As the boy sat in the barn, chugging on some stolen beer, he thought of his love. He loved the color purple, more so, the purple ink. He fascinated about the mornings as much as he did for the nights. A musing of the cold showers sent shivers down his spine and the spoon he ate with was wooden, not golden. Much before he realized the time had passed and the beer was over. The dreams he had were varied, from daisies to demons. He dreamt a lot. Folks around him were worried of what a farmer’s son would do with these musings, let alone live a life to harvest a crop.
He was 22 years old, and it was his birthday the very next day. With each passing moment he realized that the night is setting upon him, dark as it could get, the crows cawed without mercy. He felt maybe he was being led to something, but instead he was just free.
A free-bird, free soul, free thinker, but what he didn’t have for free were his meals. If not for the maiden down the road, he would’ve starved his days to death as his father was least bothered. He was growing up, and as that happened the folks around the village had already cast out rumors about him and the maiden being involved otherwise. A fair boy, young and innocent had to decide what he wanted to do. The famous – ‘TO BE OR NOT TO BE’ paradox had struck him at 22. Although he was strong, the inside was feeble, scared about what might happen…
The day turned its time and morning arrived. His birthday was something no one really remembered. He walked down the road to the maiden’s house where he was greeted as usual and let in. The table was set with a turkey this time, and this baffled him. The strong smell was inviting, but he couldn’t place what was actually happening. When the door shut with a thud, the inside went silent. The room was with him and the maiden, a woman in her early forties to whom the boy looked up as a motherly figure after his mother’s departure. His mother had left the village with some wanderer and no one spoke about it, at least not openly.
The maiden broke the silence, and said, ‘Have a seat birthday boy, it’s all yours, don’t be shy.’ Ron was confused, but he played along. The woman was staring at him in awe, the bright in her eyes was something he had never seen before. The wooden spoon was set on the table, and he knew not of what was next. He started for the turkey, but was interrupted by the maiden, ‘Hold on, say your prayers first. It’s your birthday, and I guess you should get this new habit going.’ He refrained for a bit, confused and in wonder. He joined his hands and did what she said, after all she was the one who cared for him, the only one. He prayed aloud, ‘Thank you Lord, for the life you have for me, and for this pretty lady who cares for me.’
There was a knock on the door followed by a few more, it was Ron’s father calling out to him. This was the first time that such a thing was happening, Ron’s father, Jeremy, was never concerned about it. A tensed lady, Martha, opened the door as Ron went into hiding under the dining table.
The turkey took witness of the erratic conversation between Jeremy and Martha. ‘Well, what do we have here?’, said Jeremy, facing an utterly stoked Martha. ‘I’m just trying out a new recipe today. Hey, why don’t you come in? Please, savor some turkey, I’ve been on it all morning.’ A surprised Jeremy replied, ‘Woah, all morning is it?’, Martha motioning him inside as if she was welcoming him. Jeremy stepped inside and took a seat. There was something strange about the house, after all this was a first for them. Never did Jeremy visit anyone in the village, and never did anyone visit Martha.
‘Martha, I have something I always wanted to tell you.’
This shook Martha, and made her wonder, ‘What would it be that this man would want to tell me? Does he know about Ron’s visits to my place? Is he here to kill me? Or worst, kill us both?’ As these thoughts plagued Martha’s head, Jeremy eased out as if he wanted to share something intimate. He moved towards her, slowly hitting the side of the table. The turkey stood still, witnessing in dead silence.
‘I had this thought in my mind for a few days and… I don’t know if this is right, but… I wish we could… I mean… If only we could…’
‘What are you leading to Jeremy?’ Martha spoke, this time with curiosity and eagerness.
‘I mean, if we could get together, share a life. I wish the best for Ron, regardless what people say about my habits, it’s for Ron that I would take another breath and not otherwise. I mean… I…’
‘You want me to be with you? What are you saying Jerry? Are you out of your mind? The folks out there would slaughter me. And you? You’d be blamed and cursed to hell. If it’s for Ron, you should know we can’t be together. We cannot be together! Do you get that?’ She had forgotten of the hiding boy under the table as she said this.
‘Martha, I wish for the best. I need support and I find it in you. Ron would be delighted to know. He always longs for a mother after Rita ran away. You think it’s been an easy ride for him?’
‘Jerry, what are you saying? Are you out of your head? This is not right, it never was. And marriage? What is this? A circus?’ Martha was losing her calm, just when she got reminded that Ron was right there, by her feet, and he was shifting when he heard all this.
‘Martha, we need to be brave! We need to face the world, if it is for being with each other. I need you, Martha. Ron needs you.’
Jeremy was almost at his feet, when Martha got up and took him by the shoulder.
‘No. Jeremy you need to get this straight. We cannot. And we won’t. And trust me when I say this. No one will accept us. No one would let us live in peace. If you want Ron to be happy, you need to love him, at least know about his birthday!’
A flow of emotions drove through Jeremy as he started sobbing. ‘I know! He’s 23, today. My dear boy. The one whom I love to the core. I want to gift him. And you’ll be his present.’
This drove Martha crazy. Whatever stability that she had was lost, and she became furious. It all turned into a mess when she slapped Jeremy right across his face.
‘How dare you? You think I’m some present? What is this? Am I a doll or what? You know what? I know the right present. For you and for all of us.’
Noticing the ruckus, Ron stepped out from beneath the table. Jeremy was stunned to see him there.
‘What the… What are you doing here? You little rat!’
Martha was visibly annoyed, and Jeremy’s reaction was not invited.
‘What did you just call him? Rat? You think you’re any better if you call him that?’
‘What is he doing here in the first place? Getting his birthday present from Aunt Martha? What is all this!’
‘I’ll tell you! And remember, you are a rat. And I know very well of what you deserve!’
She took Ron by the shoulder and rushed towards the kitchen. Jeremy was dazed and confused. He did not know what was happening and how Ron had ended up under the table. It was just seconds after Martha moved towards the kitchen that he felt an eerie smell in the air. There was a thud, as if a door was shut. He rushed inside to check. Martha had disappeared with Ron. Seconds later, he heard a glass window smashing.