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“I think we should call Midhali,” Mompy said. There was a kind of eagerness in his voice; with an edge of excitement and anxiety.

Bandem was surprised. “Why… why Midhali? What’s she…”

Mompy cut Bandem before the latter could finish his sentence. “She’ll know what to do.” And then he said, more to himself than Bandem, “She always knows what to do.”

To say that Bandem didn’t want Midhali here, and more importantly have her learn what Bandem had done, would be an understatement. The sight of the two of them in the park, lying next to each other, staring at the celestial spread up above them, flashed past him for a fleeting moment. It was there… and then gone.

Can’t we just handle this by ourselves? Bandem wanted to ask Mompy, but didn’t. If we need someone – if we need anyone – can’t we call Shanky or Anpag?

Of course, they couldn’t have; for neither of them was available. But those two were a better option than Midhali.

Just a minute ago, the leg of the man lying in front of them on the floor of the treehouse had moved. He wasn’t dead; as the boys had feared. They had almost screamed in happiness. But even before the joy and relief could wash away, a thought more drastic dawned on them. What are they going to do with this man? Now that he was not dead, surely he would remember what happened to him.

Unless, of course, the impact had somehow wiped his memories away. Miracles – because it wasn’t anything but – like these may be scientifically feasible, but they were the stuff for television. He had seen many movies, many which were predominantly slapstick comedies, to know this.

This was the moment when Anpag’s father, The Fat Dad, who was standing looking into the treehouse from the outside, had been called away by Mompy’s dad. Even though he couldn’t see all that was transpiring not even ten meters away from him, he did wonder based on what he could hear if the boys had a dead body with them. The thought would remain with him for a while – something we can come back to later – but sadly he didn’t see the man waking up.

It was when Bandem looked at Mompy with eyes searching for an answer, asking the question Mompy already was struggling with, that Mompy suggested getting Midhali involved.

Midhali Catherine Basna, who wasn’t just Mompy’s neighbourhood friend but also his girlfriend. She lived on the far side of the colony; in fact, five doors down from Anpag’s. Mompy and Midhali were friends since elementary school. Their moms would take their evening strolls together, which was where they both, as five-year-olds, first met. At the time, Mompy’s mum had lost her second child – after an accident that radically the changed lives of not just her but also The Cool Dad – and her friendship with Midhali’s mother had come as a welcome respite.

Mompy was still years away from being introduced to Bandem or Shanky, both of whom lived in the vicinity.

The connection between Mompy and Midhali was instant. Every evening, they would play on the swings and slides in the neighbourhood park. Soon, they started visiting each other’s houses; a little playdate here, a little let’s-do-our-homework-together there. As they grew up, the friendship blossomed and, a few years before our chronicle of The Four Boys Club starts, they had become what you would call inseparable friends. A month later, Mompy ran the idea by her that they could – not should, he didn’t use that word – start dating. Midhali wasn’t taken aback. Honestly, she had entertained the idea in her head a few times already, but it never stuck. In her words, “it was a sweet thought, but it never lasted.”

They deliberated and came to the decision that they should give it a go.

Would it ruin a perfectly good friendship?

Well, they chose to be optimistic about it.

Somewhere along the course of Mompy’s friendship with Bandem, the latter found himself being drawn towards Midhali. Anpag wasn’t a fan of Midhali’s – found her, in his words, “too chatty” – and so he passed up on any opportunity to hang out when Midhali was present. Shanky, too, developed a disinclination towards her. It’s not clear whether he outright disliked her, but we can assume he wasn’t in favour of introducing a new person in their little group; even though Midhali was an older friend of Mompy’s than any of the three boys.


But Bandem… well, he didn’t just find her fun to be around but also started developing feelings for her. He never revealed his feelings to Mompy; who had once caught Bandem looking at her with a look he wouldn’t say suggested mere friendship. When Mompy asked what Midhali thought of it, she said he was reading too much into it. “Trust me, a girl knows these things. He’s not into me,” she told Mompy.

Of course, Bandem didn’t confess his feelings to Midhali as well. Even though when he heard about their brief break up six years later, he did try to crack his way by her side; finding her on Facebook and telling her about some of Mompy’s embarrassing secrets as a kid in an effort to, shall we say, win her. The outcome was, well, different from what he had hoped for. For starters, it left a terrible impression of him on her. But more importantly, as it turns out, she and Mompy got together a couple of months later; and, this time, their relationship was as solid as it had ever been. Eight years henceforth, they would get married; and another year later, have a daughter.

Bandem never got married. He moved away from the city and was in a live in for ten years with a woman he had met on a Tinder date. But Midhali never left his mind. His feelings may have subdued as he grew old, but remnants of it still clung to his consciousness.

Back in the treehouse, despite Bandem’s disinclination to get Midhali involved, Mompy lifted the receiver of the landline off its cradle, dialled her number, and, after a few seconds of agonised tension, asked Midhali to come over. In the quietness of the afternoon, Bandem heard Midhali say from the other end, “Is everything okay?” Mompy asked her again if she could come over. She said she was just going to be on her way.

Bandem, already petrified over the definitely not dead body lying in front of them, could now feel his heart beating wildly. He would not want Midhali to know what he had done.

The next half an hour went by in a blur. Midhali arrived ten minutes later. She was gasping for breath as she entered the little door, said she had sensed the worry in Mompy’s voice over the phone and rushed over. She was surprised to see Bandem there; which embarrassed him a little.

As Mompy explained the pickle the two boys were in, the man lying on the floor – apparently now in full control of his faculties – sat up. Midhali and Mompy both let out a scream at the same time. Bandem should have been scared too, but he wondered if, after Midhali’s arrival, he had become the third wheel. He wanted to leave; had wanted to, ever since Mompy floated the idea of calling Midhali over. But now that need was ever so strong.

An obvious tussle ensued between Mompy and the not dead man, whose name we will never learn. Mompy mentioned how Bandem, who stayed in the back and did not participate in the discussion (much to Midhali’s disappointment and displeasure), had brought him in a cab till the gate to the backyard. How he managed to convince the cab drive to lug a body with him, Mompy didn’t say; possibly because he himself had neither asked Bandem nor cared for it. “Besides,” Mompy said to the man, presenting his and Bandem’s defence, “does that even matter now?” After bringing the man in the treehouse, Bandem had called Mompy, explained the situation, and Mompy rushed out and brought them in.

Bandem, his head a world of its own disarrayed thoughts, didn’t move. He just stayed at the back, not saying anything. Midhali looked at him sideways, gesturing angrily that he should join Mompy. But Bandem… felt paralysed. By fear, by embarrassment, by… a lot of emotions he couldn’t comprehend himself. After what must have been many minutes – within which many obscenities were hurled, threats were made, and apologies spoken – Mompy had somehow managed to coax the man. We won’t go into how Mompy did it – because, as Mompy had said a few moments before, “does that even matter how?” – but only be happy that he did.

The man left soon afterwards. No one beyond the four walls of the treehouse saw him leave. Anpag’s and Mompy’s dads were inside the house. The Fat Dad had come over to invite The Cool Dad to a little event he was organising on the occasion of his twentieth wedding anniversary.

To the outside world, the world that was unaware of what had transpired within the four walls of the treehouse, there wasn’t much into it.

Previous episode: There... And Then Gone

Next episode: Anpag's Reflection

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