A Father Story: Chapter 9

Feline Danger in the Family Dwelling

There lived, in the house next door, a pair of cats named Bertie and Gussie. Their owners were a much loved Uncle and Aunty who much loved P. G. Wodehouse. The feline Bertie, like his literary namesake, had a special talent for creating commotion, and he once created a commotion of Woosterian proportions in our household. And I don’t mean Woosterian as in foppish and affected, although that is the accepted meaning. I mean of the Bertie Wooster kind.

Wooster

It was a tranquil Saturday morning. Helios was riding his celestial chariot, its brilliant golden beams streaming in through our bedroom window. A gentle breeze sang softly through the trees, and the sparrows chirped sweetly along. It was too early for the raucous crickets and the raucous cricket the neighbor boys played every weekend.

The Favorite Daughters were in different corners of the house, each minding their own business. This was an extremely rare scenario in the Edwards home, and had Mummy been around she would immediately have suspected that commotion was a-brewing. But Mummy was not around, which is why we were able to mind our own business. Had Mummy been around, she would have forced us to mind her business, which was always very closely connected to the word “chores.”

Mind your own business

All these years later, I cannot recall which Favorite Daughter First Discerned Feline Danger in the Family Dwelling. Either way, that FD immediately stopped minding her business and got the other FDs to immediately stop minding theirs. This is why I think the First Discerner was the Favorite Daughter, because she was the only one who could make the other FDs immediately stop minding their business. The Third FD never had that kind of authority (though she now has more authority than either of us, having more kids than either of us). And as for the Second FD (as I refer to myself in the third person), I never had that kind of presence of mind. I was absentminded when I was minding my own business, and wild horses couldn’t Forcefully Drag me away.

But I digress. In fact, since my business always involved the chasing of some Futile Dream, I very Foolishly Digress. Let me return to the tale of Feline Danger.

How Bertie got out of his Family Dwelling I will never know, but he got into ours by climbing through my esteemed parents’ bedroom window. When I saw him he was perched arched-backed on the windowsill, hissing and spitting at Chibi. Chibi, whose legs did not permit him to reach windowsills, could only howl and prowl and scowl and growl like a Wodehousian constable.

Dogs rule

As Fate Decreed, the much loved Uncle and Aunty who owned Bertie, being Family Doctors, were at that moment inconveniently looking after patients. Mummy, being the same, was doing the same. And Papa, who had an inerrant tendency to not be around when we needed him, was not around. Consequently, the Favorite Daughters were left to deal with the situation ourselves – and all three of us were mortally afraid of cats.

I have processed my fear of cats in a cleverly titled short story, “Fear of Cats,” so I won’t process it here. I am taking the shortest route I can to The End, and I cannot stop to process every fear and phobia. When that story is published, you may purchase it for your reading pleasure. Meanwhile, I must get on with this story.

Fearofcatstshirt

The Favorite Daughters may have been mortally afraid of cats, but we were exceptionally gifted  shriekers – and there was no shrieking caste system in our family. We were all equally gifted. For this special talent, neither of my esteemed parents accepted any responsibility, even though it was clear, even without any DNA test, that we were indeed their own three Favorite Daughters.

Mummy was one of three sisters, so Papa could have blamed her side of the family, but he was not stupid. He could recognize a special talent when he saw it – or, in this case, heard it. He often blamed our shrieking for all manner of things, once even the loss of his nail clippers, and he sometimes claimed he’d go mad living in a house full of shrieking women. (This he did halfheartedly,  because he knew he had come into the house already mad.) Still, he was not going to let any special talent be passed on to the other side of the family. He blamed it on his mother and her sisters, whom he had heard shriek (mostly at each other) throughout his younger and more vulnerable years.

Papa’s theory on the origins of our shrieking pleased Mummy greatly. She had always maintained that she and her sisters were the paragons of Female Decorum, as befits the daughters of a well-respected minister.

Whether we inherited our special talent From Dadi and her sisters, or whether we acquired it on our own (which is my own opinion), I can honestly say my sisters and I were exceptional shriekers. And it is this special talent that Formally Delivered us from a Fate Decidedly worse than Fearsome Death that Frightening Day.

Our talented shrieking alerted the neighbors to our plight, and some kindly neighbor delivered us by taking Bertie off the windowsill. What would have happened had that kindly neighbor never been born I leave you to ponder.

Ch 9

A Father Story: Chapter 8

The Famous Drummer

The time has come to reveal the real name of Ringo the Former Dispensary Star. But first I must ask you a question. While reading this part, would you be so kind as to remember that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet? It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember who said it. All I’m asking is that you would be so kind as to remember it.

You would be so kind? Great! I’m grateful for your cooperation as I try to take the shortest distance I can to The End. It would be a different story if The End were not the end I had in mind, but unfortunately (or Fortunately, Depending on your literary tastes), it is not a different story.

Balcony_sceneWhen we first got the Family Dog we had squabbled over what to name him. The Family Drama dragged on for Five Days. In the end, as Fate Decreed, Mummy’s Japanese friend happened to drop in in the middle of a scene. Seeing the chance the chance visit had to end the scene and the Family Drama, Mummy asked her to suggest a name

“Chibi Chan,” the Friend Declared. “It means rittre one in my ranguage.”

Mummy knew we didn’t like it, and we knew she didn’t like it, but she liked Family Dramas less, so the Family Dog was christened Chibi Chan without Further Delay. The name was butchered left and right, as one Favorite Daughter had predicted, but before he became Ringo, Chibi would have responded to Rosencrantz or Guildenstern if there was Food Displayed.food displayedNo one in our immediate circle had your Fervent Desire for Hamlet, so they didn’t know how to say Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. Chibi was called Chubby, Chippy, Chibu, Chibbers and, when we were Feeling Deferent, Mr. Chibbers.

And now I will let you into a secret. I wish Ringo was the name we had given the Favorite Dachshund. Not only was it better than Chibi Chan, but as the pet name of a Famous Drummer, it suited our pet better than the name even I had suggested.

Ringo Starr

No, I am not going to reveal what that was. I have just shared one secret with you. It’s too soon for another.

Ch 8

 

A Father Story: Chapter 7

The Famous Dachshund

Sometime in the mid-nineties I had related how the Favorite Dachshund lost the chance to be a Father Dachshund in a short story titled “The Prodigal Dog.” Having had over twenty years to think it over, I now realize that was a bad title. Unlike the Prodigal Son, the Family Dog did not come to his senses in a pigsty. He never entered the pigsty in the first place, so there was no question of him coming to his senses.

CensusWhen we finally found him nine days after he had fled the canine bedchamber, the Family Dachshund was leading a privileged existence as the guest of a dispensary in an affluent housing society. He had no inclination to return to the humbler Family Dwelling of yore.

And who could blame him? We did not allow him to sit on the sofa, but here he was installed in the most comfortable seat the dispensary possessed – and remember this was an affluent society. The seat was made of the best Rexine money could buy, and padded to boot. The patients patiently remained standing so the Fatigued Dachshund could remain seated.

Of course we adored him, but there were only five of us and we couldn’t do it 24/7. At the dispensary, he was surrounded by constant streams of worshipful masses. Doctors, nurses, patients, neighbors, maids, watchmen, and even the odd rickshawalla all came to pay homage to the Fabled Dachshund. Some stood and gazed in silent admiration, some genuflected in reverent awe, and some collapsed prostrate with screams of Frenzied Devotion. Such star power did the Famous Dachshund exude that they had named him Ringo.downloadFor weeks afterwards he refused to answer to any other name, even though in his pre-traumatic stress days he had answered to any name if there was food involved. But we were so thrilled to have him back that we were willing to call him Ringo, and we even let him sit in the rocking chair. He eventually started responding to his own name, but he never stopped sitting in the rocking chair.

Ch 7

 

 

 

A Father Story: Chapter 6

The FD Fearfully Disregards Filial Duty

Last time I had (parenthetically) introduced a new FD character. This character was a prominent member of the Edwards family. Had he had two legs, there would have been four castes in the favoritism caste system. And had he had two legs and also been the firstborn, there would have been only one caste in the Edwards family.

When my esteemed parents realized that they were parents-to-be, they both hoped that the stork would bring them a son. Had the stork obliged, there the Edwards family would have ended, with no Favorite Daughters to speak of. I certainly would not have been around to tell the tale of the Family Dog.

Dog

My esteemed parents shared a love for animals. They had each grown up with pets, so they thought it only right and fair that their children do likewise. At various points in my younger and more vulnerable years, we had cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, turtles, fish, parrots, and parakeets. We also had lizards, mice, ants, spiders, snails, slugs, and bugs, but they weren’t pets, just pet peeves – at least for us Favorite Daughters. My esteemed parents loved their menagerie.

While writing this story I sent Mummy a message asking if I had missed any pets. “No,” she replied, “but I was asked if we could get an elephant.”

If you’re wondering which Favorite Daughter could have made such a request, I’m afraid you’ll have to keep wondering. I am trying to take the shortest distance I can to The End and cannot stop to answer every question.

My-Family-and-Other-Animals

As a family, we liked brown dachshunds best. We had two of them – a female in Lucknow, who once nursed a stray kitten, and a male in Pune, who once nursed an aversion to a female of his species. My esteemed parents had sent him to reproduce after his kind, but instead of doing his Filial Duty and supplying them with grandpups, he turned on his heels and fled the canine bedchamber.

Ch 6.JPG

A Father Story: Chapter 3

Your Fervent Desire

I deliberately did not end chapter 2 by saying whether I would continue the story of the Favorite Daughter, aka Butterfingers, or whether I would move on to the other Favorite Daughters, aka Second FD and Third FD. Truth be told, I myself did not know.

Yes, I know that “I myself did not know” is extremely awkward, but it’s more accurate than “I did not know myself.” There has never been a time when I did not know myself. But English being as idiosyncratic as it is, occasionally an Indian American writer must dish out extremely awkward prose.

Still, I appreciate your attention to my prose, especially when it is extremely awkward, and when I make a spelling mistake.

Spelling

I was in three minds about whether to continue the saga of the Favorite Daughter (and given how much I know, I admit I was tempted). But since I was in three minds, I decided to forget about the Favorite Daughter and move on to the other two FDs.

Before I move on, I must draw your attention to a point that, at some point, may turn out to be crucial to this story. If it turns out not to be crucial to the story and you want to sue me for making a promise I did not keep, let me ask you to move your eyes back 43 words, to the word may in the previous sentence. The difference between may and will is akin to the difference between May and June.

To get to the point, the point is that at times people in three minds do decide. It’s only when one is in two minds that one cannot decide. Like Hamlet.
img_0778

No, I am not going to indulge your fervent desire for Hamlet. I have, out of goodness of heart, indulged it many times in the past, but this story is not about Hamlet and his father. Just because I titled it A Father Story and not The Father Story does not mean I can drag Hamlet and his father in to indulge your fervent desire for Hamlet.

And anyway, given your FD for Hamlet, you know already know that Hamlet is not about Hamlet and his father. It’s not even Hamlet and his stepfather – notwithstanding that his first lines relate to that lecherous, treacherous villain. (Which is the second kindest thing Hamlet can say about Claudius, the kindest being “A little more than kin, and less than kind.”)

Hamlet is about Hamlet and his mother. Nothing to do with an Oedipus complex. (He may be complex, but he can tell Gertrude from Ophelia.) Hamlet is about Hamlet and his mother because even though he must avenge his father’s death, when he finally does kill his father’s killer, it is to avenge his mother’s death.

Hamlet Act V scene ii

Chapter 3

 

A Father Story: Chapter 2

Dishing It Out

I ended chapter 1 on a cryptic note, and I intend to maintain that same cryptic note here. To put it plainly, I will not disclose the names of the Favorite Daughters. I will simply refer to us as FD, Second FD, and Third FD. Since I am painfully aware of the limits of your attention span, at times I will spell out FD.

Tired of dropping family saucers, the Favorite Daughter dished it out by coughing up a storm. It was the best way of making Papa panic. Though he said he loved all three daughters equally, the FD’s health caused him to panic just a wee bit more. So to disrupt his peace of mind as he had disrupted hers, the Favorite Daughter coughed up a storm until the tempest in the teacup-and-saucer blew over.

tempest

To be fair, it was not only the havoc wreaked by the sharing of saucers that made the Favorite Daughter wreck saucers. She regularly dropped glasses, plates, spoons, forks, cups, saucers, and pretty much everything else in the kitchen, because she possessed what are known as butterfingers. Anything that her hand touched was guaranteed to slip through her fingers and meet its fate on the floor.

The only thing that didn’t slip through her fingers was a certain gentleman who, by virtue of slipping a ring on her finger, became her lawfully wedded husband and, in imitation of his parents-in-law, her devoted slave.

Chapter 2

A Father Story: Chapter 1

Wreaking Havoc and Wrecking Saucers

A story officially begins at chapter 1, and the stats suggest that it is good to begin a story with a confession. So here I go again.

I confess I had deliberately left the plot twist out of the Prologue. My memory may not be what it used to be, but one thing I do remember about storytelling is that while it is perfectly acceptable to share the plot twist in chapter 1, it is never acceptable to do so in the Prologue.

Plot twist

I ended my Father’s Day post by mentioning my father’s love for dish soap. I didn’t know it was the plot twist then, but I know it now, as I look back with perfect hindsight.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Even an optometrist will tell you that, though they will never tell you your eyesight is 20/20. At least, that’s been my experience. Whenever I see my optometrist (and I do see him), he says, with a voracious gleam in his eye (and I can see it), “I hope you’re still a voracious reader?”

My perfect hindsight also showed me that love was the wrong word to describe what Papa felt for dish soap. It was a magnificent obsession. For a reason that will forever remain a mystery this side of eternity, he was particularly obsessed with how tea things should be washed.

After years of making everyone miserable (including himself) over the matter, Papa had the brilliant idea to buy his own saucepan, strainer, cup, and teaspoon. He initially condescended to share the family saucers, but this was extremely traumatic for the family. We used any saucer (when we dared use any saucer) with fear and trembling. Many a saucer was dropped and wrecked because the holder’s hand was trembling with fear. (Others were Furiously Dashed to the ground, but that’s a different FD story.)

broken saucer

It is a truth not so universally acknowledged in our more Feminist Days that women possess a Fine Delicacy of nerves. This sharing of saucers wreaked havoc on the nerves of the four Edwards women. Since we were Four Different personalities, we expressed it in Four Different ways.

Mummy turned to her sewing machine with a vengeance, for a vengeance. Since the machine was in their bedroom, the incessant whirring had the satisfying effect of disturbing Papa’s reading. Love may be patient and kind, but Mummy, being well-versed in Scripture, also knew that as you sew you reap.

SEW

We daughters had our own ways of dishing it out, and without dish soap. Since none of us was as scripturally inclined as Mummy, none of our ways were based on Scripture. They were effective, nonetheless.

Before I reveal what each of us did, I must tell you that there were three Edwards daughters. Each was a Favorite Daughter, I’m happy to say, but each was not equally favored. There was an ancient and firmly established favoritism hierarchy – a favoritism caste system, if you like, except that there was no fourth caste, there being only three daughters to feed, clothe, educate, and marry off.

To maintain my sisters’ privacy, and especially my own, I will refer to us as the Favorite Daughter, the Second Favorite Daughter, and the Third Favorite Daughter.

Chapter 1