A Game for Half a Day || Shrutidhora P Mohor



Credit: Antonio Murgia

A Game for Half a Day

by Shrutidhora P Mohor

Sophia has bacon and toast for breakfast as her pet Corgi sits close to the laced borders of her flowing gown. Sophia sips Assam tea, while a crow waits to pick up crumbs from her plate after she leaves. Sophia’s lips are wet and warm, the strong flavour of the tea clinging to her lips.

Sofia spreads the butter on warm toasts. A dollop of it descends into the pore right in the middle of a toasted bread and oozes out on her fingers. Sofia serves her mistress the breakfast and then, casting a sly look around, turns back for two seconds and licks her fingers. The taste of salty secret butter hangs around the end of her lips. She resumes her duty and pours some tea. The white ribbons of smoke gush out from the tea cup and enter her eyes. “Excuse me,” she says, one of the phrases she has learned in the last many months, and departs from the garden in which the breakfast table has been laid out.

Sophia finishes her meal. It is time to retreat indoors. The sun has begun blazing in the open space. There are countless small beads of perspiration above her eyebrows. Her silk gown is dripping sweat. The humid weather is unbearable. Sophia fears she might faint. “Sofia!” she calls.

Sofia has been squatting in a corner on the ground and munching on whole wheat breads, round, soft, warm. She rubs her face with the back of her hand and hums a tune that her mistress had played on the piano at the last house-party a week ago. Her eyes are narrow, the pupils like narrow slits, running through the eyes to minimise the sun from barging in. When she hears the call, she pulls herself up and proceeds to attend to her mistress.

Sophia is feeling giddy. She needs to retire to her private chamber. Her hands are shaking. Her white skin has become a viral vermilion in heat and humidity. Perhaps she should have never come to such a distant land in such a different zone of the earth…

Sofia is slightly late in arriving at the garden. That is because she was tucking a bloomed marigold flower in her hair. Next to her slippery brown face, the bright yellow looks sizzling. Sofia knows that she is looking like a sunny side up, the kind that she brings to the breakfast table often. Sofia knows the power of brown. It reigns supreme in this zone of the earth.


Sofia holds smelling salt to Sophia’s nose. Sophia manages to reach inside the bungalow and trudge along the corridor to her bedroom. Sofia pulls down the blinds and is about to shut the door behind herself when she hears a faint voice mutter, “Who christened you?”

“Excuse me?”

“Who had given you your name?”

Sofia thinks for a moment and replies, “Uncle.”

“You are my namesake,” Sophia’s voice is weak from exhaustion.

Sofia stares, blank.

“We have the same name,” Sophia explains.

Sofia nods in obedient agreement.

“But different stories of our lives.”

Sofia nods again.

Sophia coughs once and props herself up on her elbows against the fluffy pillows.

Sophia coughs again.

Sofia offers her a glass of drinking water.

Pushing the glass away Sophia says in a whisper, “Care to step into my shoes for a day?”

“Excuse me?”

Sophia clears her throat and shares her plan.

Sofia’s eyes bulge out in excitement. Her pupils are shining like round juicy marbles in the darkened room.

Sophia has finished explaining. She awaits Sofia’s consent.

Sofia carefully considers the plan and then finally says, “But why?”

“For fun. I am bored.”

“I am bored too. Serving meals and doing the rooms is boring.” Sofia has been taking lessons in spoken English for a few months now. Her performance has been largely untested though, for she has had no need to speak at length.

“Then you agree?”

“Yes, madam, I do.”

Sophia’s pale and soft white hands reach out for Sofia’s coarse brown hands. Together they sign one of the unknown pacts in history.


The man of the house leaves for work the next day. He has a meeting with the First Officer today. Engrossed in his thoughts, he has not noticed how his wife has been giggling and shaking with excitement from time to time.

Sophia scrambles into a blue-check tunic; Sofia into a silk gown, pulling its tassels in wrong directions. Sofia treads gently in light steps to the breakfast table. Sophia rubs her hands on the napkin hanging from the apron and proceeds to the pantry.

Sophia arranges the cutlery, brings the dishes, serves the food.

Sofia dives into the food, clinks the cutlery to cut, pierce, and lifts the food into her mouth.

Sophia chuckles as she watches Sofia struggle with the fork for some seconds and then, in a smart gesture, pick up a bite with her bare hands, place it on the spoon and empty it inside the depths of her mouth.

Sofia grins as she knows she is being watched. She signals to Sophia to set up a lawn umbrella over the table. Sophia struggles with picking up the used dishes, using trial and error to find out the effective way of doing things. 

Sophia is feeling uninhibited. She winks at Sofia and is unembarrassed when she does the chores badly. 

Sofia is feeling liberated. She claps her hands when she manages to playact Sophia’s post-breakfast routine of answering and writing mails, writing the daily entry in her personal diary, a round of embroidery, and heating the oven for baking scones for guests in the evening.

The pet Corgi is confused and yelps now and then.

Unknown to all others, unobserved by all, the two women live each other’s lives. Sophia’s white soul flutters within the entrapment of brown duties. Sofia’s brown memory is fried crisp and fresh in white cooking oil.


It is past afternoon. Sophia gets lemon tea for her one-day mistress. Sofia gives a sip and approves of it although it is tangy and too strong. Sophia has put a pail of water on the stove for her today’s mistress to take her evening bath. Sophia is sweating her flesh out while Sofia is half-asleep on the reclined armchair.

It is almost time for the man of the house to return. The horseman outside is all attention.

Sofia can smell his tobacco.

Sophia can see the water bubbling. “Madam,” she informs Sofia, “the bathwater is ready.”

Sofia is drowsy.

Sophia steals a look at the time and shifts her feet impatiently. Mr Stevenson will be back soon.


Sofia has her eyes shut.

“Madam! It’s time for you to take your bath.” Sophia frowns when there is no response. After a minute she nudges Sofia. “Get up! Wake up! Sofia! Get up fast! Mr Stevenson will be here any moment. Get up, take your bath and finish the game.”

Sofia opens her eyes and rolls them from one side to another. “You are loud,” she says annoyed.

“Stop it now! Get up and go to the drawing room and draw the curtains. Get over with this game now. That’s enough for one day.” Softening her voice Sophia adds, “If you want, we can play this sometime again later, some other day. But now, get up and vacate this room.”

“Vacate the room? Why?” Sofia is astonished.

“The game is over. Get up, move.” Sophia is irritated.

“We never said that we shall end the game in the evening.” Sofia retorts.

“What do you mean, you filthy woman?” Sophia growls.   

“Mind your language. Is that the way to speak to the lady of the house?”

Lady? Of the house? That’s what you think you are, don’t you?” Sophia is red in the face. “Wait until Mr Stevenson is here. He will get you fired.”

“Aah, it’s him that I am waiting for!”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Sophia cannot believe her ears.

“We had said, it would be for a day. We have had only half a day till now. The other half is left. I’ll take my bath in lavender water and sprinkle eau de cologne on my neck. Then we shall put off the candles and the lanterns all around and have our dinner in the moonlight on the terrace. Mr Stevenson and me. Mr and Mrs Stevenson, for tonight. He will smell your scent on me and it will be dark everywhere. How do you like my plan?” Sofia sounds like a softly hissing snake, still inside the charmer’s basket though but ready to leap out.

Sophia is speechless.

The pet Corgi is upset and is whining in a corner.

“There is work to be done. Come on! Get going! You need to arrange the dinner. Make it good. Mr Stevenson has had a long day.” Sophia pushes herself to command her attendant but there is tension lacing her words.


The man of the house is back. He is late. The meeting with the First Officer has been a difficult one. They urgently need a white paper to formalise regulations in the domestic sphere. Families, wives of British officers, their children, the mixed race children arising out of local marriages, above all, attendants and domestic helps working at the homes of British officers need written laws and procedures for the Empire to run well at all levels. I’ll have a brief discussion with Sophia. Her advice has always been invaluable, says Mr Stevenson to himself.

“Sophia? Why is it all dark? Where is the girl?”

“She said she is unwell and needs rest.” The respondent’s voice is shaken, broken.

“Oh, I see. Let’s turn on the candles.”

“Let it be. There is moonlight outside. Let’s relax and dine out.”


“It’s going to be romantic!”

Mr Stevenson comes close to his wife. “Is everything fine?”

“I thought I would lose you. I feared you wouldn’t return.” A sobbing Mrs Stevenson throws herself on her husband’s chest.

“Sophia? What’s wrong? What has happened? Why are you sweating so heavily?”

“I don’t know.” She is crying from the depths of her heart.

“It’s alright. It’s alright now. I am here. Calm down, calm down, darling.”

Drying her tears, she mumbles, “How did the meeting go?”


“Same here. I too have had an exhausting day.”

“Is it? What all did you do?”

She is quiet at first. Then she says slowly, “I had a lot of work today.”

“But where was the girl? Has she not been helping you?”

“Both of us. Both of us did a whole lot of new things today. It was exhausting for us both.”

“I see. I shall hear more about your new activities tomorrow. Let’s have dinner now and retire for the day.”


Sophia is doing a piece of embroidery. 

Sofia is cleaning the dishes. 

Sophia will take her lunch soon. 

Sofia is about to lay the table.

“Sofia, get my reading glasses from the study.”

“Yes, madam.”             

Shrutidhora P Mohor (born 1979) is an author from India writing literary fiction. She has been listed in several competitions like Bristol Short Story Prize, the Bath Flash Fiction Award, the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize, the Retreat West monthly micro competitions and the quarterly competitions, the Retreat West Annual Prize for short story, the Reflex Fiction competition, Flash 500. Her writings have been published by several literary magazines and been nominated for Best Micro fictions 2023 and the Pushcart Prize 2024. Mohor (she/ her) is the pen name for Prothoma Rai Chaudhuri, MA Ph D, Faculty, Department of Political Science, St Xavier’s College, Calcutta, India. Her Twitter handle is @ShrutidhoraPM and her Instagram username is @shrutidhorap and on Facebook she is @Shrutidhora P Mohor

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