Babu looks out over the green fields from high up in the Mango tree and grins. She can see for miles around: green fields with men working hard to harvest the rice from the paddy fields. The Bengali sun is beating down hard and the leaves of the mango tree are keeping her shaded. Babu is perfectly at home in the branches, her legs dangling and several mangos cupped in her skirt as she waits for her prey.
Sure enough, two boys come into view, their school uniform shirts messily untucked as they skip along the thin paths between the paddy fields, nimbly avoiding slipping and falling into the muddy grains. She picks up a mango in each hand and readies herself. She knows the boys will pass underneath soon enough. Babu has researched this, in her own way, and prepared herself for revenge after these two boys set upon her three days ago and made her kiss them before slapping her and calling her a ‘dirty village whore who was less than even a pig’. The insult was bad enough but it was having to kiss a boy which really stung in her memory.
The boys came off the fields and walked side by side along the wider path which passed by the tree. As they came under the shade, Babu raised her arms and deftly threw her missiles. One smacked a boy in the face, sending his spectacles flying and bloodying his nose. The other missed the second boy who, seeing the mango splatter at the same time as the anguished howl from his companion, ran as fast he could from the attack. Babu was faster however and another mango found its target this time, splattering on the back of the boy’s head and sending him sprawling, face down, into the mud.
The first boy, howling and face dripping with blood, got up and with unsteady steps moved to find his spectacles. She threw another mango at him which missed but made him yelp and jump – landing straight down on his spectacles which gave a satisfying crunch, making Babu smile. The boy abandoned his now useless glasses and ran as fast as he could, giving up on his friend as his friend had just tried to leave him behind moments earlier. The second boy got himself up and turned to locate the identity of the mystery assailant.
‘I’ll get you Babu,’ he wailed once he spied her, ‘you’ll get a good beating for this.’
She replied with another mango which landed at his feet. The boy shrieked with terror and pelted through the fields, now no attempt to take the thin paths but making a direct diagonal line away from her and to his village. Nearby farmers angrily shrieked after him as he tore through badly needed crops which were rotting from the heavy and unseasonal rains in the previous days. Men, already overstretched, trying to salvage what they could of flooded grain couldn’t afford to see any of it trampled underfoot but the boy was moving too swiftly to chase and they could do little other than watch and curse him as he ran.
Babu grinned from ear to ear as she watched the carnage but her smile swiftly vanished as she heard a cry from beneath her.
‘Babu! What do you think you are doing? Get down here at once!’
Babu jumped as she responded to her mother’s angry voice, dropping the remaining mangos as she scampered down the tree as swiftly as she could.
Sure enough, as the boy had predicted, Babu got a good beating that evening.
To continue reading this story please buy the book ‘The Old Man on the Beach and other stories’ available January 2015.
Copyright © 2014 D K Powell