The Cabbage Doll
The Cabbage Doll4 mins 457 4 mins 457
Peter chuckled to himself under the bouts of cough which plagued him recently. Through his gold rimmed glasses he peered hard to see the details on the piece of paper, he clutched tightly in his hand. His aged, trembling fingers roved lovingly over the meaning in those words so dear to him. Peter had waited for this precious moment all along his life...This deed which handed over the entire ancestral property to him. With a smile of satisfaction he wobbled over to his only friend leaning on his walking stick...at home, there was no one…except Clay, the cabbage doll with blue marble eyes. Peter was fond of him...and why not! He was the only one who didn't ask questions! Didn't nag him, didn't protest to his midnight, drunken orgies.
Peter wistfully remembered how as a child, he was a fortunate one. Born to a wealthy family he was the only son after four daughters! the only heir of Messrs Rudolf and Son(s)-the blue eyed boy of the family, born with a golden spoon. He remembered how all his tantrums were met by his grandparents...Clay had been bought as a result of one such midnight tantrum when his grandpa had to get the shops opened one by one till Peter liked Clay...he had the same eyes as Peter! After all Rudolf was an influential Anglo- Indian businessman in the Dalhousie area. Who would not listen to him?
Clay seemed alive today! He seemed to radiate the same happiness which Peter did. Pampered and spoilt, Peter did bring in anything he liked! After all women were such fun ! Neighbours warned Rudolf of the waywardness of his grandson, but the old fool loved Peter too much! At twenty one Peter suddenly fancied Reshma, the Maths teacher in one of his grandpa's kindergarten schools. Peter married her for good. Reshma's parents had given her a lot of jewellery. The wife died under mysterious circumstances when Peter was forty. Neighbours rumoured that she was strangled by Peter.
But Peter knew all this was nonsense, just like the disappearance of Rudolf some years later. An orphan from his infancy, Peter had cried his heart out, hugging Clay to his bosom. Only Clay knew how much he had loved them both.
The foolish neighbours kept on talking about the many women who walked in and out of the palatial building at wee hours of the morning. Peter was a gentleman after all! He had maintained cordial relations with all his sisters till his fifties. Namrata, Alice and Mary lived abroad and were more than happy to write off their share of property to Peter. Only Amy, the youngest one had nowhere to go. A young widow with a son, she had been a seamstress, trying desperately to eke out a living. Peter loved her dearly. He was distraught after that fateful vacation which killed Amy and her son in a car crash at Shimla. Only Peter was spared.
Today tears welled up in his eyes as he thought of Amy and her son. He was alone in the whole wide world except Clay, who was a mute witness to all his tragedies...Poor Peter! How much trouble he had, since then, managing this sprawling property and getting everything transferred in his name...who knew this would take ten long years with the frequent nabs of private investigators who probed into the disappearances in Peter's life.
Peter cried out loud in memory of his loved ones..."Oh! Grandpa", "Oh! Reshma", "Oh! Amy". "I wish I could give you all a treat, today!" . He was a broken man indeed, bent with liver cirrhosis and oral cancer. But few were as feisty fighters as Peter …
He patted the head of clay lovingly and said, “Let’s celebrate . You and me .”
Peter poured out to himself a generous glass of double malt whisky and poured a pint for Clay.
Oddly enough, he had it with chicken corn soup, a recommendation for his fragile health.
He lifted the big and small glass for himself and Clay and said “Cheers!” Clay as usual slumped in the opposite chair, but his eyes had an extraordinary sheen.
Peter switched on the A.C to a power chill and retired to bed. Tomorrow he planned to meet the lawyer early, to discuss the sale of the rest of the property leaving apart the house. One thing was certain, if he had to die, he would die here. Clay lay softly over his chest, face downwards - his best, childhood friend.
At 11.00, the corporation clerks who had come to distribute voters’ slips for the elections day after, went away unanswered. At 1.00 the ‘dabbawala’ knocked in vain and complained at the local tea shop. Neighbours became suspicious at not having seen the senior citizen at his morning and evening walks. When the police broke open the door, Peter was lying on his bed- dead!- his eyes bursting out from his sockets. Clay lay in the same manner on his chest, only his arms were circled tightly around Peter’s neck.