Kill me. This heat! This ridiculous assignment! Better still, let’s kill the editor. The only thing keeping me from bolting is Scruffy sitting opposite me, looking if possible, even more dejected.

“Absolutely mental mate! Should have just quit the assignment and got out when we still had a prayer.”

Scruffy and I are journalists. And because of some idiot editor’s whims, we are having to spend a glorious sunny Saturday morning at the stupid St. Mary’s asylum trying to get a grasp on the falling standards of NHS since the new political regime change. Painfully dull work. Saanvika Mridula Sengupta – I was supposed to be doing great things! I was supposed to be bloody reporting from the war-zone, not drinking watered down decaff out of a flexible sippy-cup! Scruffy has actually started smoking, after quitting for, what is it, the 7th time this year?

For those people who labour under the delusions that psychiatry wards are full of misadventures and bangs and noises, let me assure you, there is nothing exciting about a bunch of folks walking about aimlessly, bumping into each other and muttering rubbish. The most exciting thing is when some poor bastard gets dragged to his room to be force fed medicines by the overbearing grouchy staff.

Scruffy’s real name has been forgotten over the years of bad fitting clothes and a total lack of shower. But he is a brilliant journalist and my best mate.

Oh great! Old Mrs. Harris has peed her pants again. What amusement! I could cry I am so bored. I compromise by yawning and chewing on the end of my pen.

“I mean, if we are talking about falling standards, how about discussing why newspapers are talking about psychiatry wards when the entire European market is going to pot! You can’t stuff things down peoples’ throats when they don’t want to swallow it.”

“You have been watching the news again.” Scruffs is talking to me. “Haven’t I told you it addles peoples’ brains?” Scruffy has given up all pretence, his sheets lying forgotten, and is just staring around the room. There is a TV droning somewhere. News.

Mr. Chip is talking to himself again. Bless him. I haven’t seen anyone come to visit him. Feel a bit bad for him. This quest to prove oneself to be an island is making complete loners out of people. I am not sure who I am feeling sorry for here. Am I not alone? Oh lord! I am making bad poetry now!

“Dude! You heard about the tourist shuttle through space?” Scruffy’s words draw me out of my head. “You know, the day they make the news official, I am buying my seat”.

“Scruffs, you might find your freelance peanuts to be a bit less than the expected asking rate for the trip!” Dear old Scruffs. Always making plans of getting out. Never been able to explain to him that some things, you just can’t ever get out of. Like this bloody assignment. But I guess when you are stuck in windowless rooms where they are trying to fry the madness out of you… Why the hell is the air-con not switched on? Maybe Scruffs and I should write about that. I could already see the head-line: NHS cuts lead to sun strokes. Sub-heading: Air-con cuts to save hospital budgets. It’s like a conspiracy to make you mad if you aren’t already there. What’s with the buzzing? Oh God! I am allergic to bees. I hope it’s not bees. Scruffy has dozed off. He is wasted in this profession. Brilliant imagination! No idea why he is forever stuck in this dead-end job. Must get out.

“Come along dear.” Uh oh! Nurse, 12 o’clock! Should probably wake Scruffs up, you know, just in case. Not sure about visitor rules around here. Do we qualify as visitors? “Scruffs! Oi!”

“Come along dear. Just leave your toys. Time for your medicine.” Why does she have to speak to people like they are idiots? How utterly condescending! Who is she talking to? Really need to wake Scruffy up.

“Mate, wake up. The orderlies are coming over. Damn it!” Is it illegal for people to sleep in this ruddy place? “Seriously Scruffs, stop snoring and get up.” What’s going on? Why are they coming towards our table?

“It’s alright dear. There is really no need to cause all this commotion everyday; now is there? Oh just strap her. Jeez! Every single day! Get that dirty old teddy as well or she’ll make a racket. And throw that filthy scrap of paper. That disgusting chewed up straw too. Saanvi dear, just relax. Just open your mouth like a good girl and swallow your medicines.”


The Cat, the Weasel and the Wolf

Once upon a time, there lived a cat on the edge of the woods, round the corner of the massive Dead-tree. She would forage for mice, run around dumpsters with her other cat-friends and take long strolls around sun-rise before hitting her cat-litter bed. Cat was always careful to not step inside the woods. She had been inside the woods but just once ever. No one knows what happened to her in there. She never talks about it.

One fine day, while she was foraging for mice as usual, she fell down a long, dirty, prickly hole (which was actually just the hollow trunk of massive Dead-tree) and landed with a mighty thud, right in the middle of the woods. “Ouch!” groaned Cat. She was bruised. She was scratched. She was in pain. She slowly dusted herself and looked around. She realised, she had entered the darkest part of the woods. “Dehart”, they called it, always in whispers. Cat was brave, but somehow, actually standing in Dehart, she felt, from this side, it really did look rather eerie and dark.

“Hello!”, called out Cat, hoping desperately that no one answers her back. No one finds her there. And eats her up.

“Uh… Hi!”, came a voice from somewhere.

Cat turned, completely startled.

“Hi!”, said the voice again. “Are you lost?”. Cat looked carefully and found that the one that was talking to her was a tiny little squirrel-like being, all furry and red. “Hi! I am Weasel.”

“Oh hello there!” exhaled Cat with relief. “You spooked me. He he! I am Cat. Hi!”.

“You look rather worse for wear. What have you been up to?” queried Weasel.

“Tch! Oh dear! You see, I was trying to find a couple of nice fat mice for my lunch, as I always do, and suddenly, out of nowhere… well… there was this Dead, disgusting (if I might add) Tree; and I fell right through it!”. Cat looked miserable and hurt.

Weasel looked on kindly at Cat and said, “Come with me. I know just the thing. You can stay with me for the night and tomorrow, after day break, I shall show you the way out of the woods. It’s never safe to be in Dehart for too long.

Cat was very happy to have found the nice Weasel and set out with him. They kept walking for a long time (hours, felt Cat). To while the time, Cat kept talking to Weasel, her new friend, “I have no idea how I did that? I feel so foolish actually. I have been stuck in trees before you see. I know I am very careful. Oh! I have been stuck in maggot-trees, flea-trees. And once, a crow-tree. Yikes!” Cat shuddered for a moment. And then carried on, “But I have never been inside a Dead-tree of course. I wonder if the woods council is doing anything about trees that do not serve the purpose of making the woods look nice. I mean imagine… Maggots! And Fleas! And who are you kidding with, with a cawing Crow? Give me a break!”.

Weasel kept turning now this way, now another and kept walking. Cat had this strange feeling that she was passing the same group of trees that she had already walked past, over and over. “Is this the right way Weasel?”, she almost asked when realization dawned; she was back, in Dehart.

Suddenly, she heard a growling behind her. Cat turned to see a big hairy Wolf, eyeing her with hungry jaws wide open, drool dripping slowly down the lolling tongue.

Weasel squeaked, “Erm… I just thought, you might, want to have this one, for dinner.”, pointing at Cat, “And erm… could you, your Wolf-ness, please, erm… now allow me the pass to the Water-Pond for the next month?” Wolf gave a tiny nod to Weasel, picked Cat up in his right paw and smashed her against a boulder. Cat felt her bones shatter. She screamed, “Why? I thought you were my friend. How could you ever do this to me?” And as Cat felt Wolf’s teeth entering her still pulsing neck, she heard, “Well you see Cat, I eat Fleas. I like Maggots. And I live in the Dead-tree.”

The Lady and her Parrot

Once upon a time there was an old lady and her talking parrot. The lady loved her parrot. It was a smart parrot after all. Anyone would have loved it. The lady used to teach it all kinds of things. The parrot quite enjoyed parading his genius before excited audiences.

“The kids are in the house!”, the parrot would squawk and kids would laugh.

“Happppy Birthdayyyy”, the parrot would yell at the top of its little birdie lungs and the listeners would clap their hands.

“I love my old lady”, the parrot would croon and an involuntary “Awww…” would come out of the mouths of the appreciative spectators.

“God save my country”, the parrot would patriotically declare and the crowds would go wild!

Every morning, the old lady used to place the parrot’s perch just outside her door, facing the street, so passersby could appreciate its fine talent. Every night, at dinner-time, she would bring the bird indoors so she could have some company before bed.

One fine day, the old lady, before going off to the market, fed the parrot and left the bird perch outside in its usual place. After she left, the neighbours started having an ugly argument. Chairs turned to splinters and table turned to matches. Words, slaps and hair were flying everywhere.

“Ever since I have had the misfortune of being with you, my life has been nothing if not horrible.”

“Well then, how about you go to hell!?”

“I am in hell already. What happened to all the money you took off of me the other day? Did you drink it all up?”

“You fat cow! How dare you question me?”

“I left £70 on the table before I went to drop the kids at school. And now that I am back, they are not here. You were lounging on the couch all this time. You thief! How do you explain that?”

Smash! Thud! Thump thump!! Thrash!

“You stupid old hag! Stop questioning me! I know what I am all about?!

And so on and so forth…

The entire neighbourhood enjoyed a free show.

That night, as was her custom, just before dinner, the old lady brought the bird indoors, settled the bird perch just outside her kitchen, started cooking and chatting with her parrot, “So what do you think, where should I be going for my holidays this year? I do not wish to go to the sea. I have done the mountains to death. And I would rather not spend a good holiday arguing with my relatives”. Pat replied the parrot “Well then, how about you go to hell!?”. The old lady stopped half way through skinning her chicken. She turned and looked at the parrot and asked, “What did you just say?”. The parrot immediately acquiesced to the request and said, “You fat cow! How dare you question me?”. The old lady walked upto the parrot, picked him off the perch and said, “Do you even realize what you are saying?”. The parrot replied, “You stupid old hag! Stop questioning me! I know what I am all about?”.

So, then the old lady broke the parrot’s neck and had him for dinner instead of the chicken. The meat was a bit gamey but the soup was absolutely divine!