Ninja (Part 3)

3.

The sky was a white page overlaying the city. The concrete park, with its cordoned off exhibitions of green, held no interest for the gaggle of casually dressed 10-year olds. As their teacher ranted about the properties of a rubber tree the three conspirators huddled, thinking conspiratorial thoughts. With her back turned the teacher could not see the children.”Now.” said Tyrone, taking both Shanti and Ben’s hands. Ben balked, but Shanti kicked him in the shin, then muffled his yelp with her own hand. They hurried away whilst their teacher’s eyes were averted. They dashed past some strange post-modern art piece, and through some columns before arriving in a small, concrete arena, where the steps of stadium seats climbed upwards in a semi-circle around them.

Finding a good vantage point, the three sat. Once settled Shanti said to Ben, “Alright let’s see it.” So Ben took out the grey box, with its two plastic purple buttons, it’s four-way directional pad, and the rubber “select” and “start”. Shanti said “What is it?” and Tyrone answered for Ben,

“It’s a Gameboy. You’ve never seen a Gameboy?” Shanti shook her head. With a sigh she said, “Mum and Dad keep buying me barbies.” Ben laughed, then stopped when he noticed the look on Shanti’s face. He tried to explain “It’s just, like, funny. You’re ten and your mum thinks you still play with Barbies.” Shanti punched him in the arm. Ben did not protest.

Her temper caught, and She said “WELL YOU STILL WATCH VOLTRON.”

Ben shouted back “VOLTRON IS COOL.”They argued, as usual, and Tyrone ignored them. He had gotten up, and started to vault over the step above, hopping down intermittently. Finally he interrupted the two, saying “Come on, what were you going to show us? I’ve seen a Gameboy before.” That silenced them.Ben said “Yeah but how come you don’t have one?”

Tyrone said “I don’t really like games.”

Ben’s mouth hung open in shock. Even Shanti shook her head from side to side. She said “let me play then. Please Ben?” She touched his arm, and Ben reddened. He stuttered sure, fishing in his backpack for one specific cartridge. “Check this out Ty.” He produced a small grey cartridge, and shoved it in Tyrone’s face. Tyrone grabbed it from his hand. Shanti, reading the title, tentatively said “Pokey-mon?” squinting her eyes at the green thing. Tyrone’s words tumbled out of him in an excited rush- “ITS JAPANESE. SEE!” He pointed at the characters at the bottom of the title. His eyes dipped into the strange sigils.

“So?” said Shanti.

“Play it Ben. Play it!” said Tyrone.

Ben nodded solemnly, offering his open hand to Shanti, who relented and placed the cartridge in it. In a ritual manner, Ben rubbed the picture on the front with two thumbs, then blew into the cartridge four times. With a satisfying *click* he slotted it in the back. He handed the Gameboy backed to Shanti, smiling. Shanti took it. The two boys flanked Shanti, and she slid on the switch. With a chime, the Gameboy logo fell into place. “You’re blocking the light.” said Shanti. The two boys rearranged themselves. Then she started a new game.

“Woah, slow down.” Said Tyrone, as Shanti skipped all the Japanese text. “I want to read it.”

Ben said “You can read Japanese?”

Tyrone said “Well Dad let me use his computer and I searched it up and you know Japanese letters look like what they mean, so if you can figure it out it’s possible- see, that one is probably man.”

Shanti said: “Screw the words.”

The two boys gasped at the swear. Shanti smiled, a wide, gaping thing. “SCREW IT! SCREEEEEW IT!” she yelled, and the others sat down, conquered by the obscenities. They watched Shanti muddle through the game for fifteen minutes, Tyrone basking in the Japanese-ness of it, and Ben staring at the back of Shanti’s neck with great concentration. “TYRONE, SHANTI, BENJAMIN.” came the shout, from below. They all jumped up, and Shanti hid the Gameboy behind her back. Their teacher started to advance on them. Ben, scared though he was, managed to whisper “Did you save?”

“No.” said Shanti. Ben was distraught.

“GET DOWN HERE.” Said their teacher.

The three did, with Shanti carefully depositing the Gameboy back in Ben’s backpack. After a lecture about various dangers of their irresponsible actions, they rejoined the rest of the class, continuing their tour of the fenced-in trees. During lunchtime the other children harrangued the three with questions, gossiping and fascinated by their peer’s rebellious actions. One particular boy, Olly, was unhappy about not being the focus of attention, and made some effort to regain it. Once he heard that they were caught playing on a Gameboy, he laughed. “Gameboy? I got a PC guys”

“What’s a PC.”

“Pro Computer. Got a game called DOOM on it. It’s supposed to be for adults, but I installed it myself, with a floppy disk.” The jargon hit the group of boys (and Shanti) like an incantation, stunning them all with their cryptic connotations. “I hacked it to Godmode.” Then Olly, once more the star of his own personal biopic, regaled his audience with the details of a boss battle, one that involved a giant spider, shotguns, rocket launchers, and lots of blood.

As the day waned, the kids minds were filled with images of rocket launching spiders, and Ben was desperate to somehow join the ranks of these pro computing kids. He thought up a cunning plan, one that solved two problems at once. To Tyrone he gave his backpack, saying that inside was another japanese game, and if he could hold onto it for the day, and give it back tomorrow, then he could play as much as he wanted. Tyrone, normally uninterested in games, was somewhat intrigued on account of the Japanese, and consented. Then Ben approached Olly and his gang, interrupting their conversation to point out how the Gameboy was in fact Tyrone’s. Olly said “shut up fatty.” and his courtiers laughed. Ben laughed along, and was thus admitted in, as a jester. Ben thought they were edgy, as Olly and the others swore a lot, if quite unusually (“he’s a total brick shitter!”), and Ben revelled in what he thought of as his new-found status.

Shanti and Tyrone stayed together, alone, Shanti peering over Tyrone’s shoulder as he trailed behind the class, playing one of the games. He avoided the teacher’s eyeline by staying perpetually behind the second largest person on the trip. The game was an action packed affair, where you could shoot throwing stars and jump over enemies. The dialogue that took place between levels was impenetrable to Tyrone, and he loved that. The only words in English were in the title: “Ninja Gaiden.”

As they got on the bus, Tyrone tried to sit next to Ben, who was laughing along with Olly and the rest. He extended the Gameboy to is hold friend, but Ben just looked at him and said “Seats taken.”  Tyrone withdrew his hand. Olly whispered into Ben’s ear, and after a too long pause, Ben added, “Back of the bus nig.” Moments after he said that, Ben’s face went rose-red, and the shame upon it was palpable. Still, he did not offer up an apology, or retraction. The terrible silence stretched on.

Tyrone did not know what “nig” meant, but he felt angry. As angry as he had just about ever been. He placed his friend’s Gameboy carefully upon the empty seat, then turned and went back to the back of the bus, not looking back at Ben. Shanti, who heard all, stopped. A shrill voice from Tyrone’s back stopped him in his track. Shanti shouted,

“BEN YOU FUCKING CHUTIYA!”

And that’s when the teacher yelled “SHANTI!” in complete outrage.

Ninja (Part 2)

2. 

He had a fleeting taste of that world, then the screen was switched off by his over-protective mother.

Then it was his third month at school, and there were crayons involved. The class room was a chaos, the opposite of the carefully organised and divided up house Tyrone was growing up in. The explosive liberty was seductive. At school, every time Tyrone made a noise a smidge too loud, he was not reprimanded, and this birthed a mischievous urge inside him. Every time he knocked into something and it wobbled, Tyrone’s heart soared. School was freedom from the rules of his father, and for the most part he enjoyed it. At times however, the differences were uncomfortable. For example, today the crayons were not evenly distributed, and Tyrone felt this was unjust. He lacked the vocabulary to explain why, unfortunately, and so made do. Each student was given paper, and then they went at it. Tyrone sat and studied the empty white space, deliberating. He looked at the others around him for inspiration, and tried not to get caught cheating. He did this by watching the teacher’s eyes. Whenever she looked away, Tyrone would steal a glance at the prolific artists that surrounded him. A rainbow on one girl’s sheet. Some sort of stick figures on another. Most of the kids nearby had settled for various mish-mashes of color. Abstract art was not for Tyrone. He wanted to reproduce something real. Then it hit him, like a hammer to the chest. The swordsmen.

It was last Sunday that he had violated one of his parent’s laws. A minor violation, but one that would prove fateful. Normally, he was forbidden from watching cartoons past noon. His mother usually sat nearby, knitting, or reading, and supervising, ready to turn off the T.V as soon as the last cartoon finished. That Sunday she took a phone call, and left Tyrone be. Tyrone thought he knew how to turn off the screen, but had not yet attempted to test his hypothesis. Thus some minutes passed, and a new cartoon came on. There were swords in this one, and indecipherable yelling- the stuff of legendary challenges. Indecipherable because it was not in English.Although Tyrone did not understand the words, he thought he understood the warriors. Tyrone’s heart soared during those few minutes. Then his mother reduced the screen to black, without a word, just as two warriors charged each other, curved swords drawn. Tyrone felt guilty at having witnessed this, though his mother did not mention it. So, now in front of his blank paper, Tyrone realized, he would need the color silver, and he set out to find it. Rummaging in the pile, only odd colors remained. He put up his hand and asked for silver-colored crayons. The teacher explained that this was not possible, and that he should make do with sketching the outline. So he did. Two warriors, both armed with swords. The warriors were a hurried affair, of disproportionate limbs, with arms much longer than legs. Then, the swords. Ah, here Tyrone was careful. He colored in the right-side warrior red, and gave him a massive sword, three times bigger than the man wielding it. After it was done Tyrone wondered at this warrior, who could hold such a great blade. Then to the man on the left, whose legs were colored blue. Tyrone gave him two much smaller swords- one in each hand. After a bit of thought, he gave him a third, on his back, to protect from the rear. Tyrone, sighed, and studied his debut. He decided that he was the warrior on the left- that three smaller swords are better than one, and quicker to use too.Shortly after that they were told by the teacher to draw their families. Tyrone thought himself quite the adept at crayons by this point, and resolved to make the arms less long in his next piece. He found it hard to concentrate when the other kids started shouting at each other. There weren’t enough peach colored crayons it seemed. From afar Tyrone watched the teacher settle the issue, with each student getting five minutes with the peach colored crayons to shade in their family members. After Tyrone drew mum and Dad, he pondered, thinking there was something missing. After some deliberation he settled for a tree to the side. The tree was exactly the same as the one Tyrone climbed- or at least a close approximation. That’s when Tyrone met Shanti for the first time.She had come over, having just snapped her own brown crayon in half, to take Tyrone’s. She did this by hovering behind him, causing a shadow to envelop Tyrone’s picture. Tyrone, so engrossed in his art, paid no attention to the change in illumination. As he switched to blue, to color in the sky, Shanti grabbed his brown crayon and proceeded to casually saunter back to her spot by the shelves. Tyrone stared after her for some few beats. Then realising he had just been burgled said “HEY! MINE!” and gave chase. The teacher was currently involved in breaking up another scuffle over the scarce pink and peach colored crayons, and did not see, nor condone the imminent invasion. Tyrone, bringing his picture with him, went up to Shanti, and demanded back his brown crayon. Shanti, without shame, or hesitation told Tyrone to just use black instead. She then offered Tyrone her black crayon. So he sat next to her, and filled in his parents with black. Shanti peered at the picture, and asked where Tyrone was in it. It was at that point Ben, a large, rather wide child, bundled pass the two, and hid behind Tyrone- a woefully insufficient body of cover. “My names Ben.” he said. He got up and dramatically glanced about, shielding his eyes from the glare of the halogen light strips above. Then he sat down in a huff, and took out his prizes from his pants. No less than three peach colored crayons. “Spares.” He said, when Shanti and Tyrone stared at him wide-eyed. They ducked as a passing purple crayon whizzed by, striking some poor girl in the nose. Collateral damage from the fight. Ben said to Tyrone, “Your lucky. You don’ need peach.” All three nodded at this. Then they went back to their drawings. Tyrone added his finishing touches- himself, clinging to a tree in the background.

When the chaos subsided, the teacher came around to inspect all their pieces. At Tyrone’s she paused, and bent over, and pointed to the tree. “Tyrone, why is there a monkey in the tree?” Tyrone explained that it was not a monkey, but himself, Tyrone. At this the teacher became incredibly apologetic and embarrassed, much to all the student’s surprise. They had never seen a teacher aplogize before. Tyrone asked her “Whats a monkey?” Having grown up in the city, Tyrone was quite unaware of them by this stage in his life. Some kids laughed at this. Then Shanti spoke up, loud and proud, “YOU’RE MONKEY!” and laughed. “BANDAR BANDAR!” The other kids who had been laughing, stopped suddenly- they had no idea what this word meant.

The teacher, flustered, and already hoping no one’s parents will hear about this terrible lesson, was also curious. Tyrone pestered Shanti, till she said “Bandar- means monkey! Mommy calls my brother Bandar. Thats your name now.” She said it with such finality. Ben felt quite jealous, having no nickname himself. “What about me? I want a name.”

Tyrone said, “You’re fat.”

Shanti then punched him in the arm. “That’s mean.”

And the three became quite good friends after that.

Short story: Ninja

Okay, so this is me breaking one of my rules and duel wielding stories, akimbo. Which I suppose is massively confusing maybe, but to Hell With It. I was going to ship this to some competition. This is something I’ve been working on and it’s more fun to write than Ronel and Eric and I get to wax lyrical about Gameboys (oh glorious DING) and Doom (not in this part though, that’s in part 3), and also well I mean it’s called….

NINJA

1.

Under the gnarled tree Tyrone’s mother set out the quaint accessories for the picnic, whilst Tyrone’s father stared brazenly at a young teenage girl. Under one arm Tyrone’s father held a box, inside which was a strange gadget. Each time Tyrone’s mother looked at her husband he would quickly make as if he had only been scanning, from left to right, like a radar station, his gaze pausing evenly on blooming sunflowers and nubile girls. After the mat was layed, and the tupperware brought out, Tyrone’s father told Tyrone to run, to fly through the cut grass. This was so his parent’s could fondle each other. Tyrone didn’t know that of course, and had quite happily dashed off, obsessed about reaching the perfect distance, before stealthily circling back, heartbeat driven by excitement as he made his way to the far side of tree.

The tree was titanic in height, a snaking obstacle course of branch and roughly textured bark. Tyrone had discovered it last time they were at the park. Last time he had found a rather satisfying place to put one of his hands. It was a hand hold, a protrusion in the trunk, just above head height. Tentatively he had found that the bottom of the trunk curled in such a way that he could shimmy a foot into a root, slightly above the ground. Just as he did his mother had called out- it was time to leave. Since then, dreams of that tree emerged every night, the way his foot and hands fit so perfectly into those nooks, and that promise of leaving the ground, if only he had just hoisted himself up. In his dreams he felt giddy, and somtimes dived upwards, a reverse fall, as he soared towards the leaves, becoming as tall as the tree itself.

Now, here, the culmination. Carefully, whilst on the otherside his father began to explain to his mother about the new-fangled cellular phone, the boy found the same foothold, unchanged, and grabbed the same jutting piece of bark. He took a moment, and pulled. Up he went, his foot free from the soft grass. Amazing. A gentle breeze licked at his T-shirt. He ran his left hand up the bark, just away from the harsh surface. With his eyes he searched for another hold. Of course, the branch! He took his second step upwards.

That day he tasted glory, climbing all the way up to a branch more than twice his height. He straddled it and savored his empire. Words from below drifted up. Hushed words. “It’s so big.” Says the boy’s mother. “Hardly! You can use it anywhere. Almost. I could call London from here. I mean, it’d be damn expensive, but I could.”

She teased, “And why would you need to call London from here?” .

“Hell with it.” He said, looking away in a contemptuous gesture.

Then a bird landed on the branch, startling Tyrone. He twisted, and before he knew what was happening, fell right on top of his dad.

Henceforth his father passed a household edict- they would avoid the park from that day on. Thus Tyrone learnt the value of stealth. For awhile afterwards, Tyrone’s vertical aspirations were relegated to the netting that served as the walls of ball pits, and his parent’s couch. He loved to climb, and the lack of opportunity served to further illuminate the urge in Tyrone. Besides climbing, Tyrone felt a passion for only one other thing, a brief preview of an entire world, alien, impenetrable, depth hidden in darkness.

A world of Japanese sword masters.