Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Short Story: Some games are best left alone

The kid that will run GE.

Points for money. It’s a game that my sister played with her 9 year son some years back. She credited ‘points’ into his account if he had been good and had helped with errands around the house. Clear the table- 50 points, tidy the room-75 points, and so on. Every month, the points were redeemed for pocket money. It paid to be good. She debited the points if he had been untidy, noisy, trouble making….well basically debited the points if he had been a normal kid. (So I used to say to her with disgust. How could you arm twist a kid like this?) It didn’t pay to be a kid.

Only, I realized, the boy had learnt to beat the system pretty well.

One evening, for example, when I was visiting them, we were chatting in the kitchen, my sister cooking with her back towards us. This kid, picked up an opportunity, knocked my can of coke off the table and before anyone could move, offered to clean up the spill.

‘Who did that?’, asked my sister. To which the kid just shrugged his shoulder and looked to me. Didn’t say a word. And went about wiping the spilt cola.

My sister looked at me, glared and her lips moved…’Clumsy Oaf!’ were the words they made. Obviously not wanting the young man to hear the words. ‘Put in 50 points to your account Ajey’, she told the boy.

‘I didn’t say anything’, says the boy to me later that evening, before running off to bed. ‘I just looked at you. Not my fault you look such a likely culprit’, he said offering me his raised palm for a high-five. I gave him a high five- with a brain like that, the kid will probably end up running GE one day, I thought. I should try to be in his good books.
Getting cute with the Mrs.

Right, I remembered this game recently and decided to be cute with the Mrs- I suggested we play the same game between ourselves. For gestures of love and concern, we credit points to the spouse’s account. For thoughtless actions and inconveniences, we debit. She wasn’t too keen though. ‘Don’t be silly. You can’t put numbers to love. I’m not playing, ’ she said.

‘Babe’, I said, ‘I love you more than you love me, and this will prove it you.’

‘Well,’ said I, ‘I’m keeping score. And pretty soon, you will recognize me as husband of the century.’

‘I already do’, she said, hoping to put me off. Didn’t work.

So I bought a small diary, made four columns- a debit and credit account for her and a debit- credit account for me.

It started off well. We went for a walk. I bought her a rose. And quickly took out my little note book looked at her triumphantly. She rolled her eyes and smelt her rose pretending to be completely unimpressed. I put in a credit entry under Hubby (Me). 100 points.

We walked ahead, sat on a bench. The Mrs hopped ahead, brought me an ice cream cone. I thanked her, one hand already reaching for the little notebook. When I handed it to her, she nodded her refusal. ‘No hubbs, that was out of love. No points,’ she says.

Jeeezuz. That was masterful.

‘No love’, I said, ‘it is my will’. And I put in a credit entry under ‘Wifey’. 99 points. Then crossed it out. And put in 101. Machiavelli would have been proud of that one. I knew she was playing to win this one. She said she was not. But she was. Ah yes, she definitely was. I could sense that.

She twirled her rose smiling to herself.

‘How much will you redeem these points for?’, she asked.

‘Depends’, I said. Lets say an exchange rate of 100 points to a pound?

‘Seems fair’, she said. ‘You can keep my share.’

I pretended not to hear that last comment. And so the game proceeded. In a book shop, I would find her a book she liked, put in some points. Cook a surprise breakfast, and make some credits. The odd,’ have you seen my spectacles?’ would however cause a debit entry, which very nobly, I would enter into the book. Myself.

Over time, I maintained the scorebook. But I found to my dismay, not only my debit and credit entries canceling themselves out, but the wife’s credit entries growing bigger and bigger. No big deal, it was only about 11 pounds, but she was winning. And here would be documented evidence, contrary to my confident belief, that I was the clutz around the house. I could see her talk about this over dinner with family and friends.

‘Venky came up with this cute idea that he picked up from Supriya and Ajey. About this points thingy. Blah blah blah.’ And I could see the story ending with everyone asking who won. And she would probably just shrug her shoulders and look at me….and wait for me to say it. To accept defeat. Urk. We were husband and wife. But still Man and Woman. I looked down nervously. I was still wearing the pants. But only just. No matter what she said now, a win here, and she would gloat.

I was desperate to settle the account. And pushed the grey cells to find some opportunity.

Gaay poonch uthayeygi, to gobar hi daleygi. (When a cow lifts her tail, she will only drop dung)

One fine Sunday morning, the opportunity presented itself.

The wife and I woke early enough, decided to cuddle up a little and started talking of things all over the place. And in my mind’s eye, I saw the perfect opportunity to build the points kitty.

‘You know love’, I said, ‘I hope we have a daughter. She should take your looks. Large eyes, bright smile, sharp nose. Your grace.’

No reply. She had sensed her man was at work here to redeem lost glory.

‘If a boy’, she said running her hand through my hair, ‘I hope he has your proportions. Not too large, not too small. Your sensitivity. Hard work.’

One part of me was saying ‘Go on , Go on, may this morning never end. The truth is being spoken here.’ And another was a little petrified. ‘Hey, its my turn to collect the points. Save these for next month!!’

I interrupted her. ‘She must have your patience, your firmness and your discipline.’
‘Your petit figure, sensuous curves’, I said, getting naughty.

She paused a minute. Her master brain was at work. Even at 8 on a Sunday morning, it was sharp.

And I encourage you to recognize this ploy if you ever play this game.

‘She turned towards me, running her hand over my chest. He should have sparse hair on his chest. Like you’, she said. Her hands moved to my legs. ’Strong legs’, she said.

And slowly moving her hand up she look at me. Pouted her lips readying for a kiss.

‘And…’, she hesitated. ‘And….’, she was waiting for me to continue.

I kissed her lips, absolutely intoxicated now by her words.

The man in me overcame every little shred of sense I had in my head.

‘The tool?’, I asked her, ‘you mean the tool?’.

She nodded, her eyes shut, puckering her lips again.

‘Oh yeah baby’, I thought. ‘My tool.’ I kissed her again and gloated ‘Yup, the dude got to have my tool!! What a piece of work. Ah yeah. My tool. The kid must have my tool. Will keep them women really happy’, said I. ‘Ah yeah, really happy’.

She open her eyes looking at me very gently. The masterstroke had been delivered.

Check and mate.

I closed my eyes and turned away from her, pretending to go to sleep, hoping she had not heard the final remark.

She knew I would say it. She knew, just to be a wise guy, the larger than life- Marlboro man- I would say it. She knew there were no “weeeemen”. She knew. But she knew I would still say it. Like every male, I would brag about my tool. She knew it. Her wits against mine. She had won. Game, set and match.

Slowly, like an anaconda squeezing its prey, I felt her arm come around me and move gentle up towards my neck.

‘Just how many WEEEmen did this little guy satisfy?’, she whispered into my ear.

‘WooooMaaan, love. No women.’, I said. I think I had begun to sweat now. And turned a deep red color. ‘Heck’, I thought. ‘After all these days, giving it up like that. Check and mate. Down for the count. Me and my big mouth. Gobar nikalee. ( Dropped dung)’

‘U- hum’, she said.

I got up with a start. ‘Hey you want some coffee?’, I said chirpily, ‘Would be good. Coffee in bed. And some cookies?’

‘Go for it, tiger’, she said. Stretching her arms. She had won. She wouldn’t kick her tiger when he was down. I thought.

I ran back shortly with the coffee and biscuits.

She was not in bed. What was in bed was my debit-credit book.

I opened the pages. Under the debits were trivial entries…’lost spectacles’- 75 points; lost grocery shopping bag’- 150 points; ‘misplaced cheque’- 75 points and so on. Painful reminders of my absentmindedness. Hey, can’t have me worry about groceries, can you?

The last one however, the only one she had written, in her feminine graceful style was this:
‘Foot in Mouth - losing game, set and match---------no points debited --------- just a summer dress for wifey. 100 pounds.’

If you every join us for dinner, my friends, please do not ask about this game. Needless to say, we don’t play it anymore.

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