The Nineteenth Discipline

Leo found him sitting on the couch, mumbling into a pocket mirror.

He watched for a while, as Michelangelo grimaced and muttered and contorted his face.

"What are you doing?" he asked finally.

"En-ti-ro-ki-shem," Mike slurred.

"Huh?"

"Yen-dri-lo-kizz-em," Mike repeated, through gritted teeth.

Leo only blinked at him. "Mikey, why are you talking like that?"

Mike sighed and lowered the mirror. "I'm learning ventriloquism, okay?"

"Ventrilo -" A hand rose, unbidden, to scratch Leonardo's head. "You mean that thing people do with puppets?"

Mike pointed a warning finger at him. "No 'dummy' jokes!"

"I wasn't going to!" Leo protested. "I'm just a little confused..."

Mike tucked the mirror safely into the back of the couch cushions. "You know how people always think we're wearing costumes?"

"Yes...?" Leo said slowly.

"And then we open our big mouths, and the mutant turtle is out of the bag?"

"Yes," Leo said ruefully.

"Well, I was thinking... what if we learned to talk without opening our mouths? Might save us some awkward situations."

Leo considered this. "You know," he said, "that's not a bad idea."

Mike beamed at him, then hopped up from the couch, palming the mirror as he did so. "Come on," he said. "Let's go show Donnie."

Don was in his lab. Mikey cheerfully let himself in. Leo showed slightly more decorum by following at a slower pace, and giving a perfunctory knock on the doorframe as he entered.

"Donnie, Donnie, check it out," Mike said gleefully, as soon as Don looked up at them from whatever he was working on. "I'g lurgig yen-tree-uh-kyis-em."

Donatello regarded him at great length. "You ate the entire jar of peanut butter again, didn't you."

"No, no, dude!" Mike waved his mirror around. "I said I'm learning ventriloquism! Like, so we can talk without moving our mouths and people will think we really are wearing costumes." He waved his hands dramatically. "It's for the illusion."

Don raised a brow. "And how, pray tell, are you going about learning this?"

"Um." Mike looked down at the mirror in his hand. "Well, I try to say stuff, and I look in this mirror to see if my lips moved, and, and..." He trailed off under Donatello's unamused gaze.

"Mikey, Mikey, Mikey," Don said, shaking his head sadly. "Ventriloquism is a specialized art. You can't learn it just by staring at yourself in a mirror." He paused. "As much as I know you enjoy staring at yourself in a mirror."

Mike only grinned.

"What else can we do?" Leo said. "It's not like we can get lessons from a ventriloquism master."

"Sure we can," Don said. He spun his chair smoothly back to the computer, and brought up a website.

Leo blinked at the screen. "YouTube?" he said, putting all the stress on the second syllable. "What is YouTube?"

"YouTube," Don corrected, and that was all the explanation he gave.

"Yeah, Leo," Mike said, equally helpfully. "Get with the 21st century already." He leaned over Don's shoulder. "Ooh, look for 'ventriloquism tutorial'."

"Don't tell me how to use search functions," Don said, even as he typed the same words into a box at the top of the screen. "There."

In a moment, a video appeared on the screen, and they watched a magician explain the basics of speaking without moving one's lips.

They were halfway through the magician's third video - "The Secret of 'M'" - when Raph showed up.

"The hell are you doing?" he demanded.

He was answered by a chorus of mumbles and frozen-faced slurs.

He stared at each of them in turn. "Are you all drunk?" he asked, in hopeful disbelief.

"Studying ventriloquism," Don said, dashing all Raph's dreams.

"You guys suck," Raph said, turning to leave.

Mike caught at his arm. "Come on, Raph, join us. It'll be fun."

Raph looked again at the three of them. "Geez, fine," he said, freeing his arm from Mike's grasp. "But only t' watch you boneheads embarrass y'selves."

"See?" Mike said delightedly. "You're a natural at this, Raph! You never move your lips anyway when you talk!"

"Shut up, Mikey!" Raph said, in a snarl that truly did involve very little lip movement.

"Wow, he's right," Don said. He reached for the mouse, to pause the video player. "Never mind the magician - teach us this, Raph."

Raph looked around at them a third time, suspiciously. "You serious?"

Leo nodded. "You have a talent for this, Raph. Please share it with us."

Raph crossed his arms and glared at the floor. "Fine."


Splinter could not believe his sons' lack of manners at the dinner table that night.

"Boys," he said. "Do not talk with your mouths full."

"We're not, Master Splinter," Leonardo said. Splinter could only understand him because of his superior hearing. "We're learning ventriloquism."

He was not sure he had caught the last word. "You are learning what?"

"Ventriloquism, Sensei," Donatello said. He opened his mouth to say it, but Splinter still did not understand the term. "How to speak without moving your lips."

Splinter put his head in his hands. And after he had spent so much effort teaching them to enunciate.