This story is by Rashed Nabi and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
He said he was from another planet. We all say that when we cannot reconcile with others. His nose was long, but not as long as Pinocchio’s to set him apart. His clothes resembled those that came to Wal-Mart from Bangladesh or China. And there was nothing uncanny about him to say he wasn’t one of us.
Nobody noticed him. He had sat out there in the sun like a piece of patio furniture. When I came out for the afternoon break, he was doing tricks with paper planes without attracting a crowd. I was caught in texting a distraught friend whose marriage was falling apart, and so I too overlooked him awhile.
When I offered him to take around, he said: “Call me Martin.” I misheard it as Martian.
“A small difference!” He scratched his nose, hiding his smile.
He wove through the slanting sunlight and shades of tall buildings as lightly as a rabbit as if to defy the force of gravity. “He needs to eat to refuel,” I thought. He glanced at me and asked, “Yeah, where can we eat?” I was taken aback because I was not thinking aloud. We headed to the food court of Rideau Mall where we could eat quietly and talk. That would be a diversion for me from my friend’s texts. I was also curious about his paper planes.
But I wasn’t expecting to see a demo.
As we entered the mall, a scream coming from behind a crowd of shoppers startled us. We dashed into the crowd and saw a security guard was pummeling a young man, holding him down. Martin shook his head in disgust: “This isn’t right.” As before, nobody noticed him. I got distracted by a text from my friend. So I absentmindedly mumbled: “Yeah, n-o-t right -!” Instantly the whole crowd chanted the words in unison. In trepidation the guard released his victim. The moment the man jumped to his feet, he aimed a punch at the guard’s face. We flinched back. The next moment – I thought I saw – Martin hurled a plane at him. The man stumbled and hit a hefty woman, who in turn awkwardly dropped a half-eaten poutine on his face and a large Coke on the guard’s.
I rubbed my eyes and gaped at Martin. He shoved me out of the crowd, murmuring, “Aren’t we here to eat?”
When we came out, the sun declined. Finally, I could have a quiet time by the Canal to unravel the mystery of Martin’s planes. But again, no luck! As we were waiting at the light to cross the road, a biker whizzed past us and – bang! – hit a taxi. With an incredible agility the biker prevented his fall. He flung his bike and rushed toward the cabdriver who had come out. “Asshole … Jerk! …” His rich vocabulary prompted the reticent cabdriver to call the police.
At that the biker flipped out. He snatched the driver’s cell phone, smashed it, and then grabbed the stupefied driver by the collar. We all got frozen. The next thing I knew, the biker was knocked down, presumably by Martin’s plane. The biker’s fall unfroze us all. Three bystanders ran to him and pinned him down to the ground. It inspired a bum so much that he grabbed the bike and slipped away. The biker shouted in vain, “My bike! My bike!”
Martin cursed himself for not being able to save the cabdriver’s phone. Still in trance, I teased him, “What are you – a magician?”
“Didn’t I say I’m from another world?” He scratched his nose.
Just then my phone rang. My friend again! He seemed to have run out of road and implored me to go to their house to stop his wife from leaving with their little daughter, Jessie. Martin insisted on, despite my refusal, accompanying me. So, we landed up soon at my friend’s door.
But we were late! My friend’s wife had already gone. She left Jessie behind but promised to settle things in court. Jessie came running because she thought I brought her mother back. Although disappointed, she quickly became Martin’s friend while I sat with her father to talk about her future. I overheard she asked Martin to draw a picture.
“What, a dinosaur?” he asked.
“No. A house – a happy one!”
Martin fumbled with the pencil. After scribbling a few lines, he looked around the house and asked again, “A house like this?”
“Yes. But a happy house is where Dad and Mom lover each other.”
Her fervent reply butted in our conversation. But Martin determinedly drew a house with a sky full of stars above it. Then he cut out a star for Jessie.
“Here –, make a wish!”
But Jessie demanded Martin do it. So he held out the star with a shaky hand and said, “I wish your mother comes back soon.” He then blew at the star, setting of a spectacle of sparkles.
That would be all, I thought. There was no way that Martin’s silly tricks would bring back happiness to this house. So we took leave, assuring my friend to tackle Jessie’s matter soon.
As we came out to the road, a car pulled in their driveway. It was Jessie’s mother – came out with a box of ice-cream and a small bouquet.
Never before was I so delighted to see Jessie’s mother. I grabbed Martin ecstatically, “Was it your trick …?”
He scratched his nose, which was by no means as odd as Pinocchio’s. The freakish events since the afternoon gave me no chance to unravel mysteries about him or his tricks. Now that it was time to part, I asked him where he would go. Maybe his destination would tell something about him.
“To a happy house,” he laughed, for the first time, heartily, and then walked away with the wind.