DAY 5: Buddhist Christmas by Pavle Radonic

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On the 5th Day of Christmas Pavle Radonic gave to me…

Starbs for refuge from a shower. Finally some of the promised monsoon had arrived. Hold on the cafe, it was better left for up the road…. Oh shite! The pink Watsons van out front. Yes of course, the pharmacy chain. Beauty products were an ancillary. You gotta look good for Christmas if you’re any kind of hostess. 1-2-3 step hair colour treatment was in through the rear, the shelving suggesting you would need a cuppa in order to make the proper choice. Subtle chestnut curtain-bob illustrated one side and the other hazelnut. Staff would pop in for a take-out for customers. Take a seat, Madam. Take your time, it needs serious thought. Seven metre electrified fir opposite with baubles and warning against touch. Against the wall fire-engine red Audi four-door sports for the lucky shopper passing through the doors to the mall. Piped music within no doubt—the pink hollowness would not do the trick, and then the traffic noise on the corner. Meanwhile Deano covers at Starbs that lacked the Italo’s whiskey-smoothness. His heart was on fire… got his love to keep him warm…. Kid here not got the gumption to move-on a non-paying customer, not one day before Christmas. Go on fella, make my day if you wanna…. The intention had been a trip out to Batam with the local chapter of the Bliss and Wisdom Society. (“Education is pivotal to the rise and fall of human beings. Life purification is our mission,” up in Lorong 27.) Quart eight meet had been scheduled at Harbourfront, a 45 minute ferry. The usual traffic to Batam was the illegal workers and the ladies. The Bliss and Wisdom people were something else entirely. First stop would be a pet shop for birds and fish, Ms Lau the guide had explained. Would they buy one each? They would be cheap at Indonesian prices and no need the prettiest front-of-house cuties. Off from there to a beach where they would release all the animals into the great creation. Freedom, liberty, no more entrapment. Fly birdie, fly! Hopefully long captivity had not atrophied the musculature. What did good Singaporean Buddhists in Batam have on the program to follow afterward? Well, cheap massage of course, hair cut and pedicure. It was doubtful that the Bliss people would be any different to the usual day-trippers. Unfortunately the outing was booked out; there were no more seats on the bus on the other side. A disappointment. Ms Lau suggested the 29th instead, which would hardly have been the same. Last week there had been a brief intro to Ms Lau’s group. The guide had been encountered downstairs on her bicycle just leaving the building. One minute, one minute, she had implored. All keen and excited, the lady could not be denied. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity of a gathering like that. Up on the third floor they were still singing their songs, the Master joining from Taiwan. Very exciting the presence of the latter, Ms. Lau explained. There were small stemmed daisies that one clasped in both hands, unfortunately no more available. Never mind, you could just stand there smiling, it was OK. Those who could read Mandarin had the characters on the screens. Two and one-half characters framed above the desk were intelligible: the horizontal flat-bar for one; and then the initially discombobulating conventional cross…. (Almost a replica of the other.) Ah, yes. It came back eventually. That was ten. Half another compound character carried the universal droplet sign for water—elemental, purifying, life-giving sustenance shared among all faiths. Satchmo’s Take a G, take a G re-mastered was entirely anodyne. Most of the golden oldies were re-mastered big band numbers in the supermarkets and malls in Singapore, Starbucks following suit. Deano, Satchmo, Frankie, who was always on high rotation at Starb’s on Tanjong Katong corner. Sing. had the distinction of highest global per capita McDonalds outlets, and Starbs certainly could not be far behind. Unseasonable to be sure and perish the thought, but one did think of the Fluffers Altaf had told about that were employed in the porn film industry, tickling and caressing the leads. Some mentions had included head jobs in order to get the shoot  happening. For Christmas cheer and shopping in this instance. Take a G, take a G…. The run-down to the commemoration of the birth of Christ in the stable. Plan B was now required.

Pavle Radonic

Australian by birth and Montenegrin origin, Pavle Radonic’s almost eight years living and writing in S-E Asia has provided unexpected stimulus. Previous work has appeared in a range of literary journals and magazines, most recently Entropy, Map Literary, Citron Review, Orca Journal & La Piccioletta Barca.

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