Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Bills

Category: Short Story

‘Dole!’ Romaan heard the poor kid from the neighborhood at his door. Putting his pen down on the notepad, he opened the small box containing coins he received daily as change after paying for a meal or buying stuff at a shop. He took three coins, making five rupees in total, and put them in the small aluminum bowl carried by the boy for collecting dole. It was empty, like always, showing that his was the first door the kid knocked.

The boy left without saying anything. Romaan expected him now daily since he first appeared with imploring eyes at the door around two months ago. There was no exchange of words between them aside from the only ‘Dole!’ spoken as a signal of his arrival. Romaan had thought a few times to ask the kid questions and take down his answers so as to come up with an interview for a magazine – a first-hand piece on child beggars for the socio-cultural section of a metropolitan magazine. But then the thought of scaring the child with questions stopped him. It sounded sickly professional and less considerate – trying to sell everything in life via pen.

Returning to his room, Romaan went to his small bank of coins and looked at the small clutter. There were a few small marble balls, a roll of white bandage for any unforeseen cuts, and some worn-out bills of 5 and 10 rupees. He had been trying to figure out a way to put these nearly expired bills to some use but giving them to a kid didn’t feel like fair play. As he returned to his writing, he felt some sort of unusual pressure within his shirt’s collar. Groping for the unseen, he took out a piece of printed paper he hadn’t noticed when it had slipped in there. The familiar print pattern of the electricity bill showed another thousand and fifty rupees.

At once, Romaan thought of using the old bills in paying the electricity charges. Banks don’t mind accepting mutilated currency bills. But the image of a new, smooth, printed piece of paper coupled with old, worm-our bills overcame the idea’s usefulness. ‘This is crazy!’ he told himself.

It didn’t take more than a few seconds for his mind to meet a flash of a possible solution. Two of a kind could go well together. All he needed to do was make the currency bills smooth, or make the electricity bill look old. The latter sounded a less remote possibility. Almost uncontrollably, he started thinking about ways to make the electricity bill look like the currency bills. There were cons to every method he thought of; except for one: he took the electricity bill, opened the box, and placed it amidst the crumbly pieces of paper. The due date for paying the bill was a week ahead, and Romaan knew that company always had its mark on things.   

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