chatting with the ah ma while cleaning, jaime translated for the woman that she was happy that after many years of silence, her youngest son showed up and gave her pocket money. things did seem to be looking up. her other son, an ex-convict, has also been consistently working and close to getting his taxi license with jaime and janet’s help and encouragement.
then ah ma asked for money again. when they had lunch with her at her favourite kopitiam, they figured out why she is always short when she consistently receives money from several sources: her daughter, jaime and janet and some kind people in the neighbourhood.
they saw ah ma give a substantial sum of money on the side to the coffee shop cleaner, a mildly autistic middle-aged man who is also her errand boy when she needs help with the heavy lifting. the poor guy was always getting an earful from the volunteers because he is the one who gives ah ma her constant supply of chicken heads for the cats!
as it is, he is the sole provider for his elderly mother and a severely incapacitated sister. the kopitiam stall owners help him out by giving him work and food and a little extra collection from each stall every month. then last week, a con-woman came along and cleaned him out with her cheap promises.
so ah ma gave him an ear lashing and what money she had. they already knew she was her own one-woman soup kitchen in the neighbourhood. a motley bunch of people would crawl out of the woodwork everyday to take their meals with her at the kopitiam and she would pay. the volunteers thought she was probably lonely and needed the company but they could not have been more wrong. the instinct that compels her to take in all those sad animals is exactly the same as what compels her to spread what little she has around.
and she is smart about it. ah ma has no qualms taking, begging and even defrauding the haves just so she can give to the have-nots, like some kind of geriatric robin hood. she is also the kopitiam mafia, so luck to the con-woman if she shows up again!
in another twist of this wonderland tale, someone left ah ma four kittens this week and they all suffer severe conjunctivitis. the woman has convinced herself and all of us that we have NO CHOICE but to offer them the hospitability of our utility room so here they are depriving us of our strategic neighbourhood look-out point, our vital evil plan headquarters above the wardrobe and sleep.
two have found adopters and two will go on the adoption boards as soon as they are pretty again.
get well soon kiddos and we will be glad to see you out of here!