Everytime when grandma asked me to go to the nearby mamak sundry shop, I would always tag Kak Fuzi along and she would gladly accompany me. It was the reward that actually attracted us; ten cents each per trip. The fear of being chased by that notorious dog became secondary, afterall our chants of ‘tabatyadah’ always worked. If we were lucky we could earn thirty cents for three trips per day and of course sometimes none at all. This would only happen when grandma began to cook something and noticed some ingredients seemed to be out of stock. Sometime she would asked us to sweep the drain and even clean some dirty linens and the reward would come in handy in time before the arrival of the ice cream man. Even during the fasting month, if we managed to complete the whole day of fasting, the reward would be twenty cents per day. I never completed the whole day of fasting and managed only up till 12 noon, well at least half of twenty cents was better than none. All I need to do was sleep and wake up at 11.00am or even at 12 noon.
That was the beauty about life when I was growing up. Everything we did was not all the time for free, we would demand some form of reward and in most cases grandma always obliged. Grandpa too would sometime asked us to do something useful like sweeping all the dried leaves in our compound and stack them in one particular area at the back of the house. Grandpa would reward us slightly more than grandma, maybe he had more money than grandma.
One day, our uncle Wak Omar brought home two fat full grown rabbits. He would let them loose and move around the house but at the end of the day, grandma noticed something not too pleasant. These rabbits had been shitting all over the house and although rabbit droppings are not too smelly, it still need to be cleared out of sight. To look for rabbit droppings all over the house was no easy feat, it was one hell of a tedious job. So Wak Omar was summoned before grandma and after some lecturing, he understood grandma’s predicament. Grandpa too disliked the idea of keeping rabbits at home but as usual it would always be grandma who would be doing the talking. Maybe our pet cats too were not too happy having two odd looking creatures moving around within their territory. The verdict was issued and something had to be done and Wak Omar had better think fast.
The next morning, Wak Omar summoned all of us for a small ‘meeting’. It seemed he had found a solution to solve this unnecessary problem. Kak Shidah, Kak Arah, Kak Fuzi came and at Wak Omar’s request they brought along their two new recruits, their two younger siblings Kamal and Ghani. When we had gathered at the front portion of the house, we sat down, some squatting waiting for Wak Omar to make the announcement. I was at the front as I would always want to be. Minutes later Wak Omar came smilingly and we were all puzzled why we were summoned?
Wak Omar was the seventh child in a family of twelve children. He was always jovial and at times hilarious in his own ways. In short he was called ‘Mor’ (pronounce more) among his siblings and friends. Once he was asked what songs he can sing pretty well. He answered by saying that he could sing only two songs, the first is ‘More’ and the second and last song is ‘No More’. In his later years he was awarded an O.B.E and since I was oblivious of the initials, I asked him for the meaning of O.B.E. His reply was ‘One Ball Extra’ and I was so naive to ask whether there was such an award for women? So you can imagine the nature of man our uncle Wak Omar was.
“Now listen to me and listen well”, began Wak Omar as all of us looked at him with our eyes as wide as we could have them and our mouths wide open most convenient for a fly to check what’s inside? “You all surely have noticed that we now have two rabbits”, continued Wak Omar and we all nodded in agreement. “Like all animals, rabbit too shit and they shit everywhere”, as he continued his lecturing and all of us were now more puzzled why was he associating us with rabbit shits. “I am going to create a competition among you all, there won’t be a single winner, in fact all of you can be winners for as long as you work hard during the course of this competition”, continued Wak Omar. Now, it began to intrigue us and we became even more attentive. By now our mouths were opened even more wider giving better access for the fly inside to exit. “All you need to do is to collect as many rabbit droppings as you can and keep them until the competition is over. For every dropping, I will reward you one cent. If you manage to collect one hundred droppings, that means I will reward you with one dollar”.
At that juncture, we began to jump with joy and were excited to begin the competition. “Ok, yes, no, alright”, as I shouted with great joy. (Yes, no and alright were the first three English words we learned during our growing days and we knew not what it meant). Likewise Kak Fuzi too jumped and later everyone did. “When can we start?” asked Kak Shidah who was now beginning to feel the heat of the competition. “You all can start now”, exclaimed Wak Omar and the scrambling began.
By now most of the droppings were dry and that made it easy for us to collect. It is so small, round like a tiny marbel. We began our search in every corner of the house and Kak Fuzi found the first and shouted ‘Yeah I got one” and held it tightly in her fist. Then everyone began to find them and the search continued even more heated. We searched under every tables, chairs and some even looked inside the empty cups on the table, just in case. Then we heard Ghani crying causing concern to everyone. “Why are you crying?” asked Kak Arah to her younger brother. “I saw that one first but Kamal took it”, complained little Ghani. Kak Arah consoled him but of no avail and he went running home to lodge a complain to her mother Mak Pon.
As the search continued, the elders in the house began to ask what was the commotion all about? When explanation was given, they all smiled but Mak Yang our maid-servant had a naughty idea. Quietly she began to look for herself and passed them over to me and that gave me a tremendous advantage. Kak Fuzi wanted to go upstairs to find more of these droppings when Kak Shidah said, “Mana boleh arnab naik atas bodooooh”.
The competition ended quite swiftly and when all droppings were no longer at sight, we began to count our harvest. Kak Fuzi emerged as the most best collector with Kak Shidah trailing behind. I was third inspite of having Mak Yang as an assistant. The rest too had their fair share of the collection and now it was time to claim our prizes.
When Wak Omar arrived we were ready with our collections. Each one of us counted individually with Wak Omar obviously as the judge. Kak Fuzi managed to receive a reward of one dollar and twenty cents, Kak Shidah slightly lower and I was third followed by the rest.
When we all had received our prizes, we began to plan what to do and how to spend the money. Normally we would spend our reward of ten cents to buy ice cream but this time since our reward was so much bigger, we planned something even more bigger. Kak Fuzi wanted to save and return the next day to collect more droppings so that she could buy a toy she saw at the Tai Tong Textile shop. I was undecided, in fact almost everyone was undecided. When the ice cream man passed by looking at our house, we were silent and the ice cream man was truly puzzled.
That evening when Wak Yem returned home he saw us counting our money. We had counted our money maybe more than a hundred times and everytime we saw our money we began counting again and again. All were coins of ten cents and twenty cents with a picture of Queen Elizabeth. “Wah, banyaknya duit, mana dapat ni?”, Wak Yem asked as he passed by us. “Kutip tahi arnab”, Kak Fuzi replied instantly.
The next morning we followed the rabbits everywhere they went. This time the rabbits did not seem to shit a lot like the past few days and so Kak Fuzi and me went to look for some vegetables to give them so that they would shit. Everytime the rabbits ate, we would look at their backs for some droppings. Our second day collection was a far cry from yesterday and as we got tired, we decided to might as well spend our money on ice cream.
Few weeks later the rabbits disappeared. Wak Omar had decided to let them go, maybe he could not afford any longer and so the competition ended abruptly. Our pet cats too maybe were quite relieve to notice that the two odd looking creatures were no longer around to mess in their territory.
Now Kak Fuzi and me kept asking grandma whether she need something to buy at the mamak sundry shop.