Apocalypse and the Asylum

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Monday 2

The phone call yesterday was not the first time Inora’s grandfather had talked to her about the apocalypse. She vividly remembered all the stories he used to tell her when she was younger. He had so many good ones. There was that one about a hoarder who was being driven insane by monotheism and had to convert to polytheism to survive. There was one about a patients’ revolt in an asylum. And of course, there was the one about the apocalypse, a story which he never got to the end of. That is because it was not just one story but many stories, seemingly unconnected. But her grandfather always insisted that if they managed to proceed far enough with the stories, they might find a common strand. They never managed to do that. At some point, the stories stopped, and the visits dwindled, and now, Inora struggled to visit him once a month.

When she got the call from her grandfather yesterday, and he started talking about the apocalypse again, she wondered if he had finally found that common thread he had been searching for. She listened intently. But it seemed not to have been the case. He ended the phone call abruptly, with a curt warning, “It is finally happening. I have prepared you well.” And the line went dead. Inora called back, spoke to him. Everything sounded fine. Except that he truly believed that the apocalypse was imminent. She did not know how serious his condition was and was not going to be unduly worried.

She rang the doorbell and her father opened the door, “Inny, where are you off to this time?”

She bent over and put Marco down on the floor and he scampered inside. She had called ahead and told her parents she was coming to drop Marco off, and twice reminded them, “This is Inora on the phone.” She did not want a repeat of last night’s mix up. “Just out of town for two days. Covering a story.” She said, as she hugged her father and entered the house. She did not want to alarm her parents about grandfather unnecessarily before she checked up on him herself.

“Inny, come have breakfast with us! Tell her to come have breakfast with us!” Her mother shouted, “Did you hear me? Don’t leave without breakfast! Almost done…I need five min…” And then she yelped and Marco yelled and something porcelain crashed to the ground and Marco came running towards Inora, jumped up on her arms and loudly protested about some injustice that had been done to him.

“Mew mew, mew mew mew?” Inora asked. Marco loudly mewed back.

“We have jam and butter and some toast for breakfast, Inny.” Her mother shouted back, “We’re keeping it simple today.”

“That’s ok, mum. You ok in there?”

“Yes dear. Is Marco alright? I seem to have stepped on his tail.”

Over breakfast, the talk drifted toward Inora’s work. “So are you ever going to find a new job, Inny?”

“This one will do for now.”

“But it’s so much travelling, and you’re always alone. We don’t like it.”

“I’m not travelling internationally now.”

“That’s not necessarily a good thing. Where are you off to this time?”

“Don’t worry, dad. I’m not going alone. I’ll have Emil with me.”

“Oh? There’s an Emil? You have never told us about an Emil. Who is Emil?”

“Just some guy I know.”

“Oh? And you guys work together?”

“No. He is a friend.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, and that is it…thank you.” she said as her mother passed her more toast, “Could you pass the butter too, please?”

“So how do you know this Emil? Is he a work related friend or…”

“No, I just know him; I don’t remember how.”

Her parents looked at each other, “So you guys just keep in touch? Just because?”

“Yes, he is alright.” Inora passed the marmalade to his father, “You guys have kitty litter? I remember you ran out.”

“We bought a new packet. Now, when you say he is alright, what exactly do you mean?” her mother asked.

“That he is alright.” Inora replied, “Look, don’t make this weird.”

Her parents looked at each other. Shook their heads in agreement. “Well, you are so demanding. Alright is good. No? Alright is very good.” one of them asked.

“No, alright means just alright.”

“Which is good enough,”

“Why are you guys so interested in Emil all of a sudden?”

“Inny, here is the thing,” her father said, “your mother and I, we want you to marry Emil.”

“WHAT?”

“We want you to marry Emil. He sounds like a very smart and knowledgeable young man, a work friend, and…”

“Do we really have to do this?” Inora begged.

“Yes, because your father and I have decided. You are going to marry Emil.”

“Well, don’t make it sound like she doesn’t have a say in the matter,”

“Of course she has a say in the matter.”

“Of course you have a say in the matter, dear, but your mother and I, we have our heart set on Emil.”

“Because he is alright. And you keep in touch with him just because. You two are going to be very happy together.”

“You guys don’t even know him.”

“But we trust your judgment, Inny. When can we meet him?”

“You are not meeting him…”

“Why not?”

“…and I am not marrying him.”

“What kind of talk is this, Inny?”

“I don’t want to marry Emil! He is just a friend. I don’t even like him very much right now.”

“But why not? You said he is alright!”

“You want me to marry someone because he is alright?”

“Well, you don’t want to be too picky, dear. That is how you end up like your aunt Shaila, unmarried and bitter. She broke my dear mother’s heart.”

“Plus, you are not getting any younger,”

“I am plenty young.”

“Yes, but for how long?”

“What is wrong with you guys?”

“We just want grandchildren and…”

“Ew. Ew. Gross. Super gross, mum. Super, super gross, dad.”

“Don’t be absurd now, Inny. We had the bird and the bee talk years ago. There is nothing wrong with…”

“Now, don’t embarrass her with that talk again, dear. Last time she stayed locked in her room for a week after we explained it to her.”

“Yes, I remember. She is so sensitive,”

“Yes, she has always been sensitive.”

“Do you think it is a psychological condition?”

“Guys, I am right here!”

“We know, Inny. But how long do you think we will be here?”

“Exactly. Your father’s cholesterol is off the chart!”

“Yes, and according to Dr. Reza’s diagnosis, I only have…”

“Not now, please!”

“Think about it, Inora. Next time you come back from an assignment, I might not be around.”

“Stop it please.”

“Stop what? My impending doom? Oh, I only wish I could stop it.”

“I only wish I could delay it long enough to see my only girl married to a nice and healthy, alright boy.”

“Stop it. Stop it now.”

“Why we have no time left at all, your father and I. Here today, gone tomorrow.”

“Maybe the end of this year,”

“Or the month,”

“Maybe this week. We might not be around after this week.”

“Oh my god, guys. This is ridiculous.”

“Remember, Inora, you have no idea how short a time we have left. And we only wish…”

“…that you would marry Emil.”

“Or any other alright boy of your own choosing. You see, we are not interfering with your life. Who you marry is your decision.”

“But make it Emil if that saves time.”

“Because time is of the essence now.”

“Remember, Inny, your parents will not be around for too long, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

“No. But you can make us very happy before our time.”

“Alright, that is it. I am out of here. I can’t believe you guys would try to blackmail me like this!” Inora said, pushing Marco off her lap and getting on her feet. Marco Hissed loudly, displeased about the disturbance. Inora bent over, “Mew, mew? Mew mew mew, Marco. Mew mew.”

“I told you, teaching her it was ok to love animals was a mistake; she does not require any human intimacy anymore. It is entirely your fault!”

“Mum, dad, I love you. I’ll come pick up Marco in a few days.” Inora said, heading towards the door.

“But you barely ate anything.”

“I ate enough.”

“Inny, wait, you forgot your calculator.” Her father called back.

“It’s a phone dad. I forgot my cell phone.”

“I have told you a thousand times it is a cell phone,” her mother complained, “Now you have made her angry and she won’t listen to us anymore.”

“How was I supposed to understand it is a phone? Why are there numbers on it like a calculator?”

“We were just starting to talk, Inora. Where are you going?” her mother asked.

“Work, mum. And then off to Emil’s apartment to…”

“Oh!”

“You guys are unbelievable.”

“And he’s alright! Which is good enough for us.”

Inora left.

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