Fiction from Subhravanu Das

Photo: Peter F. Wolf

In a Kitchen

Ants came dribbling out of the tap. They licked the skillet clean. They cartwheeled over bubbles. They carouseled along the dinner plates. They took the steel glass out of Bulbul’s hands and tore it into tiny straws. They presented Bulbul with a ruby drinking horn as recompense. They enacted scenes from Bulbul’s life. They made a family. They sipped seawater. They crossed swords. They adopted. They played Monopoly.


Ants came jumping out of the bin. They planted herbs along the windowsill. They distilled perfume from the damp walls. They spritzed Bulbul with the colors of a nail bar. They colored the edges of every kitchen tile. They rearranged the tiles to form all the smiling faces with whom Bulbul had ever shared candy.


Ants came spinning out of the juicer. They stitched a long scarf and soaked it in honey. They wrapped the gooey scarf around Bulbul’s neck. They didn’t let go of the scarf-ends, however, and pulled with all their might. So as not to get choked, Bulbul threw the scarf to the floor. Before Bulbul could reach for the pump abutting the tap, ants drained out all its soap.


Ants came whistling out of the stove. They dove straight into the vials of oil. Mustard, groundnut, coconut. They lit molotov cocktails. They launched the molotov cocktails into Bulbul’s neighboring compound. The neighbor had usurped Bulbul’s parking space. The neighbor had stockpiled mile-long tweezers with which to pinch Bulbul, any time, any day. Bulbul had never raised an objection. Ants showered off after their swim and hugged one another as they watched the neighbor’s house go up in flames.


Ants came popping out of the oven. They pinned the solar system onto a chopping board. They won a prize for their efforts. They plucked out the sun and rolled it through the gap between Bulbul’s legs. They wrote letters on grains of rice. They blew balloons out of every alternate grain. The balloons hit the ceiling and burst into show tunes.


Ants came gushing out of the flour. They kneaded together a Pillsbury-man for Bulbul to go bowling with. They prepared a quicksand of dough and drowned every knife, every peeler, everything sharp. They plugged the gaping wound on Bulbul’s knee. They nuzzled against Bulbul’s skin. They climbed up Bulbul’s bulging veins. They swallowed every speck of dirt buried deep within Bulbul’s pores. They trampolined from Bulbul’s left ear to Bulbul’s right.


Ants fled roaring into the freezer. They locked the freezer from within and didn’t let Bulbul in. No matter how much Bulbul pounded the door with fists, no matter how much Bulbul pleaded to be made privy to their plans for him, they didn’t give in. They didn’t comfort Bulbul. Like the bearded bellies and rustling thighs in foster homes, ants partied on inside their ice castle, unheeding of Bulbul’s sobs.


Ants reappeared, flooding out of every switch on every kitchen wall. They brought wires with them—chopped up, peeled, with the plastic as shields on their backs, and the metal as spears on their snouts. They lacerated the ceiling, the racks, the countertops, the mats, all the equipment and the supplies. The whole kitchen turned to rubble and caved in towards the center, catching Bulbul by the ankles. Unable to leave, Bulbul flailed about. Ants brought thunder down. They erected a cross and let electricity sizzle through it. They made Bulbul bow down in obeisance. They opened up the heavens.

Subhravanu Das is an Indian writer living in Bhubaneswar. His work has appeared in Gone Lawn, No Contact, Popshot Quarterly, and elsewhere.

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