STROKES OF LIFE

And the raucous went on.

I didn’t pay too much attention to it; it’s most likely men harassing girls who then squeal and pretended to be insulted but not so, secretly enjoying the attention. It’s a regional sport. People said it’s harmless and that it will never be so serious.

Besides, there is this guy with his cart selling rice acting his bum out.

“I can’t understand it, she is a total weirdo. How come there is anyone in this world wandering around feeding and loving street cats? That’s totally insane!”

I didn’t care at first, it was in the middle of the market and all the noise drowned his speech, but the merchants around looked at him. Some didn’t do anything, some was trying to tell him to shut up by their eyeballs, some laughed, entertained by the idea.

“I AM talking about her!” He pointed at me. That was when I finally noticed. “She is a freakshow, She must be sick. How come there is this person in this world wandering around feeding and loving cats, so much so she spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands to buy fish for all of them! That’s insane! Doesn’t she have something to do?”

The barrage of insults got to me, but not by much. I am more stunned by his act. I know he pushes a cart around the market, back and forth selling rice (and home cooked dishes) but other than that we never really know each other and until then, we never even speak to each other.

The woman in the next stall laughed, but the guy cutting tuna by her stall stayed silent. He treated me like a small fry before, but he soon realize that although I buy only two hundred thousand Rupiah worth of tuna from him, the other bought like five thousand. When I stopped buying from him (because I have a better deal from my regular guy, who helps cats around with his tuna), he was forced to stop me on my path to apologize and ask me to buy his tuna again.

He learned his lesson. That day my tuna guy called me and said he can only provide half the tuna I want, because he needs to catch the train. His brother told him his mother had a stroke and is now in the ambulance on the way to hospital. Otherwise he wouldn’t get his second chance.

Just then the raucous noise started again, but this time it caught my attention. “Ohh, baby, you are pissed, kitty is naughty because it won’t play with you? hit kitty!”

Oh, yeah, bully in the making.

I turned around and saw a bunch of motorcycle riders (motorcycle taxi) and a crying toddler, apparently one of theirs. Toddler set to the ground, scrambled forward, try to hit kitty, failed miserably, and tumble to the ground. Toddler cry harder.

“Naughty kitty won’t stay put!”

“No, it was the earth at fault because it won’t balance him”

I know people around the world (yes, world) in the past would placate a kid by blaming tables, rock, whatever for standing on the way and hit it, but this is 21st century and I thought people stop the stupidity of old days.

The corner of my eyes caught the terrified kitten. In a blink I just grab the tuna I bought and drop it on its course, and it stopped, looked around for a few times, and bite.

Ten thousand times too young, but she is still about two or three months old.

I picked her up, put her in my bag, and sling the bag close across my chest.

The riders were busy with an angry toddler with no mother in sight, so they don’t bug me, but the rice seller did.

He started all over again with his “how come there is someone in this world wandering around feeding street cats and loving them” sort of thing.

I looked at him, “Hey, bencong, mind your own business” Bencong (pronounced ben-chong) is pop language to call a man with feminine behavior.

I wouldn’t have attacked him with that if he is a real transgender. I have quite a few transgender friends, although Islam curse LGBTQ and the country see them as threat and pest instead of human being, but it disgust me if someone identify themselves as male but act feminine for shows and for attention, cheap marketing, or making fun of someone else, especially the real trans.

All the way, the woman who sells crackers next to the tuna guy kept laughing. The tuna guy just stare blankly at him, hoping him to just shut up.

I gave the tuna guy his money, three hundred thousand Rupiah, and walked away calmly, but this SOB just keep yapping, pointing finger.

People are starting to feel awkward.

Dude just didn’t think I will go around to his cart, and was still busy with his impromptu show if the cracker woman hadn’t alert him on what other people already realize happening.

He caught up to me. I grab his chilli sauce bowl, and spray it on his yapping mouth.

“Here is to help you sing better”

That’s what slinging my bag for, it will withstand and keep the kitty inside and safe even if I have to personally fed dude with my sandals.

He must have woken up then. Indonesian, and especially Sundanese chili sauce, is pure chili pepper, salt, and vinegar.

He turned around and told people I was harassing him, but no one came to his aid. They know me. They know I am a woman; a no nonsense woman.

They know I always pay fair price when everyone else pay below. They know I will always help if someone ask me to buy their vegs because the day is not good for them and vegs just go rot.

They know I often slip extra money if I know they are selling below market price because their kids are sick, or they run out of milk.

The tuna guy spoke, at last, “Dude, get off my stall. She is a big patron, don’t get my money away from me, I have family to feed”

The rice seller retorted, in the middle of wiping his tears and mouth (which make things worse because he is spreading chili pepper all over). A rider came forward.

“Would you hire me? I’ll get you off this place, this is getting way out of hand”

I wanted to snap at him for joining the raucous about teaching a kid to beat a kitten, but I judge wisely, fortunately.

I handed over all my tuna, he put it on his basket, and the dude chased me, whatever he said with swollen lips.

Another rider and a woman on the other side who sells sprouts shoo him away. “Don’t create trouble here. Get off my stall, you are scaring my customers!”

“Riot elsewhere! We need to get a living”

We rode off straight home. Rider wanted to say something when I pay him, but he doubted. I stood by the door saying thank you.

He went out, I took off my bag, and let the little kitten out.

Then a knock on the fence, the rider.

“I know we were not supposed to be teaching little babies to be bully, but I guess we got carried away. Don’t hold it against us, we’ll know better. You have always been kind to us and see us as human even though we’re (socially) below you”

I thank him and smile again.

“Never mind the bencong. He is not one of us. We never buy from him. I think he will know how it feel to be humiliated for nothing out of the blue with that swollen lips and red eyes. That chilli serve him well”

I thank him again and smile once more.

By then the little kitten had run up to the front door and serve herself some fresh steamed tuna.

I caught up to her and pushed her inside the house; she growls as she ran with a strip of tuna, trying to get away from assaulting others.

Guess I’ll never know when the strokes of lightning would turn the course of the river.

~ Josie

paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate

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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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