For those of you who have not read Chapter 1, click here to access the post. I decided to offset Harris’ arrival at Hog-Tak-Halal-What by having a little flashback episode. Kinda like the TV series Lost, but not as confusing. Enjoy, ladies and gents!
Harris bin Potter stopped short, halfway in his trudge up the slopes to Hog-Tak-Halal-What School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He looked up to the castle, towering majestically over him. His life ahead seemed uncertain, yet momentous and daunting. He thought of the life he was leaving behind, and the memories engulfed him, like curry upon the prata kosong of his mind.
Block 4, Tampines Street 24, where Harris’ Uncle Pandir and Aunt Petom lived, was an unhappy place for the boy wizard. He was constantly the subject of abuse in the house. Otherwise, he was treated as though he did not exist. To make matters worse, his Aunt and Uncle put him in a miserably small room.
“Yes, yes,” one might say in exasperation, “he lived in the cupboard under the stairs, or the storeroom.”
But one has forgotten that this is Malay Harry Potter, Harris bin Potter, whose lot in life has been very bad – much worse than British Harry Potter or Japanese Harry Potter, Harashitame Pota-san, whose relatives abused by feeding him nothing but sashimi, lucky bastard.
Instead of the cupboard under the stairs, Harris bin Potter was forced to stay in his Aunt and Uncle’s old, grimy kitchen sink cabinet.
Early in his life, Harris discovered that he was special, that he could do things other kids could not.
One of them is his ability to speak to delivery boxes. He discovered this one night as a 7-year-old boy, when Uncle Pandir received a delivery of Tongkat Ali, and kept the empty box in the sink cabinet.
“EH ALAMAK THEY DUMPED ME IN THE SINK CABINET?” boomed an indignant voice from within the darkness of the sink cabinet.
Harris had started, knocking his head against a pipe. “Who’s there?” he croaked out, his throat tight with fear.
“THEY THINK I WHAT – A 50 CENT COIN IS IT?”
Harris stuttered nervously, “Actually a lot of 50 cent coins end up here.”
“I meant album. A 50 cent album.” A pause. “Bro, did you just talk to me?”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“I’m the box, bro. The delivery box!”
“I’m talking to a delivery box?”
“Yes, you can speak parceltongue!” the box declared.
Harris took a while to fully register the fact that he was talking to a delivery box, but after getting past that, he began enjoying the conversation. From then on, Harris looked forward to having delivery boxes dumped in the kitchen sink cabinet.
Since then, Harris began to notice more and more peculiarities that originate from him. He could make small objects move with his mind. He could dream up an object, and it would appear before him. Once, he made a cat appear outside the sink cabinet, and it quickly flew away, leaving a trail of rainbows. Sometimes, when his Aunt and Uncle were at work and Dumbass was breathing in Big Macs at McDonald’s, strange people in garishly-coloured robes would come by the house, spot him, and run away, squealing in excitement.
But the strangest event to occur within the walls of Block 4, Tampines Street 24 happened last Christmas, a week before Hamid came to pick Harris up.
The evening seemed like any other. Harris was in the sink cabinet, conversing with a recently-emptied box of 12 log cakes for Dumbass. Uncle Pandir was extolling to his son the exploits of a very famous Malay person. “He relaxes in a random corner of the world,” Uncle Pandir was telling Dumbass. “He does nothing all year round while his colleagues work, and he works one day a year – just to do delivery. It’s true, son, Santa Claus is Malay.” Aunt Petom, meanwhile, was doing the household chores as she hummed that famous folk song, “Burung kakaktua, mencok di jendela…“, which was Malay for “Parrot, perched on a window……….”. (Note that the difference in ellipses is due to pauses in Malay being more relek, and therefore take longer than conventional English ones.)
Her humming trailed off when she noticed a singular parrot, perched on her kitchen window. In the time she took to process this, five more parrots joined the first one. Parrots were a rarity in Singapore, more so if you’re at the other end of the island from Jurong Bird Park. Each parrot held in their talons a nicely rolled-up parchment addressed to an ‘Encik Harris bin Potter’.
“Pandir?” Aunt Petom called, making her way anxiously to the living room.
Uncle Pandir was too deep in conversation to hear his wife calling him. “And don’t even get me started on the Three Wise Men – all of them Malay,” Uncle Pandir was saying to his son. “Gold, frankincense and myrrh? They came from Joo Chiat Complex!”
Uncle Pandir turned towards his wife, coming out of the kitchen. He gasped at what he saw – his entire kitchen was filled with parrots. A few of them were knocking on the door to his sink cabinet. Harris slid it open, and gasped.
“SQUAWK! Potter got a letter,” one of them squawked.
Uncle Pandir got up to his feet, and started angrily waving and shush-ing them off. He waded into the pool of parrots in the kitchen, grabbed Harris by his arm and left the house with his family in tow. While doing so, he called the SPCA, a few pest-busters and his Thai friend Pratapong of Pratapong’s Parrot Grill Restaurant. Because this is Singapore, the parrots were efficiently dispatched and never returned. What exactly happened to them cannot be mentioned, as it may become a problem with animal rights activists.
Unknown to Uncle Pandir, Harris had grabbed a letter from one of the parrots. When he was shoved back into the kitchen sink cabinet after the fiasco, he unfurled it, his heart beating fast. It was the first time anybody that was not a delivery box had acknowledged his existence.
It read: “ARE YOU UNHAPPY WITH THE SIZE OF YOUR PENIS? IMPRESS YOUR GIRLFRIEND WITH A LARGER PENIS IN 5 SIMPLE STEPS!”
“Ah damn it!” Harris cursed. “Spam!”
Unknown to Harris, a few of the parrots were carrying letters of offer from a certain school of witchcraft and wizardry called Hog-Tak-Halal-What.
Harris smiled as the memories washed over him. They were mostly unhappy ones, and he was glad to leave them behind.
In his reminiscence, he found that he had walked to the top of the slope. The castle appeared more magnificent up close, as the stone walls rose to the clouds, broken in its seamless grey flow with well-lit windows and a vast wooden door. It was currently ajar, welcoming a stream of students – some of them first-years like Harris, at the brink of beginning their magical education.