Friday, December 3, 2010

Saved by the bath

The family was gathered around the dinner table. As the sound of metal cutlery scraping the plates clean echoed in the room, Mother fed the suckling five-month-old.

Father got up when he had emptied his plate.

“I am going to take my bath,” he announced. Rather unnecessarily – everyone knew that he was the first to take his bath after dinner each day.

The sixteen-year-old nudged his brother.

“Get it,” he whispered.

The thirteen-year-old looked across the table at his sisters. All of a sudden he jumped up and snatched the doll out of the five-year-old’s hands. He tossed it quickly to his brother.

The five-year-old let out an ear-splitting scream. The eight-year-old, who was playing with her just a few moments ago, leapt up and cried at her brothers.

“Give it back!”

The sixteen-year-old had already gotten to his feet. He held the doll high above his head, while the two girls scampered around him, trying to get him to drop their doll. Both he and his brother had huge grins plastered on their faces.

Mother looked up from feeding the baby.

“Stop that right now!” she commanded her sons. “Give them back their doll.”

The sixteen-year-old grinned sheepishly at his mother.

“Sure,” he said, and flung the doll over the girls’ heads – to the general direction of the fireplace.

Screams immediately filled the air as both the eight-year-old and the five-year-old scrambled to catch their doll. The two boys clutched their sides in laughter.

The doll landed right beside the fireplace. The girls ran to it and took turns to hug it tightly, while the thirteen-year-old looked at his brother in admiration. The sixteen-year-old wore a contented look – he was a good shot and he knew it.

Mother sighed. She had to put up with this almost every night.

When Father had taken his bath, he took the baby in his arms while Mother took her turn in the bath. Next the siblings took their baths in turn, starting with the eldest.

After the five-year-old had come out of the bathroom, Mother went in again to bathe the baby.

The brothers were reluctant to get into mischief with their father in the room. They discussed their plans for the next day, while their sisters continued playing with their doll.

Suddenly the front door was pushed open. In the doorway stood two masked men. One carried a large knife.

Before any of the family members could react, the man carrying the knife had grabbed the five-year-old. (As luck would have it, the girls were sitting the closest to the door.) She screamed, stopping only when the knife was pressed to her throat.

The second man ordered the rest of the family to gather in a corner. As they were passing by the corridor that led to the bathroom, Mother appeared, carrying the baby in her arms. She was worried by the commotion and had come to investigate.

The sixteen-year-old decided to seize his chance. His youngest sibling was holding his bath toy, a wooden ship. Snatching the toy, the teenager ripped off its mast and hurled it straight at the man holding his sister, like a tiny spear.

The jagged end of the broken mast hit the intruder right in the eye. He howled in pain and dropped everything to grab his eye with both hands. His partner was so stunned by the unexpected occurrence that he was momentarily paralyzed.

The sixteen-year-old wasted no time in kicking the fallen knife out of the enemy’s reach and carrying his five-year-old sister to safety, while his father leapt onto the second man. The thirteen-year-old, not to be left out, picked up the poker from the fireplace and hit the injured man’s head.

During this time, Mother went out to call the neighbours for help. By the time she returned with two men from the neighbouring houses, both intruders were unconscious, as a result of being conked on the head with a fire poker.

Random phrase: Eat dirt, evil villain! (thanks to Elvin)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finders keepers

There was this boy who was in my summer camp one year. I cannot recall his name; we called him “Baldy”, for obvious reasons. He wore a wig, but it fell off on one of the first days of camp, and from that day onwards, all the boys knew of his affliction and teased him mercilessly.

As young boys we didn’t care about the how or the why. He was different, and that was all it took for us to gang up on him. Looking back, we were rather cruel towards him, as boys are wont to be.

We invented a game. I do not know who exactly started it, but it was one of the more popular boys. The rest of us joined in without hesitation.

The game was played every day without fail. One boy, the previous day’s “keeper”, would hide Baldy’s wig somewhere on the campsite. All the other boys would search for it. It wasn’t that much different from a normal game of hide-and-seek, to begin with. What differed was the twist of the game after the wig was found.

The boy who found the wig would have full power over Baldy for the rest of the day. A simple threat to flush his wig down the toilet would have Baldy begging on his knees and willing to follow any command.

Wigs were expensive, and the poor boy could well imagine the wrath of his mother were he to inform her that he had lost or ruined his. He was therefore at the mercy of whoever happened to be holding his wig.

The “finder” of the wig would be Baldy’s “keeper” for the rest of the day, or to put it more bluntly, Baldy was as good as his slave.

The next day, he would hide the wig again, and the game would continue.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A stirring nearby roused me from my thoughts. I looked at my son, lying on the hospital bed. Sessions of chemotherapy had left him weak, and his hair, once so thick and beautiful, had almost all fallen out.

I silently vowed that I would never allow him to experience the emotional torture that we had put Baldy through. No, he will never be a pawn in such a cruel game as “finders keepers”.

Random phrase: Finders keepers (thanks to William)