Oas trotted to the window to peek outside, sliding aside the recently dusted curtains. He had dusted them just an hour back, but he still found some dust on his hands. He wiggled his hands and muttered few muffled swears towards the polluting city dwellers.
He went to the wash basin, took some liquid soap from the dispenser he had just refilled and washed off the dust. As a matter of fact, the dispenser did not need a refill. But a routine was the only thing that kept Oas’s life rolling. So refilling soap dispensers was one of his Sunday morning’s routine chore. As was dusting the furniture and curtains.
He was also particular at being absolutely certain about things. So he washed his hands off again a couple of times.
He realised he had forgotten to peek outside when we had slid the curtains aside, well, to peek outside. He also realised that not enough dust had stuck to his hands earlier to make the curtains clean. So he reached closer to the windows and gazed fixedly at the curtains as if he possessed some superpower to wipe things clean just by his stare. He wished he did. He did not.
He wanted to check the weather outside, of course without letting his hands be all dusty. So he pulled an old umbrella from the cabinet and poked at the curtains, as if he was worried that the dust particles were monsters hiding behind, ready to pounce on him. He wished they were. They were not.
Once he was convinced that nothing will pounce on him, he used the same umbrella to slide the curtains to the side and swiftly moved closer to the window to peek outside. He instantly tumbled backwards as he saw two green shaken eyes gawking back at him. Some more muffled swear words left Oas’ mouth.
Oas saw the shaken eyes come back to their sleepy normal — one eye open three-fourth, another the remaining one-fourth. Both belonged to one lazy creature dwelling in their block. Oas’ neighbours called it a cat — he called it Mr. Boneless Marvel. “Marvel it is — given it belonged to no one, no one freaking cared about pets in our block and it was too lazy assed to care about itself. Still, I have never seen it lose a sliver of weight. Phenomenon. Prodigy. Miracle.” Oas always advocated his case to Sara.
Mr. Marvel had a total of half eyes open now looking at Oas, chin strongly pinned on its paw. Oas attempted to shoo it away with the umbrella. It winked back at him. Oas attempted it a couple more times. It winked back a couple more times. Oas slid the curtain closed.
He again realised he did not peek outside for the weather, so he slid the curtain open, ignored Mr. Marvel and checked the weather outside, finally.
Oas saw a grumpy old man peering back at him in the mirror. There were so many things Sara would not like in what reflected back. So he straightened his eyebrows, opened his eyes wide, curved his lips up into a pleasant smile and slowly flattened the visible creases on his sweater. He wished somewhere deep inside he could do the same for the wrinkles on his forehead. And the ones on his nose too. He couldn’t. So his face went back to be being grumpy again.
He could be his grumpy self for some more time. As per the Sunday routine, he still had an hour to ready himself for Sara.
He finally walked outside, locked the door behind him and, of course, tugged at it a couple of times. He realised something, muttered few muffled swears again, unlocked the door and brought an umbrella back with him. He knew it would rain soon.
He started ambling towards the bus stop. As he did every Sunday, he stopped next to the electronics store and inspected himself in the glass at the store front to make sure he was ready for Sara. Today, he saw Mr. Marvel standing next to him. He tried to recall last time he had seen it standing. He could not, so he started walking. So did it.
Oas wasn’t sure why it was following him. He shrieked, “go away, shoo” waving his hand. It blinked. He wielded his umbrella almost touching its nose. It stopped, purred, licked its grey moustache and looked back at him, winking. He gave up and started walking, holding his shoulder to abate the pain from all his freakish swordplay.
Oas sat on the bench at the nearest bus stop. He never missed this small trip, rather he was breathing only for these Sunday walks of his. It was here that Sara had arranged for a letter to be delivered for Oas every week before she left him once and for all. It was here she narrated, via the letter, an incident from her life which she could never share with Oas while she lived.
Oas hated Sara for being shrewd enough to see he would have died, or killed himself, long back if it weren’t for these beads of secrets from her life. It was now six months since she died, but Oas lived on for, and she lived on via, these letters.
Just as every Sunday, an unknown guy delivered a letter to Oas at 11AM. Clouds crowded the skies, and Oas’ heart too. He neatly opened the letter and read on.
When I met you, I was a touchy, bitter girl with a life laden with sorrows. It was you who pulled me out of my miseries and made me see the beautiful side of life. And I realised how necessary it is to reduce pessimism from other’s life. That day onwards I lived my life just to protect you, cover you from any despairs; just as you have done for me. We have been each other’s shields.
But I saw one more soul who needed bouts of optimism, of love. And I gave him that. I know you would have never liked me doing so, but I just couldn’t see him sad. With me gone, I know you are grumpy. And so is he. So you must continue to help him, for me. Be nice to him, I am sure he too will do the same. Be each other’s shield, protecting other from pouring sorrows. Bring your Mr. Marvel, my Buddy, home. You need him. So does he, you.
It had gotten a lot gloomy around. Oas looked at Mr. Marvel sitting, grumpy, near his legs, with its shrunken eyebrows and wrinkles all over the face. He chuckled, as the clouds suddenly started pouring down.
Oas pulled Mr. Marvel near him and covered it under his umbrella. He stood up and called out, “Come, let’s go home, Buddy.”
This story was first published on Medium.