Hands Up! By Terveen Gill

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Hands up! That’s all I had to say.

My brother Manu made me practice it a hundred times. Or was it a thousand times? I can’t count. What do I know? Manu says I’m a simpleton. Papa called me an idiot. I remember his last words just before he died.

Manu, take care of your brother. This world is no place for idiots.

Papa then patted my cheek, it felt like a slap, and closed his eyes forever.

The bank was far from our home. How did I know? I could whistle the tune of Mehbooba many times before we got there. Manu and me, every morning, on his scooter. He said we had to practice hard, or we would fail.

I didn’t want to fail.

Then one day, Manu said it was time. I wanted to wear my orange shirt, but he said we could only wear black to a robbery. Like we wore white when papa died. I wasn’t happy. But I had to listen to Manu. Papa said so before he died.

I wore new shoes. They were black too. I sat behind Manu with the bag on my shoulders. My throat was dry. How would I say, ‘Hands up?’ We stopped for some juice. Manu looked angry. I looked the other way.

We walked into the bank. Manu took the bag from me. I sat down next to an old man.

I wished him – Namaste Uncle.

Papa always said to respect our elders.

Manu walked to the counter. He smiled and talked to a woman. The old man next to me started coughing. I patted his back just like Manu patted mine whenever I drank a glass of milk too quickly.

When I looked again, Manu was gone. The woman at the counter was talking to another woman. I did something I wasn’t supposed to

do. Manu said no talking to strangers, but I still asked the woman a question. She shook her head and said she didn’t know where my brother was.

I waited and waited, but Manu didn’t come back. The bank people finally told me to leave. They had to go home.

Where was Manu? Where was my home? Why did he just leave me?

I cried like I did when papa died.

I never even got to say, ‘Hands up!’

Also Read: https://terveengill.com/cowards-dont-die/

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