I wrote this story more than 4 years ago. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it then but surprisingly the few people who read it actually liked it. I did some minor editing but not much has changed from the first draft – I figured it’s best left raw and unpolished.
I See Flying Turtles
by Justin Lau
I see flying turtles. Is this not normal? All in my head, all in my head, say my classmates, always pestering me with their bickering. There goes a purple-shelled snapping turtle with graceful grey pigeon wings, the Leader of AOFT himself! It’s talking to me. ‘Look to your right,’ it says. It turns its wrinkled neck and winks at me before it flaps its wings. Vanished, poof, into thin air. I do as I’m told. What’s on my right? Well, wouldn’t you like to know. I’m not going to tell you.
Oof. Oof. I grunt in pain as I punch my stomach. I can proudly say I have iron fists. Very tough manly hands. Yet girls still run from me. Whoever told me girls like manly hands is a liar. Liars burn in hell, starting with their pants. My ear itches so I scratch it. I squeeze the pus out and wipe it with tissue. People say it’s disgusting but it fascinates me. The way it leaks and — Hey Mike! Meet my friend Mike.
Mike loves me. I love Mike too. We have a mutual love for each other. But not in that way. He has a girlfriend and she’s real pretty. Except I’ve never seen her since she’s invisible. Same with Mike. Says he enjoys watching people without them noticing him. It makes sense if you think about it. Think about it carefully, not carelessly. That’s what my mum used to tell me. Unfortunately, I can’t turn invisible, Mike tells me. And Mike is always right. So I have to make do with being visible.
Crack! A baseball flies into my backyard. I roll on the grass. My white shirt turns green as I grab the ball. ‘Hey! Over here!’ scream several kids down the street. I’m a professional pitcher. I close my eyes, stand on the sandy mound, breathe in the dusty air. Squinting at the catcher’s sign, I nod. The perfect call. I wind up for my best pitch yet. I throw the ball as hard as I can and I watch it fly through the air… the batter swings and misses. Strike out! I fall to my knees as tears stream down my face. Raising my fists in the air, I weep as my faithful catcher embraces me. I hear a car alarm go off.
I fall face-flat. An ant crawls up a blade of grass, wet with dew. Interesting, have you noticed an ant’s body has three parts? I can name them too. Head, thorax and abandonmen. I read it in a book my uncle gave me for Christmas. I’m smarter than I look. But I’m terrified of staplers. Because once I put my finger at the place where the stapler comes out and pressed down hard. It hurt but I tried not to cry. If I don’t cry, I can prove I’m brave enough to join the AOFT. That’s the Association of Flying Turtles. All my classmates say I made it up but I didn’t. It really exists. All in my head, all in my head, say my classmates. STOP DOUBTING ME!
I’m really talented at playing the guitar. I practise five hours a day. I even write my own songs but my dad gets mad at me if I start singing. So I sing in my head. Do, Mi, Fa, La, Ti, Do. My fingers move quickly. Plucking strings, pluck, pluck, like a duck, when I’m stuck, in the muck. Mi, Mi, Re, Mi, La, Uh, Oh. My dad’s shouting at me. I hear him stomping up the stairs. I didn’t realise I was singing. My guitar goes into the case for protection. Where’s mine? Sitting on my bed, I stare at the walls blankly.
That’s my dad. He shouts something incomprehensible at me. He gets in my face. He’s been drinking. He let me try some once. I didn’t like it. He slaps my face and it stings. But I don’t cry out, I have to be brave. ‘You little piece of shit,’ he calls me. I know what the s-word means. Mike told me and he said it’s a bad word. But I don’t dare tell that to my dad. I keep quiet. The silent treatment works best.
Oof. Oof. I grunt in pain, softly, as he punches me in the stomach. But I train daily for this so it doesn’t hurt as bad as before. I grit my teeth and think of something else. I wonder what Mike’s doing? Probably with his girlfriend on a date. They said they were going to the park to feed the ducks, where they’re stuck, in the muck. I wonder if Mike would mind if I tagged along next time. Mike once told me a joke. Something about potatoes having eyes but can’t see. Mike explained it to me when I said I didn’t understand. And I started laughing and laughing. I couldn’t stop.
That was funny. I’m going to ask Mike to tell it to me again. I let out a snicker. My dad stops beating and shouts, ‘What’s so funny, shithead?’ He’s even more riled up now. But for some reason I can’t stop laughing. I laugh louder and louder, the punches get stronger and stronger. I’m on the floor now and the punches become kicks. But I continue to laugh. I’m the perfect embodiment of ROFL (‘rolling on the floor laughing’ – it’s a slang term Mike taught me). It’s hilarious! Whoever thought of the potato joke is a genius. I’d like to meet him someday.
My dad stops. He spits in my hair and storms out. I stop laughing and the pain hits me all at once. But I don’t cry. AOFT, are you watching? I didn’t cry! I get up and grab my tissue box. I wipe the spit, sweat and blood. My left earlobe’s beginning to pus again. I lie on my bed in a daze.
Mike calls me from below. I stumble down the stairs into our backyard. Mike tells me I have a special visitor. I ask who but he just smiles. Here comes a purple-shelled snapping turtle with graceful grey pigeon wings, the Leader of AOFT himself! I’m in awe. It lands on the grass and I kneel. I lower my head in reverence and respect. ‘Lift your head,’ it says gently. I do and I see it smiling. ‘Your bravery will be rewarded. You are now a member of the AOFT.’ It winks at me before flapping its pigeon wings and vanishing, poof. Mike smiles and runs down the street. I smile and fall back-flat, grinning like there’s no tomorrow.
Staring into the sky, I see a horde of flying turtles of all shapes, colours and sizes. They all say in unison, ‘Welcome!’ I feel a twinge and see two grand eagle wings sprouting out of my back. I spring up into the air to join my fellow comrades. We fly off towards the horizon, laughing and telling stories. My potato joke is a big hit. I smile and the turtles wink at me. I laugh. I am home.
© Justin Lau, 2014