By Shrutidhora P Mohor
The game keeper’s mustache smells of wild berries. I would have never known this had it not been for my sister.
She wears a green apron over her dress and tucks sunflowers inside her pocket. One day, she drives her hand down her pocket and brings out an earthworm. Releasing it on our dining table, she calls out for Mom to see her exhibit. Mom forbids her to dig into the soil, saying that what lives in the soil should be allowed to be there.
My sister says she too wants to grow on the soil and wriggles on the floor when no one is watching her. I love my earthworm days, she whispers. The more she rolls over, the more her body changes into a slippery, slimy skin with brown curve marks running from one side to another.
At night, I often find her outside her room. She sways from one side to another like a dense bush as she jumps down the stairs to the lobby below. Her skin turns a shade of green, her eyes brown. She holds up her hair in a lush cluster high above her head. The foliage of a thousand trees darkens the ceiling above her head. A pair of jungle mynahs nudges the lock at the sliding window, wanting to fly in and build their home.
One night, the air stands still like a damp blanket cover. Unable to sleep, I get up and find the front door unbolted. I step out and walk towards the game keeper’s log cabin. There is a bright yellow bulb glowing from inside the ajar door.
Ahead of me, at some distance, there is a musical play recital. Both the actors at the opera are known to me. One of them is my sister. She bends and bows, turns and dives, floats and flies as the other one strums the ukulele. Her body wraps itself around the tree trunks. Her skin rubs against the barks of trees. With each pull of the chords, there is more madness and more music. High above the trees, there is an incessant flutter of wings as kites and herons, hawks and owls join the dance below. On the ground there is a tip-tap, a sush-hush on mushrooms and termite beds as countless members of the audience shake a leg at the midnight party. My sister is alit like a glow-worm. “I am game,” she mutters with a smile as she moves towards her co-actor.
The next morning, I draw her to my side to dust off the loose mud marks while she is still asleep on her bed. The sticky stain of crushed wild berries grips my fingertips, and I notice how her limbs have become the branch of a tree from which supple, juicy blueberries hang in small clusters, their round bodies tender, translucent, with a tiny seed inside, throbbing with the urge to live.