This is a work of fiction.
Summer vacations were my least favourite part of the year. With my brother off to college, the afternoons seem to drone on and on. No one bothered me now, which left me absolutely free and fairly bored. The holiday homework for Class 6 involved some projects that weren’t very hard, but which always got wrapped up during the first week of school.
One Tuesday, I decided to spend my afternoon sketching. My next three hours were spent sitting crossed-legged on the floor, bending over my drawing sheet, busily sketching out the cover of my new favourite book. It was a fantasy novel which I had borrowed from a friend for the summer.
I finished at around 4.30 pm. Neck aching, stiff-legged, I got up and put the sheet under the lamp to get a good look.
It was a masterpiece.
Well, at least by my past record, it certainly was a fine piece of work.
The proportions were fine and the pencil had left the exact effect I had pictured in my head. All in all, I was very pleased with it.
Now my only concern was dealing with smudging. Even as I looked at the sketch now, I could spot certain greys which were not supposed to be there.
This would need a fixer.
At 5 pm, my mother returned from work. She quickly dumped her bag in her room and rushed to the kitchen. Between 5 and 6 pm was the only time we got water supply to fill our tanks. It was also the time our maid did the dishes.
My mother was in the middle of an argument with the maid when I approached her.
“Mum, I drew a sketch,” I said.
“That’s nice,” she replied, gathering buckets near the tap.
“I am afraid it will get smudged. I wanted to buy a fixer.”
“It’s like a spray that fixes the picture in its place.”
“Is this homework?”
“Hmmm. How much does it cost?”
“I don’t know. They have it in school so it should not be expensive.”
“You never finish the stationary that you buy. It all dries up. Why don’t you use the one in school when it reopens?”
She picked out tomatoes from the refrigerator.
“I am afraid it will be too late by then.”
“Fine then. Ask your father to take you to the shop when he comes. I hope it won’t be too late then?”
“Take you where?” my grandmother asked as she entered the room.
“To the stationary shop. I want to buy a fixer.” I answered. Mother shook her head and left the room. My grandmother continued looking in her direction with narrowed eyes.
“It’s a spray to fix a drawing. It’s not for homework.”
“Why don’t you just keep it in a polythene bag? That is what my kids used to do. Besides, enough time went on it, no need to spend money too.”
“But it is not the same,” I pleaded.
“I told you to ask your father when he comes. Now go and water the plants will you?” my mother said, re-entering the room to get some potatoes.
I obediently grabbed a bucket and headed to the front yard. I could hear my grandmother ranting about my mother’s poor parenting skills. In response, my mother’s voice was getting shriller. That was never a good sign.
Just 15 minutes before 8 pm, my father came home. I fetched him a glass of water. Mother told him about the fixer.
I wished she hadn’t.
I had planned to show him the sketch after he had relaxed a bit and have him praise it as he always does before asking him to take me to the shop.
“I can’t take her,” my father said flatly. “I need to go somewhere right now and it will get late.”
“The kid has been waiting for you all evening. Don’t you have responsibilities towards the family?” my mother almost shrieked.
“Look, you take her. You take the car and I’ll travel by bus.”
“Of course. I will work, take care of your home, look after your parents and do the outdoor chores all by myself while you happily squander.”
This was getting out of hand.
“Actually I don’t really need a fixer. There’s a perfect sized polythene bag in the cupboard. I hear it works wonders. It is a traditional technique really,” I said.
“My home? After all these years? You certainly maintain the house like a tenant. And working hard all day to maintain our image in the society is squandering to you? I am even ashamed to have friends over for dinner. They’ll see I live in a pigsty and survive on your crappy food.”
My mother was in tears now. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. Father left the house, slamming the door behind him and she went to her room crying. In the distance, I could hear the TV running in the drawing room where my grandparents were.
I stifled a sob.
That night, I put the drawing sheet in a cellophane pack and stuffed it at the bottom of my drawer. Then I collected the pencils and rolled back the wool from last afternoon’s knitting. I went to sleep in my mother’s room while my father lounged in the guest room.
I could hear her sniffing as I lay next to her.
Maybe tomorrow afternoon, I will simply restack the music records. Anything which does not require a fixer.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty
The Freaky Gene is a part time nihilist and a full-time lawyer. She’s still in the process of figuring out which is the cause and which the effect.