East Side Story

Ananya had known Hrishikesh through email and various social networking websites for almost a year. Today she was finally going to meet him for coffee. She felt a certain apprehension as she had never done something like this before, but calmed herself thinking that they had interacted quite a lot over the past few months. Besides, she thought he was smart and extremely sweet. Surprisingly enough, she had never spoken with him, so she didn’t know what his voice sounded like. She had seen a few pictures, though; and was confident she would recognize him.

They exchanged emails and decided to meet at 4:00 pm between First and York Avenue, at the entrance of the building where she lived – 480 East 74th Street. From there they would walk to Green Bean Cafe, which was five minutes away.

Hrishikesh got off at the subway station on 68th Street at 3:30 pm and started the twenty-five minute walk with his hands in his pockets, through the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. It was the month of May and the temperature was a cool fifteen degrees. It was cloudy with the forecast predicting a chance of light showers, but he decided to take a chance and didn’t carry an umbrella. “If it rains, I can always buy one at the ubiquitous street vendor that pops up at the first drop”, he thought.
He had memorized the route and headed north-east on 3rd Avenue. As he walked, Hrishikesh ran through all the information he had gathered of the neighborhood in his head. He was amused at the way he had studied the Upper East Side with clockwork precision, even though he had never been to this part of the world before. “Must be Ananya”, he thought. They would talk a lot about where they lived and she somehow inspired a sort of crazy tendency in him to do his homework about the place he was visiting. He smiled as he crossed Le Pain Quotidien and quickened his pace.

Looking around, Hrishikesh realized why this was known as one of the most affluent neighborhoods of New York City. He reached the corner of 3rd Avenue and East 74th Street where he had to turn right, but continued walking straight as he recalled one of their online chats. Just a few metres ahead, he spotted the familiar purple signboard of the Candle Cafe to his right and grinned and remembered how Ananya had spoken fondly of the place. He stopped briefly to look inside and imagined how Ananya must’ve spent her time here, breathing in the delicious smell of their famous Chocolate Mousse Pie. Pulling himself together, he stepped out, backtracked the few metres and took a left turn on to East 74th Street.

“Just a couple of blocks more”, Hrishikesh thought to himself, growing increasingly nervous with every step he took. He had pretty much fallen in love with her the first time he had seen her picture. Though he always prided himself for firmly believing in the “looks aren’t everything” adage, every belief had clean gone out of the window that first time.  He pacified himself by thinking that since she was incredibly witty, it’s not that he had fallen only for her looks.

Hrishikesh pushed all these thoughts firmly out of his head as he passed the second block. He could see her building now, a little ahead, to the other side of the road, but couldn’t see her just yet. He crossed the road stood outside her building entrance. It was 3:55 pm. As he looked up and about, another battle started raging in his head. “How do I tell her Hi? Do I smile at her? Of course I’ll smile, but along with that do I shake hands or hug her? No, hugging is too personal. For now, shaking hands is the safe and correct option.”

“Hi Hrishi!” He nearly broke his neck as he spun around. There she was. There were no ringing bells, violins or guitars.
“Hi Anne!”, he beamed as he stuck his hand out. She shook it with a warm smile. He instantly felt at ease.
“How are you, Anne? It’s so nice to see you!”, said Hrishikesh.
“I’m good, thank you. And you?” said Anne.
“Never been better”, he grinned.
“So we finally meet. I have been looking forward to this day since a few weeks now”, said Anne.
“Yes, it has been long overdue. Me too. Shall we?”, said Hrishikesh, gesturing towards York Avenue and stepping aside for her to walk with him.
“Not bad. It’s the first time you’ve travelled abroad and you know your way around the neighborhood!”, she observed, clearly impressed.
“Well, yes. I did a little bit of homework”, he said sheepishly, as they started walking. Hrishikesh waited for her to walk one step ahead, quickly switched sides and started walking to her right, on the outside. Ananya smiled inwardly.

They walked in silence for a half a minute, lost in thought. Hrishikesh threw a quick glance at Ananya and caught her looking at him. They laughed. She was wearing a black polo-neck, paired with blue denims, which perfectly complemented her tall, slim and well-toned figure. He was wearing a well-fitted grey t-shirt with blue jeans which suited his lean, fit physique. Needless to say, they were mutually appreciative of each other in their heads.

As they turned left on York Avenue, Hrishikesh remarked, “Just another block and we’ll be there.”
“Wow! Is there anything you don’t know about this place?” replied Ananya, clearly impressed.
“Oh, it’s nothing”, said Hrishikesh, reddening slightly.

They reached the Green Bean Cafe and Hrishikesh held the door open for Ananya.  It was a small cafe with an old world charm to it. Wooden lamps covered with beige paper hung from the ceiling, casting yellow light everywhere; along with three brown fans. The walls were covered with a patchy, light shade of pastel green-colored wallpaper and a few paintings of fruits and landscaped gardens. A small, old grandfather clock hung above the counter, on the wall. Six small tables for two people with brown granite tops; and wooden chairs with flat, green-colored cushions were arranged neatly in two rows. There were two more tables facing outside the cafe window. Ananya chose the table next to the counter, adjacent to the wall and they sat across each other.

“Do you come here often?”, asked Hrishikesh.
“Yes, I love the sandwiches and coffee here. Besides, it’s vegetarian. So I drop by at least once a week”, replied Ananya.
Hrishikesh couldn’t take his eyes off her pretty, heart-shaped face. Her dark hair fell just below the shoulder blades and her almond-shaped eyes were a shade of deep brown. She had a perfect nose and soft, pink lips that would never need any lipstick or gloss.

“So, what would you like to eat?” asked Ananya, handing him a menu card.
“Let’s see what we have here. Umm, these organic smoothies sound good. I like the sound of ‘Berried Alive’ – a mix of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry and banana apple juice. I”ll have this and one of the Vegan sandwiches. Which is the best one?” asked Hrishikesh.
“I love the ‘Portobello Mushroom Burger’. Have a look”, said Ananya.
“Baked Marinated Portobello Mushroom, Tempeh Bacon, Sautéed Bell Peppers, Daiya Mozarella, Onion and Sundried Tomato Spread. Okay, sounds delicious. What will you have?” said Hrishikesh.
“I’ll have the usual”, said Ananya with a smile, motioning to Rocky who came over to take their order.
“Hello Anne, how are you today?” greeted Rocky cheerfully.
“I’m good, Rocky. We’ll have one each of a Portobello Mushroom Burger, Cheddar Burger, Berried Alive and My Sunshine. Also, get me an Apple Crumb. Thank you.” said Ananya.
“Coming right up”, said Rocky.
“So everyone here knows you as Anne, is it?” asked Hrishikesh.
“Yes, it’s easier for them compared to Ananya”, she said with a smile.
“You have the slightest hint of an accent. It sounds nice”, he remarked.
“I never really picked it up, thank goodness. And thank you. I see now. Your tendency to shower compliments isn’t restricted to emails only”, she said teasingly.
“I only give compliments when I mean it” he replied gallantly.

The table was small and their knees brushed each others’ a couple of times. Ananya noticed how Hrishikesh would look her in the eyes while talking. She liked that. His hair was short, neatly parted and his face was clean-shaven, not unlike an army man. He wore black, half-rim spectacles and had a prominent, square jaw. There was a faint scar on his chin and his nose was slightly crooked. But the best thing about him was his smile. It would reach his eyes and that is what appealed to Ananya the most. He was a little shy too, but she was expecting that.

“So, how come you’re in the Big Apple? You said in your last email that you’ll tell me when we meet”, said Ananya.
“Well, as you know, I’m in the United States to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in Los Angeles. I thought since I’m in the States, let me come here and meet you. God knows when I’ll get the chance next”, said Hrishikesh, sipping water.
“What?! You travelled coast-to-coast just to meet me? LA to NYC?” sputtered Ananya, shocked.
“Yes! Why? What’s so surprising?’ said Hrishikesh innocently, enjoying her reaction.
Rocky swooped in with their food just then and placed it on the table. They started eating.
“You’re crazy! How long are you here for?” asked Ananya.
“I flew in a couple of hours back. I’ll catch the 8:00 pm flight back to LA from JFK” said Hrishikesh, taking a bite from his Portobello Mushroom Burger. “Mmm, this is delicious, Anne. Good choice.”
“That’s less than four hours from now. Goodness me. You are absolutely mental!” said Ananya, her amazement mounting with every second.
“What?! I travelled half way across the world. Now flying across one country to meet you seemed like too good an opportunity to miss”, said Hrishikesh between two mouthfuls.
“Hrishi! Now I don’t know what to say to that”, said Ananya, blushing.

Ananya slowly ate her Cheddar Burger and sipped on her smoothie. She was shocked, surprised, flattered and secretly pleased in equal parts that Hrishikesh had made the effort and come all the way. She knew that he liked her. It was quite evident from their online conversations. He was certainly checking all the boxes. Not that Ananya had thought of any boxes to check, but she made her list along the way as Hrishikesh endeared himself to her that afternoon.

“So, what are you doing these days? Started working?” asked Ananya, finishing her Cheddar Burger and swirling her smoothie idly.
“I just gave my exams. The results will be out in July, after which I’m planning to start working” said Hrishikesh, polishing off his burger.
“So you will be living in Mumbai itself, once you start working?” Ananya asked tentatively.
“Yes. Why do you ask?” said Hrishikesh, noticing the subtle change in her tone.
“No nothing, I was just asking. Catching up, you know. Like, in real life. Away from the online world” said Ananya, shaking her head nonchalantly.
“Out with it, Ananya. I know you enough to know that you are hiding something” said Hrishikesh, extremely curious now.
“Well, I want it to be a surprise. I’m not telling you now”, she said with an air of finality.
“Oh, c’mon! This is not fair. I surprised you today, right? Flying half way across the world and then across the country to meet you. I deserve to know”, said Hrishikesh, trying his luck, although he was certain she wouldn’t reveal anything. She liked troubling him this way.
“Well, you know me. I’m not saying anything” said Ananya. She was enjoying herself thoroughly now.
“Okay then. I just hope you decide to tell me soon”, sighed Hrishikesh, as he cut into the apple crumb and served both of them. “It’s best not to push her”, he thought.
“You shall know soon enough”, grinned Ananya, happily taking a spoonful of the apple crumb and feeding it to Hrishikesh.

Hrishikesh wondered what she was thinking. “She fed me a piece of apple pie right now. Does she like me too? It surely is some sort of a sign. No, maybe not. Maybe she’s just happy. It’s alright. I’m happy that it’s going well. “

They ate the rest of the apple crumb slowly and ordered one Cappuccino each; both willing the time to pass slower still, though neither of them admitted it as such. They talked about her love for the Knicks, his love for the Lakers, their common love for Manchester United, how the Yankees were highly overrated, the Tribeca Film Festival which had concluded the week before in New York, the upcoming Jazz festival at Carnegie Hall and Bryant Park, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum’s chances at the upcoming Presidential Elections in November 2012, how the entire landscape had changed in Mumbai and yet how everything was pretty much the same, the sorry state of the Indian cricket team and the sorrier state of political affairs in India.

“Uh oh! It’s past 6:00 pm, Anne. Time flies! I must be on my way now. Got a plane to catch”, mumbled Hrishikesh, glancing at his watch and beckoning Rocky to get the cheque.
“Oh no! I completely forgot. I was hoping we could go for a walk to Central Park. It’s lovely at this time of the year”, said Ananya wistfully. Hrishikesh mentally kicked himself for booking the 8:00 pm flight.
“You should’ve done your homework more thoroughly and booked the 9:25 pm flight, cowboy”, teased Ananya, reading his mind.
Ah! She’s rubbing it in. Hrishikesh grinned. Rocky presented the bill and Hrishikesh settled it, ignoring Ananya’s protests to go dutch. “It’s alright, Anne. Missing out on that walk with you at Central Park was bad enough. Now this is on me”, he said.

As they walked out of the cafe, Hrishikesh said, “How was I to know that you would suggest going for a walk to Central Park with an online friend who you’ve met for the first time?”
“I think we are pretty good friends. And you’re a nice guy. I’d feel safe with you. For now, walk me back home. We’ll go to Central Park the next time you decide to surprise me”, Ananya smiled and said.

They started walking back towards the corner of York Avenue and 74th street, lost in thought once again.
“I wish we could’ve gone to Central Park. It’s been a while since I really enjoyed spending time with a guy. But should I tell him about the surprise?” thought Ananya.
Meanwhile Hrishikesh was still kicking himself for booking the 8:00 pm flight. He had thoroughly enjoyed the evening and wished he could stay longer. As they turned right on East 74th Street, Ananya’s building came into view and more urgent thoughts started running through Hrishikesh’s mind. “How should I tell her goodbye. A handshake? A hug? I wonder what’s acceptable to her. We met now. But she’s always been a little bit of an introvert. A woman of few words. I wonder…” he mused.

They reached the entrance of her building and Hrishikesh slowed down, but Ananya continued walking towards the entrance. Taking the cue, Hrishikesh caught up with her without missing a beat. Ananya looked sideways at him with her eyebrows raised.
“Of course, I’ll drop you home”, beamed Hrishikesh.
“Good. I’ll make you meet my parents and brother too”, said Ananya. “Race you up the stairs” she said and shot off. Hrishikesh laughed and took off in hot pursuit.

Taking the stairs was a habit they shared in common. Ananya reached first and rung the doorbell, slightly out of breath. Her father opened the door.
“Hi Papa! I want you to meet someone. Where are Mum and Nitin? Come on in, Hrishi”, said Ananya.
Hrishikesh took off his shoes and stepped inside the house as Ananya’s mother and brother entered the living room.
“Mum, Dad, Nitin. This is Hrishikesh”, said Ananya.
“Namaste uncle. Namaste aunty”, said Hrishikesh. “Hi, Nitin”, he said, shaking hands with her brother, who returned his greeting.
“Namaste? My goodness, it’s a long time since we heard a young man say that here. Ananya has told us a lot about you”, Ananya’s father said jovially, shaking his hand vigorously. “How did you find New York?”
“She talks about all of you a lot too, uncle. New York is wonderful, we had a good time”, said Hrishikesh.
“Come sit, Hrishikesh. What will you have?” asked Ananya’s mother.
“No, thank you, aunty. I must be off now. Have an 8:00 pm flight to catch, back to LA. Besides, we ate quite a lot right now”, said Hrishikesh, gesturing towards Ananya, who was standing with her father.
“Ananya, you should have brought him home earlier. Nevermind, Hrishikesh, we’ll…”
Ananya cut in. “Mummy, it’s alright, we’re stuffed and I don’t think I’ll have dinner tonight. I’ll get some water”.
Ananya went to the kitchen, while Hrishikesh spoke to her brother briefly. She came in with a glass of water, he quickly drained it and wished goodbye to Ananya’s mom, dad and brother.
“See you soon, man”, said Nitin. Ananya threw a dirty look at him.

Hrishikesh turned to Ananya, his stomach was doing weird somersaults.  “Alright then, Anne. It was a pleasure meeting you. I’ll see you when I see you, eh?” said Hrishikesh, lifting his hand to offer a handshake. Ananya gave him a quick hug instead and squeezed his shoulders lightly.
“You’ll see me soon, Hrishi. We’re moving to Mumbai. All of us. In July. And we’ll be living in Bandra too. That was the surprise!” said Ananya, her eyes gleaming.
“WHAT?! How? This is excellent news!” exclaimed Hrishikesh, shocked, as he felt his heart start pumping out twice the normal amount of blood. He felt like he might just explode.
“I’ll email you”, said Ananya, grinning from ear-to-ear.
“Alright. I’ll see you soon, Anne”, said Hrishikesh. He wanted to hug her again, but fought off the urge and waved goodbye to the others. Ananya stood at the door as he wore his shoes. He ran to the stairs, paused, turned around, smiled at Ananya who smiled back and bounded down the stairs.

Hrishikesh stepped on to the pavement outside her building and took a deep breath. He crossed the road and instinctively looked up at the third floor window. And sure enough, there she was. Ananya waved out and he waved back. She looked more beautiful than he could ever remember seeing her.

Hrishikesh started walking towards 3rd Avenue, a spring in his step, singing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” to himself, looking for a cab. Ananya stood there in the balcony and watched him go till she could no longer see him. “I’ll see you soon”, she whispered.

The Cab Ride

Harvey sprinted out of Kings Cross Station and hailed a cab.
“Where to, guv?” asked the cabbie.
“The Savoy. Get me there in ten minutes and I’ll give you double the fare”, said Harvey, getting into one of the famous black cabs, slightly out of breath.
“We’ll be there in seven. What’s the hurry, guv?” asked the cabbie, expertly maneuvering his cab through the evening London traffic on Kings Cross Road.
“I’m late. My wife is waiting for me”, said Harvey, adjusting his bow-tie and rearranging the roses in the bouquet.
“What for?” chuckled the cabbie.
“Well, it’s our anniversary”, said Harvey, matter-of-factly.
“Excellent. Well, congratulations to you and the missus”, said the cabbie, swerving to avoid a slow car as they barrelled down Farringdon Road.
“Thank you very much. Drive carefully, will you?” said Harvey, alarmed by the close shave.
“Don’t worry mister. Are you an American?” asked the cabbie.
“Yes, I’m an American. And what is your name?” asked Harvey, mildly irritated as they took the right turn on to Fleet Street.
“The name is Liam, sir”, he beamed.
“Well, Liam. You’re a chatty fellow, aren’t you?” said Harvey. Before Liam had a chance to answer, their cab was speeding past Strand and screeched to a halt outside The Savoy. “Anyhow, here we are. Thank you for getting me here quick. How much do I owe you?”, asked Harvey.
“Thirty pounds, guv”, said Liam.
“As promised”  said Harvey, handing over sixty pounds.
Without waiting for a response, Harvey bolted out of the cab and into the hotel. Liam called out after him, but Harvey was already in the lobby by then. Liam shrugged and pocketed the money, smiling to himself. The meter read fifteen pounds.

What Do We Have In Our Pockets?

As of now I have a cigarette lighter (I do not smoke), a stamp, a cough drop, a slightly bent cigarette (who knows who might want it), a toothpick, a pen and some coins. But that’s not what all that I have in my pocket. There is more. It is just that no one questions. They see the bulge, (formed by the things that I have) but do not ask. They wish me hello on the street and walk away. They move the topic to the weather, but never, “Hey! What is there in your pocket?”, “Why do you have these things in your pockets?”

The fact is everything that I have in my pockets is carefully chosen so I am prepared for when the situation arises. For instance, there could be a girl waiting at the red post-box wanting to post a letter but realizes that she is out of stamps. She is not beautiful. She is not charming. But there is something entrancing about her smile, that takes my breath away and I am standing there looking at her. She walks across to me and did I mention that it is raining and it is almost eight in the evening? Well, I didn’t. So I am now: It is eight in the evening and it is raining. She walks up to me and asks me if I would know a post-office that would be open at this hour or for that matter, would I have a stamp on me? She did not ask me if I have a stamp. I made that up. But she did ask if a post-office would be open, knowing well that there wouldn’t be. Not at this hour. After all, who writes letters in this day and age? The girl with the entrancing smile does. Right at that moment, I give her the stamp from my pocket. She is happy and gives me that smile – the smile that started it all. I like this deal as is – even if the price of stamps soars and the price of smiles plummets.

After that smile, she will thank me and cough a little (because of the rain you know) and I will know what to give her next – the cough drop. “What else do you have in your pockets?” she will ask, in a gentle tone and manner. I will answer without hesitation. Everything that you will ever need my love. Everything you will ever need.

So now you know. That’s why we have pockets. We have things in our pockets. The chance to not screw-up. A slight chance. Not even a big one. Just a probability. A tiny chance let’s say when happiness comes along, I can say yes to it and not, “I’m sorry. I do not have a lighter/cigarette/stamp/cough drop/spare coins for the train ticket”. That’s what I have there – full and bulging pockets – a tiny chance of saying yes and not being sorry.

Contributed by Vivek Tejuja

Downside Up

Mrs. Cot got off the phone and glided into the bedroom, extremely irritated. She stopped dead in her tracks. Her king-size bed and cupboard were hanging from the ceiling. The fan was whirring noisily on the floor. “Oh well, I’m getting old. Been dead since a long time now”, she sighed, turning herself downside up.

A Creature of Habit

Old Jack had been shuffling into the same tiny coffee shop every morning at eight am since the past fifteen years. A creature of habit, he would take the seat by the door, order one cup of tea with two slices of bread and jam, read the morning newspaper for forty five minutes and greet the regulars as they filtered in and out. This was his unwavering routine since the first day he strolled into the coffee shop.

True to tradition, Old Jack walked in at eight am that morning. As he shuffled to his usual seat, Mrs. Kaapi, the owner of the coffee shop, greeted him with a cheerful smile and poured out tea for him. To the utter amazement of everyone present, Old Jack said, “Mrs. Kaapi, I think I’ll have a coffee today, thank you very much”, with a huge grin on his face. He had met his son after fifteen years.

The Newspaper Boy

The newspaper boy would do his rounds, climbing up and down the stairs of thirty four buildings of three floors each, plugged in cheerfully to the early morning radio show on his phone. He would fold and stuff the papers neatly into all sorts of door flaps, latches and door handles. Nobody knew the headlines better than him, as he would gaze down at every paper while folding it. Ask him the headlines of any newspaper and he would rattle it off without missing a beat.

One morning, the headlines on the local daily caught his attention. “Senior Citizen Killed After Brutal Assault By Milkman.” As he read the entire article, he felt sick. The coroner had put the time of death between 06:00 am to 06:30 am of the previous day, due to excessive bleeding. The police put the motive down to robbery. The milkman had been arrested, as one of the neighbors had heard the old man moaning and had spotted the milkman escaping with a sack.

The newspaper boy took out his earphones and angrily threw them away as realization dawned upon him. He would meet the milkman everyday as they reached the building in which the old man stayed, at about the same time. The previous day he had happily folded and stuck the newspaper into the handle of the open door of the old man’s apartment, without thinking twice. If only he hadn’t been listening to his radio, he would have heard the old man’s cries for help.

Room Service

“That was so good!”, she whispered blissfully. Her husband was lying down next to her and she looked at him fondly. She was in the mood for more, but he was spent. She kissed him longingly on the lips and was about to go to the bathroom to clean up, when she heard a gentle knock on the door.
“Who is it?”
“Housekeeping, ma’am.”
“We’re busy, can you come later?”
“Certainly, ma’am.”
“Why just clean up?”, she thought to herself and ran a hot water bath. Half an hour later she was back outside, drying herself. Her husband was lying down in bed, looking at her, his eyes wide open. His face had turned a deep shade of crimson. He was blushing, quite literally. She chuckled, pleased with herself. All those hours at the gym had come in useful.
At that moment, she heard another knock on the door.
“Who is it?”
“Room service, ma’am.”
She had completely forgotten about room service.
“What took you so long? We placed the order more than two hours ago.”
“I’m extremely sorry for the delay ma’am. The orders got mixed up.”
She sighed. “We’ll take twenty minutes more.”
“That’s alright, ma’am. I’ll wait”, he said, more than willing to make
up for the delay.
She was irritated now. “Don’t you people see the Do Not Disturb sign
on the door?”
“But you placed an order, ma’am.”
“But that was before I decided to kill my husband!”, she blurted out.
Silence.

Red Ink

Captain Hunt lay there wounded, in a jungle in North Vietnam. Looking around desperately, he grabbed a small twig, dipped it into the blood spurting out of his stomach and scribbled a note on the back of a photograph he had of his wife and daughter. With his last few breaths, he blew the blood dry on the photograph.

Meal

“All of us will eventually die. If we act smart though, we can survive longer collectively”, he said calming everyone down. They were stuck on an island with no flora or fauna. He was the only logician amongst the 31. “We will have to kill one amongst ourselves and eat their meat. All of us have unique birth dates and cover every possible day from 1 to 31. To keep it unbiased, I have devised a simple formula. We’ll use this formula to pick up the nth man to be killed. We’ll add 3 to n, square it, subtract 9 from it, divide it by n, divide it by 31 and look at the remainder. The man with that birth day will sacrifice himself for the rest. The last man on island will survive for 499 days with this scheme”. They trusted him and his unbiased strategy. One by one they turned into food. On the 372nd day only the logician and a young man were alive. They dined and finished the last portion of meat together. “I knew from day one that I would be the last but one to be killed”, the young man said. “There is a dense jungle on the other side of the island and its rich in vegetation. There are plenty of sheep too. We can have a sumptuous meal all our lives”. The logician smiled. “I knew it too” he said and smashed his head.

Contributed by Saurabh Khurana

The Abyss

He woke up. It was midnight. There was no sign of anyone around. He was being dragged into an abyss. He slept.

He woke up. Still no one. Was he dreaming? A gentle breeze blew across his face. He slept.

He woke up. The door was ajar. The keys had disappeared from his holster. The watchman didn’t sleep after that.