A short story by Pavle Radonic
Oh dear! Dear Lord. Caught unaware and completely by surprise . . . A honk, squawk, a bath-time rubber-duckie Beep-Beep. Old worn fog-horn sounding from distant seas in another place and time. Trumpet of a kid’s bicycle with training wheels coming on slowly behind . . . (Some of the cyclists and electric bike-riders here have tted out their chariots with sound-systems using high- grade batteries. One of the karung guni cardboard and aluminum fossickers coming through Carpmael from the Haig Road blocks early morning is a devotee of Chiang Kai-shek era Lounge numbers, big busty voice over the top of the swelling orchestra. With the weight of his old iron horse and cart behind the chap pushes slowly past outside the window like an aural fast- blooming sea of daffodils.) This Saturday morning back a half dozen rows at the Sri Geylang tables the Deaf wanting to announce himself. A little courtesy Howdedoo partner? Mornin’ to you . . . Kind of Michael Jackson/bicycle cut-off glove on the leading hand; raised thumb and pinkie bull-horns the common sign here; in proximity little thumb-rubs.
– . . . Ooh. Mornin’ man! Indeed. Pagi, pagi. Mornin’. Good wide smile, horns rocked lightly, rub-a-dub-dub . . . A year ago it was the Deaf who had taught that greeting.
Chin biz class here getcha in the craw yeah yeah, bad. Too true. Serbs and Montenegrins worse of course. Disgusting. Puke. Maybe more for wog-boys brought up in a particular way. But, no, the biz $$$ shit just stinks so bad. You should see it here if yr a footslogger and a car wants ta cross when yr in the fucking way you loser! BLAR BLAR on the horn. Watchout if ya know what’s good for ya! One Merc MaxiMover few weeks back cutting off the toes in his turn got a bang on the side of his van. Pulls up. Ya touch my car! Why you touch? . . . This pedestrian crossing? . . . Well you got me there Fuckhead. There’s no zebra lines. OK. Sorry. I shoulda jumped back on the pavement immediately when I heard yr chariot. Only. Didn know I was in yr way. Guy a trifle diffident cos he wasn’t facing a black Bangla or Indian boy like he thought footslogging in the Geylang night. This was a white guy, tall and in shape. Better not slap him, you never know. Cameras everywhere in Sing’ too. Biz shirt, shiny lace-ups, took off the tie between corporate jobs. He can get his Grannie or sister down from the at if any high-roller wants their cock sucked by the way, no trouble. Aircon freeze coming outta the door; in a hurry, but teach this smart-arse a lesson. Meritocracy off the dial here. Shit I’m really sorry, sir. Maybe we better take a look see there’s no dint. Didna see it was a Merc. Must be $250k you stretched on that . . . Rushing between jobs, gotta get it vacuumed for the next run to the airport . . . Wan me to do that for you? I don’t mind. Don’t have a mop and pail but maybe I could lick it clean. Dry in a jiffy . . . . Maybe I fuck you in the arse first but, hey. We won’t worry bout lube, go easy . . . Hadta look out the last few kilometers he didn’t round back with a couple heavies picked up from the brothels. Right-turners you see ahead, can’t get bush-wacked. But when they come up behind for the left wits about you. They shoot the Fuckers in the Mainland, or usedta in the good ol’ days.
NB. In a recent mail a friend in Melbourne had mentioned some regrettable Beamer motoring Downunder in the new socio-politico climate.
Abdul must have noticed the trouble from behind his counter. There he was suddenly on the upper path outside the shop with the bird firmly clasped in hand – side-ways sliding smile when he realized he was being observed. Holding the bird, a gray and white pigeon, securely with the wings folded a supermarket sticker came away easily. It had covered a portion of the wing it seemed, making ight impossible. That must have been what had drawn Abdul’s attention. At closer quarters however more trouble had become apparent – turned belly-up, bright yellow twine could be seen wrapped around a claw. The pigeon had landed in some kind of refuse pile and got more than it bargained for. Poor birdie. Luckily Abdul Majid to the rescue. Good spotting. With the left hand holding the bird Abdul carefully picked at the string line with his right, picked and picked as if he were separating grit from seed (fennel perhaps). Unbidden, seeing the difficulty, Abou came out to help. Abdul remained in his place while now Abou used both hands to delicately work the knots. Abou managed better, drawing up short lengths of the brightly coloured line, making some progress. Picking. It wasn’t easy; it was a proper mess. More lengths of the yellow line shed up. There must have been near a dozen windings involved, a metre or more of twine. The bird had panicked in its entanglement and flapped and flapped; perhaps that was how the sticker. Abou wasn’t faring so well; this was proving a bigger job than expected. Almost instantaneously both together the men reached the conclusion it was no good like that. Over to the utility corner Abdul head- nodded, Abou already half-inclined in that direction. There would be a knife there.
Indian-Malaysian grandsons of indentured labourers brought over from Tamil lands to the rubber plantations, the tin mines and rail-lines. Abou’s wife and kids live in JB an hour away; Abdul’s three hours in Malacca. Twelve hour shifts seven days a week and one day off a month for around thirteen hundred dollars. (Overtime added some more.) Abou has about fifty words of English; a good deal more Mr. Malacca, Abdul. Good guys, good buddies. The solidarity of toilers that must have been the same as that of their forebears in the earlier days here. The kind of scene that each day brings in this community and gladdens the heart with a certain sufficiency.
Geylang Road Singapore 2013 – 14
The provocations and surprising pleasures in a back corner of Singapore – the Malay quarter of Geylang Serai – provided an unexpected boost for Pavle Radonic’s writing. Pavle’s work has appeared in a range of Australian literary journals and more recently those of the South-east Asian region.
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