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The Sameness - Quin Yen

Ever since I learned that humans and animals share more than ninety percent of genetic materials, I have had the scientific basis to believe that we, humans and animals, are alike, despite our striking differences in shape and size. I even want to question Kafka if his Metamorphosis was necessary. Around where I reside, I see all kinds of creatures, such as deer, geese, ducks, hummingbirds, dragonflies, blue jays, and egrets, and so on. We share the same space, breath the same air, and live under the same blue sky. In my backyard and on my walking trail, I also see squirrels. Each time when I pass by them, I marvel our similarities. The squirrels come with different sizes, large or small, fat or skinny; but they are quite agile and can leap and run on a tree or to the top of a fence at an impressive speed. They seem to be as territorial as us, the humans. When a squirrel perceives someone approach, by instinct, it clinches the pray with its paws in between its shoulders and raises a fluffy tail in alarm. It freezes first, then flees as the danger gets closer, all in a fraction of a second, just like humans do. There is a water canal by the trail and one often sees flocks of ducks: males have bright blue and green feathers, and females are in shades of brown. Unlike squirrels who are often on high alert, ducks have more relaxed personalities: they swim leisurely, flip down into the water to catch food, or simply nap on the bank of the canal with their heads resting on their backs. Occasionally, I see beak-attack between two ducks take place, accompanied by loud quacks. Ha, even ducks have disputes from time to time. Turkeys are common in our area and can be found anywhere, such as by trails, on golf courses, and sometimes they trespass into people’s backyard, or traverse roads. When a rafter of turkeys is about to walk across a road, people stop driving. They know the rules and respect ‘pedestrians’. Sometimes, turkeys are ignorant and don’t know that we, humans, are in a hurry. They stand in the middle of the road and turn their nut-sized heads from side to side, as if to test our patience. People wait. Rarely, one presses the horn from behind, since they can’t see what’s going on in the front. The turkeys don’t care and parade unhurriedly across the road with an air of “we have the right to be here too.” Once I see a nice looking turkey with a red long neck in front of my car, so I take a picture of it. Of course, it’s not to send the picture to the police for traffic violation. I know well that police never confuse animals with humans, as I sometimes do. Nonetheless my picture proves my notion of our similarities: turkeys are aware of their rights too. On Sunday I experience an incidence at a grocery store, the Trader Joe’s near my home. While standing by the vegetable section, I see a middle-aged Asian woman stand by the fruit section, a few feet away from me, make unintelligible words and gestures to herself. I ignore her peculiar behavior and move on to the dairy section. After I put a carton of soy-milk in my cart, I see the same woman and a young store employee approach me. The female staffer waves and asks, “Can you ask her what does she need?” “Sure.” I turn to the woman and speak to her in Mandarin, “Nihao (hello), do you need help?” “Nihao,” she says and steps closer. Bluntly, she asks, “What’s your name? Where do you live?” “I live nearby,” I reply politely. “Where?” “Nearby.” I repeat and redirect her, “Can I help you?” “I live nearby too. I came to the States last week to visit my son. He went to a game with his child. Do you have children?” “Huh…, yes. How can I help?” I point to the young staffer who is waiting. “I didn’t bring money.” Like a squirrel, I recoil and put my hand on my purse instinctively. Keeping a polite smile on my face, I propose to her, “Well, you don’t need to buy anything right now. I’m sure your son wouldn’t mind. Just write down what you’d like and when he comes home, let him come with you.” “Where do you live?” she insists as if she were an old neighbor. “I live nearby. Just look around and remember what you want. I’m sure your son will buy them for you.” I glance at the young staffer who smiles at me gratefully, eyebrows raised. I conceal my awkwardness and tell her, “She says she didn’t bring money.” The staffer’s face turns pink and says, “I’m so sorry.” “No problem. I told her to come back later with her family.” The young woman thanks me apologetically. I say goodbye to the woman, go to the cashier, and leave the store quickly. Before I reach my car, the staffer catches up with me with a bouquet of flowers. “I’m sorry,” she says with a mixed air of understanding and guilt. The next several days, the bunch of gerbera daisies in different shades of pink and purple sits on our dining table, reminding me of this incidence until it dried up. I take a walk to distract myself. On the same trail, I see a squirrel in the middle of the path, busy biting a thing clinched in his paws. Sensing my approaching motion, it freezes and clamps its possession tightly to its chest. I slow down, wishing to convene a message to it, “Don’t be afraid. I know the nut is yours and won’t take it from you.” But the path is too narrow as I walk closer. Driven by fear, distrust, and possessiveness, the squirrel speeds away.

 

Quin Yen resides in California. She enjoys reading, writing and hiking. Her stories have been published in the Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Write Launch (Pat, Nov 2021; Betul, July 2022), and the Rollick Magazine (upcoming).

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