14th February, 2013
I simply could not resist passing an occasion as important as Valentine’s Day without posting something remotely sentimental. While I have not been consistent in my observance of Valentine conventions, I have always admired the way it inspires a sense of communal affection between even the most distant of relations. Even our dear Zax seemed to come to a similar conclusion in his most recent adventure, continuing from his fateful conversation with a certain Saint Nick.
All who tried to guess Zax’s request from Santa were reasonably correct. Reminiscent of that famous wooden puppet and his fairy godmother, the zombie lad argued a good case before Santa to be turned into a real boy. Instead of granting his wish, Santa pulled from his sack something quite unexpected – a mechanical dog that is the size of a puppy, with a wind-up key for a tail that whirred soon as he laid eyes on his new master.
“He answers to the name, Voodoug,” Santa beamed as he handed Zax his gift. “Don’t be so disheartened! Your dream of becoming a real boy will come true in time. However a gift worth keeping must be earned,” Santa’s belly jiggled like Jell-O as he rumbled with laughter but he sobered upon noticing Zax’s growing disappointment.
“Even humans have a hard time being humans. For someone who has never teared up when he tripped or tee-hee’d when he is tickled, you will need much practice in living like one. To begin a quest to learn this business of being alive, observe closely these creatures you envy. Hopefully, with Voodoug beside you, you will soon have a heart of your own, beating strong and steady as any ten-year old!”
Shoulders slumped in defeat, Zax cradled the metallic canine. He contemplated his next move as his eyes followed Saint Nick’s sleigh disappear into the horizon. As if sharing his master’s concern, Voodoug rushed to the calendar, yapping at something on the page for February. Zax could not miss the box that was outlined with a red marker. “Valentine’s Day!” he exclaimed. Voodoug barked his confirmation. “I have yet to hear of a human who has not loved at least once in his or her life. What better way to learn about them than to see people who are in love? Come Voodoug, we have much to do.”
Within a month, humans transformed the town from Christmas wonderland to Valentine haven. Every shop window featured cards, cakes, confection and flowers, all red and when possible, always heart shaped. The postal worker had to come around twice or thrice to Zax’s block to deliver parcels and postcards because humans seemed to be greatly amused with sending each other presents for the occasion.
Zax did his homework and on the very day, all he had to do was put his elaborate plan into action. He will need flowers, lots and lots of it, and Zax knows exactly where to get them. With Voodoug by his heels, the zombie boy was out of the house before the sun’s rays could peek through the curtain gaps. His destination, the graveyard.
Arms laden with freshly gathered not-so-fresh flowers, the two walked around the park, handing them out to couples. Voodoug’s barking alerted his master to a pair arguing in one of the park benches. “What I have seen so far is that there is no lovers’ quarrel which flowers cannot fix,” Zax explained to his mechanical pet. He quietly slid some stems into the gentleman’s grasp when the couple looked away from each other in disgruntlement. The startled man held up his hand just as the woman turned to him, “I’m sorry,” he managed to say despite his confusion. The woman’s face brightened at the sight of the makeshift bouquet. “I’m sorry too,” she replied. She caught a whiff of the blooms and although she could not make out the peculiar scent, she smiled nonetheless and drew close for a kiss. From his hiding place, Zax whispered so that only Voodoug could hear, “Valentine’s Day is about forgiveness.”
“I cannot see you anymore.” Overhearing this, Zax followed a young lady being chased by a man along the street. “It is over between us, you have to move on.” Despite her pleas, the man continued after her. As the lady rounded a corner, Zax stepped in front of the man, his feet firm on the ground, Voodoug beside him, snarling. The man looked at the two, eyes narrowed, and grumbled, “Out of the way!” Zax only had to point and Voodoug’s low growls became loud barks. The mechanical dog hopped towards the imposing figure, sending him running away. The lady wheeled around to see what the commotion was about and was overcome with relief upon finding the street devoid of his pursuer. Zax watched with delight from behind a lamp post. “Valentine’s Day” is about letting go of love that was not meant to be,” he said as he patted Voodoug for a job well done.
“I cannot see you anymore.” Overhearing this, Zax followed a young lady being chased by a man along the street. “It is over between us, you have to move on.” Despite her pleas, the man continued after her. As the lady rounded a corner, Zax stepped in front of the man, his feet firm on the ground, Voodoug beside him, snarling. The man looked at the two, eyes narrowed, and grumbled, “Out of the way!” Zax only had to point and Voodoug’s low growls became loud barks.
The mechanical dog hopped towards the imposing figure, sending him running away. The lady wheeled around to see what the commotion was about and was overcome with relief upon finding the street devoid of his pursuer. Zax watched with delight from behind a lamp post. “Valentine’s Day” is about letting go of love that was not meant to be,” he said as he patted Voodoug for a job well done.
Zax led the man to the front door, straightened his hair and adjusted his suit before finally curling his limp fingers around the flowers. Pressing a gray index finger to his purple lips, Zax warned Voodoug to be still before ringing the doorbell. The zombie boy and his mechanical pet threw themselves into the bushes to wait. The woman who came to the door let out a piercing scream at the unbelievable sight of her husband who passed away a month ago standing on her doorstep until there was no more strength to go any further. With stiff movements, the zombie presented his offering, and while reaching for the bunch of blossoms, she gazed into those familiar eyes and in there found every reason she needed to hold her uncanny guest by the hand past the threshold and into her home. Zax cupped Voodoug’s tinny muzzle to suppress a happy bark and when left on their own, he ran his hand through his metal body and said, “Valentine’s Day is about finding the real love you lost.”
Back in his room, Zax collapsed on the floor. The sight of his foot made Zax’s mouth open wide, made his eyes stretch until the whites showed all round like fried eggs. Five pink toes wiggled defiantly atop his pasty foot. He looked at the other and felt little or no disappointment that nothing about it has changed. Five pink toes is an excellent reminder of this memorable day. In fact, he could not remember that there was ever a time when he was more proud or happy. He stared at the blank expression on Voodoug’s face as the mechanical puppy’s shaking slowed to a stop. He has grown fond of this substitute for a deferred Christmas present. Zax gave the wind-up key a few turns, released him on the floor and while watching as his dog came back to life, said, “Above all, Voodoug, Valentine’s Day is about loving oneself.”
Our unconventional Cupid is finally rewarded with his first taste of being human. Tackling a topic as broad as love took some preparation on my behalf, especially when I have the tendency to be as capricious in relationships as the next teen. Thanks to Mum and all her parental wisdom, she helped me to explore what makes love last, inspiring the premise for Zax and Voodoug’s latest escapades. Stay tuned for the next chapter in his story but in the meantime, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!