Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Conquest of the Tongue

The taste of the blackish gray barrel was revolting. Metal tastes different, so it must be the taste of gun oil. The black handle gleamed dully in the pale light. It was a newly oiled piece of hardware - that much his tongue told him. The first bead of sweat rolled down his temple and Adams apple convulsed with a vain effort to swallow. The heat was getting to him now. How he wished a few of the windows were open. And that damn piece of chicken. It was stuck between two teeth and stubbornly refused to let go. Why did you have to go to KFC for lunch? His tongue desperately tried to prise it out while his forehead sprouted more beads of sweat. His eyes though remained transfixed on the black gloved hand that held the gun. The fore finger wrapped firmly around the trigger, the thumb resting lightly on the safety.

The chicken resisted valiantly. Pulling back for a moment, his tongue made a cursory exploration of the barrel in his mouth. The hole in the middle reminded him of POLO. Another bead joined the first. The rough floor bit into his skin. His thighs and knees began to ache. A sudden wind came in from a forgotten window and assaulted his wet, naked skin. He shivered in the half dark as the safety turned off with a click. The noise of the street and the horns of the passing cars no longer reach his ears. Only the shadows of the bright headlights filtered in through the curtains. Again the vain attempt to gulp and a small retch of fear as the flickering shafts reflected off the blood red drop of paint that signalled his death. He stared at the drop, fascinated. The safety was off. There was a bullet in the chamber. There were ants on his legs. A finger was curled around the trigger. The safety was off. One bit him on his thigh. The agony! He wanted to itch. His fingered quivered. A drop of sweat dripped off the end of his nose. His tongue gave up on the annoying piece of chicken and went back barrel. Its pull was irresistible yet its presence revolting. Itch! His hand wouldn’t move. Violent tremors racked his body. His legs trembled with the effort, the pain and the bloody bites of the ants. Waves of frustration swept through him. There were more of them now. His hand remained as dead as stone. It refused to come to his succour. His eyes never left the rock hard curve of the gloved finger around the trigger. That hand never moved, never quivered. Waiting. He was waiting for a train. It would take him to a meeting he didn’t want to attend. That irritating girl next to him was chattering on the phone. For a moment he pictured her kneeling naked on the floor while he held a gun in her mouth.

His tongue went back to work. And the ants kept crawling. Suddenly he was overcome by a wave of relief. It was almost out! His tongue dug at it again and again and on the third try it was out! His hands twitched, a horn blared and he sighed. But his dusty walls never heard this cry of satisfaction and triumph. . The finger squeezed and a piece of metal, no bigger than his tooth tore through the back of his head. His story of conquest was lost in the battle cry of death; the whispers torn apart by the echoless bang and the chorus of tinkling glass. His body fell through the silence that followed and dared to interrupt it with a small thud as it hit the floor. He lay on his side, in a mocking imitation of a foetus. The black gloved hand still held the gun close to his mouth. To the dull and dirtied shaft of moonlight that peeked through the shattered window behind him, he looked like a babe that had fallen asleep, suckling on a small black toy.