Half-Heartedly

 Chapter 13

     “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.” 

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第十三章

  「你們覺得怎樣咧?大智自滿地笑著,給我們看一件誇張的黑白羽毛服裝。

  亞伯特,保羅和我都驚訝地蓋住嘴巴。

  「哇塞!這真的是你做的喔?」亞伯特走過去用手指戳一個紅色像巨大的肉垂的大袋子。

  大智笑得更開了。「花了我五天。」

  保羅輕輕梳了梳羽毛,慢慢左右搖頭,非常佩服。「你在哪裡找到這麼多羽毛啊?」

  「在土城那裡的火雞場啊。他們有整個國家最健康的火雞,也收集到很漂亮的羽毛。」

  「你確定這合他嗎?」我問。

  大智看了我一眼。我好像看見他眼中一閃的反感,可是一下子就不見了。「這不用太緊身所以殭屍男一定可以穿啦。」

  「你真的是天才吔,大智。」我對他無辜地笑,讓他知道我沒有要挑戰他的意思。

  五天前,在土豆開始不理我的前一晚,我到了樓下的大廳去找我的伙伴們。我到時他們已經興奮地討論著事情,看到我後就馬上告訴我他們的新計劃。美國的感恩節快到了,而他們想辦一個驚喜派對來嚇大家。

  「我們一個月前已經過完感恩節了,所以沒有人會在這種時候期待什麼。因此我們的活動會是驚喜。」大智為我解釋。

  亞伯特搓著雙手像個貪心的小孩。「我們會有火雞和清教徒和印第安人!」

  理所當然地,他們要土豆的配合。

「萬聖節比較簡單因為他一下子就溶入氣氛了。」大智用手指彈一彈下巴。每次都是他在做大部分的計劃,而保羅和亞伯特負責宣傳他們的活動。

「對呀。可是殭屍又不過感恩節。」保羅學大智彈下巴皺眉頭。

  「有想法嗎,詹姆斯?」亞伯特原本跑過來想打我的背,可是我即時抓住他的手。

  我遲疑地笑著,還不知道我想不想參與這個活動。我那一晚離開土豆時他臉上的表情還烙印在我腦海中。那個表情是小孩子剛發現他是被領養的那種表情。

  「幫我們嘛,阿詹。」保羅求我。

  我看著他們三個,而他們看著我。我沒出路了。

  「你們可以…吔…那個…」我努力在腦袋裡挖寶藏。「你們可以…給他穿服裝!那樣很萬聖節啊。」

  當大智臉上露齒大笑雙手拍掌時,我後悔說了話。「我想到好點子了!你在這裡太好了,詹姆斯。」

  我尷尬地點頭,思索著他腦袋裡想著什麼。

  大智跟我們解釋完他完美的計劃後,我們各自選擇負責處理活動的哪一部分。大智自願製作服裝,保羅想編舞,而有著強大低沈的聲音的亞伯特被選擇擔任配角。最後就只剩我負責和土豆‧福利曼溝通,這是很重要的工作,因為沒有他我們的計劃就都泡湯了。

  「他說什麼?」亞伯特看到我下樓梯時興奮地問我。

  「他說什麼嗎?」大智提醒他。

  「他會在那裡等我們。」我剛和土豆尷尬地講過話,也不想跟他們解釋什麼。我本來不知道要不要幫他們的,可是土豆都不回答我,我也懶得捍衛他了。我們已經都計劃好了,所以管他喜不喜歡都要配合我們。

  「好吔!」保羅捲起袖子。「我們開始吧!」

  我們花了快一個禮拜準備這個感恩節驚喜。當其他人都已經在討論著寒假還有聖誕節時,我們還在為感恩節做活動真的感覺很怪。我們到威馬特買材料時,裡面的架子上擺的都是紅紅綠綠的聖誕節裝飾品和禮物。在賣場裡面找東西找了兩個小時後,我們的頭裡全部都是「聖誕鈴聲」、「平安夜」、和「聖誕老公公要來城裡了」。聖誕燈已經在人們的院子裡掛著了,而聖誕樹也開始在人們家裡和公共場所被擺放。

  我在城裡到處晃,享受著聖誕節的氣氛。雷恩娜曾經說過的一句話浮現在腦海中。那一天是個涼快的四月夜晚。雷恩娜和我坐在我家門前,邊數星星邊聊天。我不知怎樣提到了聖誕節,而她皺著眉跟我說她不過假日。

  「那只是人炫耀錢財的藉口。」她不削地說。

  「但是也讓人有機會表達對彼此的愛呀。」我摸著她在月光下發光的金髮。

  「如果你真的愛我,你不會等到聖誕節才來告訴我你的感覺。」她嘟起嘴,而我彎下去親了她。

  我已經有一段時間沒和雷恩娜說話了。不知道她在做什麼。自從那個萬聖節派對我們兩個人就失去了聯絡。她因為我看土豆‧福利曼被欺負就對我生氣。不知道她發現我還幫助我的朋友們作計劃時會有什麼感想。

  「誰理她。」我自言自語,吞下跟著那句話一起出來的罪惡感。努力把雷恩娜和土豆置之腦後的我跟著朋友們繼續找材料。

  快一週之後,服裝已經做完了,我們四個就聚在一起開會。距美國感恩節只剩兩天了,而他們想要確定一切都準備妥當。他們為了玩笑願意做的事每次都讓我驚訝。

  「大家,這個是劇本。」保羅從牛仔褲口袋裡拿出一張皺皺的紙並攤開來拿在眼前像在念聖旨。「殭屍男扮演一隻巨大的怪獸火雞,破壞著校園恐嚇著學生。亞伯特扮演火雞殺手,把怪獸火雞毒打一頓用鏈子靠起來,拯救大家。」

  亞伯特像董事長一樣點點頭表示滿意並給保羅比一根大拇指。大智從背包裡抽出一個面具交給亞伯特,而亞伯特戴上面具後就開始在教室裡像超人一樣飛來飛去,練習他的舞步。大智又拿出一個生鏽的鐵鏈交給負責帶領土豆做動作的保羅。

  「亞伯特,我會把這個扣在火雞的項圈上然後丟給你。」保羅說著準備練習一次。

「沒問題。」不停「飛翔」著的亞伯特用手指示保羅丟鏈子給他。保羅一手丟鏈子的一端,另一手握著鏈子的另一端。亞伯特接住了。兩人合作無間。

  「看來我們都準備好了!」大智宣佈。他們全部轉向我。「殭屍男還記得我們的約定吧?」

  我的肚子翻騰了一下。我應該一整個禮拜都和土豆保持聯繫,編造故事讓他對這個感恩節盛會感到興奮。不過由於上次我在屋頂上對橘眼男孩講的話,再加上土豆好像越來越不想理我了,我根本找不到機會跟他見面。

  我的肚子又再翻了一圈。我這禮拜都在忙著準備,完全忘了土豆對我的冷漠。突然之間一陣苦感湧上心頭。雖然我不想承認,但是我真的想念那我已經開始接受、講話講不停又煩人煩得要死的土豆。

  「我明天再跟他聊一下。」我淡淡地說,在心裡懷疑著自己有沒有辦法找到他,就算找到了有沒有辦法跟他說話。他最近都不躲在屋頂上了,而雖然他有去上課,他一下課就會消失,像是有瞬息移動的能力。

  第二天,我決定不想那麼多,留一張紙條在土豆每次都坐的位置,要他那一天上完課後在秘密基地找我。

  終於上完課後,我祈禱著他有看到紙條而不是沒注意到就直接坐在上面,爬上樓梯推開鐵門。出乎我的意料,土豆已經坐在鐵門旁邊的一道磚牆前。他抱著其中一個瘦巴巴的膝蓋,肩膀微微駝著,背靠在磚牆上。他的臉往我的另一方看,看著天空,或是鳥,或是山脈。

現在已經十一月了,可是對加拿大的冬天來說,那一天已經算很溫暖了。儘管如此,土豆穿得像為雪天準備一樣。他頭上戴一頂橄欖綠的毛帽,帽子下軟軟的琥珀色頭髮在微風中吹動。一件迷彩大外套包裹著他裡面不之道穿了幾層的一服,讓他看起來兩倍大。一條手工圍巾藏住他半張臉,而看著他腫腫的褲腳,他應該也穿了好幾層褲子。跟他的打扮比,我簡單的帽衫和牛仔褲顯得非常稀疏。

「欸。」對著那一大團的衣服,我只說得出這個字。當男孩沒有回應,我感到一股失望。我隨地在他旁邊坐下,給他一點個人空間。他把頭轉過來一點讓我看見他的臉,可是還是沒有看我。

「謝謝你來啊。」我是真的感激他至少看了紙條。

這之後就是一段很長的沉默。冬天的冷風安靜地哭號著,吹進磚牆的縫隙。我們下方學生們的講話聲像是大海的波濤聲。常綠樹上的葉子窸窸窣窣的擺動,而一隻孤獨的烏鴉在天上鳴叫著。連夕陽都好像有發出自己的聲音。

我深呼吸,心裡的話很難說出口。

「土豆,我真的很對不起。」我偷偷看了我身旁的人。他繼續盯著前方的某物。

「我對我說的所有話都很對不起。可以原諒我嗎?」我感覺像個五歲小孩對自己的好朋友道歉。「我的朋友看見我們在這裡。他們怎麼樣也想不通我怎麼會在這裡找你。我不之道怎麼辦,所以就說謊了。好嗎?我說謊了。」我又感覺到自己的誠實心開始發作。不好了。

「你對我來說是個很重要的朋友,我也很懊惱沒有早一點發現這一點。」我手握成拳。「事實上,你跟我說你要當我的守護天使時我很感動。我沒有想到你有把我當成那麼重要的人,可是我也沒有想到你在我面前表現不一樣可能就是因為這樣。我一點都不體貼。」我的拳握得更緊了。這個獨白好像有點太肉麻了。

「我只是希望你再跟我說一次話…」我的聲音不自覺地減弱,而我也不知道如何是好,所以就呆呆地看著男孩被衣物藏住的臉。

令我驚訝的是他原本暗沉的眼睛不見了,被我熟悉的閃爍的橘色眼睛取代。

「土豆?」我說,期望著他終於說話。

土豆慢慢地轉過頭來看我。雖然他的帽子把瀏海蓋過臉,嘴巴也被圍巾擋住了,可是看著他的眼睛我就可以知道他在笑。鬆了一口氣的我對他回笑,不過這個笑一下子就消失。

「土豆,有一件事需要跟你講。」我又握拳了。橘眼男孩看著我,等著我講話。「我的朋友們和我有一個計畫,有包含你在裡面。他們要你明天在這裡找我們,然後…」我講到一半卡住了,不知道該不該告訴土豆我們要把他打扮成火雞打他。最後,我還是全部都跟他說了。

聽完我們的計畫了解他明天的行程後,橘眼男孩笑了他瘋癲癲的笑的安靜版,並開始站起來。看到他好像站立有點困難,我也站了起來抓他的手扶他。雖然他穿著一層又一層厚重的衣服,土豆還是發抖著。

「欸,老兄,你還好吧?生病了嗎?」我問,有點擔心。

拉了拉帽子和圍巾後,土豆安靜地笑著開始說話。他的聲音輕而破,好像已經好幾個禮拜沒用了。我靠近一點才聽得到他。

「土豆沒事啦。明天見喔,小詹詹。」

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-羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo

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