Sunday, June 11, 2017

Carry on, my wayward son

It had been a while since David had smoked. Heck, it had been a while since he'd even hung out with someone who smoked, just to get that passive hit he so desperately longed for.

But it all came back to him naturally that evening.

As he jumped over the last few steps at the bottom of the staircase in front of his office, David's mind was on the meeting with his boss he had just walked out of, but his feet knew where to take him. It had been yet another shouting match, something he was used to by now. Years had passed since his first "disagreement" with Ram "Ball Buster" Mohan, and this one had started off just as innocuously as that one.

But this time, Ram had taken it a bit too far. It wasn't really what he had said that ticked David off, but, rather, the way he had said it — he had always thought that he shared some a very basic, understanding of respect for each other's ethics, no matter how many times they had fought over their 6 years together at the office. But all of that went out the window within a span of 30 seconds.

When he got to the small pan dabba down the road (his office was next to a school, so Ravi, the cigaratte seller, now carefully tiptoed the edge of the 200-metre buffer he was supposed to keep between him and the institution), David placed a crumpled note on the counter, took the pack Ravi had kept in its place (David used to be a regular until he "quit") and lit one up with the lighter Ravi kept hung from a piece of thread.

As David took what felt like his first drag in years (one year and 11 months, so, close enough), he thought back about the first day he had entered the office. The first thing he was told by his extremely-generous-with-advice cubicle-mate Isaac, was to never pick a fight with Ram. He hadn't really thought much of the tip, until Isaac was fired the next week for asking a question at a team meeting that Ram had led.

That hadn't really deterred him from picking fights with Ram, though. And Ram, for whatever reason, never came close to even threatening to fire David. Maybe it was because David argued with a little more reasoning and conviction than Isaac did. Or maybe it was because HR had a chat with Ram after the Isaac incident. No one knew.

By the end of his second consecutive cigarette, David had calmed down and cleared his mind, and so he began walking slowly back to the office. His anger had dissipated, but his heart was still pounding (from the smoking he supposed).

He stopped at the stairs outside his office, but instead of climbing up, he turned back and began walking back to his car. It was a crappy, ten-year-old Mazda 3 he had bought off his uncle, and David spent way too much money to keep it in running, but as long as it still got him from home to work, and back, every day, David didn’t mind.


Ten minutes later, David was in the elevator, going up to the tenth floor where his department was. He smiled and nodded along distractedly at Mohit, his colleague’s story about how he was saving up for a new car. David’s heart rate was still pretty high, and Mohit’s constant talking wasn’t helping. But he didn’t say anything, knowing it would only make him feel bad — Mohit was one of the nicer people at work, who thought the world of David, and they always teamed up well whenever they had to work together.

At their floor, Mohit got off and walked back to his cubicle, now satisfied with his choice of car and the great interest rate he was getting from his bank for a loan. David, on the other hand stepped out and walked towards the water cooler instead.

He sipped on a paper cup full of cold water, wondering what he needed to do next. Since his day was almost over and had no will to work on anything else for Ram at the moment, he decided he’d go to his desk, play a little Solitaire, listen to some music, and head home in half an hour.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

Asha had walked over and filled up a glass of water for herself, looking at David a little concernedly. Ram’s assistant, Asha was no stranger to the “fucks” and “sonofabitches” that flew out of Ram’s office (and his mouth) every few hours.

“I heard about the fight, are you okay?” Asha asked David, who was pleasantly surprised to see her.

He’d always had a small crush on her, but never really thought of asking Asha out because he knew just how messy office relationships could get. He also thought Asha secretly liked him back, which is why she’d always send David messages on their office chat messenger, about whenever Ram bitched about the team to her.

“The whole office probably heard the fight, Ram wasn’t being particularly subtle about it,” David replied.

Asha smiled weakly and said, “I know. There’s not much we can do about it…”

The hell we can’t, David thought to himself, but smiled back at her instead, and turned to head back to his cubicle.

The floor was now almost empty, save Asha, Ram and a few other employees lurking in the far corners.

Asha walked past him and went to her desk, looking at him from the corner of her eye, but said nothing. She knew it would be pointless trying to get David to talk to her. He rarely spoke to his own teammates, from what she heard from them.

So when he began walking towards her desk five minutes later, she was surprised.

“Do you need something, Dav-”, she began, but David had walked right past her instead. Without bothering to knock on Ram’s glass door, he strolled in and stood, staring at his boss.

Ram was seated behind his desk, fiddling with his phone. He looked up, and when he saw David he started.

“Hey David, I was just about to call you in… you really need to stop picking fights with me at meetings. It makes me look bad, you know that. And fine, I may have gone a little over board today, but you had it coming. So don’t think for one fucking second that I’m going to apologise to you. You just need to learn when to shut the fuck up, like a good little bitch.” Ram said, with a self-satisfied smile.

David, however, hadn’t heard any of that.

When Ram was finished, David took out the crowbar he had brought along from his car, which he had hidden inside his sleeve. He’d used it just earlier that week while changing a punctured tyre on his way to work. He had gotten delayed by an hour, and even though he had called in and informed Ram that he’d be late, Ram had said he’d be losing pay for that day.

He walked quickly to the desk — to where Ram was now seated, petrified, in his chair — and swung hard. Ram screamed in pain as he took the blow to his head, blood streaming down his crisp, off-white shirt.

Undeterred, David swung again. This time, the hook of the crowbar caught Ram in the cheek and tore right through it, with Ram now on the verge of passing out.

A third swing, and Ram was dead — the crowbar smashing through the top of his skull and wedging itself there, like a long-forgotten sword stuck in a rock, waiting for the chosen prince to come pull it out and rule the kingdom once again.

David’s heart rate was now back to normal. He surveyed the damage he had just inflicted, not bothered about the big splashes of blood ruining his shirt and tie, and dripping from his face.

He stood there for a minute, as Asha ran inside the room but could only stand silent, too shocked to say or do anything. David then turned around, again brushing past Asha as he headed back to his cubicle.

David sat down on his chair and looked pensive for a few seconds. He then put on his headphones, cranked up the volume and began playing a game of Solitaire, as Kansas’s Carry On Wayward Son began blaring in his ears, and he finally smiled.


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