There is this elderly woman with handicap who lives across from my house. She became a widow more or less two years ago, and has no income since her husband was an informal worker. She lives in a half done small hut? cabin? I don’t know what to call it. It’s too good to be a hut but not a cabin either. She used to open some gawker’s stall selling traditional snack and coffee.

I used to hate her. I hate her because she has an incurable, beyond belief, running mouth. Two days after I moved to this house, people as far as the other side of the mountain and everywhere in between, knows who my name is, where I work, where did I come from, where did I move from, what I do and many details. FBI would have been able to track me in their sleep.

The catch: all of those information are lies. People here like to ask such questions to anyone due to the familiarity cultures of the country, but since such information are often used to cheat on me by locals, I have learned, over the three years that I move from boarding to rentals, whom to tell the truth, and fake my identity with a smile of an angel, just like what they do to me all the time.

Still it shocked me how she can be so friendly call every passer by and seems to know them personally, invite them to sit for a coffee and some snack by her humble stall, and of course, stir fry the latest information. I stay on her billboard chart for quite some times since I am abnormal. I have flexible schedule, I eat only vegetables, I am kind to everyone, and I collect cats off the street. Especially because I collect cats, and other animals, off the street.

I hated her because she sent all sort of merchants to the knock on my door offering things; All. Day. Long. From potatoes to potato chips, plants, cleaning service, fruits, vegs, cats, dogs, birds, live fish (they kill it in front of you to make it fresh), eels, painters, builders, cat food, litter, kebabs, ramen, carpenter, sofa maker – you name it, she sent them.

At first she is very proud of it; until over the years people in the slum or everywhere learn about that peculiarly interesting fact and dump all sort of animals on my front yard. Since I can’t possibly contain all, I keep the sickest and the weakest and the youngest and the oldest, and release everyone else back after neutering; a good number of them come back from time to time, just to hang around or get something to eat.

By then it’s too late for her that her running mouth has had a bad effect. The cats lounged everywhere, including her stall, and some people don’t like animals in the vicinity of an eating place; but she has little education (if any) and brain made of stone. She starts to tell people that it’s not a good idea to dump animals down by my house but of course, locals here, exactly like her, won’t listen.

This woman has an only daughter The daughter is married and the son in law is a local thug with a limp on the left leg. They have two sons, both are attached to their dad and learn the thuggish way of life. That’s just how the evil circle works, for generations and generations.

Like all thugs, the son in law has no qualms about extorting money, including from his elderly, dirt poor mother in law. He dare not touch me because I am in the eye of another gang’s leader (for romance) while I am playing the kite game: staying in touch, be nice, smile a lot, but keep the distance as far as possible.

Her eldest grandson is favorite, and the eldest son thinks, like many other thug papa’s son, he owns the world and no one stands in his way. Until he had skirmishes with me for one reason or the other, some involving animal abuse.

When her husband passed away, literally dropping dead in his work, and she got the news through the phone, and scream and cry, while I was gardening, so I know what happened.

I called my neighbors, and all three of us who reside across from her house, put in money to help with the funeral, with the ceremony, all while her son in law was giggling and laughing with his friends outside the house.

Since then, sometimes the woman lives, sometimes she doesn’t. At times, when she can’t bare life with her only entertainment (an old TV), she would sob. At the breaking point, she called me as I left for work, and cried on my shoulder. There was all loneliness and pitiful desperation when she told me her daughter she doted upon did not return her favor; the son in law does not care, and how sorry she was that sometimes she did nothing when her grandsons especially the eldest, did something to me just because she was afraid that they will stop visiting her, although even then, they come just to get good food from her table and be gone.

Those are the foods I bought her, and the food my neighbors cook her. We are middle class, we eat better food, so we give her better food than she ever afford because we are sharing what we eat with her.

When I got a little extra, I bought her sachet coffee, various types, various brands. I bought her instant ramen, I bought her cup noodles, and dish soap in small packets, and cooking oil, sugar, rice (staple food in this island), for her to sell and live by.  She said she will pay me back, but she never did. She told me she uses all the profit to buy a little more, soy sauce, detergents, and I consented that she just focus on living her life the best she could (rather than focusing on running her mouth on me). She came to be fond of Hanshin, who sat across from her and do his own business: grooming, rolling on the ground, endearing himself to my neighbor’s children, and stealing the heart of people around who likes cats. He is a goodwill ambassador in my effort to convince people that stray animals are no different than those in their homes, if they give these strays a chance and just leave them alone. She also came to learn that Sierra will come when she is called, it’s just that the woman never get around to learning to pronouncing “Sierra” properly. It’s difficult in the local tongue. She always ended up with “Sera” and of course my pretty cat won’t come, unless I told her to come over and let the old lady pet her.

Last year when I was hospitalized for Dengue and Typhoid, her grandson got married. I remembered because they got married on my birthday, but since I was hospitalized, I didn’t come. Besides, I know they invited me for my money. It’s new and growing customary that money be given as gift instead of things.

Somewhere a few months ago, the daughter and son in law went into her house, and then I heard her cry. She is always loud. I can hear her even from the furthest point in the cattery at the back of my house.

And then, the son in law have people cut her house in half, literally, and build a much better house. Her running mouth has it that the grandson wanted to stay near his parents and since the land here is getting expensive, they came to her and asked for their inheritance, and since the woman has nothing else, they cut their share from her house.

The son in law and the grandson still stay out of my way, mainly by the strict order of the daughter, because I practically pay for the grandma’s expenses most of the time. If I can’t pay it alone, I always am the one who organized my neighbor and put money to help her pay her overflowing medical bill and all. Everyone else who tried to harass me was told off, on the base that a complete stranger, a Chinese, that they have so much social jealousy on (it’s their own fault to be lazy. No free lunch, yo), would help a complete jerk.

I am sincere in helping her. I do feel sorry for her, and as the one with high education I understand the situation better, however, my God approved that I be sincere like a dove and slicky like snake, so…

After few months, half of the house are done, and the grandson and his wife moved in and opened a secondhand cellphone counter there. Their house has good wall, painted and tiled, the grandma’s house is still the same as it was. Just bare brick and mortar and concrete floor.

The rules are the same: They are nice to me, I am nice to them.

Once the dad in law (the wife’s dad) came to stay with them and he likes to stare at me with indecent look. I ignored him, then tell him to stop. He challenged me, I throw a bucket of litter box water on his face. I understand his wife is ugly and older, though richer (now we know why he married her), but some people need to learn things in the hard way.

There was a family meeting all of a sudden. The rules are still the same. They are nice to me, I am nice to them. In Islam male can do anything they like and woman got punished (there is no such thing but some of the rural muslim here still think like that). I am not Islam and if they try to impose their Islamic bullshit on me, the dad will get a punch in the eye and potentially started a gangland war. I am still in the eye of the other gang boss. His choice.

Dad in law removed from the house. I live in peace, they live in peace.

Come Christmas eve, the grandson has friend coming over his small shop and the dad in law is coming back over. I got home from double shift work and found a little kitten dumped in front of the house. No box, no basket, nothing. Put the thing there and be gone.

The kitten was trying to follow the friend and was ignored. When kitten was pushed aside, I let it slip. Then kitten tried to follow grandson. Kitten also got ignored.

Kitten tried to follow dad in law, kitten doused with water.

I have been holding myself because the kitten is across the street on their premises. I tried luring the kitten with food, which works slowly,  because kittens don’t always know what to do in such a situation. Their mothers should decide for them, but there was no mother.

But when the dad in law threw a bowl of water, he broke the peace treaty. I walked right up to his face, but I was talking to the grandson. Firm, calm, almost growling.

I am sorry I am growling, but I can barely contain my anger after a long, tiring Christmas eve. I only do this because it’s Christmas eve.

“One: If you don’t put this rabid dog on a leash, I will, and I will have the other boss drag him all the way to the landfill by the market”

“Two, if anything like this abuse happens again, even just once, I will smash your precious cellphone counter and have you feel how it is like to have your life destroyed and you can’t help it. Maybe that will teach you how the animals feel when being abused out of nothing and was judged guilty by the sheer chance that they are alive”

“Three, somehow y’all need to learn this is 21st century. There is no such nonsense as men uber alles. If you can’t digest it, swallow it, and don’t poop it out until you get the idea. You think being persistently nasty would get me to lose, you are playing with the wrong fire. Never think I don’t know you still have your grandma share her food with you, so learn also that you are eating from MY hand instead of this daddy of yours”.

The shop was closed on Christmas, the daddy was transported back to his home and the kitten went home with me that night. She sat silently in my small backpack, and only perked up in the morning.

She follows me everywhere but not ignored. She ask for food and she got food and milk. She come to sleep on a fluffy fleece blanket, she rolls around like Heidi by the sides of the Alps. She got tired and fell asleep on my arm, which prevented me from posting on Facebook most of the day.

She has no tail, not even a stump. She has bad, smelly, runny diarrhea, she has tons and tons of fleas and ticks, she has parasites, and she is now curling inside the circle made with my hairband after she was tired of mauling it.

~ Josie

The Lost Christmas Eve (2004, 2013) is a title of an album produced by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It is part of a Christmas Trilogy album.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American rock band founded around 1993 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O’Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team.

I am not into rock music, Rock hurts me in the ear and I stayed away from it, but I did listen to the orchestra-rock band mixture when I translate for the publishing purposes of their album and ghost writing one of the reviews. Their rendering of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” is some sort of unusual but mesmerizing.

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Josie And The Whiskers' Syndicate

The first and only cat refuge in Bandung (West Java - Indonesia) a capital breeder of a nation without animal welfare law. We care for Bandung's unwanted animals, operate a TNR as much as our budget allows, and continue to educate people about compassion to animals


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