by Leon Wing
“I’m only going out for a bit, to get you some nice fish for your dinner. Wouldn’t that be nice, a nice bit of fish?” Mrs Tan wheedled, looking a little closer at her little boy, playing at soldiers on the kitchen floor. Or is it hunting seals, the way he was mauling the teddy bear.
She already had on her red riding hood, to keep her hair from frizzing and the rest of her from dehydrating; even if the temperature outside was below 30 degrees in the afternoon, said TV Eleven’s weather announcement earlier.
She wondered how the fish at the market she was taking a walk to would keep. And, these days there were so many new varieties, some with more than two eyes, and sometimes with muscly fins, looking like attenuated arms.
She shuddered, remembering the last time she was at the fish stall, squatting before a pile of fish. She nearly leapt backwards (as if she herself had gotten extra limbs, like some frog-like legs) when a still-breathing fish stretched its thick arm-like fin up at her face. The fishmonger lady cackled, with glee, “So fresh ah?”
Had she seen any change about him yet? She was wary he was about to grow out of his present state, being five now. That was normally the stage at which Malaysian children grew out their limbs.
She then remembered she had to check on his grandmother, who was upstairs, sleeping off the noon lunch. She left her son to his own devices, to climb the stairs.
No harm would come to him there, now; she’d kept all the sharp utensils out of his way, into locked drawers and cupboards. Most of her furniture were recently reinforced – the expense! – as last week he managed to wrench out a couple of them – the strength children had these days! - and started brandishing the knives around his little brother, who was only one.
She tippy-toed over to her mother’s bed, and looked. Mother’s eyes were shut tight, and her mouth was opened. Moving closer, she exclaimed, “Oh mother, what big teeth you have!”, and Grandma snapped opened her large eyes and glared out, answering, “The better to eat yo- I mean – to eat the fish you’re getting for dinner.”
Back downstairs again, she went into the kitchen one last time before heading off to the market.
“Oh my, what have you done now?”
She bent over her little boy – he has grown quite a bit, now, she saw – taking in the mess on the floor.
Not the ruined teddy bear, no. Rather, her other little boy, now all torn up and half chewed off.
And her surviving little boy now had a new pair of arms.
© Leon Wing 2009
Leon Wing: When writing this story, I had this theme at the back of my head, of global warming causing harm to humans in the near future. Here in Malaysia, it is hot enough as it is, but in the future the heat is going to frizzle your hair, and then some. And, the population is mutating, as is the fish we catch as food. Reminded of those twisted fairy tales of Angela Carter, I threw in some fairy-tale elements -- sort of Angela Carter-meets-Stephen King. One of the reactions I got from this story is "too stomach-churning for our lunch-time reading crowd".
Leon Wing writes poems, mostly. He “sees” shapes, colours, objects, structures, when reading them; like some people do when listening to sounds or music, as when he writes for Puisy-poesy.