How the story came to life.
The New Year of 2021 took off with humps and bumps of unsuspecting proportions. Excavation works for the communal building started on site without delay, and with the goal of completing the external shell before the arrival of monsoon, for unprotected earth walls and un-tar roads are disagreeable with the incessant rain. Ironically, during this testing period, the need to pursue another project with the boys arose. It was as if something had triggered a mechanism of cogwheels. With a shift in gear to upstart an additional wheel into action, the momentum of the existing ones was being upgraded simultaneously. As a consequence, I have been plagued with guilt for less time and effort in organising the boys’ learning affairs. A sudden epiphany struck me when I was self-badgering on irresponsibility and scratching the brain for a solution that could strike two birds with one stone. It came to mind that what remains a constant in our daily episodes is the act of reading and storytelling before bedtime. By notching a level up and bringing our story to the table, the act of writing and illustrating our preposterous and enduring bedtime story came to birth with Big A and Little A as co-authors.
The story takes flight with us wherever we go and wherever we are, with its origins from their glow-in-the-dark cosmic bedroom wall in Kuala Lumpur. It was a mammoth of a memory where a chunk of their lives were shaped. The story is inspired by two main characters from the animation The Good Dinosaur – Spot and Arlo, and the 3rd character, Spinosaurus who roared out of the smattering of glowing dinosaurs that accompanied their Milky Way wall. Adventures of the trio became a frequent gateway to get the boys to bed early.
Over time, the story interweaves into other stories with picked-up characters from a favourite book or two. Whilst the landscapes of the narrative transmute from the urban to the rural, the shape of storytelling becomes multi-layered with new experiences translated from living closer to nature and of inquisitive queries on the origins and existence of Earth. Along the way, other questions pertaining to how clouds and mountains are formed, how Earth was created, where we come from, and other wonders of cosmology paved possibilities for a wider perspective on the life and breath of the story. The Cloud Story may sometimes seem like we are looking through the wrong end of a telescope to describe life’s realities, but we enjoy a degree of nonsense, or buttock humour, as the boys would prefer to describe it, just to give the brain cells a good jiggle. It helps to crease the wrinkles, sweep the grumps away and lighten up the grey clouds. Chocolate clouds, however, are darker and more wicked. If you think chocolate is the sweet of life, you may dread to think so after munching through this story.
Putting together a chronology of events that consisted of nights and nights of stories had turned out to be a staggering task in its own right. My memory fails in many places but the boys are vehement in their recollecting capabilities. This project is proving to be a steep learning curve for all of us but it feels so ticklish in the bones. We have set about the task of bringing the characters to life with squiggly sketches and a vocabulary of comedy, sometimes bordering on rudeness.
We apologise to readers with a shorter tolerance for rudeness but it makes the boys laugh and cry, and this rather endearing dose of laughter is truly the fuel for this project.
Introducing our bedtime companions:
- Spot’s descendants came from the supercontinent Pangaea. When Pangaea began to break up about 175 million years ago, his family drifted apart with the formation of new continents. Fast forward millions of years and with the occurrence of speciation, his descendants began to lose much of their hairiness and eventually became bipeds. In this incredible continued evolution, Spot, a Homo Sapien, was born in the wilderness of Borneo. Not to be limited or deceived by his smallness and younghood, Spot has a cosmic curiosity that often gets him into sticky situations.
- Arlo is an offspring of an unusual line of evolved Apatosaurus from the late Jurassic age. They are inexplicably shorter in length and breadth (by almost two-thirds!) compared to their great-great-greatest grandparents but with significantly larger heads. He is a feverish book reader who would devour books like the way he devours plots of broccoli. He has a tendency to nose around the bookshelves of houses, schools, libraries and bedside tables. He reads anything and everything. He carries a backpack to fill it up with books and would exchange a book for another, often not informing the owner. People would wake up finding a shelf of books unknown to them in exchange for the disappearance of their own.
- Spinosaurus is often found innocently entangled in drama, triggered by his incapacity to control his primal urge to eat whenever food presents itself. His avid sense of smell led by an unusually long snout takes him on a voracious appetite of tragic disasters. Perhaps his most pronounced trait of intelligence lies in his obsession with brushing his teeth. He keeps a toothbrush held by a knot in a tuft of hair, never failing to maintain a hygienic set of teeth so that in the presence of the other gender, they never fail to admire the sparkle.
Spinosaurus and Arlo got fatefully entwined before they cracked themselves out of their shells. They were hibernating in their wonderfully cosy nests for aeons in the depths of the nurturing forest, known as the Amazon today. And when they were ready to greet the world, they found themselves in a time when dinosaurs had already become extinct. Mysteriously, as they lay dormant in their eggs, their physique had evolved with the epoch of 21st century Earth’s geographical transformations. Vastly different in their temperament, point of view, diet and manners, both dinosaurs had somehow survived and thrived as partners in chaos, but not without leaving a trail of tender comedy.
A common scenario would unfold like this.
Arlo enjoys grazing for books. As we know, he is in the habit of stretching his long neck into windows to nose out the titles of books arranged on bookshelves, or other possible places. Spinosaurus, on the other hand, staggers into kitchens, usually raiding larders or fridges for something un-wildly to savour. In exchange for finding something that thrills him, Arlo exchanges a book for a book from his rucksack and leaves a berry note as a thank-you gesture. Spinosaurus, with less refined manners, on his departure, sniffs up the crumbs and then never, ever forgetting to brush his teeth after a meal, pursues it in the kitchen sink. But in doing so, he leaves dribbling puddles of dinosaur saliva trailing on the surface and floor.
Just as they enter a premise in an unannounced fashion, they exit in an identical manner. Time and again, inhabitants of these premises would wake up in utter confusion, not quite sure of the books that they have on their bookshelves, nor the unidentifiable gooey saliva on their sink.
But on finding a berry note, and if, and only if, they have the courage to pop the crimson berry into their mouths, they would swiftly discard their annoyance. You see, a berry note has an atom of nectar in it that magically soothes the insides of one’s brain when suckled on it for a good amount of time. It stimulates the happiness hormone that everyone craves. But this atom of nectar can only be found in the depths of the Amazon rainforest and the Oh-No Valley where everything out of the ordinary is ordinary. And thankfully the magic nectar of a berry note has a lasting effect so that when it is time to prepare breakfast, the inhabitant would joyfully wipe down the gooey saliva of a spinosaurus without fuss.
Meanwhile, after a thunderstorm on the other side of the planet where the rain pours with glee in Sabah Borneo, Spot was found napping on a fallen tree trunk. The trunk was perched on another trunk laid perpendicular to the floor of the lush rainforest. On discovering the pivoted setup of the fallen logs, a troop of orang utans established a mischievous opportunity to wake Spot up. They were particularly giant apes who spent most of their time foraging for rambutans and untangling each other’s hair. Without much thought to the situation except for achieving some ape fun, the troop jumped onto the tilted end of the fallen trunk from a courageous height of 55 meters from the yellow meranti tree. The tremendous impact catapulted the sleeping Spot high up into the air beyond the canopy of the rainforest. Just as the arch of his trajectory came to a pinnacle, a private jet zoomed across the skies in haste to reach Rio de Janeiro for a football match. Spot miraculously found himself on the tail of the Falcon jet flying at a mad speed. He clung to its tail and saw only blue all around him. He had never left the rainforest and therefore, had never seen the ocean. Unknown to him, Spot travelled halfway around the planet and upon sighting the Amazon forest from above, the only familiar sight he had ever known in his life, he left his grip and made a fall through the thick Amazonian canopy.
And here it was that the trio met, a lifetime friendship bonded so tightly that even the leeches would be envious of such an awesome clench.
Spot crashed through the layers of the thick forest and landed on Arlo’s head as the apatosaurus was sniffling for nuts on the Brazil tree. Spot slid down his long smooth neck and down to his tail. Arlo flicked his tail thinking it was a pesky creature trying to get to his nuts. Spot took flight again and landed on Spinosaurus’ crocodile-like snout, his chin perched on Spinosaurus’s nostrils, both looking eye to eye in a jolt. Their gaze was immediately tender, affectionate, and almost brotherly as if they had always known each other.
The Cloud Story will be making its debut in the next handful of posts. We have agreed to take a democratic platform in shaping the following chapters. Everyone has a voice and tone of their own. These democratic sessions are sometimes tainted with threats by Little A if not told true in its authentic form i.e. written as told at that very spontaneous moment in time. We have heated debates about the names of characters and degrees of preposterousness and rudeness of content.
I believe we have just opened another can of worms.