Short Story: Rahul or Raul

Raul or Rahul

It was 2001 and the towers had not yet fallen, and Raul’s brother had not left for university. Even though his brother’s empty room was only a scant few meters away from Raul’s, his brother had still tried to send Raul the video over MSN messenger, perhaps just to see if it would work. Raul didn’t know why he’d done that, and the lack of knowing followed him into his dreams, like a hole he could not descend into, a place which when he shouted questions at, would only echo.

So lately, Raul could not sleep. One morning he watched the sky change color again, his eyes half-lidded, feeling itchy all over and incomplete. He lay and wriggled in the stark, smoggy dawn, and tried to list all the reasons for why his brother had sent him the video, and which of the reasons seemed most like the truth. Why not just ask him to watch it? He could have gone right across the corridor, they could have watched it together.

Raul watched the light creep up his own computer, which had itself effortlessly slept through the entire night, and behind the black screen of which waited the link he had not yet dared to click. He went to his computer, tired of being exhausted, and he found the MSN message, the window a week old and still open, the link the color of un-clicked.

He clicked the link.

The ponderous, slow, Windows Media Player whirred to life and an image appeared, of Raul’s brother, a guitar casually perched upon his lap, waving indistinctly in the direction of the camera. So that was what the video was of- that birthday party, from when they had been in school. Raul couldn’t quite remember much of the party, except how his brother had awkwardly dedicated the song to Raul- yes- didn’t he? He did, at the beginning, right before he played the song. He’d said, “this one’s for…” or was it “the song goes out to…” or something else entirely. The song had been for him.

Raul pressed play.

The image would not move. He tried again. It stayed frozen. Raul checked; it wasn’t the codec; or the godawful player. Was it the file? Was it corrupted? Raul slammed the keyboard, then muttered alone, to himself, to calm down. Did his brother dedicate the song to him? Raul peered deep into the frozen frame, trying to access the memory via association, and could not- it was just out of reach, or perhaps, the picture was of too low quality. His doubts clamored about how it never made any sense, for his brother to dedicate that song to him.. It was a love song wasn’t it? The kind you sang to your girlfriend, or in his case, boyfriend. That’s what made it so awkward- though it had been hilarious- everyone knew his brother was gay and this was way too over the top, that he’d meant his older brother.

Unless.

Raul smacked himself in the head.

HE’D MEANT RAHUL!

RAHUL! His brother had had a crush on him! But Rahul himself wasn’t AT the party, so what’s the point in dedicating it to him? Raul didn’t know, and this sent his head into the keys, sounding that annoying warning blare. He noticed then, eyes straining against the top of his head, that in the bottom of the frozen video was someone with a pink mohawk on his head, and an ancient, 90’s style camcorder in his hands. Obsolete, backwards tech, you couldn’t send THAT over MSN. Though supposing if you lived nearby, you could probably run over with the video as quickly as send it online, though you’d need a VCR to play it.

Raul considered, whilst he got dressed for work, of trying out passwords on his brothers locked computer

Then he left.

The world was a bleary mess kept at a distance by the insomnia. At the bus stop, when he heard the tinny, absurd, custom ringtone come from the woman’s phone- the opening theme of Pokemon; “I wanna be…the very best…that no one ever was…” before catching himself, realizing- it was his brother that had shown everyone at school how to get that song onto their phones, his brother who organized that ridiculously awesome phone-sing-a-long-prank during the famous assembly, so what if this woman knew him? What are the odds that this was just a coincidence? How awkward would that be if she didn’t know about him. How do you broach the topic?

Raul said nothing.

Instead he planned how it was he would find out exactly who the guy with the pink mohawk was. At work he used the company landline to place several calls, whilst simultaneously using his Nokia phone to text people. Through friends of friends of his brother, he tracked the number down. He tried it, and in a polite flurry asked the mohawk if he still had the video. The mohawk did. And was he free this evening? He was, sort of. An impending meeting had Raul outright demanding, in a fluster, that he be able to borrow the video that night. The mohawk said sure, but to come by before seven . Raul thanked him profusely and got back to work. It came easier, the promise of the video like a beacon, something to look forward to, that he thought would bring him peace.

The fucking meeting ran over.

When he finally left, it was pushing 8:30. He called the mohawk and the phone rang, and rang, and rang. He texted the mohawk, asking if they could reschedule, that Raul would go anywhere, would travel across the city if he had to, he just needed to see the damn video. Finally a pissed off woman answered. “What the hell do you want?” Her voice softened when he told her who he was.

“Bob’s at the airport. He had a flight to catch.”

“But…what…when is he coming back?”

“He isn’t…” At that Raul couldn’t help it. He began to tear up. “Hello? Are you there?”

“…What’s his flight number?”

She told him and he ran to a taxi, worried inside, ran out of the taxi, and into the airport to a help desk, then ran from the help desk to the check out counters. Then ran from the checkout counters to the immigration entrance. Raul scanned the travelers for a pink mohawk. There were none. Raul wanted to scream, so he did, he screamed: “BOOOOOOOOOOOB!” and someone with a dark crew cut in a suit put up his hand. And no one arrested them as the towers hadn’t fallen yet.

Bob had the camcorder, and the tape, and the camcorder could play the tape on a tiny screen.

“Is it okay if I watch it on my own? In the toilet?”

Bob said it was okay.

Raul sat with the seat down, glad he bought some earphones from the nearby store. He plugged them in, crossed his fingers, and pressed play.

His brother came back to life.

Raul rewinded to the beginning repeatedly. Each time he felt the whole machine shake as the analogue tape physically wound itself backwards. He did this several times to make sure he had heard right, till he was sure his brother had said:

“I dedicate this song to the not yet departed: Rahul! Wish you were here man!” Of course. Rahul. Rahul was leaving the city, a few weeks from then.

So Raul stopped the tape, right before the song began. He felt the hole again, the lack, the truth failing to fill it.

Then he took a breath, and pressed play.

Raul listened, and heard, and saw, that the song wasn’t really awkward at all. It wasn’t hilarious either. It was okay. Under his breath, on top of the toilet, Raul sang along. At the end, to Raul’s complete surprise, his brother made a joke. It was that Pokemon joke. No one at that party had gotten the joke, except Raul. He’d laughed so loudly, wow- THAT was awkward. He remembered now, how his brother had stared right at him, how his brother had made the joke knowing Raul was the only one who would get it, and it was funny because Raul had given him his charizard card, before he knew what it was worth, and that’s what the joke was about.

Then it call came back to him. Raul remembered the whole damn party, the laughing, the dancing, and how, drunk for the first time, he had hugged his brother, and he remembered what that felt like.

So Raul cried, and he said goodbye, touching the tiny screen with his wet fingers.

Advertisements

Flash Fiction Medley

I was reading about black holes today, which put me in a certain kind of mood. The Japanese have a word for it “Yugen” . That and I saw this picture (warning 10 MB picture), which is a super-high-res image of a fraction of the stars in our own galaxy.

You know I’ve always thought there was something deeply wrong with me. Partially because of the two links above. I’ve had people get very red-faced, very loud and and sure about certain ideas they have, including ideas that are really quite fantastic, compelling stories, like God and the Afterlife and Retirement, when the very fact that all those stars out there exist reduces so much of all of that noise coming out of people’s mouths to be….

Something less.

Not that I know any better. I am so awfully aware of how little I know that I indulge myself in a congruently complimentary hobby/passion/desperate need: to make things up. If I had it my way I would be a professional-maker-upper. I don’t want to call them novels or fiction, I want to call them stories. That’s all they are in the end.

In that spirit I’m writing this flash fiction medley which is is comprised of ideas that have taken root somewhere inside of me, that I have been quite an abysmal parent to, always claiming tomorrow I will finally write them all out, and do them justice. However in light (or lack thereof) of super-massive black holes of infinitely large mass and infinitely small volume I will deny my perfectionism and just let the ideas flow, like so much kaleidoscopic vomit.

Starting with The Third Planet Is Sure They’re Being Watched By An Eye In The Sky (because I love Modest Mouse and because Edward Snowden). This would have/will be/should have been a story about an obscure band with some average to pretty decent instrumentalists who acquire, randomly at a party, the skills of a front-girl and lyricist of dubious reputation- she has an obsession with psychedelics and is rarely seen sober, a sort of neo-hippy that others dismiss as pretentious.

Her name is Rachel and her parents are rich and thus the band plays at her place, which is austere and owned by her single father, the too serious CEO of some impenetrably dull hedge fund.

She writes these strange lyrics and sings in an off-beat falsetto with the band wishing she sounded more like Haylee Williams but they can’t deny the poetry, the way in which her words are so enigmatic, flow so easily, and how she never ever writes them without being at the very least stoned, if not tripping all over everybody’s balls.

The band is obscure, they get some hits on Xanga- using the new-fangled internet (did I not mention this all takes place in the 80’s?), play a few concerts but never make it big. They are torn apart by the tragic suicide of their front-girl, who falls in love with the gay guitarist that found her at the party and can’t hack the impossibility of it all.

The band falls apart, the lyrics left online.

Till they are found by a certain boy decades later. He fails to find anyone to take credit for them. On 4chan him and a dedicated few begin to form a subculture over these lyrics on account of how eerily accurate they are when it comes to historical events in the 21st century.

Funny thing about these lyrics. They are strangely prophetic. Very much like an 80’s version of Nostradamus, Rachel had somehow written down these hard to understand, rolling lines, that all seemed to come true. So this subculture spawns a member, who didn’t show her tits then GTFO, who becomes, through some twist of fate (in other words a realty TV show contestant), super-famous, ga ga famous, and after singing the autotuned songs of successful song writers eventually releases her own album- remixes of Rachel’s lines, catchier now with a bit of dubstep to underline the drop.

The last song in the album contains lines that suggest that this was what was always going to happen anyway, and whilst scholars spend a goodly amount of time debunking and arguing against the prophetic nature of all the other songs (not unlike a an 80’s remixed Nostradamus)  it is very difficult to argue against the rather explicit nature of these final lines that talk about another girl from another time when information is far more free taking her words and making them widely known.

See why I don’t finish these stories? That one could go one for awhile.

There is also Sonder, a story I really keep telling myself I’ll write, which is meant to be about a single day in the life of this person, and how it ends suddenly, and how although there is all this pain in his life- a divorce in process, a job that does not treat him so well- he values the time he has waiting, at the bus, or at lunch, the in between times, where he listens to these fantastic pod casts that teach him all about natural selection, or the general theory of relativity; space and time and history.

And at the end of this day, through random chance he is struck by a car, on his to the operating theater- with his broken family and wife united by the tragedy, all around him wishing him well with superstitious but well-meaning platitudes and the invocation of a plethora of conflicting Gods; then, in that gurney with the tube in his mouth he starts to imagine.

He imagines zooming out, of that hospital, and appreciating the hundreds of lives in the same building- like disparate atoms in a gas cloud all heading towards their own destinies, all of equal importance, all comprising a whole. From their he zooms out to the city block and wonders at the various animals, the sparrows and cockroaches that have evolved to fill their various nooks in the shadows where tigers once stalked- the strange ways in which life has continues to reproduce itself and that trajectories through time those species have taken…he zooms out again to the whole island, considers the geological movements, the plate tectonics of the island breaking off, reforming, the volcanic violence that led to it’s original creation- and he zooms out even more to consider the earth, wrapped in it’s atmosphere against the void, this pale blue dot with all the variety, all the life, all the water and wealth of chaos- and zooms out again, to the solar system and the strange series of collisions that led to the planets, the life cycle of Sol, and again to the galaxy with it’s billions upon billions of sisters to Sol and all that potential, the potential for all those hospital tragedies, and again to all the billions of other galaxies and the sheer amount of other things, the shadow of infinity- and without God, and without answers, with one single tear rolling down his face, the man is content in the face of death. Without words, without actions, with his imagination alone he traversed all of space and time.

The definition of Sonder.

The anesthesia dulls him to sleep and he dies on the table and his imagination is lost to an invisible past only the reader might have appreciated.

Let’s go for the hat trick, one time, with my final story-yet-unwritten: Get Krunk

Which is quite simply about a man who does not drink much, or dream much, whose life is turned somewhat inside out by the collapse of his company, a sudden thing that discards him, and all the things he thought were important, and leads him to a bar his fellow workers always frequent and he never did, where they regale each other with happy memories he missed in his endearing naivete, and how he drinks quite heavily that night.

He stumbles out of the cab home too early near a football field where the lights of the stadium hypnotize him- shadows, young, dance underneath those sharp lights, and he stumbles towards them driven by a mysterious line “get Krunk, get Krunk”…and he finds himself in a party for high-schooler’s, and he joins.

This man he looks so young and his askew tie and stained suit mark him as cool among all these teens. The story would have been about the lie he lives for one insane, magical night, where he tries to relive his past, and would have turned on a girl, the kind of girl he wishes he would have had, and how he realizes at the end how late it is, when, she brandishes her fake ID with pride.

I’m not certain what he would have done during that party but I think it would have had something to do with making a heartfelt speech about the future for these young ones, and something about how he befriends a supposed younger version of himself, who really is not like him at all- and that realization that he can’t even guide himself, because of course there is no one like him- not truly- that truth hurts.

I probably would have ended with the girl and whether he has sex with her or not because that shit sells.

Three’s a crowd apparently so I’ll cut the medley short. It’s kind of freeing to let these stories out so I might do this again soon. It’s also a form of cheating which appeals to me.

The End.

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.