Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Red Crayon

I found this short story that I wrote for Vaishali's English class several years ago. Yes -- I did all of Vaishali's English assignments in her senior year. If I complained, I would be guilt-tripped into doing it -- 'Bechari she works so hard, just do it for her.'

Anyway, this story was based on real events.

The Red Crayon

It was a hot and humid afternoon in the Valley. This was perhaps the fifth day in the row it had been this hot. The temperatures were higher than they had ever been in the last eight years; or so I heard my uncle and aunt say. I wouldn’t know, I was barely 8 years old myself. It was the summer before fourth grade. I was going to become an upper grader. It was a landmark year as an elementary school student. We would have a separate lunch period from the ‘lower graders,’ and we even had separate bathrooms from them!
It was also the summer that I went to go live in Los Angeles with my Uncle to learn Hindi. My Uncle was the eldest of my mother’s brothers, and therefore the patriarchal figure in our large extended family. He believed in strict discipline, was very patriotic about India, and teaching his children about the Indian culture. I would learn to read and write Hindi that summer.
I always had a lot of fun with my cousin, who I called ‘Bhaiya,’ meaning elder brother in Hindi. He was only one year older than me, but at that age, one year was monumental. Most of the summer is a big haze to me, as is most of my childhood, but there is one afternoon in particular that stands out in my mind.
It was on this hot and humid afternoon that my uncle and aunt asked Bhaiya and me if we wanted to go to the flea market with them. We looked over at each other, and silently agreed that we were much better off in the confines of a malfunctioning air-conditioned room versus the sweltering heat outside. As exciting the thought of snow-cones was, we decided to stay home. Besides, it was the first time I was going to stay at home without adults! My parents never allowed it. But Bhaiya was a whole year older; maybe that’s why.
“So, what do you want to do?” I asked Bhaiya when the adults left. He shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t seem as excited about the idea of staying at home alone for the next few hours. “Do you want to color?” I asked, as I followed him into his room.
“Sure,” his eyes seem to light up a bit. We got out the pile of coloring books, and we each chose our favorites. Mine was Disney’s Snow White coloring book. His was Super Mario Brothers.
“Where are the crayons?” I asked.
Bhaiya looked a little wary. He hesitated for a minute, and then left the room. He returned a few moments later with a step ladder, and reached for the top shelf of his closet. Behind the stacks of old textbooks was a brand new box of 36 Crayola crayons. My eyes widened at the sight.
“When did you get those?”
“Last month, on my birthday,” he paused for a bit. “Be careful with them.”
I nodded, understanding the importance of a new box of crayons. I had always wanted the box of 36 colors. The most I ever had was 16.
We settled ourselves quietly on opposite beds, with the big box of Crayola crayons between us, and began coloring. I was coloring a picture of the wicked stepmother disguised as an old woman, offering Snow White a big, red, juicy apple.
I was working on coloring the apple a deep red, when my cousin looked up from his picture and said to me “Don’t color so hard.”
“I said, don’t color so hard. You’re messing up the crayon,” he insisted.
I looked down at the crayon. It looked fine to me.
“It’s fine,” I said, and resumed coloring.
But that wasn’t the end of that. My cousin sat up and said again, “You’re messing up my red crayon.”
“So? It’s just a red crayon. If you’re not going to color with it, what’s the point?”
But Bhaiya was not convinced. “Give me back my red crayon!”
I was not backing down either.“Why are you being so cheap about your stupid crayon?”
“I’m not cheap!” Bhaiya was yelling now. “Give me back my crayon!” His hand was extended, as he waited for me to comply.
I don’t know what got into me at that point; maybe it was the heat, or just being tired in general of being bossed around by my elder brother for weeks on end, or maybe it was just the red crayon itself, but I stopped coloring, stared directly at him, and said “You want your red crayon?” I took the crayon, snapped it into two pieces and placed it in his sweaty palms. “There’s your stupid red crayon!”
Bhaiya sat there gaping. He could not believe what had just happened. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t believe what I had done either, but the decision had been made, and now I had to stick by it.
Bhaiya dropped the fragmented pieces and flew onto my bed, seething in pure anger. He charged towards me, and I felt a sharp stinging on my thigh as he slapped my bare legs. It was my turn to counter the blow, and I slapped the back of his shoulder as hard as I could. I don’t remember the sequence of events that took place after that, but we found ourselves rolling around the bedroom floor, pulling, grabbing, slapping, pinching any body part we could get a hold of.
“What’s going on here?” a loud voice boomed. So caught up in the commotion, we didn’t hear my uncle and aunt come through the front door. We were like deer caught in the headlights.
We were asked to explain what happened, so they could ascertain who was at fault, and who owed whom an apology. We were both crying, from pain, and anger. I rubbed my stinging thigh, and felt a sense of satisfaction when I saw my cousin rubbing his shoulder.
“All this was over a red crayon?” my uncle looked at us in disbelief. He looked amused for a moment, but the expression quickly turned to a frown. “Both of you say sorry to each other.”
We looked at each other and waited to make sure the other would not back out.
“Sorry,” we said in unison.
As a punishment, the box of Crayola crayons was taken away from us for the rest of the summer.
Ten years later, today, I received a graduation present in the mail. A box of 36 Crayola crayons, with the red crayon missing.

1 comment:

  1. I was sad there were no comments on this post! Definitely got a smile on my face reading it.