Thursday, 8th Aug, 1st Raya
We had Raya open house and had all my friends from different phases of my life over for makan. Pretty amazing to see all of them getting along really well despite only been introduced.
Friday, 9 Aug, 2nd Raya
Saturday, 10 Aug, 3rd Raya
12:30PM: Papa left for his hiking trip with my brother. I told him not to get himself eaten by the cannibals, he told me not to kill his fishes. We hugged and I reminded him to have chocolates in his pocket at all times to offer to the cannibals in exchange for human meat and he reminded me to feed his beloved fishes, for literally the 66th time that day.
Sunday, 11 Aug, 4th Raya
7:00AM: Mum left for Penang leaving me all alone at home
10:00AM – 5:00PM: Climbed walls at CAMP 5 till my limbs could climb no more.
Monday, 12 Aug, 5th Raya
The day I went around town to meet up with friends.
Tuesday, 13 Aug, 6th Raya, TODAY
4:30AM – Woken up by the alarm going off. Quickly got up, ran downstairs before running back upstairs to wear longer pants (it suddenly occurred to me that it might be a better idea to face the enemy in proper attire). Now in tracksuit, ran back downstairs, as foolishly as before because I had no weapon ready in my hands. I made a mental note to sleep with the tennis racket the next time. After convincing myself that it was just the crazy storm outside and the big thunder triggered the alarm motion sensor, I reset the alarm, and walked back to my room. Locked the bedroom door, went back to bed with my tracksuit on but without a tennis racket.
8:00AM – Woken up by a crazy dream that I came back to Penang only to find delinquents setting up camp in my home.
8:05AM – Switched off the alarm and tip-toed downstairs just in case somebody did come in last night and is still in the house. Noticed something peculiar outside, walked to the sliding door to take a closer look and screamed like I have never screamed before.
8:10AM – I struggled with the lock trying to open the door, repeating a million of fucks under my breath and at the same time trying to keep myself down before I wake the entire neighborhood. I ran towards the fish pond, and there they were, my dad’s beautiful Kois, with their mouth wide open, bellies up, floating in all of their deadness. I took the fish net and started scooping them out, at this moment wailing a million of “no, no, no”s, “shit”s and “please don’t die”s. I felt like a mother who just found her kids’ dead bodies. There were so many of them and I keep scooping one beautiful dead fish after another, cursing and wailing at the same time, not bothered that I could hear my neighbor next door up and about. There was now a small pile of beautiful dead fishes on the side of the pond and I kept adding to the pile as I continue scooping them out of the pond. I saw a few fishes still swimming in the now dirty, murky water. I ran upstairs, took my phone and called my mum. No answer. The next person I called was my best friend. I was not sure what she could do, she wasn’t even close by to begin with, but she’s one of the smartest person I know, so it made sense at that time to talk to someone smart. In her groggy voice she answered and I was trying to be as calm as possible and was about to tell her the massacre that happened over night before my mum got on the other line. I answered her and told her how all the fishes were floating and I’ve scooped them out and they’re all piled up by the side of the pond and how the water’s murky and I don’t know what to do. I keep repeating, “they’re dead ma! They’re all dead! So many of them, DEAD!” I could hear my mum’s calm soothing voice telling me to get the big bucket from her bathroom, bring it down and put the remaining fish in there and not do anything else. Stay put and wait till she gets back that evening. I gave my friend another ring, she answered, this time more alert. I can’t remember what she told me but I felt better. Canceled all the engagements for the day.
I ran upstairs to my mum’s bathroom and right before I went in, I sat down, (and this is where I got weird) hugged my knees and rocked myself. I grew up being very scared of screwing things up because I grew up seeing my dad taking care of everything he owned with such peculiarity and attention. I keep having flashes of my dad’s countless reminders about the fish and I have never felt more like a failure. He never said look out for the house, he never reminded me of the alarm, he never told me to do laundry, he only wanted to make sure all his fishes are still alive when he gets back. Those fishes were his companion for the longest of time and I have somehow killed them in the span of 2 days that he has gone.
When you’re hugging your knees and rocking yourself to calm down, you tend to overthink things. So this was what was in my head: Since my big career move, I had to sit through personal attacks from all kinds of people, from “it’s easy for you to say. You’re just a teacher” to “you’re a teacher. You wouldn’t know”. It’s no longer a big deal to me but when my dad does it, it still stings a little; “you have RM5 left in your touch’n’go card. How can you be a teacher when you can’t even take care of that?”, “still crying in toilets? It’s not too late to come back”. Thanks to him, my car is always at full tank, my touch’n’go is always loaded and I pay all my bills on time. But at that moment, I could hear him say, “you can’t even take care of my fish, what makes you think you can change the lives of your kids?”
I got up, dragged the big red bucket down and filled it with water. I went around looking for a shovel and dug two big holes. Flies were all over the pile of beautiful dead fishes by then. I suddenly felt a whole new appreciation for all the undertakers in the world. It is not only a depressing job, but digging holes is not easy. I lay the dead fishes in the hole, sprayed some ridsect all over it just in case some really hungry cat could smell them and start digging them up, despite me making sure that the hole was deep enough. Went back to the pond and got the fishes that survived from whatever it was that happened out and put them in the bucket. I had to put one in an ice box because he was just too big. Final count: Total of 16 casualties and 3 survivors.
9:30AM – I had enough time to calm my nerves and this was when my brain went into work. Why the fuck did my dad’s fish die?! If anything, they are being overfed! I looked at the murky water and I realized how calm it was. The pump! The pump wasn’t working! I quickly ran upstairs, got my laptop out and googled for pond experts around the area. Couldn’t find any. So I got my dad’s old phone book out and started flipping through the pages. Every one who was any one is in it except for anyone who was fish related. And just as I was losing hope, there it was, in bold red ink “Pond and Aquatics expert – Ah Wong”. I swear I looked up and looked around just to make sure I wasn’t in a Truman Show. I called Wong up and the first thing he said, “rumah doctor Lee ah?” I squealed in glee and I told him he has to come now and save the 3 survivors. He was not convinced. He did not want to come if my dad was not around. He kept saying he’s scared of my dad and he has worked for him for many years, if he puts in anything in without my dad’s consent, my dad’ll come and give him a hard time: “saya sudah kerja sama bapa lu lama wo. Manyak takut oh sama dia. Sudah kerja lama pun dia masih suka marah saya. Dia ingat saya tackle lu punya pembantu rumah, saya kerja saja!” as he went on about how hard it has been working for my dad. If this was not going to turn out right, at least I know it was partly my dad’s fault for not being likeable with people he hires to do work around the house. I had to convince him that it will be okay and I’ll take the responsibility if my dad gets angry.
10:00AM – I’m staring at the red bucket and ice box.
10:30 AM- I went in to get some kuih raya and ate while I continue staring at the red bucket and ice box. Texted my friend, “everything’s okay. Imma just semperit my life away”. She replied, “you’re gonna turn this around”. I have great friends and 3 fishes out of the pond, 16 safely buried. Life’s not all that bad.
11:00 AM – Watching Daria while I wait for aquatics expert to make his way here. Made my big goal in life to one day be as calm as Daria.
11.30 AM- Ah Wong is here!
11:35 AM – Ah Wong is depressing: “bapa lu manyak sayang wo ini ikan. Manyaaakk sayang”. “Saya tau. Aiyo, mati lah saya, Wong”. “Dia manyak sayang. Dia pasti marah lu”. No shit, Sherlocks.
11:45 AM - Ah Wong is not that depressing anymore: “Cina cakap ah, kalau ikan itu mati, dia bawa semua masalah sama dia”. I told him to repeat exactly what he said when my dad calls him up next week. At least them fishes did not die in vain and that we were due for new fishes.
12:30 PM - I’m RM480 poorer. Ah Wong had to leave for another “fish emergency”. He told me to put the fishes back in to the pond in an hour or so.
2:00 PM - Do I pour the fishes out of the bucket or do I submerge the bucket in the pond and gently let the fish out?
2:02 PM - I’m pouring the fishes out of the bucket.
2:05 PM - The fish in the ice box turned out to be heavier than expected. I told the fish to jump into the pond when I tilt it over. Fish didn’t move. “I’m sorry that you’re in an ice box! Can you just get in the pond already?!”, I said as I struggle with the ice box.
2:10 PM - All three survivors are in the pond! I felt like a superstar. Cleaned up everything, bucket and ice box went back to where it belonged, shovels stored away, back garden looked as nice as it was before except for the two barely noticeable little bumps.
3:00PM - Ice box fish is floating. Okay, confession time, this time I cried a little and went, “whhhhh-yyyyyy? Why did you die?!” I then remember watching a show once on Discovery channel about fishes getting heart attack from being transferred and could not acclimate to new water. Thanks Discovery Channel for always having answers to my why-questions.
3:10PM - Dug another hole for ice box fish. It’s a lot easier this time. All that practice in the morning served me some good. Scooped ice box fish out from the pond and muttered, “stupid fish. You should’ve died with the rest. You could’ve been buried with your friends”. I apologized after I let him rest in peace.
Now that all that’s over, I’m thinking of how I should break this sad news to my dad. I’m thinking of putting the blame on him:
“You left me with a pond filled with fishes and a faulty pump?! It’s as good as setting me up! I am completely traumatized by all that floating fishes! Can you imagine waking up to so many dead fishes! Now I know how Jack Woltz feel when he woke up with the horsehead! And I was all alone! I had to dig the holes and carry the fishes to the back garden. They were fat! I can never look at a fish the same way again!”
But he loved them fish more than I did. So imma just go with: “I’m sorry I didn’t notice the pump wasn’t working. Could’ve saved the fishes if I did. I’ll buy you a new fish every month from here on out”.
FINAL final count:
Cost: RM 480
Life lessons: It’s not about the crisis, it’s about how you handle the crisis. Haaaa. Amek kau life’s curve balls! Okay no, seriously. I have learned that I am not as observant as I should be and for the past 2 days of being alone, I was very self involved. Never actually really took a good look at the pond and at the house. This will be my new reason to not settle down yet since I can’t even take care of 19 fishes. Haaaa. Amek kau makcik-makcik yang nak tau kenapa I tanak kahwin. But okay, no, there is a possibility of me getting disowned by my father, so I should really learn something worthwhile out of this. I should be calmer. Things turn out better when I’m calm. I know how to dig holes, I know better about pond pumps, I know who to call when pumps go kaput. I now know how to take care of fishes better. I learned a pretty awesome Chinese belief. That, that last bit is priceless.