It wasn’t just another ordinary day. Mikey knew it from the very start. Loud noisy argument between his parents woke him up. His parents were arguing over who would take him to the dentist. He wasn’t sure what worried him more – to be woken up, his parents having a fight or the prospects of his going to the dentist. Whatever it was he was sure this wouldn’t be the best day of his life. He put the pillow over his ears and tried to go back to sleep.
‘Mehtas’ had moved to New York just a year short of the 21st century. Rohit had been offered a job in Microsoft as a software developer. Latika wasn’t too keen to shift. She was emotionally attached to their house at Bangalore. She, being an interior designer herself had painstakingly decorated every nook and corner of the house. She never joined a job. Rohit never insisted and neither did they need it. Mikey had joined the school which was just two blocks away. She was happy with the routine and the predictable life.
But, that was two years ago. A lot had changed since they moved to New York. Mikul had become Mikey as his American friends in the 3rd grade preferred to call him. Latika had started working herself, driven by the growing needs and a higher cost of living. Rohit and Latika fought a lot more. And…Mikey’s teeth had developed cavities.
‘Don’t be so insensitive, Rohit!’ pleaded Latika. The frustration showed in the tone of her voice. ‘You Know I can’t possibly take leave now. It’s been just a month since I have joined the job!’
‘So quit’, retorted Rohit as he threw his wet towel on the bed,’
Latika ignored his comments and the towel on the bed.
‘Don’t start that now. You know we can’t afford to do that. But then that’s not the point. We need to decide who takes Mikey to the dentist? I need to go to the office now. Your breakfast is on the table.
“Well, thanks” said Rohit full of sarcasm as he struggled with his tie.
Latika ignored the sarcasm and her maternal instinct to help Rohit with his tie.
“Mikey!!” she called aloud. This time the tone was full of warning of immediate retribution.
Mikey grudgingly climbed down the stairs dragging his best friend ‘Spidey’. Spidey, the stuffed Spiderman toy was as tall as Mikey himself. Both Mikey and his brave ‘Spidey’ were full of worry.
Latika continued the monologue with Rohit as she dragged Mikey into the bathroom. ‘Spidey’ meekly followed.
Latika’s loud monologues petered into grumbles occasionally spiked by irritated shouts at Mikey. Her last words’ saying she was leaving, was drowned by the banging of the door. Banging of the door voiced months of frustration and bickering. Banging of the door was also a failed attempt of Latika to put all the problems behind as she moved to another day full of impatient clients and ever demanding boss. Exit of Latika left an awkward silence, which neither Rohit nor Mikey could break.
The silence was broken by an unnecessary grumble by Rohit, “Why don’t you brush your teeth properly. You would have saved us so much of trouble.
Mikey wanted to protest but decided against it keeping the prevailing situation in mind. He however failed to comprehend how his decaying teeth were a problem for his father. It was he who would have to bear the brunt of unforgiving dental drill and be pierced by the horrifying needles. He imagined himself being strapped to the dental chair while the dentist who looked more like a monster with eight arms each holding menacing equipment designed to induce unimaginable physical pain. He wanted to scream but no sound seemed to escape his parched throat. He shuddered at the very prospect of going to the dentist.
“…and, I promise you I will throw all those bars of chocolates and candies”, grumbled Rohit as he packed his laptop into the worn out leather case.
Mikey knew his father was not in a state of mind to consider amicable solution to the situation. His feeble attempt to pledge good conduct in the future was neither said with the required conviction nor the with sufficient decibel level to be acknowledged by Rohit. Mikey gaped with dread and despair at the bleak future prospects as his father bit into the over toasted slice of bread. He had even lost the chance of gaining pardon by offering sacrifice of his treasure of chocolate (which as it is, was being thrown away).
Today Mikey was not the least worried of losing his prized treasures nor of the reprehensible and wasteful action of throwing the selected assortment of chocolates and candies only to be eaten by ants and flies located at the lowest rung of the food chain. Today he was petrified for his own life’s sake. He wanted to go back in time and brush his teeth three time a day, and keep a dissuading distance between himself and the chocolates.
Today, he needed a miracle.
“Don’t just sit there like a zombie, Mikey, finish your breakfast” growled Rohit.
Mikey gulped the last few flakes of corn, reluctantly. The impending doom was triggering panic thoughts in his mind full of fantasies. Today he needed God to come to his rescue as he always did in the fairy tale stories.
Mikey was in a state of disbelief as his father struggled to lock the door with one hand while clutching him with the other. Mickey’s mind raced as he looked for opportunities to wriggle out of this impossible situation.
Rohit had already pressed the ground floor button on the control panel of the lift. As the countdown on the display of the lift raced to the ground floor, Mikey knew his time was running out.
“Well, God”, muttered Mikey, “If you are waiting for the opportune moment to save me, it is NOW!” The lift opened and the moment was lost. Mikey was disappointed. All he wanted was to be granted his set of three wishes…Just the standard offer of three wishes”.
Rohit dragged Mikey past the watchman. He was watching the news on the cable. Mikey wished (the first wish) that the watchman would stop his father from moving out of the apartments because there was a storm warning, looking at the bright sunny weather this did not seem a likely possibility. But then God has his ways and he wants to help somebody, who knows, anything could happen.
Just when Rohit was at the exit gate, he heard the watchman call for him. Mikey’s heart soared. He was about to witness a miracle.
The watchman came out from behind his desk and walked up to Rohit. He produced a slip of paper from his breast pocket. Mikey was surprised with the ways of God. Why did he have to make the watchman give a written warning when a mere mention of an approaching storm would have done the trick? Mikey, however approved the theatrics employed as a written warning surely would have a greater effect.
Smile on Mikey’s face turned brighter as he watched the frown on his father’s face turn darker. The storm was coming. Mikey was the seeing dark cloud around the silver lining.
It did not last long. Rohit thanked the watchman and pulled Mikey out into the bright sunny day.
“Aren’t we going to get back in the house?
“Why?” Rohit asked bewildered.
“Isn’t a storm coming?” Persisted Mikey determined to fight till the end.
“No!” shouted Rohit, clearly astounded by the sheer disconnect of the query.
“Then, tell me what was written on that note which the watchman just gave you?” persisted Mikey. “Wasn’t it a storm warning?”
“No, it wasn’t a storm warning” explained Rohit in a calm tone keeping an extreme control on his temper, “It was a note from your mother saying that the appointment has been delayed. Now, I will have to take you all the way to her office. She would be taking you to the dentist.”
“Now hurry up” said Rohit as he dragged Mikey to the waiting cab. Mikey followed meekly just like ‘Spidey’.
Mikey was disappointed but hadn’t given up. Even though the dark clouds had failed him, there was a silver lining. At least, the appointment was delayed. God had given him more time. ‘Things would work out’ he remembered his mother saying that so many times when he was sad…Things always work out. And he still had two more wishes to try.
‘Just one wish…’ thought Mikey as he stared out of the closed window of the speeding cab.
Mikey watched as his father in no time was feverishly working on his laptop while he spoke to his ‘only friend’ – the cellphone through the Bluetooth. He for once was not troubled by the curiosity as the primordial question, as to why that black little thing in his father’s ear, which was neither ‘blue’ or a ‘tooth’ was called a Bluetooth. Mikey was enough to understand, that there is a time for everything.
Mikey shelved the idea of any negotiation and tantrums of a child so as to sway his father from this suicidal plan. There was an unmistakable irritation in his father’s tone. A menacing frown on Rohit’s brows further deterred Mikey from such a misadventure. The frown seemed to cut deeper with the additional burden of Mikey’s visit to the dentist on a week day. Mikey was sure all that his father wanted was to drop him at his Mother’s office and ‘get free’. Mikey’s mind was racing. Time was running out as the cab moved closer to its destination and Mikey’s doom. That’s when Mikey made his second wish. He made a wish and his mind worked out the elaborate possibilities full of juvenile fantasies. He wished to God (his second wish) … Let there be a major traffic jam which would delay them long enough to miss the appointment with the dentist.
Mikey’s mind, worked out the many possibilities. He imagined a big bus breaking down in the middle of the intersection. The sudden break down would trigger a massive pile up of speeding cars stretching over a mile on either sides. Any attempt to extricate the ‘Mammoth’ would be defeated as all approach would be blocked by the converging traffic of the ‘office goers’. The ensuing delay was going to save him today. Mikey felt sure … if only the gods would conspire.
The cab took a turn to merge into the busiest morning traffic. Things were turning favourable. Rohit paused to look at the dismal row of waiting rush hour traffic, cursed the crawling traffic and resumed his work on the laptop. He failed to notice the future shaping upto Mikey’s plan.
It was working. Mikey craned his neck to spot a bus, a big one would be better, to seal the deal. C’mon God…just a Big Bus!?!
After a few anxious minutes he saw a bus approaching the intersection. It was on his right side, closer to the window on Rohit’s side. He kept his fingers crossed and for some strange reason wished that his father should not spot it. The cab drew closer to the crossing as did the bus. It was a BIG BUS.
As both the stream of traffic from either side waited patiently for the lights to turn green, Mikey saw there was a flaw in his plan. What if the cab crossed the intersection before the bus? All the breakdown of the bus and the ensuing traffic jam would be in vain.
His heart started pounding as the cab and the bus were both the first in line on either side to step into the intersection. The driver of both the vehicles revved up their engine in anticipation. His life for once depended on the traffic signal. He closed his eyes and started to pray. And the light turned green. The cab accelerated with the rest of the competing traffic. Mikey’s heart broke as he saw the bus wait at the traffic light. He looked at bus from the rear window. For a moment he met the gaze of the driver – as the soldier left out of the battle.
It was over. The opportunity was lost.
The 110 floor skyscraper loomed large as he stepped out of the cab. Rohit paid the cabbie and grabbed Mikey’s backpack to usher him into the building. His eyes were wide with awe at the marvel of architecture. But presently fear was the predominant feeling as he entered the venue of his final end. The expression “Venue of his final end” seemed ominous, but somehow his vexed mind could not figure anything better.
Rohit was relieved as he spotted Vandana walking towards them. Vandana was a colleague and a friend of Latika.
“Latika is busy. She had asked me to take care of Mikey till she gets free. She told me you would be in a rush.”
Vandana escorted the reluctant Mikey.
Rohit thanked Vandana. Rohit silently thanked Latika for caring for his lack of time despite how they had parted ways today. He decided he would make amends when they met in the evening.
Mikey and Vandana moved towards the grinding teeth of the lift as they opened and closed periodically to devour willing and unknowing swarms of people.
Mikey and Vandana were part of its next meal. It seemed to be groaning and rolling its eyes as it digested the last morsel which had gone till the 100th floor. Mikey was headed to the 80th floor. That’s where his mother worked.
It was 8:45 am. He still had an hour to work out his strategies. But he did not intend to wait that long. He looked up to the countdown of the floors as the lift moved down. The beast was getting ready for its next meal. He looked beyond the beast and talked to his accomplice in the plan…God, we need to act fast!!!
The lift door opened, and a stream of people poured out. Busy and preoccupied, rushing out of the lift and some moving outside the tower. Possibly, blissfully unaware of surviving the beast.
Vandana ushered Mikey into the lift. Mikey was pleasantly relieved to find no molars or an abrasive tongue inside. It was a well-lit cavity with music. Maybe the beast had finished his breakfast and now was feeling like having some relaxed time and doing some good deed of taking people to their place of work.
Mikey wondered if the lift knew of his plan and predicament. Could the beast be a worthy ally? Mikey’s brain raced. Maybe, the beast could for a while or to be more specific for three hours clamp its jaws and retain the present group of the cud. Mikey was banking on the busy schedule of the dentist. Which, as per his mother if once missed is less frequent than the Haley’s Comet.
He searched for a sign from the beast.
“Talk to me, Beast!” said Mikey under his breath. His voice masked by the music for the mobile thumbing mass of humanity. They were inconsequential in this conversation.
The beast creaked, groaned and stopped at the 52nd floor. There was no body at the floor. The beast seemed to pause and think whether to be part of this conspiracy. The jaws open as if in contemplation. The people in the swallow of the beast were getting impatient. They seemed to be poking him to move on. Mikey hated these people for being selfish. Why can’t they see the bigger picture?
The beast stirred conclusively, as if having made a decision. The jaws closed in a determined grit. In a way to show disagreement to be part of Mikey’s plan, the beast started to lumber towards its destination.
The uncooperative jaws opened to the 80th floor. Vandana was speaking on her mobile phone as Mikey moved out with the exodus. He couldn’t find his mother. Panic struck at the core of his existence. For once he stood there all alone, rooted at the exit of the lift, nudged and shoved by the hurrying feet.
Vandana caught up with him and guided him to a glass office. He could see scurry of activity inside. As Vandana swiped her identity tag to swing the automatic door open, Mikey noticed his mother, in one of the glass cubicle. Her hair strands were no longer in place, it was irritating her as it repeatedly fell over her left eye as she worked on her computer.
She got up and took Mikey’s hand, and thanked Vandana. She kissed Mikey on his forehead and made him sit on a sofa next to a huge window. The view was breathtaking. He could see the Hudson River and the milling specks of the traffic on the street.
He knew he had to work out something quick and spectacular. Halfhearted and small time plans would not do. It had to be a bolt from the sky.
That’s when he saw the airliner appear on the sky line. The “bolt from the sky’, the idea seem to light up Mikey’s eye. Why couldn’t he think of this before.
“Well, desperate times call for desperate actions”, said Mikey to his own image on the window glass. “God, this is my last chance…the last wish.
The plan was building up in Mikey’s mind. What if he could use the airplane to hit the beast and break his jaws. Apart from the justice that the beast deserved, it would also stop all the ways to move out of this building. What a master plan. If only God would play along.
Mikey closed his eyes. “God…please “, prayed Mikey.
He opened his eyes full of expectations. He could not believe his eyes, as he saw the airplane changing course and head straight towards the twin tower.
His eyes widened as the airplane closed in on to his tower. His wish was coming true. God was playing the dice…His dice. God was his accomplice.
He couldn’t contain himself. He needed to tell people of the Miracle.
That’s when he felt her mother hand on his shoulder. He turned excitedly.
“Mom!!! Look, it’s….”, his voice trailed as he saw terror in his mother’s eyes.
He turned around to see the airplane. It was close enough for him to see the pilot. He saw the similar terror in the bearded face.