Fiction

The Cue

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When the lights were switched off, Jamnesht woke up.

He peeled the bedsheet off his body and slowly got to his feet. He must be careful to not make noise. The others were still awake, only just getting into bed. He stood for a few minutes near his bed, keening his ears to pick up the noises coming from the only bedroom in the house where his parents slept. Now was his mother climbing on to the bed. His father, asleep, shifted sides as he felt Jamnesht’s mother get into bed. He waited for a few moments after all he could her was stillness from the bedroom, just in case, and then ventured out.

The switching off of the lights was his cue. He was never allowed to stay up later than 10 pm, which, given the times and the fact that he had now begun college, was unacceptable to him. Now, he walked towards the door. He grabbed the home keys from the key stand near the shoe rack before opening the door carefully and nimbly stepping out. He gingerly closed the door behind him.

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Once out, his walk expressed an irrepressible lightness and bounce

He was in his loose night clothes – an old t-shirt and faded track pants. Once out of the house his walk expressed an irrepressible lightness and bounce, as if he was a mortal free from the cares of the world. His parents were very strict and maintained a rigid routine with hours assigned to each task. Jamnesht didn’t mind the routine, like his parents he liked routine, he liked the fact that each hour brought with it something to do, somewhere to be. There was no mindless rumbling around, no purposeless loitering about doing this and that but without actually accomplishing anything. There was one hour that was kept for this mindless loitering – his parents called it the “miscellaneous hour”. It was between 8:30 and 9:30, and one could do anything one wanted. His father would sit and do nothing, sometimes pick up the newspaper for the second time and browse through, or watch TV some more. His mother invariably read some more.

The only thing Jamnesht didn’t like about the routine was that the bed time was exceptionally early.

Since he began college, he realised nobody had a fixed time when they went to bed. Moreover, nobody slept as early as 10 pm. They even scoffed at him when he told them he actually did sleep at 10, daily, even on Saturdays.

So Jamnesht decided that he would not sleep at 10. He would go out of the house secretly and walk the city streets.

He walked, he walked towards where his feet took him to. And when he realised it was time to go back, his feet would turn around and he would take the route home. Then, reaching home at 10:55, he would slip back into bed and swiftly go to sleep.

 

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