This idea was inspired from my trip to Korea, where I had visited many relatives and friends with young children... who only spoke Korean. It seemed they were teaching more things to me, but I also tried to teach them some common English words too. *wink*
The Power of Speech
Even though the mutant rat had found that he could walk upright, he still felt more comfortable traveling through the sewer tunnels and alleys on all fours. A part of him also felt that he would appear less alarming, if humans did see him, if he stayed down when on the streets. Hopefully they would think he was a stray dog, but not so much that he would get caught by animal control. One near miss a week ago taught him to not be so trusting of any strange human.
Splinter's whiskers twitched as he sniffed the air. That particular alley, he'd learned from past experience, always had a good selection of things to pick from the dumpsters there. Especially on the gold day of the week, he never left empty handed. He was also careful to not frequent this area much though, in case he could be caught from fault of making a schedule. The large rat rose to his haunches and stood upright. He considered it a great blessing to finally access places he only longed to reach when he was a small rat. Splinter applied what stealthy skills he knew to open the lid then leapt up to perch on the ledge to reach inside. After looking through a couple pizza boxes to find one that suited him, he paused to listen for any nearby humans. The coast was clear.
Testing his dexterity, he held the pizza box in one hand like paw this time to close the dumpster lid with the other free hand before taking off. He had seen humans do this many times. Mimicking what he saw had been one of his favorite pastimes when he used to live with Yoshi too. But the talented rat never thought he could mimic the human speech as well! Splinter squeaked many a time in warning or disapproval to his new companions. They were quick to understand what they meant, since Splinter's vocalizations and body language based itself from common instinctual patterns shared between many species. The universal language of emotions.
Then he suddenly surprised himself one day, when an alert for the younger ones came out as garbled Japanese instead of a squeak. He had heard much Japanese spoken when he lived in Japan with his sensei, so much that he thought in Japanese as much as his own rat dialect. But of course, he didn't realize how much species differed in that country from his too. The same rat, sparrow, and cicadae in New York City sounded as equally foreign to his ears as did the many different colored humans that roamed the streets. Now, to his great delight, his mind had willed his tongue to say the words he knew so well.
Splinter then smiled in all modesty, realizing he had all four of his young turtle companions staring at him in confusion. He decided they did not know the language of the human yet. Perhaps they would understand the more they heard. He had then practiced correctly pronouncing the words he remembered, to perfect his own skill. Weeks had passed, and his four little ones still didn't seem to be too sure of what he was saying. Could they eventually be taught to understand, as he had seen a mother teach her baby? He then tried to combine his actions with the words, so they can make the connection.
This gift to speak the language of the humans simply amazed him, thus he wanted to make sure he put it to good use. He still was puzzled as to why this Great Change had happened to him and the four young turtles, or if the Change meant they will have a longer life that first intended. The more he learned and taught his companions how to survive, the more the anger from the lost of his beloved master softened. Whether or not these turtles had the gift to speak too, he wasn't sure, since normal turtles don't make vocalizations to communicate. It fascinated him to watch them as they played, and seemed to make perfect sense to each other. He wasn't always sure what they were up to, or what they could be telling each other with funny looks, squeaks and chirps. Even though they all looked alike, he quickly learned who was who from their mannerisms.
These instances he considered over in his mind as he bounded back through the sewer tunnels, with the pizza box in his mouth. When he reached the sectioned off room, he set the box on the concrete floor. "Tadaima!" he announced his return.
The four, boyish figures came out from the shadows. Splinter felt reward again that he taught them how to wait out of sight until he announced his return with that word. A couple of them ran over to the box, after they recognized it.
"Pizza da yo," Splinter told them, to confirm their eager looks. He felt particularly pleased at that point to have found as much food as he did. It was also food he hoped would keep them from hunger for awhile too. One turtle already opened the box, looking inside as if he were about to take one of the three large slices for himself.
"Eya, chotto matte kudasai," Splinter shooed him and another away as he sat by the box. He first waited to make certain the pizza was safe to eat, being another rat instinct he didn't want to suppress. He sniffed and nibbled at all the toppings, and decided the meat didn't please him. Despite the hungry, impatient stares from the turtles, he took care in removing the meat and to pile it up in a corner of the box. "Tabette nai," Splinter shook his head while holding a paw over the pile. The four all finally sat down around the box on the other side, their hungry gazes locked on the three cold slices.
Splinter then tore off a small piece, handing it to the last green hand he saw. "Tabette," he nodded, before tearing off another bit of saucy cheese and crust.
"Peee..ja, peeja!" another turtle finally cried out in anticipation.
Splinter looked up, giving the particular turtle a surprised look. He had noticed that this one liked watching him and seemed to paid heed to his requests more than the others. It still surprised him that this one would be first to speak. Then the corners of Splinters mouth curled upwards when sudden joy overcame him. "Hai, pizza," he nodded, giving him the next piece.
"Peesa!" another promptly begged, as if to compete in getting a piece before his pushy bother did.
"Chotto matte," Splinter reminded them, feeling a bit like a mother bird feeding her chicks now. The remaining two reluctantly sat back on their haunches and waited until he handed bits of cheese to them. "Peeeesa," the eager one said again, excited by the whole idea of it all.
Splinter tore off a piece that had green pepper and onion on it, and found that it still tasted fresh. Vegetables were very scarce in their diet, so when he did find some he wanted to make sure they also ate some. Yoshi told him they can keep one healthy, and with the winter months coming soon.. he hoped he could keep these young ones from sickness. "Tabette mo," Splinter handed a strip of green pepper to the quiet one he offered pizza to first.
"Piman da yo," he told them all what it was.
"Peeman." he heard the one with the green pepper repeat carefully as he looked at it. After taking a bit to eat, he turned to his bright-eyed brother to share the green pepper. "Ta-bet-te," he said, as if not sure if he was saying it right. But it was correct, to Splinter's ear's.
"Ta..be," the other then laughed, trying his best to mimic the new word.
"Hai, 'tabette'," Splinter nodded, very pleased to see them take the initiative. This all seemed very unexpected to him, nonetheless. He wondered if they had actually been vocalizing these words amongst themselves during his absences.
The turtle with the diminishing pepper offered what he had left to the brother on his right. "Ta..pe...day," he managed to say.
The other turtle just gave him a skeptical look, since he didn't want to try saying the strange sound. But he took the pepper to eat anyway.
"Tabette," Splinter told them, with the intent that they should repeat after him.
"Ta..be..day," the bright-eyed one said, while the other who had eaten the green pepper stuck his tongue out in disgust and made a face. He didn't like the green pepper, and then tried to take what pizza cheese the other turtle still had.
"Tabette," Splinter looked to the other turtle, stopping him from being a snitch.
He scrunched up his face, making it clear he rather be eating than talking about eating. "Ta...bey..tey."
The turtle who had started talking first, promptly took his turn before Splinter expected him too. "Ta-bey-tte!"
Splinter nodded, and decided to end the impromptu lesson there. Since they did show recognition to the syllabic word and what they meant, he suddenly longed to teach them more about this human language. He started to tear up another slice into pieces for them to eat.
"Peesa. Ta...be-day! " he heard one say, while another had started to help himself by picking up the other slice. His brother then eagerly joined him.
"Reet!" Splinter gave scolding look to the two getting covered in sauce trying to eat the slice at the same time. He certainly didn't want them to get sick from eating too much at once.
The two dropped the slice back in the box upon hearing his alert and sat back down again. The others seemed to also have given the two scolding looks, since they also wanted more pizza too. "Hai, doozo," Splinter offered pieces to the two obedient turtles first then, and the other two last.
The more stubborn turtle turned his back to the others while he ate his. More so since he feared that the cheery turtle would try to take his tasty cheese from him, since he took his earlier.
"Peesa, peeeesa, peeessaaaah!" the cheery one laughed, his mouth full, and then put his sauce covered hand on the back of his brother's shell. He whined, trying to turn away without facing the pest. But the budding artist pursued, and put another sauce print on his shell. The other quickly finished eating, and he stood up to get away.
Splinter chuckled, then got up to find a diminishing supply of fast food napkins he had gathered up here and there. He settled back down next to the young turtles, and called to the one with sauce on his hand to wipe them first. This was another action he had seen TangShen do for the children she had babysat when they were in Japan. "Kame-ko, kaette kudasai," he gestured to the other turtle at the other side of the room to come back so he could clean the sauce from his shell and hands too.
The quiet one picked up the small white, object that looked like a miniature, three-legged table from the pizza box. He looked it over as well, turning it around in his thick fingers. He then stood it up in his palm, and the other more attentive turtle looked at it with him. "Te-bu-lu," he whispered to it, before giving it tot he other turtle to look at. Then the cheery turtle was tugging at his arm. He wanted to play 'chase' now.
Splinter began to wipe the drying sauce from the other turtle's shell, when he recognized that a feeling of wholeness these mysterious youngsters brought him. He looked at the face of the slightly disgruntled turtle. "Daizyoobu da..." he said, reassuring him his shell was clean.
The turtle then looked to him, returning the smile as if to say thank you, before taking after the other turtles darting about the room. Splinter nodded, feeling so much now like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. They did understand him... trusted him.