We’ve graduated from books to short stories to really short stories.
If the story’s got heart, it doesn’t matter how long it is; and that’s what writers have picked up especially in the past few years.
If you’re a short story buff, you have to read these mini-tales that pack power, punch, and a whole of heart in less than 200 words!
Grandmothers Know Everything
As a 9-year old boy, I did not appreciate being called ‘little’ or ‘cute.’ I liked to be taken seriously. That’s why, when we are out at the shops, the whole family scattered about, doing things of their own interest, I scurry towards my parents, a sense of confidence in my stride. I tell them about the newest pair of shoes on display, the ones everyone at school was wearing. They brushed me off and told me to ogle at something that was still reasonably within my budget. Which was not a lot, only meagre peanuts. No, really, I could only afford peanuts with that allowance.
Once we reached home, I immediately sought my grandmother’s lap for comfort, silently observing as the rest of my huge family showed her what they purchased that day.
When I was tucked into bed that night, I was surprised to see her walk in past her own bedtime, my tiny, nighty-clad grandmother. She kept a big box on my side-table, and it didn’t even take me a second to recognize it was the pair of shoes from the market.
“Grandma! What? How did you know?” I asked, mouth agape.
“Grandmothers know everything,” she said warmly.
Where I Come From
“Where I come from, we dip our pakoras in our chai,” I said proudly, demonstrating to prove a point. Everyone laughed. I used the edge of my saree to dab at the perspiration on my forehead and realized my two children and husband were making fun of my small-town antics. Like they always did.
I cleared the table, helped them wear their bag packs, one kiss on the cheek, thrice over, and a final farewell later I got back to my daily commitments as a housewife. Despite what my big city neighbours and family said to me, I enjoyed my routine. Especially the part where I get to perch my feet up on the coffee table and devour my chai-infused pakora.
The rest of the day goes by in a blur- lunch, homework with the kids, dinner, TV time with the kids, and the only time when we get to collectively catch our breaths is bedtime. For when I tuck my children into bed with fluffed-up pillows and hand-woven blankets, I narrate the finest stories, ones that leave their eyes wide and mouths agape.
Just before sleeping, they ask me when and how I read these stories, and where they can find them, I explain calmly, “Where I come from, we don’t need books to live stories.”
“Are you sure you can’t make it?” Sheila asks her husband over a video call, late on a Tuesday night. She strokes her 6-month old son’s head, as he sits snuggled up on her lap, struggling to get to the level of the phone. “You haven’t seen your son since he was born.”
Sheila knew that being married to a soldier in the army was not meant to be an easy feat. She braved through the trauma, injuries, long distance, but she couldn’t shrug off the ache in her heart at the thought of her son growing up without a father.
“I’m sorry Sheila, I don’t mean to disappoint you,” he said sadly. Sheila shook her head and wiped her tears. She scooped the baby higher up in her arms and made him wave goodbye to his father. That night, she slept uncomfortably in a much too small bed, next to her son, because she felt too lonely to be alone.
That’s why when she was woken up by a sudden sound, she was disoriented and bewildered; until she realized it was the doorbell. She stretched her aching muscles, ready to give the milkman an earful for being late, but she was caught off-guard at the sight of someone she wasn’t expecting. Someone who could never disappoint her. It was surely not the milkman.
The first time I picked up a badminton racket my father told me to either play to make the village proud or forget about it and focus on my studies. When I repeated these words to my coach, he nodded solemnly, saying nothing, but implying a hundred different things.
It was the same look Coach was giving me today: intense and intentional, like he was reiterating the purpose of his life to accommodate my victory. The journey till her was not a breeze – there were tears, blood, sweat, fights, and expectations. All of which I intended to meet.
When I looked into my opponent’s eyes, on the day of the most important match of my life, the one that would take me to nationals and give my village a reputable name, I saw a glimpse of the same pain and struggle. His life echoed mine. But the first lesson Coach had given me was to keep emotion out of business. The second was to keep my father’s promise.
So, I did. I know I did, because I saw it in his eyes- unshed tears and unspoken love, as he waved at me from the crowd, with a proud smile. I watched him watch me, as a whole troupe of well-wishers carried me on their shoulders. Howling and cheering, they took me back to the village, which now had a name of its own.
Timeless, Ageless Lovers
We were too young when we met for the first time, on the playground, surrounded by mud-eating, sobbing peers. Between my pigtails and your missing teeth, we didn’t know what to point and laugh at first.
We were too young when we shared our first kiss, under the mango tree, our silhouettes obscured by the setting sun. Didn’t know what it meant or where it would lead, only that we barely had a minute to ourselves before the sun would rise again and the challenges of a new day would weigh us down.
We were too young the first time we broke up. It was a silly fight, ending in too many tears and vengeful texts. We were immature the second time round too, this one over a serious matter – our future and education and long-distance.
But all that was a long time ago, even though it doesn’t feel that way. In my opinion, we are too young today too, as we gaze into each other’s eyes and watch everyone watch us fall deeper in love. I think we are too young to tie the knot, but I wouldn’t want to be even a day older.
Tia & Aryan
“Turn down the music!” Tia screamed, aggressively knocking on her neighbour’s door. She thought he was obnoxious and crazy, and they exchanged more heated words and glares than they did neighbourly pies and cookies.
“I’ll turn it off when you move out!” Came Aryan’s reply. Tia groaned and shut her door, loud enough to make a point. She cranked up the volume to her own music, a pair of state-of-the-art speakers that even the old lady downstairs could hear.
This is how their weekends usually went. Today was music, but the arguments are always coloured with different genres: the smell of your food is stinking up my house, your stupid mail is in my box again, and tell your friends to stop talking so loudly!
Their relationship could be considered funny by outsiders. This weekend was all hurls and abuses, but the next, when Tia’s raspy coughs and sneezes could be heard all the way to Aryan’s bedroom, he would leave a bowl full of homemade soup and medicines at her door. Then he would knock, wait for the sound of footsteps, and leave before she even got the chance to open her door.
As a nurse, Mira had come to terms with the fact that there were more difficult days than happy ones. Today was especially intense, more emotionally than physically. After being reprimanded and pushed away by her most challenging patient, she did her best to choke down a sob and put on a façade of professionalism. She wanted to hug him, hold his hand, cry with him, and tell him she knew his pain; but she could only lend her hand as he, a former athlete, struggled to take a single step.
The progress was painstakingly slow. One bad day turned into two hard ones, and before she knew it, one week had passed, and he was still panting and gasping at the mere thought of getting out of bed.
That’s why, when she walked into his room early the next morning, ready to take on another day of intense, emotional agony, she was not prepared for the sight of him standing up. With a lopsided smile, he walked towards her, more so hobbled, thanking her and crying happy tears. She couldn’t hide her own emotions any longer, tearing up herself.
When he asked her how he could repay her, she simply shook her head and replied, “You have already done enough. You reminded me why I do my job.”
A Brother In Need
“Ugh! Can you just leave my room?” Ayush urged his younger brother. After Ishan had waltzed into his older brother’s room, asking for a charger, but getting only teenage angst and silence in return, as always ensued, they got into one of their brotherly fights. You were adopted! Yeah, well, at least mom and dad chose me, they just got stuck with you! Which was followed by a couple of punches and slam dunks, like the ones they watched together on TV, and Ayush threw his younger brother out of the room, vowing to find himself a new apartment as soon as he was out of school.
Even at school they never acknowledged each other, apart from glares or nods to turn the other way. But when Ayush walked to the gate of the school to find his brother being bullied by a couple of older kids, he didn’t hesitate to put his foot down and scare them away. Ishan looked at him with big doe-eyes and thanked him. His older brother on the other hand, not one to show affection, only replied with, “I could give you my kidneys, but I’m never giving you my charger.”
Read more such short stories here.