ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
(Novella / Feature Film)
What's it about.
'Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to (lion) dance in the rain."
A 32 year-old ex-convict who used to teach Lion Dancing lands himself a job teaching a group of grumpy old-folk how to Line Dance, only to realise that beyond just finding a new job, he has also found reconciliation with his elderly mother.
This is a story of hope, heart, and forgiveness.
Chapter One: Eh
Not to sound overly dramatic and cliché, but I swear it was as if the pearly gates opened and I was stepping into heaven. I guess no one can actually blame me for being over-dramatic for you see; my whole life has been a dramatic one anyway. The fights, the drinking, the long dragon tattoos around my arms and body, the pledging of allegiance by mixing drops of my blood with the other brothers, if my life wasn’t considered dramatic, especially in a place like Singapore, I don’t know what is.
Speaking of drama, my mother was the true expert at it. It’s true that mothers are naturally dramatic about their children in one-way or the other, but I could probably argue that *Eh (this is what I’ve been calling my mother since I first entered Secondary School) was the most dramatic of all mothers on this island that we call Singapore. A small scrape on the leg during Physical Education class in Primary School, and she would queue up for two hours at the GRC room beneath our block just to inform our Member of Parliament that my Physical Education teacher was abusing the students.
Once, just before her divorce with Dad, Eh even locked him out of the house when she saw red lipstick stains on his shirt. In a typical turn of dramatic events that was exclusive to my family, Eh found out later that the lipstick stains were in actual fact just a failed cleaning attempt from a Sambal splatter that my father had incurred while eating his grilled stingray dish the night before. Of course, a week later, Eh also discovered that Dad’s stingray incident, although true, was actually part of a dinner rendezvous that he was having with a 24-year- old busty Chinese National named Xiu Xiu. The rest was history and Eh single- handedly raised me for the next 17 years of my life.
You would think me rude for calling my mother ‘Eh’, but the truth of the matter is that the moniker came from a rather necessary place. It started when I was about four and still trying to get my pronunciation right. Being a slow learner by nature, I was never the best with phonetics and started to pronounce “Mummy” as “Mummeh” instead. By Primary School, “Meh” from “Mummeh” naturally became the unique pet name that I would address my mother with, but when Chee Beng from Class 3G heard me calling out “Meh” one afternoon, he started laughing and made sheep bleating sounds to the tune of “Mehhhhhh”.
The next day, the whole class gave me the nickname ‘blacksheep’ and taunted me about it. What made it worse was that my Surname, Au Yong, when pronounced in Mandarin, sounds like ‘Black Sheep’ (Ou-Yang / Orh-Yang). Since then, I started to hate my father for giving me nothing but that unfortunate surname, and strategically address my mother as ‘Eh’ instead. This subtle but significant change was both an attempt to appear cool in front of my friends and at the same time, not cause my dramatic mother to react unnecessarily to a completely new way of trying to address her.
So there I was, with my old duffle bag slung across my chest and the gates slowly creak open in front of me. The sun shone into my eyes as I tried to look out for a familiar figure across the secluded open-air car park. Suddenly, a blaring horn filled the air and a Blue Taxi pulled over right in front of me. As the windscreen lowered, Eh poked her head towards me from her driver’s seat and shouted at a volume that could match that of her horning, “Just now this bloody driver cut my lane. Eh why you like skinnier than last week now...”
Her voice trailed off in my mind as I kept my soft gaze on her. This was the first time in five years that I took a good look at Eh in all her usual grumbling glory. You would think that seeing your son released from prison after five years would warrant at least a ‘hello’, but as the pearly gates banged shut behind me, I was instead greeted with the familiar blast of nagging and complaints.
Another horn blasted through the air, but it came from the impatient vehicle behind Eh’s Taxi this time.
“Diam la! Horn horn horn. Cannot wait ah!” Eh shouted as she turned her attention to the rear-view mirror and pointed a middle finger to the vehicle behind.
Not quite heaven after all. Just when you think you're free, there's Eh.
Why do I need funding?
I intend to publish a Novella version of this story prior to making the film. Publishing costs are very real, and so is time spent on developing the material through research.