talk about dysfunctional. there are 8 members in this family. 2 won't sit. 1 won't share. 1 doesn't get enough sun. 2 tear at each other on sight. the woman won't stop. the man has no clue. welcome to my family.
Skoda has a new playmate, Braun. except, there is more hissing than there is playing. Skoda, you know what they say about holding friends close and enemies closer... now she looks like the sweet adorable one who is so 'poor thing' kena bully by you.
this is Singapore by the way, for those who never been. the view just misses the central shopping and business district which is on the other side of the building so nothing very noteworthy to point out here. the woman is definitely on the wrong side as you also can't see the animal family from here!
the woman has spent years running from normal. there's no running now that she will return to the corporate world of project meetings, progress reports and high heels tomorrow.
the house has been cleaned, wardrobe reorganised, ironing done, we have all been bathed and so she is ready to go. physically. mentally, she is still stuck in the world of furball on keyboard and pyjamas till 3, both of which she is going to miss like hell unless the company she is joining makes some serious changes to their hr policies.
and then it still wouldn't be enough.
she doesn't have a new wardrobe, just dusted off the old one because she doesn't know how long she will hold out there and because she doesn't want to play that retail for esteem game anymore. is this how women progress from sassy to 'auntie'? one day they look in the mirror and say "screw it". there's just other priorities now. and Tooty her personal trainer (dons spandex) says, there are far cheaper and more long term ways to looking decent, ladies. exercise, exfoliate and smile (keep telling yourself that).
but that fashion bubble has, for the woman, burst irreversibly. along with the gadget, luxury and spa bubbles. what consumes her now are music, books, food craves and us. and the next great game plan to escape normal.
but you can't reenter the real world without it changing you. no doubt the intensive work scope is going to devour her in the months ahead so who knows what's going to happen. last night, we had Cookie over so the woman can take her to the vet for sterilisation this morning. Bobby got jealous that Cookie slept on her pillow and peed on the bed again. we dread the day when these accidents becomes nothing more than a distasteful chore on a long to-do list. and her first reaction is not to run to Bobby to give him a hug for feeling neglected.
barely. friendliness between the animal family residents and Pavarotti has gone no further than acknowledgement of mutual existence. maybe because of the disparity in the ages or because he's never been anything but a one-cat pet. more likely, he's just a snotty-nosed elitist with his big fur and collar ruffles. the dandy.
these are *Wendy*'s kitties who're off to the vet today to be fixed. the kooky squinty one in the front greets the woman at the door by rolling over and arching her bum up. so you are the one calling the toms around from a 5-mile radius.
normally, the woman puts cats scheduled for sterilisation in cages on a trolley and wheels them to the vet who is about 15 minutes away. today, she sees the 2 cats are pretty light and decides to take the short cut along the canal with the 2 cats in the one carrier, a route she normally takes on the return journey empty-handed. anyone could have told her it is an incredibly stupid idea lugging the cats this way when the ground is sloped some of the ways and there are 2 low rails to climb over. but no, she only realises her folly when the carrier starts to get excruciatingly heavy to throw off counterbalancing on the steep section and it is as impossible going forward as it is going back. with no choice but to press on, she grits it and finally emerges on the other side unscathed. you know you are this close to being a cat killer, you stupid woman.
woman normally cabs the return journey after the surgery to give the cats a break and to get them settled in comfortably as soon as possible. but today, she loses her keys in the cab and locks them all out of the house for over an hour until the man comes to the rescue, once again, proving herself worthy of the Bonehead-Of-The-Day Award (standing ovation).
the neighbour's kids would love to play with us but their grandma does not allow them to come in so they take their little stools and sit outside the gate whenever they can to tune in to the provocative life and times of the idle and the bored. poor things. but never say we don't put on a helluva show for their sakes. showbiz rule #1: reality is never real when there is an audience.
her latest escapade is inspired by japanese writer Natsume Soseki who wrote the book I am a Cat in 1904 about "the adventures of a world-weary stray kitten who observes the foibles of upper-middle class Japanese society in the Meiji era with sardonic wit".
so that he can escape the bathroom for a while, the woman takes the coone with her to her mum's place for dinner. they try out Alistair and Ah B but he answers to none. the woman's sister-in-law tries Pavarotti and the coone trots over.
this is not a cat. he is a sheepdog. when the woman sees it for the first time, she knows she has to take him home. so now we have a sheepdog in our bathroom.
his family cannot accomodate him anymore despite importing him several years ago for a tidy sum of money. reason being that they are shifting, the son is sickly and might have something or other to do with the cat. so big boy here is left in a hurry with a foster whose elderly mother locks it outdoors and uses a broom as a disciplinary. he is eventually relocated to auntie ah lan's friend, auntie anne, who also needs to pass the cat on as soon as she can because town council has been closely on her tail.
so he's landed with us until we can find a home for him. fast i hope, because the bathroom is no place for such a big boy. but no way he can be out here with us. he is very quiet, extremely tame with the woman, but obviously never had to share anything with other felines all his life.
hopefully he will be more friendly after he recovers from his bath and has had a bite.
(update: Pavarotti has since settled in well. when it was confirmed that he is all of 11 years old, we felt this senior citizen shouldn't have to put up with yet another relocation so he is part of this family now!)
auntie ah lan is an elderly lady. she still works and all the money she earns as a hotel kitchen staff goes to cats. sterilisation. food. and the time someone threw a cat on the roof of a refuse collection centre which costs her $50 for a contractor to bring down, in less than 5 minutes. spare an old lady her lunch money!
what truly sets auntie ah lan apart from the rest of the caregivers?
deja vu, someone threw another cat down 7 stories. a ledge breaks his fall but leaves him with internal bleeding and paralysis in the hind legs. the vet says he's a goner but instead of putting Jamie to sleep, auntie ah lan brings him home. the vet has nothing for it so she tries TCM. yes, traditional chinese freaking medicine. herbs to flush out the blood (it came out in black clots) and ointment for the legs, everyday, for 3 months. and Jamie has been walking, jumping, bouncing ever since for 5 years.
that's not all. old ginger here she nursed back from severe scalding by hot oil. she is currently nursing another scalding case.
someone please give auntie ah lan a nobel peace prize. for picking up all the shattered fragments of humanity in her neighbourhood.
after living in the neighbourhood for so many years, the caregivers know who the culprits are. but when they make a police report about cats being scalded, beaten, killed, the police ask where's the evidence, got photo? yet when these culprits make the slightest complaint about cat sightings, officers show up in a hurry badges flashing to 'inspect' the caregivers' apartments threatening eviction, confiscation.
these are from evocative accounts with evocative words from feisty little old ladies but the discrepancy in the dispensing of justice to do with cats is plainly evident, in any dialect.
over and above, one of the caregivers, auntie ah lan's friend has this to say about her cat-abusing neighbour, "every week go church don't know for what. say cats smelly, his heart even more smelly. you mean people shit not smelly? only cat shit smelly? say the cat shit on his window. of course la, even a kid if you beat and corner him and make him scared he also will shit and pee everywhere."
the woman knows what she wants to be when she grows up(old). a feisty little old lady. hopefully one who can work a miracle. if auntie ah lan can work one on Jamie, maybe the caregiver can work one for unknown.
this cat got run over today. a friend finds her twitching and struggling by the side of the road with a huge dent where her stomach used to be and calls the woman. by the time she gets there, the cat is limp, ears cold, eyes wet, moving her hind legs ever so slightly back and forth.
on the way there, the woman alerts a group of caregivers feeding at a void deck nearby and they all come rushing to take a look. they recognise her. one of them finds a box and offers her towel for the cat's comfort as they wait for SPCA to come.
in that time, they manage to locate the specific caregiver for this cat and she rushes down to see her baby. the cat has a brother who have both been with her since a very young age. she decides to take the cat back with her to die a natural death in her home because she doesn't want her baby to die in some unknown place. also because her religion does not condone euthanasia.
would i prefer a quick mercy death in a strange cold place by a strange cold instrument, or a slow death in the arms of family? i don't know. i really don't.
in a review of narnia, a critic says the talking beasts phenomenon is more than just high storytelling, that there may be a deep theological importance in the ability of animals to speak. "We are all, as (C.S.) Lewis reminds us in Mere Christianity, filled with a longing for the original holiness of Eden. We all too, he adds, long for paradise in the future. Narnia reminds us that an essential part of that longing is a healing of the old wound between man and beast. Was it not through a talking beast, the serpent, that temptation first entered the world? Ever since then, sin has separated man from God, and man from creation-including its animals. Sin has sundered man from God, the angels, the beasts, and even the inanimate world about him.
The world of Narnia is not free from these effects of the fall. But there is hope, given in certain kinds of literature. J. R. R. Tolkien comments on this hope with his usual insight in his essay "On Fairy Stories." Fairy tales, in his view, satisfy "the desire of men to hold communion with other living things." This remark naturally presupposes an absence of communion in our present state. For most of us, serpents do not tempt, donkeys do not rebuke their masters (Num. 22:28), and badgers do not offer us tea. "Living things," Tolkien adds, means more than dwarfs, fauns, and elves. He includes inanimate nature, too. We desire a kind of communion with all created things, animate and inanimate. Stones, rivers, birds, trees: Tolkien notes that fairy tales give speech to all these things. (We are thus not far from Tolkien's creation of the Ents, the talking trees, in The Lord of the Rings. How amusing and revealing are C. S. Lewis's recollections of Tolkien as a man who would actually embrace the trees. How rich that Tolkein would base his Entish leader Treebeard on Lewis.) In sum, man desires to be in communion with the whole world; he looks for right relationship with all of God's creation. Fairy tales in part reflect that desire."
theological or not, this longing is all too real for the woman who increasingly feels a sharp disconnect from her dense flourescent manufactured urbanscape.
Wendy has nurtured an elaborate garden-like sanctuary, a 'hideaway' she calls it, that in no uncertain terms reclaims her unique brand of sanity in this complicated, crazy world. be it that we all know how to stroke our own battered souls by simple, finite means.
there are some questions too big for a cat to wrap her mind around. i am content that the woman holds me like she is holding a precious piece of paradise. i am a finite thing of natural beauty that will have to do, for now.
the woman has been trying to arrange for a home visit with the Family Service to our schizophrenic(?) neighbour for some time now but the time the social worker does come down, they find *Wendy* not home. the neighbour says she found work.
the next day, Wendy calls the woman to ask if she told the neighbour anything about her, not to do it, as they will use the information against her. it is another one-sided conversation. the woman manages to interject enough to ask if she and the man can visit her some time.
so it comes to be that in the evening, the man and woman make their way to Wendy's. without back up. with much trepidation.
Wendy welcomes them warmly and immediately, the man and woman know they have been acting like fools.
two beautiful cats greet them at the door. big shining eyes and gorgeous gleaming coats. one white and orange. one with the same colour and markings as leukemia.
the cats lounge content in the 'garden' that stretches from the front door into the apartment, amidst a botanical spectacle of luscious, robust potted plants that culminates at a fish pond with a fountain spring. birdcages with faux birds and little trinkets inside hang decorative from the ceiling.
Wendy's home is similarly bedecked with a myriad ornaments and curiosities in soft warm light. Wendy's taste is decidedly english. there are oil portraits, victorian-inspired cushions and lampshades and a million cat and dog figurines. worn and cluttered, it is strangely attractive with a soothing lavender scent.
Wendy shows them pictures of her dogs, a golden retriever and a collie, who lived to 12 and 14 respectively and died in her arms. she talks about her cats, her plants, never once mentions the spy-hole in the wall that she said she would show the woman when she comes.
after they leave, the man wonders if the woman will be like that one day with her knickknacks, her disdain for the apathy in the world and her obsession with nature and animals. yep, who knows. for now, it is all they can do to look in on Wendy once in a while, because maybe one day, when they need it, someone might look in on them.