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Friday, July 23, 2010

The Judgment Day

Category: Short Story

Something surely was weird about that hot August evening but Mickey could never have thought of it as the doomsday. He could later blame (though he didn’t) the ice cream cup he was relishing, one so deep that you could rank it second to the Mariana Trench, filled with ice and cream. His thinking was caught in judging the relative proportion of these two ingredients in that fathomless cup when the Siren rang through the universe. He dropped his cup (at once and without knowing). There was a faint noise filling the air all around him. Perhaps, people were scared and flurrying about the place but he couldn’t tell for sure since he wasn’t very much in his usual, functional senses. He was, however, still conscious of the fact that his name was Mickey (even the spelling flashed before his eyes for a moment, quickly replaced with the word (or words) Judgment Day. Oh Gosh! He thought, isn’t it too early?

Mickey felt like he should be frightened, something of a moral obligation, or just an expected behavior; after all, fright was the motif of the day as far as he had learnt. Still, he felt OK, except that he just wanted to talk to his family. Mom was expecting a new hair growth formula as a gift from him. Betty had been asking for a make-up kit for several weeks, and he was going to buy her one the coming weekend. His pet dog Rodo needed washing and the mother-daughter team in the house had no interest in cleaning the furry creature, though they never forgot reminding Mickey of it whenever he visited home. That all these loose ends will be lost forever, setting him free, didn’t occur to him (few good things happened to him that day). Instead, a darkness started enveloping his entire being. It was not the question what would happen now that grasped his feelings but what would Mom, Betty, and Rodo say if I didn’t meet the expectations for this weekend. Rodo of course wouldn’t say much; he couldn’t, and he also didn’t mind remaining shabby yet insouciant. But Mom and Betty knew how to speak, and he didn’t know how to defend when they spoke. I must rush home at once, flashed in his head. Or was it in the heart? Wherever it was, he didn’t give a damn! He remembered the nearest bus stop, so he ran there in near panic.

The bus standing at the stop was one-third empty. This took him by surprise. Why weren’t people rushing for their homes, or whatever places they thought important? He stopped himself from getting inside the bus and looked around to see what the scene looked like around him. People were staring at him, their eyes shooting arrows of mockery. He felt embarrassed. What’s the matter, he thought. Was it really the judgment day, or the siren he heard meant something else? Before he could hit any judgment, an anxious voice interrupted his thinking flow.

‘You want a cell phone? A cheap one?’ He turned to see a neatly preened guy, perhaps in his late 20s, holding a cell phone in his hand, which was covered in a shining black glove. Gloves in summer? Mickey knew it must be the judgment day. Or else, why would a guy wear gloves in hot, sultry summer?

‘No, sorry,’ he answered and turned to look at the people again. No one was there as if they had suddenly vanished. Mickey startled. His sight flashed toward the bus and there they were – all seated inside, looking anxious as hell. Shit! So it is the judgment day! He concluded and tried to step inside the bus but the guy with the cell phone interrupted his movement.

‘It’s a fancy set, only for 50 bucks. Just for you!’ The guy smiled, staring right into Mickey’s eyes.

‘I don’t want it. I must go.’ Mickey tried to push him off gently. The guy thrust himself in his way and stood firm.

‘How about 30?’

‘Fuck you!’ Using both his hands, Mickey pushed him aside with force, and stepped inside the bus.

It was crowded and noisy inside. No one looked at him anymore. They were discussing something, turning and bending their heads anxiously here and there, as if the topic signified something urgent and threatening. Judgment Day, Mickey concluded again. Damn it! What will be things like back at home? Then it suddenly occurred to him to call his family and ask how they were at the moment. He took out his cell phone, and dialed his home phone number. No tone in the cell phone. He looked at the display screen and found no signal detection. In a second, the thought hit him like an arrow that no cellular communication was allowed on the judgment day. Now his heart started sinking. What will Mom think? She will be mad at me, mad as hell. He held his head in his hands and breathed in with effort.

‘This cell phone still works,’ the familiar voice startled him again. The guy, he thought was left behind outside, actually sat right next to him. He was smiling a little, looking sharply at Mickey. ‘You can have it for 30 bucks.’

‘Why are you selling it on judgment day?’ Mickey asked, looking at the glossy set, feeling that he wanted to buy it, and also wondering if he’d be having 30 dollars in his pocket.

‘I need money,’ the guy answered. ‘So you want it?’

Mickey put his hand inside his pocket and took all the money out. He had only four ten dollar bills.

‘Here,’ he handed three bills to the fellow, who took it eagerly from him, and took the cell phone. He dialed the home number and waited for someone to pick the phone. It was Mom who did.

‘Where the hell have you been?’ she was angry, as expected. ‘It’s judgment day.’

‘I know Mom. I’m on my way,’

‘What are you calling from?’

‘A cell phone,’

‘Cell phones don’t work now,’

‘This one does. I just bought it for 30 bucks,’

‘You will never stop wasting money!’ Her mother shouted and hung up.

Mickey felt terrible. He redialed the number to tell Mom that it was important to call and that the cell phone he bought was worth it. No tone in the phone as if it had gone dead too.

‘I’m sorry but you could only make one call from this,’ the guy who sold him the phone told him, sympathetically. ‘It can’t be used twice by the same user. So if you’d return me this, I’ll sell it elsewhere.’

‘What the hell! I bought it. And you didn’t tell me this when you sold this frigging thing to me!` Mickey was angry. He wanted to hit the guy. But he thought of the judgment day and the repercussion of any bad move.

‘You never asked,’ said the chap, gently and with a smile that Mickey hated. ‘But I’ll be happy to give you 10 dollars back… here.’ He gave Mickey a bill and left his side. Mickey felt beaten and sad. He remembered that he had now 20 dollars. It was judgment day. Mom expected a hair growth formula; Betty, a makeup kit; and Rodo, a bath and a couple of hours for playing with a tennis ball and running about in the lawn. He looked around to see if people were looking at him. No one was; they were enjoying ice cream. He felt robbed. Where had he dropped his large, unfinished ice cream cup in flurry?

It’s bad day, he sighed and closed his eyes.     
 

 

 

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