119 years of Trust Laugh lines THE TRIBUNE
sunday reading
Sunday, June 20, 1999
Laugh Lines

LineFauji BeatLine
Bollywood Bhelpuri

Sugar 'n' SpiceLine
Wide angle

A beginning at the end
By Amrita Dhingra

IT’s not easy for a man to walk away from the only life he’s ever known, but you knew you had to do it. Things were finally settled. The conglomerate was no longer in any danger, Carrie Calloway, you thanked your stars you’d never been foolish enough to buy a ring for her, had decided to marry Frank after all. Frank incidentally had decided to see a shrink about his ailorophobia. Tom Spence unfortunately had had to postpone his plans of becoming a vagabond. His sister had arranged for him to go to a better school with the understanding that he would be free to pursue more of nature work than before. Even Comet freed from the confines of Frank’s room was happy.

All in all it was a very satisfactory situation. You of course were happy. You mean who the hell were you to stick out like a sore thumb and say, "Sorry folks, but excuse me if I don’t share your joie de vivre. I’ve got things on my mind."

You had done your duty and all you asked for now was well, to paraphrase Garbo, to be left alone. So you wandered around Fiona’s estate for a long time. It is a lovely place to wander — endless stretches of grass, old trees and the ever present lake. The afternoon faded into the evening pretty soon and your champagne bottle that had kept you good company so far, began to run out of things to say to you. Reluctantly, you decided to make your way back to the house, hoping all the while that the worst of the fracas would be over and most of the guests would have left. All you wanted to do was slink quietly up to your room.

Finding ways to postpone the inevitable you took a detour by the side of the lake. You needed the time — to school your expression, to make your self presentable, to finish the last of the champagne. You set about the last of these tasks by putting the bottle to your lips.

"Drowning your woes?" It was dark by now and you could only just make out the motionless figure that sat on one of the benches. It seemed like she’d been sitting there for sometime.

"It’s pretty effective really. You ought to try it sometime". You were surprised but were damned if you were going to show it, "But I forgot, you don’t have any woes, do you?You never have any woes."

"No," she said and it could have meant yes or no.

Somehow you never made it all the way back to the house just then, and Amanda was walking by your side.

"Everybody thinks you’re a hero and you really should have stayed back," this was said very casually.

"Yeah well thanks. I’m no superhero."

"Maybe not but what you did today was pretty brave."

"Why are you all proclivity all of a sudden?" You looked at her suspiciously, for experience had taught you that Amanda was at her most dangerous when you least expected it. But she was looking straight ahead and you really couldn’t make out her expression. "What are you planning to sic or me next? The manual and materials to make an atom bomb? And then call the cops?"

It was pretty clear that you were all cut up but the surprising thing was that she refrained from cutting you down to size. Now that was wholly unexpected from Amanda Spence who never let slip an opportunity to get at you, in fact according to one school of thought, main proponent, she actively went out of her way to create opportunities of getting to you.

"And while I’m at it I may as well tell you exactly what I think of you. "You offered her the bottle one more time before you carried on and she took it, taking a long swig from it before handing it back to you. "It’s like this Amanda, there are two kinds of people. Those that build bridges and those that build bombs. And you I’m afraid are a definite builder of bombs!"

"Thank you," she said contrarily, "that’s the best compliment I’ve ever received!" Her voice so full of sincerity, made you even madder.

"See what I mean! Never at a loss of words, are you? How do you do it? Doesn’t it get tiring, winning all the time?"

"Oh that, " she laughed and you noticed that it was a very pleasant laugh — light and truly amused, "that’s when I let you win."

"Thank you, I’m obliged, " didn’t care if you sounded petulant, "but I am not going to be around much longer so you’ll have to find someone else to play your games with."

"Leaving? Somehow I thought you had more staying power. What’s the matter? Chicken?"

"Call it what you will. Fact is you’ll just have to find yourself another... " You were going to say ‘victim’ but then thought better of it.

"Look’s that way doesn’t it?" There was a frown in her voice. "Or I could simply tag along with you and continue to sic bombs on you."

You refused to answer that, mainly because you couldn’t come up with an answer to something like that.

"Pity you’ve decided to leave though. Daddy’s got this new branch planned in Hawaii and he was counting on us running it".

"Us? Running it? Why we couldn’t run a grocery store together! Ha!"

"You know that isn’t true! she said showing that rare flash of temper.

"Thanks but no thanks I think I’ll be better off jobless."

"Fine." She said folding her arms, "have it your way!"

"Thank you."

Two minutes later, when she still hadn’t given up on you, you were wondering what the hell was going on. Here was Amanda Spence, a haughty spirit by all rights, still walking by your side. And quietly.

"I hope," you enquires solicitiously, "that you’re feeling well? Not feeling light headed or something?"

"No I am perfectly well thank you," she answered sweetly, "perfectly well. Alive and kicking."

"That’s the problem," you decided to give up on caution and go the whole hog, "you’re not kicking."

"Never pays to get too predictable," she said , as if letting you in on a trade secret.

"Ah now I see," you nodded equally sagely. She took another long swig from the bottle and finished the champagne.

"Pity, really I could have done with some more."

"Let’s get back to the matter at hand for a moment, shall we? What exactly are you up to now?"

"Poor chap," she said, shaking her head and laughing that strangely, gloriously beautiful laugh of hers, "I really do have you running around in circles, don’t I?"

"Ha! Ha! Ha! Now that we’ve all enjoyed the joke whay don’t you start by telling you exactly what was that little chat you were having this morning with Carrie all about?"

You glared at her for it had just occurred to you that you still didn’t know precisely what had been going on. It also occurred to you, and to be perfectly honest it wasn’t for the first time, that Amanda was really an exceptionally beautiful girl. What with the moonlight falling ever so softly on her hair and shoulders and her eyes shinning with life and so much spirit. Alarmed at your sudden soft-brained tendencies which had landed you into enough trouble allready, you stopped yourself right their and sternly hauled yourself back.

"Well... "she was saying.

"I’m all ears."

"I just had a talk with her." She took a deep breath and carried on hastily, "Yeah, I just sort of had a talk with her!"


"Well you know Carrie used to be my junior at school and well we just... sort of got talking about things you know, things?"

"No," you said, "I don’t know. What sort of things?"

"Oh girl stuff, " she said dismissively, "You don’t want to know." And for the first time, and this is one for the record books, Amanda Spence smiled ingratiatingly at you.

"No suppose you tell me. I may be lot of things but I’m not exactly a chauvinist you know." This was getting more and more interesting.

"You know girls, we get talking about one thing and then another." More and more and more interesting. Amanda Spence trying to stall?

"What exactly did you tell her?"

"It was like this... "you could literally hear her mind changing gears, "she was upset about you and I sort of consoled her."

"I see. And?"

"And I told her Frank Gulley was a good man and that you had a criminal record and well no woman in her sane mind would marry you especially since you went around stealing miniature pigs!" All of this came out so fast that you had to strain to catch it.

"That’s all!"


"Are you sure?"

"Oh all right! So I told her she shouldn’t marry you because you were an absolute rake and you broke women’s hearts just cause you liked the sound and that she oughtn’t trust you as far as she could throw you!"

Amanda Spence one of the most, make that the most, poised and articulate young women you knew, who could conduct board meetings in her sleep was having trouble saying these simple things. Things such as these she was used to throwing at you every now and then. It made you suspicious. Very, very suspicious. You were sure she was still hiding something.

"Are you sure that was all?"

"Yes! Stop bothering me, will you? Must you know?"

You stopped walking, raised an eyebrow, folded your arms and waited.

"All right," she took a deep breath, "but don’t faint on me, okay?" You nodded and she carried on. "I told her not to marry you because you were already engaged to marry somebody even before you met her!"

"You what ?" This was a truly original one and it threw you for a loop.

"You heard me!" The smile and some of the cool assurance were back.

"And who exactly who am I supposed to be marrying?" Some people may be able to take such information with equanimity but not you. You like to know who you’re going to marry and all that sort of thing.

"Me." she looked you straight in the eye.

"You?" You stared at her in complete bafflement.

"Yes me." She shrugged.

"You?" She had done it again. The rule of thumb to remember when you’re around Amanda Spence — expect the unexpected!

"What are you, an echo?"

Now that put you straight and you stopped short of your third "you ?" and looked at her. The moon was still shining, her hair was still auburn and it framed her face the same way it always did and her eyes... Well her eyes were something else. They were still grey, still sparkling and they could still freeze people off but they weren’t doing that just then. Oh no! In fact they had the most unusual expression just then. An expression that made it difficult for you to breath. An expression, it suddenly occurred to you, could get used to seeing for the rest of your life.

There is no satisfactory answer to a question like, "What are you an echo?", so you did the only thing on your mind just then. Under the mad moon you stepped forward and kissed her.

Five minutes later you were walking to the house with your arm around her shoulders. Champagne and celebrations were in order.

"Look at it this way," she said consolingly, "I may a builder of bombs but at least your life won’t be boring."

"No," you agreed, "my life won’t be boring."

And with Amanda by your side and a song in your heart you stepped into the light and into a new life.


This feature was published on May 23, 1999

Home Image Map
| Interview | Bollywood Bhelpuri | Sugar 'n' Spice | Nature | Garden Life | Fitness |
Travel | Your Option | Time off | A Soldier's Diary | Fauji Beat |
Feedback | Laugh lines | Wide Angle | Caption Contest |