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Falling Slowly

I am convinced that the keypad is too small for my inept thumbs. I hold the battered, grey phone in one hand, and attempt to work the alphabet with the other. Words appear on the miniscule display screen, one agonising letter at a time. “Meet me at the lib...”

And then, impact. My copy of Beowulf goes skidding across the sidewalk. Two girls walking down the grassy knoll stop in their tracks. I lift my scraped hand to my face, to inspect the damages. A cut here, a bruise there, but nothing major. I flash a sheepish smile at the gaggle of spectators and try to get back on my feet. My tongue lets forth a stream of invective.

I am half-carried, half-dragged to the health center. My backpack follows me, clutched in the arms of some Good Samaritan. “Can you walk?” the nurse asks me when she lets in my posse. “Of course I can't walk,” I tell her, cursing freely. I hobble over to an examination table, where I grimace and groan for good measure as the doctor takes off a shoe and reaches for my big toe.

“What do you think you're doing?” I snarl, hysterical with pain, pain spiked with a healthy dose of embarrassment.

“Checking to see if there are any broken bones ”

And then she prods my swollen, sickly blue ankle with her fingers and I yell out some more choice words. She leaves me on my own, to glare at my failure of a foot, and when she returns, she is carrying a felt boot in her hand.

“Put this on,” she says, and I unintentionally ask her out loud if she is joking. I am not touching that foot, I tell her. This is a broken foot. A foot that is causing me much pain. I am not touching that foot. But she is adamant. “We'll take you to radiology after this. For now, wear the boot.”

“Wear the boot.” I am inclined to ask her if her face can wear the boot and then realise that such a retort would call into question my claim to a college education. So I oblige. With a fraction of an inch gained every five minutes, I finally have the boot strapped on by the time my radiology centre-bound chariot is here to take me. “You'll be fine,” the nurse says, and I feel inclined to ask her if her face will be fine.

She gives me a pair of crutches. I look at her blankly. “You do know how to use crutches, right?” she says. “Sure, sure,” I tell her. I tuck one under one arm, and then the other. One half-step later I topple into a chair.

“Practice,” the nurse tells me, and I briefly entertain the idea of stomping on her toe with the end of my crutch.

A trip to the radiology centre and an X-ray later I am back in my dorm room. My roommate is torn between laughter and concern. “Would you like some M&Ms?” she offers, and I eat my pain in multicolored candy. Friends trickle in to see me, to pat my booted foot and laugh at my coordination. Someone brings me a sandwich. Someone attempts to manoeuvre around my room with a crutch slung over his shoulder like a rifle. “This is so much fun!” another friend comments, a swashbuckling crutch-clutching pseudo-pirate, and I lie in bed and curse freely, at my phone and at stairs, at the keypad and my thumbs. “Takes skill to fail that badly,” someone comments on my Facebook wall, and once again a “your face” jokes rises to the tip of my tongue before retracting, diminishing in the swampy wastelands of my tragic scenario.

Yes, it does take skill to fail this badly.

By Shehtaz Huq
(Title of the article taken from the song “Falling Slowly,” although the sentiments are entirely different)

Of Cake, Frowns and Happiness

Once upon a time, in a land far away (for it was not distant enough to be far, far away and not near enough to not have a far attached to it) there was a man. This man was stupid. Not like Dustin Hoffman-Rain Man stupid, which is actually not stupid but neurotic genius, this man was genuinely dumb. Much like a reality TV star. He was also overweight. Just adding insult to injury, or in this case, illiteracy.

Although this man, whose name was Urny, was incredibly idiotic, he was happy. For it was not possible to be unhappy, in this far away magical land where unicorns barfed rainbows and fried chicken rained from the Western skies (and now that we think about it, that's probably why he was fat). In this place, it was not acceptable to frown. In fact, frowning was considered contraband. This place was known as Happy Happy Fun Joy Land. On the North-Eastern border of this land, stood another country called Sad Sad Depressed Emo Land. This was a morbidly dark and foreboding place where it rained constantly and only teen Disney movies were aired on TV. In its termite-infested capital, London, where the streets reeked like the rear of a particularly diarrhoeal animal, lived Burf.

Burf was originally going to be named Bert. But while filling out his birth certificate, Burf's father, a doctor, accidentally proved that the stereotype against his profession of being blessed with bad, illegible handwriting, was nothing short of true. This mistake, proudly displayed in shiny letters everywhere made him believe that his life was a blunder of fate too. Burf was born in Happy Happy Fun Joy Land and he was Urny's twin cousin. In this magical and sickeningly happy place, such things were possible. While they were pretty much physically identical, Burf suffered from hysterical fits of depression. He was also bald. Combining his lack of hair with a name he despised, Burf was a sad, sad man. This made him develop a hobby that was, err… frowned upon in Happy Happy Fun Joy Land. That hobby was to frown. He was duly banished and had made his way to Sad Sad Depressed Emo Land to start a new cheerless, sad life.

Burf had never smiled in his life. When his third cousin-twice removed had told that really funny story about a frog, a dog and an Englishman who went to the bar, Burf just sat there staring at him. He was the embodiment of gloomy indifference.

Nobody knew that Burf and Urny were still in contact, occasionally exchanging (Hat)e-mail as Burf called it or (Smil)e-mail in Urny's words. And though he wasn't allowed to live in the same country, Burf was allowed to visit his twin cousin once every green moon (for blue was too dreary a colour for the skies of Happy Happy Fun Joy Land). This happened every eighteen years and fourteen minutes.

So that day, Burf put on a pair of termite-free flipflops, covered his wrist with a shiny happy arm band and hopped on to his ride, Bob, to visit Urny. Bob was a dog; a Dalmatian in fact. He was also a contractor. And so with a thunderous cry of, “HI HO BOB, AWAY!!” they galloped towards Urny's house in the posh area of New Jersey. They met Urny out in his yard, barbequing Turkey. Turkey wasn't really the flesh of the bird turkey, it was a brand. Of veal.

Burf had always wondered how it felt to be like his twin cousin. He was the perfect citizen, the perfect man albeit with low intelligence. And he was happy. Jealousy, if that's what it was, didn't go well with sadness. With due greetings exchanged, they sat down to finish their Turkey.

Urny had made a plan to make Burf smile that day. He was already prepared with aces up his sleeves. He started by informing Burf of the new system they introduced recently that let individuals change their names legally. He thought that this would make his twin cousin happy, but it didn't seem to work. He then gifted Burf a blinking mouse that had Justin Bieber hair. This had no effect either. This was followed by a display of many a great thing that Urny had saved for his twin cousin over the last 18 years. Nothing worked. Finally, he got up from his chair and headed towards his house to fetch the cake he had made for Burf. It had a chicken-wasabi and chocolate flavoured topping that he knew Burf would love. But alas, as he stepped out with the giant cake in his hand, he missed a step. Flying went the cake and flying went Urny. Burf gaped in astonishment as Urny's mouth violently exploded in a volley of curious swears, chicken-wasabi and chocolate oozing down his face.

Burf smiled. Urny had frowned. Nobody was perfect.

By Bareesh and Neshmeen


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