"When a stranger gets a thorn in his foot, he is wise to pluck it out. He is a fool to leave it and say 'I will keep this thorn to remind me the road upon which I have traveled' ", said Mbjene.
- When The Lions Feed / Wilbur Smith.
It was near noon. Even with the sun has yet to reach it's apex the heat seemed higher than normal. Standing at the edge of a small field which is hemmed between a trunk road and a housing area, a man stood with his head bowed, his eyes looking at the ground yet seeing nothing. In his hands, he holds a black plastic bag - a trash bag, to be exact - the only thing he could find on a moment's notice.
I was still recovering from a bout of a vicious virus attack which forced me to sleep more than 20hours a day. It was not the best of times but it was certainly better than a week or two before when I could open my eyes for mere minutes and when all sense of time was lost as the body and mind seek the solace of the unconscious state. But the noise from the porch kept waking me and I forced myself to have a peek. At that point of time, I had stopped giving food to the stray cats; I couldn't.
A month prior, I had seen him at the rear of my neighbour's house and thought he was a fine tabby with a bushy tail. I even 'accidentally' sprayed water at him just to see his reaction. Just like any other cats who dislike water, he fled. That, was the end of it, I remember thinking. Now, he stand outside with his sister, I presume. From then on, the porch and him are almost inseparable.
Clad only in his sarong and white t-shirt, the man seemed numbed, looking at the ground where an elderly lady was digging a hole. The lady, had been digging at several places but found this patch to be the softest spot, in a field where concrete, bricks and even iron pipes lay strewn beneath the thin layer of earth and grass.
From the row of shop-houses, a stranger walked across the road to have a closer look. Perhaps the sight of an elderly Chinese lady with a middle-aged Malay man in the field under the hot sun aroused the stranger's curiosity.
One of the best thing I I loved about watching him is when each time I return home. Even as I slowly reverse the car into the porch, he would be prancing the width with his bushy tail wagging; the sight which somehow warms my inside.
Early in the acquaintance, with my mind still fuzzy and the walk shaky, I did not know what to call him. To his insistent mewing, I somehow said 'meoweh', sort of a mix between a Chinese word 'mew-ah' meaning 'what do you want?' or 'what is it?', and the cat language 'meow'. The latter, since I am not a Cat Whisperer, I am as clueless just as I am with the dialect of the Chinese word.
"Dia tangan pecah" the lady said to the stranger who now stand in the shadow of the nearest tree. The man looked up, opened one of his hands and said "Eczema". His fingers, clearly showed the ravages of eczema, with bruises and cuts all over.
[Eczema is a skin ailment which is caused by allergens which differs from one person to another, in form and the allergen itself. A 5yr old boy in Kuala Selangor, is unable to withstand the heat of the sun and has to constantly stay within an air-conditioned-cooled temperature, while a cook in Sg Buloh Hospital cannot stay long in the heat of the kitchen where she's working. Both, otherwise, would find their skin peeling. The middle-aged man here, however, has to watch his food just as I too.
Having first suffered my first bout some 30years ago, I was left without a skin on both my palms as well as my fingers. Sleep, would mean having to bandage each finger and palms separately and keeping them far apart to avoid my very own body heat which can become unbearable].
Nights would sometime see me sitting on the long bench near the porch where Meoweh would climb up to cuddle up on my lap. Like many cats, he loved being stroked and scratched under the chin. Like many cats too, he dislike having his tail pulled or played with, something which I like to do with that tail being bushy and all. Sadly, with the current bout of eczema, I was unable to give him the loving he wants.
A fussy eater, he sometimes get on my nerves when he refuse the kibbles offered, even on occasions when I buy premium brands. Strangely, he would prefer the lower-end brands. It goes without saying, his favourites are fried fish and those sold in sachets.
Soon as the lady was done with the digging, the man put the bag gently in the ground.
"Kucing mati" the lady said, answering the stranger's inquisitive mind.
The man then put a fairly large broken concrete slab on top of the mound the lady had piled on the the body of the cat.
Meoweh, the fat, handsome, manja-addict, sometimes I would tease him; a thorn pulled but will always be remembered.