He didn’t realize he killed the engine. The deep-red-coloured-stuffed-heart dangling from the key chain swung violently as he stepped out of the car. The beach wore a deserted look, as expected. He couldn’t have noticed if a dinosaur roared past him in that night drenched in darkness. His eyes were blinded by tears. He floated against the bellowing winds, digging his foot deep into the loosely compressed sands, as if his entire being swam into the bottom of the sea and sprung back with every step. He let the waves drench his foot, then his knees and then his favourite pen resting against the top of his shirt pocket.
“Heyy! Yo motherff…”
He heard the desperate voice behind him feebly. Bobby had forcefully dragged him to the shore, half swimming and half walking.
“HEY? HOW? EFFFF YOU CLOWN,” he stuttered mindlessly.
“How dare you use these words at me, you little fly?”
He could barely make out the words. He simply knew that they came from the short figure in front of him, who just delivered a thumping slap across his cheeks. He stood blinking, shocked, unsure, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands. A man, about four feet tall, aged anywhere between 35 and 65 emerged from the bokeh image captured by his stirred retina.
“What? Some girl friend of yours ditched you? Fool! What is your name?” The dwarf asked.
“Ramesh,” he mumbled, “Who are you?” He asked, bending his neck, suggestively.
“I’m Bobby. Which class?”
“My best friend stole the money I had saved up for college,” Ramesh broke down suddenly, much to his own annoyance, adding, “I would have given the damned money to him had he asked for it.”
The buzz of the wind and the crashing waves filled the silence that hovered uncomfortably between them.
“Are you a mechanic?”
“Strange. I aspired to join Mechanical Engineering, until, of course, you know it. Never mind. Have you ever been to a college? What am I asking, have you ever had a friend?”
“Did you steal the car?”
“Oh, that. My friend works in a garage. Now, go on, piss me off, sir,” Ramesh asked, regaining his cocky composure.
“You insist? All right. You see, suicide is still a crime in this country. If the car is yours…and now that you are alive, you either face a year of imprisonment or a tag of insanity. Your pick? And, you say the car is your friend’s? He will be sent to jail if you die here, charged with murder, of course,” Bobby said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Wait. Are you a vakeel? You know, I have never seen a lawyer so short in my life time!”
“Your cheek’s swollen like a tomato, did you know?” asked Bobby, smiling broadly, revealing his pearly white set of teeth.
Recovering from the embarrassment, Ramesh asked slyly, “Speaking of which, how did you reach up to my face? I am twice your height, if not more.”
“I have been a part of a travelling circus troupe for 20 years.”
Ramesh clapped his hands together in amusement. “I knew! I so knew. I can picture you with the conical hat and the colourful costume!” he said, and clutched the back of his head in pain.
“Oh man, stop it. You can’t hit me like that. What is with you? Tell me about your adventures,” said Ramesh excitedly.
“I was sold to the circus by a friend.”
The silence now lay flat between them comfortably for a few minutes. Bobby sat on the wet sand and stretched his stunted legs, crossing his arms against the chest.
“A friend? Why would he sell you?” Ramesh asked softly.
“He wanted to gift some gold jewelry for a family function.”
“Brutal. Did you ever accost him after that?”
“I killed him.”
“WHAT? Are you crazy? Did the police arrest you?”
“No. I brought him here on another friend’s bike. He got caught, ol’ chap. He didn’t mind going to jail as long as he was fed, mind you. Nobody would have believed if I said I could drive a motor bike, anyway” Bobby noted, with a touch of pride, eyeing him from the corner of his eyes.
“You killed him, here?” Ramesh asked nervously.
“Right where you were standing a while back,” Bobby chuckled. Ramesh couldn’t help noticing the full mouthed smile of his savior, it did not belong to a happy soul.
“Nothing justifies your friend’s act, but you needn’t have killed him, not to forget the other guy who bore the brunt of your actions.”
“Whoa! Ring master, are we bonding over unrequited friendships? Listen kid, there are no friends. There are people, there are needs. Sometimes they are mutual, at other, they are just selfish. Nobody cares, really,” Bobby said derisively.
“You met one bad person and here you are!”
“Well, amusingly, here you are too, kid.”
“OK. I was wrong. I admit I’d lost sense. I shouldn’t have been here. But, look at the bright side, you met me!”
“I have been to this beach a million times. I have never seen a soul at this hour, till now. Tell me, why were you here tonight, sir?”
“To try some back flips, for old times’ sake.”
“See? This can’t be a coincidence, sir?”
“Call me Bobby.”
“Yes, Bobby. Bobby, sir. Can you show me how to do it? I will show it off to that ugly son of a…thief.”
“You can’t do it, Ramesh.”
“You don’t know me! I am a quick learner,” Ramesh protested.
“As you wish,” muttered Bobby.
Ramesh guffawed awkwardly, wondering at the peculiarity of it all. Bobby was stretching his stout and flexible arms and legs, trying to make room for what seemed like a risky stunt.
“Don’t go that far, Bobby sir, how will I see you, tell me?” Ramesh yelled, as he caught the blurred image of Bobby.
“Sir? Bobby sir? Bobby? Shorty? Clown? He called out in a pleading tone, searching back and forth. He sensed a strange tranquility all around.
“Here you are, li’l Bobby!” said Ramesh delightedly, sighting the four-foot-tall figure, escalating from the sea.
“Nooooo!” he cried and stumbled backwards, as the wave grew rapidly before his eyes. The deep-red-coloured-stuffed-heart key chain popped out of his pant pocket.