Saturday, March 17, 2007

An Attempt at Fiction

A couple of months back, a media group organised a short story contest in which the first paragraph was given and 600 more words had to be written to complete the story.
Though the word limit was 545 more than my current hobby, I sent in an entry - which failed to win any prizes. Sigh!
On hindsight, the story was a bit cynical for their optimistic theme.
So, here is my entry. The paragraph which was provided is in italics.


The alarm crowed. A lusty king of the farmyard cock-a-doodle-do. He shut the mobile up. One hour and five minutes was all he had before his day began. He would steal five minutes from that. Look the other way, he told that frowning creature in his soul. I do it all the time. A little corruption. A little bribery. I negotiate with the world 24/7. So why not an extra 5 minutes of sleep? he told himself and buried his head under the pillow. And so began another day in the life of an Indian cricketer.
He turned to stare at the tanned, smooth body sprawled across the bed and smiled at last night’s exertions. The calendar launch promised to be exciting but he hadn’t bargained for September landing up in his room afterwards! Beats Fletcher’s warm-up routine, he thought.
His first appointment of the day was not before noon. As always, the tequila was taking its revenge now. He needed some sleep to get into shape.

He walked into the State Association’s office. He smiled at the groundsman. Last year, when they were facing relegation in the Ranji, this man had shaved off all the grass overnight. The Karnataka captain screamed blue murder as he pummeled their pace battery for a century and a relegation-avoiding victory.
The President and the Zonal Selector disconnected calls as he walked in. Oily smiles happened. How much time you spend with people you hate, he thought as he smiled back. The meeting went as expected, only faster. The selector had to catch the flight to Calcutta for the West Indies selection meeting. He dispelled their doubts. Every great player has lean patches. The first ever double-centurion of ODIs cannot be dropped just because one team was smart enough to keep a deep third man in the opening overs. He was working on his technique. He will get the ball-bearing contract for the President’s son-in-law. Of course, he could do it. He was employed by the same PSU.

3 unread messages. The physio – “How’s the reflex training going?” Bastard. Delete.
His manager – “Will you do the Eastend Mall inauguration tonight?” Doesn’t the bugger understand that he can’t appear in front of the press? He was supposed to be training 24/7. Delete.
His manager, again – “Dubbing for Coke ad at 6:00 pm.” Egads, that was today... completely forgotten! Damn, he badly needed a free evening. He wanted to work the phone a bit before the selection meeting.
This nautanki happened with every selection committee. Each new lot was hell-bent on proving their manhood by threatening to drop the big guns. This time, the Australia disaster meant he was on the chopping block. Bloody hell. The bike contract could expire if he was dropped. They put really dicey stuff in contracts nowadays. And at time of signing, they only discuss the incentive clauses. Of course, 14 months back, the penalty clause “in the event of missing an overseas tour” looked as unreal as it could get.

The dubbing went fine. Once you got into the habit, these things got real easy. They offered a guest appearance in the next Rahul Desai film. That would impress even Pammi Aunty, he thought!
In the car, he checked the messages. The selector had messaged before the meeting. Is it confirmed? YES, he replied. He could hardly write on SMS about his convincing Reebok to sponsor the jerk’s coaching centre.
As he passed the Kalka mandir, he touched his forehead involuntarily but this time, he added a prayer. Mummy was always keeping mannats. This probably needed one, more than anything. He promised the goddess he would not touch alcohol for a year if he got selected. And added, he would workout regularly. Fletcher needs to be told that.

He snatched at the mobile as the alarm sounded. The first message was from the HT sport correspondent. “The Chief Selector has commented that your inclusion in the team was most debated. Reactions?” He rubbed his eyes to read the “inclusion” word again. He flopped back on to the pillow.
Need to work hard, he thought. Firstly, have to postpone joining the conditioning camp by a few days…

* * *
The story continues to be topical. India has collapsed for 191 against Bangladesh and the Bongs are 38/1 in reply.
Moral of the story: Never mess with Bengalis. What say, Greg?
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