ONCE BITTEN TWICE SHY
Fiction Short Story
Dear Reader, I urge you not to read this story. I think it is one of my worst fiction short stories – an example of my inchoate and amateurish attempts at writing.
I wrote this rubbish sometime in the 1990’s, I think, when you traveled to Goa by those delightful metre-gauge trains winding their way down from Londa past the cascading Dudhsagar falls to Vasco.
I wonder what genre one can call this. Pulp Fiction…?
Maybe ‘Junk Fiction’ is more apt…!
I’ve warned you – Now, My Dear Reader, if you still want to read this bizarre, preposterous story, go ahead, do so at your own peril. Have a laugh…and don’t forget the brickbats, and bouquets too – as always, I value your feedback.
PART 1 – ONCE BITTEN
I looked thoughtfully, with nostalgia and pride, at the words inscribed on the brass plaque I held in my hand:
“The first time you slap me it is your fault…
The second time you slap me it is my fault.”
This engraved plaque was the only item I had brought with me from my old office in Pune. I had now made it big time. A top job in a prestigious firm in
I gave the brass plaque to Suhas and told him to hang it on the wall. For added effect, I loudly recited the words – a Chinese proverb – again and again.
The first impression is a lasting one. I wanted to project myself as a tough guy, and had dramatically succeeded. I had totally intimidated Suhas into submission. He had never expected that I would order him to drive me from the airport straight to office on a Sunday, get the office opened, and brief me in detail.
Suhas had been one of the aspirants for the chair I was sitting on; now he would be my deputy. If he was disappointed at not being promoted, he did not show it. After all, he had worked for ten years in the same firm and surely did not like an outsider like me thrust upon him.
As I stroked my beard, I looked appraisingly at Suhas. True to his name he had a sweet pleasant smile. But he looked a weakling – one of those suave, slimy, effeminate characters that adorn the corporate world – a soft-spoken, clean-shaven, ingratiating sissy with an almost feminine voice and carefully cultivated mannerisms as if he had been trained in a finishing school. Suhas had no masculinity, no manliness about him. He was one of those cissy types who were bullied and ragged at school and college. In my mind’s eye I smiled to myself at my excellent assessment.
Suhas handed me an invitation card and stammered, “Sir, an invitation for the New Year Eve party tonight.”
I was genuinely pleased and gave him an appreciative smile. In my euphoria I had almost forgotten the date.
Eager-Beaver and sycophant that he was, Suresh had organized a partner for me. Anita. A young executive anxious to please the boss. Anita was openly showing her willingness to get involved with me. A pity. I was not interested. She was not my type of woman. Anita was one of those synthetic beauties; pleasing to look at but not exciting to embrace. Dainty, delicate, perfectly poised, petite, precise, prim and proper. Her make-up perfect and exact, she looked like an artificial doll – optimally designed, precisely engineered and finished to perfection. Her actions appeared carefully contrived; there was no spontaneity about her. That vital spark of sensuality was missing. I could see that she had titivated for me, but I was not titillated. I liked voluptuous, sensual, earthy women – the rough-and-ready kind. As we danced she pressed against me in desperate appeal. I was not stirred. She was too simulated to stimulate me.
I signaled to Suhas who rescued me. I picked up a drink and took up a strong tactical position with my back to the wall. I looked at Anita – Good from Far, but, Far from Good. I smiled to myself. I sipped my drink, lit a cigarette, and looked at the entrance.
I saw her almost at once. She radiated an extraordinary sensuousness of a degree I had never experienced before. The impact was so overwhelming that I was instantly aroused and consumed with desire. She could not have made her body more inviting. There was nothing delicate about her. Plump and lusty, she oozed raw sexuality. I ached with desire and drank her in with my eyes insatiably.
“Enjoying the party, Sir” Suhas had followed my transfixed gaze and guessed what was on my mind. “That dish is Menaka. She’s a hot-shot executive in our main competitor. Let me formally introduce you.”
“No,” I said, “not now.”
Politeness is a pleasant way for a man to get nowhere with a woman.
Suhas got the hint and left me alone. My hungry eyes locked on to Menaka. I was feasting my eyes on her captivating face when she suddenly turned and glanced at me. Our eyes met. She looked at me for that moment longer, and with a curious smile, she turned back to her group.
I kept my eyes on her, looking steadily and directly; trying to transmit and project my thought-waves of passionate yearning. She adjusted her stance slightly, probably to observe me through the corner of her eye. Her gestures indicated that I had succeeded in disturbing the equilibrium of her personal inner comfort zone. I was thrilled with anticipation.
Suddenly she excused herself from her group, walked towards a secluded corner, turned and looked directly towards me. She held my gaze in a kind of challenge, there was a lengthy pause, and then she smiled. There was a conspiratorial look in her expressive eyes; at once inviting and taunting. She teased me with her eyes. My stimulus had evoked a response.
Encouraged by her enthusiastic response, I indulged myself lavishly. I made love to her with my eyes. She responded with unrestrained zeal; exhilaration pouring out of her eyes. As our mutual visual interplay became intense, I could clearly decipher the language in her eyes. I did not require the power of clairvoyance to look into the province of her mind; to read her thoughts. I boldly walked up to her and asked her for a dance. As I led her onto the dance-floor, I realized that every man, who was a man, was hungrily ogling at her. I felt the natural pride of possession that any man feels when he has the company of a woman that other men desire.
We danced continuously, without break. I held her tightly. She let her body rub against mine. Suddenly, the lights went off. Someone announced, “One minute left for the New Year.”
It was pitch-dark. The dance-floor was packed with bodies. I locked Menaka in a passionate embrace. Intoxicated by the aroma of her natural scent, I caressed her neck with my tongue. Her skin was moist with sweat. She sighed and her breathing became heavy and rapid. I kissed her warm mouth, a fervent passionate kiss. She kissed me back, most eagerly and amorously. As our tongues intertwined I could taste the fresh flavour of her mouthwash mixed with her hot saliva. We were luxuriating in a wave of sensuality which had engulfed us when the lights were suddenly switched on. Everyone seemed to have gone berserk – shouting “Happy New Year” at the top of their voices, and hooters, whistles, horns, drums, shouts raising the noise level to a deafening din.
“Happy New Year,” it was Suhas. He was quite drunk. Anita was standing next to him – her hurt evident in her eyes.
Before I realized it, Menaka had quickly disengaged and walked away. I was too confused to react. Anita pulled me to dance. She still hadn’t given up hopes. I kissed her on the cheeks, wished her a Happy New Year, and joined in the merrymaking. It was only after a considerable amount of time that I noticed that Suhas had disappeared.
It took me a week to sink my teeth into my new assignment. I worked hard. My first vital challenge was to win a huge software development contract with a multinational company. It was a prestigious contract. A large number of firms would be vying for it. It was imperative that I succeeded in winning it – to establish my credentials and prove my worth. The primary reason I had been appointed to the top post was owing to my expertise and track record in this area. My professional reputation was at stake. By the end of the week I had my proposal ready. I kept just one hard copy – no soft copies – for I believe that one should not store anything in a computer that one cannot display on a public notice board.
But my being busy at work was not the only reason that I had not contacted Menaka. I had not forgotten the sensuality of her body. During nights, as I lay awake in bed, I desperately yearned for her and I felt like a volcano without eruption.
I purposely did not make the first move. I didn’t want her to think I was desperate and grovel before her. I had ardently communicated my unspoken intentions to her on New Year’s Eve – if she wanted me, she’d contact me.
One day, while I was working in my plush office, suddenly my phone rang. It was Menaka. I felt a tremor of anticipation. She invited me to lunch at a nearby restaurant. I accepted.
Menaka was waiting for me outside the restaurant. She was dressed in a full-sleeved blouse and a heavy formal blue silk sari. It was hot. The fabric of her blouse around her armpits was wet with sweat. She looked and smelt natural. No attempt to camouflage her raw steamy sensuousness behind the synthetic mask of make-up and deodorants. Raw steamy sensuousness – that’s what I liked about her. It stimulated me and attracted me towards her.
As we sipped chilled beer, I found that she was easy to talk to. I had a strange feeling of elation. In these moods there was so much to say, the words simply came tumbling out. I told her everything about myself. In hindsight, I realize that she hardly told me anything about herself.
We met often during the next few days, arranging rendezvous in restaurants and our club. She tantalized me. But she did not let me go all the way. A bit of petting, necking, fondling, caressing, hugging, kissing, cuddling – it was okay. But there she drew the line. She never invited me home nor talked about her personal things. At first I was patient. No point hurrying up or forcing things. I did not want to lose her. There is a time to let things happen and a time to make things happen. I thought I would let things happen. But the more I met her, the more the desire began building up in me. The time had come to make things happen. I was wondering what strategy I should adopt when Suhas interrupted me, “Drying a divorcee’s tears is one of the most dangerous pastimes known to man.”
I tried to hide my surprise and regain my composure. I certainly wasn’t interested in drying Menaka’s tears!
“I didn’t know she is a divorcee,” I said truthfully. “In any case it’s a purely platonic friendship.”
“All such platonic relationships have a potential to culminate into affairs,” Suhas pontificated.
I was getting angry now. Surely I didn’t need a lecture on how to handle women from this prissy effeminate sissy.
He sensed my feelings and pleaded, “The office grapevine is pulsating with juicy rumors about your romance with Menaka. Such liaisons can be dangerous. She is working for our rival firm which is competing for the vital contract.”
This was news to me. Menaka hadn’t mentioned the contract. I looked innocently at Suhas. I would have to be careful with this Nosey Parker around.
One evening I was stunned when Menaka suddenly walked into my office. I had not bargained for this unexpected situation at all. It was one thing to meet Menaka in some restaurant or club. It was quite another thing to have her show up bold as brass at my office; it was embarrassing and downright dangerous.
“Don’t worry, everyone has gone home,” Menaka said and came around my desk and stood close to me. I was sitting on my swivel-chair working on the computer. I swiveled my chair around. Her silky smooth stomach was inches from my face. I sensed the beginnings of the experience which had been eluding me. I was tremendously excited, yet frightened. Even the improbability of the situation made me slightly incredulous and cautious. But I could not control myself and animal instinct took charge of me. I clasped her hips and buried my face in her stomach, and we both were going wildly berserk when suddenly the door opened and Suhas walked in.
A few moments later, as I sat in Suhas’s office trying to regain my composure, I realized that Suhas had not spoken a word, and was totally ignoring me. He was sitting quietly, ostensibly engrossed in work. The nuance wasn’t lost on me.
I had left Menaka in my office to tidy up. I wondered what effect this episode would have on her.
Suddenly an ominous thought entered my mind and I was overcome by a strange foreboding. I rushed to my office. Menaka had disappeared. I yanked open my desk drawer. I broke into cold sweat. My premonition had come true – the vital file was missing.
Disgraced, accused of moral turpitude and disloyalty, I resigned my job and left
forever, under a cloud of shame, a discredited man. Needless to say, Suhas walked into my job. Bangalore
PART2 – TWICE SHY
But I was not one to wallow in despondency for long. I put the episode behind me and went on a sabbatical. Interestingly, I found my true métier in the world of academics. I bounced back into life with vigor and zeal. I started teaching and, in a couple of years, was heading my own computer training institute.
Five years later, I stood on the platform of Pune Railway Station and scanned the passenger list on the reservation chart. No matter how many times I begin a train journey; there is always an intriguing interest in seeing who one’s follow-passengers are. I was on berth number 27. Berth number 28 was reserved in the name of a Mrs. M. Rao, Age 35. All others in the vicinity were males. A disappointment. I always wondered why all the good chicks were in other trains, other compartments. Let’s hope this Mrs. Rao was worth a look, at least.
When Mrs. Rao entered and sat down opposite me, I was dumbstruck. It was Menaka. She gave me a warm smile and started talking of me as if she were expecting me. Her behaviour was natural, as if she had fixed up a rendezvous with me here on the train. No guilt, no regret, no remorse. There was absolutely no trace of surprise at seeing me evident on her face. She had blossomed. Her beauty had enhanced with age.
“I was looking forward to meeting you, “she said looking directly into my eyes. “It’s good they organized the seminar in
Goa. We shall enjoy ourselves. And, of course, finish our unfinished business. It’s so exciting!”
I couldn’t believe my ears and cannot begin to describe my emotions I felt. At once, I hated her for the way she had played with me, used me, and tossed me by the wayside; at the same time she evoked within me the familiar stirrings of passion. But I knew it was dangerous, so I decided to steer clear of her – once bitten, twice shy
I avoided talking to Menaka, snubbed her when she tried to start a conversation, pretended to read and we traveled in silence on the broad-gauge train from Pune to Miraj, where we would change over to the connecting metre-gauge express to
Goa. Hopefully, Menaka would get seat away from me.
In the evening, just before Miraj, the train conductor arrived and said, “There is no air-conditioned service on the metre-gauge overnight train from Miraj to Vasco Da Gama. You will have to travel first class.”
“Both of us are together. Give us a coupe,” Menaka said.
I was tongue-tied.
“Yes, Madam. Coach F-1, coupe compartment D,” the train conductor gave me a canny look, and said in railway lingo, “This train reaches Miraj at 2000 hrs. The connecting train leaves at 2030.”
Menaka sat down close to me on the berth of the coupe of the metre-gauge train. The compartment’s smallness forced us into such an intimacy that I could not control myself when she made her move.
She made love to me with a professional’s skill and an amateur’s enthusiasm. Making love in a speeding metre-gauge train was an awesome experience. As the train rocked and sped through the night, we went crazy with passion, and she did not let me rest, but brought me back to her each time I tried to slide away from her, exhausted.
In the next two weeks, I realized the wildest of my fantasies with her. We made love to each other in all possible ways, at all possible places.
Later, as I lay next to her on the wet sand in a secluded corner of the beach, intoxicated with ‘feni’, I felt exhausted, drained and gratified. “Enough is enough”, I said to myself and I decided to leave quietly next morning.
Six months later I had a surprise visitor. Anita. She had a parcel for me. I opened it. There was a ‘Thank-you’ card from Menaka. There was also the brass plaque with the Chinese proverb which I had forgotten in my
office. I was baffled, nonplussed. Bangalore
“Tell me Anita, who is this Rao that Menaka remarried. Or is it her first husband’s surname. Or maiden name.”
Anita burst out laughing, “She married Suhas. Suhas Rao. Your ex-deputy. Have you forgotten him?”
I felt angry, betrayed. Suhas Rao. That effete womanish softy. He was hardly man enough for her. What a mismatch. She needed a real man; a strong, virile, potent man like me.
Seeing the look on my face, Anita spoke quickly, “Suhas and Menaka got married soon after you left. Now they have set up their own firm. I work for them.” She abruptly stopped speaking. I could sense her hesitation. But I wanted to know why Menaka had sent Anita to me. It was an intriguing mystery.
“Go on,” I said. “Tell me everything.”
Anita gave me a curious look and said, “Menaka is pregnant. For the first time. She was trying desperately all these years. I am so happy for her. The baby is due in another three months time.”
Comprehension dawned on me pretty fast. Anita need not have spelt it out to me. I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Menaka had used me again, for the second time, to realize her goal and then cast me aside. She had “slapped” me again!
But was it a slap? Had she slapped me for the second time? I don’t know. I truly don’t know. And I don’t care. I picked up the brass plaque, looked at it nostalgically for the last time, and tossed it out of the window. No more proverbs for me.
“Convey my congratulations and best wishes to Menaka,” I said genuinely to Anita. “Tell her I am eagerly waiting for the next rendezvous with her. Whenever she wants me, wherever she wants me, any time, any place, I’ll be there at her service.”
Ten years have passed since – ten long years. Often I think of Menaka, yearn for her, and wonder when I am going to have my next rendezvous with her. Yes, I eagerly await her third slap…
ONCE BITTEN TWICE SHY
Fiction Short Story
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.