Kissing Cousin

 

 

 

I really don’t know his actual name. Everybody called him ‘Kissing Cousin’ and also treated and greeted  him like that but of course observing the social propriety of junior senior relation.
He was a fond company for all.

He had a diminutive scraggly physique well below five feet on his heel. He had craggy rustic features, but had a bright intelligent pair of eyes fitted on either side of his aquiline
nose. He kept a goatee beard trimmed short.

I saw him in our house since my childhood. He was not really a hired man in practical sense. He lived with us and did all house hold works as a family member and enjoyed
free food, lodge and regular remuneration.
We had a big household land of minimum twenty acre, where all types of fruit bearing trees were there. One of the important responsibilities of Kissing Cousin was to collect
fruits at different seasons from the orchard, store and distribute those to our family members and close neighbors and relatives.
He had the full authority about what type of fruits to be plucked and what time, how and where to store them and overall the distribution. He had a big store room of
bamboo mat wall thatched with CI sheet. He used to sleep in that room also. He used to keep the store locked whenever he was not there.

He knew a lot of fairy tales. He always liked fairy tales of kings, queens and monsters. He used to put on costumes of different characters and act while narrating
the stories to us. He always carried us along into the plot of his tales and we remained totally mesmerized. He used to hold those story telling session exclusively
for the children away from elders notice.
Kissing Cousin used to avoid company of elders as a matter of habit. He said,’ elders are very practical and won’t understand his tales’. He built a separate spot deep in the orchard for story telling  and we few were only members.

Among the elders, he used to only interact with our father. But conversation used to be very brief and measured and he always talked in an obsequious gait. He normally did
not pay heed to matters like social and family affairs of weal and woes.
He appeared very garrulous with us but used to be reticent in presence of our father and other elders. He used to be completely different character with us and with the elders.

We frequently mounted on his shoulder without any restriction. It was easy to jump on his shoulder owing to his short stature. He had an especial liking for late afternoon when 
every object cast shadow many times bigger than itself.
-Look a man can be many times bigger that his actual stature. He used to say by pointing his own elongated shadow.

He used to spread a reed mat in the orchard at this time and entertained us with the fruits from his store house.
He always loved to pose himself as a magician. If some of us wished to eat ripe jack fruit for instance. Kissing Cousin would close his eyes and remained silent for sometimes and then went inside the orchard and dug out a full ripe jack fruit from underneath the earth. His eyes sparkled with a deep sense of complacence by seeing our astonishment.
One day we whined for green Sugar Palm fruit to be plucked from the tall tree. Kissing Cousin was in real trouble because he did not know how to climb the tree. But neither
Kissing Cousin nor we could settle with that. Because in our little world, kissing Cousin was a fairy tale magician.
He thought for a moment and promised to do that in next few days.
-You will come inside the orchard stealthily after twelve o clock noon when others would take rest in that sultry summer. He told us in the morning one day later.
We did as instructed and met him at the predestinated spot.
-Lets go, I’ll pluck green palm fruit for you. He said smiling with an air of panache.
We all took an unblinking stare at him. Kissing Cousin turned into a Character of Fairy Tale.
-Sit here quietly. He asked showing a spot a bit away but with a clear view of the Palm Tree.
He inserted his hand inside a big sack and brought out a multicolor patched cloak and put that on. We kept looking agape.
He brought out a magic wand from his sack, closed his eyes and uttered some charms and incantations and puffed around.
In his peculiar costume and with his uncanny behavior, he appeared to be a hero in the magic world. He whistled by his lips thrice by pointing his magic wand towards the
palm tree and in no time three palm fruits thudded on the ground.
We witnessed the whole episode speechlessly. 

He had his wife and a daughter of about ten years. They lived in another village. We never saw them but frequently heard my father scolding our Kissing Cousin for not
going and looking after them.
-That’s a problem. We heard Kissing Cousin moaned whenever my father scolded him about his nonchalant attitude towards his family.
-Your call your family a problem!
-What else but a problem and I send money to them every month. Kissing Cousin used to grumble in low voice as my father smarted him.

He considered his family to be a problem. There was another thing Kissing Cousin considered as problem is his own physical body.
He always played with us but whenever he could not cope up in running, he used to have chest pain and gasped and groused about his weak physical body.
He loved passing his time in our company. If there were a day when we got late to come back home after school hour he used to be fidgety. During school holiday if we went
for a long visit some of our relatives, Kissing Cousin used to be really edgy and remained sad and gloomy.

One day he had an acute chest pain. My father forbade him from going out at all. He was asked to remain in bed all the time. We were very sad.
-All bullshit, nothing serious, they are overdoing. He called us and whispered to assure us.
He took us out in the orchard whenever father was not at home. But he was unable to walk like earlier. He got tired and sat on the ground pressing his chest by hand. He
sweated a lot and drops of sweat were visible on his forehead.
-Come on, don’t worry, I’m a magician and I would make it okay. He used to assure us to drive out our anxiety.
-These are drags, you understand. He said pointing his body.
– I would be a renowned magician without drags.

Kissing Cousin had his chest pain on the rise.
-Please drive away the chest pain by your magic, we don’t enjoy playing with you. We put our childish request to him.
He looked pensive.
No medication could check his chest pain. He was totally forbidden to go out of his room. Everything went topsy-turvy. His physical body became a real problem for him. We thought.
Father asked us to leave him alone and not to disturb him.
His wife and daughter came wailing in a few days. We went into his room. We saw his wife was passing her hand all over his body while Kissing Cousin lied completely helpless.
Kissing Cousin appeared to be someone else in that condition.
His eyes welled up as he dragged his daughter close and adored her. He seemed to be ashamed as our eyes met. He turned his face away and rubbed his eyes.

I never saw tears in Kissing Cousin’s eyes. That was very unlike of him. I came out silently.
I took a walk inside the orchard. Normally none of our family members enter so deep in the orchard. There was a small clearing with a raised hump where Kissing Cousin
used to sit with us squatted on the ground  and told all fairy tales and displayed his antics.
When he sat on the hump he looked a mysterious man. I always desired to become a magician like him.
-Why don’t you use your magic to solve the problem of your wife and daughter? I asked him once.
-No, that’s not possible, if I apply my magic on them that will rebound on me. He thought for a moment and answered.
I saw a snake sat coiling on the raised hump where Kissing Cousin used to sit. It flared its neck and formed a hood at my sight. I got a shock of my life. 
-The day I would become full-fledged magician, snake would sit on my head. I recollected that Kissing Cousin told us once.

The spectacle appeared very assuring that Kissing Cousin has already become proper magician and now he would be able to solve his present problem.
I withdrew and strolled in the jungle for a quite long time musing on the aspect. The sun sank in the western sky and cast a long shadow of the trees.
I got up and slouched into our house complex.

All were quiet around Kissing Cousin’s room. All departed. I pushed open the door and entered his room. He was awake.
-Where had you been so long? You are surely nervous. He said in a feeble voice.
I did not answer and stared at him unblinking. A sense of witnessing a dream magician of mine instilled in me. I thought that he has solved all his problems with his magic wand.
-Kissing Cousin, you are already a full-fledged magician. I exclaimed.
He looked askance at me in my eyes. I narrated the incident of a snake perching on his hump. He gave a vacuous look and tried to evoke a forced smile on his face.

Darkness was gradually engulfing by then. Kissing Cousin got up with effort with the support of his stick and slowly hung his magic sack around his neck.
-I have to solve all the problems. He sighed and stepped out resting his hand on my shoulder.
I also walked with him mesmerized. He panned his eyes at our house complex stood in dimming day light.
Faint sound of conversation fraught with pain and pleasure were heard.

He entered the orchard along with me.
We walked up to our meeting spot. He put both of his hands on my shoulder and looked at my face to see the lines on it.
-I am going, don’t tell anything to anybody. He said faintly almost touching his lips with mine.
-I need to solve the problems. He mumbled with bile in his throat. I could not see his face in darkness.
He walked further inside the orchard gesticulating me to go back.
There were a railway track after crossing the orchard. I stood dumb for some time. The sound of a running train jarred me back to present.
Kissing Cousin did not come back since.

 Life is a pain and pleasure and death is the ultimate pain killer giving eternal peace. Meher’s Quote

Category: English, Short Story

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