The case of the missing notes

SHORT STORY

Venkat was mostly clad in jeans out of school hours. His favourite was a faded (not fashionably faded but faded from long over-use) disreputable pair, with ragged leg edges. The pockets were always stuffed with all kinds of things. He could fish out a veritable treasure trove of rubbish from them. It was with great reluctance that he gave his jeans to be washed.

And the moment they were dry, he would wear them. His mother despaired of telling him to discard them. “Why, Amma? They are in good condition,” he would say.

“Soon they will fall apart,” prophesied his mother.

“Then I won’t have any choice, will I?” grinned the incorrigible Venkat.

For the past few days, it had been raining off and on. For a short while, there would be a burst of sunshine. Then, without warning, the sky would cloud over and there would be a downpour. On one such day, Venkat was cycling home and got a bit wet. When he reached home, he draped his jeans on a plastic chair on the back verandah. There was a lot of breeze and the jeans would soon dry.

The next day, Venkat donned the jeans. He went to collect a sari his mother had given to be dry cleaned. At the shop, he reached into his hip pocket for the receipt. It was not there. He looked around his feet, wondering if it had fallen out. There was nothing on the ground. The shop assistant knew Venkat’s mother well as she was a frequent customer. He handed over the sari without any fuss. Venkat thanked the shop assistant and left. But he was rather puzzled. He was positive he had put it in the hip pocket. How had it disappeared mysteriously?

He had searched both the hip pockets thoroughly. Unable to find answer, Venkat stopped wondering.

Soon after this, Venkat’s mother gave him a list of groceries to be picked up from the supermarket nearby. As was his habit, Venkat shoved it into the hip pocket of his jeans. To give them an airing, he had clipped them onto the clothesline the previous day. That evening he had football practice. “I’ll do the shopping on the way back from the ground,” he thought.

After the practice, he went to the supermarket. He parked his cycle, and entered the store. He took a basket and  said to himself, “Let me take out the list.” But it wasn’t there! “That’s strange. I am quite, quite sure I put it in the hip pocket.” All the same, he searched ALL the pockets. All sorts of scrap tumbled out but the list was not among them. With an exasperated shrug, he returned home.

He explained to his mother why he hadn’t been able to buy the groceries. “Never mind. I’ll make out another list and you can get the groceries tomorrow,” said his mother.

“But where could it have gone? It seems to have vanished into thin air!” protested Venkat.
“Don’t bother about it. After all, it was just a list,” his mother answered comfortingly.

But Venkat could not get it out of his mind. True, neither the receipt nor the list were important. But they seemed to have been spirited away.

After a lot of nagging by his mother, Venkat put his jeans in the wash. When he returned from school that evening, his mother exclaimed, “I’ve found the culprit!”

“The culprit? What culprit?” asked Venkat.

“The culprit who took the receipt and the grocery list.” His mother sounded triumphant.
“Who, Amma? Tell me,” urged Venkat.

“A crow,” she announced.

“A crow?” repeated Venkat, blankly.

“Yes, a crow. As today was a bright, sunny day, I hung all the washed clothes in the backyard to dry,” she started.

“And then?” asked the impatient Venkat.

“A crow came along, perched on the clothesline and began to delve into the hip pocket of your jeans with its beak. Not finding anything, it flew away.”

“But what has that got to do with the receipt and the list?” questioned Venkat.

“By nature, the crow is nosey, inquisitive, curious. When garbage bags are left out, haven’t noticed the its sharp beak poking into them to find if there is anything to eat? Today also it came to investigate if it could get something and went disappointed. It was the crow that picked you pocket for the receipt and the list and cast them aside as they were not edible. I found them near one of the potted plants. Here they are!” She showed him the receipt and the list torn and tattered.

“So that is the case of the curious crow!”  remarked Venkat.

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