Thursday, September 3, 2015

CONDOLENCE CALL – Fiction Short Story

CONDOLENCE CALL
Fiction Short Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

CONDOLENCE CALL Story by Vikram Karve

A freak accident. 

A ghastly death. 

A gruesome sight.

The young seaman fell off the ship’s towering main mast  his body somersaulting  tossed around by superstructures and bulkheads  till the seaman’s dead body lay mangled on the deck  neck broken  skull smashed.

At sunset  with poignant naval ritual  we consigned the sailor’s dead body to the Davy Jones’ Locker  at the bottom of the sea  to Rest in Peace  RIP.

I rummaged through the sailor’s belongings  and I found his diary.

As I leafed through his diary – it was evident that he meticulously wrote his diary daily. 

I read his diary.

It is extraordinary how close you can be to a man  and how little you can know about him.

I knew he was married  but I had never realized how deeply he loved his wife.

I sealed the dead seaman’s belongings in a kitbag. 

Yes  I packed all his belongings.

I packed everything  except his diary.

This diary I would hand over personally to his wife.

I would visit the seaman’s wife and make a personal condolence call  the next time we berthed at Mumbai  and I would try my best to alleviate her distress.

I owed it to dead seaman  and to his widow  for it was I – who had sent him up the main mast to repair the light  while the ship was rolling and pitching in the treacherous North Atlantic.

Three months later  we berthed in Mumbai harbour.

At the very first evening  I went ashore to make the condolence call on the seaman’s bereaved widow.

After making the condolence call – when I returned to my ship late at night – I found my shipmates waiting for me on board.

The moment I returned  my shipmates asked me anxiously, “What happened...? You took so much time...? You found the place...? Did you meet the seaman’s wife...?

“Yes. I found the house  and I paid our condolences to the seaman’s bereaved wife...” I said.

Suddenly  they all started speaking together: “The seaman’s wife  widowed so young – poor thing – so unlucky – such a pity – so sad – tell us – tell us – how has she taken it – is she devastated – what was she doing...?”

“She was in bed...” I said.

“She was in bed...? Oh My God – she seems to have taken it very badly – it has been three months since he died – and she is still bedridden with grief…?” they all said.

“She is not bedridden with grief...” I said.

“What...?” they all exclaimed in chorus.

For a moment  they waited for me to speak. 

And then  there was a cacophony of voices  as they asked me: “...why is she lying ill in bed for three months – what happened – accident – fracture – heart attack – stroke – depression –shock…?”

“Please! Please!...” I interrupted loudly, raising my finger – you all please be quiet and I will tell you.

Everyone became silent.

I looked at my shipmates – and I said: “She is not ill  she has not had an accident  no heart attack, no stroke, nothing  she is not in distress  she has not taken her husbands death badly at all. In fact  she has taken it rather well. She wasn’t alone in bed when I suddenly reached her house late at night – she was in bed with someone else...”

“She was in bed with someone else...? What...? Impossible...! You tell us more – what happened – please tell us…”

“What is there for me to tell...?” I said, “I went to the address written in the seaman’s diary  but I found out that his wife has shifted to a swanky apartment in the suburbs – so I took a taxi and went there. By the time I reached the house it was quite late…”

“Posh house in the suburbs...? She must have bought it with the insurance money…” someone piped up.

“Then what happened...?” someone else asked me.

“It was quite late by the time I reached the house  but I had to meet her  so I rang the doorbell. The seaman’s wife opened the door. I recognised her from her photo in the seaman’s diary. She was dressed in a flimsy nightie. I told her that I was her husbands shipmate...” I said. 

“Then what happened...?” they all asked together, curious. 

I decided to tell them the full story.

I began speaking:

“She invited me in  so I walked into the drawing room.

She asked me to sit down on the sofa.

As I told you she was dressed in a flimsy nightie – and I realized that she was quite drunk – the way she was walking and speaking.

She offered me a drink – she poured one for herself – and we sat down on the sofa.

I did not see any signs of sorrow and grief on her face – in fact  she seemed to be quite happy and pleasantly drunk.

I was about to speak – when suddenly  a man’s voice called her from inside the bedroom:

‘...hey sweetie pie  what are you doing out there...? Come back to bed fast  I am getting cold...’ 

and she shouted back to the man in the bedroom:

‘...someone has come ... my husbands shipmate... 

and the man inside shouted back to her:

‘...just tell him to get lost  tell him to vamoose  just tell him to disappear...’ 

It was quite clear that I had interrupted something – and I was unwelcome  so I bid her good bye – and I came back to the ship...”


My shipmates heard my story intently.

Then – there was a burst of emotion.

“Bloody hell – two-timing bitch – poor guy – what an unfaithful wife – and he was such a nice guy – it looks like she was making a cuckold of him all the time – maybe the seaman knew all about it – maybe he didn’t fall off the mast accidentally – maybe he intentionally jumped off...” there was a cacophony of angry voices.

“Maybe...!” I said.

Then –  my shipmates asked me, “What about his diary  the dead seamans diary  did you give it to her...?” 

No,” I said, I threw the seamans diary into the sea – to join him down there at the bottom of the sea – in the Davy Jones’ Locker. May they both Rest in Peace  the Seaman  and his Diary – RIP...” 

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
  

This is a revised version of my story "CONDOLENCE CALL - The Davy Jones' Locker" written by me Vikram Karve more than 9 years ago, in the year 2006, and posted online by me on my creative writing blogs a number of times at urls: http://creative.sulekha.com/flash-fiction-a-condolence-call_54633_blog  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2010/08/condolence-call.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2011/03/davy-jones-locker-seaman-and-his-diary.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2012/01/condolence-call-my-favourite-short.html  and  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2012/03/davy-jones-locker-seaman-and-his-diary.html etc
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