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Pret in the House

A young boy lives in a house next to a tree that overlooks the road. A Pret (which seems to be a mischievous ghost) lives in the tree, and pulls pranks on people walking or driving their carts or cars underneath. One day, the government cuts down the tree to widen the road, and so the Pret, deprived of its tree, moves into the house and starts playing pranks on the family. Things get so bad that they are determined to move away, so they pack everything up into their car, and as.....

By SabrinaPublished about a month ago 5 min read

It was Grandmother who decided that we must move to another house. And it was all because of a pret, a mischievous ghost, who had been making life intolerable for everyone.

In India, prets usually live in peepul trees, and that’s where our Pret first had his abode – in the branches of an old peepul which had grown through the compound wall and had spread into the garden, on our side, and over the road, on the other side.

For many years, the Pret had lived there quite happily, without bothering anyone in the house. I suppose the traffic on the road had kept him fully occupied. Sometimes, when a tonga was passing, he would frighten the pony and, as a result, the little pony-cart would go reeling off the road. Occasionally he would get into the engine of a car or bus, which would soon afterwards have a breakdown. And he liked to knock the sola-topis off the heads of sahibs, who would curse and wonder how a breeze had sprung up so suddenly, only to die down again just as quickly. Although the Pret could make himself felt, and sometimes heard, he was invisible to the human eye.

At night, people avoided walking beneath the peepul tree. It was said that if you yawned beneath the tree, the Pret would jump down your throat and ruin your digestion. Grandmother’s tailor, Jaspal, who never had anything ready on time, blamed the Pret for all his troubles. Once, when yawning, Jaspal had forgotten to snap his fingers in front of his mouth – always mandatory when yawning beneath peepul trees – and the Pret had got in without any difficulty. Since then, Jaspal had always been suffering from tummy upsets.

But it had left our family alone until, one day, the peepul tree had been cut down.

It was nobody’s fault except, of course, that Grandfather had given the Public Works Department permission to cut the tree which had been standing on our land. They wanted to widen the road, and the tree and a bit of wall were in the way; so both had to go. In any case, not even a ghost can prevail against the PWD. But hardly a day had passed when we discovered that the Pret, deprived of his tree, had decided to take up residence in the bungalow. And since a good Pret must be bad in order to justify his existence, he was soon up to all sorts of mischief in the house.

He began by hiding Grandmother’s spectacles whenever she took them off.

‘I’m sure I put them down on the dressing-table,’ she grumbled.

A little later they were found balanced precariously on the snout of a wild boar, whose stuffed and mounted head adorned the veranda wall. Being the only boy in the house, I was at first blamed for this prank; but a day or two later, when the spectacles

disappeared again only to be discovered dangling from the wires of the parrot’s cage, it was agreed that some other agency was at work.

Grandfather was the next to be troubled. He went into the garden one morning to find all his prized sweet-peas snipped off and lying on the ground.

Uncle Ken was the next to suffer. He was a heavy sleeper, and once he’d gone to bed, he hated being woken up. So when he came to the breakfast table looking bleary-eyed and miserable, we asked him if he wasn’t feeling all right.

‘I couldn’t sleep a wink last night,’ he complained. ‘Every time I was about to fall asleep, the bedclothes would be pulled off the bed. I had to get up at least a dozen times to pick them off the floor.’ He stared balefully at me. ‘Where were you sleeping last night, young man?’

I had an alibi. ‘In Grandfather’s room,’ I said.

‘That’s right,’ said Grandfather. ‘And I’m a light sleeper. I’d have woken up if he’d been sleep-walking.’

‘It’s that ghost from the peepul tree,’ said Grandmother.

‘It has moved into the house. First my spectacles, then the sweet-peas, and now Ken’s bedclothes! What will it be up to next? I wonder!’

We did not have to wonder for long. There followed a series of disasters. Vases fell off tables, pictures came down the walls. Parrot feathers turned up in the teapot while the parrot himself let out indignant squawks in the middle of the night. Uncle Ken found a crow’s nest in his bed, and on tossing it out of the window was attacked by two crows.

When Aunt Minnie came to stay, things got worse. The Pret seemed to take an immediate dislike to Aunt Minnie. She was a nervous, easily excitable person, just the right sort of prey for a spiteful ghost. Somehow her toothpaste got switched with a tube of Grandfather’s shaving-cream, and when she appeared in the sitting-room, foaming at the mouth, we ran for our lives. Uncle Ken was shouting that she’d got rabies.

Two days later Aunt Minnie complained that she had been hit on the nose by a grapefruit, which had of its own accord taken a leap from the pantry shelf and hurtled across the room straight at her. A bruised and swollen nose testified to the attack. Aunt Minnie swore that life had been more peaceful in Upper Burma.

‘We’ll have to leave this house,’ declared Grandmother.

‘If we stay here much longer, both Ken and Minnie will have nervous breakdowns.’ ‘I thought Aunt Minnie broke down long ago,’ I said. ‘None of your cheek!’ snapped Aunt Minnie.

‘Anyway, I agree about changing the house,’ I said breezily. ‘I can’t even do my homework. The ink-bottle is always empty.’

‘There was ink in the soup last night.’ That came from Grandfather.

And so, a few days and several disasters later, we began moving to a new house. Two bullock-carts laden with furniture and heavy luggage were sent ahead. The roof

of the old car was piled high with bags and kitchen utensils. Everyone squeezed into the car, and Grandfather took the driver’s seat.

We were barely out of the gate when we heard a peculiar sound, as if someone was chuckling and talking to himself on the roof of the car.

‘Is the parrot out there on the luggage-rack?’ the query came from Grandfather.

‘No, he’s in the cage on one of the bullock-carts,’ said Grandmother.

Grandfather stopped the car, got out, and took a look at the roof.

‘Nothing up there,’ he said, getting in again and starting the engine. ‘I’m sure I heard the parrot talking.’

Grandfather had driven some way up the road when the chuckling started again, followed by a squeaky little voice.

We all heard it. It was the Pret talking to itself.

‘Let’s go, let’s go!’ it squeaked gleefully. ‘A new house. I can’t wait to see it. What fun we’re going to have!’


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Comments (1)

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Well done on your story, Sabrina.

SabrinaWritten by Sabrina

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