The sound of flush loudened. Ranjit was sitting at the chabudai sipping his morning tea when Vipin came out of the bathroom.

“I sure am using my right hand an awful lot these days!” he said. Ranjit paused with teapot in hand and looked at his flatmate with knitted eyebrows. It was not the sort of conversation starter he would expect from Vipin. He cleared his throat and resumed pouring tea for his flatmate.

“I think we all do,” said Ranjit.

“Well, that sucks! I wanted to make a name of myself with this!”

Ranjit put down the teapot and put his arms on the table. He scrutinised Vipin. His morning tea couldn’t kick-start his brain soon enough. Just like his morning routine of reading the newspaper, he had merely skimmed and scanned the words. Now that inference and a bit of brain racking were required, he fuelled his brain with what the leaves of Ooty had to offer. Slurp.

“Any particular reason why?”

“All these idiots going around calling football ‘soccer’; I really want to sock them!”

Ranjit needed more juice to jumpstart his brain. Gulp.

“What’s the harm in it? Many people use the names interchangeably,” said the plump flatmate of the professional goalkeeper.

Vipin put his hands on his head, wearing the expression of disbelief at a referee’s glaring error.

As opposed to Ranjit, he took a sip of tea to calm himself down. Judging by his countenance, Ranjit felt it worked to a certain degree. But it was just the calm before the storm.

“This time every year the fanfare surrounding football increases. All major leagues and club competitions reach their conclusion and fans laud their favourite clubs, while others try to be a part of the brigade, not to feel left out. It is that latter group, and many others who don’t know the first thing about the game, that really grinds my gears! It is an insult to my profession, to my passion, to my being. I cannot, and will not stand it! That’s why I have been working hard over the last couple of weeks with Mr Socko.”

Ranjit followed Vipin’s gaze and saw the piece of sock flattened on the windowsill. It fluttered subtly with the wind, showing its menacing intent with the crudely drawn manic laughter on its surface.

“Wait, isn’t that-“

“Childhood memories…put to good use,” nodded Vipin. He now knew how the goalie had been using his right hand, but it only sprouted more questions.

Vipin’s bitter countenance warned him to go no further. But the die had already been cast. Vipin walked to the window and wore the sock on his hand. “Mr Socko has educated many tongues. My victims would have spread the word. When people say soccer, they would mean SOCKer!” He looked at his partner in crime and the two shared a sinister snigger.

“You look like an amateur ventriloquist. Besides, wouldn’t that make more people around you use the term?”

It was tea that had enabled Ranjit to work things over in his mind. It was these words that did it for Vipin.

Ranjit had never seen the process unfold right in front of his eyes. He saw the morning haze disappearing, the honing of eyes and mind, the movements becoming less dreamy, the demeanour becoming less disoriented. And there was light.

But it was detonation.

Vipin was panting like a beast. Ranjit could already hear the blood-curdling wail that was around the corner.

Instead, the doorbell rang.

“Hi, is this the residence of Mr Vipin Khosla?”

Vipin puffed. Ranjit nodded. The visitor darted his eyes between the two inhabitants before fixing them on Ranjit. His size led the visitor to mistake him as the professional goalkeeper. Childhood memories…put to bad use.

“Well, I am looking for a coach for our school’s soccer team. We cannot offer much compensation, but we—“

His speech was interrupted by Mr Socko, who talked soundlessly but to great effect. Despite Vipin taking care not to thrust his hand in roughly, the visitor’s head went back and forth with his hand’s movement.

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