The Lord of Joggers Park
by Nidhi Singh
The dappled Lord raised his nose and inhaled deeply of the bracing air. He surveyed his realm and all of god’s wondrous creatures within it with approval.
The cooking fires hadn’t started yet, the traffic was still a trickle, the dawn’s quiet remained unbroken by the awakening of life, and beneath his feet, the grass was still moist with the dewdrops trembling on its blades. Peace reigned, business went on as usual, and the sun shoveled through the haze with resolve.
The lonely old man with the mask, usually the first to arrive, called out to everyone including the tea-boy: “Good morning! Have a cup of tea with me. No? Okay, have a nice day then.”
The stern school principal and her gaggle of friends had gathered around the holy basil tree for worship; the sweet scents of incense and ghee lamps mingled with basil leaves that grew in purple rosettes on the central stem purified the air and subdued baser tendencies in all creatures. Sweepers and guards sat on doorsteps and read fresh newspapers that had been dropped; before the sun rose, the doors opened and they went about their work. The slouching man with the overflowing beard and turban was behaving mysteriously again, clapping his hands, and laughing out loud in a shaded corner. It was supposed to be good for you—but when people did it by themselves, it disturbed the Lord. The woman in oversized breasts had made her entry, chopping the ground with her heels—some people were just not meant for the business of running. The man in oversized boots—his toes caught up each time his feet curled—with his small plastic bag of goodies shuffled about, chased by eager clients waiting for him to tire and seek out a bench where he could dispense his wares.
The Lord sat smack in the middle of the track, close to the park entrance: proud, calm, and still. He was tall and strong and felt taller and stronger. He was skinny and lonely and felt full and complete. So far, all was well: the sun had risen on the right side, the old man swinging his golf club hadn’t struck anybody yet, and the ground felt firm under his feet as he arched back, ready to spring at trouble. The Lord was known to be quick to settle an argument, with a guttural roar, or with a drawing of blood that made the other party see sense soon enough.
People often failed to appreciate the tough job he had of keeping order, though. Some waved at him, others evaded him: everyone kept a respectful distance. Before long, beauties, permed and pruned, their spindly legs sticking out of skirts wide as umbrellas flared in the rain, would be strutting around, casting their aromas in the morning air, sending strong signals to suitors that they needed sinning with. And then his work would start.
“Do not present your butt in that manner to me, for then I must needs smack it!” He would often call out to them to behave, but the preening coquettes, they heeded him not. And it was hard to keep off the slobbering playmates in fur coats who knew what to say to get into a girl’s panties for a bit of quick early morning bum sex. The king himself was a one-woman guy, though—his ladylove, Tiara, must be still curled up on a sofa waiting for the house to rise. He planned to start a family soon enough with her—soon as he got some quality time alone with her, for she was always surrounded by proprietors to her virginity.
Suddenly, what he’d feared most happened. The peace was disturbed, the calm broken, the mind frizzled. Men stood still, women ran, children screamed and smoke belched out of earthen stoves like little gray balloons. Loud yelps, blood-curdling cries, a chorus of pain rent the morning air. The café au lait tease in purple bows had strayed too far in the bush, and the amorous tykes, hot and heavy, had pounced upon her tender person. Soon, other freeloaders of the park, sensing an opportunity for a quick roll in the hay with the flushed buttercup, joined in the fray. Her ardor swiftly diminished by so many heaving and panting supplicants, she beat a hasty retreat, only to be rolled over and dogged by a square-headed, short legged brute who would have made quick work of her had not the Lord arrived on the scene in the nick of time and attached himself without formality to the windpipe of the attacker.
Meanwhile, people had rushed to the rescue of the distressed damsel with sticks, slights and slurs, convincing the villain, and his rascally associates to flee the slugfest. Their screaming, raging dash through the pristine environs at the ambrosial hour, however, upset many visitors, and a brouhaha ensued with everyone snapping and sundering, writhing and worrying, grieving and growling, raging and raving, howling and heating, and turning and twisting, around and around, with endless rebound.
The afore-mentioned snub-nosed squat villain appeared to be the mastermind of the uncalled for early morning donnybrook, and were he not to be brought down; the Lord predicted events would come to a dreadful pass. His brow narrowed and quickly he estimated the dizzying path the raging rascal was drawing through the greens, sending everything helter-skelter in his way. The Lord saw an opening between two still bystanders, who were eyeing him rather keenly, and made a dash for it.
Just as he passed between the two men, they stepped nimbly aside, and out of nowhere appeared a circle attached to the end of a stick. He felt a sharp tug as the noose tightened around his throat: had he not skidded to a halt on instinct, his head would have snapped off his body. He felt an explosion behind him, as the other man landed a crippling blow on his butt with his stick. Dangling at the end of a stick, hurt and humiliated, the Lord was dragged through his estate to a waiting, caged van where already many of his friends, their proud heads bowed in submission and shame, were immured.
“Look at him—eyes red like burning coals,” somebody shouted after him, as he looked upon his beloved park through the iron grille. Tiara, his dear Tiara was out there too, her sad eyes watching him through the wild mop on her forehead. “I’ll be back,” he growled, “and we’ll have a family of our own.”
“A menace!” remarked the turbaned man.
“This park belongs to us—these strays have taken it over!” The school principal admonished the animal catchers, waving a basil branch at them.
“Where are you taking them? Will you kill them?” Tiara’s owner, restraining his strangely agitated pet by a violent tug of the leash, asked the dog squad man.
“No,” said the man, “ we’ll merely spay them—that takes away the aggression. And then we’ll bring them back.”
“But we don’t want them!”
“Then don’t feed them,” he replied, eyeing the man with the plastic bag full of biscuits. “They’ll wander away, or starve.”
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Nidhi lives near McLeodganj (abode of the Holy Dalai Lama) in the Dhauladhar mountain ranges with her husband. She attended American International School, Kabul, before moving to Delhi University for BA English Honors. When she has a bad dream she knows she’ll have a good story in the morning. Her short work has appeared in Liquid Imagination Online, LA Review of LA, Flame Tree Publishing, Four Ties Lit Review, The Insignia Series, Inwood Indiana Press, Bards and Sages Publishing, So To Speak, Scarlet Leaf Review, Bewildering Stories, Down in the Dirt, Mulberry Fork Review, tNY.Press, Fabula Argentea, Aerogram, Asvamegha, Fiction Magazines, Flash Fiction Press, Fiction on the Web and elsewhere.