My short story ‘Sailing Away’ posted on The Bactrian Room

My short story ‘Sailing Away’ has been accepted and posted on The Bactrian Room. The editor gave me valuable feedback. Here is what he said:

I notice that you use the word “but” a lot. You need to watch that habit. Also, stay away from long sentences. English is better short and quick. I thought it was a good subject, and I like the ending image.

He made minor changes to the submission, which I totally agreed with, like removing an over-the-top simile, breaking down a large paragraph into logical smaller ones, removing pesky ‘buts’ that were butting in all over the place and chopping one very lengthy sentence that was twice as long as this current one you are reading!

Please read the story on and feel free to leave feedback in the Comments section below it on The Bactrian Room or here below this post.

In keeping with the pattern from previous posts under the Published Work section on my blog and because this is a short one, here is the story in its entirety.

                                                                        Sailing Away

In the gathering dusk, Shantanu sits on the worn-out back door steps of his uncle’s house, absentmindedly flipping through a book that belongs to his cousin when a familiar voice calls out his name from beyond the compound wall. His best friend Nitin hops off his motorcycle and pushes open the creaking gate. 

“Will it be the last time he comes over like this?” The thought flits through Shantanu’s head.  He hastily brushes it off and smiles up at him. 

Six years ago, it was Nitin who had first approached and befriended Shantanu when he was newly admitted to their school. A poor boy who had recently turned orphan, bounced from one relative to the next until he landed up at a reluctant uncle’s place, Shantanu had found himself adrift in the sea of his uncle’s own four children as well as two other nieces overflowing a single crumbling old house in a town far away from his own. Nitin had saved him from drowning, had pulled him ashore by consoling him when his uncle beat him and everyone else barely even noticed or acknowledged his existence. 

Nitin, who had shared his lunch with him, played with him, invited him home, and lent him school textbooks.  Who taught him to ride a motorbike, introduced him to girls and constantly hung out with him.  Nitin, who had given him someone to call his own when he had absolutely no one else. Now after spending almost every waking hour together through college, he might tear himself away, changing time zones and crossing seas. 

After completing first degrees, both of them had applied for and had been offered jobs in the same company in a neighboring city.  But Nitin had wanted to give higher studies a shot. He had applied to five universities in the U.K., out of which he had received rejections for four of them, much to Shantanu’s relief. They both awaited the arrival of the outcome of the final application with increasing anxiety, wishing for opposite results as each day melted into the next.

Now Nitin is walking towards Shantanu with a long envelope in his hand.  It might as well be a ticking time bomb that he is bringing towards his best friend’s hammering heart.

“What have you got there?” Shantanu asks coolly.

“It’s here!” Nitin replies, breaking into an excited grin. “The letter of response from the last remaining university.”

“You haven’t opened it?” He asks Nitin.

“I just picked it up on the way out while coming here.” Nitin replies. Shantanu has a feeling that his friend has waited on purpose to open it in front of him.

“Wish me luck!” Nitin says, carefully tearing open an edge of the envelope and pulling out the document.

Shantanu keeps sitting on the steps, watching Nitin’s face as his eyes hungrily eat up the contents of the letter. The light from a nearby street lamp illuminates his face like a stage and the actors on it – his features – change emotions rapidly from excitement and curiosity to disappointment, then anger and finally sorrow. Shantanu tries to hide a relieved smile as Nitin shakes his head at him. 


He gets up and gently pats Nitin’s shoulder. “It’s alright. We…I mean you already have a great job offer in hand.”

Nitin shrugs. “You are right. What did I expect? Getting into a Masters program at such a prestigious university without prior work experience…”  He still looks crestfallen.

Shantanu takes the letter from his hand and reads the dry words informing Nitin of his rejection. Beginning to fold the piece of paper in his hands, he starts walking towards the end of the backyard beyond which flows a dirty canal.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Nitin asks him.

“Wait, just watch.” Shantanu says and keeps folding and turning the paper until Nitin can see a boat emerging out of it. Bending over the short wall separating the house from the canal, he drops the paper boat into the water.

Nitin throws his head back and cackles. “I get it! I get it! You don’t have to be so dramatic!  I’ll let it go.”

They both laugh together but Shantanu is the loudest as they watch the boat sailing farther away, bobbing up and down over the dark water.

                                                                                   *     *     *

About Deepti Nalavade Mahule

Originally from India, I reside in California, where I spend time developing software, feeding books to my two children and submitting my short fiction. View samples of my writing on —
This entry was posted in Flash fiction, Published Work and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My short story ‘Sailing Away’ posted on The Bactrian Room

  1. Nikhil says:

    What I liked the most about reading this was that the background story of Shantanu and the build-up to the moment Nitin walked upto him had all signs of some impending dramatic scene or reaction. Then the story ends as though nothing like such happened, but indeed Nitin’s nonchalant reaction to seeing his boat sail away is precisely where all the drama you promised plays out!

    • I cannot thank you enough for your insightful comment regarding the core of the story. At first, I thought the narrative might prove disappointing since you anticipated an explosive climax. But I was glad to know that you enjoyed the subtle twist at the end. I realized that sometimes such endings may work better. Thank you, once more, for the deep analysis that helped me learn as well!

  2. I had the same habit of using too many connectors and writing in very long sentences. You can write lovely stories with baffling ending! 🙂

    • Yes, if long sentences with many connectors are going to confuse all readers and it is apparent that they are spoiling the piece, then it might be better to avoid them. However, when discussing with friends the feedback that was given to me, I agreed with one of them that avoiding longer sentences may not always be right. In fact, Salman Rushdie was exactly who I had thought of as a contradiction.
      And thank you very much for your kind words regarding my stories! 🙂

  3. BackseatBond says:

    Simple story, Nicely told! I would not worry too much about writing long sentences, it is a good skill to have. So my request is to work on it. I liked your use of water as a medium to describe the family, the impending parting and finally the salvation.

    • Thanks a lot for reading and enjoying the story! 🙂
      Wow! Your eyes smartly picked out and connected all the analogies to water that I have used throughout the piece.
      Yes, I will hone my skills for using long sentences. You also suggested yesterday when we met that the past tense might have worked better here. So I read out part of the story in past tense in my head and agreed wholeheartedly. Thanks again for the valuable feedback.

  4. Pingback: My short story ‘Sailing Away’ posted on The Bactrian Room | Dancing Fingers Singing Keypad

  5. Pingback: My short story ‘Sailing Away’ posted on The Bactrian Room | Dancing Fingers Singing Keypad

  6. ANooP says:

    Hello there,
    Simple story but well written 🙂 Was a good read. Thanks for sharing.


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