His hair was cropped very short -- so short that the scalp showed at places. On top of that, he had a long piece of twine thread wrapped several times around his forehead. The winding was so tight that it made his eyes fiery and his veins swollen. But the oddities did not end there. To make things worse, his hairy nostrils were filled with phelgm and snuff. A few days' beard added to the effect and produced a sight which, to say the least, was not pleasing.
A baby girl was crying in the hallway at the top of her voice. In the room, another was lying ill.
``Krittibas! Where are you?''
Mr. H looked fiercely towards the door.
``I say, Kité --''
But Krittibas was certainly not around.
He shouted even louder -- ``Kité --''
No one showed up.
This time in a thundering voice -- ``Kité, you stupid bastard--''
His shoutings woke up the girl in the sick-bed and she started crying. It was very faint, almost a whining. The other child had been crying all along. Her voice was not faint -- it was rather strong. Mr. H became even more furious by these two completely different styles of crying. He screamed furiously at a high voice -- ``Kité, Kité, you damn --''
It worked this time.
Kité did not show up of course, but in came a fat woman with marks of spices on her saree. This had an immediate effect. Mr. H suddenly subsided and started looking around with an embarrassed smile on his face. But the woman was not the least embarrassed. Nor, for that matter, did she show any sign of truce. She frowned at Mr. H for a while. She then put one hand on her waist, shook the other hand militantly and asked him, ``What's the matter? The way you are screaming, anyone would think that the house is on fire.''
Mr. H fumbled, ``Is the hot water ...?''
``What about it? How can I bring you the hot water now? I have only two hands, as you might have noticed!''
``No no, I didn't ask you. Where is Kité?''
``He has gone to the market.''
``I thought you had sent him to the market once in the morning.''
``I have sent him again.''
``Oh, that's all right.''
Mr. H did not dare say anything more. At that instant, Krittibas himself appeared at the door and said, ``I got the spices, Ma'm.''
Mr. H now fixed his fiery gaze on Krittibas. Krittibas said apologetically, ``I'll bring your water right away, sir. I had put it on the stove before leaving. I think it's ready by now --''
Krittibas left the room. The lady left as well. On her way, she stopped in the hallway, slapped the child a few times and said, ``Wailing all the time! All day, all night! What a pain in the neck!''
The crying became louder. The sick girl groaned, ``Dad, my headache kills me.''
Recalling his wife's mood, Mr. H did not consider it wise to ask her for anything. Instead, he got up and fetched the thermometer. He found that the girl's fever had gone up to 105 degrees. He looked helplessly at the thermometer for a while. Then, when a sigh was expected to come out of him, he burst into a shout--
``Try to sleep, don't scream.''
The five-year old girl rolled by her side with the hope of getting some sleep.
A loud rap at the door followed. Mr. H opened the door and found the person he was most afraid of. It was the grocer. He had come with the monthly bill.
Mr. H said, ``Maybe day after tomorrow -- I'm terribly short of money at the moment.''
The man swore and left.
``Here's your water, sir.''
Mr. H looked around and found Krittibas standing there with a kettle in his hand.
``Bring me a pan.''
Krittibas rested the kettle on the floor and brought a large pan and some cold water. Mr. H mixed some hot and cold water into the pan and felt the temperature with his hands. He found that it did not suit him. He was about to pour some more hot water when the sick girl started throwing up.
``Kité -- come here -- look at her --''
Krittibas came to take care of the child. Mr. H mixed hot and cold water in right proportions. Then he looked at Krittibas and said, ``Now leave her alone. Bring me my small table, the pen and some paper.''
Mr. H sat down in a chair whose arms were broken. He dipped his feet into the warm water and started enjoying the footbath. Krittibas presently brought paper, pen, ink and the small writing table.
The bugs in the chair began biting Mr. H; two dogs started quarrelling loudly in the road outside; the baby in the hallway continued crying at the top of her voice; and Mr. H felt a splitting headache. He kept rubbing his forehead with his left hand, closed his eyes and started thinking. He must finish it today. The editor of the journal was pestering, and Mr. H also had his own reasons. With a friendly frown appearing on his face, Mr. H began to think of a plot for a real funny story. He was a renowned humorist.