Flash Fiction | Down, Down, Down

“Down, down, down…

Imti’s smile is down, down, down…

It’s more like a frown, frown, frown…

He looks like a sad clown, clown, clown…

Imti’s smile is down, down, down…”

His classmates’ mocking words loop in his head, as, tears rolling out of his eyes, Imti narrates this to his mom, sobbing and pausing after each line.

Holding his jaw in one hand, his mom pulls up one end of her dupatta with the other, and then proceeds to wipe his tears. Still holding his jaw, she turns it to face the dresser mirror.

“You know why your smile is…” she pauses to imitate him imitate his classmates, “down, down, down?”

Imti, Imtiaz in full, keeps looking into the mirror, his frowny smile remaining a frown.

“Your smile is down…” She pauses, caresses his chin, and goes on, “Because your chin… your chin, like mine, and like my dad… is a bit out…”

Imti touches his chin to feel whether it is indeed out.

Smiling, his mom adds, “It’s a genetic thing…”

“Jenny— what?” Imti looks at his mom. Now, his forehead is furrowed.

“It’s a physical feature in my side of the family…” She explains. “Some people say it looks odd, and so our smile always appears down.” She makes a mock frownie. For the first time in the day, Imti smiles.

Stroking his jutting jaw, she asks, “But you know what’s good about that?” Imti pouts, then shrugs.

“We are very good at taking problems on the chin.”

Imti doesn’t seem to know what that means, but feels it’s a good thing, so repeats goofily, “On the chin…”

Stroking his hair, his mom continues, “That means, we are good at handling problems and don’t get disturbed so easily.” She puffs herself up with pride.

Imti imitates her. Like mother, like son.

“Down, down, down…

My smile is down, down, down…

It looks like it is upside down…

But that’s because my chin is out, out, out…

So, nothing gets me down, down, down…

Or out, out, out…”

Imti goes singing past his classmates the next day, his smile as upward as it can be.

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