poem

Madman Percy 

*Dedicated to my adorable absent minded aquarian kutty.*

NM ©

Two decades ago, was born madman Percy,

Who lacked all senses, all but mercy. 

Who loved his pups to the toe

And everybody else was friend or foe

The wavy hair that danced with the breeze 

Which fell down with every sneeze

Filled with curiosity his ever questioning mind

Wandering in thought of the answers to find. 

One and all, to be his best friend

But he is nobody’s to lend

After much incomplete consideration and contemplation

To his true love, coffee, he diverted all attention

All best options at once, impatient for another chance

To music the gentleman hums, he jives his best dance

Often misplaces names and faces, amidst the info-pile

But one is already drowning in his smile.

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family, movie

Why I Should Maybe Stop Watching Horror

And also movies where you have”suspenses”. 

Last Saturday, VJ let us engage in the Conversations about Cinema, and it was super fun. Everybody had stories to tell, but I forgot so many of my own. And that class brought back so much of them. 

I have often been scolded by my friends for spoiling the suspense, which I manage to guess. And there’s this thing I have for animation movies – because I feel they’re like dreams. Anything and everything can happen. 

I don’t remember when exactly I had first seen my horror movie. But then maybe, it doesn’t start with a movie at all? 

The earliest memory I have of anything ‘horror-ish’ is perhaps this weird serial I used to watch with my grandpa and cousins. This is something that happened only at my mom’s house. The room would be dark, lights off and all those trees would be peeking in through those old fashioned grilled windows. I don’t remember the name or the story at all; it has a couple and a yakshi I think. I don’t even remember how old I was – seven or eight? My grandpa used to watch, and we used to sit with him. Somehow, the idea of getting scared didn’t scare us, instead it might as well as have excited us. But one of my cousins was a little hesitant to look at the TV; she had the habit of peeking through the gaps in between the fingers of her hand – which covered her face – so that she would be terrified, but still not miss any part of it at the same time. The same cousin would, years later, sit with me to watch Paiyaa, fast forwarding through all the songs and the fight scenes – it’s a Tamil movie. 

Years later, my grandfather had passed away. The four of us were together in that house after years, for the rituals. And one night, we were in his bedroom discussing the movie ‘Mirrors‘. Well not really discussing, since we hadn’t watched the movie. I had just seen that one scene where the hero’s sister dies, and decided I’ll watch the movie in leisure – from the beginning- the next time. The eldest one, S, then continued to narrate the story. And I helped her scare the other two. And after this, I don’t remember why exactly  – we (S and I) had to step out of the room. It was dark out there, since our mothers were at some other corner of the house. We had to go to S’s room – she lived with her mother and grandpa – to take something. She was searching in the dark, so was I. But then she turned on the lights (on purpose) , and I was standing right in front of the dressing mirror. I had an exciting heart attack, after which we started giggling. We went back to the room and terrified the other two, reminding them that reflections were enough. 
I have perhaps become used to watching horror movies, and writing horror was a much later addition. I had watched Conjuring 2 in theatre, and that was the first horror movie I saw in a theatre. I had planned to go with my two BBFs – Bangalore Best Friends, S and P. 

The movie was, in many ways funny. And there were so many people commenting aloud – even us perhaps. But my classmates had perhaps praised it so much, that I had placed the movie high in expectations. So much that, no matter how scary the movie was, it would still not be scary enough for me. It was maybe unfair of me to do so. But then, it was a beautiful movie -mind blowing I would say. 
I have already written about how to write horror stories. Or rather how I write themI’ve always wondered what somebody expects from a horror movie. Many a times, almost half of the horror effect is lost when you’re watching it on TV. But you can still recreate it to an extent – lights off at midnight that leaves just you and the movie. Shefali says horror films bore her; and I sort of agree with her. It doesn’t bore me, but if you’ve already watched the movie, then you lose the advantage of the ‘surprise’ element. And also, there are movies with a lot of blood shed – killing people or butchering them, piranhas or sharks eating you. All these would never fall into my idea of horror. A little bit is perhaps inevitable, but usually such movies disgust me. 

I guess I’ve always been interested in the stories they tell, even if most of the time it is incomplete. And at times barely there. And this is not just for horror movies. We all keep watching a movie again and again and again. For instance, I don’t remember when exactly I had first seen Manichithrathazhu, but I know that every time after that I haven’t changed the channel if they’re playing the movie. My parents don’t let me see the movie in peace (or in pieces) as they start reciting dialogues as if the Bhoot has got them. And then, I join them. 

family, travel

The Drowsy Drive

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You were sandwiched between your aunt and your dad, grumbling at your dad because he stole the window seat where you wanted to sleep. He was wide awake, busy on the GPS trying to reassure us that we’d not lost hope. This is when you wish your uncle wouldn’t have thrown tantrums at you to not to go via Mysore. And now you were lost, in the middle of nowhere, farther from your destination than you initially were. As if that was not enough, you couldn’t fall asleep because of the continuous banging of your head on the seat, and you wish to could just keep your head in your lap and rest in peace – headless. Tears of boredom roll down your cheeks, while you squint at the sunlight trying to figure out where you’ve reached – not that it makes much of a difference. And your uncle teased you at your occasional comments, that you were not coherent enough. Your uncle who probably was Sherlock Holmes’ disciple, who would try his best to cross-examine and post mortem everything that crossed his attention – except for all that was his- conveniently overlooked the fact that you were too sleepy to be bothered by him. But because he was your uncle, you politely advise him it’s about time he visited the ENT.

After hours and hours of boredom and traveling and irritating GPS noises, you are finally there. The rain, the trees, and house that reminds you of your grandpa’s place, cheers you up. You can’t wait to get in, to click pictures, watch the rain and run around the house like a 5-year-old. They all drink tea, their second tea, and you’re left out – you hate tea and nothing else is available. Your stomach is already grumbling, and you become a purple minion for a while. You throw tantrums at your dad, as you hadn’t eaten anything after lunch.
And then, your assignment -which you procrastinated for so long – pops up, hitting you on your nose. Ouch.
So you dump your hunger on the sofa, get into a bed and start typing on your phone, till you smell food, and you go into a trance which sings “fooooooooooooooood”.
You forget your assignment for a few minutes, and run into the varanda to eat. You hungrily dig into 4-5 pieces of chicken, and suddenly feel full. So you run back to your assignment, and apologize to it for abandoning it midway. And then you type, type, type and type. Your mom pops in now and then, calling you to come have dinner. But you’re already too far away in America, talking about their first amendment and freedom of speech .
And finally when you’re done, you realise you’re too lazy to eat, and not hungry enough to get rid of that laziness. So you let it pass. You play on your phone for a while, and then off to sleep.

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The next morning you wake up at 10, monstrously hungry, because you didn’t eat anything since 7:30 p.m. the previous night. It’s poori masala, and you’re about to eat it, when you’re uncle starts making noises at you,” Ooohhhh, your mom was worried you would start screaming, because she says you don’t like poori masalas, and that you would refuse to eat. ”
Stuffing your mouth with poori, you reply, ” Well, I don’t like poori masala for dinner. I don’t like to have wheaty food after a long day at college. That’s all.”
Does all of this really matter when you’re hungry? You would have refused to eat it , yes, but only when you are not hungry or when you have another option. But then, obviously your uncle hardly noticed you were missing the previous night, among all the food he ate. Sigh.
You’re too lazy to get ready, but you somehow do get ready. And then, finally you’re on your way back home. Another never ending journey, before you reach home. Before you can see your sofa, or your bed.

hoildays

Tickets Please!

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I don’t know about you, but I was blessed with an awesome childhood. I used to have loads of fun – didn’t have to worry about reaching college on time, meeting deadlines or about evil people hiding behind their perfect masks.

It was a time I used to run around like anything, trying to imitate my parents, and explore everything new – though I would hardly have any idea what it was. And then of course, get scolded by my mother for the mess I made. I didn’t have to worry about anything, and like every other idiot my own age waited to grow up. I used to have a halo over my head. But not wings, because I didn’t have Redbull when I was a kid.

Summer vacation was the most awaited time of the year for me, more than the other vacations – it was 2 months long. And I could spend it with my cousins. I used to visit my mom’s house, where she grew up, every summer. There were four of us – three girls and a boy . We would play all varieties of games, which included the video games where you needed a ‘cassette’ to play. Sadly, I doubt if they still exist.

One of the games we used to play was ‘tickets please’. Now we didn’t have any particular name for it, at least not one that I remember. This is a name I just made up. Like every other part of Kerala, my mother’s home too had coconuts and banana trees. It also had roses, and ‘jambakas’ and hibiscus and lot more I don’t remember. And there was a low wall covering all this, and it would only reach up to somewhere near my knee now. We used to sit on this wall, tear up banana leaves into rectangles, and hit it with a stone. We would make patterns that looked like Braille, and be utmost satisfied. We were all plane passengers, you see, and one of us the ticket collector. The TC would collect our tickets, tear it up ( so that we can’t use it again) and let us in through imaginary gates. We would also replace the plane with bus or train occasionally.

After all this, we would go back to making tickets again. Or maybe eat ‘jambakas’ our mothers would pluck for us.

food, travel

Ragi Mudhhe

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One of the professors had asked the class to go to a military hotel and have ‘ragi mudhhe’ compulsorily. Because I felt the lunch break was not long enough, and I would be fast asleep as soon as I hit my sofa (I don’t require a bed) I couldn’t go. Until the weekend.

I had been searching for a Saturday that would also be a holiday. And that was this weekend – 17 July. There were 9 of us -me, mom, dad, my grandma’s, uncle, aunt and 3 of my cousins – in two cars. We were on our way to Coorg, and my uncle was adamant that if we’re going via Mysore, then he’s going to get down. Maybe I should have let him. Or maybe not, it was his car after all. But as a result, we lost our way and went around in circles, even squares perhaps. I’m not sure, as I was happily half asleep at the back seat, between my dad and my aunt, registering the occasional GPS noises, especially the “GPS is lost”one. It would make me laugh in my sleep, it sounded so ironically funny – even the GPS can get lost.

I thought we’d reach by lunch. Nope. Tea? Nope. It was finally 6 by the time we reached – we’d started at 7:30 a.m. And then I started blowing bubbles in all directions, until my cousin said he can clean his cup (of tea) himself. I need not help him. My father reassured him that there were enough bathrooms, he need not worry.

Then I was frantically typing an assignment on my phone -which I planned to complete once I reached, but it took forever for us to ‘reach’. And then I went to sleep.

The next day, we all woke up late, and has an even later breakfast.  And started back to Bangalore again. It felt like we’d travelled more than we’d stayed at the house (we’d rented it for a day).

On my way back, I did notice a board saying ‘ family military hotel’. But then the building looked like it was about to fall off next time it rains there. And I missed it by this much.

Maybe I should have mentioned earlier that this was not about the ragi mudhhe I ate, but about the one I couldn’t eat.

On asking one of my friends about ragi mudhhe, what he said reminded me of something I’d eaten once. Just once. But I remember it so clearly, because I’d thought it was Gobi Manchurian, and greedily jumped into eating it. But alas, once in my mouth, I realized my mistake. Neither was it Gobi, nor was it Manchurian. Ever since I made sure what I was eating was what I thought it was.

adventure

The Fifth

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It was a pleasant evening, and the Sinha family had gone out for a picnic nearby. At the park, five year old Arun spotted a Ben Ten watch, and fell in love with it instantly. He ran to his parents, who were sitting under a tree a few metres away.

“Mumma, I want that! I want that!” he cried out.

“Ok ok, I’m coming. Let me just organize this thing and I’ll be there”, replied Mrs. Sinha.

“Aw Maaaa….. Make it fast”, said Aditya, restless.

A few minutes later, Mrs. Sinha was finally happy with the way she had set things up. Yet, she was irritated with her husband, as he had brought his work with him – she could still hear him screaming over the phone.

“Arun?” she called out.

“ARUN!”

————————————————————————–

Inspector Avni Kumar spotted a couple filing an FIR as she entered the police station. The woman was weeping, her face pale and her eyes swollen. Since what she was saying was not coherent, her husband did the most of the talking. But when she realised why they were there, she paused – their son had gone missing earlier that day.

Every time she heard about a kid going missing – her heart would stop beating for a second. Her heart would feel so heavy, and she would get transported to her past – a past deep buried within her. A past that changed her life forever.

Seven year old Aditya had made sure no one had spotted him enter the kitchen. He slowly walked into the kitchen, and stretched out to reach the cookie jar. He had almost caught hold of it, when someone else’s hand brought the jar down. For a second, he froze. He let out a sigh of relief as he saw his sister, standing right beside him, grinning.

“Oh! Avi di, It was you. You scared me”, he said.

“Aha! Eating up all the cookies by yourself huh? “, she teased him.

“Avni! Aditya! Where are you? Come on… or we’ll be late for the wedding” called out their mother.

Both of them stuffed their mouths and ran out. Their mother locked the door as they got into the car.

“Stealing cookies again?”, she scolded them.

The only thing the brother-sister duo liked about weddings was the food they got to eat.  Especially the dessert.

“Aww… Please please please… could you get me one more ice cream”, Aditya pleaded his sister.

“Ok ok…. But this is the last one”, warned his sister.

“Wait here, ok? I’ll be right back.” said Avni.

She went to the person serving ice cream, made a puppy face and managed to get one more scoop of vanilla ice cream. This was the third time she was doing this, but it was Aditya’s favourite. But when she returned with her ice cream, she couldn’t find him anywhere. She called out his name, but he was nowhere. Tears streaming down her eyes, she ran to her parents.

That was the last time Aditya’s family ever saw him. They searched for him, informed the police station and also advertised in newspapers. But all in vain. They never got him back – and that is when Avni decided who she will become when she grows up.

————————————————————–

Arun was waiting for his mom to finish her work, so that he could buy that watch. He couldn’t just wait to buy it. So he stood near to the guy selling them, and waited for his mother, who was busy, a few metres away. A man, neatly dressed, approached him and smiled at him.

“I see you have been admiring the watches. But then this guy doesn’t have much selection. There is a shop nearby, the shopkeeper is my friend. If you want I can get you a good deal. Your mom looks busy, we can return by the time your mom finishes her work.” the man said.

At this, Arun stared at the watch in front of him, trying to decide what to do.

“He has a larger collection, way better than this cheap stuff”, the man said.

At this, Arun finally decided to go check out the shop.

“Alright” he said.

“Come on”, said the stranger, and caught Arun’s hand. As they walked away, Arun turned around and caught a glimpse of his mother setting things up and his father on the phone.

———————————————————————————–

Avni had been transferred to another city, but this case brought back that painful past, a past she had not yet overcome. She would often dream of Aditya going to college, maybe having a girlfriend. It is not easy to grow up all alone, when you know your kid brother is somewhere out there. When you know in your heart that things should have been different – but they are not. But life had something different in store for her.

And she knew what Arun’s parents were going through- she had living this horror for the past so many years. She grew up seeing her parents crying over their lost son. And so she decided, that before she leaves this city, she will find that boy. There are a lot of gangs involved in the big business of child trafficking, and she would destroy some part of it. It might not affect the well-established system at all, but this is a place to start.

———————————————————————-

Aditya was just 2 year old, and his mom was feeding him. It was a Sunday and her dad was reading the newspaper. Avni was seven, and she had just returned home from the playground. The phone started ringing and her mom went to attend it. Avni pulled Aditya’s cheeks and played with him for a few seconds. But she was tired from all the running around and hide n seek that she felt thirsty. She went to the kitchen, opened the fridge and drank huge gulps of water. She had just kept the water back was on her way back to where Aditya was, when she heard a crash, followed by Aditya crying loudly. She ran towards – he was on the floor, a shattered jug lay near him. But what most horrifying for her was the blood flowing – from him. Her parents rushed her to the hospital. He was quite serious, and had cut his hand quite bad. He had five stitches and she could hear him cry as she waited outside.

Avni woke up suddenly – she was sweating profusely. She could still hear him crying.

She took a deep breath in and let it out. That incident had left behind a scar on his hand, below his right wrist, near his elbow. He had been real lucky that he did not cut his face.

It had been almost a week, but still, she couldn’t find the boy. She wanted to find him before something happened to him. Her phone brought her back to earth.

“Yes. Tell me”, she said briskly.

“Mm-hmm… ok”

“Ok…”

“Inform our team”

——————————————————————-

Everything had been well planned. They were waiting for their prey to walk right into their trap. They had been informed that children abducted from various parts of the state were going to be transported to a nearby state, and that Arun was one among the 25 children about to be smuggled. Over the years Avni’s hate for trafficking and traffickers has only increased. Her personal grudge catalysed the whole process. She was well aware that the traffickers would be prepared to face such encounters, but she was planned too.

It was past midnight and there were eerie shadows creeping around. Her team of sixteen officers stood scattered across the street, all in plain clothes but well-armed (Avni and her five trusted officers were in uniform). While some of them were under the streetlight, around a car pretending to be friends on a road trip, the others were hidden – including Avni. They were expecting a tour bus, with five traffickers, including the driver. They planned to shoot at the tire.

After waiting patiently for around an hour, one of the officers on lookout spotted the bus.  Another officer shot the tire (the gun had a silencer). The bus came to a screeching halt. Three of them came out from inside the bus, got down and started examining, along with the driver. The group of friends immediately became concerned citizens and went over to where the bus was.

“Hey, are you ok? What happened?” asked one officer. (In disguise)

“Yes, I-i .. I am fi-fine” stammered the driver.

“Oh looks like some high school tour. Are you all ok? That was crazy” said another

“Yes, I think your tire is punctured. Which school is this? “Asked another one

“Ummm… ya we are from the neighbouring state… and… we-ee .. We’re on our way back. Gloria Public School. “Said one of the traffickers pausing here and there.

While all this was happening, the rest of the officers were moving towards them, in the shadows. The fifth one was still inside, probably watching over the kids. He will have to come out when none of his friends turn up, thought Avni.

They grabbed the four from behind, gagged their mouths so that they would not alarm the fifth one inside. Their weapons had been confiscated. By this time, Avni boarded the bus and waited for the fifth to appear, near the driver’s seat. As the fifth one came out, one of his friends shouted out to him – as he was being tied up and gagged – “Take the bus and run”

All the officers were outside the bus and Avni was the only one in the bus. Both of them had a gun and he could have tried – to maybe push her off the bus or overpower her, and might as well have been successful in driving the bus for some distance – at least save himself. But he just stood there paralysed. He stared at Avni’s badge, which had her name on it, stupefied. Avni used this opportunity and kicked the gun out from his and pointed the gun at him. He was startled but didn’t react. Two officers immediately boarded the buses and brought him down. The guy was completely lost in thought.

As they were waiting for the van to escort the traffickers, one of them snatched an officer’s gun and tried to attack. Immediately Avni reacted and shot the guy – twice. He managed to dodge the bullet the first time but the second one hit him. The bullet that missed him hit the fifth trafficker and he too fell down. He groaned in pain. This was when she noticed a scar on his right hand, near the elbow. She knelt down to have a closer look. She could not believe her eyes.

“Av-v-avi di, you h-have always caught me red handed doing mis-chi-eeef” he stammered.

“No! No! No!  No! Noo!” she said to herself and cradled his head on her lap. He smiled at her.

“Why?”

Avni could hear the ambulance approaching.

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short story

The Orange Tree

John was only five, and like every other kid, he too was very curious about life, about the world. He had a ‘why’ for almost anything he would be said, a ‘what’ for everything he saw and heard. Every time he comes across something new, his eyes would sparkle, with wonder and excitement.

One day, at the supermarket, he noticed a lady, buying fruits. He loved oranges, and it was while admiring its bright orange colour and the bumpy round outline, that he noticed the lady. She could hardly bend over and had a tummy that was bulging out.

“Mommy, why is that aunty’s tummy so big that it is almost falling off? Is it going to burst?”, asked John.

“No Johnny dear, she is going to have a small baby, that’s all”, replied his mother.

“Is that where babies come from? Is that where I came from? Your tummy? But I thought you said that God had gifted you with me? Or did that aunty swallow her baby?”, asked john.

Hearing all these questions one after the other, and not knowing how to answer them, his mother stood there, clueless, as to whether she should answer or just change the subject. That was when she saw the oranges, neatly stacked.

“Johnny, enough questions for one day. Now you want oranges or not? If you ask me so many questions while I’m shopping I will forget things. Like now, I almost forgot about the oranges”, scolded his mother.

“What?? Noooooo…… I want oranges”, cried John, and that ended there.

A few days later, John was busy eating oranges, when suddenly, he had question to ask. He waited till his mom had finished talking on the phone.

“Mommy, if I eat too many oranges, will I turn orange?”, he asked.

His mother, tired from all the work and also, answering his questions, sighed.

“No my child, don’t worry, you won’t turn orange, but to be healthy you will have to eat other fruits too”, she replied, and went back to the kitchen, where she’d been making dinner.

John happily went back to what he was doing – eating oranges. He would put one slice completely into his mouth and then spit out the seeds. And sometimes he would break it into half, enjoy the bright orange juicy pulp, remove the seeds and then eat it. But this time, as he put the slice into his mouth, he did not notice the seed in it.  And he realised it only after he had swallowed it.

Oh no, I’ve swallowed it. Oh nooo……. What will I do?? But then, why do we have seeds, when all we do is throw them away? Let’s ask mom…..

He went to his mother, but she was too busy. So he approached his sister, who was eight years old.

“Lily, why does fruit have seeds? We always throw them away, so why is it still there?”, he asked.

“Johnny, we might throw seeds away, but if you want a tree, you need to sow the seeds, which grow into plants and trees. We throw it away because it is not something to eat.”, she replied.

“Oh, ok. So that’s how it goes….. seeds are sown and they grow into trees.”, said John, still confused.

So……..what now? If what Lily says is true, then that means that the seed I ate will also grow into a big orange tree? Will there be branches growing out of my nose and my ears? What will I do… how long does it take for a small plant to grow into a big tree?

Seeing her little brother worried, Lily asked him,” What happened Johnny? You look like you just saw a ghost.”

“Oh no, nothing at all, but….. Lily… tell me how long will a small plant take to grow into a big tree?”

“Well, I’m not sure, but I think some plants don’t grow into tress at all, and it depends I guess, but it will take time.” said Lily.

Next day, at school, John was still deep in thought. He had just finished eating his favourite vanilla flavoured cream biscuits, when the bell rang and the short break was over. He stood up and wished his teacher as she entered the class.

“So children, how many of you love trees?”, she asked.

Around three fourth of the class raised hands. John, was not sure, whether he liked them or not.

“Oh yes! How wonderful to see that most of you like trees. Now can someone tell me, how trees help us?”’ asked the teacher.

“Trees gives us fooood” said one.

“They let us climb on them.”, said another.

“Oohh…. And also make tree houses!” said another.

“Yes yes yes, trees are so helpful, and patient. They provide us with shade, they give us food. They help us a lot, but what are we humans doing? Cutting them down and killing them. So remember children, trees are your friends, and you should love them and protect them” explained the teacher.

Even if they are inside your tummy? Ready to grow branches out your nose and ears…. Oh my god…. Wait … she said something about killing trees…. Is that possible…? By cutting them down… but how can I cut a tree that’s in my tummy? What if it’s not a tree yet……. Hhhmmmmmm….. But then ma’am said you have to love trees and protect them… Not kill them … does that include letting it grow in your tummy in case you swallow it –  by mistake??

He was returning home, after school and still wasn’t sure what to do or what would happen – will the tree survive or simply die and save him a lot of worry. At last, he decided to do what he always does when he is worried: confide to his sister.

Yes, I’ll go talk to her. She always seems to have a solution. I’m sure she’ll help.

After patiently listening to what her brother had to say, Lily – who had been quiet all this while- burst into laughter. Seeing the hurt and confused expression on her little brother’s face, she explained, “Oh my Johnny, don’t worry, trees don’t grow in tummies, they grow in soil. So you’re safe, you won’t have branches growing out your ears.”

After listening to this, he was relieved to a great extent, but not really satisfied. He still had unanswered questions.

“Ok… but why? Are you sure? Then what happened to the seed I swallowed?” he asked.

“Yes Johnny, you don’t have to worry, trust me. Trees need certain…..things to grow, without which they cannot survive, and none of it is available in your tummy. And the seed you swallowed …….hmmm….. Well… you see… whatever you eat Johnny is dige-I mean… turned into energy… that’s why we eat.”, explained Lily.

“Oohhh… ok.”, said John.

Lily felt great that John’s smile had returned and that he didn’t look so worried anymore.