The mother sliced an aubergine through its elongated side like the sole of her shoes. She tossed an onion onto the same cutting board. Unlike the aubergine, the onion rolled a little and then stopped on the board’s edge. She lifted the knife and cut the onion straight through its broad middle. Her eyes ponded with stingy tears as they dropped. A few drops down her cheeks, she sensed and wiped them off with shoulder rubs on her cheeks. Her eyes stung as long as she sliced through the onions. No big deal with the aubergines.
The radio was on. It announced how many soldiers died in the war—her boy was barely sixteen. The freckles on their rosy cheeks hadn’t fully faded; his arms were smooth. At the frontier, a war was raging. It didn’t matter whose wars they fought and who won or who lost. What mattered most to this mother was her loss which was paramount.
She made some deeper cuts into the onion, thinning the half-rounded rings. The fifteen-year-old was on the cusp of turning sixteen. Which she had once, too. Afraid to let him go to war, let alone understand the logic of it all? But conscription took (made) him (join the forces)… delete what’s in parentheses?
One day the mother had gone out to the well to fetch a pail of water. The door of the thatched house had almost fallen off its hinge as soldiers barged in. They pulled this petrified child hiding under the ratty bed. He had to go with them. His mother was at the well, he couldn’t bid her goodbye. Not even the last hug or a kiss, the boy was dragged to the frontier. The mother returned with her pail full of water. The boy was gone. The pail fell from her hands. She slipped and she sat in the pool of water. Her eyes were the same. The winds howled, she howled too. It could not reach the ears of the war-mongers—far too much clamour out there, the politicians were boasting one victory after another. Whose expansion knew no limits?
Who won and who lost in this game—what did it matter? It was a game of Ping Pong to the expansionists. But to the mothers on both sides—friend or foe—stingy onion tears or none at all in the case of the purple aubergine; the grief was a boundless and borderless blend. Purpled just the same.
©2022 Mehreen Ahmed
All rights reserved
…is an Australian novelist born in Bangladesh. Her historical fiction,The Pacifist, is a Drunken Druid’s Editor’s Choice and an Amazon Audible bestseller. Gatherings,is nominated for the James Tait Black Prize for fiction. Her short fiction has won in The Waterloo Festival Competition, Academy of the Heart and Mind contest, A Cabinet-Of-Heed Stream-Of-Consciousness Challenge, shortlisted, finalist, nominated for the 3xbotN, Pushcart, Publication of the Month, and Honourable Mention. Also, critically acclaimed by Midwest Book Review, DD Magazine, The Wild Atlantic Book Club to name a few. She is a juror to the KM Anthru Award, Litterateur RW Magazine, and featured writer on Flash Fiction North and Connotation Press. She has published books, articles, essays, and short fiction in international magazines, online, and in anthologies. Her works have been translated into German, Greek and Bangla.