The Reptile and Other Stories, Arlene Mohanty, Mark-Age Services Pvt Ltd, Pp 128 (PB), Rs 90.00
In this compilation of short stories, the best indeed is the title story ‘The Reptile’ which tells the story of 17-year old Bradford, called Brad for short, who lives with his two sisters and mother Charlotte and Father Jim in Calangunte, Goa. Jim is an abusive and a tyrannical husband and father who beats both his wife and son for some inexplicable reason – “life in the Hutchinson household was always hell.”
One fine day Jim disappears without a trace. Brad’s grandmother Della comes to stay with them and takes care of the children. She is the pillar of strength for the family. Brad suffers from a mysterious disease when after every two-three months, he lapses into depression and then becomes violent. His grandmother takes Brad to her own house now lying vacant and built atop a hill, away from other inhabitants and keeps him over the weekend till he recovers. Surprisingly, after each of his bouts, Brad would emerge looking like “a whipped dog, weak, drawn and unsteady” with skin “rough, chopped and leathery”, and having difficulty in breathing.
He is taken to the best of doctors for treatment but to no avail. As days pass, Brad’s grandmother Della, doting on her grandson, takes full care of him. In school he is the topper in studies. One year, however, a young and beautiful girl named Peach tops the class. Next day there is no sign of her.
The stories are interesting to read with an unexpected twist in each which reveals how humankind learns to live with his or her tragic circumstances.
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