ATONEMENT

The full, correct statement should be: “I woke up early and start working on my studio. When it was seventy percent done, I went out, hang the lock to the door and to the bathroom. When I came out, someone (cat) had opened the lock and broke into my studio; and everyone were there and everything were (back) on the floor. It was Thelma. (She is my three legged cat) I can’t be angry at her, besides, if it is Thelma (only) she usually will just lay around to sleep. Others like Kinta will pee or poo on everything”

It is easy writing that piece while I took time and am sitting in front of computer, typing slowly.

However, I was already in a half dead mall at ten in the morning, after two hours drive criss crossing the horrible Sunday traffic with motorcycle. An acquaintance had extended an invitation to attend an Aquascaping contest in which he participated. I have always admired his way of raising his aquatic community, fish and plant, and how he patiently, like a father, raised his aquatic ferns. Aquatic ferns is one of the most challenging plants to grow. They require very specific nutrition that will not go with other plants, specific range of CO2 and liquid gases, specific strength and density of light. And his ferns are soft and beautiful in every curves, deep green, almost transparent. Like lace.

I wouldn’t have gone through all the horrible traffic and morning drizzle if it is just for my fancy on aquatic ferns. Recently an aquarium staff approached me when I was purchasing shrimp food and fish vitamins to ask if I know how to help freshwater crabs.

Freshwater crabs, with their most beautiful varieties naturally inhabit Indonesia’s lake sides and virgin waters as well as rain forests, are famous for their adorable habit. The males will wave their pincers at you. Slowly, like someone saying hi, or good bye. Sometimes, they will be found (when no one is looking) to scratch their chests with the tip of their pincers like Gorillas or Chimpanzees often scratch theirs, or wipe the nape of their scissors over their eyes, like cats.

The staff aforementioned asked if I know why his crabs won’t eat, even after I suggested that he has been feeding them coconuts, while freshwater crab lives away from the ocean. He has been giving them shrimp pellets and algae wafers, which should be OK, but they won’t eat.

Those are my E = m+c2 that got me out of the house and to the edge of town, literally. Another three hundred meters I won’t even be in Bandung.

The contest was held there because that mall is dying so it’s cheap, and since it’s dying there will be empty halls that people can use to put all sort of driftwood, rocks, fishes, sands, pots after pots of plants in huge buckets. Air pumps, hose, and many bunch of people with their sacks and backpacks from other part of the country staying overnight for the prize.

There must be someone between those contestants who lives where freshwater crabs are abundant. I don’t mind inviting a stranger over lunch if it would mean saving a box full of stranded freshwater crabs that will not survive their journey home unless someone lend them pincers, or fingers in that matter.

What I found aside from the whole bunch of strained and tense hall is smoke. Although aquascaping is practically gardening in a fish tank and involved patience, sense of art and attention to detail, it is a male world, which is why everyone I know online in that area called me “bro” until they see me. Josie can be male name or female name, so proximity fills in the blanks.

In weaving through all sort of cigarette smoking men, of all sort of brand, all sort of quality, all bad sort of smog, while trying to find some corner with fresh air so I will not suffocate, I chatted with a friend across the ocean.

And when I was typing up to “…It was Thelma, I cannot be angry at her” I bumped on someone, took two steps back to apologize, and inadvertently stepped on someone else’s plastic cup of coffee.

I looked left and right before I took my next move toward an empty spot just enough for one person, face two guys and extend my formal apologies.

It took just a few minutes, but by then my friend responded to the unfinished statement “So there is silver lining”

Where is the silver lining in the event when the cats broke into the studio and tore down whatever arrangement that I have to do it all over again?

The friend was angry.

I didn’t know what was going on but I start to cough (can’t stand cigarette smoke, I will bark like a rabid dog) while she keeps on jetting angry statements so I ran away to lower floor.

I always follow my hunch. So I apologize. Sincerely. I must have been stepping on her toes somewhere, somehow, but where and how don’t matter.

When her anger subsided she asked if I wanted to see her stuffs.

I told her I would rather learn about her difficulties and help if I can.

She told me someone said they will help her with her plan but never showed up, someone said something and do the other way, someone said they will come but they changed their mind. Someone asked stupid question while they could have read it themselves in the TOC.

When we were finally done, so was the contest. Everyone went home. At long last I didn’t get to meet my acquaintance and I didn’t get to meet someone who can help freshwater crabs.

I walked down the stairs all the way to the lobby and found out that it rains. It’s two in the afternoon and I haven’t even got started with my daily chores. So I paid for a taxi, even though it will cost the world and an arm riding through the rain, the compounding water (that area is famous for flood due to excessive conversion of farmlands into residential complexes), all the way across town.

I bought my supplies, I went through another rain, I had the cat food delivered, I cleaned the house halfway, then I went to the colony, and then sent order out and got stuck in long queue while one of the staff in the logistics blasted hard rock metal from his computer. “It is 10:15 at night so I turned the music and won’t be sleepy” The logistics office open 24 hrs.

I tried to hold my head from banging and my blood from boiling and shooting all the way to the roof. After all, whatever they called “song” had nothing but banging drum, screeching guitar without any melody and someone screaming the F word all over and grumbles what must be the language of Jupiter the other time.

When it’s my turn I asked the officer who handled me to ask his friend to turn the music down a little bit so I can hear what he said, but the officer said that I don’t like the music and ask his co worker to turn it down and change it.

I must have somehow woke up with two left foot and a tongue speaking Valyrian today.

I dealt with it because it’s almost midnight and I want to go home soon so I paid and walked out while hailing online ride.

When my driver came, he let me in his car and said “Oh, your address is near bus terminal! I am afraid to go there. That area must be not save. I just don’t understand why anyone would live there at all, and much less drive someone there. I cannot drive you, please go out, I will cancel the ride”

I stepped out of the car, he zoomed away without cancelling the ride, and my friend from earlier chatted “Are you home?”

Do I really want to reply, with all the long story?

I called another ride, and while waiting, my vet called. “Josie are you all right? I have been waiting in front of your house for an hour with Mama Ginger. She is all right though, fluid is less”

I told her what happened and that I am still stranded in the middle of town with no one around waiting transport home and if she would prefer to go home and I will pay to pick Mama Ginger tomorrow, which come in thirty minutes. She said she will wait and if anything to just call her and she will call police, if she has to.

I got home at 12:30 am. Got mama Ginger and went inside.

Cats dinner is late for six hours, while cats are known to be mad if their meal is late by six seconds. For that, the lazy slave had to be punished.

They peed inside the food bowl. Poop inside water bucket. Carriers were pushed away from the shelves and scattered on the floor. Litter boxes turned upside down and sand is all over the place.

They tried to tug my laundry off the rack but when they cannot beat the clothespin, cats brought the whole drying line down and step all over it, pee on my clothes, pooped on freshly washed linen, barfed hairball on my bra, drag my panties to the sewer line.

Someone sprayed into the fish tank and twelve fishes, twenty shrimps, four plants died. Child lock on the cabinet door was chewed to bits and Chubby face was digging the light bulbs out. All the vitamins, treats, supplies, dehumidifier flew out of the other door as I tried to walk through all the catastrophe.

I always follow my hunch, so I stayed quiet, take a breath, and start cleaning.
When I get into one corner of the house, the opposite corner that are already cleaned will have three piles of poop fresh off the bowel.

I took my breath and go back and repeat my punishment. All the while the cats are looking at me from their high perches on the shelves.

I finished at six the next morning.
I read how my friend was very successful and everyone mounted praises on her and how I should be very proud of her.

I do, I just haven’t got a proper chance to word it correctly without sounding like a Martian and stepping on toes or cups of coffee.

I posted on facebook next and everyone seems to love it. So I walked out and start a new day. A young supporter of The Whiskers’ Syndicate, the same angel in the making who told me about Tiger chatted me.

He said he was at work and just a while ago his mother called him while crying. She said the street cat who usually feed from their cat’s bowl at home gave birth to three kittens, but all died. The mother cat is bleeding and running in circles and tried to deliver but failed.

I told him I will come, but I have to get the orders out first. I asked him to keep the cat in a box or somewhere so she cannot run around, and I will be there as soon as I can.

I shipped out my order, in the middle of four men giggling and whispering in Sundanese of a customer so arrogant she can’t stand hard rock metal and would prefer Mozart. I replied to one of their most degrading jokes in a traditional, high level Sundanese that only member of royals spoke in ancient West Java, and at long last, after three hours queue, they put their head down and pretend to work.

I hailed online motorcycle to go see the cat my young friend was talking about, but he hasn’t got home when I arrived. I didn’t blame him. The road to his house is permanently jammed. It is no wider than the road in front of my house, but it has more upscale apartments and hotel building than all others in town combined.

I asked my friend’s younger brother for his mother, but he said mother was out. He went in to get elder brother. Elder brother knows nothing about cats, and he is smoking on my face. Both came inside and grandpa went out. All in one point or another asked to come in, but it is impolite for a stranger to go in so I follow the tradition, refused politely, and wait outside.

Under the rain.

Not very long I heard a cat meowing and everyone else mumbling. To make the story short, grandpa came with a plastic rice sack, elder brother grab the cat, get the cat into the sack, put the sack in a drinking water box, and have the little brother taped it shut.

I took the meowing box and walked out of the alley to get myself some taxi, under the drizzle, while texting my traveling vet.

My friend from across the ocean chatted again, and I didn’t know how to write everything down in one go.

While waiting for the taxi to come, a woman came by my side, “Aren’t you my son’s friend?”

Next to her is a man I have never seen before, but probably related to the lady since they are together.

I told her I got the cat and that I was on my way to get her to the vet.

“I will pay for the taxi” she said, “I will also pay for the surgery, please help the cat”

The man she was with opened his laptop bag and pulled out a few bank notes. “This is for the taxi, if the surgery bill came out, just tell us, we will give more”

I think he must be my young friend’s dad.

I thanked them sincerely, and went on my way when the taxi came.

I got the cat out of the box as soon as I get home, transfer her to a more comfortable basket, and went flying out for the colony. I am late.

There were only Fergus and the old man. Fuuta came, but he won’t eat. Shota has been missing for a week by then and since the two brothers are always together, Fuuta was deeply stressed. I tried my best and give him everything from science diet a/d to royal canin recovery to gindara steak, and he finally eat a little. He still won’t let me carry him, but he let me pet him. I told him Shota is going to be OK, and that he has friends. I told him that being alone is hard, but being alone means he can always stand on his own feet like a street cat and their ancestors. They are the kings of the jungle and they are kings that nobody can deny forever.

I waited until he finished eating and went away, tail hung low, sitting by the street, waiting for his lost brother who never would have left without him.

I hailed another online ride, and the one who responded was the same driver who kicked me out his car the other day.

I slammed the door shut on his face before he finished his preaching about living near a bus terminal, took a picture of his car, a screen capture of the booking, and he is all over twitter even before he zoomed off.

A direct message I received from the operator a few hours later stated that he was suspended immediately.

The one who pick up my order next drove me once.

“Good night Miss Josie, you are traveling alone at night, like usual?”

I recognize him and said hello despite my blood pressure.

We talked around while he drove me, and ended up discussing various types of textiles and how the fiber was processed. It was fun and enriching, scientific discussion.

I went out of his car giving huge tips and a gratitude, and walked down home with Sierra who never failed to wait for me on the rock by the corner of the street.

My vet came not long after and I handed over the cat to her.

The cat, if I had the conversation between the family member then, is the mother of Tiger, little yellow kitten who got crushed by car and live on the street dragging his hind legs.

She has three more babies inside, died out of strangulation due to the mixed up everything, and was brewing infection with all the water mixing up and seeping into her body. My vet said it is very good that she was found early otherwise she will die septic.

And I walked into the house, the cat dinner is three hours late.

And for being late the slave had to be punished.

I always follow my hunch. So I stayed quiet, took my breath, and start my redemption.

Between the freshwater crabs, the fish and the shrimp, at least one cat get out of the mess alive.

I finished at four the next morning because the cats are being merciful, and I am only late for four hours instead of six, which is beyond outrageous.

I slipped into my messed up studio and sit behind the door. I reach out to a white box that found its way to me all the way from United States of America. I dug into a black bag with colorful picture of laughing and smiling children.

I found a bar of chocolate, gift from my mom.

I opened the wrapping and took a bite. My first food in two days.

Between the sin of being a woman, the sin of living near a bus terminal, the sin of having weak ears that cannot penetrate the scream of blown out speaker, the sin of being someone of different race and ethnicity than the majority, the sin of weak brain that cannot digest the art of hard rock metal, the sin of being animal rescuer who walked and hop between one garbage to another with cans of animal food.

Between the sin of being someone who went ahead of her peers and believe in her dreams, between the sin of being a cat slave who came home six hours late.

At least I get through this day alive.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

PS.

1. Although the family of my young friend decided to adopt the mother cat, they are not rich, so I would be truly grateful if contribution can be made to help purchasing the medicine and good food to help the mother cat alive well into the beginning of her better life.

2. I am extending my apologies for the very long story.

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