Grow Spurts - A Fictional Piece Pt 1
A fictional piece that I wrote when I was about 16 years old. I edited little bits to put it up here.
I do hope you like it - some of the language here is Singlish. Singlish is basically Singaporean English. We often frown at ourselves for not speaking proper English, and yet we celebrate this speak as a part of our unique multicultural identity.
As children, whenever we saw him, we would run away. Our parents thought we were playing our fantasy game – at the signal of “Gui!” (Our codename which meant ghost or monster in Chinese), all of us would scatter off to hide. Uncle Hock was really scary – there was an eerie way his eyes penetrated yours whenever he stared at you from their corners. Unlike the rest of the retirees who’d sit at the void deck to play chess or checkers, read the newspapers and share stories, Uncle Hock much preferred to keep to himself. In his late sixties, the only time my neighbours and I got a glimpse of him was each afternoon at 3pm, when he would walk slowly to the neighbourhood provision shop to buy bread and milo. This was the time that everyone was indoors escaping the scorching sun; time for mothers to give their babies their afternoon nap; most able-bodied men were at work; many of the older folk stayed home tuned to the local radio station that played Cantonese Oldies karaoke style during this hour.
Nobody really knew him well. The adults kept a respectful distance from him and to us kids, rumours created by who knows who spread that Uncle Hock had some disease whose germs spread to those who’d go too near him. As primary school children we could barely understand their adult talk, besides it was more exciting living in our imagination. To us, it was only natural to pick up our school bags and run away whenever we saw Uncle Hock wearing his usual faded blue stripped pyjamas, walking with his hunched shoulders and old brown sandals to the provision shop just next to our playground. It was the kick that we got from this game of hide and seek that seemed to bond us – someone pretending that he was there and yelling “GUI!!!” and us running away – almost a kind of forbidden pleasure since most parents didn’t allow us to be out in the sun at that time of the day. You see, many Chinese considered children to be beautiful when they were fat and fair, not skinny and sun-tanned.
One morning, my downstairs neighbour Xiaomei and myself were in the provision shop choosing some marbles and red rubber bands so that we could play with together in the evening. We were admiring a marble with a red and blue design when suddenly the shopkeeper called out “Ah zek! Early today!” (Ah Zek is a respectful and informal way of addressing old man)
Before I could react Xiaomei glanced up and saw Uncle Hock’s head bobbing above the shelves.
Click HERE for part 2 of Growth Spurts.
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