Ranjit has a history of waking up in bizarre places. Most of those instances were from childhood when he used to live in the village. While other kids have tales of falling asleep in school during class or exams, Ranjit can recount tales of waking up on the back of a walking bull, on top of a slowly rotating ceiling fan, and on a bicycle going downhill. For the longest time, he thought he was a somnambulist. It was years later that he learned it was his cousins’ doing.
Being a heavy sleeper with a small, light body made it simple for his cousins to transport sleeping Ranjit. The years had taken care of the latter, making it rather difficult to transport him anywhere without dropping him a few times. However, the years had failed to change this habit, or skill, or tendency – depending on how you look at it – because they had added something else in his life: alcohol.
It was for this reason that Ranjit Chaudhary wasn’t completely bewildered when waking up on a fifty-foot tree. He spent the first few seconds balancing his body, clinging on to dear life. The fifty-foot divide seemed like a deep chasm. His memories with this scenario only aggravated the effect.
Little Ranjit often used to hop from branch to branch, picking fresh fruit. However, the most lucid memory of his tree climbing days was the last time he had found his way up an oxygen breather. It had started well but ended with him landing on his haunches. The fall hurt him, sending his butt-cheeks a couple inches into his body. The silver lining was that the fall gave him a slim rear. But it also made him acrophobic, pronouncing the end of his tree escapades.
That was until last night.
His head screamed even before he tried recalling how he had ended up there. A hangover hammered his head from within. In trying to press his temples to bear the pain, he lost his grip and fell two branches. He was now wide awake.
As he adjusted himself shakily on the branch that voiced its warning that it couldn’t hold on much longer, his head flooded with memories from last night. The dog’s barking beneath the tree reminded him how he was suddenly attacked by a dog when walking home from the local pub. He had left earlier than his friends, a grave error in hindsight. His addled head knew he couldn’t outrun the dog. While his legs had been dismissive in carrying him properly, they had no trouble joining hands with his hands to carry him up the Peepal tree. Safely out of his tormentor’s reach, he had reposed.
He was brought back to the present when the young teenager handling the dog shot him with his catapult. His kid sister laughed boisterously at Ranjit’s expense. The bemused tree lodger tried lodging himself on the creaking log, keeping a sharp eye out for another shot. It was no use, for he was hit again, right on the cheek. The boy was a good shot.
Ranjit yelled at the duo beneath his temporary abode. It only strengthened the laughter and barking. He was out of breath and ideas. He cursed the kids, cursed their parents for their poor upbringing, all the while frantically looking for a way down. There were actually many routes. Ranjit just lacked the courage to take them. He couldn’t force the decision to descend, even in the circumstances.
It was the complaining offshoot that made the decision for him. The branch snapped. Ranjit flapped. There was a quick reduction of the gap. The duo below was trapped.
Ranjit weighed heavily on their bodies.