Fiction: Undercurrents (Someeta Das)

Someeta Das
The mobile bell rang sharply. Lisa, busy with her online corrections, glanced at the name flashing on the screen briefly. “Oh no”, she muttered to herself. It was Mrs. White at the other end. With some irritation, she searched for excuses for not receiving the call. Looking at the pile of papers, she recalled the lines from Browning’s poem The Last Ride Together:
 “Look at the end of work, contrast
 The petty done, the undone vast”. 

 Glancing at the piles of correction, she finally decided to ignore the call. Mrs White had retired a few years earlier from the same school as Lisa, and at times quite forgot the challenges that came with the job. Moreover, learning to teach and correct online, submit mark sheets, left Lisa quite frustrated. She somehow could not get the hang of it. Even after asking her son Sybil, who studied in the same school, was not easy. He would get impatient and then after repeating a few times, would suddenly snap, “I am sure you can do it if you tried hard enough” and flounce off from the room.

Sybil studied in class eight, was a well-mannered and intelligent boy. But lately Lisa had noticed he had become moody, spoke roughly, and had even caught him fidgeting with her purse. She had decided to speak to him seriously, once she completed her corrections. She looked at the watch and thought “Sybil had left home today at ten in the morning, saying he would be home by lunch.” Glancing once again at the clock to reassure herself, she saw it was nearly one o’ clock. “Well he will be home soon”, she thought as she flipped over to the next paper.

The phone had stopped ringing by then. But then soon after, it started ringing, more insistently than ever before. Lisa now resolutely disconnected the call. She had no time for Mrs. White, who would ask about Sybil, and enquire about the teachers at school. “Why cannot she understand that time is a premium. Come what may, I am not going to pick up that phone”, she convinced herself, as the mobile rang urgently again and again. She switched off the instrument, glancing at the pile of papers, sighed heavily. As she flipped over the paper, the lines of the same poem kept reiterating in her mind, she had to teach it online the very next day, but somehow this particular line kept echoing in her mind:
“With life and death in the balance….”

On the other end of the mobile Mrs. White, who had come for a check-up to the hospital, requested the Doctor to try the number once more. She had glanced at the accident victim brought unconscious to the hospital.

 “Did it not look like Sybil, Lisa’s boy?” she wondered. Every minute counted, the Doctor had said, “The boy needs to be operated immediately if we are to save him, and his Mother’s permission and signature is essential”.

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