Saturday 24 June 2023

'The Year of the Water Rabbit' by Sumitra Singam

The lion puts his face right up to mine, large eyes blinking, mouth gaping. His lashes are black, the fabric red with white fringing. Nadia and Felix pull at my arms, hiding behind me. They’re like I was at my first Lion Dance. Afraid, but with a sense that something momentous was happening. The clash of the cymbals and booming of the drums rearrange my bones into a different, tighter configuration.

Heath shifts closer, his arm around mine. I can feel his bristly hairs on my bare shoulder. It’s scratchy. Too warm. He speaks. He’s choosing this moment. When his words will be drowned by the call and response of the dancers, the percussion loud enough to scare demons away. I hear him say my best friend’s name, Audrey.

Nadia and Felix have emerged, yelling and pointing. The lion’s head lifts and I can see below the costume. It’s just two ordinary men, dressed in black and red.

Heath is still talking. Sorry, he says. I’m sorry. There’s a part of me that knows we’re just the two people under the costume, twisting the lion’s head this way and that, pulling levers to make the eyes blink.

The front dancer pulls the mask back over himself and they become the lion again, gambolling after the Dai Tou Fut in his over-sized grinning mask. The lion stands up on his hind legs balancing on a narrow bench and the crowd gasp and cheer. Then he has the Cai Qing leaves and red packet in his mouth, and the parade moves on. The crowd surges after the Lion Dance troupe, leaving us squinting into the distance. “What happens now, mummy?” Felix asks. All I can hear is the cymbals and drums percussing in the distance. 

1 comment:

  1. such beautiful writing and I love how this plays on more than one level - What happens now, mummy? Gosh, that's a loaded question.


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