Outside a Kindergarten in Fragrant Harbor

This is the tenth time I repeat all these things. You’d better swallow them with your candy. When they ask you what your favorite fruit is, say vaccinium corymbosum, not bananas, not Toyrus bears you play with, the fruit you eat like apples, oranges, bananas, pears, grapes; but don’t say these, say vaccinium corymbosum; what? Berries, berries. I know you are allergic to all berries; saying the name won’t get you rash; you need to be different; you need to stand out; say it, say it; vac…vac…vac… vexed…co…co…co…ry…bubbled, babbled and…ber…berr…berries; no, no, no it’s vaccinium corymbosum, vaccinium corymbosum, vaccinium corymbosum…come on, no time, you say they are good for eyes and immune system; they are rich in anti-oxidants, zinc and selenium; they are full of vitamin C, B complex and E; they are mini-size fish balls skewered in a toothpick; you listen to me; repeat after me; no looking around; five minutes; concentrate! They want creativity; they want knowledge; they want stars; repeat all these before you have another sweet; no repeat, no sweetie; squeezed and creased the candy paper; when they ask you who your favorite person is, say Dad or Mum, not Jei Jei, not Grandpa, not Grandma; say Dad or Mum or both; you understand me; what you want to be in the future is not a driver, nor a hawker, nor a cleaner, nor a magician; you want to be a pilot, a lawyer, a doctor, a politician; what musical instrument you love to play is a double bass; you want to play double bass; you are a double bass on Mondays; you learn tap dancing on Tuesdays, Wushu on Wednesdays, throwball on Thursdays, fencing on Fridays. Saturdays and Sundays are days of serenity, stillness, tell them; it’s good time management; muttered, murmured, manage, manage, me—; don’t ask what it means; no time now; tell them the term; but don’t tell them you do exercises of different subjects at night; don’t tell them how many interviews you have attended; don’t tell them you live with Granny; don’t tell them you want a sibling; don’t tell them you need your pacifier in your mouth when you sleep; don’t tell them you can’t poo in the potty and still use diapers; don’t tell them you are afraid of the dark and still sleep with Jei Jei; don’t tell them you hate strangers; don’t ask for candies; four minutes; smile, smile, smile; show your teeth; show your dimples; first you smile, then you bow; then you greet them; it’s good morning, teachers, not good night; no, no, no, no play in church today; but say your little prayers now; bowed and burst into syllables; if you are good, tomorrow you can skip one tutorial of Spanish or Finnish; if you are good, you can have the latest iPhone, iPhone! You don’t know what iPhone is. Teletubbies, you can watch Teletubbies any time anywhere; okay, three minutes left, tell them you know iPhone; if you are good, you can…

Oh! Yes. An ice cream truck!

You know, you see Mummy get your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with cotton candy and a giant sugar-coated waffle cone. Once you finish, you can have it all; irises followed the swing of her hand where the treasure lay, started to swallow saliva but too much, foaming at the lips’ corners, ready to roll along the curve of his chin. Now, are you good to go? Go! Baby, go! Dragged the soft, wobbly legs forward reluctantly; go! Rasped past their parents unsteadily; chest up! Head up! Their heads, super-size scones of ice cream blended with all sorts of fancy fruit, sugar, names, iPhone, berries, Jei Jei, anti-oxidant, Mum, time man, Dad, cookie, Spanish, double bass, immune, chocolate chips, pilot, va cory…pressed firmly on top of crispy corn cones, dripped sweet and sweat in the heat; a trait for another one to follow; fast! Staggered, squirmed and streamed in lines towards the school’s door; shine! Baby, Shine! Win their hearts and get a place; a sudden shove! Splashed on the scree, melted in puddles of molasses; the fancy packages wrapping the rainbow of lost lullabies shattered into confetti in the air.

Time’s up.

Flo Au won the Most Creative Award in HK’s Top Story 2015 and her pieces are published in online literary journals like Aaduna, Pif Magazine, EJ Insight, Literary Yard, Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore and others.