In our new writing SWAG bag this month, a double-whammy of flash fiction
by Verena Tay
Teo Beng Seng spent his childhood running about the kampungs of Nee Soon and his adulthood mastering taichi amidst the high-rises of Yishun, unlike his plump ten-year-old grandson, Brandon, who only exercised his thumbs on a PlayStation in their three-generation flat. Teo had to act.
One night, Teo responded to Brandon’s pestering by saying, “Boy, I’ll buy the latest version of Gods of War if you beat me in a game.”
Brandon was all ears. “What game?”
“I’ll show you.”
The next day, Teo led Brandon to the neighbourhood provision shop. Only when they were back at the void deck of their block did Teo reveal what he had purchased, “Nah!”
“Huh?” scowled Brandon.
“Chaptek, lah. You’ve never seen?”
“This is how you play,” said Teo. Throwing the rooster-feathered rubber disc into the air, he kicked at the chaptek repeatedly and kept it up in the air continuously for fifteen counts. Teo smiled. The chaptek king of Nee Soon still had the magic at age seventy-two. Then he said, “Boy, if you can beat that before the end of the school holidays, the computer game is yours.”
For ten minutes, Brandon threw and kicked at the chaptek, managing two counts with Teo’s guidance. Then, tired and bored, he refused to try further and insisted on returning to his PlayStation.
Alone on the void deck, Teo played on, laughing and reliving childhood glory.
It was not rain. It was a continuous deluge, as if someone naughty upstairs had left a thousand faucets full on, the falling monsoon muting the day and all other sounds.
Rachel inched along the super-long taxi queue, trying to shield Ryan and the week’s shopping in the supermarket trolley from getting damp, the shelter the mall provided from bad weather being far from adequate. If only Jon hadn’t been called back to work, she would have finished the marketing long ago with his help. If only she owned a car and could drive, she would have been home long ago. If only her phone hadn’t died, she would have called for a cab, but then she would probably be fighting thousands of others doing the same. If only…
The only thing she was grateful for was that Ryan had tired himself tearing about earlier, which of course made the marketing more stressful as she tried to manage the two-and-a-half-year-old, trolley, handbag and diaper bag. Now he was fast asleep in the child seat, his chubby face against the handlebars innocent of having pulled things off the shelves (thank goodness only tissue boxes). So much energy, this kid, how to keep up with him? So intelligent, see how he manoeuvred himself through the supermarket. So loud when he screamed and yelled in protest when she tried to put the tissue boxes back. Yet why couldn’t he speak proper words yet? Jon’s sister’s three girls spoke at around eighteen months. Perhaps it was time to that she and Jon find a specialist to check him out, just in case.
But perhaps she should sue the mall first. So much for sheltering customers from the rain! What if Ryan got sick again from getting damp? God, not another round of childish flu and coughs… She opened the diaper bag and retrieved a small blanket. Before she could cover her son, Ryan moved in his sleep and mumbled.
“Yes, Baby, I’m here,” Rachel replied.
Still with his eyes closed, Ryan reached out for her and said one soft word that reverberated loudly in the space between raindrops, “Mummy…”
Rachel laughed. The other people in the taxi queue turned to stare at this strange woman who dared break the tedium of waiting with lightness. She could not care less. She pushed her trolley forward to fill the gap that had appeared when someone entered a cab. Then she enclosed her son within the blanket, kissed his head in gratitude and hugged him tightly. If only Jon had been here…
Verena Tay (www.verenatay.com) has published two short story collections, Spectre (2012) and Spaces (2016), and four play collections, and edited twelve fiction anthologies, including Math Paper Press’ popular Balik Kampung series. She is now working on her first novel as part of her PhD studies in Creative Writing at Swansea University.