Key Phrase: Fat Lady in the Sky
The mayor was first on the scene.
Standing on the topmost rung of the fire engine ladder, in a three-piece suit, holding back the occasional bout of nausea with a crisp, monogrammed, lemon-scented handkerchief pressed to his nose, Mr. Kumar congratulated her most heartily. All his attention deliberately focused on the pillowy, pink face of the suspended woman looking him squarely in the eye, the cat-eye sunglasses perched on her head like little ears. In her hands a bouquet of crushed roses from Mrs. Naidu’s garden, taken without her permission, that he’d thrust at her before he dropped it himself.
“Oh, madam, the village of Uri thanks you so,” he crooned, shaking off loose petal falling over him from the bouquet, nearly causing him to sneeze and slip at the same time. He grabbed the edge of the flat ladder top, sniffed some more from the lemon-scented handkerchief, and continued. “You appeared like a larger-than-life angel in the sky and saved us all,” he said. “If not for your brave sacrifice, we should have been entombed … Crushed from the inside out … Smothered and spent. We are forever indebted to you. How can anyone ever repay such kindness!”
“You could get me down,” she said cheerfully. “Or get me a vase at least.”
“Yes, dear lady, of course,” waxed eloquent the mayor some more. “It’s just that the village would be in a terrible fix without you. You see, we have no idea as to what has and is continuing to happen to us, and why. And since all the communication from the outside world is down, as far as we know, and madam, since it is only your large be… large, magnanimous presence that is holding the ‘sky’ literally up, the good people of Uri and I were hoping that you would continue to extend your posterior … ahem … positive support by remaining in your current state of ascendancy.”
“My what?” she spluttered, sending some more petals his ways. Looking up at them with a mixture of fascination and dread were the Vashisht family and what obviously looked like a nervous assistant holding on to the mayor’s briefcase and coat.
“By staying up there,” he explained. “Just for a few days. Max a week. Till we figure out how to fix it.”
“Oh, why didn’t you say that in the first place,” she laughed and the dome rumbled like the empty belly of a gigantic monster. “Sure, I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere. And it is rather pleasant hanging upside down. Almost like being a bird, don’t you think?”
The mayor nearly turned purple at the thought but managed to smile gratefully.
“And don’t you worry, we will take care of all your needs,” he added, and quickly hurried down the ladder. Not wanting to stay up there any more than was necessary.
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