Cinderella

At tuna day yesterday, I saw a little tuxedo cat sitting alone at the curb, behind an expired bread stall (here people sell bread one or two days past expired date and some still buy them because those are all they can afford); but my attention was drawn to another tuxedo a few steps away, sniffing under some a fish stall for some remains.

I've been looking for that kitten for a long time since I failed to catch him about one or two weeks ago. It has rubber band on its neck and the cruel prank (or pure idiocy of Bandung commoners) start to eat into her flesh.

Like last time, the kitten came over to the smell of seven kilos of tuna in my shopping bag. This time, I play it smart. I lure it into an open space and give it a lot of steamed fish at once to keep it busy long enough for me to catch it and cut the rubber band. I have only one chance because it will hurt and who knows what would happen to the poor cat if I failed this time.

I couldn't get close enough to slip scissors to that rubber band no matter how slowly I tried to move, and the cat is getting anxious. So I dropped my humane plan and reach out. Not fast enough to grab the cat, but enough to hold the rubber band while the cat broke away.

She ran into an alley, but she is now free. There are wounds around her neck, but from how clean the rubber band left in my hand, she will likely survive.

I packed up and leave, back to the little kitten on the curb. It's still there, sitting forlornly looking somewhere far. She is dirty and skinny, her fur dull and coarse. She is weak, almost powerless. One nudge can tumble her off her seat.

No word can describe the loneliness and sadness in her tiny, dim eyes; though I can see the boulder of life burdens crushing her brittle shoulder.

There was a spurt of enthusiasm when she saw a long piece of steamed tuna I lay on the ground. She was too weak to bite it off, so I shred the fish for her, enough that she can eat one piece at a time with ease.

A woman with hijab came towering behind me and with a voice I have never heard from a muslim woman blaring, "You pick up stray cat?"

I was still squatting by the kitten. I just look up at her bossy greeting.

"There are four cats in my house, cute. Come and take them"

Her tone. No stranger, even of the lower caste society ever command me like her slave the way she did.

"We're full" I answered, although lazily.

"Where's your house? Even if you don't want to take them, I'll put them on your street and you feed them"

I stood up "Are you muslimah?"

She looked at herself from top to bottom and eyeball on me in the most condescending way. If those gestures were words, it could be "As you can see it, cockroach"

I didn't shrink.

"Why don't you go to your imam and ask him to read you a story from Al-Bukhari, and both of you can discuss about how a human being should treat other lives kindly"

Her next eyeballs said "whaaat!" but she turned away and left, mumbling about how cats should be on the street and people feed them.

I went back squatting, petting the little tuxedo, trying to put all my love and wholehearted prayers into each stroke. My house is full and I cannot take her home. I don't have money and I probably will have to close down at the end of the week.

I prayed that God sent others to help, but God is too poor to grant wishes lately.

I asked God what they did wrong that they have to live that way. I asked God why did He loves human so much He would spoil them rotten and have other creation destroyed in the most gruesome and degrading manners. I asked God if He didn't create all of these animals with the same love that He used to create us.

But God is too busy to answer lately.

I packed up and leave. Maybe what is left in the bag will be the last good food that I can provide my charge with.

At home from work, sixteen hours later, I passed the same street, and I saw the tuxedo still there. She curled up sleeping in front of a shop and gigantic people's feet walking past or over her. Dust and sand powdered her already dull coat. She is there, but she does not exist.

I squatted by her and I touch her. How delicate, how sweet. When I rub under her chin, she stretched out, still sleeping.

I woke her up. I woke her up and whispered an apology and I took her home.

She followed me everywhere, as much as her power allowed; and she would sit there looking sad and lonely every time I disappear behind a door. She didn't want to eat, she drink only a little, and she kept following me.

I cleaned her up, I gave her everything I have. The last egg, the last cup of broth, the last bit of luxury that left, though it won't pay back what suffering she had to endure even if her life is still young. I can probably only give her that much, for one or two days, until the weekend, when my account is all zeroes, but Cinderella was dust and ashes for her whole life and have one good party; then she lives happily ever after.

I found her sitting in front of my room on the mat, looking sad and forlorn at night, when others are sleeping. I had left her there hoping she would mingle with the others.

She looked at me and walked in, weakly. I let her slip in and I let her climb the linen and curls up on the bed.

I read book and files for the next court hearing on our village head vs. our community garden, to which I am one of the key witness, and she climbed on my lap and sleep.

For the first time since we first met, I saw her at peace.

I fell asleep a little bit past midnight and when I wake up at the next 3 am she was gone.

She was dust and ashes for her whole life, and she has one good party.

And then she went home at midnight.

Now she lives happily ever after.

~ Josie

Smart

I need an inhaler, and I need it fast.
I caught running nose from someone in the community garden last week and it lingers. Then the runny nose turned into sticky mucus and I can't breathe, and I lost my inhaler (turned out it's in my pocket and I washed it. Smart).

It's excruciating. I can't sleep, I can't work, I can't even walk long enough without catching a deep breath and I can't think of one damned thing to post over blog or facebook.

I put my broom down and go out to get a new inhaler before I grab some knife and pry my nose open.

An ojek stuck his (index) finger out and I tag him. I told him about the pharmacy downhill and what I need like a blow fish out of air and we took off.

He cut the road go through a tiny alley just enough for two person walking tightly side by side, and half of that tiny alley were covered with newly cut trees and heaps of leaves. Smart.

My ojek driver grumbles. I know it will be swearing if he didn't have me riding on the back.

But some people (e.g. who cut some tree haphazardly and pile rubbish up in the middle of the way) are just plain idiot.

Midway in our attempt to squeeze through the pile, I told the driver to stop.

Driver asked, but I did not answer. I jumped down the motorcycle, into the pile of trash, almost tumble on some wayward trunk, and pick up a teeny weeny baby kitty sitting on a mango leaf just a few inches away from the tire.

This time, driver swore openly.

"People should throw the cat to the market! #@%*&$^%!!!"

My nose was too annoying and I want to save my breath so I just put the kitten into my bag and we moved on.

With inhaler at hand and some air in my lung, my brain cleared.

It's 4 pm and haven't eat since the morning, and so is the baby, who was hugging my purse and all the money. Smart kitty (it's not sarcasm).

DSC_0049 (4).JPG

It's obvious we both need something warm, and a low mein stall in a small food court half an hour down the way with local transport popped into mind. Smart.

Unlike Starbucks, where people mind their own business, a food court in Bandung is where people mind each other business. I placed my order and sit in a corner behind a big pillar so people can't see I book a table for two.

I managed to steal some (of my own) money from the purse while the kitten is asleep, and put it in my pocket. Smart.

But then the Low Mein came with tasty smell and baby perked up.

I took some of the slimy broth and blow air to cool it off before offering it up to the baby; asking it to quiet down.

Baby lick it off, it quieted down.

Phew.

A few tablespoon and he's back asleep. This time, with full tummy and warm body.

I looked at the low mein.

All the week I have been trying to blow slimy sticky mucus away from my nose and now I am eating some.

But I am hungry; and I am cold.

When I am back home, baby jumped out of my bag and I put him down with Chu, Kyu, Myu-sketeers.

The now healthy threesome sniffs on their new friend, and guide them to the whiskas pillow they called bed.

New baby cuddled up and sleep again. Smart.

Meanwhile, I throw the whole bag including the purse and the money into the washer. It stinks so bad I don't need inhaler.

At night when everyone is asleep, I iron all the bank notes to dry. Then no one will complain that (my) money stinks.

Smart.

~ Josie

That's Chu looking at the camera. The new baby is the smallest one with white and yellow markings

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Next In Life

Though life goes on at The Whiskers' Syndicate, it's not quite the same. There was that blank spot from Donna, and then there's another spot from Hero, both spots quite close.

If anyone express it the best, perhaps, it's Cheza. Since she went home with us, Donna had been her surrogate mother; the figure that is always there. For a while she settled down to a new home, a new family, learning a new love, moving on a new life.

Just because her smallness wasn't quite ready for another burden, Hero was there when Donna departed. She is not really a mother figure, but a sibling she can roll with, sleep with, play with, eat with. Someone she would expect to wake up to, someone she would rush to see after wandering around the house and got back "home" to the small bed that was practically her world.

When Hero never came home, she sat there, on the blank spot, waiting. And waiting, and asking and waiting, and looking around.

I feel her. I feel the same.

It takes a little bit of more effort to keep the balance when a part of you were missing. Such as, focusing where you are walking to, watching where you are going, knowing what you eat, and where did the last time you put down your house keys. Even if you automatically hang it by the door you might end up put it somewhere completely different, for example, in the fridge.

To prevent myself becoming a roadkill because I wasn't paying attention when I cross the road, or bumped into a moving car because I strayed too far to the center of the street, I took motorbike taxi. So it's not about seven kilos of Tuna getting heavy.

A guy next in line came over and asked me where I want to go; the other was watching my legs. I was wearing knee length bermuda shorts but I am sure it wasn't because I look sexy.

I ignore some tickling pricks on my ankles because I am sure it's just me.

When he was about to start his motorcycle, he swiped below her vehicle with his leg. "Huss! Huss!"

What did he try to shoo? Dust?

And then he pointed at my foot, and a small child, five or six years old, came over and swiped a tiny cat, busy using my ankles as scratching board.

Another child swiped another kitten away from the other side of the wheel.

"Oh, kitty" My face must have been changed a lot, because everyone seemed to notice.

"You like cat?" driver asked, "We have three here, our kids' been trying to take care of them because they keep crying"

"Don't they have mother? It seemed like they are well cared for" I doubted.

"They had, mom gone two days ago and they're crying for food. We bought fish and had the kids feed them"

"They are doing a good job" I smiled

"But they are only here because it's Sunday, and their moms're at work and we too have to drive. When we're off, they are going with us and the cats' can't come"

"They can't stay in the taxi pool forever", he said, "At least they can't stay at that age"

While he was talking, more kids are joining the others, so we have a bunch of spectators.

"All right" I think, some part of my autopilot doesn't need re-programming.

One girl, the eldest among the crowd, stepped forward and hand the kitten over. She looked just like Jim Bridges, our blind cat.

I took the crying kitten and as soon as I carry her in my arms, she fell silent. A boy came forward and hand over his kitten. It looks just like a tiny version of our Blossom.

"Where's the other one? Kitten is going home!" the driver shouted. He mounted his bike when we had a little handing over ceremony.

The youngest of the crowd came squeezing through the spectators and handed over a yellow tuxedo.

When I turned around another driver, next in line, said "What about me? are you going to get me home with you?"

There's a humor with sexual indecency innuendo.

I looked at him with three furballs cuddling between my breasts, and replied "Come on, just as long as you sleep in a small cage, no clothing, food twice a day, raw chicken. No bath, you lick yourself clean, and you defecate in a box of sand"

The rest of the pool laughed out loud. Children don't understand so they just looked on.

There's a humor with factual innuendo.

I mounted the motorbike, and suddenly one of the kids shed tears.

"Bye meng", he waved his little hands.
Meng is how locals traditionally called cat, so instead of "kitty kitty kitty" they called "meng meng meng" and cats usually come.

The girl waved her hands too "Bye meng"

And then the whole chorus "Bye.... bye meng, bye mam... be good meng...."

I went in a drunkard and left a celebrity.

But I am happy.

Both the kittens and the children are the next in line toward the future. They are the children of small people. They are the next in life that carries both the blessing and the curse of the world, whichever they grow toward.

They are gone only for few days, but Donna and Hero had delivered the next in life into my hand.

Still I am happier for the kids. If once in a while they can show compassion toward the unfortunate, then the next (everything) in life is probably in a good hand.

~ Josie

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