screen. His grip seemed tight and the barrel was steadily pointed at people appearing on the screen.

“At first it was funny,” Sean continued with his own ritual, “watching him pull his colt python on anyone who knocked the house door for their money. Those agents looked stupid wearing suits in this hot weather. They would try to show bank papers and official orders to father. But the moment he pulled his gun on them, their voices would become fearful, apologetic and pleading. He would sit for hours facing the television and the door with the gun in his hands. Then, they brought cops and muscle men along in their next visit. They made a beeline in front of the house and took back everything that kept us happy and together. His shouting, scuffles and gun wielding gave birth to a fear. And his outbursts weren’t just limited to anyone who came looking for their money. Soon, it stopped being funny anymore.”

“Look at this mess you’ve created, you motherf****r!” The gruff, low voice in the air collided head-on with Sean’s thoughts. He could have sworn, he thought, the voice addressed him. In a gesture to confirm, he lifted his head up from the diary.

Percy’s little wet nose now stared at the gaping hole of the gleaming six-inch gun barrel, stretched out at him, a kissing distance away.

“Eh? How about I mess you up too, with this?” His father expressed his displeasure to Percy for the chaos that the little one had created with his toys on the floor. For a brief moment, the child stared back in silence, as if interpreting the words of his father. Then, his wet nose began to drip and he let out a piercing cry without a slightest hint of the damage it could trigger, quite literally, at the hands of his father.

Lifeless as his diary, Sean simply stared back at his father who first tried to scare Percy off with his angry look. Then, his father turned to Sean and gave him a disgusted look before slumping back, comfortably, in his chair.

“Mommy, Percy is crying!” Chloe had got back inside the house. She looked at her daddy pointing the gun at her little brother. She, then, looked at Sean. He saw a nervousness flash on her tiny face that quickly turned to fear. She turned on her heels and made a quick dash out the back door, calling at the top of her shrill voice for her mother.

“I’ve lived that fear which Chloe feels right now. For almost eight months, I’ve felt that fear; it lingers on, every moment. Your heart beats loudly in your ears. Your brain keeps ticking, anticipating that moment when something will happen once again; something that will take a very different turn. That fear chokes you; not because of the constant danger it poses. You feel the hatred in the eyes of the people who once saw happiness together. I can’t say for everyone else in the house, but the fear inside me turned into something strange.”

Chloe came back with her mother and lifted her arm, pointing at daddy. On watching his mommy, Percy found the strength to yell even louder. His father, however, scrubbed his stubble, laid the gun back on his paunch and stretched and sprawled himself, quite unaware of his approaching wife just before she yelled.

Sean, silently, kept to his diary. “There are no longer family members in this house but volcanoes. Hot rage flows inside them, anxiously waiting to spew on one another as often as it can.?

Percy held a short-lived silence as he saw his mother seize his father by the shoulder, jerking him wildly. The gun fell off the father’s belly as he spun around on his feet. The thud of the gun, landing on the floor, got lost in his loud bark at the mother, to which she shouted back in equal vigor.

“I guess it was just the money, as long as it was, that kept us together. Without it, the masks are off. But I still feel something for them. I don’t know what it is. I know there will come a time when the fear will become real. What unfolds in front of my eyes right now will push someone in this family to the breaking point. They will then have to carry the burden of their rage.”

Sean felt awkward as he sensed a silence his father held for the next few seconds. Then, a sharp slap hit across his mother’s face. Chloe, who was taking short steps toward her mother, carefully, stopped midway and backed herself a good distance away. Percy, exhausted with a soaking red face from long crying, sucked the air hard before gathering his energy to work a loud wail once again.

Every grunt, thud, and bang had strengthened and reassured Sean, as it had gradually done so over many months now.

“Before they bear the brunt and are made to feel guilty of their rage, I need to step in. What about Percy and Chloe, some may ask. They are unfortunate. In this family, fear and danger already lingers on them; out in the world, all by themselves, it will be much worse.”

It had turned into a full blown scuffle between Sean’s parents. They were using their weights to pin each other down while their hands were flying all around in an attempt to land hard blows at each other. They yelled and cursed at the same time. In an attempt to calm him down, Chloe had moved close to Percy and began sobbing uncontrollably.

“Duties in a family extend in such moments.” Sean placed the pen down carefully between the pages of his diary. He stared long at the mingled heap of colliding bodies on the floor that were his parents. He made sure not to look at the sobbing children.

Every sound had died down except Percy’s. It took a moment to sink in but when it did, the father quickly stopped short of his next blow to the mother and eased his grip on her. Both stared back at Sean. So, did the children.

Right across the house on a road outside, a large chestnut-colored horse and its colt were being led by their exhausted owner. Dressed in a grey shirt and blue jeans, the man wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his arm, and staring up, he thanked the heavens for bringing a house finally within his sight. He noticed the colt had developed an irritated walk for quite some time, jerking its legs and swaying its head to sides. May be it was the heat, he thought. He knew, more than himself, his animals were in grave need of some water and shade. He hoped that the residents of the house would be kind enough to provide that.

The colt snorted, jerked its hind leg, and hit the adult horse in its abdomen. The tired hands of the owner desperately flung around to tighten his grip on the leather strap around the beast. That was when a loud bang startled and loosened his sweaty palms. He watched, with a pounding heart, as the younger beast made a dash away from the house into a nearby field until it got lost from sight.

( Image: spekulator from sxc.hu)

Tags: , ,


This post has been viewed by 3558 unique visitors.

Since as early as he can remember, Prateek has always been interested in reading - reading anything and everything. The writing followed later. Prateek believes it is important to highlight what he believe's in, and what viewpoints shape his writing-human liberty, individualism, and suffering. He likes reading thrillers and drama. One of his favorite books is The Outsider by Albert Camus. He keeps shuttling between Mumbai and Pune and finds himself constantly involved in inner quest of some sort.

Prateek Tiwari has written 1 articles on The MAG. View all articles by

Leave a comment »

  1. Very good. Keep going on

  2. read it finally..interesting, to say the least..

  3. I like way the tension escalates and explodes into violence. At times, the protagonist seems strangely detatched–which actually makes sense in this type of volatile situation but I feel this steals a little something away from that moment when everything goes completely sideays and the unthinkable really does happen. Just a little bit–not enough to make me like this story any less. It’s jarring and the imagery is striking. Nicely done.

Leave Comment