Small Talk: Best Friends


May 19, 2019


Illustration by Shreyaa Krritika Das

Niece – It’s MasterChef MasterChef.

Me – You mean all this is MasterChef MasterChef. These leaves, this rock and … is that a dead butterfly?

Niece – It’s my restaurant.

Me – Very enterprising of you.

Niece – It’s also Beauty Parlor Beauty Parlor.

Me – So this is MasterChef MasterChef Beauty Parlor Beauty Parlor.

Niece – Ya.

Me – Are there two MasterChefs? And two Beauty Parlors?

Niece – Hm?

Me – Why is everything named twice?

Niece – Hm?

Me – Which planet do you come from and do you come in peace?

Niece – You can have Manchurian and Butterscotch.

Me – I’m afraid to ask.

Niece – Pizzas.

Me – Oh gosh.

Niece – Also injections.

Me – I see you actually have a large purple needle here. Filled with … little bits of confetti I think. And little blue hearts, aw.

Niece – I give it in your neck.

Me – Don’t you da— Ow!

Niece – It’s 12 rupees.

Me – You want me to pay you for doing that?

Niece – It’s 20 rupees.

Me – That’s not how that works.

Niece – I give you another injection.

Me – No.

Niece – Why?

Me – Because … I can’t think of a good reason, actually.

Niece – I bake you a cake.

Me – That’s a much better idea. What’s with the butterfly?

Niece – He’s sleeping.

Me – Are you sure? Seems like he’s … allegedly sleeping.

Niece – He’s my best friend.

Me – Really? That is both weird and sad. Don’t you have a human best friend?

Niece – No.

Me – You should probably get a human friend.

Niece – Why?

Me – It’s something people say, like, ‘You should eat vegetables.’

Niece – I made you a sandwich.

Me – What happened to my cake?

Niece – It’s a sandwich.

Me – So you’re saying this isn’t a rock with two leaves on it.

Niece – No.

Me – Great, I’ll eat this later.


Niece – See this.

Me – Hey, it’s your allegedly sleeping friend.

Niece – Ya.

Me – I see he’s still sleeping.

Niece – He was awake just now.

Me – Are you really sure about that?

Niece – Ya, he just flew around. And ate rice.

Me – Hmm. Seems unlikely.

Niece – He’s going to bed now.

Me – Okay. And when you say that you don’t mean in your bed, right?

Niece – Don’t make loud noise.

Me – You’re not keeping that in your bed are you? Dude?


Niece – Did you see my best friend?

Me – Recently? No, why?

Niece – I don’t know.

Me – Isn’t he sleeping? Allegedly?

Niece – I think he went for a walk.

Me – Yeah, I don’t think so.

Niece – I think he went for a walk in the fridge.

Me – Did you put that butterfly in the fridge?

Niece – Hm?

Me – You put that butterfly in the fridge didn’t you.

Niece – Yes.

Me – Dude, that’s gross!

Niece – It was hot.

Me – You better take it out before your mom finds it.

Niece – Ya.

Me – What do you mean ‘ya.’

Niece – I can’t find him.

Me – You’ve lost your allegedly sleeping butterfly in the fridge.

Niece – Someone ate him.

Me – If I look in that fridge and find it in the curd or something I’ll—

Niece – Did you ate him?

Me – Actually I think I’ll just go home now.


Me – I see your friend has returned from his sojourn in the fridge.

Niece – He’s still sleeping. Is he sick?

Me – I wouldn’t say so much sick as … dead, probably.

Niece – Should I put Vicks on him?

Me – You’ve already done this haven’t you.

Niece – Yes.

Me – Well, at least he won’t be congested.

Niece – When will he wake up?

Me – I don’t think he’s going to wake up.

Niece – In ten minutes?

Me – Probably not.

Niece – He’ll be like this all the time?

Me – Yes. Until he starts to disintegr— never mind.

Niece – Can I also be dead?

Me – No.

Niece – Am I dead now?

Me – Closing your eyes doesn’t make you dead.

Niece – If I lie down?

Me – Why don’t you hang out with your other friends now. Like, the human ones. Who aren’t so dead all the time.

Niece – But he’s my best friend.

Me – He doesn’t have to be, you know. Consider the benefits of a human friend. That’s alive and all.

Niece – But I can keep him in my pocket. And I can give him injection.

Me – You can do that with human friends.

Niece – I can?

Me – Yes. No. Probably no. I never told you that, okay? Someone else did.

Niece – Can I give you injection?

Me – No.

Niece – Can I give you two injection?

Me – Yeah, go on then.


Me – So how’s your best friend doing? Haven’t seen him lately.

Niece – He’s fine.

Me – Still allegedly sleeping?

Niece – He’s swimming.

Me – You didn’t put him in the water jug, did you?

Niece – He’s in his swimming pool. See?

Me – This is a rock in a plastic mug.

Niece – He’s my best friend.

Me – It looks suspiciously like the same rock you once said was my sandwich.

Niece – His name is Colored Pencil.

Me – What happened to the allegedly sleeping butterfly?

Niece – You ate him.

Me – I did not! What the heck!

Niece – I ate him.

Me – Hahaha what? You didn’t actually eat him, did you?

Niece – Hm?

Me – Did you eat that butterfly?

Niece – Okay bye. I have to put Colored Pencil in the fridge now.

Me – Okay, but you didn’t eat your butterfly best friend, did you? You didn’t, right? Dude?

Small Talk chronicles conversations between the author and her niece that could, in an alternate universe or in this one, be real.


Written By Kuzhali Manickavel

Kuzhali Manickavel’s collections “Things We Found During the Autopsy,” “Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings,” and chapbooks “The Lucy Temerlin Institute for Broken Shapeshifters Guide to Starving Boys” and “Eating Sugar, Telling Lies” are available from Blaft Publications, Chennai. Her work has also appeared in Granta, Strange Horizons, Agni, Subtropics, Michigan Quarterly Review and DIAGRAM. She used to blog at http://thirdworldghettovampire.blogspot.com/.


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