Monday, June 30, 2008
Just last week, a costume jewellery peddler had patronised the town's TianTianFatt (Prosper Everyday) coffeeshop. Over coffee, she boasted of her skills at piercing flesh to two aunties from the local apothecary. Lulu, as it happens, was very fortunate to be there buying CharKoayTeow for mum. She could not help eavesdropping on the ladies' chatter. She introduced herself to Miss Annie from Kuala Lumpur, and without hesitation, fished out the magazine cut-out from her wallet. It was a picture of Cindy Lauper with nose studs. She begged Miss Annie to create the same look for her. "Girly, I think your mother may not approve. But ... maybe I can make something for you that is less conspicous, ya". With that, she dragged Lulu to the back corner of the shop by the sink.
"Get me some Guiness Stout, quickly", she hissed to the scrawny 10-year old boy beside the Chee Cheong Fun stall. Who, happened to be, Chopsticks. As he plonked the bottle of beer on the table, Miss Annie had already laid out her shiny pierce-gun, plus fancy gold and silver studs. Chopsticks could not help but cringe a little at the sight of that instrument of torture. He stole a glance at Lulu, who sat, beaming , not an ounce of fear on her face. Miss Annie proceeded to mark Lulu's right ear. One blue dot at the base of her lobe. And another dot just above it. . and another.. and a final one. He witnessed the first piercing. Not a whimper from Lulu, maybe a slight jolt. Then, the second.
"Two hot Cham for table 4!". Chopsticks was glad to move away from the "torture chamber" to serve table 4. In less time than it takes to make the cham, Lulu was waving goodbye to him, with an extra glint in her eye, and, despite her shoulder-length unkempt hair, he could see the four new shiny star-shaped studs on her right ear. He fell in love with her from that day onwards.
He knew Chopper and Lulu were close friends, he just did not know how close. He was quite happy to be in their shadows and to soak in Lulu's occasional glance or smile. One time, at recess, he was staring at the two girls eating noodles, with a silly grin on his face. In two strides, Chopper had walked right in front of him and delivered a punch into his groin. "Watch it, Stalker!" Chopper warned him.
That did not dampen his resolve at all. October that same year, he was 13 to Lulu's 15. He decided to confess his love to her. "Aww, you are such a sweet boy.. but..I am in love with someone else".
He was devastated. Of course he was no nitwit - it had to be Chopper.
In December, after the finals , SRP exams, he was not surprised to hear that the girls had decided to quit school and move to the bright lights of Kuala Lumpur.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
“Lan, Jings, lan!” shouted Nakamura, in his signature Japlish.
So, it had boiled down to this. The final battle of flesh and blood. Nakamura had no choice, although the choices were clearly his to make.
Those eyes, those angry eyes stabbed Nakamura. His hands were trembling. He knew the day would come. And he would never forgive himself for doing this. But he had to.
The body that carried those eyes ran towards Jings. The room shook. Nakamura protruded towards the body and pushed it away. “Don’t make me do this! You hear me?!” he said. The body, which was much larger and stronger than Nakamura let out a loud roar and threw him to the floor. That broke his left leg.
It picked Nakamura up and threw him even further away. He landed against a pair of terracotta warriors. Their spears penetrated his chest and punctured his lungs. Breathing became difficult.
“Geto buru karla botaru. Fwadster!” Nakamura told Jings, pointing at the glowing, grenade-like device, placed on the shelf, hidden behind a figurine. A Maiko holding an umbrella. With no eyes.
Those eyes got angrier now. It turned to the helpless Nakamura. With just a soft blow, Nakamura flew to another corner of the living room. Jings rushed towards that broken boyfriend of hers.
Nakamura had the grenade-like device in his hand now.
He didn’t want push the button. He shook his head and said something in Japanese. But the body marched forward and eventually charged Nakamura.
A perfect throw. It exploded right in front of the eyes. No fireworks. Nor was there a tremor. Just a burst of glowing, blue-coloured liquid. The body fell to the floor. It let out a painful cry. The liquid adhered to the skin, propagated to the other parts of the body and eventually covered it completely. Blue turned red and the body was now shaking violently. As if corroding, the body shrunk with every painful scream, emitting an unbearable, ammoniac stench. It got warmer, gradually. As if temperature adversely proportinated the decay. Jings watched in disgust as the body transformed into a pool of emerald-coloured semisolid fluid.
She turned to check on Nakamura. He was not breathing.
Pengyi arrived. With the news.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Nevertheless, her childhood wasn't all bad. Running from shop house to shop house, and having the whole row of them to play hide and seek in, and the animated chatter of all the other children who lived there, made for a community in an otherwise lonely life. During these years, she forged very close relationships with a few of the other girls, especially the daughter of the bicycle shop owner. Her nickname was Chopper, after the most popular bicycle of that era. Chopper's real name was Tan Kim Lian, and because she had no brothers, her father saw fit to bestow upon her that terribly masculine nickname.
Goldtooth could never understand why she was two shades darker than the other chinese girls, and the meaner once would taunt her with name like "kopi susu", and Chopper would literally give them a most unladylike karate chop.
The explosion had reminded her of her first love, Chopper, hence the smile on her face as the police continued the interrogation. Chopper and her would empty the gunpowder from firecrackers and make home made bombs. It was a wonder that no one ever lost an eye, though she did lose a tooth.
Those schoolgirl days, of telling tales and biting nails are gone,
But in my mind,
I know they will still live on and on...
They were only 17 and childhood sweethearts. He was being groomed to take over the family business, a successful importer of consumer goods like coffee and powdered milk, while she was going to the Teachers' Training College in Kirkby, England on a government scholarship.
But how do you thank someone, who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
It isn't easy, but I'll try...
It was a balmy Saturday afternoon. They stripped off their school uniforms, more in eagerness to feel the cool air on their skin than to satisfy their increasingly compelling cravings for each other.
If you wanted the sky I would write across the sky in letters,
That would soar a thousand feet high...
The cane furniture in his parents’ living room in Kenny Hills creaked under their weight as they clawed each other in hunger and desperation. Lulu’s yearnful strain accompanied their climax.
If you wanted the moon I would try to make a start,
But I, would rather you let me give my heart,
To Sir, with Love...
They lost their virginity in his living room in Kenny Hill while being observed by monkeys.
Thirty eight weeks later, Lulu Loo Ai Ling came bawling into the world. She was born 11 miles away from Ipoh, in a small attap house in Kampung Baru Chempedak, a Chinese new village, far from the prying eyes of gossiping aunts who would have felt it their duty to announce to the world that their unwed niece, only 17, was already blemished with the seed of a Malay boy.
Monday, June 23, 2008
She was butch to say the least, this Goldtooth. Sporting a punk hairdo, a few earrings and a gigantic tribal cross tattoo on her left arm, she could have easily been mistaken for a rock star. The limited edition Metallica T-shirt she had on was a worshipping object for many a rock fan. The Celine Dion and Siti Nurhaliza in Jings and Sheena would not have known that. But a goldtooth? Ironic.
Instead of feeling sorry for herself over the ruined café, she looked as if she was looking forward to more of the explosions. As the interrogation ended, she returned to the counter.
news abt n? Too late now.
Jings tried to call Pengyi but the cell was dead. The first of a series of lightnings struck. A shadow erected from below. Perfectly contrasted against the white wall facing Jings. With each spectacular show of lightning, the shadow grew larger, which means it was moving towards Jings.
The shadow took form of a silhouette of a man. She braved herself to turn around. To face what she had gotten herself into. To embrace regrets and be devoured by retribution. She wished Pengyi was not not there.
By equatorial standard, it was impossibly freezing now.
The sound of heavy breaths took the bass while the trebling raindrops hit the nearest spot they could find. It was not Jings. And the foul smell was getting stronger.
The pair of luminous green eyes stared at Jings while she stood there, staring motionlessly.
“No!”, shouted Nakamura from the front door.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
"Tell him my phone's run out of battery, and that everything is fine. I don't want him to miss his game or worry about this", said Sheena. "EXCUSE ME, you nearly died, and you are worried about not distracting his bloody soccer game? Are you MAD?", Jings sputtered. "Pass me the phone", Sheena said.
Fortunately, Jings was not a believer in voice mail, and the phone continued its annoying drone, which was Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. Sheena grabbed the phone from her and cleared her throat before answering, "Hallo Darling. Yeah, everything is fine. My phone's dead. (in her mind, she thought, so was Mina, a moment ago) Jock? Nah, he's probably hungry or needs to take a crap. What? Yeah, I know but he's wrong this time. We're having a gala time. Jings is about to do a flaming lamborghini", she said as she saw some embers of burning coasters and other unidentifiable objects. "Okay darling, Mwah mwah, oh, who's winning? Ah, good, those hot Turks, yummy...okay, see you in a bit".
"What is the matter with you", Jings exclaimed again in utter disbelief. "This is a mini 911 situation and you let the guy think I'm having a flaming bloody Lamborghini?". Sheena replied, "What do you expect him to do? No point all of us suffering. Hey, where did Pengyi disappear to?" she tried to distract Jings.
The wailing sirens interrupted their slight argument, and the cops stormed in without having to break down any doors. "Is anyone hurt?" yelled out one cop. The pianist continued playing the Requiem as if in denial. Goldtooth was remarkably composed for someone who just had her premises blown up. She directed the cops at the direction she thought was the source of the blast and continued talking to them.
"Its 5 minutes to half-time, can it wait, Cat", implored Moondog. He wanted to pee too, but this match was gooood. He could not budge for the moment.
"Meew...meeww...meeewww". Moondog looked at the cat out of the corner of his eye, and was somewhat taken aback. The cat's back was arched up, and its ginger and white fur on the spinal ridge stood on end. Something was wrong, this cat is no ordinary feline, it has six sense. Nothing seemed amiss in the apartment. "I better check on Sheena".
He picked up his cell and speed-dialed Sheena. Damn, he only got through to the answering service. She's with her loon friend, Jings. He dialed her number.
The pianist, surveying the scene around her, could not comprehend the chaos and mayhem.
She knew nothing about first-aid. All she had to offer right now is music. Satisfied with her intention, she launched into her most somber " Funeral March by Chopin" , appropriate for the occasion.
The revived Datin Mina, lulled by the music, murmured, "My hero..". She buried her head in Shigeru's arm, which was becoming quite numb because, he noticed, her head was quite enlarged... "Must be the big hairdo, or perhaps a wig?", he wondered. He was quite happy to leave her be, having done his good deed for the day. "I must remember to re-charge. That elixir of life-breath really wears me down." Now, back to Sheena. As he untangled himself from the hairy heap in his arm, she dug her claws in deeper.
"Please take me home, " Datin Mina pleaded with her hero.
Jings shook her head in disbelief. She was not about to be sidelined again. The Bitch is not walking away with two of her men in one night!
She jolted as her hip vibrated involuntarily. It was her cellphone, tucked in the backpocket of her tight mini. She swiped her phone out and glanced at the caller name on the display. Moondog.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The body of the stranger was gone as well. The pool of sangria had turned emerald. The sequins changed clothes. Shigeru touched the remains. Cold.
“Shit!”, Jings exclaimed as she observed the remains of the stranger. Slurpee-like substance. Missing body. Japanese. Fragments of the intrusion of Hiroshi Nakamura’s grave started to reassemble on her mind again. Like a jigsaw puzzle she never intends to complete. Never.
Judging from the condition of the coffin and the symmetrical scattering of unearth soil, it appeared that the intrusion came from within. Perhaps an explosion. The police didn’t buy that. They couldn’t explain the Slurpee as well. One thing’s for sure. The body was gone.
Nakamura was an interesting character. Always immersed in books, this writer has not much of a life other than hitting the gym. And Jings, of course. Well, for the last few months of his life, at least. He was way too good with words and that hit Jings at her softest of spots. The amazing positions had Jings crying out for dear life. But they had never spent time together after midnight. He would leave at 11.55 pm, everytime. “Why?”, Jings asked one too many times. The answer was always silence.
Pengyi hated Nakamura. He thought Nakamura was weird. Jealousy played a part as well. 10 years of friendship with the last 5 as a couple, Pengyi and Jings were so close to tying the knot. Until Nakamura came along. They remained good friends and naïve Pengyi still laboured hope that one day, she’ll return to him again.
Came one night when Jings decided that she had had enough of this midnight joke. It was raining heavily when she parked her car a block away from Nakamura’s double-storey house at Desa Hartamas. At 1 am, the house was obviously dark. And Nakamura was probably asleep. But the gate was wide open. So was the front door. The living room was freezing (definitely not the air-conditioning system) as she entered. “What’s that strange smell?”, she asked herself.
Her phone beeped. It was an SMS.
i hv news abt n…coming over now..i luv u.
The sender was Pengyi.
“They didn’t,” the man with the hoarse voice sighed. He had tired eyes that had seen too much. A permanent frown on his face aged him by a further five years.
“Harlow!!! There’s a sorta dead woman here, if you lovebirds have forgotten!” shouted Sheena.
Pengyi dropped the body in his arms. “I think she’s dead.”
“Did someone say dead?” Shigeru appeared. “No one calls me Hiro for nothing. I...have....superhero powers!” Immediately, everyone looked up expecting to hear cymbals clashing. Shigeru lifted Datin Meena, whose body was light as a feather, and immediately pursed his lips onto hers and breathed in the elixir of life. A light mist appeared around them, and Datin Meena’s body radiated like a firefly on heat. As she opened her eyes, she looked at her saviour. “My hero!” she smiled shyly. “No, no....not hero....” Shigeru said, “Hiro....H-I-R-O...Hiro.”
The sounds of a siren interrupted the Hero-like moment. “It’s the police!” gasped Pengyi. “I have to go!”
Jings wailed, “Noooo......don’t leave me again!!”
“I’ll be back,” assured Pengyi, and walked off thru the debris and fire into the darkness of night.
The pianist, like a cross between a dumb blonde and a doe on the highway struck by headlights, was muttering to herself, "my nail, I broke my nail" while blowing on the tip of her fingers the way old cowboys blow the top of their guns after a shoot. Considering the circumstances, the whole place was eerily silent.
Jings couldn't help but wonder if her nemesis was dead, and if so, did she feel a tinge of remorse for having wished it upon her earlier. Could the Law of Attraction be THAT powerful? Well, she wondered who was inviting the calamity that had just befallen them all, in which case. She continued with her efforts to revive Sheena, who started sputtering and choking, and slowly opened her eyes. "Are we dead? Is this heaven"?, she asked. "Honey, if this is heaven, I dread to think what hell's like. Of course we're not dead", Jings replied. Hiro, who was also by her side, in the joint attempts at resuscitation, heaved an audible sigh of relief, and said, "don't worry, I'm here". Despite her condition, Sheena still managed to roll her eyes at his remark, and eye signalled to Jings "what's HE doing here?"
Now that Sheena was conscious, Jings decided to reach out to the other cry for help. She walked over the broken shards of glass, in an unelegant tip toe fashion, towards the piano and beyond. The pianist was sitting on the stool with her face down on the piano keys, sobbing. "Get a grip woman, it's only your friggin nail that broke", Jings wanted to slap her and say. Then she saw the man, to whom presumably belonged the voice, hugging the body of Datin Meena that looked deader than a doornail.
The night Hiroshi Nakamura was buried, something strange happened. Six feet under.
Beneath the new, white shirt, somewhere between the failed heart and decaying pancreas, a glow appeared. As dim as a firefly's. It began to expand, spherically. Six feet above, the gushing wind performed an unplugged number with the rustling leaves as accompaniment. The Cure’s Lullaby came to mind.
It grew stronger now. Parts of this luminous energy penetrated through the tiniest of gaps of the coffin and the earth.
Back at the café, the unconscious stranger with the white shirt and lady-like long, limp hair was lying on the floor. Poor Sheena. Marie Claire certainly did not prepare her for a situation like this. The crowd had fled. Failed in hunting down the culprits (obviously!), Shigeru, the accidental Red Cross Society member, returned and attended to the stranger. No pulse. He ran for the first-aid kit in the kitchen. Perhaps Hero has left a deep impact on him but has it not occurred to him that the most sensible thing to do was to call 999?
Jings was gently shaking Sheena. An attempt to help her regain consciousness.
It was all quiet now, except for the oxidizing sounds of metal pieces of the burning car.
The pool of blood expanded. The floating sequins shimmered against the burning fire. Sangria with crushed ice...Delicious.
A familiar glow appeared, from within the stranger.
Suddenly, there was a loud piercing scream. As Sheena looked up, she saw the handsome stranger on the floor, his shirt slowly turning a crimson shade.
Sheena fainted. A trail of sequins danced in the pool of blood.
“I’m Shigeru,” the pale man beside her offered.
“Hmmm…” Her eyes were glazed. She was still distracted by the man in the white shirt and long floppy hair. He shook his head and beads of water sprayed around him as he attempted to dry himself. It was still pouring outside. The man's wet shirt clung to his body revealing a muscular torso beneath.
“She’s Sheena, and I’m JingJing!” said Jings, perhaps a little too enthusiastically, and oblivious to Sheena’s lack of attentiveness.
“Sheena,” Shigeru said smoothly, the words spilt out like honey onto a baby’s bottom, “can you tell me the time?”
“Uhmmm….9.45,” mumbled Sheena. She was still observing the stranger sitting by himself in a dark corner.
“9.45, huh? Today’s June 18, 2008 and it’s 9.45pm. Thanks, Sheena. I just wanted to be able to remember the exact moment that I met you,” replied Shigeru with a wide smile that revealed bright white teeth. Shigeru had learnt that line from an online tutorial on how to pick up women. He figured he had left his mark as he watched Sheena shudder. Probably with delight, he thought.
Sheena looked in the direction of the man, a 21st century Le Penseur, and saw him looking in her direction. "Horrors, he's walking here!", she thought to herself as her eyes bulged.
"Don't turn around, Jings! Act normal!" Sheena whispered.
"Wh...why?" Jings asked.
Before Sheena could reply, a car parked outside the café exploded sending debris towards the cafe, shattering the glass front. Shards of glass rained onto the customers as shrieks of pain and fear filled the air.
Normally a shy and introverted chap who minds his own business , tonite his fastidious nature took center stage -he felt it his responsibility (and Godsent opportunity) to return the sequins to the rightful owner.
He took one huge gulp of his orange juice for bravado, pulled his left sideburn for goodluck, and gingerly collected the sequins for the LADY.
As he approached their table, the skinny girl at the piaono suddenly hollered out a high note and flicked her long stringy hair ala Sunsilk ad. The LADY flicked her bronzy locks in mimicry, at the same time nudging her elbow right between Shigeru's 7th and 8th ribs. "Oouch! ...", he managed as he spilled the sequins into what's left of their tiramisu.
"Hey, what do you think you are doing !". Sheena gave him her hardest big-eyes glare and it was quite effective, because he grimaced. She swore she could hear a tiny moan escape from his lips.
Grabbing his midriff, Shigeru managed a lame and painful, "Excuse me, but I didnt mean to spoil your dessert. Yes, I do believe that rose there is missing a few petals". He indicated her fancy top apologetically.
"Oooh..", Sheena was lost for words. Jings, unusually quick to the rescue, tried to salvage the moment with a kindly, "That was sweet, thanks, and urrr...", looking at Sheena as she asked the pale man with the funny haircut, " and would you care to join us for a drink?"
She forgot about chasing after the tall stranger, and shifted her manhunt gears , full throttle. He looks like a kitten, ready to be played....
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"It says the tiramisu's highly recommended. Oh, the pavlova as well. Let's have some!", said the excited Sheena.
There was a moment of silence, as the girls took their first bite of the rum-infused tiramisu. Strong and sweet. They looked at each other, let out a climaxing expression and giggled.
While waiting for the pavlova (what’s taking them so long?), Sheena unraveled her vacation plans for the rest of the year. Monaco in August, Sicily in September, Vancouver in October and Christmas in Penang. As she continued on to the details of each destination, Jings, who was rather bored with all these impossible talks, turned to the window for more exciting stories.
It’s amazing that despite the increasingly heavy downpour, young couples were still able to hold hands and stroll along the street, sheltered by nothing but those ridiculously cute umbrellas. Chuckling with every step, mind you. Well, this is afterall, the hip side of town. Sheena’s at cuddling under yellow, maple trees in autumn now.
Lightning struck, not far from the café. That jerked the girls abit. A man ran passed the window. Rather hurriedly. But it caught Jings’ attention. An unmistakable silhouette despite the brief encounter. To her, it felt eternal.
A 6 feet tall figure, with physique of a basketball player to boost, his microseconds presence shook Jings to the core. The lingering scent of Mild Seven, the passionate wrestles, the fireworks, the force, the strength, the heat…a coital rush that transcended divinity.
The defining Hiroshi Nakamura. Just how Jings remembered him. Minutes before they nailed the coffin.
As they continued their idle chatter, all of a sudden, Sheena exclaimed, "Acks, don't turn around, but guess who just walked in?", and Jings peered through her reading glasses the way a professor stares at wayward students who had made some smart arsed remark. "Who", she asked, resisting all the urge to suddenly turn her neck with the obvious risk of whiplash. Patience and the ability to be kept in suspense was not one of her fortes. "It's that bitch, Datin Mina", Sheena said, placing her forefinger at her lips mimicking the silence signal, lest Jings leapt out of her chair and clawed the woman. "Haha, don't worry Sheens, I'm not about to create a scene here, she's simply not worth it", Jings said reassuringly. Fortunately the new arrival was ushered to a different corner of the cafe, behind the pianist and was no longer in the line of sight of either one of them.
"So, how is Moondog and his grand plans for you know what?", asked Sheena, when they were interrupted again by Goldtooth, who mechanically but yet pleasantly chirped, "Ready to order ladies?". After taking their order of a non fat latte and a chamomile tea, plus some biscotti on the side, Goldtooth tottered off with her business, as the two resumed their conversation. "What did you just say?" Jings said absentmindedly. The mobile phone at the next table suddenly rang with the most annoying ring tone, of a cockerel crowing, which nearly made Jings jump out of her chair. "Now that's a ring tone for the deaf", Sheena laughed. The phone belonged to an equally obnoxious gentleman, who had no qualms shouting out his entire life history for all the cafe to hear. In that few seconds, the girls discovered their neighbour had a 10pm appointment for a massage at Siu Siu Massage Parlor, was going for drinks at Luna Bar after that, and was flying off to Hanoi the next day for a meeting with his contractors. "They really should monitor who they allow into these establishments", Jings said with a quasi snooty sneer.
"You were asking about Moondog", said Jings. Sheena nodded as she continued reading the menu.
“When did you start wearing reading glasses?” asked Sheena.
“Just last week,” sighed JingJing. “I couldn’t put it off any longer. Is this the beginning of the end?”
“Perhaps,” said Sheena. “Soon our boobs will sag, and our bodies will shrink, and men will call us Aunty.” Instinctively, they both glanced at the longhaired girl beside the piano player and felt a tinge of envy at her youth and her lean, kacangpanjang-like body. Their insecurities were unfounded, of course, for at their age, they were still able to attract more than a few admiring glances. Both were athletes in their younger days and avid Latin dance buffs in later years, spending quite a bit of their time at the Salsa Club in their residential neighbourhood. Ignoring the gyrating old men in tight spandex pants whose sole purpose for attending the Tuesday night sessions was to ensure that they met their weekly “touch n’go” quota, the girls found these sessions therapeutic. It was their opportunity to forget about the Moon-Dogs and Jocks in their lives.
“Ready to order?” asked the lady with the huge smile. A gold tooth from the corner of her smile suddenly caught the light and glittered. Jings wondered if gold teeth were still fashionable.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
As they scuttled around the alleys of this hip side of town, it started to drizzle. The fancy neon signs beckoned, but they wanted to check out some new joint. Jings, dreamily surveyed the outdoor cafe tables and scanned through the glass shopfronts, on the lookout for nice-lookers that, per chance, they may get to know later.
"Hey, before my top shrinks up to my boobs, can we just go in here where its nice and dry", says Sheena as she drags JingJing towards a nondescript blue portal. On the glass door, they can just make out a sign in folksy scrawl "Whatever-U-Please Cafe".
As they swung open the frontdoor, they heard the pleasant tinkling of piano keys. Over by the left corner, someone was trying to play the tune to Jewel's hitsong. Beside him, a longhaired girl was encouraging the piano player to get it right, by belting out repeatedly, "These hands are small I know...,". The girls were immediately charmed by the homey atmosphere created by the background music-making. There was a sprinkling of patrons on the wooden tables, enjoying their drinks over quiet conversation.
JingJing abandoned all thoughts of a probable man-watch evening. Sheena quit worrying about her top riding up her bellybutton. They settled on a table and in a jiff, a lady with a huge smile ambled over and presented them to menus.