|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
|SETTING||Online Social Network|
|THEME||And He/She Changed Forever|
Social Short Story – Sunset Years
He sat on his rocking chair, watching the sunset from his porch. Another day had ended. The sounds of the night began, breaking the silence of twilight. He held the armrests of the chair and slowly helped himself out , shuffling back into the house, joints creaking like the floorboards under his feet.
He went into the kitchen to fix himself some dinner. He opened the refrigerator and picked up a few carrots and peas. He removed a chunk of beef from the freezer and put it in the microwave to thaw. He usually made himself some broth with meat and vegetables and had it with a few slices of bread. He missed the smells of his wife’s kitchen. When she was alive, he used to sit on the same porch every evening late after sunset, watching the fireflies and listening to the crickets in the garden till she called out to him for dinner. The whole house used to be enveloped in delicious aromas every night. But now, for the past ten years , the only smells that lingered in the house were stale broth and musty newspapers.
Those newspapers were what he was. He had been a reputed columnist in his time, writing in all major publications. His fiery views had shocked the country, governments were shaken up. He had won almost all the awards there were for journalism and later on, awards were initiated in his name. And then his wife got sick. The doctors said that there was no treatment, but a clean air and healthy food would keep her going till as long as she could. So they sold off their apartment in the city and moved to this small town on the hills. The pure mountain air and fresh food , supplemented with a few medicines gave her another good ten years. And he had remained in the same house after she had passed away.
During the first few years in the hills, he sat at his desk by the window, putting fresh sheets of white paper into his Remington typewriter and continued his career as a columnist. But slowly, the lazy smalltown life took over and he lost touch of the current events. Unable to cope, he announced his retirement from the media. Most newspapers carried the story of his retirement and he was gradually forgotten, only remembered once in awhile in journalism school lectures.
A few years ago, citizens in the town he lived in now had taken the personal initiative and started a newsletter for the district. He started regularly buying a copy when he went down to the market to get his weekly provisions. And then, every afternoon, sitting at his typewriter , he tapped out long articles for the newsletter. He hadn’t lost his touch. His pieces were well received and he slowly began to regain his lost glory, however limited, in the small town.
And then his arthritis happened.
Like the naked roots of trees , his fingers knotted up. The swollen joints made it very difficult for him to type even a single line. Each press of a key made him flinch with pain. And holding a pen and writing was out of the question. So again, he faded away into the background, continuing to live in that little cottage up the hill, listening to crickets and soaking in sunsets.
One morning, reading the newspapers, he looked at an advertisement for laptops and suddenly wondered if he could learn to use a computer at this age. He plodded downhill the next day and made enquiries. Operating a computer was surprisingly easy, he realised.
A month later he sat on that porch at twilight, laptop on the table next to him, watching the world open up right before his eyes. Sitting there, in a godforsaken little town up the mountains, he realized that he could follow what the president of the United States was doing at that very moment. It fascinated him endlessly. Like a ten year old boy with a new toy, he sat up with the little box all night.
The keyboard was softer, it didn’t hurt his fingers so much, he noticed. So he started to write again. He started a blog. And he wrote and wrote, much like his columns in his hey days. On every subject under the sun. He read the news and wrote scathing analysis, offered solutions, churned out opinions. Not many people read it, but it was catharitic. And it gave him an adrenalin rush. And so he wrote.
And one day, he logged on to Twitter. It took him time to get used to it, but when he got the hang of it, he was hooked. He was anonymous with @hillybilly as his handle. Not many followed him, but he followed all the journalists, even some from his old newspapers. He responded to every tweet with a crisp, sharp opinion in 140 characters. His opinions were as fiery as before and gradually ,people started to take notice of this @hillybilly. The clicks on his blog increased, and went almost viral at times.
He woke up each morning to ‘talk’ to his 5000 odd followers. They were like family to him. Most of them as young as the children and grandchildren he never had. They missed him when he was away for a few hours. ‘ Where is @hillybilly? I miss him’, they tweeted. They ‘watched’ cricket matches on TV together, analysed news as it happened, made jokes, reminiscenced. He reached celebrity status on Twitter. ‘Tweleb’, they called him.
Newspapers contacted him, asking him if he could contribute from his blog to their weekly columns. His words spiced the worldwide web now, not just the national dailies. And this time, he was a mysterious anonymous gentleman of the twenty first century who tapped away on a laptop, connecting through social networks; not the old journalist of the ninteteen fifties with his typewriter and newspaper circuit. That little box on his lap and the world wide web had given him a fresh lease of life.
Maybe he changed. Maybe his life had changed forever now. Or maybe he was just back to where he belonged.