“So what do you think guys?” Daichi smiled proudly, holding up a bizarre costume made of black and white feathers.
Albert, Paul, and I covered our mouths in surprise.
“Dude! Did you really make that yourself?” Albert went over and poked at the red cloth bag that resembled a huge wattle.
Daichi‘s smile grew wider. “It took me almost five days.”
Paul groomed the feathers lightly, slowly shaking his head from left to right in amazement. “Where d’you get all these feathers?”
“From the turkey farm down at Turksville. They’ve got the healthiest turkeys in the whole country, and they sure have collected some gorgeous feathers.”
“You sure it’s gonna fit him?” I asked.
Daichi glanced at me. I was sure I saw a hint of irritation in his expression, but it was gone in a blink. “It’s not meant to be tight or anything, so I’m pretty sure Zombie-Boy’ll be able to get in.”
“You’re a genius, Daichi.” I put on an innocent smile, showing him that I meant no offense.
Five days ago, on the night before Tutto began to ignore me, I had gone down to the lobby room to meet up with my three pals. They were already in an exciting discussion when I got there, and as soon as they had seen me, they had started filling me in with their new plan. The American Thanksgiving was coming up, and they had wanted to surprise everyone with an unexpected event.
“We’ve celebrated our Thanksgiving a month ago, so no one would expect anything at this time of the year. That’s why our event is a surprise.” Daichi had thoughtfully explained to me.
Albert had rubbed his hands together like a greedy kid. “We’re gonna have turkeys and Pilgrims and Indians and everything!”
Of course, they had wanted Tutto to be involved.
“Halloween was an easy one; he totally fitted in with the atmosphere.” Daichi had tapped his chin with a finger. He always does most of the planning, while Paul and Albert make sure that everyone hears about what they are doing.
“Yeah. But Zombies don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, eh?” Paul had imitated Daichi, tapping his finger and frowning.
“Any ideas, James?” Albert had come over and tried to slap me on the back, but I had grabbed his hand just in time.
I had laughed hesitantly. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a part of this. The look on Tutto’s face that night before I had left him had still been stuck to my mind. It had been the look of a child who had just discovered that he was adopted by his parents.
“Come on, help us out, Jamey.” Paul had pled.
I had looked at the three of them, and they had looked back at me. There had been no way out.
“Maybe you guys can…uh…like…” I had dug into my head looking for treasures. “You guys can…dress him up! That’s Halloween-ish.”
When Daichi had clapped his hands together with a triumphant grin on his face, I had regretted saying anything. “I have the perfect plan! I’m so happy you’re here with us, James.”
I had nodded back uneasily, wondering what he had in mind.
After Daichi had informed us with his brilliant scheme, we had each took responsibility for part of the job. Daichi had volunteered to make the costumes; Paul had wanted to be the choreographer; Albert, who has a deep, strong voice, had been assigned as co-star. That had left me responsible for communicating with Tutto Freeman, which was a big thing, for without him, all our hard work would go to waste.
“So what’d he say?” Albert had asked me excitedly when he saw me coming down from the stairs.
“If he even said anything.” Daichi had reminded him.
“We’ll find him up there.” I had just had the awkward semi-conversation with Tutto, and had been in no mood to explain anything to them. I hadn’t even known if I wanted to help with this event in the first place, but with Tutto being so unresponsive, I had felt tired of defending him. We had planned everything, and he was going to have to cooperate with us, whether he liked it or not.
“Great!” Paul had rolled up his sleeves. “Let’s get movin’!”
We had spent about a week preparing for our Thanksgiving surprise. It had felt weird to still be working on a Thanksgiving celebration when everyone had already been talking about winter break and, of course, Christmas. When we had gone shopping in Walmart for prop materials, all the aisles had been filled with red and green Christmas decorations and gifts. After about two hours wandering around the mall looking for things we needed, our heads had been haunted by “Jingle Bells”, “Silent Night”, and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Christmas lights had already been hung up on the fences in front yards, and Christmas trees had begun to be erected and decorated in homes and public places.
I had walked around town, taking in the early Christmas atmosphere; something Leona had said emerged within my mind. It had been a cool April night, and Leona and I had been sitting on the front porch of my family’s house, counting the stars and chatting. I had said something about Christmas, and she had frowned and told me that she didn’t celebrate the holiday.
“It’s just a huge excuse for people to show off their wealth.” She had said with disdain.
“But it also lets people show their love for each other.” I had stroked her golden hair, which glittered in the moonlight.
“If you really love me, you wouldn’t wait ‘till Christmas to show me how you feel.” She had pouted her lips, and I had leaned down and kissed them.
It had been a while since I talked to Leona, and I had wondered how she was doing. Ever since the Halloween party, we had seemed to have lost contact. She had been really angry with me just for watching Tutto Freeman get bullied. I had wondered what she would think about my practically helping with my buddies’ schemes.
“To hell with her.” I had said aloud to myself, swallowing the sense of guilt that seemed to have followed the words out. Trying my best to keep the thoughts of both Leona and Tutto at the very back of my mind, I had followed my buddies on our hunt for material.
Almost a week after that, the costume had been completed, and the four of us had met up to discuss details. The American Thanksgiving was in two days and the guys wanted to make sure everything was set for the big day. The amount of effort put into all their practical jokes never fails to amaze me.
“So, guys, here is the script,” Paul takes out a piece of crumpled paper from his jeans pocket and unfolds it, holding it high in front of his face as if it were an important imperial document. “Zombie-Boy is dressed up as a giant monster turkey, terrorizing the campus. Albert, disguised as the Turkey Slayer, beats up the monster, chains him by the neck like a dog, and saves the day.”
Albert, nodding like the CEO approving an essential business plan, gave Paul a big thumbs-up. Daichi pulled out a black mask from his backpack and handed it to Albert, who promptly put it on and started Superman-flying around the room, practicing his moves. Daichi then pulls out a long, rusty chain and hands it to Paul, who would be the one helping Tutto move about in his costume.
“So I’ll just link this onto the collar on that turkey costume and throw it over to you, Albert.” Paul said, preparing a practice throw.
“Sounds perfect.” Albert, still “flying,” gestured for Paul to throw an end of the chain to him. Paul did so, holding the other end of the chain with his other hand. Albert caught his end. It was perfect.
“Looks like we’re ready for our big day!” Daichi announced. They all turned to me. “Do you think Zombie-Boy still remembers our date?”
My stomach did a churn. The truth was I was supposed to keep in touch with Tutto all week, making things up to get him worked up for our “Big Thanksgiving Celebration.” Unfortunately, after all I said to the orange-eyed boy last time on the roof, and the fact that Tutto seemed to be avoiding me even more as the week progressed, it was very difficult for me to meet up with him again.
My stomach did another churn. This past week, I had been busy with all the celebration preparations and hadn’t really been thinking much about the fact that Tutto had completely locked himself up from me. All of a sudden, this realization sank into my heart and a gripping pain filled up my chest. No matter how much this fact surprised me, I couldn’t deny that I actually missed the talkative, pestering Tutto I had come to accept and like.
“I’ll talk to him again tomorrow.” I said flatly, gulping down the fact that I had no idea where to find him nor did I know how to talk to him. He hadn’t been hiding up on the roof at all recently, and although he came to every one of his classes, he would immediately disappear after each class as if he had the ability to teleport.
The next day, I decided to go with the simplest plan I could think of. I left a note on the seat where Tutto always sat, saying that I needed him to meet me up at our secret hiding place after the day was over.
After all my classes were done, fingers crossed, hoping he would actually notice the note and not just sit on it, I ascended the stairs and pushed open the iron doors. To my surprise, Tutto was already sitting in front of one of the brick walls to the side of the iron door. He hugged one of his skinny knees, shoulders slouched a bit, back hunched against the brick. His face was turned away from me; he was staring at a faraway cloud, or a bird, or the outline of the mountains.
It was late-November already, but for a winter day in Canada it was a relatively warm one. Nevertheless, Tutto was dressed for a snowy day. He was wearing an olive green wool toque; the soft, light amber hair that showed from under the toque gently swayed with the winter breeze. A heavy camouflage jacket that made him look twice his size hid god-knows how many layers of clothing he wore underneath. A hand-knitted scarf seemed to cover half of his face. And judging by the bulkiness of his normally bony legs, he must have been wearing multiple layers of pants. Compared to his ensemble, my hoodie-and-jeans outfit made me feel way underdressed.
“Hey.” Was all I could say as I walked up to the heap of clothing. When the boy didn’t respond, I felt a pinch of disappointment. I casually sat down beside him, making sure to give him some personal space. He turned his head around so that I was able to see his face, but he still didn’t look at me.
“Thanks for coming.” I was genuinely grateful. At least he responded to my note.
There was a very long silence. The winter breeze quietly moaned in the air as it blew through the gaps of the brick walls. The laughter and chit-chat of the students underneath us sounded like the roar of the ocean waves. The leaves of evergreen trees shuffled gently as a lone crow cawed in the sky above us. Even the setting sun seemed to be making a sound of its own.
I took a deep breath, for what I was about to say would not come out easy.
“Tutto, I’m really sorry.” I paused, sneaking a peek at my companion. He continued to stare at something in front of him.
“I’m sorry for everything I said. Can you forgive me?” I felt like a five-year-old kid apologizing to his best friend. “My friends caught us up here. They can’t ever imagine how I would be hanging out with you. I didn’t know what to do, so I lied. I lied, okay?” I could feel my honesty spilling out again. This isn’t good.
“You’re a very important friend to me. I wish I had realized this sooner.” I clenched my fists. “Truth is, I was touched when you said you wanted to be my guardian angel. I never realized you thought of me as such an important person, but then again, I wasn’t even sensitive enough to realize that maybe the reason you acted different in front of me was because you thought of me that way. I’m not very considerate.” I clenched my fists tighter. This monologue is getting a bit too touchy-feely.
“I just wish you would at least talk to me again…” My voice involuntarily trailed off, and all I could do was stare at the boy’s face half-hidden behind his pile of clothing.
To my surprise, the dullness of Tutto’s eyes had disappeared, and in its place was the bright orange that I had come to admire so much.
“Tutto?” I said, hoping maybe he would finally say something.
Tutto slowly turned his head to face me. His toque pushed his bangs onto his face, and his scarf covered up his mouth, but just by looking at his eyes I knew he was gently smiling. Relieved, I smiled back. However, this smile died fast.
“Tutto, there’s something I need to tell you.” I clenched my fists again. The orange-eyed boy looked at me, waiting for me to speak. “My buddies and I had been planning something on you. They want you to meet us here tomorrow and…” I stopped myself mid-sentence, still pondering whether or not it was a good idea to tell Tutto that we wanted to dress him up as a turkey monster and beat him up. In the end, I decided to tell him everything.
After listening to our plans and everything that was expected of him the next day, the orange-eyed boy gave a quiet and muffled version of his hysterical laughter and started to stand up. Seeing that he was having a bit of trouble doing so, I stood up and grabbed his arm to help him. Despite the bundle of thick winter clothing wrapped around him, Tutto was still shivering a bit from the cold.
“Hey, man, are you alright? You seem weak.” I asked, concerned.
Pulling his toque down and tightening the scarf around his neck, Tutto laughed quietly again and began to speak. His voice was soft and cracked, as if he hadn’t uttered a word for weeks. I strained my ears to hear him.
“Tutto’s fine. See you here tomorrow, Jamesy.”
-羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo