THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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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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