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Short Stories
Raj Mohan Jha
       I look at my wristwatch not knowing how many times I have already looked at it. It is a little more than a quarter past ten. What happened to the bust today? It has not reached yet. It has never been so late. It surely used to come between ten past and quarter past ten. It might have got cancelled due to some reason. If it is cancelled then God knows what will happen. I repeatedly told Upendra to finish it by 9.30. But he did not let it happen-" What is the hurry? The last bus is at quarter past ten!"
       Is there any guarantee of the last bus? It may come, it may not; it may break down somewhere. Or you may miss it. It may start before you are about to reach the stop. One should never depend on the last bus. Even then, I don't know what would you like to call it, I return by the last bus most of the time-rather daily. He would not leave me before that. What a greedy creature Upendra is! If he is in loss, he would not let you go.
       "Well, watch it does not cross ten O'clock". If it is ten, he would say, "O.K. last five deals only. Count it".
       At times I had to run one or two furlongs to catch the bus-heavily breathing and panting. But I reached the stop before ten past ten today, and there's no question of my missing the bus. But why did it not arrive yet? I look at my watch again. How long shall I wait? But, what is the way out? I don't have any money except the bus fare. I squeezed out everything I had. In reality luck had favoured me today. Round after round! It did not happen so before. Was he playing some trick? May be. Playing tricks is not unlike him. He was caught playing trick once. He had hidden a spade behind the club in such a way that I could not detect it soon. When Pandey spread cards on the table, he was exposed and started pleading innocence. Upendra has a very queer way of opening the cards. He opens them so mysteriously that the first card will peep first, then the second one and the third one will slip open itself in such a slow fashion that it would be breath-taking. He is full of such tricks.
       It seems the bus is coming. I became agile. I leave the stop, come forward on the road and fix my eyes on the headlight coming nearer. But it is the ambulance which speeds away.
       I start pacing the bus stop for a while. Vehicles keep coming flashing their light, but when they come close, they are cars or trucks. I became more restless. An empty auto-rickshaw stops at the bus stop screeching. The driver is peeping out of the auto. I turn my face away. The auto cannot go upto my home, otherwise I could have paid him there. The lane is so narrow that you would have to leave the auto on the main road. I regretted why I did not borrow four or five rupees from Upendra. But who knew things would take such a turn?
       The auto-driver has left after waiting for sometime. Now there are very few passengers left at the stop. A man standing a bit far is smoking a beedi. Two boys sitting on the railing are talking to each other. A pair who had waited for a while disappeared somewhere.




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