Pavle Radonic ~ These I Commend To Thee

The First

The drunk­en old street-wreck had been tread­ing on exceed­ing­ly thin ice late­ly. (Not such a stretch on this por­tion of the equa­tor in fact, where there were numer­ous rinks and sculp­tur­al fan­tasias of var­i­ous kinds.) Emboldened recent­ly, the man had been stop­ping at the tables to chat with the reg­u­lar pun­ters, the din­ers and tea-sip­pers. Children strong­ly drew Rep, extend­ed fam­i­lies, prop­er scarves & what­not. Most endured the man’s blath­er patient­ly and well enough; kind­ly and allow­ing many. But of course there was always a fine line, inevitably. In the morn­ing he had approached the table while Mr. Ee, the old agar­wood trad­er, had sat for a while. God damn it! one thing. God damn it! some­thing else. Watching from the side the burly pra­ta-mak­er had come out from his hot-plate, snarling and ready to pounce. In this case the Wreck had quick­ly calmed down and in fact made him­self use­ful. Discovering Mr. Ee was over for a pack of the untaxed, he was just the man to oblige, ready and will­ing. What was the pref­er­ence? Name your brand. Indo Garam. Marlboro Red. What?… Twenty min­utes lat­er there it was, duly deliv­ered. ($7, one added for ser­vices ren­dered. Mr. Ee had estab­lished that from the start.) For the evening how­ev­er the man had picked the wrong table. No nose at all for the mat­ter. Elderly stout scarves, pious and prop­er, sit­ting in coun­cil; they were unwill­ing to tol­er­ate any unman­ner­ly intru­sion. One saw from three rows back the tem­per­a­ture rapid­ly ris­ing. God damn it! God damn it! Wheeling away from the table and round­ing back the Wreck, flay­ing his arms; flap­ping. All was not well and far from it. Coming down to unbur­den it was clear the com­plaints had wound­ed the man; bad­ly and cru­el­ly wound­ed. Spittle fly­ing in his deliv­ery. (What was noticed now too in the evening was the dye. A recent appli­ca­tion, giv­en dur­ing the course of the day.) God damn it! Damn it! They call me stupid!…Am I stu­pid?…Wheeling and splut­ter­ing; tot­ter­ing while some­how keep­ing his feet. Flaying wind­mill arms; chick­en wings flap­ping. It was best to remove the cup from the line of fire. The spec­ta­cle this time out­side the eatery drew Zahruddin, the good­ly man­ag­er at Al Wadi. An under­stand­ing, fair man Rudd, with whom the Reprobate had had trou­ble before. Told to move off. The pair joust­ing, hold­ing their respec­tive ground. It made an unfor­tu­nate spec­ta­cle. At the plead­ing sign from the side Zahruddin gra­cious­ly with­drew. He was stu­pid was he, the Wreck? Is that what every­one thought, then?… Well, grant­ed he had only his O Level, maybe that was stu­pid. (In  class­rooms school-teach­ers often con­front­ed such dol­drums from con­fused teens.) Cripes man! No. No. Not stu­pid. That was unfair and uncalled for. No-one had a right to that lan­guage. (Many round­about on Geylang Road of course fell far short of even the O Level, as the Wreck knew well enough. In the mer­i­to­crat­ic Republic the dis­tinc­tions ran through the com­mu­ni­ty with mil­i­tary order.) Dribbles by this stage. Tears what was more, full and flow­ing. Unrestrained tears from a man in what, his ear­ly-six­ties. Chap had begun steal­ing from his father in ear­ly teens, the Reprobate had con­fessed some months before. And pro­gressed from there. Twenty-some­thing times in the lock-up; errors freely owned and duly paid. This Reprobate had nev­er accept­ed a teh, nor request­ed alms. Once he had offered the present of a bro­ken winged angel he had been giv­en by some­one or oth­er. When the Reprobate had dis­cov­ered the sig­nif­i­cance of the fig­ure, he imme­di­ate­ly threw the piece into the gut­ter, where it shat­tered into pieces. I’m a Muslim, God damn it!.. And the fel­low did hold to that with some firm­ness. All men searched for god, the Wreck had offered the pri­vate insight some months ear­li­er. Whatever their pro­fes­sion, what­ev­er their rank or stand­ing, that was the chief endeav­our of man. So mem­o­rably did pro­nounce the Wreck of this Geylang street on one par­tic­u­lar occa­sion; a chap who ranged from the Haig Market down to Changi cor­ner and not much fur­ther. Two hun­dred meter ambit. (That morn­ing he had crossed to the larg­er Malay mar­ket for the fags. Where though might he have obtained the hair colour was a won­der.) Saturday night splut­ter­ing at the table, lean­ing close, list­ing. The tears issu­ing from the turned eye piti­ful to behold. The right sock­et seemed to have the depth of an inex­haustible well. (Street fight you had to con­clude, what else?) Difficult to set­tle. Hearing him­self quot­ed on the mat­ter of human yearn­ing might have reg­is­tered and helped in the present case. Helped paci­fy. Some slow, slow sim­mer­ing. The storm slow­ly sub­sided. In the fin­ish there was safe jour­ney wished the mat salleh trav­el­er, this white guy who had become a fix­ture in the quar­ter and soon need­ed to leave. Among the oth­ers of that com­mu­ni­ty that had been acci­den­tal­ly found in that back cor­ner of the city-state, the Reprobate too would be sore­ly missed.

Geylang Serai, Singapore


The Second

Sometimes it does hap­pen you can­not tell a sto­ry. If it prompts strong­ly enough for out­line or draft­ing, after­ward it must be put aside, kept for some future, unknown even­tu­al­i­ty. Filed away. Sensitivities of var­i­ous sorts might be involved, usu­al­ly iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of per­son­al­i­ties, del­i­cate or dan­ger­ous sub­jects. Sometimes the mate­r­i­al was sim­ply too blunt and direct, too strong­ly declarative.

In this case the mat­ter pre­sent­ed flat­ly and rather awk­ward­ly; head-on.

A cat feed­er in the acquain­tance was found at her usu­al cor­ner, on the grass in the midst of her lit­ter. Pigeons, crows, mynahs & spar­rows hov­er­ing roundabout.

Against the legal order, this lady sur­rep­ti­tious­ly con­tin­ued to feed the birds as well as cats, usu­al­ly ear­ly in the morn­ing before dawn. After so many weeks the fowls recog­nised her and flocked when­ev­er she appeared. They would even wait out­side her door morn­ings and evenings at her usu­al times.

Approaching 7pm. Lady pro­vid­ing for her out­door lot. The fact the birds might be steal­ing some of the feed behind her back was noth­ing to do with her, Mr Policeman.

Crouched on the approach and fixed in her purpose.

Coming clos­er across the road, the hand­some B/W tab between her feet was sighted.

Stout & thick-bod­ied, rather like her­self, the ani­mal was rel­ish­ing the choice feed this lady gave both her indoor favourites, and also this the near seg­ment of her out­door. (Expensive Belgian prod­uct saved in the long run with vet fees & related.)

Greedily the beau­ty here—and it was indeed a beauty—tupped at her stain­less, azure bowl. Feeder close behind caress­ing with both hands along its flanks.

Stroking rhyth­mi­cal­ly she was, the lady, with some rapid­i­ty. Firmly and with grip. This was no mere pat­ting of the coat.

Coming from a squat­ting cul­ture, the thick­set old Feeder eas­i­ly main­tained her pos­ture, con­cen­trat­ed care­ful­ly above the fig­ure before her.

In that pose the lady’s panties might have been clear­ly vis­i­ble, did one direct the gaze in that region.

Standing lit­tle over a metre off in the gut­ter watch­ing, the lady failed to dis­cern the onlooker’s presence.

Fixed and close­ly focused the while.

We did have there a decid­ed­ly tricky/sticky circumstance.

The observ­er might creep off per­haps. Perhaps the lady would entire­ly fail to notice. Even if she did, the mark­ing of the retreat might not come until after the cat had fin­ished with its lusty feeding.

Otherwise, one could ven­ture a cheery Hallo and nego­ti­ate the fur­ther in some fashion.

Stroking and stroking. The rit­u­al prayers with­in the niche at the Hindu tem­ples odd­ly came to mind.

Beautiful form this puss; not unlike the lingam. Rich, healthy colour; hand­some proportions.

Ordinarily it might not have allowed such close atten­dance upon itself.

Haig Road, Singapore


The Third

For Big Issue Greg pret­ty much the most that could be done was note the par­tic­u­lars the man had some­how been prompt­ed to divulge in the entrance of the café, stand­ing a few feet away from the table. Two of his uncles had been mur­dered. One, if it was got­ten right, after rap­ing and pos­si­bly killing an eighty year old woman. (Certainly a near fam­i­ly mem­ber had per­pe­trat­ed the rape.) Greg him­self was adopt­ed and beat­en by his step-father. There had been some oth­er hor­ror too touch­ing the father that had slipped. Edged in some­how after­ward, Greg sug­gest­ed he had been lucky. It was a kind of cor­rec­tion that was insert­ed in order not to give the lis­ten­er a false impres­sion. Greg had played lead in a num­ber of bands and was no slouch on the drums either. An encounter once with Ross Wilson of Daddy Cool had been mem­o­rable. To a shout-out of Greg’s at a sight­ing some­where, Ross had giv­en warm thumbs-up—imitated for us by the keen fan, Big Issue Greg. Yesterday the man had tak­en a seat after ini­tial­ly only intend­ing to stop in order to ask the oth­er Greg whether he had got it right some days before, that the lat­ter had once road­ied for Skyhooks. Indeed, ‘twas the case, con­firmed by the oth­er, the plumber Greg. Skyhooks was a big­ger band than even Daddy Cool. The pair of Gregs was the same age and shared the musi­cal her­itage of the era. Over the café speak­ers some kind of tune had come on–by Heat or Heat Something. (It wasn’t Canned Heat.) A num­ber that was favoured more by roadie/plumber Greg than the oth­er. Tall, lanky Big Issue Greg was left a tri­fle cool there. Listen to the back­ing, the enthu­si­as­tic Greg sug­gest­ed. Something like sooth­ing ocean waves for chill­in, seemed to be the point. Skyhooks Roadie Greg the plumber hailed from Mordie; the oth­er Greg Altona. Opposite sides of the bay and the lads find­ing them­selves at the geo­graph­ic mid­point in St Kilda, joined by music. So far as rid­ing the ocean and those par­tic­u­lar musi­cal waves went, that had been plumber Greg; not the oth­er. Like one or two oth­er street peo­ple, lanky Big Issue Greg with the hor­rors in the fam­i­ly usu­al­ly only came into Truffles for the con­ve­niences. Pan Jarik the host was a good sort, rais­ing no objec­tion. It was one of the rea­sons the café was so con­ge­nial. Tall, lanky Greg sold the Big Issue mags in the pas­sage by the phar­ma­cy, where plumber Greg morn­ings picked up his done. They were both local fix­tures, adopt­ed pret­ty nice­ly by many of the denizens. The for­mer had come from a set­tled, order­ly home envi­ron­ment; hor­ror came lat­er for that Greg with his gal Gaye’s kid­ney fail­ure. Big Issue Greg main­tained he had nev­er done any­thing more than weed, and just then the oth­er didn’t have a mind to divulge any­thing fur­ther his side.

St. Kilda, Melbourne


Pavle Radonic is an Australian writer of Montenegrin her­itage who has spent nine years liv­ing in SE Asia. Recently his work has appeared in Impermanent Earth, Literary Veganism, Sunflowers at Midnight & Panoply.