DISCLAIMER: I don't own the Ninja Turtles or anything associated with them. They belong to Eastman and Laird. I wrote this story for amusement purposes only, and am not making any money off of it. No infringement is intended.
Over the years, Splinter had learned that nothing – well, virtually nothing – was impossible. He, for instance, of a species typically confined to a life of cages and cheese, was teaching the art of ninjitzu as true masters did. In a world where simple domestic animals could learn to speak, read and choose not to make use of the ability to beat up most if not all grown humans, anything seemed accomplishable.
Until this morning.
"Open your minds," he said, fighting to keep the note of pleading out of his voice. "Remove yourselves from the physical world and discover the wonders that lie inside yourselves."
Teaching turtles to walk on two feet and speak human language? Doable. Teaching them to read, write and do math? Also doable. Teaching them manners? Questionable; indeed very difficult, but still possible. Teaching them to master the complicated art of an ancient fighting style? Definitely doable.
Teaching them to sit still for more than two-and-a-half minutes? Forget it.
"Sensei," said Michelangelo. "I have to pee."
Splinter refrained himself from placing a paw to his forehead. Ninjitzu was about patience. Patience. Patience. He could do this.
"Michelangelo," he said to his son, working as hard as he could to keep his voice calm. "You used the bathroom a few minutes ago."
"I know. I hafta go again."
Though only six years old, Michelangelo's bladder was not particularly small; thank whatever deities may have existed, none of the boys had wet their beds past the age of three. Neither had he had more to drink that morning than usual.
"Michelangelo," said Splinter. "This is an example of a trick of your mind. Are you thinking a lot about needing to use the bathroom?"
Michelangelo nodded. To his right, Raphael shifted, working to hide his restlessness.
"Then that is your problem. You only feel like you need to use the bathroom again because you are expending your mental energies thinking about it. You will find that as soon as you think about something else, the feeling will go away."
Mikey frowned. "I don't wanna pee on the floor," he said.
"Ew!" said Raphael. "I don't want you peein' on the floor. Sensei, can I go sit over there?" He pointed to the open space to Leonardo's right.
"No, Raphael," Splinter replied. "Please remain where you are."
"But Sensei –"
"The answer is no," Splinter could no longer keep the sternness from his tone. "Now all of you, close your mouths and open your minds."
Four sets of eyes squinted shut. For thirty-two and a half seconds, the rush of five sets of breathing filled the dojo. Four turtles twitched in different places and different times.
"Splinter?" came a very small voice.
Calm. Calm. They had set a record this time; perhaps they were making progress.
"Now I have to go to the bathroom."
Splinter kept his eyes closed.
"Me too," said Donatello. The note of apology in his voice eased Splinter's exasperation. A little.
"Do you, my sons? Or do you simply think you do because you have been thinking about it?"
"I really hafta go," said Leonardo.
"Me too," said Mikey.
"Sensei," said Raphael. "If they all pee on the floor –"
"No one is going to pee on the floor!" Splinter took a deep breath, trying to ease the edge out of his voice. They were children. Children. Patience was key. Perhaps this could be a lesson in patience for teacher as well as students. "You may have a five minute break. All of you may go to the bathroom now, but no one will be taking another break until meditation is over. Am I clear?"
"Yes, Sensei," said his sons in unison. After they had disappeared, Splinter allowed himself to massage his temples. Ten minutes into meditation. Ten minutes. There was no way he could give up this early.
At last, the four turtles were again sitting on the floor, watching him.
"Close your eyes," said Splinter. His sons obeyed. "At first, do not think. Simply breathe."
"Sensei," said Raphael, frustrated. "How are we suppos'ta not think? I can't do that."
Donatello agreed. "How do I not think about anything? I just think about not thinking, but that's still thinking, right?"
"Huh?" said Michelangelo. Raphael burst out laughing.
"Not thinkin's pretty easy forMikey to do."
Leonardo laughed, watching the young turtle in orange tackle the brother to his right. Soon the two of them were rolling around on the floor, fighting. No sooner had Donatello and Leonardo rose to "help" than Splinter stood in their way. He had seen this too many times not to know what would happen next.
"Sit. Back. Down. I will deal with this."
The boys obeyed without a word. Splinter forced the remaining two turtles apart. Both were breathing hard.
"This is unacceptable," he said, not caring if his voice carried a distinct angry edge to it. He had nearly had it. "You know better than this. You are to sit and do as instructed."
"No. You will do as you are told. Now sit down."
Rarely did the boys receive an order as direct and angry as this one and disobey. This time was no exception. Four sets of eyes focused on their Sensei.
"Now," said Splinter, fighting to calm his impatience with the boys. Six, he reminded himself. They were only six. "Sit as still as you can, and breathe deeply. Concentrate on your breathing, and nothing else. Try to fill your entire bodies when you inhale, and letyour breath out slowly, letting any tension in your muscles leave with the air."
From the looks on his sons' faces, no one understood. But they tried anyway.
"Leonardo, you need not breathe so loudly."
"I asked for no talking, Donatello."
"But Sensei, air only fills our lungs. How do I make it fill my entire body? That isn't possible, is it?"
"It is only in your mind, my son." This time, Splinter had to fight to keep amusement out of his voice. Donatello's mind amazed Splinter every day, and was a wonderful asset to everything he did. Sometimes, however, logic got in his way. "Simply imagine the air filling your body, cleansing it of unnecessary stresses and tensions."
"That's stupid," said Raphael. "Why are we imaginin' somethin' that ain't really happenin'?"
"Raphael, I will not answer your question when you do not ask it properly. You have the ability to use better grammar andpronunciationthan that."
"This," said Raphael, exaggerating his enunciation, "Is. Stupid. I'm bored."
"Enough!" said Splinter. "You will do as you are told. Now open your minds."
Forty-one seconds later, Michelangelo fell over. Splinter jumped with a brief jolt of alarm, but relaxed when he saw his son's sheepish look.
"Mikey?" asked Donatello, "Are you okay?"
Michelangelo pushed himself back into a sitting position. By the look of embarrassment on the boy's face, coupled with the fact that Michelangelo would not look him in the eye, Splinter figured out what had happened.
"You fell asleep, did you not, my son?" he asked, no longer having to force his voice to be gentle. Michelangelo nodded.
"You told us to relax all our muscles. So I did, and…I fell over."
His brothers laughed. Splinter silenced them with a warning glare.
"That is all right, my son," he said. "That often happens when first learning the art of meditation. Keep trying. Relax your muscles, but keep them so that you may hold yourself in a sitting position."
"That's hard," he said.
"You will manage, my son. You will learn."
Yet one week later, Splinter wondered if he would be eating his words soon. One hour of meditation every morning, and the boys had made frighteningly little progress. Leonardo remained the only one who had managed to sit without moving for more than three minutes. Donatello's record was not far behind, but neither of the boys had accomplished in the art of relaxation what they had managed to gain in their fighting skills. Raphael had improved by a very small margin in his ability to relax, but had also become bolder. By this point, he had no problem voicing the opinion that this whole thing was stupid and had no point.
Michelangelo tried very hard.
He really did, Splinter could tell.
Yet there always seemed to be something.
"Sensei, I'm hungry."
"Sensei, my leg hurts."
"I'm sorry, Sensei, I had an itch."
"But Sensei, there's a fly up there, and it's annoying me."
"Sensei, I have to pee again."
"I didn't mean to! I just keep…falling asleep. I'm sorry, Sensei."
"It's so hard! I don't wanna sit still."
What was that drug humans used on children who couldn't calm down? Ritalin? Was there any chance of his being able to procure some?
Stop it, he told himself. You will manage.
If only they could take whatever it was that made them perform so well while fighting, and channel it into the lessons they did not enjoy. Michelangelo, for instance, had become a six-year-old-acrobat. He moved faster than his brothers, was more agile, and mastered cartwheels and somersaults with more grace and ease than anyone. Yet remove motion from the picture, and he seemed hopeless.
Even in pre-weapons practice, he could not manage a simple kata if asked to hold it for more than a few seconds.
Although far too young for actual weapons, the boys had been practicing with wooden imitations of common Japanese tools. Preferences and specialties had emerged almost immediately. Leonardo and Donatello, for instance, differed in that where the former worked very well with his two arms independent of one another, the latter preferred both hands on one instrument. Leonardo wanted a larger range of movement, whereas Donatello wanted more control. Raphael seemed to enjoy the smaller, more direct. There had never been any question that one day, this boy would wield some kind of blade.
Splinter didn't know what to do with him. He managed very well with everything, as long as mastery required some kind of movement. Simple katas with any weapon, even when told to pretend that he was holding avery dangerous one, just didn't happen. Splinter made a mental note very early on to encourage Michelangelo away from weapons with blades.
"Practice is over," said Splinter at the end of a particularly trying day. The boys left to go do their own things, and Splinter sat on the floor, spent.
Master Yoshi, he thought, nearly desperate, what would you do?
After several minutes of quiet, unbroken meditation, an odd sound caught his attention. A strange sort of rhythmic whooshing noise came from the boys' bedroom. A quick glance around the lair told Splinter that Raphael and Donatello were playing a board game, and Leonardo was reading a book. So that left…
Of course it did.
Bracing himself for the worst, Splinter checked in on the bedroom.
Michelangelo was sitting in the center of the floor, playing with an old yo-yo he had found months earlier. Playing with it had been one of his favorite pastimes since its discovery, though Michelangelo had never managed more than a simple up and down.
Today, however, it seemed he had discovered a new trick. Holding the string in one hand, Michelangelo swung the yo-yo around in quick circles. Once it reached a certain speed, the yo-yo began to make the very whooshing sound Splinter had heard earlier.
He began to smile.
"Michelangelo," said Splinter. Startled, the boy looked up. This was Splinter's first clue; Michelangelo with wandering attention noticed even the smallest shred of detail out of place.
"Sensei," said Michelangelo with a grin. "Did you see that? Isn't that cool?"
"I did," Splinter grinned. "It is. Will you show me again?"
Happily, Michelangelo complied. It was a matter of luck that he didn't hit anything; there was nothing within reach for the yo-yo to disturb, or else Splinter suspected he would have. That, however,wasn't what caught his attention. Michelangelo's was focusing every bit of his attention on the yo-yo. His wrist and hand moved quickly to keep it moving with the required speed.
The rest of him was as still as stone. Every inch.
Splinter let out a silent cheer. Why hadn't he thought of it before?
"Very nice," said Splinter. Michelangelo gave him a proud smile. "Will you come with me for a moment please?"
Michelangelo's face fell. "What'd I do?"
"Nothing," said Splinter. "I only wish for you to show me something." As Michelangelo followed his Sensei into the main part of the lair, Splinter asked:
"Have I ever told you about the nunchucks?"