"I am not sure I understand."
Sir Alfred blew a ring of smoke and contemplated it.
"Alright, I shall tell you something. But you, Sean, you must promise me..."
"Promise what, Sir Alfred?"
Sir Alfred tamped his tobacco and sealed the pipe with the wind cap. Taking away his foot from the block of granite it rested upon, he got up and declared,
"Let's take a walk, shall we?"
Sean kept sitting where he was, rooted with an expression that clearly told Alfred that he was not going anywhere without having heard first what was going to be told to him. He had his arms crossed and looked straight ahead.
"Alright, so this is how it is gonna happen then," Alfred said to himself under his breath and turned to his smarter friend whose grace and elegance was something not much associated with scientists.
Sean softened down to concern, and asked, "What is it, Alfred?"
Alfred started laughing. He just had an idea to make it merry for Sean, and not really get himself termed a lunatic. Why, that was actually a good idea, to have this strange revelation he had two days ago, out. He had wanted to try storytelling for a long time.
But how would he tell him? he thought, and his laughter ceased.
"Alfred?" Sean lay his hand on the shoulder of his friend, with as much firmness as his concern would allow, and in that, firmness was communicated the conviction that Sean would get it, that he would understand and keep it as much a secret as it was Alfred's, even if he thought it absurd for a man of science.
Alfred, he had no problem, but just one, and it could not be called a problem really, as much as it was an ability. For he, distinguished physicist, and a member of the Royal Syndicate of Physicists, had kept this as a secret all his life, and kept flipping it over and over again, terming it a problem one moment, and the very next, delighting in it as an ability of his, an extraordinary gift. For he could, for any event, stop time and see all the other possibilities. It might be thought of as his ability to see, for instance, who else would have won the Nobel Prize for Physics on account of making possible the magic of invisibility. Not the contenders for that coveted decoration on the international stage, no. He could see, who else on this entire planet could have, jumping from one right choice to another, ended up on the path to develop the same thing as this Physicist did, and ended up discovering how to render anything invisible.
In the year 2088, Sir James Charleton had received the Nobel in Physics for this same reason, for "advancing the research into rendering invisibility possible for our use." Sir Alfred was the only one who knew that Sir James, an acquaintance was late in this regard.
"Aah!" exclaimed the chemist. Pulling his friend by his arm, both started walking, one with excitement and the other reluctantly.
"Tell me, Sean, if I am not mistaken, is there not a space in our Monthly Newsletter wherein we post stories?"
Sean nodded. "I still can't make heads nor tails of anything that you say."
"Pull up some patience into your excited head my friend. I would like to submit an entry for it."
"You could have forwarded your submission to me otherwise as well. Why such an occasion for it?"
Sir Alfred scratched his forehead and confusedly said, "I was making up this piece of fiction for a week now. I saw you today finally, so I thought I would simply get it off my chest. You understand that some things need to be let out from one mind to another and no other way?
"You have a pen and paper?"
Sean pulled out his notebook, neatly kept inside his jacket pocket and a pen. He disgruntled, and opened it.
"Say, Sean, do you like dogs?"
"I have an aversion to their fur. Allergic. Why, does it have any connection to what you are going to speak of?"
You will see, you will see, Sir Alfred thought to himself.
"Aah why, no, that would be silly.
"Chandra Vibhushan Mahapadi, newly anointed physicist and assistant to Sir Walter, he loved dogs. Quite, obsessively," Sir Alfred remarked.
Scribbling noises followed from the tip of Sean's pen. For what it was being noted, he knew not.
"During one of our correspondences, Chandra came to confide in me the revelation that one day, he had, for reasons concerning a canine, fired one of his domestic aids.
"When he was small, Chandra was a naturally curious and evidently gifted child. Among his many interests, most of a scientific nature was the love for these creatures. He would bring one or two of them home, and care for them since they were small. He would bring them from the streets, rear them with the aid of his servants, most of whom were available to him in plenty and by the time they grew big, they would be starkly different from how they would have been had they never been taken out of the streets on which they were found.
"One time, Chandra had a new domestic aid. Smart fellow, Chandra would tell me. He could read and write and was fluent with words, but he was effeminate and of shy nature. There were many, Chandra thought then, who would want his services since he would work for cheap for such services, but he came a lucky grab for Chandra. His name was Ramesh.
"In time, he realized that the young boy could also do math and all the other elementary subjects with ease. He was not as good as Chandra though, but that was no detriment and soon, Chandra started to teach Ramesh the tools he would need to open his mind to our wonderful world, one at a time. The boy would work hard in his free hours, after having performed the chores of the household. He would not flounder, but he would show the fight he had in him and usually, but with slow and consistent perseverance, he would show progress in a matter of a day or two.
"Chandra was happy with this, with himself and the progress that the boy was making. Chandra was sure Ramesh would not overtake him, for he was slow, but the sheer strength he had in his mental reserves was giving him results, results that Chandra realized had been achieved sooner than Chandra had achieved them in his time.
"Now, not many persons would like anyone to overtake them while in their veins flows blood brimful of vitality and life. So was the case with Chandra. After two years like this, Ramesh outgrew the subjects that Chandra was still struggling with and requested him tutors who could stimulate his mind and teach him further of what he already knew. This was more than Chandra could handle. He tells me he felt such negative emotions like never before, for the first time when he was in the eighth standard and still grappling with electricity whereas Ramesh was borrowing notes from his friends. They were Chandra's friends too, friends who were studying in the eleventh standard and discussing laws of motion."
All this time, Sean had been scribbling into his notepad all the words that were being told to him. He didn't miss a beat but kept to it.
"His contempt for his domestic aid and friend, Ramesh, was out of spite, and this feeling grew unabated. Chandra would be constantly looking for opportunities so he could ridicule Ramesh, condemn him, and at one time, he decided he had to get rid of this menace he had brought upon himself. But as simple as the objective he had wrought was, the plan for the same did not hasten itself to him. Many days and nights he spent, much time, with the worry at the back of his mind, of how to get rid of this boy. Until one day.
"Chandra's father had an office of his own. He was an advocate of good repute, currently retired. Where his office was, there was also a bitch who had birthed six pups. This is where Chandra got his opportunity from, albeit indirectly.
"When Chandra was one day, at this office in question, sitting leisurely at the backside, watching TV while sipping coconut water, he chanced to glance out of the window and saw the most wondrous picture he had at that time seen. Six small pups, barely older than a week, were weakly begging their mother, a healthy one, to not move so she could provide them nourishment.
"As I have told you earlier, Chandra had a heart for them, the dogs. Seeing them, he left everything that he was doing and raced down the building to the backside, the dingy street. By the time he was there, all the pups on their little feet were swinging their tails and seeing their mother go in search of food for it was time for her own nourishment."
Sean, by now, was growing agitated and did not know where this was going. He didn't intend to pester his friend but Alfred, himself a sensitive and alert man, understood it.
"A little more patience Sean. You'd soon see why this is so important.
"One of these dogs was of maroon color, with white specks in the shape of a flame. He was the largest of them all, not much bigger, but in countenance and nature, friendly, docile, and full of love. He was the least afraid of them all. Chandra went to him first and always returned to him before he went back to the office.
"For two days he fed, the dynamic between him and that pup grew stronger. When he'd come to the office and set in their direction, with or without food, this specific pup would run to him and jump to lay its little paws upon his pants. In no time, Chandra decided to name him. He called him Porush."
As he spoke, Alfred could feel that Sean was mellowing down to the story and it pleased him. He felt fine that day, but the big revelation that was about to come, he waited for it. He did not let it affect his oration. It would come, he knew, and at a good time, he knew that too. He just hoped that nothing would come up before it and require the immediate attention of either of them.
"This done, the most obvious thing in Chandra's head, was to adopt him. So one day, he went back and found no mother. As if he was his own, Chandra took Porush and with a stick of wood in his hand, long enough to wave at any other street dogs should they come across him and bark, he ran for the office. The office became for Porush, his new home.
"It is important to note that, then, Ramesh was also working at the office, something which Chandra had a hand in achieving. Long hours at the office and the workload of constantly going out made it difficult for this diligent manservant to have much time to dedicate to academics. He knew Chandra's role in it, but he never complained. He would not even as much as glare, but continued working the way he always had, giving first priority to his job, and then to his work. He'd give his all in whatever he did.
"A dog, and a pup, barely a week old, was a responsibility at the office and he could cry, that was known. When Chandra got Porush to the office, he could find no one to help him handle the pup, except in Ramesh.
"I have to suppose that Ramesh was not willing to accede to Chandra's request, but he might have reasoned to himself that handling a pup would not be much work in comparison to working for the office, where Mr. Mahapadi required him to be swift and sharp all the time.
"Thus was established that Chandra and Ramesh would handle Porush. The thing that makes this incident move to something more interesting, was the fact that Mr. Mahapadi had relented to let their store-room be used for this purpose. He did this only upon getting a verbal promise from Ramesh, that he would help Chandra with it. Ramesh had said nothing but had just nodded while looking down at the floor.
"And thus Porush lived for two weeks. He was smart, he was sensitive, he was everything that Chandra really wanted and Ramesh liked him too, for he provided him with more time to study. The pup was naturally likable.
"But then, like any simple story that is worth telling, something happened that shook this arrangement. One normal day in the life of Chandra, a day which was just as eventful as any other for him, Porush urinated on the office carpet. Neither Chandra nor Ramesh were at the office that day to lead him out of the building so he could relieve himself, so little Porush did what he did.
"That day was also a meeting that Chandra's father had to attend. A high profile client was coming to meet him at his office and the monetary stakes were high. It was the first time that the client had agreed to listen to Mr. Mahapadi in the three years the latter had spent chasing the former. Naturally, Mr. Mahapadi expected all his employees to be smart and focused on their work, and remain sharp. He himself was serious and fidgeting.
"When the clients, a group of four men, all aged around forty, arrived into the office, the dark patch in the center of the cream-colored carpet was still as dark as it could be.
"The clients and Mr. Mahapadi did not come to a deal that was mutually agreeable. It went on for hours, and at last, the latter had to accede to lower his fee but by a substantial margin. The deal was done, but the boss there was not really happy.
"After the clients were gone, Mr. Mahapadi stormed out of his office and incidentally stopped near the patch. He did not notice it at first, but shouted to his clerk to spray some room freshener. Then he demanded why that hadn't been done already. All the employees with red faces looked down and did not know what else to do. As he stepped upon the patch, his eye fell on it and he saw what it was."
"He questioned if anyone had dropped water there. No one answered but the clerk, and he told the truth, for his own job lay in danger if he did anything but speak the truth.
"Just then, Chandra and Ramesh entered the office; a laughter that they had been sharing amongst themselves had now faded into a smile upon their faces as they came amidst this serious environment.
"What could be expected? Chandra and Ramesh might have come to an understanding by now, with each learning about the other, but Mr. Mahapadi at once lashed out at Chandra, and Porush came out, wiggling and confused. He pressed his ears flat since Mr. Mahapadi kept pointing to him and demanded answers to questions he irrationally threw at the pair of boys.
"Chandra reacted, and before anyone could even think of it, Ramesh was being asked why he had been outside. He might not have been in the right frame of mind then. For all his talents and efforts, he felt he should not be treated like this. When it was asked of him if he would make sure this never happened again, he refused, because he reasoned that as a prodigy, it was not his duty to take care of dogs in any capacity while working at an office.
"That inflamed our member, and before his father could oust the pup, Chandra himself took him gently into his arms, hurled some regrettable abuses at Ramesh, and went to the backstreet for a teary goodbye. He did not find anyone dog there, but he prayed to god while putting down Porush and running away from him, that the pup's siblings and his mother would take him back and that he promised to the little 'un that he would come back for him, to feed him and love him as he did and will always do. By the time he was back at the office, Ramesh was gone. Chandra did not ask about him, nor was ever seen again.
Sean who been scribbling furiously in his notepad till now, mopped sweat off his long forehead.
"Can we sit now?" he requested
"Hmm? Why, yes, of course," said Sir Alfred.
And they sat at a public bench, made of pink stone slabs.
"When does the revelation come?"
Sir Alfred nodded and took a deep breath.
"Young man, I cannot tell you how I know it, but by some divinity, and you will have to take this at face value from me, Ramesh, he was the one who would have discovered how to render us humans invisible long before Sir James. Why he did not get the Nobel, is this simple reason."
"Yes, the pup. Porush. Such a trivial reason, don't you think? A pup delayed history for us."
Sean thought for a while. "But I am glad the prize went to the Englishmen," he finally said and with a chuckle put back his notebook inside the jacket pocket.
Sir Alfred took out his pipe and some tobacco to fill it with. With a lighter he started lighting it. He nodded, and leaned back.