As you can see, I can already do very lame wordplay. I write, rarely. But well, this seems as good a time as any to expose you to my writing.
! The Dead Smile
! Some people laugh manically when they die, losing all touch with reality. Some people freeze, their faces blank and expressionless. Some people cry and plead with the angel of death, to spare them, to delay their demise. Some die before they can even react to their death. Some keep a stony face, defiant to the last. And then there are those, who smile, happy and content. He was one of them.
! It was a normal day. It was afternoon now, and the cicadas had started buzzing. He was sitting outside the tavern. People used to come and go, happy people, satisfied people. Almost all of them either avoided him completely or threw him a contemptuous look. That's what he deserved, really. His appearance was in line with their opinion of him. He was unkempt and unshaven. He was extremely tall, and his thin frame made him look haggardly. He used to loiter around the tavern all day around, and the barman used to toss him some leftovers at the end of the day. He had no job, no family and no ambition. The clothes on his back were the ones he was wearing when he came into town a few summers back, and they were the only ones he owned. His hat had holes in it, and yet he sat with the brim drawn over his eyes; it was hard to tell when he was asleep. His old boots spoke of a hard life, they had dust and coal and war on them.
! Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two kids walking on the otherwise deserted street. It was odd to see them in this part of town. The tavern was not really on the way from the school to the part where the townsfolk lived. Bloody kids. They'd probably get mugged, or worse. He spat, and was about to drift off.
! " … jewels should be easy then," said the bigger of the two scrawny kids. His ears grew alert.
! "I don't know," said the smaller one. He sounded fearful.
! "You know what mum said, right? If we don't get any money from somewhere, no school for you and me. And no school means going off to the mines. Do you want that?"
! "But, daddy said he'll get another job."
! "Yeah right." The sarcasm carried to him. He smirked. Kids these days are more cynical, and that should serve them good. "One bottle he'll get and he'll disappear for days together. It's just one old man in the house. Stop being a wimp!"
! "But the old man has a dog, and the guys at school say he's got monsters in his basement, bigger than the dog."
! The sigh from the older brother was the last thing he heard before they walked out of earshot. He pulled down his hat, and tried to go to sleep. They'll learn soon enough. Life is a bitch and it will get them too. And with some good sense hammered into them, they might amount to something. He smiled to himself as he drifted off.
! He woke up, a little uneasy. It was still afternoon, he must have slept for an hour at most. He had a tinge of sourness in his mouth. Must have had a bad dream. He decided that he had had enough of the tavern and it's scorn for now, and anyway the business of the little boys had left him a little uneasy. Maybe a walk to the rail yard would calm him down some. The rail yard was good, peaceful. And the walk would do his legs some good too. He made a mental note to return to the tavern at sundown.
! He had just settled into a nice spot in the shade, among the full sacks of grain strewn around. Someone would come and load them sometime, or maybe not. He had never seen a train rumble into the town, boilers hissing, pistons chugging, throwing out billows of steam and coal dust. He missed watching trains, the gigantic smoke-belching snakes had fascinated him since his early childhood. He thought of moving to a town with a busier railhead. One of these days.
! Someone stumbled and swore. From his vantage point in the shaded yard amidst the brown sacks, he saw a rough man pause and look around. The man was carrying a small box. The man went into the yard, out of the view of the road, but still in his sight. He saw the man open the box and proceed to empty the contents in his eager palms. He gasped, almost audibly. The glint of gold made his eyes open as wide as saucers for the first time in years. He had seen a lot in his life but he had never seen such riches in such derelict surroundings. The man was as stunned as he was, he saw him drop a lot of the newly uncovered riches from his shaking and sweaty palms. The man swore again, and took a swig from a bottle he had just produced from the folds of his clothes. He made no noise or movement as he saw the man shakily stuff as much of the gold and jewels as he could into his pockets. He remained breathless as he saw the man get up, look around unsurely again, give a glance to the now empty box gathering dust and air, and stumble out of the yard and on to the road.
! He got up. In a trance, he walked to where the man had been crouching moments ago. He held the empty box in his hands, and saw a couple of gold coins on the dusty floor of the yard. He looked up to see the man slipping out into the horizon. His legs started following the man.
! He did not know what purpose he had in following the man. It was as if his entire life had not taught him enough about minding his own business! But his boots kept going, silent as a cat, following at a safe distance. The man stumbled along hither and thither, into the town, past the rows of houses of the rich, into the poorer quarters. And he followed, a few yards behind, always out of notice. The man was too drunk to perceive his pursuer anyway.
! He saw the man stop outside a decrepit hut at the end of the row and clumsily bang at the ramshackle door. The door opened from within and the man went in. He went closer to the hut and heard low, excited voices followed by shouts. The female shout had horror, the male shout had delight, and the two young shouts had hope and promise in them. He recognised the two young voices and left.
! It was not until he was accosted by a group of townsmen till he realise that he was still clutching the box in one hand and the pair of gold coins in the other. It wasn't their angry questions, demanding to know where he put the rest of the wealth, that brought him out of his reverie, but the dull creaking of the empty box. As he had done all his life, he stayed silent. He did not speak as they accused him of being a thief. He did not open his mouth when the old man identified him to be the rough looking man who he had seen jump out of the window with the jewellery box. He kept mum as they dragged him to the tree and slipped a noose around his neck.
! The last thought in his head was the hope in the young voices. He felt validated. He felt alive. In death. The irony brought a smile to his face.