Rajan stood with his ear to the door. Only when he was sure he heard a soft snore, indicating the occupants were fast asleep, did he straighten up. He rolled his shoulders back and took in a long deep breath. It was time to put his plan into action. This had needed some careful preparation but it would be well worth it. He had been smart enough to remove his shoes. He couldn’t afford to make the slightest of sounds. Clutching the doorknob he slowly turned it open. The click of the lever resonated as loud as a church bell in the still night. He grimaced and froze, listening again for a sound from within. Except for the hum of the air-conditioner he heard nothing. Emboldened by the silence, he pushed the door open and tip-toed into the room.
He fished out the knife from his pocket and held it upright in his hand. The broad steel blade glinted menacingly in the pale yellow glow of the night lamp. His sinewy body graceful and lithe, he walked on his toes. With one eye on the elderly couple, he stealthily moved forward. If there was as much as a pin drop, they would wake up. He knew well that they were light sleepers. As it is, they had been suspicious of him when he had disappeared earlier. It had been difficult to explain his absence on a Sunday evening when the family usually spent quality time together. He had made some excuse of being on a blind date but they hadn’t believed him for a moment. It was fortunate that they had been amused enough to not question him any further. Being an only child, he usually got away with such harmless lies. It had proved particularly helpful today.
He approached the small table on his father’s side and placed the knife on it. Picking up the screechy tape recorder that he hated so much, and which had recently been the cause of much grief for his father, he placed it on the rug to avoid making a noise on the table. It was his father’s favourite possession; one he couldn’t be convinced to replace. He grabbed the small box from his pocket and put it on the table too, right next to the knife. He cracked his knuckles and rotated his neck in preparation of the activity ahead.
Pride goes before a fall, they say. In this case, it was common sense. He stepped back without looking and stumbled on his father’s slippers. His eyes widened as he struggled to catch his balance. He grabbed the edge of the nightstand to steady himself. His hand brushed against his father’s glasses and knocked them over. They landed on the floor, just inches away from the rug, with a soft clank. With his heart in his mouth, Rajan stared at the sleeping couple. Fortunately, somehow, he had managed to stumble, regain his balance, and drop a pair of spectacles without as much as a pin drop. Elated at not having made any noise, he watched as his parents slept undisturbed and blissfully unware. With pursed lips, he bent down to retrieve the spectacles. He noted the crack running through the eye-glass. Why must dad always possess things that are broken, thought Rajan. He shook his head in resignation. As if sensing his son’s thoughts in his sleep, his father grunted in protest and turned sideways. The old, rickety bed creaked in protest. Rajan ducked; squatting on the floor until his father was sound asleep again. He placed the spectcles back on the table.
Cradling the tape recorder with one hand and holding the knife in the other, he challenged the innocent inanimate player to a duel. Narrowing his eyes, he thrust the knife in the small gap between a pressed key and the body of the tape recorder. The stuck key popped up with a loud click. Rajan stilled again and waited for the moment to pass. Once it did, he resumed his assault on the tape recorder. Picking up the small box, he slashed its seal open. He picked out the correct tool and tinkered with the internal controls of the player. When he was satisfied, Rajan slowly put the player back in its usual spot.
‘Now trying screeching early in the morning and disturbing my sleep, you wretched piece of useless junk,’ he sneered at the player.
He pocketed the small box and gathering his tools, he slipped out of the room, pulling the door behind him. He released the knob with a gradual turn and it silently slipped back into place. Rajan breathed a sigh of relief and rushed off to his bedroom.
The next morning Rajan woke up to sweet music from a bygone era.
A moment later, a puzzled Mr. Menon was heard exclaiming to his wife, “The tape recorder seems to be working fine suddenly. But now my specs are broken somehow. Wonder how that happened.”
Tried writing a feel-good story after all the dark stories I have been churning out. Do tell me what you think of it.