Here I lie, six feet under. Most hated person in Unpleasantville. My parents were not wise. Why else would they have named me thus. No one comes to mourn my death. My tombstone lies unattended. Michael the Groundskeeper of the cemetery, never pulls out the overgrown weeds. Now how could Michael be so uncaring?’ His father and I were the best drinking buddies! Friday evenings, after work, he and I would meet in the abandoned warehouse, hidden in a thick forest, at the north end of the town. We’d get sloshed over crates of beer, the only indulgence for us miners. Michael knew all along being a witness to us returning to our respective homes, waking up the town with our raucous songs, just before the break of dawn.
I remember that day, Caleb and I were chased by the cops, following a complaint lodged by the city council elders “The Jew and German drunkards should be locked up on Friday nights! They are a big nuisance to the townsfolk”. And so, what? One night in the lockup, we sang old Scottish songs, entertaining cellmates who joined the chorus. Frustrated, the cops gave up on me and Caleb. After all, we were not criminals in the books of law. Thereafter, we changed the venue to a park with a huge black monolith at the center. Sitting atop this block of granite, sticking out like a sore thumb, I and Celeb drank our beers, raised a toast to the stars, and pitched a tent to spend the night. Sobered by daylight, I returned to my one-room miner’s shack. Unlike Celeb, I did not have to face the wrath for turning up on Saturday mornings looking like wet mops. I lived on my terms.
The whole town thought I was weird. Perhaps they found my appearance such. Barely 133 centimeters tall, they nicknamed me ‘Adolf the dwarf’. I had flat feet, a beak-shaped nose, sporting a handle-bar mustache, twisted and twirled, wearing a bowler hat around the year to shield my head, totally bald. I was raised by the town’s pastor, who found me on the steps of the church swathed. Now, how am I responsible for being born a freak in Unpleasantville, where half the population was over seven feet tall, like clowns walking on stilts in a circus. I couldn’t look into their eyes to ascertain if they were nice.
But there came a time when the tide ran in my favor. It happened the day when the miners were trapped after the mine roof collapsed. The townsfolk cried “Adolf please help! Otherwise, our men will die”. That’s when I rose to my full 133 cm height and consented to undertake a difficult task. Carrying a haversack on my back, filled with buttered bread and water, I entered the small opening without any discomfort. Inch by inch, I crawled flat on my stomach and made progress till I reached the tall frightened miners, bent double, some without arms, legs crushed, but alive. Being a good Christian, I fed them with my hands and for once saw looks of gratitude in their eyes. “Ah! they exclaimed, “we can’t thank you enough for being the good Samaritan to save our lives.” For three days I kept them fed and hydrated, till the rescue team arrived and the trapped miners emerged from the caves to face sunlight, to the sound of jubilation from their wives, who carryied banners with “Bravo Adolf!” They presented me with hand made gifts: a red scarf, woolen socks to fit my feet size, and crates of beer, an indulgence of mine. That made me feel more inclusive amid Unpleasantville, populated by tall men and women.
As would be my luck, that moment of pride soon took a nosedive. All because one summer, winged locusts in the hundreds arrived from nowhere, destroying ripe cornfields. The people in Unpleasantville said “Adolf surely has a hand in this. Let us get rid of him as fast as we can.” And I couldn’t say a single word in my defense. What was the point? They had made up their minds and I met my waterloo in a deep still lake two miles outside the town precincts. My mate Caleb fished out my body from the lake depths. The Pastor gave me a decent burial in the cemetery where the miners I saved lie buried with fancy tomb stones. Had they forgotten? Had they no conscience? I question and question, with no answers from heaven. So, I took it upon myself and decided to take revenge on them.
My spirit still roams the streets every night, calling out the names of those responsible for my death. That way, I have achieved my goal, keeping them awake all days of the week, all night. Mothers, Fathers, children, and pets, wait patiently for dawn to break.
That's why the population of Unpleasantville suffers from insomnia. The village doctor is unable to pinpoint the cause. Ha-Ha-Ha-Hallelujah!
Snigdha Agrawal is Bengali born and resides in Bangalore, India. She is extensively published and writes in all genres of poetry, prose, short stories, travelogues and hotel/restaurant reviews. You can find her full bio in the episode description. Raised and educated in a cosmopolitan environment, with exposure to Eastern and Western cultures, her writing reflects a balanced outlook on life. Her family and extended family live in the USA. Educated in Loreto Convents (B.A. Honours, MBA in marketing) she has over two decades of corporate experience.