The little girl

“Murder!” She screamed.
Ah! The damned woman. Never could keep quiet, could she? He pretended to be alarmed and surprised too as he saw what lay on the floor.
The body of a little girl.
As the woman continued shouts of murder, he stood there staring at the familiar body. The beauty of it. The beauty that he didn’t see when it lived. She, he corrected himself. Now that she was dead, she was more real for him than she ever was.
 “Oh my god!” muttered a neighbor. “Who is she?” The fat one with the apron asked.
“I don’t know! We entered the house and there she was. Why would someone kill a stranger in our house?” The woman’s voice made him want to strangle her sometimes. That thin quivering voice.
The little girl had a deep one. A soothing deep voice.
The woman made the whole scene, a pity show. It shifted from being the death of a little girl to a dead body in her house. He hated her. Someday, she would die at his hands, too, he thought.
One good thing that came from the ruckus was he didn’t have to do the dirty work. Somehow the police turned up. Somehow people who were not even around when he and his wife reached home to find the girl were giving statements about it.
He smiled. The girl deserved more. The little girl with the pig tails and the torn dress.
She had lived on the same street as all of them for years now. All of them had just conveniently forgotten her. Like he had.
He went and sat on his rocking arm chair. He was too old for this now. He was happy he had done away with the children and could drink beer without the permission of the missus.
Every day on his way to work, he’d toss a coin to the girl as he chatted with her and answered her harmless questions. He didn’t once pay attention. He didn’t once look into her eyes. He should have. Then he would have known. Then maybe he could have saved her. Maybe, he could have talked her out of this.
But he was selfish. Wasn’t he? He never thought he’d care if a girl killed herself. A girl no one cared about.
But he cared. He did.
So he reached for the gun in his drawer. As he stood facing the window and felt the nozzle of the gun on his temple, he felt a memory rush back to him.
“Do people care about each other?”
“They don’t. They pretend to but they don’t. One of us would otherwise have picked you and given you a home. But have we? Because we don’t care.”
“So it wouldn’t matter to anyone if I died?”
“You are a tramp, my child. It wouldn’t matter to my family if I died.” He scorned.
“So I’ll kill myself then and see if it matters.”
He ruffled her already ruffled hair and said, “Go ahead. Try it.”
“Mind it if I do it in your house?”
And as he tossed her a coin, he nodded and said, “I do not mind. Just don’t mess up the place too much.”
He pressed the trigger.
He hoped no one would care about his death. Not as much he had cared about hers.
That little girl with the pigtails and the torn dress.

— Trupti Shetty


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