Sunday, November 13, 2022

“Want tips for proper worshipping of Taoist deities?” asks Sifu Sabrina. “Grab a pen and paper now!”

I’m sitting on a bench in a copse of trees at the edge of a concrete pathway bordering a lake in Desa Park City Dog Park. My cell phone in my shirt pocket chimes. The name “Sifu Sabrina” appears on the screen.

“Hello, I’m near the bridge.” I can almost feel the heat of excitement in my voice.

“Stay put, I’ll come over.” The voice is the husky kind that does things to a man’s spine.

Ahead and to my left, I see Sifu Sabrina with two toy poodles walking towards me. A gray dappled top manages to cling to her curves under the guise of covering them. It is a figure worth clinging to—high-breasted, narrow-waisted, long-legged. Her lips are full and moist, her eyes hazel and slanted.

I rise and gesture with a side nod. “Let’s go for coffee.” As we trot towards the waterfront, the tide of pedestrians, joggers and dog-walkers ebb and flow along the length of the walkway, occasionally pitted like acne scars. Overhead, leaves on the trees are lifting and rattling dryly in the warm evening breeze.

Inside a cafe, Sifu Sabrina sits her pooches on a wooden chair beside her. We order coffee and snacks. I dig a boney hand into my jeans back pocket for a small thick notebook. I undo the two broad rubber bands which criss-cross the fat notebook and yank a ballpoint pen out of a side pocket.

We sit silently until our pot of coffee and food arrive. I pour coffee into Sifu Sabrina’s porcelain cup to within a hairline of the top. It is as dark as sin and thick enough to walk on. I fill my own cup, push it aside and set my notebook in front of me.  

“So, what’s the story? Praying to deities in the correct way.”

Sifu Sabrina takes a sip of her coffee, clinks the cup gently on the saucer. “First, choosing the statue. Statue’s material isn’t so important. But the statue mustn’t be hollow, should be solid. Size matters, not too big or too small, as in proportion to your altar. Of course, the statue must be consecrated, otherwise, it remains a decorative object.” Meeting my eyes, her eyes are steady and cool “You can get it done at a temple or by me.” She looks at me like an insurance fucker trying to sell life insurance. “In fact, I was in Seremban last week to install and consecrate a Guan Yin in a new bungalow and check its feng shui. So, recommend me some clients if you can.”

Nodding, I tear a sachet and pour sugar into my coffee. “Whoa, you’re multi-talented. That’s great.” My eyes are equally steady and cool.

“Now, choose the pose of the statue carefully. A passive pose promotes household harmony, suits salary-earners, but for businessmen, the statue should be in an action pose.” Sifu Sabrina’s lips go flat, her voice turns serious. “Take Guan Ti as an example—never get a statue of him sitting down. He should be fighting for business, not relaxing. This warlord should also carry a big guan-dao, not a puny one.”

“I see.” I swirl the swizzle stick in my cup. “What about Monkey God? Which pose is best?” I take a big swallow of my coffee and scribble in my notebook.

“Features alert, looking ahead, posture not sitting. The Monkey God should spot opportunities and potential problems. In that way, he can clear obstacles in advance.” Sifu Sabrina crosses her legs at the knees and one leg of her chair wobbles. “The ash pot should have a tiger’s head at each side. Better still, if you can, get one with two dragons. More power!” She grins, showing excellent lifetime oral hygiene. “If you’ve two, three or more deities, one ash pot is suffice. Always light either one or three joss sticks to pray, never two. Even though the deity is accompanied by his wife.”

I pick up a sandwich with my left hand and chomp down on it. I write in my notebook again with my right. 

“Next point—never leave a bottle of liquor beside any deity. He will be perpetually drunk!” A scowl crimps Sifu Sabrina’s crimson lips. “Offer him three glasses on the first and 15th day of the lunar month. Or on his birthday or festive day.”

I lift my eyebrows and quirk a corner of my mouth.  “Not even to Ji Gong?”

“Ji Gong is a minor deity, not worshipped by many here. Tell me, how can a drunk help you?” Sifu Sabrina notches her chin. “This mad monk has healing powers, though.” Her next words roll out reluctantly. “He's popular in Taiwan only.” Her gaze drops to a croissant on a platter and hops back to my face. “Got cob-webs and dirt or soot on the statue? Don’t wash it under running water, but wipe it with a clean damp towel. In Buddhism, statues of Lord Buddha are bathed on Wesak Day.  But not in Taoism.” She picks up a croissant and nibbles on it.

“Mama-mia! The effects of the consecration will go kaput.”

“Definitely. If you’ve an ancestral tablet beside a deity, the god must be higher. Put the deity atop a pedestal—you can get it from a prayer store. Or place a stack of gold joss paper beneath the deity.

I finish the sandwich and toss the crust on the platter. “Candles?”

“Use red candles that have bamboo legs. They act as links between Heaven and Earth. Don’t just stick a legless candle in a holder.”

“Beverages—tea, three cups; wine, three cups. Right?”

Sifu Sabrina pushes the last morsel of croissant into her mouth. “Yes, display them in two parallel rows.” She chews and her jaw muscles quiver. “The second row—set nearest to the urn pot—should contain tea, then three cups wine in front. Some big-hearted devotees offer eight cups tea and eight cups wine—fatt ah!—to symbolize luck.” A big shrug by Sifu Sabrina. “Works or not, I don’t know. Deities, big and small, also welcome water to soothe parched throats, especially after drinking wine. Coffee can be offered to Tay Chi-Gong. This fella—a luck-getter—loves the kick of caffeine!” Her eyes shine with merriment. “Will be spunkier around your home!” Her grin reveals a flash of perfect teeth.

"Tay Chi-Gong is a small deity.” I purse my lips in a pout. “Worth praying?”

Sifu Sabrina stiffens her spine, eyes blazing. “Hey, he’s important too! This god’s low-level status forbids him to whoosh up to Heaven. So, he’ll be at home 24/7, which deters intrusion from evil spirits.  Two pineapples put beside his plaque bring luck into the house.”

“I’ve seen paper fakes displayed.”

“Won’t work, use fresh real ones.” Sifu Sabrina gives a small headshake. “For major deities, popular fruits are Washington apples, Sunkist oranges, South African grapes, China pear and persimmon. And peach is a favourite with the Monkey God! Fruits banned from big deities are mangosteen, banana, guava, pineapple, carambola, D24 and even Musang King!” Sifu Sabrina’s husky laugh climbs little steps into a shrill giggle and teeters shakily down. “Incidentally, old toothless deities, like Tua Pek Kong, for instance”— she tightens her lips and  her cheeks bulge with repressed merriment—“don’t like hard food.” A pause. “Finally, flowers for the Goddess of Mercy should be placed on her left. There’s no taboo to displaying white flowers.”

“Phew, these fruits, food, alcohol, joss paper and tea—twice a month—add up to quite a bit. Is it okay to cut costs? I mean, some folks offer rice cooking wine instead of Johnnie Walker Black, or coffee-shop-quality tea instead of premium Oolong tea.”

“Offer what you can afford. If you’re a poor bastard, the gods will not be angry if you serve them liquor that’re popular with Nepalis, Myanmars and Banglas.”

Sifu Sabrina leans sideways to pet her toy poodles. Then she shoots her gaze back at me. “Now, the fatt koh is very important. Ask the seller whether they’re edible. If they’re not, don’t offer them to the gods. Some sellers sell two types of fatt koh—one for eating, one for prayer, cheaper and low quality. Buyers of inedible fatt koh are shitheads! Toxic preservative-laden fatt koh that you can't eat, you wanna give to the gods to eat? It’s utterly disrespectful!" She downs the rest of her coffee and releases an exhale. “Okay, time for me to go.”

I slap my thick notebook shut, winding the rubber bands around it. “Thanks for your time.”


Thursday, November 10, 2022

“I will not vote for any coalition that promises to abolish the death penalty,” says Mummy Lulu

“Monsters and murderers deserve to die!” hollers Mummy Lulu, lips twisted in a scowl. “Not kept alive by tax-payers’ money! Thus, I won’t  vote for any coalition that wants to abolish the death penalty if it forms the next government!”

Monday, November 7, 2022

A giggle bubbles from Jessica's throat. “Monkeys are going to have sex aboard China’s Tiangong Space Station!” she says.

Stars fill the sky like sugar spilled over black marble. Beyond, galaxies are tumbling and darting, buzzing with as much excitement as in my heart. From a distance, I see Jessica through a swarm of people, standing at the intersection of Alor Road and Changkat Bukit Bintang.

I shoot my arm upward and wave my hand. “Hey, Jessica! Over here!” Her grey dress cinches her waist and follows the curve of her hips before falling into gentle pleats midcalf.

Strappy black sandals encase her feet, her red toenails peeking out and playing hide and seek as she walks towards me, standing on the roadside. She says, “Hope I didn’t keep you waiting.” She hauls her hazel eyes to meet mine, eyes that have the increasing ability to arrest my heart.

A rush of cool air stings my face. “How’s business tonight?” I give her my warmest smile hoping to set up a butterfly flutter in her chest.

“A slow Monday evening. Mummy Lulu sends you her regards. A client brought me a bunch of roses.” Jessica lifts up the bouquet. “Can you carry them for me, please? It’s heavy.” She skates her gaze down the drag westward.  Bright lights from countless hawker stalls make the neon lights of coffee shops and restaurants look pale and embarrassed.  “Let’s look around the stalls.”

Holding the bouquet, I traipse alongside Jessica past stalls selling a plethora of food.  A stall offering Mongolian BBQ grabs her attention for a tick but she decides against it after giving the skewers an once-over.  We go Vietnamese as its menu lists snails! I am adventurous.  So is Jessica. Our butts plop down on the plastic chairs on the sidewalk.

“What exactly are you up to now?” Jessica asks with a smile. The curve of her lips looks so inviting for a kiss that I bite my lower lip to fight the temptation.

“Reading noir novels. To prep myself to write one myself.”

“Good luck to you.” Jessica casts her gaze upward. “Nice starry night—hey, look up! Can you see the Tiangong Space Station?”

“Yeah, I can see it. I’ve telescopic eyes! Internet news say it’ll be operational early next year. That’s all I know.” 

“I’ve been following progress on this project. Here’s the latest. Monkeys are going to”—leaning forward, Jessica lowers her voice and spells out the alphabets—“f-u-c-k on Wentian, the biggest module of the station.”  Delicate laugh lines fan the edge of Jessica’s lips as humour lights her face. “It’s an experiment to determine whether reproduction can take place in space. The brainchild of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.” She rests her clasped hands on the table, their fingers intertwined like mating worms. “Another interesting experiment is trying to grow edible plants, proposed by another country.”

Our food arrives and I sit up straight. “Which country? The US?” I tuck into my plate of snails while Jessica eats her spring roll, her starter.

A gust picks a few wayward strands of Jessica’s hair and dances with them about her face. “Nope, US is totally out!” She lifts her hand to still the hair flittering about her face.


“Revenge, sweet revenge.”  Jessica's eyes glitter like a splintered black onyx, full of cold heat and fury. “In 2011, the Wolf Clause prohibited NASA from allowing Chinese astronauts from entering the US International Space Station. So this time China kicked US out.”

Hate gurgles in my stomach like acid. “Tiew ni ma chow hai! Last time, the US was so nasty, huh?” My breath hitches, and I’m mortified by the words leaving my lips but it’s too late. “Ahem, I’m sorry I used bad words!” I expel a little laugh to deflect my embarrassment. “Anyway, serves US right! Good, tit for tat.”

“Never mind that, sorry, I used the f-word too! That makes the two of us.” Jessica’s eyes become rounder, making them clearer and more beautiful.  “As a face-saving gesture, the US issued a statement that the Chinese station does not meet American standards.  That’s rubbish! Phooey!” From her mouth, bits of chewed veggies fly to the centre of the table. “Oops, sorry, I blew food out.” She sniggers, plucks a tissue from her purse and swipes her lips with it. “There’s also the issue of astronauts having to learn Mandarin before using the station.

Come on, all instrument panels are in Mandarin, everything’s in Mandarin, including operational manuals and door signs. So, the Mandarin requirement cannot be helped.”  

I take a glug of my beer, its frothy taste bubbling my mood.  “Do you think the female monkey will come back pregnant?”

Rolling her eyes in thought, Jessica weighs her words before she allows them to slip from her mouth. “I doubt so.”

“Oh, why?” My eyebrows rise skyward.

“The Russians have sent female and male mice into space before. They, err, what’s that word—ah, yes, copulated, but the female mice did not become pregnant.” Shaking her head, she offers a half smile which fades into a grimace. “That’s not good news. It means if there’s an Apocalypse, we humans can escape to space and live there. But we can’t reproduce and that’ll be the gradual end of humankind.”

The air in my lungs becomes as thick as the conviction in Jessica’s voice. Flicks of anxiety nick at me as I mumble, “That’s sad.”


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

“China will take Taiwan eventually,” Jessica says, “though not necessarily by force.”

Cell phone in my hand, I toss my gaze from the news website to Jessica. My eyes linger from her white pumps to her shins, to her knees, to her thighs and up to her bare shoulders which support two straps. She is tall, almost as tall as me, and this assemblage of female temptation is caparisoned in a dress that reveals a deep cleavage and that sweeps over the swell of her hips before falling to the floor.

“Tensions high between US and China over Taiwan, huh?” I set my cell phone on the coffee table between us and lean back in my chair.

Jessica is resting her head on one folded hand, all long slender fingers and nails painted a shimmering gold. “Uh-uh,” she says. “China will seize Taiwan, just a matter of time.” I watch her luscious mouth, as if entranced. She watches me watching her.

I pull myself a bit up straighter. “You've become a political analyst?” I push my empty plate, laced with streaks of ketchup, to one side.

"My gut feel tells me after watching these music videos.” Jessica stretches one arm to grab my cell phone from the coffee table, fiddles with it and takes a step forward to place it in hand. “Watch these, please. Nice songs.” She returns to her seat which wheezes with delight as her butt smoothers the former. “And many African countries won’t want to get involved in China’s seizure of Taiwan.” Her brown eyes are candid and as warm as melted chocolate. “Or protest on international forums.”

"How will China take Taiwan without force?'

"By isolating it diplomatically and economically. For instance, in 2018, El Salvador recognised the PRC, ending ties with Taiwan. A year ago, Panama had done the same thing." 

I glue my gaze to my cell phone as Mandarin lyrics blister my ear drums.

Jessica turns to sit sideways, pushes her hair behind her shoulders with a sweep of one hand and her pearl necklace sparkles on her neck, highlighting her milky skin. I dart a momentary gaze from my phone to Jessica and, suddenly, I feel I want to kiss her neck and collarbone until she squeals in delight.  

The videos end and I signal to a waitress.  She brings the bill to our table. I reach for it, but Jessica snatches it up first. She yanks out a wallet from her pouch bag and sets cash on the table.

“Let me give you a treat. As a regular customer of Hot Legs Niteclub, you deserve it.”

Sucking in a deep draw of air, I push the words off my tongue, their taste as sweet as honey. “Thanks, sis.”

Saturday, October 29, 2022

“Two puppets in a Chinese temple in Brickfields can move by themselves,” Sifu Sabrina says. “View them at night if you dare and for good luck.”

Sifu Sabrina slides her hands out of her pockets. “Want to see puppets that can move by themselves?” Eyes brightening, she chugalugs her beer, reaches into the bowl on the coffee table between us and scoops out some nachos.

“Haunted puppets?” My whisky-addled eyes span wider. “Sheesh! What for? No benefit at all, why ask for trouble?” My gaze hopscotches from Sifu Sabrina’s face to the nearby bartender and I wave a gnarled hand at him. He sends another glass of whisky with a waitress.

Seated in a booth, Sifu Sabrina and I are indulging in a casual chat and a noggin in a bistro in Bukit Bintang.  Various smells are hovering, trapped in the air— burnt steak, freshly ovened cake, stale spilled beer, the lively smell of jasmine from Sifu Sabrina’s perfume. In the far end of the hall, a gigantic TV set on a wall chuckles. 

“No, not haunted by ghosts but a benevolent deity.” A grin inches across Sifu Sabrina’s face and her dimples deepen with the lift of a smile. “Caishen, the God Wealth, and his wife.” Her legs peer out from the hem of her dress, which clings to her like a nightgown. A red-striped panty clasps her groin like a lecherous hand.

My body snaps upright. “Wow, in that case, I want to!” I feel the muscles in my throat ripple from excitement. “I wanna ask him for lottery numbers.”

Sifu Sabrina rests her hands on her thighs. “I knew you would say that!”  Tiny fingernails glisten like slivers of mica in the tips of her slender fingers. “Go to Sam Kow Tong Temple in Brickfields.  There’re two wooden string puppets in the first-floor altar at the back of the building.  They’re inhabited by the spirit of Caishen and his wifey."  Sifu Sabrina fills her mouth with nachos and studies my face while she chews. "These puppets are more than a hundred years old. They were originally used in a Chinese opera to depict the life of Caishen and his wife when he was a mortal during the Shang Dynasty." She takes a swallow and another hit of her beer, causing a hint of wobble in the luscious line of her throat. “Years later, the owner of the puppets noticed they had a life of their own when they were not in use.” She raps the frosted mug on the table and licks one corner of her mouth.  “He consulted a Taoist medium who said that the spirits of Caishen and Mrs Caishen had inhabited the puppets.  The owner got sort of scared and donated the puppets to the temple for worshipping."  She takes her cell phone from her tote bag, taps at it and shows me the screen. "These are the puppets.”

“Gee, they look spooky," I rasp, my heart battering the walls of my chest.

“Nowadays, statues of Caishen depict him as a pleasant-looking bearded man but that’s not his real image.”  With a fold of her arms, Sifu Sabrina leans back in her seat. “Olden days, paper effigies of Caishen portrayed him with a long tongue, wears a tall hat and he carries a paper fan—he was horrible-looking.  In fact, even today, some old temples still depict him as such. And the deity was popularly worshipped by massage-parlour owners.”  She crosses her legs at the knees and jiggles one foot for a few beats. “Mediums in a Caishen trance would sniffle because the deity is an opium addict and suffers from withdrawal symptoms. He was also a drinker. Clients—lottery-number seekers— often brought cigarettes spiked with opium and also Guinness stout for the deity to consume. And several Caishen mediums became opium addicts.”  

I return the cell phone to Sifu Sabrina. “Did you see the puppets move when you took this photo?” She drops it into her tote bag.

 “Nope, I did not have such luck.” Sifu Sabrina’s lips quirk into a half-smile. “But I wish you best of luck when you visit the temple. There’s this awesome saying associated with Caishen: yi jian facai! [   发财]”.

Friday, October 28, 2022

China's seven most powerful men


General SecretaryPresident Xi Jinping

Politburo Standing Committee (left to right):

Li Qiang, Wang Huning, Ding Cuexiang, Zhao Leji, Cai Qi, Li Xi


Friday, October 21, 2022

“Don’t visit Thailand’s Koh Tao,” Mummy Lulu advises. “Too many tourists have been raped and murdered there.”


“What’s your plan for Christmas?” Mummy Lulu asks, her too-plump body almost bursting the seams of a tight chiffon dress, with two massive breasts clamping her cell phone in the V-neckline.

Seated beside her at the bar in Hot Legs Niteclub, I take a hit of my whisky. “Singing carols in Koh Samui and a ferry ride to Koh Tao for snorkelling.”

 “Jesus Christ!” Mummy Lulu sits up straight, and her eyes snap all the way open. They are coffee-coloured glassy beads in fat. “It’s nicknamed Murder Island, and also Death Island.” Mummy Lulu shakes her head, crowned by a topknot held up by an ivory clip. “No, no, too dangerous to go there!”  Her gnarled thumb and forefinger whisks her cell phone from her cleavage. She taps  the screen and hands the phone over to me. “Here, watch this YouTube video.”

I finish watching the video. Terror yanks at my mouth, pulling it open. “Sweet suffering saints, all female victims were raped and murdered, the Russian girl’s body wasn’t even found. And what a coincidence that CCTVs were not working when the Indian millionaire and his wife were drowning in the hotel’s swimming pool.” I down the rest of my whisky. It burns and I shudder. “As for allegations of a crime family running the island, well, there’s no smoke without fire. I’m cancelling my  reservation with Agoda.”