Boy with a Propeller Head

Kristine Ong Muslim

You probably started at dawn. You cranked the shaft attached to the propeller blades, waited for the engine inside your head to warm up, and went out to the world.

Soaring, you realized it did not matter if you did not look like everyone else, with those propeller blades sticking out where your eyes and ears should have been. To us, you would have been ugly, a mechanical monstrosity; yet you could feel the wind over the woods, you could hear the ocean and the sloshing of the great fishes beneath it. Your arms were free to touch the rustling branches of treetops, the tips of smokestacks and church steeples. You were even higher than the highest mountain peaks, although only for a while, because the air was thin at those heights.

No boy in the world could get this far. That made all the difference.

Some nights, you would have thought about what they said before you left home: When the wind stops churning and the propeller motor fails, where will you go, little boy? Will the journey be worth it?

The foragers discovered your body near the creek bed. A squirrel nuzzled your foot, and a toad had found its way inside your open mouth. The contraption you had welded upon your head until it finally grew into a full-blown propeller was now a tangle of crushed metal and skull fragments. Even your parents found you unrecognizable. They said it could be just any boy who had played a prank that went wrong. It could be any boy who’d had the nerve to fly away from home.