Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Missing you, John"

A Goan Christmas Story

"Missing you, John"
A short story by Pundalik Asnodkar
Translated from the original Konkani by Cecil Pinto

The phone rang. Just as Gracy was about to pick it up the doorbell sounded. Gracy hesitated. "Maaaaaammy, somebody's come!" shouted little Janice at the top of her voice. "So open the door darling", said Gracy.

"But Maammy that day you told me not to open the door for anyone?", said Janice with the insulted indignation only a four year old can conjure. "But Janice, now I'm telling you... ". "Waaah! Waaah! Waaaaaaaah!".

"Oh no!", thought Gracy as she ran towards the bedroom. As she had guessed, little Blake had woken up from his mid-morning sleep and now would have to be carried for a full half an hour before he calmed down. The doorbell rang again. "Coming!", screamed Gracy as she ran to pick up the phone first, with Blake perched on her hip, bawling at the top of his voice. "Hello! Yes Mum. Could you hold on for a moment.

There's someone at the door. No Mum I'm ok! Just a bit busy. JANICE stop pinching his leg! Stop! No Mum it's all right. I can manage.... " She really could. If it wasn't for the feeding and the cooking and the bathing and the washing and ....

Gracy often thought about the nice time she had at her husband's parents house in Bambolim or the even better times at her Mum's place in Moira. She often wondered whether buying a flat in Ribandar had been all that good an idea. But John had insisted that they stay independently. "With three brothers and their wives and children in one house, however big it might be, there's bound to be problems soon. We better move out before that starts". That's what John said. Of course John didn't have to look after two screaming kids by himself. But Gracy loved John for all that he did do. Worked his way up from driver to store-keeper, he did. And at the biggest soft drink company in Dubai that wasn't an easy task. But doing overtime, and taking computer classes by night, he had slowly moved up the ladder. Now he was earning pretty well.

"Look at the apartment as an investment too darling", John had said, "Something we can really call our own ". But on days like this she wished she could just go back to Bambolim or Moira. Any place actually, where she could get a few hours rest from the kids and the housework. She loved John absolutely and she missed him with an aching, specially on days like this.

"Hold the line Mum. I'll just see who's come ", said Gracy as she put the phone on the table and went to open the door. "Mrs. Gracy D'Mello?", asked the smart young man standing at the doorway with a Delivery Challan book in one hand and what looked like a bebinca in the other.

Besides him stood a pretty girl carrying a vase with fresh flowers and a champagne bottle wrapped in a lovely ribbon. "Yes. What is it?", asked Gracy. "Ma'am we have this Christmas Package delivery for you ", said the young man as he proffered the pad and a pen, "Could you please sign the delivery challan? ". Gracy did not have to ask who had sent it. "This John of mine is a sentimental nut. A real nutcase", she thought to herself, her eyes already moistened with tears. She signed the pad in a hurry and closed the door. She did not want anyone seeing her crying. "Maammy", shouted little Janice as she started crying too, "Why you crying Maammy? Who sent this basket Maammy? Can I open this cake Maammy? ".

Blake started bawling again, " Waaaaah!". Gracy suddenly remembered her Mum was still on the phone, as she heard squeaky noises coming from that direction, above all the wailing.

"Hello! Hello Mum! No Mum. I'm not crying Mum", said Gracy into the phone. But there's no fooling your own mother. "Mum, John sent me this beautiful Christmas Package all the way from Dubai. How? I don't know. Must be Internet or something. I remember reading EXPRESSIONS on the delivery challan I signed. Mum wasn't that so loving of him. Now it really feels like Christmas. It had almost slipped my mind that Christmas Day is two days away. What with the children and all. Yes Mum

I got the cul-culs you sent. No Mum, I won't buy dodol from the shop. I know you'll send some over tomorrow. Mummy the vase is so impressive. Beautiful fresh flowers, carnations I think. Janice is trying to open the wrapping of the bebinca. JANICE stop now! Right now! Don't open that! And Mum there's a champagne bottle. Yes Mum, I know Janice has seen champagne being opened on Santan's wedding video.

Now she can see it live! Dropping in tomorrow evening you said? Fine with me Mum. No! I can't possible take the kids for midnight mass. Yes Mum I know. The dew is terrible these days. Bye Mum!" That John, thought Gracy as she put the phone down, he always was full of these pleasant surprises. She thought nostalically about that day, so many years ago in college, when he had embarrassed her by sending flowers to her in the classroom.

A broad smile broke on her tearful face like the sunrise breaking through gloomy clouds. Sensing the change in her mother's mood Janice too started grinning. And little Blake started his cheerful gurgling.

Gracy knew John would call on Christmas Day early in the morning as he did on every holiday and every Friday and Feast Day and birthday. He would insist on speaking for ever so long. And hear all Janice's complains and even speak gibberish to little Blake.

"John, don't spend so much money on these frivolous calls", Gracy always used to chide him. But deep in here heart she cherished every moment she spoke with him, and wished he would speak even longer.

"Let him call tomorrow, I have so much to tell him", thought Gracy, "About Blake's first tooth. And Janice's Christmas Tree at playschool and of course this beautiful Christmas Package that he sent us." "Oh John ", she whispered to herself, "How I love you John, how I miss you". ---------

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