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Monday, July 10, 2006

Squire & Co

The board over the shop simply said ‘Squire & Co’ in black and white. Tucked away between several other shops boasting of sports equipment and the like, the landmark used to identify it was a historical, city’s-pride cinema hall.

It was kind of hard to make out the establishment, but the guitars, violins, drums, harmonicas and cymbals in the window on one side, as well as the hand-lettered board announcing the same, on the other side sufficed to give an idea of their business.

Squire & Co. It was a business that had stood there for over four decades now. Passed on from one generation to another, the reason behind the name had faded into oblivion with time. The business had survived though, intact in the same place. It was Solomon and his mother Philomena who handled the business now.

The shop interior was fair-sized with three back to back showcases serving to keep customers confined to the front of the shop. Shelves lined with guitars, violins and other instruments lined its three walls. Even the floor was covered with plastic-encased instruments.

Five ‘o’ clock one evening.

Three youngsters entered the shop – two boys and a girl. Young, eager and vivacious as youngsters are wont to be. The girl smiled at Solomon and requested to see guitars while one boy looked on and the other continued a conversation on his cell-phone. Inquiring about their needs, Solomon proceeded to show them the merchandise – or rather, told Philomena to while he chipped in now and then.

They were there for half an hour. They left without buying anything, looking undecided saying polite thanks yous.

And it was another endurance test for Philomena. As every customers’ visit was. As every day was. As every day had been, the past few months.

Solomon’s irritated soliloquy was incessant. He continued to bark orders, impatient and curt. ‘They didn’t ask for that one,’ and ‘Move the stuff will you?’ as she struggled to find standing space to open the showcase, and ‘Chicken, mutton, beef, pork… eats everything. Where does it go, all that you eat?’ when she couldn’t carry the stuff across easily enough.

The last straw however came when he noticed the open pocket on a guitar case and hollered at her about a missing plectrum and leaving the pocket unzipped. The youngsters too were not too pleased at the scene as was apparent on their faces.

The rest of the evening was rather routine. Three more customers dropped in before closing time at 8:30 p.m - one wanted his Ukelele re-stringed, another looking for piano instruction manuals and yet another enquiring about guitars. Solomon’s behaviour too was routine. He was more mellow however, since the guitar-case incident.

The shop was shut and in the softly lit apartment behind Squire & Co, end of the day activities were in progress. Dinner over and the dishes cleared away, Solomon padded over to his stuffed arm-chair and switched on the TV for news. Philomena slowly took the stairs to her room to read a bit before she slept.

Television however failed to interest Solomon tonight. He drifted further and further away into thoughts while staring unseeingly at the TV.

He’d been feeling guilty - more so since the evening, when he’d yelled at her. The already overwhelming mix of guilt, worry, despair and helplessness seemed to brim over tonight, and something in him flickered and died. Who’s to say though? Solomon himself was a dying man.

The diagnosis had come after weeks of inexplicable physiological symptoms and a battery of tests that the doctor had ordered. That had been several months back. The doctor had pronounced Solomon terminally ill and given him two years more, at best. He’d been dealt a blow he was still reeling from. The guilt, anger, despair and helplessness had been his cancerous companions then on.

His first reaction was oh ‘what of mother?’ Ever since his father’s death several years ago, Solomon had comfortably taken over running the business and caring for his mother. He hadn’t married - he’d known he never would. And so, their world had come to mean the two of them. For her part, Philomena had always been a homebody - pottering around the house, contentedly so. The death sentence hurled Solomon’s peace of mind into shambles. He had always envisioned himself as his mother’s keeper to the end. The end had come - not hers though, his.

‘What will become of her?’ he constantly worried. How would she live? Where? Who would care for her? What about finances? And what about the business?

Many sleepless nights later, he had decided that he would have to inculcate her into the business – teach her the nuances. It was in the best interests of both. She would have friends to look after her but she needed something more to occupy her. It would do her good to have the business to look after - and the business needed her too. And it was a fairly easy thing, for the establishment wasn’t too large.

And so they had begun. Everyday he let her learn something new - abut customers, instruments, accounts – she needed to be thoroughly informed.

At first, he was quite soft with her. But days progressed and it became clearer that he’d have to be firmer if she could be expected to take over. Her total inexperience and age trebled the difficulty of the learning process. Thus he had taken the upper hand, though desiring it, wanting her to learn the ropes. Yet, her pathetically slow progress got to him. What would happen if she was unable to handle things?

The helplessness he felt about his fate, guilt about leaving her, despair at not being able to do much and anger at his helplessness grew and slowly it crept into his behaviour with Philomena. From being instructive he slowly turned to being curt. Philomena rarely showed she was hurt, although he knew she was. The evening’s incident had been uncalled for though - even if he’d only been trying to make her be careful and aware of everything handled.

‘Things have gone too far I guess’ he mused and got up from his arm-chair with new resolve.

He knocked before entering and found her propped on the bed, reading a book, a duvet half covering her. She looked up in surprise. ‘Why Sol, what’s the matter?’

‘I’ve something to say to you’ he said as he sat down on the bed facing her. Her eyes took on a slightly wary and afraid look.

‘ I just wanted to apologise. Not just for today but for all those days. I know I’ve hurt you very much. I’ve just been trying to have things go ok. I want you to be ok. I’m worried sick’ he let forth.
Philomena looked at him and reached across to squeeze his hand, smiling, saying nothing, understanding everything - as mothers always do.


  1. Hi, been a long time. The blogs were blocked.

    I hope you're fine (blasts and all).

    Read a small part of the post. Seems interesting. I'll be back to read it.

  2. hi....DewdropDream,

    Is very intresting.write more.....

  3. hey!

    amazing really.

    I don't know if it was meant that way, but I didn't understand that Philomena referred to Solomon's mother. Maybe because I was too dumb, or maybe the story forces you into not realising the fact or perhaps because I couldn't imagine anyone (almost) treating their mother like that.

  4. Manu: Thank you, do visit again

    Impressionist: Thanks, firstly. You're no mean writer yourself you know. About the story, well I did mention the fact that Philomena's his mother, but I guess the way the story moves, its hard to imagine anyone behaving like that.

  5. guess who else should update?

  6. Anonymous5:58 PM

    hi dewdrop!! am late this time to leave my comment!! better late than later...anyways good read...but i think u could have done better wit tht writin skill of yours...take care...cya

  7. Philomena is a nice name.

  8. hey dewdrop girl
    where are you?
    havent had you on bloggermarauders in quite some time

  9. I ve not seen this quality of word usage in ne one for a long time. no big words at all. small words n big meanings! essence of writing. I am not an expert on litreature, Iam but a plain layman and ur words have touched a layman where they need to touch. its wat matters. quality writing shud be understood by the layman. only thn it will make a difference

  10. Phoenix: my updates are up... where are yours???

    Anonymous: I try, I try!!!! But roses are always surrounded by thorns and good writing by bad :D do be frequent here.

    Zii: Inspiration strikes!

    Half moon fletecher: Heya Jyto.. how's it going??

    r22980: Hey Raam!!! I'm still wondering about the significance of the numbers in your nic... thanks for the comment.. *hugs*

  11. you need to actually write more of such stuff. and less of the inanity that i fill ur head with! :D