Monday, May 21, 2007



Daddy Long Legs stretches a long skinny leg to test the waters. It feels warm, just right. But he doesn't take the plunge. He waits. On the other side of the shore sits the Black Widow. She is watching Daddy covertly. Her black current eyes shine with anticipation; her glistening black buttock twitches. She has collected this and that and made them shiny with her saliva. She waves an elegant limb and then lifts up another. Daddy Long Legs can see her smooth underbelly. Shiny with her saliva. Something stiffens beneath him. He crouches low to hide his shyness. He extends a long arm towards the waters, and pretends to skim the surface. He is actually waiting for her next move. The Black Widow turns her back on him. Twitches her glistening buttock at him. She inspects her-this-and-that, made shiny with her saliva. She lifts one up, testing its weight and flings it over her shoulder. Daddy Long Legs catches it deftly. In his mouth. This is the move he has been waiting for. He plunges in and swims as hard as he can. He surfaces panting, still a little shy. The Black Widow claps. She is pleased. She preens. She croons. She belts out a love song, low and long, swaying on her spindly legs. Daddy Long Legs feels her pleasure surging through him in watery waves. He piddles out of sheer happiness. Then he realizes that he has pissed off everybody else. She clucks, a little out of sympathy, a little out of vexation. But they can't stop now. They both sit on the water's edge with their backs to the other side, where dear Daddy Long Legs came from. They ponder how to increase their flock; they must be careful how they choose. They must not make mistakes when selecting their brood. It will be a member get member kind of clan. Their tribe must increase in strength and size. How else can they rule the world? Together they plot and they plan. The fetid odor of their ideas drifts across the waters. People either fall sick or get infected. Both are bad for the world. Something must be done. And, done quickly. World leaders are worried. Important people start to loose sleep. Journalists burn the midnight oil. Some get infected and cross the waters. Some fall sick and have to be taken off the roster. Ordinary people start to panic. Pandemonium threatens to break loose. Vendors do quick business selling gas masks.

+ + + + +


Even her parents were dismayed when she was born. She heard about it much too late to make amends. For by then, she had already begun to care. Her parents were good people who did what they could, even if they were dismayed. Her siblings too were quite gracious. Though they did remind her every now and then of her superfluity - the free gift from the super mart no one had ever wanted. But since it had come free, they could not bear to throw it away; and at the same time, hated it for getting in the way.

At school she was not an embarrassment or an encumbrance; she had patient teachers and classmates who were no more or less nasty to her than to the gigantic hunch back in their class. Her presence at school was more like the chalk dust that remains on your fingers after you written on the blackboard. However much she tried, her hands felt dry and chalky. She apologized to the only guy who asked her for a dance on her graduation night.

Later on when she married the man, who though not quite dream stuff, was made of dependable stuff; and her family was so happy and relieved for her. Her husband, who was a good man, never complained or whined or beat her. He was hardly there beside her, though; and, never around to hear her side of the story, to be just there for the sake of it. Then the children came and grew up and apart, as if she did not exist. Perhaps they thought that this was too much of a load, this constant companionship that they had never asked for. But how could she know the simple thing, that these, her appendages would begin to sing aliens ongs, the minute they'd learned to stand on their own feet?

To be left alone by herself was a blessing she did not know that she had.

Left to itself her heart grew arms, legs and all sorts of complicated limbs that encouraged it to clamber primate fashion – up the pole and down the pole, but this monkey did not learn to choose. She just saw and she just did, and she was glad when she pulled out a plum. But, the plum turned out to be as tart as lemon drops, full of synthetic color and crunch. So she sucked at it till her tongue was sore and her throat was raw; until she craved the taste of clear water. Finally, her frugal mind considered that it a waste of drops, so she made lemonade instead.

A lemonade stand in summer is not such a bad idea. But it had now become winter and even the sparrows were no longer thirsty. But she tried.

She still tries. And, you can see now, how it is of no use anymore. You know there is such a thing as a natural inclination, a talent you could say to please or displease. In her case the latter is so true.

She was definitely born with it, her inability to please, because nowadays she clatters at all times, grimacing, with her lips pulled back, and her eyes bulging out. She seems to be at war with a wild creature inside her. Yet all the time she keeps losing to please. I doubt she ever stops to think about the consequences. She is totally unaware that she is totally out of step. Her moves are so clumsy. She is such a clown. Blithely she continues to the dismay and derision of all good law abiding people.

To be left alone by herself is a blessing she does not know she has.

Author bio:

Rumjhum's work has previously appeared online in Eclectica, Nth Position, The King's English, Halfway down the Stairs, Arabesques Review, Crannog, Chanterelle's Notebook, Lily Literary Review, The Paumanok Review, Poems Niederngasse, Unlikely Stories, Cerebration, Amarillo Bay, Gowanus, Loch Raven Review and Southern Ocean Review. Her poem "Cleavage" is in the longlist of the Bridport Poetry Competition 2006. In print – Two Poems in Chennai Poetry Circle Anthology, Year 2006 volume; One poem in Poetry Chain Anthology Year 2007, January volume comprising Chennai poets; One poem in Crannog Magazine Vol. 13, 2006; Three poems in Unisun Anthology of Poetry 2007. She lives in Chennai, India, at present, where her husband is posted.

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