The Merdeka Flag (A short story in conjunction with the Merdeka celebration)
Posted by Oscar the Grouch on August 31, 2008
This short story is written by The Construction Lawyer.
An exasperated Helen Chong manoeuvres her way out of the maddening crowd. Petaling Street was not what it used to be, she thinks to herself; apart from the jostling throng of people. The volatile weather condition, relatively clear about half-an hour ago, has its sunny skyline replaced with dark bellowing clouds. The strong breezy wind made its way towards Helen, as she hastens her footsteps. She has, on one hand, her oversized LV handbag; and on the other, a huge plastic bag; in it, container bags of fried pork.
She has just purchased the fried pork from the famous shop in Petaling Street – it is the place to get Chinese fried pork, especially if it is meant to be a cuisine gift for important clients. Helen Chong is a real estate negotiator, specializing in high-end office blocks. She has been in this industry for the past 15 years, making her one of the leading agents within the Klang Valley vicinity. It will be one of her corporate clients that she will be graciously offering the boxes of fried pork to.
Helen curses herself as a she feels the little droplets from the slight drizzle on her head. As it is, she is already late to fetch her daughter from school. Lavinia is 8, and is in Standard 2. At Helen’s insistence, Lavinia is enrolled in a private Chinese school – her one and only precious daughter will not be registered in a public school. Money is no objections; Lavinia must be educated exclusively in her mother-tongue. Helen will definitely be late, by which time Lavinia would have been waiting for some time. The thought of kidnappers taking captive of her offspring went through Helen’s mind. It is so rampant these days, in this country, thinks Helen to herself.
As she darts across the road, her mobile phone lets out a boisterous deafening ring. It is her husband, but Helen has not the luxury of time to answer his call, despite knowing that he is making the call from Shanghai. She knows that it is one of his daily buzz, just to report on his well-being, and to catch up on any newsworthy event out of the ordinary. She can always call on him at his hotel later. She knows her husband’s dreary routine – work, go back to the hotel and watch CNN. In any event, her husband would be flying back in two days time. His business in China has been moving along well, the trips there have now been a familiar fixture in their marriage routine, she misses him not now.
Despite the good income provided by her husband’s trading enterprise, coupled by her immoderate sales commissions, both Helen and her husband are still intent to migrate. Their documents are already in process, so says their immigration lawyers. If all goes well, an affirmative reply will be forthcoming in a few months. Helen has been toying with the choice of relocating to either Melbourne or Sydney – that is where most of her relatives and friends are, anyway. Helen has wanted to move away ever since Lavinia was born. Her self-assurance in the country is wanting – education, healthcare, quality of life, the hot weather, bribery and recently, the increase in urban crime rates. Helen wants the best for her daughter, and she fervently believes the unsurpassed offer lies across the seas.
Helen looks at the time, it shows 6.45 pm. The sky, already dark, and the drizzle begin to convert to a downpour. Unfortunately and untimely, she was unable to find a parking spot earlier on, and had to resort to putting her car in a far-flung car park. Helen is tired and hungry; the thought of walking in the rain disgusted her, when, almost immediately, she sees an alley. It would be a convenient short-cut to the car, she entices herself. Without even a brief consideration, she proceeds into the alley lane; her rush makes her somewhat oblivious to the lurking dangers of the dark unlit walkway.
The dim passageway is not the back lane of the shops, as initially thought by Helen. It is actually a pathway pavement to the little marketplace. Being a day market for the convenience of the locals there, the place is now gloomy and empty, apart from a few loitering vagrants, which added to the shadowy sinister atmosphere of the location. The stench is somewhat unbearable; it is a potpourri of pong of the slaughtered animals from the butchers, causing Helen to feel nauseatingly queasy. Seeing the light from the end of the market-alley cheered Helen.
As she reaches the last stall, a man jumps out on her, with a large butcher’s knife. Helen breaks out in a piercing scream. The robber points the razor-sharp knife at her, giving it a slight sway back and forth, indicating the macabre end if the mugging does not end in his favour. Helen is shaking all over, breaks of cold-sweat appears on her forehead. The robber directs to her costly-looking LV handbag. Helen quickly gives the bag to him, her hands trembling uncontrollably as she passes the purse to her assailant. As the bandit rummages through the bag, Helen notices that the man is a foreigner, judging by his physical looks; and young, perhaps no more over 25. Then Helen sees a passerby, a Chinese mother with her young daughter. The lady witnesses the larceny, but quickly turns away, hushing her daughter to safety. Helen’s heart sank.
Then out of nowhere, a fat elderly Malay lady appears at the scene, shouting at the robber, startling him in the process. The robber turns around and starts to wave the knife violently. Almost at that instance, a burly man appears, to defend his wife. The hefty Pakcik swings his shopping back to thwart the attack. The Makcik joins the fray, oblivious to the dangers. Seeing the engage, the robber becomes more violent, now more intent to injure anyone who can foil his livelihood. The Pakcik caught sight of a Malaysia flag on one of the vegetable stall, complete with a big pole stick; it was one of the many pole-flag put up for the Merdeka celebration. Quickly, the Pakcik pulls out the flag and uses it as his weapon. It becomes an uncanny bludgeon stick. In a swoosh, the long stick-cane hits the robber on the head, the cloth-flag draping over him, making him fall flat on the dirty market ground; in the process, he loses grip of the knife – it flings to one corner before lodging itself into the side-drain in a loud cling. Seeing the robber clumsily wrapped the Makcik runs up and gives him a strong kick in the stomach; ending the battle. The Pakcik has to hold on to his feisty wife from hurling further physical abuses. The robber, sensing he is beaten, runs away, whilst trying to free himself from the entangled flag.
The Pakcik and the Makcik then looks at Helen, with an assuring smile. The Pakcik picks up the LV bag, passing it to Helen. No words came out from Helen; she is still badly-shaken. The Makcik gives Helen a squeeze on her shoulder, as if telling her it’s all over.
Helen’s heart is still thumping swiftly as she sees the valiant elderly Malay couple walks off.