wet cats and rusty bicycles

In kindred, recollections, stories on November 11, 2006 by carinasuyin

“It’s coming! Shhhh… OK OK… go get ready at the other door. Hurry!”
The lazy feline sauntered along the longkang, oblivious to the little feet that scurried behind the walls and drops of water haphazardly dripping across the floor with mischief.

“One… two…. SPLASHHH!!”
Caught by surprise, the drenched cat jumped and sped off along the wall with a loud wailing Meowwwwwwww and just as expected, it turned a right corner at the end of the wall just before the rubber processing shed, towards door number two.

“One… two… SPLASHHH!!”
The meowing siren veered off at another right angle, this time darting across the backyard towards the rubber trees. Startled chickens, ducks and geese burst into a cacophony of noises that was joined in chorus by hoots and shouts as the two kids fell on the kitchen floor laughing, water scoop and pot clanging in victory.

“Ah Mekkkkkkk! Mai ak niao ahh! Kam khong ohhh… Tan jit ae lok ho, waipo sa buay ta ahhh!!! (Ah Mekkkkkkk, do not wet the cat! Goodness, Grandmother’s clothes will not get dry if it rains later!!!) ”
Little feet hurriedly drag rag cloths across the floor, soaking up mini puddles of water before disappearing out of sight as a plump old lady came in through door number one with a basket of freshly plucked sweet potato leaves.

“Look out!! Monitor lizard crossing ahead!!
Belok kanan… kanannnnnnnn! (Turn right, righhhhtt!)”
“Too late!! Aaaaaaaaaaaahhh!!”
A rickety old bicycle whizzed past the rubber trees in a blur of rusty red followed in close pursuit by another rickety black bicycle. Both were carrying pillion riders that bounced up and down, squealing with delight while holding on for dear life as the riders navigated the bicycles at breakneck speed over roots, stones and the occasional monitor lizard that criss-crossed the path.

“Oh ohhhh… Si liao… (We are dead…)”
The black bicycle came to a screeching halt in front of a thin old man in his black pants and white singlet, standing akimbo on the porch. A split second later, the red bicycle appeared from the rubber plantation behind the house and went straight into the bougainvillea bushes, sending slippers flying and two kids tumbling onto the laterite soil. Four dusty faces squatted by the red bike, one wheel still spinning awkwardly as it laid on its side, and watched in silence as the old man wheeled his black bicycle towards the main road. The annoyed scowl never left his face as he gestured with his hand to return Waipo’s bicycle to the shed.

Waigong, lu buat apa? (Grandfather, what’re you doing?)”
Asoh pisau, toreh g’tah (Sharpening the rubber tapping knife).
Waigong’s smile had a few teeth missing and his broken Malay naturally begat a stiffled giggle or two. In the suffused light of the late afternoon sun, he sat hunched on his stool in the backyard sharpening his rubber tapping knives. Mama said Waigong was a very handsome man in his youth. The only youth left now is in his eyes and his smile, and a smiling Waigong was definitely better than an angry Waigong but not half as funny.

It’s raining outside and my thoughts drift to those of my late maternal grandparents- Wàigōng and Wàipó. When I think of them, I remember their bicycles and their lovely wooden house in the rubber estate back in Muar. Nary a day went past without an adventure or two whenever we are back in the kampung. Waipo’s bicycle had a softer cushioned seat but no brakes. Stopping required a skilled manouver of landing your feet on the ground to slow down the bicycle or very simply crashing into something if your legs are too short. On the days when we were grounded from cycling (usually because we were off riding in the rubber estate when Waigong needed his bicycle), we would be collecting rubber seeds, chasing poultry, catching longkang fishes or planning the next great cat splashdown.

Waipo believed that if you wet a cat on a sunny day, your day will be ruined by rain. Superstition or not, it often rained whenever we were back for the school holidays. Ambushing the cat was so much fun that it didn’t matter if we had to spend the rest of the day indoors while waiting out the rain. Sweet black thick coffee with fluffy kuih bahulu (madeleines) are excellent companions on rainy afternoons as we waited for the poor cat to come indoors and dry itself by the charcoal stove, ignoring our giggles. At night, we watched the fuzzy TV that alternated between colour and monochrome as a motley crew of lizards provided lame canned laughter for every program. We would sit with our legs up on the chairs and nobody sat on the floor. Centipedes usually sought dry shelter in the house during the rainy season and in the kampung, they can grow real long and fat. According to Atah, a centipede’s bite is real painful and ugly. For all the living things under the sun that Waigong and Waipo ate, we were grateful that they left the lizards and centipedes alone.


6 Responses to “wet cats and rusty bicycles”

  1. Which part of Muar? My paternal grandparents were staying at Tangkak and I used to spend about week there at my uncle’s place every school holiday when I was much younger and when they were still around.

    Not much fond memories of my grandparents though, my grandma passed away when I was very small and my was grandpa staying with his 2nd wife and, having 22 children and tonnes of grandchildren, he didn’t care all that much about my existence. But I did enjoy myself at my uncle’s house catching fighting spiders and going into the forest to shoot butterflies with my sling-shot (I know, I know, me = evil).

    About the rain, probably it’s just the rainy season at that time of the year. 😉

  2. Jeram Bakri 🙂

  3. Wait… I know there’s a Bakri there. Jeram Bakri is a different town?

  4. I think it’s supposed to be Jeram in mukim Bakri. Somewhere there lah…

  5. Glad I managed to track your blog down. Lost the link after changing my computer. 🙂 Got to know your blog via Ryze 18 months ago!

  6. Hallo jupilier… welcome back! 🙂

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