Short Story – Dust

A pen on a table, an ink pot by its side. The ink does not go into the pen. It is ballpoint. The ink is from the 90s. No one ever cared to throw it away. The house has collected a lot of dust over the past few decades. It is not that old though. The family had moved in here thirty years back. Of late, the house has been breathing in sadness but every year, it lights up when the kids come home. It is winter again. The house is anticipating guests. The dust is being wiped layer by layer. An old lady crouches over the table. She picks the pen up and wipes under it. She wipes the ink pot clean. But what is the point? The ink pot is a relic. No one cares. Things are being wiped because the kids are coming. 

There are two kids. They have both been living away. The old father doesn’t remember their names as clearly anymore. Or so it seems sometimes. He mixes their names, sometimes he creates a portmanteau to refer to both of them like Virushka or Brangelina. The kids don’t mind. They are here because they were expected. They cannot wait to get back to their cities. One lives in Hyderabad and the other one in Bengaluru. The Hyderabad one is in a live-in relationship. The Bengaluru one has lost his job only last month.

The mother sort of has a clue about the live-in but she says nothing. She just wants a quiet dinner table with no arguments while her food is being served and eaten. She likes to imagine that her food is what brings the whole family together. She has prepared everything that everyone likes. The table is full and there is clatter of utensils and loud audible sound of collective munching and chomping.

The father knows that the Bangaluru kid is jobless. He offers some money but the kid stares back in defiance. In that moment, the mother’s heart skips a beat. Will there be an argument? Thankfully the Hyderabad kid asks the father to pass the salt and the moment passes.

The kids understand how important this time is so, they smile and eat. The father also has shaved and is dressed well unlike other days when he eats in his bed, bare-chested. It is of course not a happy sight for the old maid who has been dusting and wiping for a week. For this, she has been working overtime. For this, she has strained her back. And now, it is happening and is so underwhelming. The kids are going back in the evening. They have flights and have to leave one day early. She has no say on their itinerary but she feels she has the most right to say something. She is not going to say anything though.

The dust is slowly entering through the open windows and depositing on the windowsills. The ink pot is sitting on the table, neat and clean. A bit of dirt has stuck to its bottom. The maid hasn’t really cleaned anything. The dust is still there. It is there on the chairs and in the corners of rooms. Under the television, on the fan, under the bed – there is still and perhaps will always be… dust.



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