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By Shrutidhora Mohor

It’s our routine every night. Father and daughter, the world outside. We discuss dreams, memories, hopes for the future, hopes of the past. The night flows along. The grandfather’s clock in the lobby chimes every half hour to remind us that the night is not still.

In the next room lies my mother. A patient for years now. Her room smells of medicines, and of smudged memories. I step in many times during the day. At night I stand by the side of her bed and look at her crinkled face. There are layers of sleep on her eyelids. She sleeps her dense sleep. Empty strips of sedatives and painkillers adorn the bedside table. 

Sometimes I put my hands on hers. She moves her fingers only slightly at times. But she doesn’t know it’s me. When I tell her in the morning, she looks surprised at me and then stares at the wall in front. 

“Er…” she makes an indistinct sound before she utters a word. She rarely speaks a full sentence.

“Yes, mom…?” I bend down.

She opens her eyes wide and mumbles things. Then she finally says, “A traveller has lost his way…”

“Do you help him reach his destination?”

“Doesn’t know his destination…”

I smile like an affectionate mother. “Then he can’t lose his way.”


“I’ll make us coffee tonight.”

“Are you sure you will be able to?”

My father nods and drags his feet to the kitchen.

Some minutes later he arrives with a ceramic tray in hand. I sniff the air. The coffee doesn’t smell like coffee. 

“Papa…coffee?” I intend to verify.

He offers me a mug. 

The heat of the mug passes from his hands to mine.

I put my lips to the brim.

A strong taste of liquid spice darts down my throat. I cough loudly and swallow the bitter hot fluid. A few drops of it settle at the corners of my lips. I rub them off with an impatient movement of my hand.


He looks puzzled and tries to taste his coffee. It is too hot for him.

“Where did you get the jar from?”

“The small white cupboard…”

“Ohhh, you probably got the wrong jar. This must be…umm…cumin powder. Oh papa!”

He freezes for a few seconds and then shakes from side to side, giggling. 

I join him in the frolic. 

Father-daughter giggles swirl inside the cumin powder infusion. Tiny rings of smoke push their way into our nostrils. A cumin coffee midnight drama dances before our eyes. Its characters are all spicy, bitter, and a little lost. 


I see off the physician after his weekly visit.

The patient is very quiet since morning. As I am about to exit the room, she catches my little finger and stops me.

“Mom, you are awake?”

“The coffee…”

“You want some?” I look hesitant.

“Tell papa it’s the third medium-size jar from left on the bottom row.”

She gasps for breath, exhausted from uttering too long an instruction. Her head slips down into the pillow at the exact spot where her head has rested for years.

I blink. “How do you know?”

She doesn’t answer me. Probably she doesn’t hear me.


Dreamers of the world unite at the dead of night.

That is what papa has whispered to me since my teenage days. His eyes have glowed as though dreams were unfolding before his eyes. The colours of an imagined world have lit up the contours of his face each time he has smelled a dream.

“What good is a dream, papa?” I have asked countless times.

He has clasped his hands together, caressed his own knuckles, cleared his throat and then, looking at me with the protective urge of a shepherd, said, “A dream is often no good by itself, beta. But a dream is the memory of a future lived hundreds of years ago, a potential life, a world promised but never realised.” He has paused to pet his dream, stretching at his feet, or on his lap. “A dream is not often a good, beta, but all the good of the world come together to form a dream, many dreams, memories of dreams, dreams which are only memories…” His voice has sunk but his eyes have glittered at such times. 

Dialogues repeated many times over at home, a home in which there is nothing new to be said, nothing new to be done. The routine of attendants, bound by the clock, of soaring medical bills, of a doctor who has lost interest in the patient, of a heavily curtained patient’s room, smelling of tinctures and soaked bandages, used injection syringes, disposable litter, and of a medium-sized jar, third from left, with its exciting smell of caffeine, at odds with an unexciting household. 


It is past one in the morning. Our father-daughter duo is on a break, having rehashed forgotten dreams for the last two hours or so. My mother’s breathing is wafting through the door kept ajar. The night attendant is seated on a chair next to her.

I walk up to the window.

There is a figure trudging along. His drunk steps are chaotic. His oversized jacket is a gift from nowhere. He is humming a merry tune. His arms are extended on both sides like the wings of a bird. As he passes from below our window he looks up for no reason. His eyes are like polished marbles, but his face is sleepy. When he sees me, he stops for a second and then with the smile of a child salutes me.

I tilt my head in amusement and then after a few seconds salute him back.

“Hey ho!” I call out.

“Hey, hey!” He replies. “Long live…”

He flaps his wings and walks away with faltering steps.


“Who?” My father asks.

“A traveller without a destination.”

“Oh, then he must be a dreamer.”


The night attendant appears at the door.

“The doctor isn’t taking the call. Do you have the ambulance number?”

Shrutidhora P Mohor has been listed in several competitions like Bristol Short Story

Prize, the Bath Flash Fiction Award, the Retreat West monthly micro competitions

and the quarterly competitions, the Retreat West Annual Prize for short story 2022,

the Winter 2022 Reflex Fiction competition, Flash 500. Her writings have been published by several literary magazines and been nominated for Best Micro fictions 2023.

Her Twitter handle is @ShrutidhoraPM and her Instagram username is @shrutidhorap

and on Facebook she is @Shrutidhora P Mohor

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