A Day Off: Drying Mishap

Dear Diary,

I am at home now, with my mum and Husain. We didn’t join my dad for our usual carton-collecting outing as we had to mend about a kilo of wet cartons and paper, leaving them outside, to dry in the sun.

It was raining yesterday. Despite having covered our cart with a large piece of plastic, splashes of water from speeding vehicles and drops of rain had managed to seep through, in between wooden pores and untended cracks of our old cart. Most of the lowest content of the two-wheeler were soaked, completely damp or inadequately wet. Nothing beyond tolerable degree but, still, the piles wouldn’t appeal for a buyer.

Lucky us, the sun is gleaming bright today. My mum and I could lay each piece on the bushy yard of our next-door neighbour, who’ve been gone — don’t know where to — for the past, probably two years. The shabby shack emanates loneliness, abandoned with no one to clean, nor to pray in. I wonder if after all this time, neglected, something good might still happen to the house. All there is, today, my kampong children — including my brother Hasan and I — have declared it as an obligatory site for our spooky Friday adventure. (I’ll tell you all about this routine ritual next time).

Sparsely fenced, the whole compound has become so inviting, not only for the wandering kids, but also for starving cattle. Local shepherds would sometimes leave their flocks unattended here. Today though, my mum and I managed to occupy the space for our drying.

As I was laying pieces of cartons one by one, moving about 20 inches towards the empty hut in every step, a stretch of short-growing weed-like plants captured my attention. My eyes were beaming, overcome with excitement on what’s about to happen.

“Ummi, I’ll catch up soon,” I said while jumping onto the nearest group of the brownish red-green leaves.

Irritated, my mum insisted, “Hurry up! You can play later.”

“A minute, Ummi!”

Ignoring my mum, I knelt on the rough, greasy soil, and bent over to observe the little creature up close. Mimosa, that’s what I call them. In my fiction, they — in spirit — are tiny little princesses so enticing to touch yet relatively shy to interact.

“Hi,” my heart whispered lovingly to the bunch of timid-looking plants and my fingers gently stroked them in compassion. I watched each couplet (of leaflets) hiding in each other’s countenance, under the fragile spine. Amused, I held my breath for a quick second and exhaled in relief after the nature’s wonder has taken place.

“I’ll be back,” I reassured and continued with my dampened cartons.

My mum cooked a decent meal: crunchy tempe goreng and hot, steaming rice. It’s good enough than our frequent rice and sambal. The fried soy cake at least adds extra texture to our plain meal.

After lunch, she assigned me to flip all the cartons over. I headed outside unaware of what’s coming.

Arriving at the scene, I was shocked seeing ugly-looking, unappetising stains on some of the spread. I took a step closer to observe closely.

“What is it?” I wondered.

“Smells unpleasant.”

I picked up one stained carton and brought it to my mum, “She might know what it is.”

When I showed her the dirt, she laughed, “Something must have passed on our cartons, dear,” and continued, “It’s either birds or Pak Mamat’s geese.”

“Euhhh…” I felt disgusted.

“Go out and wash it,” she ordered.

Reluctant, I went out and fetched all ‘infected’ cartons. I didn’t have to be told to know that she’d make me wash all of them anyway.

Piling them on one arm, I carried them to an open landing at the back to splash them with water (again) and brush the dirts off. How unfortunate indeed! We had to wait another day before we could sell this batch.

Feeling upset, I told about the incident to my dad when he had returned. Yet, instead of agreeing with my anger, he smiled. Then, I knew he must have some wisdom to share on the occasion.

I took a deep breath and stared him in wonder. In a split of the moment, my animosity on the day’s mishap seemed to cool down. Misfortunes just happen, and we have to be ready to accept them when they occur, deal with them gracefully without complains, and move on.

Still smiling, my dad asked, “What do you learn from it, my dear?”

“Don’t leave our belongings unattended?” I replied in doubt, uncertain of my answer.

“You’re right,” and he continued, “Once a sahaba had intended to leave his camel outside, untied.”

“Just leave it to Allah,” the man arrogantly suggested.

But the Prophet wisely advised him, “Tie your camel first before leaving it to Allah’s care.”

I nodded and smiled, hoping to learn the lesson. I must have forgotten to keep my promise to return to the Mimosa. If only I had remembered, I might have been around when the geese were about to make a mess. Anyway, life goes on.

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