Pest Control
Grand Winner | Season 6
Author: Gayathri Sampath
Category: Fiction

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. (Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice)

Two summers ago, CC embarked on a search for a suitable companion. He called off the search within six months, humiliated and dejected, and resigning himself to bachelorhood.

CC and I used to be acquaintances, but when CC found himself with free time (earlier dedicated to finding love!), he sought me out. We had similar interests, were mutual friends, and spent a lot of time together. CC’s kind family insisted I treat their house as my own.

CC was a few years younger than me but smarter and more worldly-wise. It was an honour to be a part of his inner circle, his confidant. Life was grand until she showed up that summer; a seductive force that tore through our peaceful existence.

The sun beat down like a blacksmith’s hammer without mercy, waves of heat distorting the air like a funhouse mirror. Even the most desperate strays retreated into the shade, emerging only after sundown. CC and I relaxed in our air-conditioned room, watching TV.

She appeared at noon from the shimmering haze. A lone figure, body drooping with fatigue. Was she meeting someone or lost? We wondered. We peered from behind the tinted glass of the window.

She was pretty, with a graceful curve to her neck, strong features, and an iridescent grey coat. I darted to open the window with uncharacteristic haste and offered help. She turned, maybe sensing movement. Her inky black eyes met CC’s grey-green ones for a fleeting second through the glass before flitting away. I opened the window after a brief struggle, but she was long gone.

The meeting, if you could even call it that, transformed CC. He sat by the open window for hours, desperate for another glimpse of her. She didn’t return that day or the next.

He became obsessed with her. To his disappointment, an exhaustive search yielded little more than her name. She remained an enigma, shrouded in a cloak of intrigue and allure.

Dove! Her name rhymes with love, exclaimed CC, jumping with joy. That’s a good start, he announced. I had never seen CC so exuberant, even during his heady dating days.

I felt compelled to warn him. She is not one of us; can never be your equal. She must be hiding something, I argued. She’s a gold-digger, a social climber who will use you and discard you like trash when she finds someone better, I predicted darkly. Find someone more suitable, I pleaded. But CC refused to see reason through the haze of love and lust clouding his eyes. He dismissed my concerns, calling me jealous, bitter, and cynical. Those words wounded me, but I persisted. One day, during an acrimonious argument, we exchanged hurtful insults that left us both seething with anger. We stopped talking to each other.

Though we were living like strangers under the same roof, I could not abandon CC. I spied him talking to her, charming her, whenever she visited. Within a fortnight, her presence in our apartment became a daily occurrence. They spent hours together, huddled close, whispering in each other’s ears. CC showered her with expensive gifts, which she accepted with fake reluctance. So pretentious, I thought to myself when I overheard her reprimanding CC over his extravagance. CC had all but forgotten me.

Feeling lonely and insecure, I swallowed my pride, apologised to CC, and asked to meet her. The ever-gracious CC hugged me and invited me to join them for lunch. In the first meeting itself, I sensed a slyness behind her demure façade.

I sat through their interactions, watching them, with a forced smile plastered on my face. But despite my scepticism, I couldn’t deny the power of her storytelling, the allure of stories of far-off lands and exotic foods. It was easy to fall under her spell!

CC’s days began with her arrival and ended when she departed. Every evening, he pleaded with her to stay the night, but she always refused, a coy smile on her face. The denial only fuelled CC’s passion, and he started speaking of a permanent arrangement. She exclaimed with delight and was all over CC with her gentle featherlike caresses and soft cooing. I groaned inside! She was manipulating CC, but I was helpless. I didn’t want to voice my suspicions and shatter our fragile truce.

One evening towards the end of summer, she mentioned needing to find a new place to stay during the monsoons. A brilliant idea struck me then.

Divine intervention!

After that, I prayed daily for the rain gods to be merciful and arrive early. I hoped the incessant rain our city was famous for would apply the much-needed brakes to their runaway romance.

Her true colours came out soon! On the first rainy day, she arrived late, complaining about the weather and the traffic. The next day it rained as she was leaving and she lamented about the damage it would do to her coat, her house. A pattern was emerging. She was moody and irritable whenever it rained. And it rained daily!

CC’s sweet lover was turning into a shrew. He will soon tire of her whining, I rejoiced!

She arrived one morning drenched and shivering with cold. The gullible CC insisted she move in with us, despite our condominium’s rules forbidding such arrangements. I reminded CC that disregarding rules might lead to cancelling our lease. Her eyes flickered in alarm at the mention of our moving, but she said nothing. Instead, she agreed with me and assured CC she would find another way for them to be together. My suspicion and worry deepened. What was she up to?

A torrential downpour, the worst in a decade, consumed our city over the next few days. The streets had become waterways, and all essential services were down. The city was a disaster zone.

But CC didn’t care! He was worried only about her. She had not visited, and we had no news of her. A cruel part of me hoped some calamity had claimed her life, erasing her from our lives forever.

But it was not to be!

The Packers showed up at our doorstep as soon as life limped back to normalcy. In all the chaos, we had missed two crucial messages. Our lease had expired, and we were immigrating to Australia with CC’s family. We were to stay in a hotel for a week before flying to Sydney. The prospect of a new beginning filled me with jubilation, but it was not so for CC.

She came in the afternoon, as usual. CC had told me he wanted to speak to her alone. I spied them by the window as I went about packing our belongings. They were having an intense conversation. Fat tears rolled down her face, but CC did not console her. I saw him slip her something.

CC is smart, I thought. A farewell gift to ease the pain of the breakup! What foresight!

But I had foolishly underestimated her!

The devil convinced CC that our family would have no choice but to accept their relationship if they presented it as a done deal. CC, the fool, did not see through her scheming and agreed to her plans to elope.

CC disappeared on our last day in the apartment. Alarmed, my eyes flew to the open door. There she was, just outside our apartment, hovering, waiting.

My heart sank; what had she done with CC?

I dashed out of the house, sending her fleeing in panic, and spotted CC immediately.

The fool was hiding behind stacked cartons on the trolley, headed for the parked truck. I sprinted towards him, crying out his name. On hearing my voice, he darted out from behind the cartons. She was waiting for him near the truck, urging him to run faster. I sped up, screaming at them both. But CC had eyes only for her.

And then …. a frantic honking, the screech of brakes, a sickening thud and a loud wail of pain that I still hear in my nightmares.

Luckily, CC cashed in only one of his nine lives that day. He is healing well in beautiful Sydney, with me by his side. Just like old times. He asks me about her sometimes with a suspicious glint in his eye. I shrug and walk away.

I will never tell CC about her cries of fear when I held her in my jaws or the look in her eyes when I snapped her neck. The relish with which I ate her—feathers, bones, and all. Pigeons are distasteful, but pigeon meat is delicious! Alley cats like me know how to deal with pests.

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28 Responses

  1. Lovely! The story was captivating and had me hooked throughout. I could never guess who CC or the narrator was and was happily surprised at how the story turned out! Remarkable story telling talent! This story truly deserves the first prize👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Hearty congratulations Gayathri!

      1. This is an amazing story ma’am!!❤ The plot kept me on the edge and the twist at the end was just so remarkable👏👏

  2. Wowww! Such a lovely read!!! Captivating throughout! Loved it😊 The flow kept intriguing you to think about who the characters could be! And the pigeon was a total surprise!!! Congratulations Gayatri!!! Totally well deserved 1st prize!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  3. Wonderful storytelling and a delightful read!

    As I look up after reading the story, everyday things suddenly seem more funny.

    Thank you for this dose of wit!

  4. brilliant denouement, Gayathri…I couldn’t stop reading once I began…the hidden menace in the story is well crafted…

  5. Wow Gayathri .. great story .. kept me enthralled till the end which was an unexpected twist. Congratulations !

  6. Well written. Full of suspense, but for the title, it is just impossible to guess the characters. Congratulations Prof. Gayathri. Enjoyed reading it.

  7. This story is so captivating and your narration has so much surprise and depth. Absolutely stunning piece you have captured.

  8. The very unique prospect of this story is the bachelor’s name : CC.
    Hiding behind a trolley, doodling with a pigeon – seems to me like we are dealing with a character who itself is a pigeon or some bird.
    Well, cats live up to max 14 or 18 years, we cannot have a bachelor younger than 14. CC might as well be a pigeon itself.

  9. Beautifully written! The narration is so interesting and the story unfolds in a very captivating way. Well deserved recognition

  10. Such a simple theme but very gripping for the reader. I cannot but appreciate the way the suspense is kept up. Loved it.

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