Thud! The sound carried over the distance through the dewy early morning air that was otherwise silent and drowsy in that pre-dawn stupor. It had hit the damn tree again. The only reason Priya didn’t burst into tears was because she was hopping mad.
“That was good, no, Chellam?” said her mother, the eternal cheerleader. Priya could have rolled around in mud, ignored personal hygiene and acted like a demented banshee having a bad day and her mother would still have said, “my Chellam, so good!”. On a normal day she would have just ignored it, but today was not a normal day. Today, she gritted her teeth and yelled back,” No, Ma. That was NOT good. It is supposed to clear the tree and come back!” as she walked towards the tree to retrieve her boomerang. To which of course her mother said, “Oh! That’s OK, Chellam. You will get it!”

By the time she got back, her mother had gone back inside with the milk can, leaving Lakshmi and Rani to stare accusingly at her while chewing their cud.

“Oh don’t even think of giving me that look. You know you bumped her into the dung last week, because she kept saying, “Just one more drop, Lukkuma. You can do it!” with every squeeze.”

Lakshmi kept chewing cud and glared imperturbably at her.

“Besides, she doesn’t understand. The records people are coming TODAY. I HAVE to clear the damn tree. That is the 1,500 ft mark. It will be the world record!” Priya said, her voice raising to a squeak at the end.

Lakshmi burped and Rani wagged her ears disturbing the flies camped there, still looking unperturbed.

“You are right”, she said. “I need to be calm. I will be calm. I can do it, ” she straightened her shoulders and nodded and caught sight of her mother at the kitchen window, grinning at her. The calming breath she held came out in a huff. She shook her head to clear it and took her stance. Her left leg firm in front of her, right on the line. She lifted her left arm to point out at the tree and the horizon further out. She raised her right arm, lifted her right leg and….flick. The wedge of wood, she had whittled and polished and slaved over, flew, almost gracefully. It cleared the tree soaring high above the tallest branch and came right back at her making a ‘whup, whup, whup’ noise. She took a half step to the right and made a clean catch, hearing nothing but the whiz of the air, and feeling nothing but the comforting weight and smoothness of the wood. Then the sound rushed in and she heard her mother squealing and clapping and running to her and she grinned and ran and hugged her, hopping together in glee while the cows started at them with the same bovine disdain they always had.

“You did it! Hooray!!” said her mother, sounding like Dora, the explorer with an Indian accent.


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