short story

Phinn’s Kite

“Don’t forget to buy the kite, mama” Phinn reminded his mother as he boarded the school bus.

It was as if he expected his mother, to let her busy day get in the way, once again forgetting his demand.

His mother Anita, a single mother, is a high school teacher who juggles her life between school, post-school coaching classes, and home-making, struggling to provide a comfortable life for her son. The child support from her estranged husband was not used for their sustenance. Anita had that money tucked away for her son’s higher education.

Phinn was a 6-year-old, intelligent, and practical beyond his age. He was upset that his mother doesn’t get to spend much time with him but he understood the demands of their current life.

Anita had coaching classes till 7 pm, 4 days a week and on those days, Phinn’s grandfather, Anita’s dad, Thomas, received him at the bus-stop. Together they would walk to his home which was near the town’s children’s park.

Phinn called him “Grandy”. Grandy would make sandwiches for him while he did his homework. Then they would go down to the park, where his Grandy would be reading, seated on a bench, while he played. It was an okay arrangement for him. But he missed time with his mother.

That day it was a free day for his mother, without her post-school coaching class and he was expecting her to be waiting at the bus stop with the kite. Seeing his grandfather instead, his face fell.

“Anita had to substitute for someone at her coaching class. She asked me to pick you up.”

Phinn did not react and without looking at him he took his grandfather’s proffered hands and they walked towards his home.

Phinn was quiet, not his regular animated self, who would otherwise be filling his grandfather’s ears with the tales of the day.

Anita’s dad Thomas was a man who never wore his heart on his sleeve. His words were measured but his actions spoke louder than words. After the death of Anita’s mother, it was Phinn who gave him renewed hope in life. He was the happiest when Anita decided to rent a house near his. Even though he would have loved to have them stay with him, Anita was a free spirit. Also, she hadn’t got over the fact that the marriage which her father vehemently opposed had failed. They were accustomed to minimal conversations and Anita did not want the additional awkwardness of being two adults under the same roof who hardly spoke. If Phinn hadn’t noticed it yet, he would, soon.

Thomas let Phinn indulge in his thoughts during the short walk home. He waited patiently while Phinn had his sandwich, wanting to know what had clammed the little boy up.

“Is everything alright, baby? Do you want more sandwiches? “he asked.

“Mom was supposed to buy me a kite, Grandy. Now she will be very late and I won’t be able to take it to school tomorrow. I will be the only one who won’t be joining the kite flying at school.” said Phinn, his voice breaking with emotion.

“Is that all? Now, you come with me and help me bring that box down from the storage. Grandy is too old to climb on a stool”

Phinn did as his grandfather asked. The cardboard box was light.

“What is in it, Grandy? Phinn couldn’t contain his curiosity.

Without answering, Thomas carefully removed the sealing tape and took out a worn-out kite from the box. It had red, blue, green, and yellow paper strips pasted together vertically in an artistic design. The colors had faded. It looked like a keepsake with a story, which would probably crumble in childish hands.

“Wow Grandy, where did that come from?” But will it fly? It is looking very old.”

“Your mother made it, “said Thomas

“Momma!!! Really! She never told me that story!!!”

“Well, actually she had a little help from me”

“Will you help me make one too Grandy, please? “Phinn said, focusing all his hope in his words.

“We don’t have colored paper. But definitely, we can make one with a newspaper. We would be upcycling newspaper then. Your teacher would be happy about that.” said Thomas.

“You don’t need YouTube video, Grandy?”

Thomas smiled and without replying, assembled all materials.

He guided Phinn in cutting papers with proper measurements. Thomas removed two stalks from his coconut palm broom and modified them into supports for the kite.

Anita walked in on the pair, busy giving finishing touches to their kite.

“Phinn, so who will fly this then?’ asked Anita approaching the pair, showing the kite which she bought.

“Momma, you came and did not forget the kite!! ” Phinn rushed into her arms and hugged her.

That is when she saw the worn out sample kite on the dining table, among the newspaper cuttings.

“Oh, Daddy, You kept it!! ” She tenderly took the kite and looked at her conservative father who always kept her at an arm’s length.

“You were in grade 8, then. You wanted to win the bet against your friend. You spilled glue on the first one we made, got angry, and tore it to pieces. This was the one that we made again.”

Father and daughter looked at each other, the memories enfolding them like an armless embrace. No words were spoken between them, but they had mastered the language of silence that was reverberating with all the unspoken words that only father and daughter could hear.

“There is still time to try out whose kite is better, the one you made, or the one I bought. Grab the kites; let us go to the park. It’s quite windy today.” said Anita.

“But I am taking my kite to school. It is up-cycled and better than yours,” said Phinn making his position clear.

The three of them walked towards the park with kites, father and daughter in their companionable silence while Phinn chirped about how to make a kite with newspaper.

Categories: short story

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