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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 26 “倚天屠龙记 –The Story of Heavenly Sword & Dragon Sabre.”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

This story takes place about three thousand years ago in ancient China – the exact time doesn’t really matter – all you as the reader need to know is, if it wasn’t important to the main story, I wouldn’t even have bothered with this fairy tale.So make sure you read it carefully, because if you miss one small part, the next chapter would hardly make any sense.

The gangster world in China town like the rest of the Tongs* in the major cities of the world are all bound together by a common heritage.

Like the Freemasons or the Mickey Mouse club, each has their respective paraphernalia to make sense of who they are in relation to the world.

To the Mason, the divider and set square inversed represents the power of knowledge, to the Mickey Mouse member, the ubiquitous Mickey head gear represents all the magic associated with this rodent. And to a China town gangster, common cutlery such as chopsticks, teacups, plates and even a teapot forms all their elements of the so called universe, they all call the order of heaven and earth – for example, if a lower ranking gangster seeks an audience before an elder, he always assumes the seat to the East – similarly, even something as innocent as a the spout of the tea pot in the Tong world can be transformed into a diplomatic tool to obliquely insult or reprimand by simply directing it at a person on a table – an inverted tea cup is a declaration of the end of all hostilities – a cup filled to the brim and presented with two hands with the head lowered is a sign of redemption – a pair of chopstick placed in a crossed fashion, symbolizes a truce – a bowl broken filled with rice means one of us have to leave town – a chair placed side ways speaks of a fallen one whose spirit is greatly missed – a fish turned over before one side is finished implies abundance and it is needless to continue fighting – a teacup filled three times with one hand placed on the heart speaks of friendship – a meal that goes untouched says the reverse – and of course when only one chopstick is broken on the table and placed like a joss in a bowl of rice – it simply means the accounts have to be squared and someone on the table will have to die and neither heaven or earth can interfere with this divine order.

(Tongs: Cantonese reference to triads)

Do you now understand how complicated and mind boggling the Tong world is to a simple Singaporean boy who was once born and raised in Siglap!

Now you understand what I mean. Allow me Yu Huan Guan who was once a Singaporean gangster in London to share with you the yarn of:

倚天屠龙记

Many centuries ago there lived in the ancient capital of Xian a certain swordsman by the name of Yi Tian – Heavenly Sword who roamed the lands in search of a worthy opponent who he found in a warrior of equal standing by the name of Long Ji – Dragon Sabre.

Every year, these two warriors met beneath the falls to cross swords – and every year the result was the same, a draw, since both were equally skillful and strong in their swordsmanship – on one occasion during a duel, Heavenly sword pierced through Dragon Sabre’s armor wounding him, but just before he fell, Dragon Sabre’s sword pierced Heavenly Sword squarely breaching his armor – only for these two great warriors to fall from the sky (those days all swordsmen could fly as they had mastered the art of Hein Sian Lou (anti – gravity) – into a very deep pit.

In this pit, the fighting continued – by sun down after no victor or loser emerged – both men found themselves completely exhausted and tired, only to lean against each other –till a sort of conversation emerged – when Heavenly Sword mentioned how he had some magical tea leaves – if only he had some fire wood to make a brew – they would be able to leap out of this miserable pit and continue fighting to finish what they started off – to which Dragon sabre replied, he had arrows, which could be broken to make a fire – so after both warriors agreed that one should supply the tea leaves and the other the fire – both of these men prepared and drank the brew – hardly had they finished – they leapt out of the pit – realizing, their desire to fight each other had altogether diminished completely –because they were after all magical tea leafs one of them said, brewed with the pure flame of broken arrows.

So these two swordsmen made peace and embraced – and from time to time – when one came across the other in the mountains – both of them who were once bitter enemies, would sit together drinking tea made from the pure fire of broken arrows.

From time to time during those moments when they sat together recounting the past, each would say to other,

“Let neither heaven or earth come between what we have agreed upon.”

darkness 2002

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 25 “The Cigar Box. The Forger Once Gave Me.”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

Foreword from the author on this chapter:“This conversation takes place in the kitchen behind the magic bowl just after the lorry drivers have left. It’s dark, the lights have been deliberately switched off to give others the impression, the couple has turned in earlier than usual. Only the sound of Jeannie crying filters through the void.

It is the author’s opinion only words spoken by the characters are of any importance to the narrative. For this reason, there will be no description of the scenery, no comments about the lay out or what any of the characters are doing. And not a word about how Yu Huan Guan spilled cheap liquor on his pants that night.” Author pens out.

(The scene opens:)

Jeannie: “Now that you know who they are. You’re going to hunt those men who beat you up. Aren’t you? I heard it all.”

Huan Guan: “It’s got to be that way, there’s no other way.”

Jeannie: “The world is one big black hole to you isn’t it? It’s a just a game. I know how it’s going to be, you’re going to kill them and they are going to send someone to hunt us down. We’ve be right in the thick of it all again and every time we turn a corner or the door opens. We just…..just…..be like animals…scared….frightened………can’t you see, I can’t go on living like this.”

Huan Guan: “You don’t understand a thing about what I need to do, do you? I can’t even walk ten paces without the pavement turning into rubber, I can’t even see too well, because one side of my head is in pain all the time and it’s all because of those ******* and you expect me to just let it slide and walk away from it all?”

Jeannie: “Well you can go ahead and do what you want because I won’t be around when you return. I can’t go on living like this. I’ve given up everything to be with you and if you think, you can just lead your life the way you want without thinking about me. Then I am not going to have it, do you hear me? I am not going to have it!”

Huan Guan: “What else do you want from me. I have been working my ass off to get us a new identity so that we can immigrate to America! Isn’t that enough?”

Jeannie: “It’s is always all about you. You did this! You did that! But you never once considered what I really want. I want a place where we can live life on our own terms darling. That’s what I thought we’re working towards. A place, where those monsters would leave us alone, where no one knows us from Adam, where we could have a fresh start again.”

Huan Guan: “And for all that to happen I have to be willing to just let it all past! Well I don’t have that type of courage.”

Jeannie: “Yes! You think I had the courage when you once asked me to be strong for you. I am not like you. I have never ever seen that much violence before in my life not even on TV. But that night when I saw those men kick the living day out of you? I just said to myself, “Jeannie, you’re going to have to pick up the pieces after this, so just grow up and stop whining” – I was courageous for you then and I have never asked you for anything before, except to do the same of me……no for us this time, walk away from it all.

Huan Guan: “walk away?”

Jeannie: “Yes walk away my love. It takes courage darling….to walk away from it all.”

Huan Guan: “A place to live life on our own terms.”

Jeannie: “Yes, darling. Just a place where the only thing that really matters is you and me and all the cares of the world simply….I don’t know, disappears.”

Huan Guan: “Perhaps there will even be an open verandah in this “place” along with a white picket fence and a cherry tree by the side.”

Jeannie: “Yes and you could continue with your studies my love. We are young darling, too young to waste our life chasing down the ghost of the past. Let it go. Let is all go, you see it will be better my love.”

Huan Guan: “Perhaps you’re right Jeannie. I want so much to be an engineer, that’s all I really ever wanted all my life. I just want to be able to take care of you nice and proper.”

Jeannie: “You will darling. You’ve be a first class husband a top dog engineer, Just you see my love.”

Huan Guan: “You’re right. Jeannie. You know there is only one gun in the house and I am going to give it to you, here take it………. I said take it, it’s not going to bite. That way when I go up to Manchester or London from time to time, you know for certain, I wouldn’t be up to no good. I want you to have peace of mind Jeannie and if it means walking away, I’ve do it for you, so take it before I change my mind.”

Jeannie: “Only if you really want me too.”

Huan Guan: “Hide it somewhere and don’t tell me where you’ve hidden it. Only remember this, if you think, I am up to no good. I want you to check this hiding place and if it is still there, you know that I have kept my end of the bargain. I am going to walk away from all this because you are the most important person to me. I love you Jeannie.”

Jeannie: “I love you so much darling, I just love you to bits and you will see, it will be better after you’ve walked away. You’ve see. I promise.”
That evening when the wife of the quiet man turned in earlier than usual, he sat as he always did in the worn out chair chain smoking. By his tenth cigarette the man suddenly rose, walked to the kitchen, bent down and reached his hands underneath the sink. He struggled with something wedged firmly somewhere in the plumbing. Finally pulling out a cigar box, the same one the forger had slipped under his arms a few months ago with the words,

“You’re no use to be dead. Besides I am just protecting my investment.”

Placing the box on the kitchen table, the man stared at it. The longer he looked, the more he felt that the familiar sensation gnawing against him. Till he could hear a faint rattling sound like someone scratching on the lid of a coffin. And every time he turned away he sensed the scratching sound growing louder, every second heightening and sharpening the will to throw it away, yet knowing deep inside, it was simply impossible. Finally he opened the box.

Holding up the gun to the light his eyes began to fill with tears. That was the one that did him in, this was his kryptonite, the one that was too much to bear. Like an alcoholic who manages to stay dry for years only to finally succumb to his weakness that was the moment that said it all, the one that simply whispers mockingly with a sinister sneer.

“A leopard can never be expected to lose its spots. You can’t expect to run away from who you really are. Can you?”

Once the tears started, there was nothing he could do. Somewhere from the depths of his thoughts and memories, he could just make out the faint image of a stranger walking through the door in his minds eye, a solitary figure in a tailored suit with his hair slicked back wielding a gun standing all alone with his trade mark briefcase as if surveying the battle field on a high plateau beneath a godless sky. He closed his eyes in anguish. He tried push the stranger away and even summoned his promise to Jeannie, challenging the void behind every word, sentence and even recalling her expression, but it was useless. All he felt was an immense solitude. A quiet, desperate sadness which came from knowing the stranger who had strolled into his minds eye that evening was none other than the man all feared – the benefactor who carries the money for the four houses – a man who simply whispered the words.

“The accounts have to be squared.”

He lowered the gun, lifted his hands over his face, and began to sob.

darkness 2002

Posted in B'hood, Fiction | Comments Off on The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 25 “The Cigar Box. The Forger Once Gave Me.”

The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 24 “What the fortune cookie said one evening in the magic bowl.”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

After communing with the dead for two months – the unremarkable Lim’s who once lived a unremarkable life in an forgettable town slowly came back to life again, bits and pieces of their life’s slipped through the letter slot all through the week – first the social security card, tax return forms complete with even a ₤ 15 rebate and finally, the passports complete with our photos.

Like a mad scientist who successfully manages to sew different body parts together – now, Mr and Mrs Lim Teck Heng had finally returned from the dead.

The experience was supernaturally sharp, even when the records officer handed me a tax return form just the other day and mentioned.

“Can you be so kind to fill this up, Mr Lim?”

It wasn’t as if he was talking to me. For a moment, I asked myself,

“Who is Mr Lim?”

Then incredibly he came alive, brimming with energy, present in the moment, a part of some eternal now that had always gone on perpetuating it’self as if he never ever passed on. Intense colors, the minutest details shining in utmost clarity. He was alive!

So much so, one evening when the door swung open with a bang and a group of Chinese men glared at me and one of them said,

“We know who you are! Dead or alive, you’re coming with us!”

I simply sniggered, clucked and replied recklessly in a half joking tone.

“Yeah, sure you do! I get this shit about once a week, you like the rest of the other 10,000 truckies ***** from Chinatown all know who I really am, don’t you? (not even bothering to turn back while busying myself with the crates) I am the benefactor, don’t you recognize me m***********? (bringing my face close to the leader who stepped back a pace in shock) the same one that everyone is looking for, north, east, south and west – yeah the one who eloped with some big shots daughter, there she is behind the counter – look! That’s the bitch.” Nodding towards Jeannie as she struggled to understand why I had suddenly behaved in such a reckless manner –while secreting herself behind the counter.

For a while they all looked at each other – while another group of Chinese customers seated along one of the benches froze, chopsticks and dumplings hanging in mid air exchanging doubtful looks – I continued stacking cabbages and from time to time, even cursed the delivery boy for being too lazy to carry them all the way to the back,

“Your mother gave birth to a turtle, you dumb lazy ****, a turtle and it ain’t even a land turtle, **** your mother! Get your ass down here and help the benefactor or he will waste you into turtle soup!” – it worked – from the corner I caught sight of the slight grin forming on one of the men and in a while the others broke out into rapturous laughter, only for one of them to remark.

“Yeah sure you are the benefactor – we believed you, really we do, if not for the fact, your face looks like one of those cabbages you’re carrying.”

The others laughed again, till even the English drivers were giving them sidelong glances from the rim of their plastic bowls.

“Really, I am the benefactor of what? The four sacks of potatoes and that woman behind the counter is the daughter of the big shot – I swear to you from the very bottom of my heart!”

“You really shouldn’t have given us such a fright stranger – he nearly choked on his dumplings (one of them pointing to a fat man who had slipped off the bench) – but I guess you get that a lot from our Chinatown boys from London telling you the same thing?”

“All the time, brother, all the time – though at sometimes, I wish I really was the benefactor.”

“Why is that?”

“That way, instead of you boys sitting there on your fat asses – all of you will be so frightened you’ve help me with some of these f******** crates! By back is killing me!”

This triggered another round of laughter, one of them even pointing at Jeannie as he continue to shake uncontrollably with bits of dumplings coming out from the corner of his gapping mouth.

“Hey, hey, hey! – Careful with that f******* floor – the benefactor wouldn’t be pleased with the way, you dishonor his honorable floor.”

This time, I even stood astride holding one of the cabbages like a pistol with my head cocked.

Again they laughed – this time one of them, even raised his hands up patting his chest as he coughed uncontrollably,

“Enough please – you’re killing us!”

In a while after finishing their dumplings, they to settled down pulling on their cigarettes – the joke having run the end of it’s course – while I continued stacking the last of the crates. As those men recounted one tale after another, one of them recounted.

“That benefactor was a real ladies man, I bet he hammered the old man’s wife, that’s why they did him nice and proper.”

“No doubt about it.” Someone said.

“How do you know?”

“Know the younger brother of the man who did him – runs a restaurant in Derby but everyone knows he is a hired gun – bad ass character. Cant recall the name, but delivered before.”

At that point Jeannie stormed out slamming the door – from where I stood, it could just about make out a muffled whimper in the kitchen.

The others looked at me to pick up the cue.

“See what you done now – you lorry drivers are all the same, not knowing when to shut your sh*t pot mouth – finish and f*** on off. I am shutting early tonight – my back is killing me and that bitch is in one of her baby moods.”

“You mean she is pregnant?”

“They’re like that when they all get big around the tummy.” Someone added.

Turning towards one of these men, I glared.

“Before you boy f*** off tell me more about the man who dun in the benefactor.”

“What’s it to you cabbage face?”

“May need his services to square some old accounts – you know what I mean?” fingering the deep scar just above my eye.

At another corner, someone crunched a fortune cookie and read out the transcript,

“This week, someone who you know is going to help color the life of a complete stranger. Remember the magic color for this week is red – bright lucky red!”

darkness 2002

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 23 “The Third Wife and The Fortune Teller.”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

Sometimes while she sat all by herself in the evenings before the dresser she thought for hours at a time about him. A whole year had passed since he disappeared and she felt almost like a ghost haunting the familiar faces who made up her little world, the endless mah jong games, juicy gossips and of course the small dramas that were always unfolding in the old man’s household.In the course of a year, she had allowed her consciousness to slip away, downstream, with the current, towards the swiftly disappearing past. That’s where she preferred to be.

In this secret place in her mind, where she would look at herself in the mirror from time to time and say,

“The boy will return. He can’t help himself.”

What after all did the present have to do with her? She wondered whispering to herself,

“He is alive….I can feel it in my bones.”

It was as if, he were a planet so far away as to be imperceptible, moving in a wholly different orbit, unseen and silent to all, except her, emitting an perfect light, a light that gave her life. A light which kept her from dropping to the ground and being crushed like a maple leaf in autumn – the third wife basked under this strange light, a light which came from a distant past.

She had even allowed him to intrude upon her days, coloring them – by recapturing the broken threads of their past – during these moments she remembered his touch, his sloppy kiss and the way he trailed his stubble chin across her neck.

Above all she remembered his eyes and the way they undressed her, revealing and searching – she knew that there was undeniable happiness to be found there and from time to time, she smiled all to herself and said to the woman in the dresser.

“The boy is never far from me.”

“Do you hear me? He will take me away from this god forsaken hell.”

Whenever she said these words, woman in the mirror often replied with the look of a woman who had successfully recaptured the feeling of radiant joy.

One evening after listlessly wandering along the malls in Oxford Circus – the third wife knocked on the door of the great oracle, just off Leicester square in Old Crompton street.

The oracle who was somewhere in her nineties was a renowned fortune teller favored by the rich and famous in the Chinese community for her uncanny abilities to unlock the mysteries of destiny. The many photos on her mantle sported famous actors, actresses, business figures and even politicians, like Jacky Chan, Jet Li, Gong Li, Stanley Ho and some even said in hushed tones, Lee Kuan Yew.

The door with a faded pak kuah opened up to an austere sitting room with only a table and chairs.

It was dimly lit, the oracle didn’t need light, she was one of those who honed their senses in the spiritual domain and saw the world entirely with the X-ray powers of the third eye. Here light was as useful as a comb was to a bald man. All she needed was to feel her way across the wide chasm of time and space by rubbing her skeleton hands on the palms of her clients – there hidden beneath the folds and lines, she would trace out the invisible threads of fate.

“Give me you hand child (the oracle dipped her head as she ran her pincher like fingers along the third wife’s palms.)…….mmmh……..so much suffering…..yet so much pleasure…..mmmh.”

“I want to…” (the third wife, leaned forward)

“Silence, there are no questions here…… only answers shhhhhhh.”

“Do you see him?……”

“Yes, yes. I see a boy, he is climbing and he limps a little, but yes, it is him. Your lines are stitched along his lines…….that is karma……. Yes, I see the boy. He is a feisty one………. hard one to catch, like a wise fox. (the oracle emitted a faint mocking laugh.)

Slipped passed them many a time he has….. and now he’s busying raising the dead (her face straining as if attempting to peer into some deep cavity, then releasing the furrow, she smiled and then nodded her head knowingly.)

The boy wants to cross the great ocean to the east….in a metal bird…that’s why he needs to commune with the dead.”

“America…..” (the third wife’s eyes widening.)

Shhhhhhh but wait there is something else…..no, someone else with him…..he is not alone. (looking down again, she peered deeply this time, from time to time shaking her head.)

“What is it? Tell me………..is it good or bad?” The third wife implored.

“Calm child, be calm, wait……….. I sense great danger, I see a gun. I see him sitting all by himself a man in turmoil smoking with thoughts so dark, I can see no further beyond his darkness.”

“Tell me will we be together? I need to know!”

“Hush child, there is much in this boys mind that is difficult to read………the boy dreams of a life far away from here….…….I see what he sees in his minds eye. But wait, he is not alone……….there is a woman with him to this new place in his heart. Yes, I see her now…………she has her back to me, she wearing pearl earrings and a crème dress with red flowers. (nodding her head and opening her eyes and closing them again, she continued.)

“No I can’t see her face, it growing fainter and fainter.”

“Yes, he told me about his dreams, the boy wants to take me away. He………..” (the third wife pressing her palms towards the old woman.)

“Shhhhhhh…….there’s one more thing, I see………… he is planning to return.”

That afternoon as the third wife stepped out into a muggy afternoon. The sky for the very first time after such a very long time appeared strangely spacious and the summer clouds immaculately white. She was elated to the point of trembling with these refreshing thoughts of his impending return.

“It’s destiny. I shall await my fate – he will return to take me away!”

That same evening when the daughter of the oracle massaged the old woman’s foot, she heard her mother muttering.

“Run boy, run like the wind – the wolfs are coming for you. They are coming.”

At precisely that moment when the oracle murmured these words – a cabbage lorry belonging to the Kowloon trading Emporium in London Chinatown – driven by a Chinese driver pulled into the magic bowl – as he lit his crooked cigarette and joined a knot of other Chinese driver by the side for a smoke, he peered into the take away and turned wide eyed to his burly friends.

“What’s it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

“I know that chap. I swear it, I know him. That’s the benefactor who carries the money for the four houses.”

“You mean the one who ran away with the Lam girl?” another replied while peering along with the rest into the magic bowl.

“There’s a prize on his head, there is – a big prize!”

darkness 2002.

Posted in B'hood, Fiction | Comments Off on The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 23 “The Third Wife and The Fortune Teller.”

The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 22 “My day off with Jeannie”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

The rain stopped in the middle of the afternoon, just when I pulled in to the rear of the Magic Bowl.Jeannie was standing by the kitchen doorway in her white dress with splashes of red roses (you remember the one I bought with the wages having fixed the clock tower, the one that reminds me of the third wife.) – she even put on a dash of lipstick. I was reminded of the promise I made sometime last week or was it the week before?

“We should try to take off one day in a week.”

Since the magic bowl started, we hardly made enough to make ends met, but in recent months, business had been brisk with some closure of highway for road works somewhere up North.

I reasoned, it was her way to celebrate our first day off.

Should you find this chapter aimless and spiritless – it’s because I trying to capture the texture of the familiar and ordinary.

Although the old man and four houses were hunting us and I was breaking into town councils, crematoriums and from time to time the magic bowl, because I can never remember to bring the keys.

I didn’t lead a James Bond sort of life, dodging bullets or for that matter jumping over gorges – that only happens in the movies – this is a real story, a genuine account and the essence of anything real lies in the repeating.

Yes, I had a pistol, but it too had seen a lot of action, somewhere in some distant past in the hands of another and like an old soldier who had seen his fill and could see no more. This vintage pistol like me, simply wanted to be left alone in some drawer, locked away sleeping undisturbed in the dark.

Here, where life moved at roughly the pace of a motorized wheelchair – unlike city life where one’s thoughts can change in the interval between two lamppost by the road side – country living imposes on one an old and weathered soul – it’s like fruit – there is no such thing as diligent fruit – it ripens lazily and gracefully.

Though from time to time like old cripples, who sometimes dreamt, they could run and jump, I too harbored the distant desire of squaring my accounts with the old man, but it was a far away island, desolate as it was impossible, so like you, him, them, they and the vast majority of humans mine was a day to day existence where I turned the same great wheel of life, where each day came and went very much like yesterday. An ordinary life stretching out like one long endlessness road, where I fixed things in the morning, cooked in the evenings and in between very little else punctuated this ordinariness, except a few sweet words and the odd kiss – but there were moments – moments when the unexpected emerged quite unexpectedly from the expected.

That afternoon when I prepared the roasted duck I bought in Manchester while Jeannie sat absent mindedly in the kitchen watching me cut the onions, garlic, vegetables though she looked distant and far, I knew she was romanticizing. It was the way, her lips parted ever so slightly, the softness of her tone as if she was reciting a poem and the slight look of indifference when her eyes closed longer than they should. During these moments, she always slid her hand around my shoulders and leaned her head against my back, while I continued doing the things that needed doing.

I know women, know them well enough to realize most of them wanted me to prolong this mood of love – where my fingers touched hers on the chopping board only to turn away, while her fingers would chase me only be chased again, till they ended clasping each other like two embracing lovers, and. Just when her eyes would look at me teasingly only to cloud over with desire and her breathe would suddenly hang, I pulled her into my arms, feeling her heart beat resonating against my body, telegraphing fear and joy into every cell in her body. Even then, the time wasn’t right.

Like I said, I liked to stretch the mood. Yes, you could say, this was my way – in the manner, a musician tensions a cord, not too tightly, it would snap and the feeling would burst like a bubble, not too loose either, otherwise Jeannie would suddenly recede back into indifference, but just the right balance of reality and illusion – brushing against her naked arms even when I placed all the dishes one by one on the table all the time looking at her while a sense of excitement swelled in her, as she waited for something to happen, her chest rising and falling like the crest of a wave just before the riot of a storm. Even then, the time was not right.

As always during these moments, I fed her, delicately and slowly, never ever eating myself. The chopsticks picking out the most succulent meat and after mixing it in the rice bowl till the consistency was just right – I brought it to her quivering lips, always in small bites, never quite enough to satisfy, yet enough for her to yearn for the next spoonful – At times, I would simply hum a tune, but that afternoon, I was simply content to look at her with the eyes of a man in love. Every spoonful like a sugar cube in hot tea, melting away in a swirl of delicious clear sweetness – and this scene would be repeated again and again till the afternoon sun receded over the valley flooding the kitchen with a soft mysterious light. From time to time, I would wipe the corner of her lips with a napkin or bring a glass of wine to her lips, flashing a smile while she simply looked away shyly – yet during those moments, I knew Jeannie could not wish for anything more. Even then, the time was not right.

After dinner, when the light had all receded giving way to partial darkness like dark honey,when I could still make out the seductive glint in her eyes, when the time was just right, no sooner or later. My hands reached between her legs parting them – her lips gleamed, she licked them moist, her body trembled as she resisted slightly – a plate fell and broke, she neither heard it or cared – she was fighting within herself trying to keep mystery at a distance, while my hands surged forward like a prow of ship across a lustrous calm ocean – parting and discovering beyond something real into the abstraction of her very essence as a woman. Soon the miraculous invaded her so completely, she simply allowed me to take the lead. Here mystery was furiously at work, unrelentingly at work, drawing her out, as she kissed me furiously again and again till a riot ensued and just when her eyes would shine with an even greater brilliance – reflecting within them a place where reality had given way to dreams, where every moment was charged with wonder – I became very still, so very still prolonging the moment, even after she whispered, “I love you, I love you with my heart”- I started it all again, surging through the night, till she eventually grew limp and succumbed to sleep..

As usual, I would carry her upstairs and lay her down, tucking her into bed – sitting in one corner, humming to her while I smoked a cigarette, till sleep took her over and when she turned as she always did to the left, I knew, it was time to for me to leave the room.

I could never sleep – though I often made excuses to Jeannie saying, I would join her later, as there was always something which needed cutting and marinating before I turned in. This was simply my way of making peace with my incurable insomnia – or maybe, just maybe, I needed to continue forging on ahead – I was after all writing our story and for the time being, I was merely sketching out the action in rough strokes, and I couldn’t afford to bog myself down. That would have forced me to stop and think, and for the moment I was only interested in forging ahead, in seeing where the pictures in my mind were going to take me. It wasn’t about control; it wasn’t even about making choices – it was all about running away from the pain.

The pain of loving, losing and now knowing the third wife was still alive – the pain of knowing no matter how I willed myself to love Jeannie, there was always a part of me that yearned to run away – that’s what bad boys do, they can’t stay loyal – they can’t love, not for long at least – and if they don’t pick up and leave, it’s not because they are reforming, it simply means they’re still despising themselves for their own inertia.

In truth, I wanted to be good – to remain with the woman who stood by me – to love her forever and this meant, following the mythical line inside me, breaking into the records office, finalizing the loose ends with the forger, defacing the pictures of Mr & Mrs Lim Teck Heng in the crematorium was my way of making sense of my senseless world – it wasn’t so much the prospects of sewing together a new life for me and Jeannie – as it was the desperate efforts of a man who had to witness himself doing all those noble things to salvage his own soul – Yes, crooked people need to play twisted games and once one acquires this bent, trust me even you can do it – in truth, I didn’t trust myself – and now that I realized the third wife was alive – I trusted myself even less, like I said, I am bad, true and true bad as they come. Neither can I help myself either, it’s a vampire thing, it’s incurable – I just need to forge on.

That evening when I made love to Jeannie – I felt like someone who had come home from a long and difficult journey, an unfortunate traveler who had returned to claim his rightful place in the world with the woman who he loved. It felt good to pin her down on the table, it felt right to be inside her again, and in the wake of the happiness that washed over me –
I was both a part of what was going on around me and cut off from it, drifting freely in my mind –it wasn’t real of course, but when a person is in pain, as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exist and all the pains of this world just disappears – I just wished it was really Jeannie who I was making love too that evening.

I just want to do the right thing – I need to forge on – yes, on.

darkness 2002

Posted in B'hood, Fiction | Comments Off on The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 22 “My day off with Jeannie”

The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 21 “Omi ta Bath to hut”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

Recently the deacon of the Chinese Manchester Crematorium in Princess Street noticed a man in dirty overalls walking along the rows and rows of urns – each with it’s small black and white photograph.The man he imagined must have suffered some accident or another – probably lost his wife or a loved one – it was clear from his scarred face, limp and unmistakable tinge of sadness hovering about him.

From time to time, the man loitered aimlessly around the Crematorium – sitting alone and though the temple rules strictly prohibited photo’s – the deacon had made an exception for this poor soul, he reasoned.

“Omi ta Bath to hut –It would rest the hearts of his relatives in the mother land when they saw pictures of their loved one’s spending the rest of their days in such a beautiful and peaceful crematorium.”

One morning the deacon received a strong worded complain from one of the relatives of Mr Lim Teck Heng, born in 25 December 1965 and dearly departed with his wife on the same date in a car accident on the 16 June 1982 in South of Wales – though the relative was quite flustered, she gradually calmed down after wandering the peaceful grounds of the crematorium – and when she finally saw, the deacon she could hardly recount the incident that upset her so much that morning – except to mentioned, she saw a man who had no possible reason to pray for her brother and sister- in- law knelling before their urns repeating the words,

“I am sorry, I am so very sorry. Please forgive me……….”

When she confronted the man – he looked quite embarrassed and simply hobbled away – when the deacon asked the relative to describe the man, she mentioned his scarred face – only for him to smile knowingly at her and sigh ,

“Omi ta Bath to hut – such a man is indeed merciful and compassionate to even care for the death of those who he is not related too.”

The deacon went on the explain, how this man must have lost a loved one in a similar car accident – and the sight of these two couples united in death – must have made him realize how fortunate, these strangers were, since it is often worse for the living is it not?- hardly had the deacon said these words, the woman began to weep quite openly in shame – and after finally regaining her composure – she quickly replaced the white carnations she had set aside and rearranged the oranges, she had angrily tipped over earlier in the day placed there by the stranger– only to feel more shameful of her deed that morning.

She even asked the deacon , whether she could pray and leave some flowers at the urn of the strangers wife – to which the deacon said, it was most unfortunate, but he didn’t ask where his wife’s ashes were stored – there were after all 40,000 urns in the Crematorium, the oldest stretching back to 1821, when the first Chinese coolies came to Manchester to work in textile mills.

Some two months later – just around the time when the forger’s son began to make a funny irritating burping sound with the model plane which seemed only to confirm to others in Manchester China town, he was indeed an idiot child – a caretaker on his usual rounds in the Crematorium came across the urns of the Lim’s and notice, both pictures had been defaced – it had not been the first time, the deacon had warned him, he would certainly lose his job, if he didn’t stop the English boys from sneaking into the crematorium and vandalizing the photographs on the urns – which they usually did with black permanent markers or aerosol paint to fashion moustaches or Dracula like fangs on these images – fearing the deacon would find out – the caretaker relocated the urns to the highest level some 60 ft along the uppermost shelves– there at least, he reasoned. Everyone would be happy.

The Lim’s especially would be happiest – they were after all closer to heaven.

“Omi ta Bath to hut.”

darkness 2002

Posted in B'hood, Fiction | Comments Off on The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 21 “Omi ta Bath to hut”

The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 19 & 20 “Nine Months later – Mr & Mrs Lim Teck Heng”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

By the end of the ninth month in hiding – It was safe enough to make a trip down to Manchester China town along Charlotte street –Manchester was the home of the forger (you remember the merchant who sold me the second pair of pearl earrings) – I needed to finalize a few details concerning our new identities, without the right papers, we were like fish swimming in the barrel, it would only be a matter of time before someone would seek us out either by accident or design – as it was the chances were about 50/50 – but they’re were still risk, forms had to be filled, questions had to be answered – those sort of things and if we stood any chance of escape –this was the only way, there was no other way.

Just the other week, I had managed to enter the record office under the pretense of fixing the clock in the tower. There I had scanned through the records searching for a new identity and found it in the form of a certain Mr & Mrs Lim Teck Heng who roughly fitted our age.

The couple had emigrated to the UK from Hong Kong some 3 years ago and died in a freak car accident. It wasn’t a perfect fit, he was 2 inches shorter and she had a large mole on her left cheek and that’s why I needed forger.

The edges were rough and there were a host of significant details that still had to be conjured up and worked into the scene – for the purposes of fullness and authenticity, for them to be brought back to life.

Only the forger could fill in the missing blanks with the occasional stamp, or connect the images with the odd scrap of birth certificates.

So far the first part of my plan was panning out exactly the way I hope – I know a few things about doing this sort of thing – though I don’t wish to elaborate further on it – let us just say in life – there will always be men who conduct their business in the shadows and I am irrevocably one of them who belongs to this fraternity.

Though it is difficult for me to recount to you, why I choose to place my trust in this strange character who once sold me the second pair of pearl earrings – I cannot actually say for certain, just as a man who steps in a lottery booth chooses a set of numbers randomly and has faith in they may be magically picked out of millions – as incomprehensible as it is to both you and me – I simply had the same instinct concerning the forger.

As I entered the store, I saw that he was hunched over a pad of paper, writing down columns of figures with a black mechanical pencil. In spite of the chill in the air that day, he was dressed in short sleeved shirt – one of those flimsy, loose- fitting summer things with an open collar – which accentuated the thinness of his coppery arms. The door made a tinkling sound, and the forger lifted his head for a moment to give me a polite nod of greeting, though I registered a slight look of pity in perhaps the way he noticed my scars which were still reddish tinged with purple spots. I nodded back, but before I could say anything to him, he lowered his head again and resumed his calculations. This was a good sign, “he doesn’t recognize me” I said to myself.

Then the forger looked up again, this time removing his reading glasses,

“Can I help you?”

I placed the pearl earrings on the table, hardly had he looked at it, he looked up again this time straining his eyes, gradually he realized who I was.

“You shouldn’t have come here – men have been asking for you (the forger began closing his blinds) – you’re putting me and my family in danger – go I beg you!”

“I need you help” my voice firm and a long pause ensued while the forger remained quite still as if considering my words, then looking down and up again, he said.
“Look, I really cannot afford to get involved mister!– I can only help you by giving you some money….(opening his cash register)”

Somewhere along the conversation, a slight rustling from the back sounded followed by the sound of footsteps and a boy ran in toying with a model aero plane.

‘Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” the boy mimicked the sound of the engines.

“Siauh Chu, go back upstairs, daddy is busy”

“Can uncle see your plane” I bent down.

The boy thrust the model aircraft into my chest.

“Do you want uncle to tell you a story?”

The boy neither looked my way or either way, there was something wrong with him, his eyes possessing a quality of blankness, but since, I had started, I continued,

“It’s a Spitfire – you know why they call it Spitfire? (again the boy simply looked blank) – well you see the exhaust on the side aircraft, just where the engine sits – whenever the pilots started the engines, fire would spit out from the sides – like a dragon – and the sound this plane made when it flew was a funny little sound – do you want uncle to make this funny sound?

The boy simply looked out at space, his face hardly registering a word I said.

“brrrrbrrrrrbrrrrrbrrrrrbrrrrrbrrrrr”

Hardly had I finished the story – the boy grabbed the plane and ran off

“brrrrrbrrrrrrbrrrrrrrrrbrrrrrrrrrrbrrrrrrrrrr”

The father looked astonished – “he actually heard you, you see that, listen” the forger quite a different man from the man who I just spoke too a few minutes ago. Then as if thinking aloud to himself with his eyes still fixed on his son running back upstairs, he said.

“They say he’s slow my boy, but what do those fucking English teachers really know”

Then as if suddenly embarrassed by allowing his mind to wander off like that, he went back to the counter and assumed a business air.

“Well thanks for your time – one last thing – I was never here” I said pulling my collar up as I prepared to face the bitter cold of winter.

Hardly had I stepped out of the shop, when the forger came running out, the cold seizing him as he trembled and shuffled after me

“Wait – I forgot to ask you what you want me to help you with?”

“I need some papers to be forged.”

I whispered, the howling wind tearing away at some of my words.

“Do you have any money?” I didn’t answer and the forger continued motioning me back into the shop, where the boy appeared to peering with his nose pressed firmly against the window.

“Come in from the cold, I’ve close early – we can work out something over dinner – and you can tell more of your ridiculous stories to Siau Chu.”

That evening after dinner, where I had split every rib of my host with my ridiculous stories, whose son seemed to even appear to be quite thoroughly entertained – the forger busied himself weaving a new life for both me and Jeannie – though he had mentioned, it would take a few weeks for him to get everything ready – when he opened a crisp manila envelop I brought with me, all the things he really needed was already there names, age, nationality, religion copies of birth and death certificates right down right down the home office approve sized passport photographs – the forger looked at me from time to time when he examined this pile of mixed lives who obviously belonged to someone else, quite openly thinking aloud – “good, you have this” – “ah that’s what we really need” – “Yes, we can’t do without this, it’s good that you have it” – only to finally say with a satisfied look in his eye after three or so hours laboring in his study to put everything together and handing me the documents.

“I don’t know who you are – but you have done this before haven’t you. Or perhaps someone has trained you?” he looked at me differently with knowing eyes which reflected a slight tinge of admiration one professional gives to another.

“You broke into the records office……?”

I didn’t answer and he didn’t press on.

Soon the matter turned to payment, and I came straight to the point.

“All I have are those pearl earrings – you can keep them – till I return to square the accounts one day”

“I have heard that before -what if you don’t ever come back my friend” he said while walking me to the door his tone suggesting for a moment, he would even miss my company.

“Trust me my friend, even if I never ever return – those earrings have a funny way of turning up in unexpected places – I wouldn’t be surprised if they searched me out some where in the middle of the Gobi desert ” I smiled, the best I could without feeling the sensation of the stitches pulling and tugging against my flesh.

The forger paused just before the door – an expression of concern and regret gradually clouding over his eyes,

“They say, you’re an educated man – and from what little I have seen tonight, you are different from the rest of them – so you seem to me like a man who knows this sort of book and studies things quite well, tell me my friend– man to man, because I can take it! – do you think one day my son is good enough to go to university, get a decent job, get married, be a father like the rest of those English boys?” his expression hanging like question mark.

“You’re not been listening to me have you my friend – like I said – those earrings have a funny way of turning up in unexpected places – don’t be too surprise if you suddenly woke up one morning and found your grand daughter wearing them and asking kong kong how do I look?”

With this words, he smiled in confirmation and just before he opened the door – the forger thrust a box the size of dictionary under my arm,

“You need this my friend – when the come looking for you” then sensing my slight embarrassment for not being able to pay him properly again, the forger continue.

“Don’t look at me like that benefactor – I am a business man – I need to protect my investments – like you said, the accounts will be square properly one day – for that to happen you no use to me dead.” he smiled again.

I simply nodded and just as I stepped out into the biting cold of a moonless night – entombing both the man who walked in that afternoon along with Jeannie Lam forever – though I didn’t know how it would end for either me or her –I knew for the time being at least two people who were once dead would rise again and speak freely – Mr & Mrs Lim Teck Heng.

Just before the back door shut with a clang – the forger turned to me and said,

“Oh I forgot to mention this earlier………the third wife of the old man just gave birth to a son.”
————————–

One week ago.

During World War II– the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) under the command of Air Marshall Herman Goering – launched a relentless bombing campaign on London– known as the “Blitz”.

One of the primary targets was the Central Record Office located off Whitehall, South of Westminster Abbey. This building housed all the records concerning the issuance of both birth and death certificates in the whole of the British Isle – In 1941, due to the extensive damage inflicted on public building as a result of intensive German bombings – the Surveyor’s General Office was called upon to identify a suitable location in the United Kingdom where the records and archives could be relocated for temporary safe keeping – in Jan 1942 – the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells was proposed by the Surveyors –general office.

The natural fortifications afforded by the mountains rendered an enemy aerial attack virtually impossible– the town was so insignificantly small it failed to qualify strictly under the criteria of a town under the City and Town ordinance byelaw– thus escaping the attention of the map makers who even omitted any reference of such a place in the whole of the United Kingdom , other than perhaps to include a symbol of church on the map issued during the period before the war.

The other compelling reason for the surveyors recommendation was the town hall in Llanwrtyd Wells, constructed out of two feet thick Cumbrian stones, each weighing 1.2 metric tons.

In March 1941, the town hall was converted to house rows and rows of filling cabinets –to further improve security, the 21 French windows were sealed up and cemented.

The architects did highlight one security flaw in the lay out – the tower clock – which stood some 24 meters high with it’s hollow rectangular profile opening all the way to the bottom directly into the record office!

When this security flaw was subsequently highlighted, as a possible entry point by someone who could all too easily masquerade as a tradesman, who periodically serviced the clock.

The architects considered this notion absurd for two reasons, firstly the quarter chimed free wheel clock manufactured by German firm, Kieninger in 1870 proved extremely reliable and robust, even the firm responsible for maintaining the proper workings of this clock, William Potts and Son of Guilford in Leeds were hardly ever called to maintain the near perfect mechanism which hardly ever required any oiling or greasing, only a weekly pull on a rope from the clock all the way to the ground floor by three strong men every week for five minutes was enough to keep it running and chiming a whole week! –and a cast ironed hand crank located at ground level connected to the main mechanism of the clock allowed for adjustments should the clock be either to slow or fast – it seemed to the architects and those who manned the town council since there was no possible reason for any one to ever go to the top neither could there be any risk from anyone posing as a trades man to gain unauthorized access into the Welsh record office – that could really only happen, if there was a reason to fix the clock and since it the quarter chimed clock never ever really needed any fixing – the threat was not considered insignificant for the architects to add another slab to seal off the hollow shaft of the clock tower which opened up to the main floor area.

At the end of the second world war – all the birth, marriage and death certificates were relocated to back to Whitehall – Welsh & Cumbrian authorities retained all documentation for occupants who lived in the area of Wales and the County of Lancashire – not only did this guarantee the continued existence of the town, since registered citizens from around Wales would often make their way to the little town and stay a few days in one of those quaint inns as they visited the natural springs will waiting for either this or that document they either loss or simply needed renewal to be processed.

The following Monday, when the records administration clerk arrived late for work and hardly had she made herself a cup of tea and settled down on her desk – she noticed two brown envelops which must have arrived from London from the special courier service train every week – the envelops were slightly off color she couldn’t help noticing, but the type print and seal of the Home Office,

“IN THE SERVICE OF HER MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT suggested everything was in order. Except for a few oily smudges.

though she could have sworn there were no documents in her “IN” tray when she left last Friday – because she had a keen eye for such details – nevertheless, she proceeded to process the application for the issuance of a social security card for a Chinese couple by the name of Mr and Mrs Lim Teck Heng – as usual she proceeded to the filling cabinet marked “L” which was located just beneath the hollow shaft of the clock tower and when she finally retrieved the small reference card with the details of Mr Lim Teck Heng – who immigrated from Hong Kong, she noticed a discrepancy between the two pictures, when she brought it to the attention of her supervisor who never really recovered from his hangover till some time around lunch – the Welshman hardly bothered with the clerk and her usual nit picking observations which he regarded as chronic pettiness, a disease which afflicted middle aged spinsters like the nit picking clerk– he simply said,

“Those Chinks – they all look the same don’t they? What’s that old bat on about? – them photo’s not being right and all that.”

Barely, realizing the man in the form was the quiet man from the ‘magic bowl’ who had just finished working on the clock tower during the weekend after he had given him the blueprints of the clock a week before.

When one of the clerks was just about to post the newly issued social security card to Mr and Mr’s Lim – she recognized the couple and remarked.

“Well fancy that – it’s them Chinese, you know the magic bowl couple – wonder why they bother themselves with all this papers, only city folk seemed to care about – they hardly looked like the sort to travel even outside the valley.”

Hearing this, one of the clerks remarked cheekily

“Won’t be surprise if the chink meant to apply for passports to take his wife out for a nice little holiday”

“Blind me!, now what ever gave you that idea?” another surprised clerk added.

“Well, keep it to yourself alright – just paid the Chink for the work he did on the clock this morning. The guv allowed him to work on it through the weekend – so our little friend has a bit of cash to show off to his missus ain’t it”

darkness 2002

Posted in B'hood, Fiction | Comments Off on The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 19 & 20 “Nine Months later – Mr & Mrs Lim Teck Heng”

The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapters 17 & 18 “An Account of an English Miner’s Wife”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

In Wales, located some six hundred miles or so North of London – lies the sleepy town of Llanwrtyd Wells hidden snuggly between two towering mountains – hikers often recount to other each somewhere mid- way up those steep valleys, how they could make out every detail of this tiny toy village, with it’s red roof church spire which tilted ever so slightly, to the only red bricked post office building and even the park square with it’s circular lime stone fountain.

On a clear day, one could even see beyond the town square with it’s four sided clock tower and beyond, the only school with it’s white washed walls of Cumbrian stone and open grassy rugby pitches. If one proceeded higher, one could just about make out a row of shops at the very far edge of this little town – one of them located somewhere around the middle, in between a garage and a funeral parlor was the “The Magic Bowl” Chinese take away.

There really wasn’t anything magical about the “magic bowl” – like all other Chinese take away’s, they had chicken chow mein and choy suey in their menu and on Fridays after midnight, they offered a ten percent discount with double servings of sweet and sour pork. Neither for that matter was the young Chinese couple that magical either, the husband with his short cropped hair, limped and had terrible scars on his face, (his wife had mentioned something about a car accident and a terribly vicious one at that, I dare say) he hardly spoke a word, neither did he have much of an opinion except to smile politely from time to time – but it’s like that with those Chinese, they never say very much – his young wife would often be the chattier of the two and exchange pleasant words with the patrons who were mostly made up entirely of lorry drivers stopping for either a rest and some hot and cheap food before they resumed their journey Northwards – the wife took orders from the counter, while her quiet husband cooked behind the kitchen, one could only really only hear him behind clanging on his pots and pans and only see part of his hands in the cut out in the wall, where packed food would be brought out to the counter.

During the day time – when business was slow in the magic bowl and lorry drivers preferred to make the most of their day light hours – the quiet man would often be seen behind the kitchen with his tools fixing motorized wheel chairs or lawn mowers – they said, his workmanship was first class – but really, I am sure those lads were simply being kind, after all he looked hardly like an engineer and more like a tradesman with his soiled baggy overalls stained with patches of mineral oil he hardly ever took off even when he was seen around town doing his errands – so one day, when the clock tower failed to sound and all that the railway tradesmen could do was to take off their hats and say.

“Bloody old girl finally kicked the bucket – she breathe her last, she did – well after all she lived a ripe old age ain’t it, seen, bloody Hitler’s bombs and all that – it’ve be sad to see the old girl go.”

When the quiet man heard there was money to be had in the fixing – he made his way to the town council and asked for the blue prints of the tower clock and though the clerk refused at first – saying only registered tradesmen where allowed to work on council property and it was the law and nothing could be done about it and since he neither had the right papers or was registered, working on the clock was really out of the question- his superior, a barrel chest Welshman overhearing the conversation, simply handed over the dusty blue prints,

“You can keep it mate, those bloody blue prints are in Blooming German, they might as well be bloody written in chinky chink language – you’re wasting your time mate, but go on give it a go, if you like laddie –it wouldn’t half hurt if you gave that old bat a good working over, if nothing else. “

That whole week the quiet man worked on the clock tower even checking out a German – English dictionary from the library to help him make sense of those blueprints – and one day when it sounded as it usually did at twelve – even the railway stewards who maintained the tracks looked up at the tower clock in amazement, some saying quite openly.

“Bloody chink brought her back from the grave – fancy that!”

So after being paid his repair fee by the town council – the quiet man made his way into the only antique shop in Preston and picked out a gold band with oak leaf carvings in relief, I imagined he must have wanted to give this sort of gift for so long to his wife, but till then they hardly made enough to make ends met – According to the Jewish merchant,

“The China man knew exactly what he wanted right down to the words engraved on the inner side of the ring”. The Jew often said, it was strange for such an uneducated man to appreciate such fine poetry, the engraving read.

“To my one and only love – who was always strong.”

Whatever, little he had left from fixing the clock tower, the quiet man spent it on a white evening silk dress with prints of red roses, he would later say to the lady who owned the shop, it reminded him of someone special.

Even the councilor, who had a day job as a the local postman would often be heard recounting in the pubs,

‘Half the bloody town is dropping off like flies – the other bloody half is falling too pieces – and the only chappy who seems to be able to put it all together and make it work again is the chink”

So one morning, when the councilor made his way to the magic bowl, where the quiet man could always be seen with his tools behind his kitchen – the councilor cum post man made his offer for an opening in the town council for the position of a engineering supervisor – to take charge of the towns common boiler, traffic switch board and main supply generator – he was saddened to hear the quiet man declined the offer politely after hearing some forms had to filled up and sent to London for approval since he would be an official employee of the town council. In the words of the quiet man,

“You embarrass me with this offer – I neither have the skills or training for this sort of thing – I am a simple man – and one should not really make a big story of the clock tower either, because all I really did was to strike it with a hammer – but from time to time should the boiler or the switch board go on the blink –you have my word I will be more than happy to take a look at it”

On the weekends the quiet man would be seen climbing the valleys – he climbed alone. Starting off earlier than the others even before daybreak and though he was known as the quiet man who limped a little when he climbed – when he climbed it was not unusual for those who saw him saying, “he climbs like a tormented soul” – for he would often stop and stare defiantly at the mountain with eyes of an uncommon man –

But even these accounts can’t really be trusted, as when climbers often slipped and fall as they often do– the quiet man would always be prepared to patch them up – his quiet manner hardly conveying a trace of anger.

When the quiet man came down from the mountains usually around lunch time – his wife would always be seen driving up to the foot in the mountain in the grayish white Morris van – only six months ago, the quiet man had bought it from the junk yard merchant who said,

“No I wouldn’t consider selling you that heap of rusted rubbish –what do you take me for I am a junk yard merchant, I have you know we English take pride in what we do – no she beyond a junk (the merchant shaking his head) but if you could give me a 50% discount on your take away’s for the next six months– we can call it a done deal”

Though the quiet man bargained it down to 25% with a free wanton dumplings no matter what the order – that same day hardly had he shaken on the deal, he began to work on the junk. Till one summers day, this couple could be seen laughing quite hysterically as they drove round and round our little town in this old car with it’s patchy paint job – and when they finally ran out of roads, because our town was so small – the quiet man came to lie with his wife on the grass – from time to time – he would be see caressing her breast, kissing or whispering into her ears – and just when the sun turned the valley a bright orange splendor, the quiet man simply stood staring out into the vast expanse of the English country side – his eyes conveying the sadness of man who perhaps remembered the passing of a loved one and during these quiet moments which seemed quieter than even the quiet man himself, his wife would slowly come to stand beside him, as if she knew of a terrible secret they both shared.

And the quiet man would simply look at her and bury his scarred face into her bosoms.

darkness 2002

—————————-

An entry by a journalist who once researched a story for Milliyet (the story remains unpublished – the journalist subsequently drowned in his bath tub in Istanbul)

In a four storey building in Tel Aviv, Israel, a few minutes walk away from the old Jewish Quarter is the Ha – Mossad le – Modin ule – Tajkidim Meyuhadin (Institute for Intelligence and Special Task) – better known to world as Mossad, the equivalent of the CIA or Soviet KGB – Within the walls of the unassuming four storey building military scholars from all parts of the free world – dressed in civilian clothing entered this institution quite unobtrusively through a side door with the loop sided sign that reads,

“HEBREW LINGUISTIC CENTRE, EST SINCE 1968 “

Only a select class of officers known as G-89A class officers under Westpoint gradation system or T-90 under NATO classification were sent for this sort of training due to the highly sensitive nature of the information imparted -though the syllabus remains highly classified, even till present date – and much of it remains purely speculation and couched in considerable mystery – it is generally known a part of this training involves

“The techniques relating to assuming a new identity within enemy territory”

and

“Detection avoidance techniques. ”

It is generally not known whether this secret art of war can be adapted for the purposes of anyone assuming to disappear from the face of world – but even if were proven to be effective – neither the author or for that matter any of the those students are is in a position to confirm or deny– In the same school – at the end of the 45 day lectures – students are informed quite directly by their instructors – should information be released in text form, verbally, electronically or otherwise –the matter would certainly be met by a firm and terse response by the “Metsada” – the execution arm of the state of Israel – even less is known of this shadowy unit.

Every country in Asean denies sending any NS or full time service men for such specialized training.

98926/2002

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 16 “Life in a Wheelchair”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

If you have never been beaten up before, you probably wouldn’t understand what I am talking about – so there you go, I am not even going to try to explain – though if you have an imagination and should you decide to hold my hand and follow me into this world of human wreckage – I may choose to recount to you what transpired after the temple incident.

That same evening Jeannie and I eloped London by train, I barely had the strength to walk, couldn’t remember the date or for that matter even why I found myself rubbing the two earrings which were in my pocket through out the journey. All I remembered was tearing through the night, flashes of lighting on the tracks as I slipped in and out of consciousness – all the time – immersed in a blur.

Though I was only 23, for all intents and purposes, the beatings had turned me into an old man – one of those invalids one sees from time to time shuffling in half steps while holding on to a flimsy metal frame. Even at that slow pace, walking proved painful, unbearable and hardly worth the effort. All the while Jeannie propped me up, whispering.

“Go on you can do it – one more step – there you go my love.”

“In three to four months you be running like a rabbit.” She beamed.

Being in pain all the time meant I didn’t believe her, but like I said, I didn’t really have all that much of a mind to even resist her even if I didn’t quite believe her – so I began to with small outings, no more than a block or two from the weekly paid studio apartment somewhere in Manchester – for some reason Manchester seemed like a good place to hide and recover – the old man’s men would be looking for me and so would the rest of the four houses and certainly the elder Lam, since their daughter had been spirited away.

Manchester being Manchester was simply too flat and spread out to stick out like a sore thumb providing one didn’t show one’s face in Manchester China town – so it was good that the studio apartment was located just off the old industrial area of Manchester where the rent was cheap and hardly anyone visited the area except purposeful men who wore industrial safety shoes and hard hats – hardly the place where a man would be seen wearing a dark Armani suit, with his hair slicked back sporting a pair of black sun glasses and pistol with a full clip of bullets – here, we would be safe for two months after that no guarantees, I reasoned, till I could really recover, get a new identity and move on.

While I stayed in the apartment during the day time – Jeannie worked in a nearby bleach factory. It was an hourly paid job – people usually came and went without much in the way of questions – no need for filling up forms and that sort of thing – and in the first few weeks, though this new life was so completely removed from her last – like her chapped hands with the first layer of fresh white skin being scoured clean off like tracing paper, leaving her with the wrinkled rough hands of an old maid – she hardly even managed a winch or complain and only said from time to time.

“Heal my love, heal.”

On one occasion, I caught her sobbing quietly in the night and when I turned to her, she simply said,

“I love you…..do you love me?”

“Yes, I love you.” I replied. After that she simply wiped her tears dry, made me breakfast and went off to work.

What else can a man say when he is confronted with a sad pair of hands, except to say the things that needs saying?

In this new life, where Jeannie worked in a bleach factory while I sat all day in a wheelchair in my pajamas – it was life – to say, I didn’t think much about the third wife would not be true – she never left me even in her passing – neither for that matter did the idea of revenge smoke in my mind from time to time, but like Jeannie’s hands which were once white as snow and had now come to resembled a darken shade of tanned seasoned leather, I simply wasn’t the man I used to be – not before I healed myself at least, just as a man simply has to cut off a his rotting arm to save the rest of his body – I had no choice but to simply put all these thoughts into a shoe box and slide it beneath the bed somewhere in my mind – a mind of a man who sat all day looking out at the world imprisoned in his own body, doesn’t have much else to do but to allow time to wash past him while he looks on – from time to time, he may even contemplate the size of his tiny courage, but that really is all he can do – my life now was with Jeannie and though I didn’t love her, she loved me and that to a half man is enough – you see, a half man doesn’t have such a thing as a choice – he simply needs to be the man who he needs to be for whatever reasons and even if those reasons don’t really add up, it doesn’t really matter either – that is how a man who sits all day in a wheelchair staring out of a window makes sense of the world.

You may not understand this, because you don’t know how to read hands like I do, but as I looked at Jeannie’s hands – I realized only too well, this was the way it was going to have to be – she had after all made a decision to follow me into the depths of an uncertain future – one where we would probably have to get a new identity and emigrate, if we wanted to be escape certain death – though I never asked her, the very thought of leading such a life must have secretly terrified her no end – Jeannie was after all so very different from me – yet from time to time, as I held her hands to my face – they spoke only of misery, misery that simply told me she had fallen in love with me even if it meant the possibility of pain would be part of our communion – so you see, there was nothing else for me to do but to pledge myself to her.

In this new life where I spent all day sitting in my wheelchair – I realized the man who carried the money for the four houses was dead – from now onwards it would be only me and Jeannie – the woman who I must simply learn to love.

darkness 2002

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 15

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

That same evening after my meeting with the third wife, I found myself kneeling before the image of Kwang Kong all alone in the only temple in China town – my thoughts turned to the image of before me –slowly but surely, I began to reason this was no ordinary wooden figurine – for one, it had been composed with an artistic eye for structure, so he looked less of a caricature since all his features, from the way his eyes narrowed, the slight furrow of the brows, the ever so slight flaring of his nostrils where all perfectly proportioned.

Even the slight tilt of his head forward focused the entire attention of the viewer on a single thought, beyond all power of human expression – here was the will of heaven, penetrating the sweat, the blood of men who paid tribute to him, leaving them with not the slightest doubt he was indeed their patron who could always be counted on to protect them and ward off the evil eye.

That night as I knelt before this image all alone seated in the hall, I poured out my heart – I told the God of war how I had betrayed the trust of the four houses by allowing my heart to rule me with the third wife – how I had crossed a line and now I was in mortal danger – I prayed he would look kindly on my affair with the third wife and protect her.

Just then Jeannie Yu walked in – I had asked her to met me here for dinner that evening and as she came to kneel beside me – I continued praying – from time to time I would look at Jeannie who was content to simply return my looks of affection by lowering her eyes shyly.

Some where along my prayers – I noticed from the corner of my eyes men who walked into the empty temple. I cannot explain to you how to realized these men where trouble – but trust me when I tell you – I simply knew.

Judging from their built and they way they carried themselves these were not ordinary men, the determination in their eyes could only belong to a breed of men who I referred too as professionals – had Jeannie Yu not being with me, I would have simply reached for my pistol and taken my chances with them – but that night – as I looked at Jeannie and these men and placed them on the scales of life, I knew only too well, I had very little choice – and it is like this in life sometimes, one really has no choice, other than to face the things that needs facing. So I turned to them and I said, give me a moment with my woman, I removed my pistol placed in on the altar to show them my good faith. The leader seeing my sincerity nodded and stepped back motioning his men to do the same. Then turning to a Jeannie who didn’t quite understand what was going on or for that matter what was about to happen, she began to tremble and cry.

“What’s happening my love?”

“Be calm, I need you to be strong for me – look at me! – you need to be strong for me no matter what happens – you need to be strong for me – promise me”

“ I promise” she whispered holding back her tears while looking nervously at these men.

I cannot expect you to imagine how a man can prepare himself for a beating – except to say, he cannot and the best, he can really do is to tighten his stomach, clench his teeth and hope for the very best. When the first wave of blows rained down on me, I felt that all too familiar gut wrenching sensation where the stomach seems to congeal into the size of tennis ball only to expand and contract again in between blows – though, I tried to block and shield myself – there was really no point and when the blows became fiercer, I simply turned inwards towards a suffused white light where everything slowed to a blur and soon, I hardly even felt the blows any longer – it was as though part of myself had separated so completely from my body, I might as well have been a by stander witnessing the life being kicked out of another person.

Though my legs seemed almost like jelly and I could hardly be trusted to stand. I did finally manage to stand before these men – judging from the way they were sweating, they must have given me a good beating, yet I still had enough life to taunt them

“Is that all you can do?”

From the corner of my eye I could see Jeannie cringing and curled up in one corner, her sobs resonating in the emptiness of the temple.

They neither reacted or responded to my taunts again confirming my suspicions these were professionals – one of them, presumably the leader grabbed my hand, opened up my fingers and placed – what appeared to two mother of pearl buttons with the words,

“the people who sent us told us to give you these – they said you will understand”

Then with a mixture of embarrassment and the feeling of having done something they would rather not do unless they have been paid a sum of money they could not possibly refuse– they apologized and even when to great lengths to emphasize, it was nothing personal and they meant no disrespect. In this comical exchange of words, where my legs could hardly be counted to stand – I replied, I was no ordinary man and they should seriously consider finishing what they started by putting a bullet in my head. Since after this I would be compelled to hunt them down and neither they or their families should expect any mercy from me when I find them – the leader appeared to nod his head solemnly and replied, that putting a bullet in my head was not part of the bargain – I was only to be roughed up and that was all – I asked who sent them – to which the leader leaned closed to me and whispered.

“The third wife is dead – she has received her justice for her adultery”

With these words they disappeared into the night.

Hearing these words suddenly made the world spin only to come to a sudden stop like a roulette wheel, I must have collapsed again – this time, from the very corner of my eyes I realized for the first time – I did not hold mother of pearl buttons in my hands – but rather the pearl earrings I had once given the third wife. They had finally returned to me.

Beside me and sobbing quite openly was Jeannie Yu, who gripped my hands so tightly she began almost to tremble– holding her hands had never been so important to me before – throughout that moment, I felt as if, I was sucked into some deep hole where death waited for me only to be pulled back again by those warm clammy trembling hands – hands of a woman who loved me and hands I regretted not being able to love – hands which I wished with all my heart was the third wife – hands which I knew after hearing what I had heard, I would never ever hold again.

Somewhere between the dream world of consciousness and blackness – I heard the intermittent sobs of Jeannie as she cradled my head,

“We don’t need to live like this – we really don’t my love – I can’t bear to see you like this – we can start anew, in a place faraway from here – a place where both you and I can live in peace away from this madness and violence – I don’t ever want to see you suffer my love –it tears me apart to see you like this – I don’t even mind leaving everything for you – if only you say yes”

That evening – as I lay with my head cradled in her arms – the world seemed almost to stop for a moment and I found myself standing before green fields somewhere in the country side – where the air was fresh – Yes, I was back into my fantasy world, the same world I had constructed so meticulously where I had planned to live with the third wife – a world so remove from this world – one could even say, it never really existed except in imagination of man who found himself so close to death that evening.

Darkness 2002

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 14 “Children whispering in the night.”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

I cannot tell you when I started to plan for a life with the third wife – all I can say is, it started very much in the way a prisoner, innocently shifts his bed closer to the wall only to knock it to discover a hollow thud – a wall he once regarded as unbreakable, suddenly yields the possibility of freedom – only for this man to dig away frantically till finally escaping through a tunnel.

My light came quite accidentally, when I chanced upon the third wife one rainy afternoon while she was walking alone in Hyde Park – There was hardly anyone in the park during the week days, so I followed her from a far, along the only gravel path leading up to the stone bridge, she always remained well in my sight.

For some inexplicable reason that afternoon I no longer saw the world in bold splashes but rather with a striking clarity even to make out objects which had previous escaped my consciousness. I was aware of the minuteness detail, the crushing sensation of my feet against the cobble stones, the gentle swaying of the oak trees on either side – the moss along the cobbled path with it’s edges gleaming rich emerald green soaked from yesterday’s rain and even the faint aroma of the third wife.

When she came to the middle of the stone bridge, she stopped – whether this stopping was silent resistance or silent seduction, I cannot tell you for certain – though she had her back to me, she must have known all along I had been following – at such close range the fragrance of her jet black hair carefully dressed and piled into a loose bun, drew me closer – till I came to stand so close as to even feel the warmth her body gave off . When she turned around, still wordless , her nose was wet with tears, and her delicate nostrils flared, her eyes gentle, yet in their midst, a mysterious fire burnt deep within them. When I kissed her first on her neck, she began to shake her head in an attempt to ward me off, but her struggles were so mechanical that instinctively, I knew they were not heartfelt.

As a result of her resistance, when my lips found hers, she keep twisting one way and the other, till somewhere along the way, her resolve suddenly melted away like black ice in fire and she began to settle down. When I tore away and looked at her – because I so wanted to look at the face of love – she looked towards a pavilion at the end of the bridge. Just then a slight rain began and no sooner after making the safety of shelter, the rain began to beat violently against the zinc roof.

In the pavilion light came in through a small window – her desire was unmistakable, as she undid her hair hardly showing the slightest trace of distress. She was even smiling faintly and when I touched her again her face gradually flooded crimson with desire – this time she did not resist me. The winds and rains by this time, picking up speed and increasing in their ferocity even the edge of the zinc roof began to lift and flap violently. Though it hardly mattered, I neither heard or cared for the rain that evening – my heart was completely at rest.

Afterwards she lay in my arms – the rains pattering softly – yet she continue to shed tears – fresh tears of joy – nothing could better convey what passed between us in the instant. In a while, the third wife returned very much to her distant self, sitting calmly in one corner very much consumed in her own thoughts as I was in mine, without even a single hair out of place and her cheong sam in perfect order.

When she raised her eyes and looked at me. A brilliant piercing flash passed between us and in that instant I knew just how she felt – throughout the period, I accompanied her to the car along the cobblestone path she hardly spoke, neither did I and even after opening the door to her car and seeing her off, she hardly ever looked my way.

I imagine it must be very difficult for you to understand how two people who came so close to each other in one moment in time can suddenly find themselves behaving like strangers – perhaps she like I realized we were people cut from the same cloth – people who did not quite own enough of themselves to even give a part of themselves to others – people like us can never speak of the future, or for that matter even the past – all we can really ever do is to live for the moment.

We were like, children whispering secretly in the dark when all that resonates in the house is the deep rest of sleep.

Tomorrow the giants will awake.

Darkness 2002

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 13 “The Pool Hall/The Man With The Red Pail.” (Part 3 of 3.)

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

In the weeks following the incident in the pool hall – the older cockroach was seen again in the streets of china town – hardly a flicker of his proud past, he hobbled from shop to shop carrying his red pail offering to clean windows for a few pence – from time to time, some of the younger cockroaches gave him cigarettes or bought him a bottle of cheap liquor, others who were not so forgiving of his cowardice gave him a kick in the groin whenever they saw him– on one occasion, when I saw the old cockroach rolled up in an alley with a blanket made up of old newspapers and cardboard – I invited him for a meal of double char siew fan* in Wong Kei, a restaurant where I first worked – though all the waiters wondered why a man of such prestige would be seen with this smelly beggar of a good for nothing alcoholic – eventually, it became clear to all, whenever he said to anyone who cared to listen, (*Roasted Pork Rice)

“The benefactor who collects and carries money for the four houses is indeed a truly merciful man and thought I cannot understand why he is still my friend after what I have said and done to him – he is my friend – so if you do not give me face – at least give the merciful benefactor face – for if the benefactor of the four houses hears, his friend has not been treated well – he will not be happy man. Do you understand me?”

From that day onwards, whenever some of cockroaches gestured – to either “give them face” or “to show respect”, I would still oblige, but when I declined politely as I often did – none of them would dare hold it against me or even feel slighted – all they needed to do to remind themselves whenever they needed reminding was to look outside the window – the sad image of the old cockroach decaying in his soiled leather jacket with his long oily hair reeking of alcohol could always be counted to smile at them – this never failed to send shivers down their spines.

Older cockroaches would often point to the man who hobbled with his red pail and say to the younger cockroaches.

“Never end up like this man, he doesn’t know the meaning respect, that is why he was taught a lesson by the young benefactor who carries the money for the four houses.”

Some six months later – one evening, after the man with the red pail finished cleaning the last of the shop windows and was about to pack his things – he must have said to himself, it was time to give himself a treat – and stepped into a one of the best Chinese restaurants famous for serving Peking duck in Old Crompton Street – he had after all in the last few months given up alcohol and tobacco – even shaving regularly and keeping his hair short – often showering and changing his clothes – on his off days which usually fell on Tuesday, he would often be seen in Charing Cross church fixing either the gutter or having a chat with the Nigerian pastor, who looked upon this lost soul kindly by giving him a little room in the attic, just above the boiler room, where he had started to grow a few pots of tomatoes – Some even said he had accepted Christ and his new name was “David” as he would often be seen in lunch hours listening to his daughter who read him passages from a Chinese Bible, who often sat beside her father in the park – there was even talk of him returning to his wife again, since she was often seen helping him turn the wheel of life as a window cleaner, carrying his ladder, or some odds and ends – even some of the store keepers gradually came around when they saw him getting his act together – often greeting him by his new name and offering him tea and steamed buns on a cold winters day – some even went as far as to pay one month in advance for his window cleaning services – so that night after finishing the first meal he had paid entirely for himself with his own hard earned wages – the man with the red pail was a contented man.

On his way back – witnesses recounted the sad story of how a black sedan had suddenly pulled up alongside this man, where four well dressed Chinese men brought out a crying teenage girl who was later identified as his daughter and though words were exchanged between these men no one really heard much of it – when one these men handed a revolver to the victim – he merely looked as if his fate had been decided and raised the revolver pressed the barrel into his temple and pulled the trigger – some of the witnesses mentioned hearing the last words, one of these well dressed men said to the man with the red pail – it went something like this:

“The game is not finished yet – there is still one last round.”

When the cockney investigating officer heard this account from one of the witnesses he simply dismissed it, saying it didn’t make any bloody sense.

“He must be bloody talking about last night’s game at the old Trafford.”

As it turned out, the witness was wearing a faded Manchester united jersey.

That entire week – shopkeepers, restaurant owners and even the cockroaches came to look upon me sympathetically – the man with the red pail was after all my pet – I had after all being the man who spared his life, when I could very well have taken it and no one would have even faulted me for doing so – given him the red pail and towel that eventually became his trade mark and said

“From this day onwards, this will be your life.”

Even used my influence so no window in China town or that matter little Italy would be turned away from him and even when no man would sit with the man with the red pail – I would often be seen sitting with him as he ate his double Char Siew fan listening to his ramblings – I was after all, the man who even the man with red pail saw as:

“The merciful benefactor of who served the four houses.”

Surely such a man could not have ordered his execution.

Darkness 2002

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