Mandira Pattnaik: “Expropriate”

Expropriate

_____She heard footsteps on the terrace. A man poking his walking stick on the terracotta burnt-red tiles? She could be wrong though. She was wrong. Maybe. She huddled her kids to the warm bedroom nestled between the spiraling wooden staircase and the archaic attic, and waited. The kids lay on either side of her—their home on this Greek island was snug like their mother’s lap. Within minutes their combined rhythmic exhalations lulled the kids to sleep.

_____With ears attuned to each rustle of the dry Sal leaves in the garden, each cry of the mourning cricket and each groan of defeated waves hitting the shore, she lay stiff and ready.

_____This started two weeks ago when her sailor husband left. The neighbors saw his wagon pull out at dawn. Mrs. Grace of the Elementary School down the bend insisted she saw two forms buckled in the front seat—one of whose head lolled. But her eyesight was failing. Over tea and cookies that afternoon, the missus told her that the sailor was gone to Scandinavia.

_____Before leaving, Mrs. Grace had waved to the kids emerging from their log house in the nook of the dried Magnolia that split into three at the base. The kids were playing hide-and-seek.

_____She unspooled canned images from that day. The night before, and until the dawn, seemed to rush in her mind—hazy and indistinct, but the evening stood out—like an aftermath. She remembered watching sunset sitting immobile on the cane chair, the grass of the lawn like velvet at her feet. Darkness descended from the rock faces and slithered down—down—down to the distant ocean. Between gusts of moist sea-winds, she evaluated the broad stretch of the ocean bathed in ephemeral light. Half invisible fishing trawlers swayed in the grayness. Nothing seemed amiss.

_____Down to her right, between the dark mass of the low dunes and the white sands, dominating the whole view, were colossal trees, heavy and dense, full of the brutal force of nature left to itself. Left to oneself natural instincts are always brutal.

_____The monotonous hollow whisper of the crashing waves had sounded feebler and feebler as she had slipped into a battle-weary sleep.

_____Would she keep the log house? She knew that is where her children hid, night after night, to escape their mother’s cries, waiting for their father to collapse in a drunken heap. Hard solid wood—would fetch a decent price. She couldn’t always be wrong—like he thought.

_____No! She wasn’t wrong. He was.

_____She’d have to do something about the walking stick too— his father’s—which he used on her back. She would plant it upright near the creeper; let the Devil’s Ivy expropriate the stick. Like she would—his money, the children, this house—while the waves gnawed away the sailor and his wagon at the bottom of the cliff.

 

Mandira Pattnaik writes flash and poetry. She is humbled to have her work published by The Times of IndiaFewerThan500, 101words, Runcible Spoon, Lunate Fiction (forthcoming), (Mac)ro(mic), and Eclectica Magazine. She loves to travel and embroiders to keep busy.

 

 

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