Fiction: The Filthy Foursome and Alice

Santosh Bakaya

Santosh Bakaya

It was a dark, dismal night, and a tempestuous wind was blowing through the jungle. The trees were moaning and writhing, as though in great pain. A twelve year old girl was walking through the jungle, lost in thought. She was missing her mother, who had time and again reprimanded her for her slothful ways, especially her habit of not washing hands.
Stuck to a tree was a wooden board, which said, To Malevolent Land. Malevolent Land! The name sent shivers up her spine and she slumped on a fallen tree trunk to recover her breath. The moment she sat on the trunk, some voices fell into her ears.

“Twirl the hula hoop. Twirl the hula hoop
Are you hard of hearing, you nincompoop? 
What will you folks have, stew or soup?
 Wash your hands, scrub away, nincompoop!
 Twirl the hula hoop. Twirl the hula hoop
Stew or soup, stew or soup? Twirl the hoop
Twirl the hula hoop. Twirl the hula hoop.
Wash your hands, scrub away, nincompoop! 

“Let me twirl the hula hoop, please let me. Who …. are ….you four?”  She stuttered, as her eyes fell on four cloaked and masked men sitting on a tree stump, every now and then dipping their hands in a bucket of water and scrubbing their hands.
Frantically. Vigorously. Frenziedly.
Four scrawny necks whirled in the direction of the voice, and their eyes fell on the most innocent face they had ever seen.
“This is our territory, and we are the four wizards of Malevolent Land, h ah ah a. We don’t tolerate any intruders.” The Filthy Foursome guffawed in malevolent glee, pointing towards the board which said, Malevolent Land. The girl shuddered. The four waved their gnarled and grotesque looking hands, soon there were cookies, doughnuts and scones dancing in the air.
“Every globule of our blood will rise in revolt if you don’t eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!
Now eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!” Said the wizards. 

“But first wash your hands, nincompoop!
Don’t you carry a sanitizer with you stup….
id girl?”  Bellowed one.
“Oh, my mom is always after me to wash my hands, but I am too lazy to do it”. She confessed almost on the verge of tears. 
“What is your name?”
 “Oh, that crazy, confused, forever hallucinating girl? Sometimes you wander in Wonderland, oft, you are caught peeping through the looking glass”, One of the four said with a smirk, trying to smack of sanity.
“But, we are wizards, we know you are lying, they call you Malice.”   Said one, looking absolutely gray. 
“No! No! When I was small, I could not pronounce my name properly, instead of Alice, I called myself Malice, so the name stuck.

“Stuck! Stuck! Stuck”, they chanted.
“I am Alice of the present century; that confused Alice lived in the middle of the Victorian era, and she was merely seven years old.  You claim to be wizards and you don’t even know this!”  She rejoined impishly, but they went on chanting, unfazed.

Stuck! Stuck! Stuck
Now, you are stuck here
Alice is full of malice
Malice is full of Alice
you have always been ‘wildly curious’
Wash your hands, or we’ll get furious
Alice is full of malice
Malice is full of Alice
Stuck! Stuck! Stuck

She dipped her hands in the water bucket owned by the wizards, washed her hands while the Filthy Foursome looked on impatiently. Then she gobbled up the cookies, scones and doughnuts and while the four were busy washing their hands, she slunk away. Behind her she heard the sound of running feet, and highly agitated yells of “Off with her head!”

She stopped and threw a counter yell in their direction, “you weird wizards, if you can do nothing else, at least be original! The Queen of Hearts will start turning in her grave, and Lewis Carroll will not like it.  [Actually I am confused whether it was the Red queen who said it, or the Queen of hearts, but anyway, she mumbled]  The moment she said this, the sounds behind her stopped and her eyes fell on something dark huddled under a tree.

“Hey, what is that? The Cheshire cat? Ah, purrfect!” She said in a flurry of excitement, heading towards it, when suddenly the cat started caterwauling.  A strident and piercing scream rent the air.
“How dare!” The cat growled, suffixing the growl with an indignant Meow. A meow which seemed to trigger an earthquake more than 7 on the Richter scale.
“How dare, what?”
“Mistake me for the Cheshire cat? MEOOOOOOOOOW!”
“I have my own identity! And I hardly ever grin. ME….NO CHESHIRE CAT. I only frown, and tell me, can anyone do anything but frown in these circumstances? But, did you wash your hands, girl? ” It strode toward her at a menacing pace, glowering.

No specialist in feline psychology, but, Alice realized that the cat was more bark than bite, nay, more meow than munch, and grinning in relief, recalled her dad reading from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats*  just a few hours back.
 “Are you Bombaulrina then? Or, maybe, Macavity?”
The cat grinned a grin which was dangerously near a smirk and said,

“The name that no human research can discover –
BUT THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.”
Never confess – never confess ……the words resounded with a new vigour and slowly many cats came out from the shadows and started singing some incomprehensible cat song – a slow, eerie chant at varying feline pitches and inflections.

As the chant reached a crescendo, she furtively left the place, frantically wondering what the name of the cat was ……..

Rumour has it,  that the Filthy Foursome are still there in Malevolent Land, washing hands and spewing doggerel,  and Malice, oops Alice is cured of her hallucinations, but can be seen washing hands at all odd hours of the day and night . 
Frenziedly. Feverishly. Vigorously.

* It is a collection of whimsical poems [Faber and Faber, 1939] penned by Nobel laureate, T. S Eliot about feline psychology.

Bio: Dr. Santosh Bakaya, recipient of the International Reuel Award for writing and literature [2014] for her long narrative poem, Oh Hark!,
 Setu Award [2018], Bharat Nirman Award for literary excellence [2017] Keshav Malik Award [2019], is an academic- poet- novelist- biographer - essayist -Ted Speaker- creative writing mentor, whose Ted talk on the Myth of Writers' Block is very popular in creative writing circles.
She runs a much appreciated column, Morning Meanderings, in Learning and Creativity. Com which is a kindle version. 
Her poetic biography of Mahatma Gandhi [Ballad of Bapu], has been internationally acclaimed.

 Under the Apple Boughs [Poetry], Where are the lilacs? [Poetry], Songs of Belligerence [Poetry], Flights from my Terrace [Personal essays],  Bring out the tall Tales, [short stories with Avijit Sarkar], A Skyful of Balloons  [novella] are some of her books  which have received laurels. Her latest book is a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. [Only in Darkness can you see the Stars]   

1 comment :

  1. Very nice story..I also write stories and like to read..!


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