The boy shivered on my sofa when he heard it. I was relieved. It was time for him to go.

His mother had called him for lunch. “Aryan, Aryan,” she howled repeatedly.

“Bye,” he said and ran downstairs to his house. 

Aryan came to my house around 11 AM the next day. This had become a daily routine now.

“I had my bath and breakfast early today,” he said.

He pushed me aside and sat on the sofa. I closed the door tweaking my lips at another morning of unsolicited childcare. He rang the doorbell four days back for the first time. I don’t know why. I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me. He just rang the bell and barged in with a smile. I don’t know why and what it was, but I couldn’t tell him not to disturb me. Then he kept coming every day.

Not that I had much to be disturbed about. I had left my job a few months back and was trying a few things working for myself. The pandemic had confined me to my home, and some company, albeit of a 10-year-old boy, wasn’t all that bad. He probably realised it and so, kept coming.

 “Some tea or coffee for you?” I asked him from the kitchen, thinking of having a late breakfast.

“You don’t have any juices?” he asked opening my fridge and checking. “Lots of beer, eh?” he smiled and picked up a can.

“That’s not for you,” I instantly pulled it from his hand and kept it back.

“I know, I know,” the smart-ass replied. “Get apple juice next time,” he said and banged the fridge door closed.

“Slow, buddy, it costs money,” I warned him. He twisted his mouth and said, “Whatever.”

“What’s the latest you have seen on Netflix?” he asked, switching on the TV in the living room.

“Don’t you have school, buddy?” I asked him.

“Online classes,” he replied. “I am in class. At home,” he added with a wink.

I rolled my eyes and wondered if his parents knew about it.

“Don’t judge me, they know,” he said instantly, as if reading my mind.

Here was one smart boy, I thought. I got my breakfast and gave him some snacks from the cabinet.

“You live alone?” he asked. I thought of nodding but didn’t reply. “No girlfriends?” he persisted. I turned my face away and focused on my food. He found something else to turn his attention to.

“You can remove your mask if you want; if you want to eat those snacks,” I told him. “You are at home and I am sitting at a distance.”

He tightened his mask with his hands and said, “I don’t want to eat. I had my breakfast.” Then he looked at me and added, “Masks are good.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Of course, they are good. I thought just in case.”

He sat silently watching me eat for a few minutes. He fiddled with the newspaper and magazines. He switched off the TV. In the silence, we heard a sound of vessels falling from downstairs.

“How many times should I tell you not to make noise?” we heard a man’s voice. “I am in a meeting.”

“Are you the only one who is busy? As if I have no work!” a woman shouted back.

“Will you please shut up now?” the man howled back.

“No, my voice is like that. And this is my house, not your office,” the woman yelled.

There was a loud bang of a door shutting close after that. Some muffled voices continued.

“There they go again,” Aryan smiled at me. “Today, they started early in the day.”

I shifted in my seat with slight unease and continued eating my breakfast.

“Do you want something to read?” I asked him. He shook his head.

“You don’t have office?” he asked. I pointed him to my desk in the room inside.

He went in the room, closer to my MacBook. He examined the various books on the desk. There was a guitar next to it. A bicycle. Sports shoes near the wheel. Some photographs of the Himalayas.

“That’s your office?” he asked, and I nodded. “What do you do?” he wondered.

“Many things,” I replied. “I have a travel company, I trek, I write, I do some music, among other things,” I said.

He had a frown on his face. He stared at me. “Is that a job?” he asked. “No one travels in the pandemic,” he remarked. “I don’t think you have a job.”

I didn’t have an answer for him. I didn’t want to answer. Before he could get any further on my nerves, I pushed him outside the room. “Ok, my office will start now. You sit outside,” I said.

But after about thirty minutes, I couldn’t let him sit alone in the living room. So I stepped outside.

The boy had dozed off on the sofa. “Hey Aryan, why are you sleeping in the day?” I asked but he did not respond. I let him sleep and carried on with my work.

At least I was spared of looking after him for a while, I thought. I completed a few more calls and wrote a couple of pages. When I came out, I found him awake.

“You had a good nap?” I asked.

He looked at me surprised, and said, “No, I wasn’t sleeping.”

“Didn’t you have a good night’s sleep?” I persisted.

“No, umm… I mean Yes. I wasn’t sleeping. I was studying,” he insisted.

He gave me an impish smile. I let it be and asked him if he wanted anything to play.

“No, I have this,” he replied, showing me his Rubik’s cube.

“You like that?” I asked him. Before he could reply, we heard some loud voices again.

“Where is Aryan?” I heard a man’s voice demanding.

“Isn’t he your son? Or is your job only to attend meetings?” the woman shouted back.

“I ask a simple question, and you start a fight,” the man yelled. “There’s no point talking to you.”

“In any case, you don’t talk to me,” the woman said. “Go talk to your boss, she must be waiting.”

“What is this nonsense?” the man shouted.

Again I heard a door banging close. Aryan looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

“Does this happen every day?” I asked him this time after some silent moments, with my mouth crunched and one eyebrow raised this time.

“Well…umm..,” he replied, tweaking his mouth. “I think I should go back,” he looked away.

“No, you can stay a bit longer, if you want,” I reassured him. It was almost lunch time. “You can have lunch with me. I can order something you like,” I told him.

I thought that will make him feel better. And make me feel better too.

“I can’t have food outside,” he replied.

Before I could say anything further, a loud sound interrupted us. “Aryan, Aryan,” we heard his mother’s voice. It was more like she was howling for him. I wasn’t sure she knew where he was. She seemed like yelling in all directions. “Aryan, come home for lunch,” I heard a few times.

“I think I should head back,” he said. I nodded, saying, “Take care.”

“Do you have some water?” he asked. I went into the kitchen to get him a glass of water.

He removed his mask and had his fill. That’s when I noticed that his cheeks were red with a recent injury. I noticed a swollen cheek bone. He had a slight cut over his lips as well.

“What’s that? Did you get hurt while playing?” I asked him.

He fumbled with the glass in his hand on hearing my question and wore his mask again in a hurry.

“No,.. err.. what? ..umm.. no,” he said.

“Then what happened?” I asked.

“I fell in the bathroom,” he answered, and added, “today morning,” winking at me as he left.

I waited for the doorbell to ring the next morning, but it didn’t.



Ranjit Kulkarni


Ranjit Kulkarni’s work so far includes short stories, articles, and novellas, many of which, he is told, have made people think and smile. His work has appeared in Literary Yard, Indian Periodical, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Potato Soup Journal, Setu Journal and CC&D Scars. A collection of his short stories is expected by the end of 2021. More details about his work can be accessed at


  1. Very good story on a child who needs attention from his parents. Touching.

  2. Excellent piece - thought provoking indeed

  3. Thanks - appreciate you reading it and the comments.

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