Tree house by Lasya Shashimohan (a modern day parable)
Their tree house came in sight. Wolfman hauled himself on a branch and let himself in. Angel was hung on one shoulder with such nonchalance that you wondered if she was a fully grown female or a whiff of zephyr. ‘Can’t you use the ladder like the rest of us?’ sneered Vixen shifting her weight on to her good leg. ‘Ladder’s for you, Tomboy’, Wolfman baritoned, ‘Ma Angel has wings’. Angel simpered coyly. ‘What unique wings’, Pansy muttered under his breath meaning Wolfman’s beefed biceps. Wolfman stiffened and the hair at the nape of his neck bristled. ‘Said something, Sop?’ his voice was a low growl. ‘Where had you been?’ Vixen quickly asked in a bid to distract the violently aroused Wolfman. Angel opened her mouth to say something only to be over-ridden by her partner as usual. ‘I had taken ma Angel to the fields. I tilled and she sprinkled fairy dust-worked magic’. He stroked her cheek. Angel ran her frosty pink fingertips through her long luxurious hair. She lazily pretended to stifle a yawn. ‘Bed time, baby. Daddy will take ya’, Wolfman leered at her. Angel giggled. Vixen and Pansy wanted to die.
Both of them went to their respective rooms. Vixen’s face was a mask. She sensed that she was in the danger of breaking into tears. ‘Vixens don’t cry’, she reminded herself. She appraised her image in the full-length mirror and let her mind wander. Tight black latex suit- not tight enough, she decided. She stripped and donned another similar one. She pained a chipped nail glossy black. Mama Vixen, now dead and buried came to her. ‘Be strong, V’, she ordered. ‘Don’t let anyone do what daddy did to me. Hold your own, my child…you need to, especially because you have only one leg.’ she then disappeared. Unshed tears caused great pain in the head, yet Vixen vehemently refused to set them free. Whipping herself hard didn’t work this time either. She savagely seized a pair of scissors and chopped away at her shoulder-length hair haphazardly. Then with equal brutality kicked her artificial leg off and tried to block out Wolfman.
Pansy was trying to do the same- block out Wolfman. He loved and hated ‘that Rambo’ in equal measure. As for Angel, he could fling her off from atop the tree house right now. How he loathed her! Guilt twitched beneath his left eye. ‘Wrong’, he told himself, ‘You shouldn’t allow yourself to feel this way, Pansy boy. After all, we are pals- all four of us- we belong.’ He tried to see things in perspective.
Mama Vixen had apparently been angel before she married daddy. Then daddy beat and kicked her and abandoned her when she was expecting Baby Vixen. Since then Mama Vixen had become Mama Vixen- always harsh and demanding the stars and beyond of her daughter, slapping her mercilessly if she failed to score well in her test, gagging her mouth when she cried (‘Don’t be a wretched girl!). Well, it seems like her modus operandi had worked for Vixen unfailingly topped the class, didn’t let any man get cozy and was devoted to mama. After all, mama had taken care of her single-handedly. Later, Vixen had viciously fought the glass ceiling to become a top executive in a male-dominated firm. She demanded sexual favours from junior men in the firm, in return for promotions. Only they didn’t get the much lusted after promotion afterward. Every time Vixen did this, she felt she had scored a point against daddy. With loads of Mammon’s gift at her command, she could now afford a sprawling mansion. She still preferred the tree house. She could have nearly any man she wanted. She still preferred that chauvinistic yokel- Wolfman.
Pansy outlined his lips artistically. He was a make up artiste by profession and was good in his field. Even the otherwise fussy Angel swore by his prowess and he helped her do her face up sometimes. ‘Wolfman’, he presently pouted into the mirror, ‘My Wolfman’. Soon he was raving. Wolfman = Aggression- Never mind, I love you. Wolfman = Sexism- oh bother, I still love you. Wolfman = braggadocio- Damn, I still still love you. Wolfman = Homophobia (I am still not sure if I like boys or girls) – oh Kick it, I still still still love you, man! I shall never make this obvious….I have my pride….
Meanwhile, the much envied couple weren’t having as much of a ball as presumed. ‘You are still sweet 16, aren’t you?’, a tipsy Wolfman grunted. Angel was about to say ‘I am 16 square, now but held her tongue in time. ‘Yes, my Hercules’, she crooned instead. Wolfman eyed her dubiously. ‘Nay, you are not’, he advanced towards her and struck her. ‘You are becoming a fat old cow’. Another drunken whack followed. Angel blamed herself for the scene. Yes, she was letting herself go these days. Wolfman could never be wrong.
Angel flew around the tree house and tidied the entire place up. She decked all the rooms with flowers, put on her tutu and practiced her ballet. ‘Hopefully, this should help me knock a few ponds off the waist without sweating it out in the gym like Vixen (How utterly unfeminine!)
Wolfman, just leaving for work looked at her approvingly. She knew he loved her in lace. Pansy and Vixen left for work too. Angel was the home-maker in the tree house. She stayed at home.
She had lunch ready and the other three arrived one by one. Vixen always drove Pansy to and fro from work. Today she had even brought Wolfman who had given in grudgingly. ‘Women are f**** bad drivers’, he had grumbled through the ride.
Lunch was a queer affair. Wolfman ate a whole lamb, then another. Vixen ate a moderate amount. Pansy didn’t have much of an appetite. Angel gingerly sipped lime juice, shooting nervous glances at Wolfman in between every fraction of a sip. Wolfman belched in a most repulsive manner. ‘Why don’t you swallow a coyote next, you boor’, Vixen shot. ‘Ah, but I prefer devouring foxes, Madame Vixen’, Wolfman retorted. ‘The epicene is hardly eating anything’, he sniggered indicating Pansy, ‘Anorexia, huh? – Like a damn female!’ ‘The name is Pansy, not epicene’, Vixen reminded. ‘Viola tricolor hortensis’, Pansy said in a matter-of-fact manner. ‘Yep, you’ll soon die of stem rot, like that ridiculous flower, your namesake’, Wolfman unleashed his crude sense of humour. ‘And you (will die) of testosterone poisoning’, Pansy said unperturbed. Vixen laughed aloud. Angel desperately tried to suppress a giggle. Wolfman glared at her and she flinched. Vixen addressed Angel, ‘Dear, there is a vacancy for the post of secretary in the firm. Would you be interested?’ ‘She ain’t no working class woman, you understand. She needn’t do no job’, Wolfman said immediately. ‘Are you her mouthpiece, WWF guy?’ breathed Vixen irked, ‘….And as far as working is concerned….she works hard enough at home for no pay’. Wolfman was at a loss for argument, therefore, he just said, ‘Shut up, wannabe matriarch!’
‘Cut the crap, presumed patriarch!’
‘Clamp shut, you arrogant b****!’
‘Stop it, you ridiculous Rambo!’
‘Audacious crippled bitch’, Wolfman murmured under his breath. However, his words boomed and reverberated through out the room. Then there was silence and stillness. Vixen became a Madame Tussaud’s wax statue. ‘Damn you Wolfman! ….Bite your tongue’, Pansy shouted angrily. Wolfman left the room. Pansy gently escorted a stultified Vixen to her room.
Left alone in the dining room, Angel looked around her stealthily. She ate a whole lamb and then burped aloud, satiated after having starved herself for half a day. That afternoon she had the strangest dream, which in the manner of all dreams didn’t adhere fully to waking logic. She seemed to be filled with gargantuan hate…’Animus’ she seemed to be calling that feeling that was brimming inside her…’Animus’ suddenly became a rogue elephant that was running berserk on the streets…she wasn’t afraid…the creature was a part of herself, after all…it wouldn’t harm everyone….it knew its target….Animus came close….it had Angel’s face and was running after Wolfman, trampling him with all the might of its rage. Angel woke up and sat upright. She sat that way for a while.
Vixen’s mind was ticking. So this is what Wolfman was all about. An individual who hated her because she was a physically challenged woman. More so because she was a successful physically challenged woman. ‘Guess I was better off loving the guy who had a kink for my plastic leg…’ she sighed. Then she dozed off.
‘That horrible boor!’ Pansy was shaking his head in sad disgust. ‘Imagine hurting a close friend like this, after all these years of living on the same tree. And to imagine I had loved him!’
To break the tension in the air, they went to the mall that evening. Vixen bought herself yet another latex suit- the tightest that she could find to squeeze the recent pain she had experienced out of her body. Angel purchased new curlers, Wolfman- hoards of whiskey and Pansy; a pair of slim jeans to make him look fish hipped and all. All our characters had stuck to their typicality- at least until now. Than something happened that broke these characters’ typicality- a new twist where the four wrenched free of the stereotypes of their own nature.
The foursome got trapped in the elevator. There was a power-cut as well. It was during this situation that their appearances were volte-faced and their sub-conscious ‘atypical’ traits surfaced.
On talking terms again, they decided it was time they returned home. They had been shopping on the seventh floor and decided to take the elevator. ‘It would be good for Vixen’, Wolfman said- his style of offering an apology. Vixen half-nodded. ‘Convenient for all of us for that matter…’ Pansy chipped in cheerfully. Angel’s mind was somewhere in the ethosphere. She was still thinking of her post-siesta dream. The foursome stepped in one after another.
The elevator stopped mid-way and the lights conked out all of a sudden.
The state of suspension lasted for seconds….seconds turned into minutes. The fact was alarming and inescapable- they were trapped.
Heavens knows for how many minutes…hours….days???
Pansy felt a body go limp against him. He switched on his pocket flash light. Vixen had fainted- from the lack of air, fright, the recent emotional strain. No doubt, the ultra- tight latex suit too had made its contribution.
Angel had taken one stiletto off and was energetically trying to wedge the door open and was simultaneously shouting for help. ‘Do you have a cell phone?’ she asked Pansy. Her manner was practical and her query reflected good common sense. Pansy shook his head. ‘Damn! We can’t even phone for help’, Angel stamped her foot in frustration.
‘The alarm button’, Pansy brightened. Let us find it. He and Angel fumbled for it in the inadequate beam of the tiny flashlight. Even that went dim and diminished fully in a jiffy.
At that moment, they heard a tormented blood-curdling howl and a gigantic thud. Both of them wondered if there had been a minor earthquake. It took Pansy and Angel a moment to realize that the ‘Animal in Agony’ cry had come from Wolfman. He had sunk to the floor and was trembling and crying loudly.
‘Hush, you cad’, Angel hissed angrily and aimed a kick at him. She couldn’t believe she had let this inconsequential sissy rule her all there years. The sharp heel of her shoe caught him on the jaw and he yelled louder.
Pansy was worried about the still unconscious Vixen. ‘Do you have a bottle of water in your handbag?’ he asked hopefully. ‘No, I don’t…’ Angel shook her head with regret and not wanting to waste a moment proceeded to search for the alarm button.
Her perseverance was rewarded. She succeeded. Then everything happened at once. Vixen had come around with mouth to mouth resuscitation. The elevator door opened. Wolfman was still cowering in a corner. His face looked blanched.
Vixen was still a little dazed and Pansy decided to carry her- just for the luxury of it. He was touched by how vulnerable he looked at the moment- like a flower (A notable contrast to the un-humanly strong super-woman image she liked to show the world). Yes, she was a flower- his flower. He gently fanned her cheek with his eyelashes. Vixen relaxed for the first time in her life.
At this juncture, Mama Vixen thought of making an appearance to warn her daughter of men and their vile, deceitful ways. But another look at the glowing, beautiful couple and she decided against it.
Pansy took the wheel and seated Vixen by his side. They smiled dreamily at each other. Angel roughly dragged Wolfman, forced him in o the rear seat and banged the door shut with a vengeance. Then she got in herself- with purpose. She couldn’t stop gnashing her teeth and swearing at him through the course of the drive to the tree house.
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