The Shattered Hourglass
The Shattered Hourglass
A large and hefty timber shelf, tinged in argent pecan brown, was kept aligned to the front wall. This shelf was a dwelling for a myriad of iridescent hourglasses. Some were short and stout, whilst others commanded a massive shape and corpulent interior. They devised an array of ostentatious quiescent beings. But, their grandeur, when deciphered, jilted out the fact of them being déclassé. No soul had ever ruffled their feather by belting out such an irking comment. The hourglasses, to be precise, were the fidelis counterfeits of their Greek ancestors. But they failed to retain the significance and voluminous charm, like the latter, had during their tenure. Or the phrase, ‘forced to relinquish their charm’ could be preferred by the ones who witnessed the change which stretched through decades. And, even their ancestors were revealed to the fate of humans in the Middle Ages, by, obviously, the Greek forefathers.
They too, like the society of their veteran masters, had divisions among them. The first category in the first division of the shelf was the marine hourglasses. This class was the most benevolent of all, for it resided on the top of the excluded ones. They saved the precious life of a good many precious seamen and sailors, including the beloved Magellan. They also saved the less precious life of the less precious pirates. They even saved the least precious life of the least precious barrels of wine, sturdy horses, glamorous dancers, beholden bondmen and many. On accounting the deeds of such altruistic forms, the casket of history cossetted in the sheets of dust could be unveiled. The two ampoule bulbs of glass, with some meagre sand confined in them, turned out to play a part in shedding the curtains of stereotypes. They were awarded the epithet, ‘Pals of the Pioneers’.
Next category was that of the Elizabethan era hourglasses. They celebrated their quincentenary, by squandering their awe and majesty. The burden on them was to curb their tears over the quietus of the glorious reign and scepter. But, time is the biggest healer.
Another category was that of miscellaneous – the ones which had abjured their covetous garb. Hence, in the order of social hierarchy, they rested on the ground division. Their job was to intensify the beauty of the two upper classes. Alas! the sacrifice of the beauty of the subjugated was mandatory.
Behind those extremities of glass bulbs, the sand granules did not issue a monopoly. Pulverized marble and lead oxide tincture were also allowed to essay the role of the prisoner. Red, shared the rule with sapphire hue. Sand yellow wasn’t less in its pulchritude. The resplendent gleam that they smeared all over the walls of the room was ample to filch the mind and magnify hallucinations.
This collection was as peculiar as its owner, Mrs. Rosalind. She was strolling towards her seventies. The face had accepted the inevitable lines of age and the locks were drenched in the gray hue of wisdom. Her residence was a small bungalow on the outskirts. She was a widow, whose husband left the world twenty-five years ago. Her husband was a drunkard who enjoyed the vapors of insobriety. Akin to the ultimate fate of a sponge, he was brutally squeezed by his three fellow gamblers. According to the blot on Police records, he succumbed to the wounds. His fellow gamblers, who gambled with him and gambled on him, lost the gamble of life. The dead and the dead’s cause of death departed in a consecutive way like the translucence follows the drink and the frustration follows the loss in a gamble. Mrs. Rosalind, hard and stiff in her youth, took some time to recover. The absence of any issue was another pain. Her elder brother, George, proved to be her support. He arranged for her, a job which her qualifications seconded. Norman (which was the name of her husband) was not in the good books of her brother too. A good many instances, as good many as the hourglasses in the shelf, have witnessed a verge of a scuffle between the two over a negligible stuff.
The shades of senility and recalcitrant behaviour were not uncommon in the case of our aged protagonist. She represents that rare group of people who are infatuated to something very common. It should not be a cherished or priceless diamond, plucked out from an ancient crown of an ancient queen, the beauty of which made Aphrodite plunge into green envy. Or it should not be rotten but authentic Mesopotamian vessels or seals, which renders prominence to the fact of inevitability of ruin. Even a meagre hourglass would suffice!
This bond between Mrs. Rosalind and her exquisite troop of hourglasses provides a ground for the amorous rendezvous of philosophy and pulchritude. Although the hourglass is a prosaic article, it could be compared to the dingy vesture – the human mind. And, the grains of sand are nothing but emotions confined within this prison. Layer within the layer, these emotions dwell, entwined. They sink to various parts of the mind like the sand granules sink from one bulb to another. They create a chaotic world by roaming helter-skelter. Some long to come out of this prison. Some deny the air of the outer world. But, to the dismay of the latter, all of them will be liberated when the mind, like an hourglass, shatters and scatters. C’est la vie!
So, the story begins with a ring of a doorbell. The sound resonated inside the bungalow. Mrs. Rosalind, seeped into the layers of some afternoon reverie, startled and then rushed towards the door. A stalwart man with dusty complexion stood at the door. He held some paraphernalia.
“Yes?”, said the old one in a wavy tone.
“Hello, Ma’am. I am Willy, the plumber you contacted yesterday.”
“I am what?”, said the lady in a perplexed mood.
“I am Willy. You contacted me yesterday. Do you remember, Ma’am?”, reacted the plumber in a more perplexed mood. But, the wrinkled question mark on the old face was obstinate enough not to vaporize. A few seconds of quarry silence prevailed.
“Paul is at fault. He sent me to repair taps of the house in which a Half-deaf old hag resides”, thought the plumber. He was in a hurry. Therefore, he wanted to get done away with the work at Mrs. Rosalind’s place as early as his hands could do.
The eeriness of the arrangement of those wrinkles was an ample indication that the old memory is disappointing and that it may be the reason of a huge row. The eyebrows were raised for another few seconds and then they descended. Following it was a small curvature on the withered face which created folds on the cheek’s pale skin. Accompanying it was the air of cordial welcome.
“Oh! Now I remember. Come in boy.” The lady said those words in a quick flow, as a consequence of which, words crushed each other and collided head-on. But, plumber got a relief as he had already conceived the ways of squeezing the old facts out of the old one’s old brain.
Mrs. Rosalind wanted her collection to be praised by that penurious being. Therefore, instead of leading him to the leaking taps, she paved her way towards the room where the collection was kept.
The plumber found it very strange. He had never longed to see such a weird thing. Moreover, his inability to squander the time, made him give a very cold look at the collection. The old one was upset. She stared at him for a few seconds. The deliberate smile on the face of plumber was perfect enough to make her hackles rise. The old face was drenched in newly conceived pique. But plumber took a split second to smell the rat and take the cue.
“Amazing. They are very…”, he paused for some seconds to gather the army of refined words which might win the situation and save his about-to-depreciate fee, “…exquisite. Their beauty is mesmerizing. Have you collected them all on your own?”
“I am glad that you like it. No, not alone. Some were brought by my husband and my brother.”
“Oh! I see.”The plumber was amazed at the spark in the eyes of the lady as she spoke about her collection. Her demeanor contradicted the one which he witnessed at the door. “The half-deaf is half-blind too. What is rare in these glass bulbs?”, he thought.
For the next six minutes, the old one continued to belt out her “prepared text” which was nothing but the biography of her glass chums. She threw her own compliments to complement those of her guest. But her guest was not patient enough to play the role of a calm listener. He intervened the flow of words and said, “Ma’am, can you please show me the bathroom?”. The lady halted her horses of praise and alighted on the reality.
“I assume that you are bereft of time. But, at least, come out of your busy garb, and panegyrise these beguiling beings.”, the old one said in a Vieux jeu tone.
The plumber kept his mouth sealed for a few seconds. “This old hag is totally preoccupied with her meagre collection”, he thought.
His silence was an ample to slay the expectations of the old one.
“Come young man. Follow my steps.”
The lady and the plumber started walking towards a door on the left side of the hourglass shelf. The only sound to be heard was that of the harmony composed by brisk steps on the wooden floor. But, this music was broken by an intruder the crash sound.
A shattered hourglass rested on the wooden floor. The two bulbs were separated by the unquestionable will of the goddess of fortune. Their sand was smeared on the floor as if the blood oozing out of their cracked bodies. Neighbours to them were shiny glass minuscules, which did their best to share the melancholy by spreading their beams that could pierce eyes and foment tears. On the contrary, the sand was still expanding its empire, to mark his freedom from age-old captivity. The sand was cachinnating instead of bewailing. The death brought freedom. The melancholy brought mirth.
Mrs. Rosalind’s heart was more shattered than the hourglass. She stood transfixed for a couple of minutes. The plumber was baffled on his penury. The catastrophe was the repercussion of his idiotic negligence. While he was strolling, his toolkit had collided with the shelf. This gave a sudden jolt and one of the dwellers was made to depart from this world.
“I apologize Ma’am.”
“Thou dullard. Are you blind?”, said old lady and then sat beside the mess.
“I didn’t commit it intentionally. I apologize to…”, the plumber was cut off.
“Your apology should be dumped in the trash.”
The plumber thought it was better to abstain from kindling the spark. He was already in a hurry. The matter could get worse if his words revolt against the sentiments of the broken one.
“This was the last gift that my husband gave me”, sobbed Mrs. Rosalind.
“I am sorry ma’am.”
Having sensed the fact that the lady’s bosom cherished a special corner for that hourglass, he decided to deviate her mind and shove it into the pit of some other thing
“I think that your husband loved you a lot.”
The old lady suppressed a sob and took a deep sigh. Although her mind was a major hamstring to her will to speak, she mustered up some courage. She gave a red look to plumber through the casements her face. She parted her lips with a shiver.
“I remember that wicked night, twenty-six years ago. We were young. No wrinkles and no obnoxious joints pain. That night was much like a usual one. No one knows what’s yet to arrive. But when that arrive, the blow is so hard that even the mightiest yields to its command.”
(The plumber was assured. At least, the old lady was talking no more about the hourglass. He pretended to be a very attentive part of lady’s history.)
“I was in the kitchen preparing the meal. The doorbell rang. That annoying sound which really fatigues my soul. My husband was back home. He was drunk totally. It took me a split-second to find out that he was beaten by his friends. Those bruises on his face and arms and his torn shirt. His insobriety irked me. He was a pugnacious and spoilsport man. I went back to the kitchen and continued chopping my vegetables.”
The old lady gradually strolled towards the window. She firmly stood there and gazed the garden. After a few minutes of silence, she continued.
“I was in the kitchen. The doorbell rang. That annoying sound which certainly fatigues my soul. Norman was back home. He was drunk. It took me a split-second to find out that he was beaten by his friends. Those bruises on his face and arms and his torn shirt were reasonable. His insobriety irked me. He was a pugnacious and spoilsport man. I went back to the kitchen and continued chopping the vegetables.”
The old lady gradually strolled towards the window. She firmly stood there and gawked the garden. After a few minutes of silence, she continued.
“I thought that he would not beat me. But my prophecy was fallacious. He came into the kitchen with a facade of depression on his face. He slapped me. He kicked me. He pummelled me and dragged my hair. My hair made marks on his hands. His hands made marks on my body. His frustration culminated into my torture. And, it was not new to me. I was tortured nearly every night. Earlier, I used to cry a lot. But as the days passed by, I became habitual to it. My temple was bleeding, but he cared a little. And, as I told you, that night was a different one. That was yet to arrive.”
“What do you want to convey by using the word ‘that’?”, said the plumber in a fit of inquisitiveness.
“That has various names. Some call it death. Others equate it to freedom.”
The plumber was devoid of even a single word.
“Nothing is eternal in this mortal world. That night, I decided to end this trifle – end the torment and end the tormentor. I don’t know how he would have felt the knife. It was sharp. Moreover, I stabbed him fifteen times, as I can remember. My hands were drenched in his red. He fell on the kitchen floor with a thud. His hands were motionless. His skin was webbed with protruding veins. Yell and shout were the two acts which he longed for. But, his body wasn’t that capable. After his attempts were over, I came to this room. In the empire of these hourglasses, there stood the woman who was about to make me a widow. Her face was much similar to that of mine. Her hairs were at sixes and seven. Her sinister eyes were peering vacantly at me. The sharp edge of the knife witnessed a jot of frisky blood, descending from the hand and ceasing at the tip. And then that drop left the tip to enter into the escorting arms of the wooden floor.”
There was a void silence. The plumber found it arduous to open his mouth, as it was sealed with the garrotting words of the old lady. He was transfixed.
“My elder brother was indubitably perturbed when he saw the departed man. But, he being a police inspector, found it unproblematic to rinse away all the wicked proofs and mould a different story to pillar the death of Norman. All the fault climbed on the head of his friends. I was even instigated to bewail a lot at his funeral. But, I still grieve for my husband. He was a nice man.”
The plumber stood there in silence. The old lady started picking up the debris from the floor. The hourglass was shattered and emotions were set free.