Contemporary Fiction Friendship

Teddy sat in the university auditorium with his study partner, Suman. They were psyched. Two weeks of studying together for this biology exam made them well prepared. They expected perfect scores. After all they were both ace students. Suman’s parents were both revered academics in India who had been educated in Canada at the university of Toronto and Suman was following in their footsteps. He had always been the top of his class in India and since his arrival in Toronto stood first or second in his class. His competition was Teddy. It seemed that Teddy Fox either tied or bested his score in every class or exam. At first, he could not put a face to the name, but they were accidental chemistry partners in organic chemistry labs. Accidental because everyone else was paired when they arrived. Teddy was an Inuit from the Northwest Territories. He was the first in his family to go to college and had won many scholarships because his academic excellence. He was determined to be the first Inuit doctor in his village. His drive, ambition and talents were obvious to all his teachers at an early age. They encouraged him and recommended him to various programs. He was the first Inuit to earn a scholarship to University of Toronto school for grades 7-12. As its valedictorian, he earned a full scholarship to the University of Toronto.

Suman had a similar trajectory. He had excelled in grade school in Delhi. When his parents accepted positions at the Western University in Hamilton Ontario Canada, they enrolled him in Upper Canada College, a private all Boys high school in Toronto. He would live with his aunt Kirti and see his parents on the weekends. Of course, he excelled and as the valedictorian earned a full scholarship to the University of Toronto. Unlike Teddy, however, he wasn’t set on any career path. He just wanted to make his parents proud. He was also a talented sitar player and idolized Ravi Shankar. He had dreams of collaborating with a North American band or artist just like Ravi did with the Beatles, George Harrison in particular. When he was not studying, Suman practiced sitar and developed a newfound skill in the slide guitar. The instruments and music seemed incongruous to many but to Suman, they complemented each other. He dreamed of a blues Indian fusion band. In his spare time, he’d attend blues concerts. When his parents visited, he’d take them to hear Indian music. There was a large Indian community in Toronto and concerts were plentiful.

Teddy also had an outside interest. He loved Lacrosse and was the star player on every school team. His scholarship to the University was both academic and athletic. He was immediately recruited to the University Lacrosse team and was an instant star. In contrast to Suman, Teddy was a specimen. He was six feet, had broad shoulders, was a muscular two hundred and forty pounds and ran like the wind. Suman was thin, six feet, bespectacled and did not have an athletic bone his body. The only things they had in common was their intelligence, academic excellence and outsider status. Still, after a few weeks as lab partners, they became fast friends and study partners. Suman attended Teddy’s games and Teddy attended concerts with Suman. They challenged each other academically and became interested in each other’s cultures.


As they sat at their desk side by side. They waited for the proctor to tell them to turn over their exam paper and get started. Suman’s leg shook rhythmically with anxiety, and he hummed an old Indian song. Teddy sat coolly looking around the auditorium. His eyes met those of Heather Brown’s. She gave him a shy smile. She had long black hair, high cheek bone and perfect white teeth and was the only other Indigenous student in the class. Teddy turned away and cleared his thoughts. He had to concentrate. He turned to Suman and asked: “You ready?”

Suman turned to him and grinned: “You know I’m always ready, but I wish they’d get this thing started.”

Teddy reached over and squeezed Suman’s arm and said: “Relax bro’. You know we got this.”

Just as Teddy released Suman’s arm, a loud explosion shook the auditorium and both friends were thrown from their seats. When the dust settled, Teddy’s ears were ringing loudly and he found himself under bits and pieces of desks that had been blown across the auditorium. Teddy tested both arms and legs and found they were functional and intact. He could hear groans and muffled crying nearby. He pushed himself from under the debris and was struck by the strong odor of burned wood and flesh. It took a few  seconds to adjust to the dim light and smoke in the auditorium. He saw mangled desks and bloodied bodies slowly rising from beneath them. Heather was crying but seemed intact as she stumbled towards the exit. The lectern where the proctor had stood was in pieces and Teddy was sure he saw a severed head to the side. Teddy took a deep breath and started pulling fellow students out of the debris. Some were seriously injured and would require medical treatment. Most had survived but where was Suman? Teddy stepped over several desks and body parts in search of his buddy. He found a leg sticking out from beneath an overturned desk and recognized Suman’s loafer. He held his breath and overturned the desk. Suman was unconscious but looked intact except his right hand was missing and blood was squirting from the stump. His pulse in his neck was weak but present. The desk had probably been compressing Suman’s arm and preventing exsanguination. Teddy took off his shirt and wrapped it tightly around the stump as a tourniquet. With tears in his eyes, he lifted his buddy and carried him to the exit and into the hallway. He saw paramedics and police arriving outside the building, so he ran towards an ambulance parked at the entrance. Two medical personnel with a stretcher met him at the door and did a quick assessment. They asked Teddy questions as they whisked Suman to the ambulance.

“Has he been conscious anytime since you found him? How close was he to the explosion? Did you find his severed hand?”

Of course, they want his hand. Teddy berated himself for not looking for it. He was in such a hurry to save Suman, he didn’t think of looking for it.

“No, I didn’t see his hand, but I’ll go back in and look for it.”

The paramedic shook his head and said: “It’s probably too late and the auditorium has been declared a danger zone.”

Teddy ignored the Paramedic and with a curt “I don’t care,” he rushed back into the auditorium past some bewildered injured students and back to the spot where he had found Suman. Overturning mangled desks and other debris, he found Suman’s hand. It was bluish and resembled a Halloween prop. Wrapping it in a handkerchief, he cradled it in both hands and ran it to the ambulance just as it was leaving. The driver rolled down the window and raised his eyebrows as Teddy offered the wrapped hand to him. He took the hand from Teddy but said: “Alright son. Good work but I doubt it will do any good. Let’s hope we can save your friend.”

Teddy felt sick but had the presence of mind to ask: “Where are you taking him?”

“Toronto General Hospital.” The driver rolled up his window, the siren blared, and the ambulance sped away.”

Teddy retreated to the entrance of the auditorium which was now crowded with police and medical personnel. Reporters would arrive later. He was examined by a paramedic at the scene and cleared although there was some question of a concussion. He overheard some policewoman talking about a manifesto that had just been released to the media. A terrorist group called Indigenous Freedom Fighters or IFF had claimed responsibility for the bombing. They were protesting Canada’s long history of mistreatment of Indigenous people. Teddy actually knew some of the members but had never paid much attention to them. In theory, he agreed with some of their complaints but never their methods. There had been reports of violent rallies in different provinces but nothing of this magnitude. Teddy was ashamed. They are my people, and they did this! He knew as one of two indigenous students in the class, he’d be interrogated. It would not be the first time. With his long-braided ponytail, high cheekbones, wide face and copper skin, he was often a suspect for any nearby crime. His status as the star Lacrosse player had given him some immunity but he doubted it would last.

Teddy tried to clear his mind of these thoughts and ran back to his apartment to get a shirt before running to the hospital. Suman, his friend. needed him. Did his parents know? He had their phone number somewhere. He called Suman’s aunt Kirti first and broke the news. She would call his parents and drive immediately to the hospital. He would meet her there. Teddy’s head was spinning. Was it adrenaline or concussion? He did not know what he could do for Suman. It was Suman’s guitar and sitar hand that was lost. At least he was alive and hopefully his brain was intact.

“I need that mother’s competition to push me. He’s the only one that can. I was just beginning to like sitar music and his slide guitar had me hooked. Fucking IFF! Somehow, I feel my people are responsible. It’s irrational, I know, but I can’t help it. I need to find a way to make it up to him.”  Teddy’s thoughts overwhelmed him as he entered the hospital.


It would be two days before Suman regained consciousness. The surgeons had failed to reimplant his hand. His stump with was covered by a large white bandage. Teddy entered the room with an awkward smile and a bag full of Indian delicacies bought at Suman’s favorite Indian restaurant.

“HI, you MF. You really scared me. Who’s going to prevent me from scoring the highest marks in every class if you’re not around?” Teddy needed to keep it light.

Suman propped up on two pillows, smiled wanly. “How we do on the exam?”

Teddy was concerned that Suman had no memory of the explosion. Did he have brain damage? He had to tread softly. “You do know there was a bomb that exploded before we even started?”

“Since when did a little explosion ever stop you from completing anything?”

Teddy sighed in relief. Suman had not lost his sense of humor and his brain was intact. He laughed and rebutted: “I’m surprised that you haven’t asked to complete the exam in the hospital.”

Suman frowned and raised his bandaged arm and said: “I don’t write or type well with my left hand. How many one-handed sitar and guitar players, do you know?”

All Teddy’s feelings of guilt and sadness came flooding back. He had to say and do something. “I promise you, we are going to find a way.”

Teddy sat on the side of the bed, put his arms around Suman’s thin shoulders and gave them an affectionate squeeze.

Suman nodded and said: “You know, between us, I think we can.”


After extensive occupational therapy and use of a hand prosthesis, Suman returned to school. Both he and Teddy transferred to the school of engineering. They were determined to become robotics experts and design a life like prosthetic hand that would allow Suman to play his instruments. They worked hard on neurofeedback systems with Suman as the guinea pig. They both graduated with honors and were co-valedictorians. They formed a robotics company and were soon designing prosthetic limbs with enough neurofeedback that allowed ballerinas to dance on a prosthetic foot and musicians to play with prosthetic hands. Suman resumed his guitar and sitar playing and Teddy became a star in the Lacrosse professional league. They remained friends for the rest of their lives. Teddy married Heather and Suman married Priyanka in an arranged marriage. They bought houses next door to each other in the exclusive neighborhood of Forrest Hill in Toronto and they lived happily ever after.

November 04, 2023 23:57

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David Ader
01:05 Nov 16, 2023

Of course I liked the story, the friendship and the struggles of the one against the relative ease of the other. I have a few criticisms that should not be taken out of the context that it was a good story overall. First, the intro paragraph gives more background than needed when I think you can build tension. Perhaps the IFF accused Teddy of going to 'white' creating a threat. Second, you mix a few thing inconsistently. Is it going to university or University? For a prompt we often get a bit lazy as in "just get something out there" but I t...


Rudy Greene
19:23 Nov 16, 2023

I appreciate constructive criticism. I agree that I am often rushed to finish stories and take the quickest easy way to end them. There is also a laziness component. Thanks for diving into the details.


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Shirley Medhurst
15:52 Nov 14, 2023

This story had me hooked from the explosion onwards… And you managed to tie the strong emotive bond between the 2 characters beautifully. (On another note, I think these 2 sentences should be joined together with just a comma: « As they sat at their desk side by side. They waited for the proctor to tell them to turn over their exam paper and get started. ») I liked the way you build up both characters, well done!


Rudy Greene
22:10 Nov 14, 2023

Thanks for the kind feedback and your suggestion is well made. Carelessness on my part.


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Tom Skye
21:11 Nov 11, 2023

Sweet story, mixing the horrors of terrorism with friendship and positive thinking. This was an enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing


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