Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Am I a Good Man? - a short story


Am I a Good Man?

It was a different kind of day for the man. Wiping the tear of his face as he had wept himself to sleep last night, he started to realize that today had to be treated like any other day, to get over his recent loss. He staggered out of bed and averted his eyes from the pictures of his young daughter and all the flowers and sweets that he had received in the past few days. Even though the man was always kept to himself, he had always cared about his daughter, and with her mother passing away from an illness a year ago, he had to be both parents to a lower-middle class family which he couldn’t afford. He had recently started to doubt himself: am I a good man? Recently he had started to feel as if his own doings had led to the ordeals he had been encountering. After the passing away of his wife, he became cold, and stopped talking to his neighbors, scolding his tenants for no good reason. He didn’t communicate with his daughter as much after that and he blames himself for her passing away, thinking that maybe it was the broken heart that took her away. But from now on he had decided that he would change his demeanor, and have a friendly attitude towards anybody he comes by. The man knew that he was trying to compensate, but even so he felt that – no matter how strange it may sound – his arrogant demeanor had led to a karmic retribution on his one and only loved one. And, so after dressing up for the office, he set out foot of his door to be a changed man.

The first thing he did after locking the door behind him was to pull up ahead of his tenants trying to desperately flee from his line of sight and give a big grin, and walked right past them without mentioning anything about the mold growing in their apartment. He had noticed that particular beggar in front of the bus stop, but in the mean streets of Islamabad nobody gave a damn about the thousands of peasants with their hands stretched out. This beggar had noticed this man didn’t pay for all this time, and in contrast had snickered that the beggar’s shortcomings in life. Not that he wasn’t grateful, but he didn’t like it one bit, as if it were some bad omen for a man to change so quickly.
The man gave the beggar 100 rupees, and stepped on to the bus with a big grin on his face. He felt that he was doing some good about his recent endeavor. The bus to work was a long one, and it stopped on the way to the inter-city bus station which was always jam-packed with people in this arid environment. The sweat trickling down his forehead was like the man’s conscience was being cleared. Then the man noticed a certain person sitting in front of him wearing a jacket of all things he could in this weather. He didn’t think much of it, but at the inter-city bus stop he paced frantically for the exit. As soon as the doors opened, he was out in a dash but had dropped some sort of device. The man, feeling as if this was another chance to redeem himself had without a second doubt picked up the device and walked out of the bus to follow the stranger.
The stranger sighed with a gasp of relief, it was finally over. He had decided that it was enough, and even if suffocating with this contraption stuck to his chest meant that he could be free, then so be it. He decided that he would leave the city, the closest bus stop being a two minute walk away. He knew what he was doing was unimaginably selfish, but he knew his young sister would want him to escape and live the rest of his life in peace and not for the remaining evening he had left in this world. The entrance to the station was only a few steps away, and with every step he was second guessing his decision whether to go through with his escape, which would inevitably lead to her death but even if he were to go through with their instructions, there was no guarantee that they would let her live regardless of his actions. Then, at the foot of the entrance to the station, someone poked him from behind, with his hands on his knees and panting furiously. “You dropped this!” he said gasping for breath. The stranger looked at the device, and he knew. Although he hadn’t lived for very long considering he only just became a teenager, he knew that this was fate, and he was absolutely certain now that he couldn’t abandon his sister. The boy replied, “yes thank you uncle for bringing this back to me”. The man asked him “son, are you crazy that you are wearing a jacket in this hot weather?” The boy smirked at the man and with a slight hint of anguish in his voice he responded “I think I am”.
The stranger darted of in another direction without another word, and the man lost sight of him in the hustle and bustle of the station. For a young boy with such a big belly he sure walked really fast. The man realized that the device he had picked up was a phone, as if it had been taken apart and put back together with additional circuitry sticking out from the sides. One thing that stood out was the beeping red light but the man didn’t care too much for that as he felt that he had done his good deed for the day, even if it meant being late for the office. So he waited for another 30 minutes to jump on the next bus to work in the congested streets of Islamabad.

He reached his office, with an apologetic look on his face to avoid being scolded by his boss and being coerced into doing extra work and. But that didn’t happen. The boss looked at him with a look of agony on his face and said “have you heard the news?” The man was surprised, he had never seen his boss in such a fragile state. The boss took of his glasses with his trembling fingers and looked away and pointed at the television screen in front of them. “Look”. The man was terrified seeing his boss in such a state, but then he realized that all his coworkers around him were looking at the television as well and looking just as disgruntled as his manager. So he looked up and was in shock at what he saw. Written on the bottom of the screen in bold: THIS JUST IN. He saw the devastation that had been caused by what looked like a suicide bombing. The manager, who couldn’t hold it in any longer, whimpered “my wife was there…”. The others were in no better state.

Then it hit the man and he had all pieced it together. He sat down slowly into his cubicle chair and realized the chain of events that had occurred to reach this state. He walked out of the office and looked frantically everywhere for the nearest police station. He knew what he had to do, even if it meant that he would have to remain as a suspect. But he didn’t care, his most prized ‘possessions’ had been taken away from him and he didn’t want other people to suffer as well. If whatever he says to the police can help to prevent this in the future, then so be it. He thought to himself and how silly he had been for not realizing that whatever he had believed in was total and utter bullshit. There was no karmic retribution, and after seeing what had occurred on TV, he started to doubt his belief in God. He started to doubt his new change in attitude and began to question himself, with one very important question he had in mind.

“Am I a Good Man?”

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