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Crushed

Ah De was hungry again. This was not surprising, for he had only eaten half a bu
n since morning. It was already late afternoon, and sleeping was not going to he
lp him stave off the hunger any more. He slowly lowered himself from the ledge h
e was on and made his way home from the disused bridge he was napping on.
Home was a dilapidated mud shack with so many holes puncturing its walls and roo
f that the wind practically whistled through it when the rainy season approached
. Ah De loved the music of the wind then; it helped him forget the chill that pe
rmeated his emaciated body. Though his house was in a pathetic condition, Ah De
still smiled as he thought of his mother's face. She was a wonderful woman who n
ever forgot to make him feel treasured. They were alone in this remote part of C
hina, his father having died in the war. She made a meagre living washing clothe
s for other families, while Ah De did his part by eating little and staying out
of her way. But in the evenings, she would put her arms around Ah De and tell hi
m the loveliest stories of courage and adventure. Ah De knew that he would do al
l he could to make his mother happy.
Suddenly, the loud din of cymbals clashing and trumpets playing a merry tune cut
the air. Ah De swung around to where the sound was coming from. He saw a proces
sion of people coming down the road, heralding the brightly-coloured sedan chair
that was carried by four burly men. The children of the village were all dancin
g around the sedan chair, delirious with joy. Ah De's curiosity was piqued. The
children were usually dour and listless. Why were they so chirpy now? He rushed
after the procession.
He finally found out that the man in the sedan chair was an important man in the
capital, someone who wielded great power and was back in the village to find a
successor. He was a native of the village who had left many years ago to eke out
a living somewhere else. Now that he was close to retirement, he needed to find
a smart little boy who could carry on his work. Ah De felt a glimmer of hope. H
e could do it, he was sure. After all, his mother had always said that he was sm
art. Ah De found out that the rich man was leaving the next day and would bring
the chosen boy with him. His heart surged with hope as he went home.
His mother was appalled at his intention. Ah De was surprised. Did she not under
stand that he wanted a better life for both of them? He would love to see his mo
ther luxuriating in silk instead of having her skin roughened by the coarse cott
on that she now wore. He would make sure that she partook of the finest delicaci
es once he was rich. He wanted her to be happy, not suffering. But his mother cr
ied hopelessly, pleading with him not to go to such lengths for wealth. He simpl
y could not understand it.
Suddenly, he realised why she was crying. She did not want him to leave her! Of
course he would not! Ah De laughed and assured her that he would definitely brin
g her along to the capital. He loved his mother too much to even leave her for a
day. But his words did not reassure her. She merely cried louder. In the end, A
h De fell asleep, exhausted by all the excitement.
Ah De woke up with a start the next morning. The day was unusually bright. He sc
ratched himself irritably, wondering where his mother was. Suddenly, he realised
what it was that troubled him. He was late! He had to get to the rich man's hou
se for a chance to be selected as his successor. Ah De rushed out of the house,
tugging at his clothes and trying to slip his feet into the shoes at the same ti
me. When he arrived, all he could see was an empty courtyard. All the trumpeters
and musicians were gone. There was no sign of the feasting and celebration that
had taken place the day before. Ah De sank to his knees in tears. He was too la
te. He would not be able to give his mother a better life or buy her silk and de
licacies.

stave off

fend off

emaciated

thin

dour

stern

Blinded
The squatters in the village stood on rotting refuse and human neglect, yet the
spirit of camaraderie in the community was obvious even to the casual observer.
Young children were running around, high in spirits as they enjoy the simple gam
e of `catching'. Their tattered clothes were by no means a deterrent to their eb
ullience. Awangku was the leader of this community, and he watched the children
in their game with much envy as he thought of how their innocence shielded them
from the harsh realities of survival that plagued their parents.
He recognised what many would have missed when he first saw the squatters. They
were a family, bonded by years of common suffering. Where there was no one to ca
re about their lives, they had each other. Even in the face of the rightful owne
rs coming to claim this piece of barren land, their solidarity had stood strong
to ward off the rich and greedy landowners. Finally, the latter had given up try
ing to force them off the land and turned their attention to more profitable ven
tures. Awangku was sure that they had all finally found a place of their own.
However, a report appearing in the local newspapers the following week threw the
once congenial village into a stagnant pool of suspicion and hate. Some geologi
sts had discovered that the village was sitting on a wealth of oil, one of the l
ast few natural oilfields hitherto unexploited. The news shook the equanimity of
the villagers and crumbled the once solid feelings of amity they had for each o
ther. Overwhelmed by the thought of being rich, each began planning his future,
a future suddenly cushioned by real money.
The weeks following the news report saw hostility erupting in the once amiable v
illage. Neighbours who had once shared meals with each other now became combativ
e as the worry over the fair allocation of wealth loomed. The villagers were uns
ure over how the money would be distributed. Those with a brood of children clai
med a share for their offspring, while those with none or few decried such alloc
ation. Awangku was in despair. His villagers were hurling accusations and displa
ying hatred towards one another, even before anyone came to confirm the existenc
e of the oilfield. Almost overnight, the village was
sundered by the prospect of wealth.
In no time at all, the prospect of wealth disappeared as quickly as it had come.
The landowners were quick to reclaim what was legally theirs and sent survey te
ams to plan the construction of oil wells on the now precious land. The hue and
cry raised by the villagers were to no avail as the landowners refused to be thw
arted by such inconveniences. Within a month, the villagers found themselves tos
sed out of their 'homes'. There was no more land, no more village, no more famil
y homes. For the first time since they became ensnared by the obsession with wea
lth, they saw clearly the foolishness of their actions. They had destroyed their
only real wealth by their divisions and by hankering after an illusion.
ebullience

enthusiasm

equanimity

calmness

hankering

yearning

Haunted
The trail stretched on endlessly before him. He could feel his heart beating fas
ter and the beads of perspiration forming on his forehead. Lenny was more fright
ened than he had ever been. Going into the deep forest was revisiting a nightmar
e he had wanted to forget all these years. He could still remember the first and
last time he had walked this trail. His father had been killed by a man-eating
tiger that was prowling the area. It may have been over ten years ago, but the t
error that he felt still held him in its icy grip.
But now, he had to walk the trail again to search for Emma. She was the pride an
d joy of his life, the only treasure he had from a marriage that was blissful bu
t unfortunately short-lived. After Sara's death, all that comforted him in his b
arren existence was Emma's cheerful nature and loving ways. She had wandered off
into the forest while playing by herself in the backyard. That was where her fo
otsteps imprinted on the soft mud led. It indicated that she had gone on the dre
aded trail.
With a deep breath, Lenny plunged into the forest on the trail, calling out for
Emma as he went on. But all he heard were the wild shriekings of forest insects
and creatures. He ploughed on, determined to hold the terror that threatened to
overwhelm him at bay. Yet, he could feel once again the familiar fear that gave
him nightmares each time he recalled the horrific spectacle of the tiger tearing
his father apart. His father had placed him on a high branch before the tiger p
ounced, safe from the physical attack but not the sight of his courageous father
brought down by the beast. He saw it all, heard clearly the hoarse cries of pai
n that his father gasped even as his throat was being torn out by the mighty jaw
s of the tiger. But he had to shut out these thoughts; they were only impeding h
im from his search. He pushed on into the dark forest.
Suddenly, he heard Emma's high-pitched scream. Without a thought for his own saf
ety, Lenny lunged in the direction of the scream, concerned only with getting to
his precious Emma was. He came into a clearing and saw Emma huddled in a corner
and crying fearfully. He rushed to her side immediately and suddenly heard a lo
w growl behind him. Frozen in his tracks, he finally turned around slowly, only
to face the tiger of his nightmare. The latter even bore the scars inflicted by
his late father's hunting knife. Slowly, he lifted his gun, his mind whirling wi
th only one thought. If he failed, Emma would die. He did not want to even enter
tain such a thought.
The tiger fixed its eyes on Lenny. It gave him a deadly glare, but Lenny continu
ed to take aim. Almost as if it could sense what he was going to do, the tiger s
narled and leapt into the air at him. The gun exploded and caught the beast just
before it landed. Writhing in pain, it rolled over and over until it finally la
y dead, just metres away from the shaking Lenny.
Emma ran to him and threw herself around his neck. He felt her warm little body
and hugged her tight. His Emma was alive and the nightmare was dead. For a long
time, he had not enjoyed the beauty of the forest, but now he did. It was so bea
utiful.
dreaded

fearful

impeding

hindering

writhing

struggling

A twist

Jerry looked at Simon with a sneer. The latter was bent over his lunch tray, try
ing to be as unobstrusive as possible in the crowded canteen. Jerry felt triumph
ant, clearly pleased with his year-long efforts at ensuring that Simon remained
unwelcome in the prominent social cliques. After all, he thought, Simon had the
advantage of a rich family and so, he should be taught a lesson about how the le
ss well-off people had to really work hard for themselves. Jerry's familiar refr
ain to all his friends whenever he sought to discredit Simon was: "Sometimes, we
have to treat people unkindly for their own good."
In fact, both boys were in the same class. This made it even more convenient for
Jerry to carry out his exclusionary policy on Simon. Whenever the class had to
form groups to carry out research projects, Simon was inadvertently left out. Th
e teachers found themselves having to force groups to include Simon in the discu
ssion and they were puzzled at the students' antipathy towards the quiet and tho
ughtful boy. But the class remained hostile to Simon. Jerry was acknowledged as
the leader in class, being the captain of the school soccer team. The other stud
ents looked up to him as their hero.
He had known about Simon even before the latter was transferred to the school. A
fter all, his mother worked as the housekeeper in the large mansion that was Sim
on's home. Since young, Jerry had looked at all that Simon had with envy and ang
er. Why should Simon be so privileged and he so poor? Jerry seethed each time he
remembered how he had to bow his head whenever Simon or his family walked by. J
erry's mother ensured that Jerry treated them with a great deal of subservience,
unaware that each time she made him do so, her young son's hatred intensified.
When Simon was finally transferred to Jerry's school after his parents had lost
their fortune and been forced to downgrade their lifestyle, Jerry knew that it w
as payback time. He would show Simon that he was the superior one, even without
all the trappings of wealth. Jerry leant back and thought of how he had accompli
shed his revenge so easily, even managing to convince the other students that he
was doing it all for Simon's good. His lips curved into a tight smile as he rem
embered his success.
Suddenly, his team-mate Suresh ran to him with the message that his form teacher
and soccer coach wanted to see him. With a sense of foreboding prickling his sk
in, Jerry ran to the staff room. The grim expressions on the faces of his teache
rs worried him. He sat down quietly, hoping that the worst would not happen. He
knew that he had not managed the minimum academic score required for a school at
hlete to remain on the school team. But he was cocksure that his superb performa
nce in the school tournament would overcome all those poor results. The look on
the faces of his teachers now showed that he was mistaken.
As he left the room later after the interview, Jerry was depressed. How was he t
o achieve the results required by the school before they would let him play in t
he tournament due to start in a month's time? To catch up on all his schoolwork
in a month was clearly impossible. His mother would never be able to afford a pr
ivate tutor for him and he had no good friends who were capable of helping him.
Just then, Simon walked by, his eyes downcast. Jerry brightened up. Simon was th
e top boy in his class and would surely be able to help him. Jerry's smile broad
ened even more as he thought of how grateful Simon would be to be given a chance
to help a popular boy in school. Jerry strode quickly over to Simon and outline
d his proposal to Simon who was to stay back in school after lessons every day t
o help Jerry achieve the required results. In return, Jerry would try to bring S
imon into the `in' group. Jerry smiled as he thought of how clever he was to hav
e been so attentative to his side of the bargain. He looked at Simon as a strang
e expression crossed those aristocratic features. After a long pause, Simon's vo
ice rang out loud and clear.
"Thank you for your kind offer, Jerry But I'm afraid I cannot do it. I have othe

r things to do. You may think that I'm unkind, but sometimes, we have to treat p
eople unkindly for their own good."
With that, he turned around and walked away, leaving a shocked Jerry at the corr
idor.
sneer

mock

antipathy

hostility

cocksure

struggling

Uneasiness
Ah Keong Steak Shop had been an essential institution in the district that when
it suddenly closed overnight, all the residents were caught by surprise. They al
l knew the friendly shopkeeper, Ah Keong, who kept all their dinner needs suppli
ed. His wife was also a genial lady who had a way with plants and usually gave t
he people tips on how to manage their greenery. They had no idea that the couple
was in trouble over money; they always kept up their smiling demeanors.
Rumors soon floated about, whispering of Ah Keong's son owing the loan sharks a
great sum of money, which the couple could not pay. After being threatened conti
nually, they packed up and went into hiding to avoid the harassment. Everyone ga
ped at the drama that unfolded in the juicy gossip. But little did they know tha
t soon, they would be the actors in an even more thrilling drama.
One morning, the loud screams of Sophia, a young executive whose habit was to jo
g around the neighborhood in the early morning, woke everyone up. Rushing to see
what had happened, they were greeted by a horrifying sight. The bloody head of
a pig was hanging at the entrance of the store, its rawness smelt of menace. The
freshly slaughtered pig was still dripping blood all over the porch, swinging s
lightly as if it was still alive. The limp body of Sophia lay on the road, havin
g fainted from shock. When she awoke, she told of how she had come upon the pig'
s head and later lost consciousness. The neighborhood was now hushed in dead fea
r.
But there was more to come. The next day, the residents woke up to find the stor
e covered in a chaotic coat of obscene graffiti. The threats that were sprayed a
ll over the front of the shop were grim in their warnings: if Ah Keong failed to
pay, human blood would be shed next. The residents were now truly alarmed. It s
eemed like no one was safe from the loan sharks. After all, no one knew where Ah
Keong was and the presence of the police after the pig's head incident was repo
rted did not seem to deter them at all.
The next few days grew even more tense as groups of rough-looking men began to s
it outside the store for hours on end. They smoked, cursed loudly and even leere
d at the young girls passing by. Everyone felt their presence like a disease in
their lives and dreaded when the worst would come. It came sooner than expected.
One night, the sirens of police cars and ambulances driving into the neighborhoo
d drew the residents out from their houses. The prostrate body of a little boy l
ay on the ground, blood still flowing from a deep gash on his back. Some of the
gangsters were handcuffed; they sat on the curb in a daze. The residents soon fo
und out that the boy was chased by the gangsters, mistaken for the grandson of A
h Keong. The boy had tripped and fallen on his back onto a protruding rock and l
ost consciousness.
The entire episode drew to a tragic close. It took the blood of an innocent boy

to end the loan sharks' tyranny over an unpaid loan of a mere RM10,000.
genial

friendly

demeanors
leered

manners
smirked

Reduced
There was no one that the people respected more than Mr Chai. He was a quiet and
unassuming man in his forties who lived alone in a modest house. But his simple
lifestyle belied that fact that he was the richest man in their neighborhood. Y
et, Mr Chai never once lorded his wealth over them. He always took care of them
whenever they needed help. Even the bridge over the busy expressway nearby was b
uilt by him for the residents, who had to walk a long way around to get to the o
ther side before the days of the bridge. Everyone saw Mr Chai as the guardian of
the estate.
One day, a young shifty-looking man came to look for Mr Chai and ended up living
in his house. Mr Chai's housekeeper revealed that the young man was Mr Chai's n
ephew. The latter was recently retrenched by his company and had come to his unc
le for help. Being the kind soul that he was, Mr Chai welcomed him with open arm
s. But the neighbors thought otherwise. The residents saw the young man's lazy w
ays and sly eyes and trusted him not a bit. He was always doing nothing but flau
nting the fact that he was Mr Chai's nephew. By doing so, he thought to elevate
his position in the neighborhood. Little did he know that they ranked him only a
bove the stray animal.
One day, the people heard that Mr Chai had decided to invest all his money in a
business venture with his nephew Everyone became worried. The young man was obvi
ously not to be trusted, they thought. Many of them went to see Mr Chai to advis
e him against doing so but he merely smiled. In their hearts, they understood th
at if he could do what he had done for them, when they were not related in any w
ay, he would definitely not begrudge his nephew They sighed and left his house s
adly.
But the day they expected to come did not materialize. They had thought that the
venture would be a bogus one, created to drain Mr Chai's money, but it was a so
lid investment that raked in the profits within a few months. Slowly, the reside
nts began to feel better about the whole affair, convinced that Mr Chai was safe
from any conniving nephew But one day, they came home from work to see Mr Chai'
s housekeeper sobbing piteously outside his house, which was in the process of b
eing locked up by some strangers. They learned that Mr Chai's nephew had tricked
him into signing over all his assets; Mr Chai was now penniless.
Everyone was outraged. After all that the kind uncle had done for him, the young
man was ungrateful and scheming. They rushed to see Mr Chai, who had just finis
hed clearing out his things from the car. Instead of being despondent, he greete
d them with a smile. Some of the women started crying when they realised that th
e selfless man had really lost everything. But Mr Chai consoled them, saying tha
t he never really needed that much money. A simple life was enough for him. In t
he end, Mr Chai made his home among these poor neighbors, content to lose his fo
rtune but gain so many true friends.
belied

contradicted

sly

cunning

conniving

scheming

Thankful
Emir saw the trip as the perfect opportunity to cap a year of hard work on his r
esearch. He had spent so much time studying the volcanic activity of Mount Kilis
aro in Indonesia via the computer and other sources that to actually go there an
d see it for himself would be wonderful. Furthermore, it was a trip that he woul
d never be able to make on his own. The money involved was too much for his work
ing-class family. The state-of-the-art equipment that would be brought along by
the university team was beyond his means. He was only a research student on a sc
holarship to one of the most prestigious universities in the country.
He knew that being selected for this trip would be a feather in his cap. His fam
ily would be so pleased at his progress in the university and he would also come
closer to realising his dream of being a geophysicist upon his graduation. He w
anted so much to work alongside experts in studying how the Earth came about and
the physical processes that continued to affect it. Emir thought about his fami
ly still living in a one-room flat, eking out a miserable living each day on the
streets. He resolved to be a success so that they would be able to afford more
than just salted fish with their rice for each meal. Emir brushed away the tears
on his cheeks and proceeded to write out his application.
The results of the application for the trip would be announced that morning. Emi
r strode quickly to the notice board outside the hall where the list would be pu
t up. He knew that he had a very good chance of getting into the team. After all
, he was consistently getting good grades in his studies and had been working ha
rd with Professor Lambert on the project. He was also physically fit and would b
e able to handle the steep ascent of the mountain. In fact, he met all the crite
ria listed on the poster. Tom hastened his feet to move faster as the blustery w
eather swirled into the holes of the thin jacket he was wearing.
The shock that he felt as he searched frantically for his name on the list numbe
d him. He could not believe it. Even the usually frivolous and lazy Mary had mad
e it to the team. Emir could not understand it. Why was he not selected? He ran
down the corridors to Professor Lambert's office. Once there, he saw the wizened
old man bent over some rock samples. Emir's heart constricted tightly in affect
ion for the fatherly professor. Professor Lambert had been a wonderful mentor to
him since he joined the university. He had made sure that Emir received the bes
t of his knowledge regarding geophysics, treating him like the son that he never
had.
Suddenly, it struck him that the list of people selected for the trip had one th
ing in common - they were all wealthy! Emir realised why he was not selected. Re
sentment and anger at the unfairness of it all gripped him and he punched the wa
ll with his clenched fist. Professor Lambert turned around and looked at him. Qu
ietly, he told Emir, "I'm not going either." With that, he smiled and went back
to his work. But the feeling of great disappointment still tore at him, making h
im rail inwardly against the unfairness of the whole thing. Why did they not cho
ose on merit?
The day of the trip came and went. Emir walked around the campus like an apparit
ion, oblivious to everything around him. The disappointment still gnawed at him
like an ulcerous sore refusing to heal. Suddenly, he realised the commotion arou
nd him. People were running hastily towards the student's lounge. He quickly fol
lowed. There, all eyes were focussed on the television news bulletin. The shock
at what he saw rooted him to the ground. He could not think straight, except for
the same sentence that repeated itself in his mind. "Thank goodness I'm here! T
hank goodness I'm here!" He would never forget the sight of the research team sp

rawled all over the mountainside as rescuers worked to free their dead bodies fr
om the landslide that left no survivors.
frivolous

playful

constricted

squeezed

apparition

spirit

Game
Hunger gnawed at him again, giving him no respite even in this cold night. He pu
lled his rags around him tightly, but they still failed to keep out the biting w
ind. He vaguely remembered warm beds and hot food in days long past and cursed h
is mind for not being able to remember. If he could think about it, maybe his bo
dy would be fooled into thinking that it really was warm and well fed. But it wa
s not going to work. Ben got up and decided to walk off the hunger pangs. Maybe
he would find some food along the way.
The night was still young for those who had the means to enjoy themselves. The s
treets were lit in strange iridescence from the night spots. Ben trudged wearily
down the streets, despairing of ever finding food. Suddenly, he found himself c
aught in a car's headlights and saw a well-dressed figure coming out of it and w
alking towards him. He blinked to see the person clearly. But the notes clipped
between the man's fingers arrested his attention.
The man's voice was low and even, asking a question that Ben could hardly make o
ut. When he showed that he could not hear, the man spoke louder. 'Are you intere
sted in earning some money? We have a game that's still lacking some participant
s." Ben was intrigued. They were going to pay him RM1,000 just to play a game. H
e wondered what the game was, his skin prickling at the premonition of danger. Y
et, the attraction of the money was too great for him to resist. He nodded quick
ly and was told to meet them down at the highway in thirty minutes.
Ben walked his way to the appointed rendezvous. All the way, he racked his brain
s for some answers to the questions that were whirling in his mind. But he could
find none. At the highway, he saw three more cars beside the one he had encount
ered earlier. There was a group of men standing around, their lighted cigarettes
looked like tiny lights in the dark. When he got closer, Ben saw that they were
armed. He began to panic. But the man who had spoken to him came forward and ex
plained the game to him. If Ben could escape unscathed to the riverside with the
men hunting him down, he would be allowed to keep the RM1,000 that they were gi
ving him now Ben felt a strange fear in his bones, but could not help thinking h
ow the money would change his life. He had been dirty hungry and without hope. N
ow, there was a chance for a new life. Yet, he doubted if he could make it to th
e riverside in his weak condition. In the end, he decided to take on the challen
ge.
Ben was given a ten-minute headstart, and he made the most of it. He ran like hi
s life depended on it, as it literally did. Falling over stones and stumbling as
his joints gave way, Ben came close to the riverside. In fact, he could hear th
e gurgling of the river on its way downstream. A smile broke his face as he real
ised that he was going to make it. Suddenly, a sharp pain exploded in his chest
and he fell. Touching his chest, he saw an arrow protruding from it. Blood was f
lowing rapidly and he could hear the footsteps of the hunters behind him. He tri
ed to pull himself to the riverside but he could not. As the lifeblood slowly po
ured out from him, Ben realised that he was going to die a rich man. Smiling, he
patted the money in his pocket and then closed his eyes. Forever.

iridescence

the state of being colored

premonition

intuition

unscathed

unhurt

Reminder
Dek Poh could not shut out his wife's relentless grumbling anymore. He was tired
of hearing her launch into a tirade against him, frustrated by her vitriolic ou
tbursts about what a lousy husband he was. Wai Leng was never satisfied with any
thing that he did. If he brought home $4,000, she would taunt him with stories o
f how much her colleagues' husbands earned. If he had bought her flowers, she wo
uld still invariably grumble about how other people received diamonds instead. S
he was impossible to please.
He decided to take a walk along the tranquil banks of the reservoir. It was alwa
ys a balm to his frazzled nerves after an encounter with his wife. As he walked
towards the bus stop, he mulled over his life. Sometimes, he wondered at the ins
anity that must have possessed him when he married Wai Leng. Perhaps, they had b
een happy in the early days, but those days were definitely behind them now.
As he approached the shelter, he spotted a white bundle on the seat. Curiosity c
rept in, he walked closer to take a look. To his surprise, it was a baby all wra
pped up in a rough white towel. As he reached out to touch the baby, it suddenly
stretched out to try to grab his fingers. Dek Poh was tickled. As he laughed wi
th happiness at the angelic face of the baby, waves of tenderness washed over hi
m. What a beautiful baby it was! He wondered who could have the heart to abandon
such a bundle of joy.
Suddenly, in a rare show of decisiveness, Dek Poh picked up the bundle and strod
e quickly to the police post just some distance away. He reported finding the ba
by and, when it was revealed that no one had come to report a missing baby, he w
as asked to have temporary custody of it. Although initially sceptical, the poli
ceman soon gave in to Dek Poh's obvious sincerity. Somehow, Dek Poh knew that Wa
i Leng would welcome this baby into their childless marriage.
True enough, she got over her initial grumblings and chastisements and started c
ooing over the baby. The days with the baby in the house were the most glorious
ones in their lives. The halcyon days of playing with and taking care of the bab
y somehow repaired the couple's rocky marriage. As he watched her fussing over t
he baby, Dek Poh finally remembered what he had loved so much about Wai Leng - h
er tenderness and capacity for love.
Even though the baby was
ng knew what was missing
ather, allowing the love
Dek Poh never had to go

returned to its parents weeks later, Dek Poh and Wai Le


in their lives. It was not so much having a baby, but r
in them to come out and wash all the bad feelings away.
to the reservoir again.

vitriolic

hurtful

frazzled

weary

halcyon

peaceful

Intentions
The day dawned bright and sunny, with a slight wind blowing in from the coast. E
veryone was in high spirits, especially the four new volunteers who had arrived
the night before. The locals were impressed by the way these youngsters worked -

all four exhibited dedication to their task with such fervor that the locals ha
d to tell them several times to rest or risk heatstroke. But it was a sip of wat
er and then back to work for them. The locals were impressed by the selflessness
of the young men.
Suresh was really determined to distinguish himself as a good worker. The superv
isor on this project would be coming round any time now, and Tom wanted him to s
ee how diligent he was. After all, he had not wasted his holiday on some silly p
roject for nothing. Whether the villagers were able to cross the river was of no
concern to him except that it would give him a good report that would come in h
andy for his bid to win a place on the Students' Council in school. He wondered
when the supervisor would appear.
Soon Hock was oblivious to the heat beating down on his back. He relished the fr
eedom that he finally felt after years of being in an oppressive family. He was
tired of being told what to do and how to do it. He was not stupid and slow, as
his family was always making him out to be. He would show them that he could do
something good without their unbearably dictatorial instructions. He would go ba
ck a new person, a proven hero. He had to, if he hoped to escape from his family
.
Melvin glanced around the site. He could see the grateful looks of the locals wh
o were overjoyed that the bridge across the river would finally be built. They w
ould not have to go around the river anymore. He felt so happy that he was final
ly bringing a smile to someone's face. Melvin was extremely unpopular in school,
the reason for which still remained unknown to him. He wanted to come on this v
olunteer mission to feel part of something, to bask in the significance of somet
hing else. He was glad he had come. He felt better about himself by the minute.
Akmal hated supervising such missions. He always ended up dirty and hot, with in
adequate food and drinks to make up for the backwardness of the village. Had it
not been for the fact that he needed some community service to be shown on his a
pplication form for the 'Outstanding Teacher of the Year' award, he would never
deign to come to such a godforsaken place. He would be spending his holiday in s
ome picturesque country where there would be exotic cuisine to be savored. Here,
he could only taste the salty sweat trickling down his face. It was disgusting.
The villagers decided to hold a cookout that night. They wanted to reward the yo
ung men for being so selfless with their time and effort. Only the truly kind-he
arted would help them like they were doing, or so they thought.
fervor

enthusiasm

bask in

enjoy

deign

stoop

Exploit
Siew looked at the lady in gratitude. Finally, someone was going to help her obt
ain medical help for her father. she may only be ten years old, but Siew underst
ood how much money $40,000 was. It was way beyond her ability to ever earn such
a large amount of money. No matter how many cardboard pieces she picked up to se
ll to the rag-and-bone man, she would never earn even a quarter of that amount.
Her beloved father lay on the rough bedding of old newspapers and other 'castawa
ys' salvaged from the rubbish dumps. His fever was raging as high as ever, with
the infection slowly but surely spreading in his body.
The woman smiled at the little girl. What a Siewt little thing, she thought. It
was really such a waste, sending her on such a dangerous mission. But she had no
choice. Someone had to plant the bomb, and sacrifices in the course of the revo

lution were inevitable. The lady clasped Siew's hands in her well-manicured ones
and solemnly agreed to get her father the best treatment possible if she succee
ded in delivering the package safely. Siew was only too happy to agree.
The next morning, Siew was handed a large parcel. Her job was to place it by the
first table in the popular restaurant downtown. After that, the lady promised t
hat she would send her father to the best hospital where he would be treated for
his infection. Siew skipped almost gaily to the destination. She thought about
her kind father who had struggled to bring her up in a manner that was dignified
and proper. He never let her beg or do so himself. All that they earned came fr
om hard work. Tears collected in her eyes as she thought of how much she loved h
im. With renewed determination, she trudged quickly to the restaurant.
Her presence in the restaurant was not noticed by anyone. After all, she was too
small to catch the attention of the busy waiters. She left the parcel and then
ran quickly back to the shelter where her father was. Siew was so excited that s
he had managed to earn the money to save her father. She would tell him proudly
when he awoke that she did not beg for it. Sitting by her father as he groaned i
n his semi-conscious state, she waited patiently.
Night came and then morning approached, but still the lady did not show up. Siew
went outside to see if she was coming. She tried to tell herself that perhaps t
he lady could not remember where the shelter was. But it was of no use. She had
to face what she had refused to acknowledge. It was obvious that the lady had ne
ver intended to keep her promise. Finally, Siew's forced optimism crumbled and s
he sat down on the gutter outside the shelter, her sobs mixing with her father's
groans to form sad music in the still of the night.
salvaged

picked up

gaily

happily

gutter

drain

Green light
His fingers were numb from waiting to detonate the bomb. As the sounds of gunfir
e and shouting whirled in a cacophony around him, insidious fear crept slowly in
to him. He felt like he had been waiting for an eternity, when it had only been
twenty minutes since the last skirmish erupted. He held the lives of his comrade
s literally in his hands, as his role was to detonate the bomb that would blow u
p the enemies' escape back into the dense jungle. But the signal had still not c
ome.
All around him, the strangled cries of men forced themselves into his unwilling
consciousness. He wondered how long it would be before it all finally died down.
But it was unlikely that he would see that end; he knew that the war had only j
ust started. As he thought about all that he had to leave behind to defend his c
ountry, hot tears rolled down his cheeks.
He remembered the warm and loving faces of his family and those halcyon days tha
t were now so far away as he ploughed deeper into the smoke and death that was u
ndeniably war. When he had gone home one day, full of resolution and enthusiasm
to join the war, his parents were stunned. After all, he was only fourteen, an a
ge when boys were still exploring the hills and caves behind the village. But he
was adamant. He had gone to listen to the stirring speech by the war recruitmen
t officer, who had won over the hearts of the young men and boys with his speech
about the valor of men and the honor of being in a war. Nothing was going to st
and between him and his maturity into a real man; he had decided there and then.

The day he left the village to board the rickety truck which would bring them to
the barracks dawned bright and fine. What a good omen, he had thought then, try
ing hard to ignore the tear-stained faces of his family. He had felt a pang of f
ear and regret, suddenly realizing that he did not really know what he was getti
ng himself into. But he was determined to keep up a brave front.
Even now, he found himself having to maintain a stoical front. The war had none
of the romance that he had thought it entailed. There was nothing even remotely
resembling the beauty of camaraderie, the songs around the campfire, the triumph
of the human spirit or even the glory of victory. It had only been an extended
experience of brutality, fear, death and fatigue.
Now, when the enemies pressed on to capture the town, many comrades were droppin
g like flies. He wondered why the signal had still not come. Taking the risk to
peer out of his reinforced position, he looked for the captain who was to give t
he signal. A sharp intake of breath froze him. The sandbags that protected the c
aptain's position had been blown to bits, with the torn body of the captain slum
ped all over. The fear that he had managed to dam now rushed forward unabated. W
hat was he to do now? The signal was never going to come. He stared with irresol
ution at the detonator. Finally, he made a decision. Grinning for the first time
since he stepped onto this battlefield, he put his hands on the lever. Suddenly
, he felt the first heat of explosion from a grenade that had landed mere centim
eters from him.
cacophony

disharmony

halcyon

peaceful

stoical

uncomplaining

Watch out
He was not sure if he could really do it again. He had defied them once, and to
even contemplate doing so again sent shivers of fear up and down his spine. But
they would be there, waiting as they did every other day, except that it would b
e with a terrible vengeance this time. After all, Weng had actually had the auda
city to report the gang's attempts to extort money from him to the teachers. Wen
g hugged his bag closer to him, trying to ride out the hours after school when t
he gang would congregate outside the school gates. He knew that escape would not
be easy now.
Weng had grown up with the gang's activities all around him. They were always ex
torting 'protection' money from the hawkers and terrorizing the neighborhood chi
ldren into joining them. Gang clashes with other groups were also a common sight
. Yet, his puny and unimpressive frame had always escaped the notice of the gang
until this year when he became the only person holding out against the gang. Ev
eryone else he knew had capitulated to the gang's bullying.
When they had approached him for two dollars per week, Weng was determined not t
o give in. He did not believe that the school authorities were ineffective again
st the gang. With great courage, he told the teachers what was happening and the
y duly reported the matter to the police. But when the police came, none of the
other students dared to come forward to corroborate Weng's story. Without their
input, there was little the police could do. In the end, they stopped their inve
stigations and the teachers merely told him that they would keep a lookout for h
is safety.
Weng knew that this was their way of trying to gloss over their ineptitude. He w
as well aware that he had become the target of the gang now, and that each day t

hey waited at the school gates for him to appear after school. Yet, each time he
had been lucky for they got tired of waiting fruitlessly for him and left. But
such luck would run out, Weng knew. He only hoped that when the time came, his l
egs would carry him to safety. Even then, he did not see himself as being that u
nfortunate.
Suddenly, Weng felt a hand on him. He turned around to see the teacher looking a
t him suspiciously. She questioned him as to why he had not gone home, so Weng t
old her that he needed to avoid the gang. With a smile that carried doubts about
his concerns, the teacher gently nudged him in the direction of the school gate
. Left with no choice, Weng crept out of the school gate.
He did not manage to complete his tenth step when he felt a blow from a blunt ob
ject on his head. The vulgarities shouted out at him by the gang and their relen
tless raining of blows on him all merged to become one great experience of pain,
as he slowly sank down onto the ground.
audacity

boldness

capitulated

gave in

ineptitude

incompetence

Running away
Aminah was sad. This was not uncommon. She was sad every day. Her mother had run
off with a man she met at her workplace last year. Her father was depressed. He
seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Many a night he would come ba
ck crying out, "Why, why did she leave me?" At times, when he spied her cowering
in a corner, he would lay his hands on her. Soon, her body was covered with wel
ts and bruises.
Aminah's school grades deteriorated. It was unfortunate that the teachers were o
nly interested in her test results. They nagged at her about her work as her sch
ool was in the top 20 based on national school rankings. She felt that her teach
ers were not the ones whom she could confide in about her plans.
One day, her patience gave way and her will to see the miserable day through wav
ered. She decided there and then to leave home. "Where?" she wondered. She did n
ot know. All she knew was that she had to get away from it all: a horrible fathe
r and school.
Packing some necessary documents and a few precious personal belongings, she fle
d. She would leave her future to the gods.
The next few days passed in a blur. There was confusion, uncertainty and sufferi
ng. In her heart, she knew that running away would not solve her problems, but s
he had to do something. The first night saw her sleeping in the void deck of an
unnamed block of flat near her home. Curiously enough, she did not feel hungry.
Perhaps, she was keeping a wary eye on the strange surroundings. In addition, sh
e was feeling too miserable herself. Fortunately, she passed the night undisturb
ed.
The second day, however, brought fully the realization of her decision to run aw
ay. After a skimpy breakfast as she had to stinge on her scant savings, she was
still hungry. In the afternoon, she walked about aimlessly in shopping centers t
o pass the time. By nightfall, she had actually begun to long for the familiar s
urroundings of her home. However, passing the second night peacefully in the voi
d deck she had spent the previous night was something to be thankful for.

Meanwhile, Mr Ahmad, Aminah's father, had realized her absence. After checking w
ith teachers, friends and relatives, his initial anger subsided. It now turned t
o panic and then to remorse and worry. She was after all his own flesh and blood
. She was merely an innocent victim of his hatred towards her mother. The police
and media were alerted. The once depressed and inebriated man had become fully
aware of his past and present actions.
On the fourth day of her running away and after a sleepless night, he awoke to a
heavy knocking on his door and excited shouts from his neighbor,
Ali. "Wake up! Wake up! Ahmad! Your daughter has been found." With trembling han
ds and a pounding heart, he reached out for the newspaper his friend had thrust
out to him. The title of the article read:
"Missing girl found after narrowly escaping would-be rapists." The article relat
ed that Aminah had spent her third night washing up in a toilet near Ikan Bus St
ation. There, she had befriended some illegal workers who had invited her to the
ir shack. However, just past midnight, they made an attempt to capture her. One
man held her while the other attempted to rape her. Fortunately, her screams uns
ettled them. In a moment of inattention from them, she escaped their clutches an
d fled from the shack. A chase ensued around Ikan Bus Station.
Fortunately, her cries for help were heard by a group of passers-by. They gave c
hase. Her pursuers fled but were apprehended later by the passers-by and police.
Aminah was then held in police custody.
Mr Ahmad rushed to the police station where his daughter was held. There and the
n, he understood why the police had not attempted to contact him. His daughter h
ad told the police her sad story of his abuse. What followed was a very touching
scene. Both father and daughter were allowed a meeting before the latter was ta
ken away. In that meeting, Mr Ahmad knelt before his daughter and asked for her
forgiveness. She shed tears uncontrollably and nodded.
welts

marks

stinge

to act stingily

inebriated

intoxicated

Dumbfounded
Ahmad was a weakling. He was all skin and bones. To add to his woes, he had a se
vere acne problem on his face. It was no surprise that he was not a hit with the
girls in class. Added to his problems was the fact that he stuttered when he w
as shy or nervous.
There was one advantage Ahmad had however. He had a beautiful voice. It was a cl
ear, high and steady tenor. However, none of his friends knew about it as he pra
cticed singing only in the bathroom. Once, he was caught unawares singing in the
corridor by his classmates. The moment he saw them, he denied that the beautifu
l song they had heard was sung by him. They were convinced when his voice went t
o a characteristic stutter. "I ...I...real-lly did-didn't s-sing.... "
One day, the class of Secondary 4B, which Ahmad was in, heard about a singing co
mpetition that was to be held in the nearby community centre. A prize would be a
warded for the best student singer. It was a well-known yearly competition and m
any students support All, their classmate. He had a nice baritone voice and good
showmanship. So it was really a surprise for the students to see Ahmad's name b
esides Ali's on the notice board, which announced the auditions on 15 May.

"You can sing, Ahmad? Get real! Don't make me laugh !" was the essence of the un
kind remarks directed at him when they saw Ahmad before he entered the audition
room. Ahmad felt awkward and sad. It was enough that they did not support him bu
t ridiculing him was too much.
When the results were announced, class 4B could not believe their ears. Ali had
of course qualified but so did Ahmad for the finals. How on earth did the stutte
rer do it, they wondered.
A few of All's friends accosted Ahmad in the toilet. They forced him to sing a f
avorite song. Of course, under such disbelieving eyes and prejudice from his cla
ssmates, poor Ahmad could not sing. He could only stutter!"I will show them like
I did at the audition," Ahmad vowed to himself. In the week before the finals,
he was fortunate to have the services of his father's friend, a former singing i
nstructor who polished up his delivery and improved on his showmanship.
The finals of the singing competition finally arrived. Ali's supporters were out
in full force. Mr Mok, the principal, and some teachers caused quite a stir amo
ng the students when they turned up to support the two finalists from their scho
ol.
Ali sang to the crowd's delight. It looked like he was the clear favorite. His r
esonant and modulated voice, together with his good showmanship, endeared him to
the audience.
Ahmad was next. There was a hushed silence before he began. The claps were few,
coming from the principal, teachers and his only friend. Some subdued boos came
from a few disbelieving schoolmates of his who felt that he was not fit to be a
finalist. Quite a number of the audience had heard of his stuttering defect and
came to see for themselves whether the judges had made a wrong decision to admit
Ahmad in the finals.
When Ahmad mounted the stairs to get on the stage, he was determined to prove th
em wrong. Mr Chan, his singing instructor, had told him to focus on himself and
the song. To the encouraging smile of his instructor, he sang his heart out. His
song was 'Climb Every Mountain'. He adapted his tone and expression to the lyri
cs, and his voice hit the right notes and pitch. His delivery was clear and his
voice never wavered. "Where was the stutter?" his detractors wondered. But what
amazed everyone, including the principal and teachers, was Ahmad's delivery and
showmanship. He executed the song well and his movements were appropriate and we
ll coordinated.
When he finished singing, there were very few dry eyes. Then there was tense ant
icipation from the audience as the judges decided on the winner. In spite of Ahm
ad's outstanding performance, almost everyone felt that All would be the winner.
They were wrong. When Mr Tan, the chief judge announced Ahmad as the winner by
a narrow margin, the audience sat in stunned silence. Suddenly, everyone cheered
and rose to give him a standing ovation. The winner had finally dared to 'climb
his own mountain' and in the end tasted the sweet spoils of victory.
baritone

a man's singing voice between tenor and bass

accosted

confronted

ovation
Inheritance

applause

Mr and Mrs Othello were elated. They just received news that they had inherited
a house in the Delli Culta district, one of the prime locations in Lahore. Less
welcome was the news that Mr Othello's father had died and they had to conduct t
he proper funeral rites for him. In addition, they had to handle all the details
concerning his demise before they could inherit the house. This was revealed by
the lawyer in charge of the late Mr Othello's will. An observer would not be wr
ong in surmising that the son was not close to his father.
The young Othello was the only son of the late Othello. He had a fierce row with
his father when he wanted to marry his present wife, Dean, a pretty Australian
and settle down with her in her homeland. The result was that his father had wit
hdrawn all financial support and severed all ties with him. It was therefore a s
urprise for Alvin, the younger Othello, when he received news of the surprise wi
ndfall. "The old man must have forgiven me," he thought to himself gleefully. Be
cause he was not doing well in Australia, this was an opportune time to settle i
n Lahore.
Alvin dealt with all the necessary work to do with his father's death. Filial-wi
se, he appeared the dutiful son, shedding crocodile tears. A week after the fune
ral, the title deeds and keys to his father's house were handed over to him. Wit
h two young children in tow, the Othellos moved their scanty belongings from the
ir hotel room to No. 11, Genggi Heights on a Sunday morning. On entering the dri
veway of the house, however, they started having serious misgivings. It looked r
ather seedy, neglected and ghost-like. The elder Othello had lived in rented qua
rters since the row with his son.
Alvin cautiously approached the entrance. The set of keys was in the envelope bu
t to his horror, he saw a bunch of keys. "Which one was the key to the front doo
r?" he thought annoyingly. The next half an hour saw an increasingly irritable a
nd frustrating time for the couple. Key after key was tried but none could fit t
he front door. Meanwhile, the kids were running wild in the garden. An angry Alv
in decided to call Mr Lawrence, the lawyer. Finally, he managed to locate him. M
r Lawrence did not believe that the keys could not fit. He asked Alvin to try ag
ain.
Alvin did try again but in vain. When Mr Lawrence received a phone call from Alv
in again, it was to listen to an angry tirade of shouts and curses. "Calm down,
Alvin," Mr Lawrence said. "I'll come by with an expert locksmith."
When Mr Lawrence arrived with John, the locksmith, the latter got down to work.
After examining the lock mechanism and the keyhole on the door, John said that t
he keys given would not fit. After another few minutes of examination, John said
that the lock required a special brand of keys. This key was out of stock. Even
if he could locate the brand of keys, it would take half a day to file them exa
ctly to fit into the lock mechanism. The impatient Othellos conferred briefly an
d decided to break down the door. Then, an embarrassed Alvin approached Mr Lawre
nce. "Could you pay for the services of breaking down the door first, Mr Lawrenc
e?" he asked. Mr Lawrence saw that Alvin was down in his finances. Even if he re
fused this irresponsible couple, the whining, hungry children had to be pitied.
"Let's go back to town to summon some help and to have lunch," he kindly suggest
ed. After lunch was over, the party returned to 11, Genggi Heights with some lab
orers who promptly hacked down the front door. However, when the doors were down
, the Othellos were in for a big shock. Big, strong, sturdy metal bars barred th
e entrance. It looked like the elder Othello was out to play a nasty joke on his
son.
The Othellos spent a miserable night at a budget hotel. In the morning, they ret
urned with laborers to prise open and get rid of the bars. However, a more nasty
sight greeted the couple. Alvin spied a musty note below the entrance. It read

'Welcome to your new home. May my spirit haunt this place. This is my revenge fo
r your unfilial conduct. Your departed father.'
With sinking hearts, dismay and anger, the Othellos looked around. What they saw
further dismayed them. The walls were blackened, as if from a fire. There were
cobwebs, insects and vermin everywhere. Alvin realized with a sinking heart that
it would take a fortune for him to restore the place. Even then, it would be di
fficult to sell it. "The old man really had the last word," he thought grimly.
surmising

guessing

musty

moldy

vermin

pests

A partnership
Jackson was a bitter man. He swore he would never
gain after his wife left him for another man.
Mariah was a blind woman. She had been busking in
passage led from Jackson's office building to the
aily, Jackson would see her singing in her sweet,
headed for home at 7 p.m.

trust another woman or marry a


an underpass for a year. This
nearby rail transit station. D
angelic voice when he wearily

Their characters could not be more contrasting. Jackson was sociable, talkative
and blunt in his speech. Mariah, however, was the retiring type. One day, Jackso
n, unable to contain himself, uttered when he saw Mariah, "Why are you cheapenin
g your talents in public by busking?"
Timidly, Mariah replied, "I have a handicapped mother and myself to support. Thi
s is all I can do to make a living. Besides, I'm grateful for this work as I hav
e been unemployed for a long time." For once, Jackson was speechless. Then, he f
elt pity and compassion.
From then on, Jackson tried to ease her burden. Other than donating some money t
o her daily, he would also wait for her in the morning to set up her 'stage' and
equipment. He would then pack up for her in the evening.
Mariah appreciated Jackson's help. She had always been popular with the pedestri
ans as she had a sweet and patient nature. Moreover, she was a good singer. Her
gentleness was like a balm to Jackson's disillusioned nature. She encouraged and
calmed him as he poured out his woes and regrets over his past mistakes.
Their relationship blossomed. Jackson found himself spending all his spare time
promoting Mariah in the subway. She was having an increasing following. Word had
it that there was a very good blind singer in Timmin South subway.
One day, a talent scout heard Mariah singing. He spoke to Jackson about her pote
ntial. One thing led to another and from that day onwards, Jackson became her ag
ent. Six months later, Mariah released her first album which became an instant h
it. Jackson resigned from his job and devoted himself to promoting her talent.
Mariah became famous overnight. Her shy, good-natured personality and mellifluou
s voice captured the hearts of many fans. However, she was not good at handling
all the media attention and business details. This was where Jackson's capabilit
y as an agent complemented her.
Friends and business associates began to remark on their contrasting characters
and yet noted how well they complemented each other while working.

Jackson and Mariah discovered a growing fondness for each other. Very soon after
, they announced to the media that they were an item. They sealed their business
and love relationship by marrying on the anniversary of the occasion when they
first spoke to each other.
The unexpected partnership had turned out to be a successful one.
busking
to play music or sing in a public place so that the people who a
re there will give money
disillusioned

disheartened

mellifluous

melodious

Slip
Mr Tai, the teacher in charge of athletics at SUKK Temarah, was getting on in ye
ars. He had just celebrated his 58th birthday -- an age which many would think s
eriously of retiring. However, it was not so with Mr Tai. He had an illustrious
record of athletic achievements in the school sports scene. Some of the students
he had coached had become national runners or even coaches themselves. The Scho
ol Board concurred with his sentiments of not retiring as they did not want to l
ose the services of someone who had successfully led the school athletics team t
o reach the finals of the National Athletics Competition.
In the year before, however, the school team did not garner as many medals in th
e National Athletics Championship as expected. To make up for this disappointmen
t, Mr Tai was determined to have his runners bring as much glory as they could i
n this year's National Athletics Championship. His hopes were fired with enthusi
asm this year by two promising star athletics, Farid and Hassan, who happened to
be twins.
In the Annual School Sports, Farid broke the school's twenty-year record for the
100 meters event. His brother, Hassan, was just a fraction of a second behind.
Since Hassan had a recurring ankle injury, Mr Tai decided to submit only Farid's
name to the finals of the National Athletics Championship. On the day he submit
ted the results of the best runner in the school, he mistakenly wrote Hassan' na
me instead.
When Mr Tai received the list of the finalists in the 100-metre event in the Nat
ional Athletics Championships, he realized his mistake. However, it was too late
to inform the sports secretariat. Pride also did not allow him to admit his mis
take to Farid. He decided to inform his brother, Hassan, and start grooming him
in the final preparations for this prestigious event.
When Farid learnt that he was not a finalist, he could not believe his ears. Eve
n though he was glad that his brother had qualified, he was bitterly disappointe
d. To make matters worse, Mr Tai did not give him any reasons for his exclusion
in the finals. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Farid as he realized that his
hopes for athletic glory were dashed.
His moroseness was further compounded when he heard that his fellow athletes had
believed a rumor that he had been dropped from the list because of discipline p
roblems. Depressed, he lost interest in his athletic practices and withdrew from
his friends. His studies also suffered as his listlessness affected his academi
c performance.
One day, his best friend, Wen Yi, pulled him aside to have a talk. Hassan poured

out his grievances and sadness to Wen Yi who then encouraged him to arrange a m
eeting with Mr Tai. However, Mr Tai tried to avoid meeting Hassan. The teacher d
id not want to admit his mistake. When Hassan finally managed to confront Mr Tai
, the latter consoled Hassan superficially and tried to make him accept that his
brother was the better choice.
Farid did not do well in the National Finals. His old ankle injury cropped up at
the last minute and he came in last. The school's athletics performance was at
its worst that year. Mr Tai was not appointed the athletics coach the following
year.
As for Farid, he withdrew from pursuing a promising athletics career. He did wel
l enough to qualify for college and joined the Cadets. However prestigious his h
eart remained with running and throughout his life, he was embittered for he kne
w that Mr Tai had made a mistake and did not stand up to him.
illustrious

recognized

prestigious

important

moroseness

sullenness

Imprudence
John and Jack were identical twins. When they were born, they were so like each
other that even their mother could not tell them apart.
When they grew up, they were therefore the butt of everyone's jokes. People wond
ered whether they thought alike, or went to the bathroom at the same time. The b
rothers were sometimes perturbed and irritated by these jokes but overall, they
took it in their stride.
Beyond the physical side, however, the resemblance ended. As they grew older, bo
th began to differ more in character. Jack was always the extrovert one. He like
d sports and was known as a ladies' man.
On one fine day, Jack approached John for a favor. He had been
with a pretty college belle, Jessica, for some time. However,
t of the relationship but despite the ample hints, Jessica did
stand what he had been driving at. Jack asked John to stand in
Jessica wanted to go out with him. Jack and John were studying
ate colleges, so Jessica was not aware of a twin brother.

in a relationship
now, he wanted ou
not seem to under
for him whenever
in different priv

The first meeting between John and Jessica was a success. Jessica was pleasantly
surprised with John's attentiveness. She felt that Jack behaved like a gentlema
n on that date. Of course, she was puzzled at some point; he had coffee instead
of tea and he was not swearing like he usually did. John found Jessica interesti
ng. He was attracted to her beauty, intelligence and honesty.
Meanwhile, Jack was getting enamored with another popular college girl, Merry. M
erry, however, hinted to Jack that she would welcome his attention only if he ga
ve up his relationship with Jessica. Although John was the one going on dates wi
th Jessica, Jack still had to hang out with Jessica on campus.
Jack asked John to end his relationship with Jessica. However, a shocked Jessica
could not believe that Jack wanted to end the relationship. She also refused to
believe that it was John who had been going out with her.
Jack now knew that things were going too far now. He scheduled a meeting with hi
s twin brother to try to reason with Jessica. Jessica brought along her brother,

Thomas. At the meeting, Jack apologized for misleading Jessica. Jessica, howeve
r, refused to believe that John had been posing as Jack, even though the twin br
others stood before her. She had fallen in love with Jack and she believed that
he was the one who was courting her all the while. Even though John gave her cer
tain details of their dates which would conclusively prove that he was with her,
she refused to listen and practically shut her ears.
"I have been dating Jack and it is Jack I want to marry. If he is trying to get
out now because he wants to go out with Merry, I will pursue him to his death,"
she asserted angrily.
Thomas then dropped the bombshell to the shocked twins. Jessica was pregnant. Sh
e believed she was carrying Jack's child as he had been intimate with her. If Ja
ck persisted in denying his responsibility, the matter would be handled by their
parents and the school authorities.
Jack pleaded and argued with Jessica and Thomas but to no avail. Jessica insiste
d that Jack bore the responsibility for her pregnancy. She wanted to be married
as soon as possible.
Desperate, Jack turned to his brother, John, for help. John tried to persuade Je
ssica to change her mind. He argued that even if they were to be married to each
other, Jack was no longer in love with her. It would be meaningless. John also
reminded Jessica how they got along so well together. Jessica, however, refused
to listen. It was Jack all along, she insisted vehemently, who had been dating h
er.
By now, Thomas was feeling rather annoyed. He argued that Jack had to bear the r
esponsibility as the baby was his - Jack was the one she had been intimate with.
Moreover, everyone had thought that Jessica and Jack were a couple. He also sta
ted that his parents were old and could not take the blow if Jack did not marry
her. As for Jack getting John to pose as him, he was uncertain about the truth.
All he was certain was that Jack must face up to the fact that he was responsibl
e for. When Jack protested again, Thomas silenced him with these angry words, "A
man must be responsible for his actions. You do not have a choice."
The impact of these words sank into
er, he finally apologized and asked
future wife's hands as they went to
ation to them. He was determined to
ild.
perturbed

bothered

enamored

smitten

stricken

suffering

Jack. He was stricken with guilt. A week lat


for Jessica's forgiveness. Then he held his
their respective parents to explain the situ
make things right, for Jessica, for their ch

A holiday that turned out wrong


It was the eve of National Day in Singapore. My family decided to break the usua
l routine of watching the national celebrations in Singapore but to visit Batam
on National Day. Batam is an island a mere half hour ferry ride from Singapore.
On that day, we woke up, all fresh and keyed up to enjoy ourselves.
However, we got off to a disappointing start. No taxis could be hailed within si
ght and the few taxi drivers who pulled over were not too keen to bring us to Ta
nah Merah Ferry Terminal. They explained that the terminal was a distance access
ible by a deserted side road. The authorities did not allow them to impose an ex

tra charge, unlike the allowance at the airport. Moreover, it might be ages befo
re they could pick up a passenger for the return journey. Unbelievably, we were
rather sympathetic. After a long wait, a taxi driver finally agreed to take us.
Upon reaching the terminal, we rushed in, all flustered and worried about missin
g the ferry. We were relieved to find out that the departure time had been delay
ed. However, our relief was short-lived. There was a long frustrating queue as t
he immigration staff could not cope with the unexpected crowd.
There was a mad scramble for seats when we finally boarded our vessel. The mild
weather had changed and the day became unbearably hot. It was stuffy in the ferr
y. Many were seasick and vomited. The queue outside the toilets was a sad and di
sheartening sight.
Upon arrival, we waited for our coach. However, once on board the coach, another
disappointment awaited us. Groans from the passengers greeted the guide's annou
ncement that the watersports centre we were scheduled to visit was burned down t
he day before. We would visit a Go-Kart centre instead. This place was in the mi
ddle of nowhere and we spent a mindless two hours watching the kids queuing and
then squealing in delight at the limited turns they get.
My family and I were not Go-kart enthusiasts, so Dad offered to pay for any souv
enirs we wanted. But these were outrageously priced at the shops we visited.
Lunch was the only bright spot in the journey. The seafood dishes were varied an
d delicious. We tried sucking edible snail meat from the famous 'kong kong' snai
ls. It was a nice change. We finally relaxed amid the breezy and tranquil seasid
e surroundings.
Batam city was dirty and rather squalid. It had just rained and there were mud p
uddles everywhere. We had to walk through the mud just to get to the few shoppin
g centers. They invariably sold the same souvenirs. The unenthusiastic, bored sa
lesgirls and beggars outside these tourist spots made us realize how comfortable
an experience shopping in Singapore was!
We had not dared to try eating the many interesting roadside snacks or colorful
syrupy drinks sold by vendors because of the constant presence of flies. Fear of
dengue fever also reduced us to paranoid tourists slapping at mosquitoes.
Our tour guide blithely ignored our requests to visit a popular shopping centre.
We learnt later that the place would not pay him a commission for bringing us t
here. Instead, the brazen man kept pushing us to buy his homemade cookies.
Thankfully, there was no wait for ferries on the journey back. We arrived safely
but realized to our dismay that we were at the Harbour Front Centre, a consider
able distance from our home.
There were no taxis in sight. It seemed that the roads leading to Harbour Front
Centre were closed due to the National Day Parade. We whiled away our time at a
coffee shop and waited restlessly for the roads to be opened.
However, it was a relief to be back in dear old Singapore! Never again, I vowed,
would I celebrate a public holiday Day abroad!
squealing
squalid
blithely

yelling
filthy
casually

Write about an incident in which you were a victim of unfairness


It was one of those sunny mornings when merely breathing seemed to be an event w
orth celebrating. I was in a particularly good mood as my mother had just given
me RM400 for my daily expenses during the week that she would be away with my fa
ther in China to visit her ailing grandaunt. I was in seventh heaven just contem
plating the things I could do with the RM400. If I survived on bread and butter
the whole week, I would have a little windfall of RM300 to buy the latest comput
er games! It was certainly a great way to begin the day.
The physical education lesson was, as usual, a gruelling session of endless runn
ing and weight training. I could hardly catch my breath as I trudged back wearil
y to the classroom. As I neared the classroom, I heard a loud commotion coming f
rom it and quickly rushed in. My classmates were gathered around Tommy's table a
s the latter ransacked through books, stationery as well as some personal effect
s in obvious distress. Tommy had always been a popular boy in class. Not only wa
s he bright and well-mannered, he also came from a wealthy family that provided
him with all he could ask for. Yet, he chose to share everything he had with us,
never minding the fact that he always provided while we received.
As such, I rushed immediately to his side when I saw his anxiety. My classmates
quickly told me that Tommy had lost the money that he had brought as a donation
to the welfare home that we were supposed to visit that afternoon. Understanding
the situation, I proposed that we organise a search around the classroom and in
form the class teacher as soon as possible. Taking my suggestions seriously, the
class immediately took action. In no time at all, Miss Soh rushed to the class
room to take control of the situation. She decided to run a search through every
one's bag. We quickly stood by our tables and emptied the contents of our bags o
nto the table. When it came to my turn, I diligently took out all my possessions
for inspection. My wallet was the last item to be checked and as Miss Soh took
out the RM400 from it, the class fell into a hushed shock.
Up till then, I had no idea that the amount lost was exactly RM400. Had I not be
en aware of my own innocence, even I would have agreed that the evidence was inc
riminating enough to indict me. Everyone stared at me in horror. Miss Soh was tr
iumphant - pleased that her efforts at flushing out the thief had borne fruit. I
n a loud and harsh voice, she demanded to know where the money had come from. I
told her the truth, which obviously fell on deaf ears. She appeared not to have
heard anything that I had said, choosing instead to dwell on the 'facts' of the
matter. She proclaimed loudly that I had been caught red-handed, dismissing my s
tory as ludicrous in view of the fact that my family was not well-off and could
not possibly afford to give me RM400. She also went on to elaborate on the evils
of envy, implying that I had stolen from Tommy because I was envious of him. Al
l this while, I was struck dumb by her convincing words, amazed at the conjectur
es that she had come up with based on the RM400 found in my wallet. The situatio
n was worsened by the unfortunate fact that my parents could not come forward to
corroborate my story.
By this time, the whole class was shaking their heads mournfully at me, obviousl
y in full accord with the teacher's allegations. I was appalled and terrified. I
could feel the jaws of misguided justice closing around my neck and struggled a
gainst it. I kept protesting my innocence, trying to drown out their accusations
with the sheer volume of my voice. But it was to no avail.
The principal was called in to handle the situation. He promptly decided that th
e evidence against me was damning enough to warrant an immediate suspension or e
xpulsion once my parents returned from their trip. I was devastated. How could t
hey decide on my guilt without even checking out my story? Even a phone call to

my parents was considered too much trouble for the school. Instead, they chose t
o concentrate on consoling Tommy and placating his parents. I knew then that my
average background was the reason why my words carried less weight than Tommy's
distress. It was a sobering experience, educating me in the realities of life.
The entire week was spent in a state of confusion. I kept to myself a lot, choos
ing not to leave the house at all. I lost a great deal of weight, since I was su
bsisting only on bread and butter. The RM400 had been confiscated by the school
as 'evidence', leaving me only the loose change around the house to buy things w
ith. Humiliation and anger were my constant companions during that week. None of
my classmates telephoned me, not even those who were my buddies. Obviously, the
stink of being a thief was more potent than that of friendship.
My parents finally returned. They rushed down to clarify matters once they reali
sed what had happened. The school authorities, instead of feeling apologetic, ch
ose instead to place the blame squarely on what they called my "inability to put
across clearly the situation". My parents were infuriated. They wrote a long co
mplaint against the school and transferred me to a different school. The matter
was finally resolved when the principal and Miss Soh were chastised for their mi
shandling of the situation and I was officially cleared of all charges. But to t
his day, it still hurts to know that to certain people, wealth spoke louder than
truth.
incriminating

implicating

ludicrous

absurd

corroborate

back up

Write a story based on this line : "By evening, she was running a high fever ...
"

Far up in the mountains of Canada, there is an old abandoned log cabin. Once it
was occupied by a young couple who wanted to distance themselves from the chaos
of this modern world. Here they were miles away from the nearest town. Bob, the
husband, made the occasional trip into town to buy supplies whereas Jan, his wif
e, spent her free time by the fire, sewing. Their life was simply idyllic.
Then, one midwinter's day, Jan woke up from bed with a strange ache in her bones
. Putting it down to overwork, Bob shooed her to bed and made sure she rested. T
hough Jan was impatient to get to her chores, Bob soothed her, "Relax, Sugar. Yo
u're overdoing things. All these chores will be here when you recover."
However, Jan seemed to be getting worse instead of recovering. By evening, she w
as running a high fever and in greater pain. In spite of his best efforts, Bob c
ould not manage to ease her suffering. And then suddenly, she started to lapse i
nto unconsciousness.
It was then obvious that she was seriously ill. What could Bob do? He had no exp
erience in treating the sick and Jan was getting worse by the minute. He knew th
at there was an old doctor in town but he lived three miles away, downhill. Potbellied and obese, there was no way the doctor could make it up to their cabin.
Something had to be done quickly! Bob racked his brains but to no avail. The onl
y thing left to do was to go to the doctor. In Jan's condition, she could never
walk that far in the waist-deep snow. Bob would have to carry her!

Bob searched his mind for


had once made a sledge so
never got around to using
red with rocks and trees.

a way to move poor, sick Jan. Then, he remembered. He


that they could ride together over the mountain. They
it though, because the whole mountain was thickly cove
He had never found a safe way down, not even once.

"Well," he thought, "looks like I'm going to have to try it anyhow," as he dug o
ut the sledge from the storeroom. "Jan may die unless I get her to the doctor, a
nd life means nothing to me without her." With this thought in mind, Bob gently
tucked Jan into the sledge, got in the front, and with a short prayer for safety
, pushed off.
How they got through that ride alive, Bob has never figured out. As trees loomed
up in front of him and just as quickly whizzed by his side, close enough to tou
ch, he felt relieved that Jan was not awake to experience the ride. It was all h
e could do not to scream as collision seemed imminent, time and again, with only
inches to spare.
At last, bursting from the mountainside, the town came into view. Barely slowing
down, they sped through the icy streets, only losing speed as they neared the d
octor's house. The sledge, battered through the journey, collapsed in the left s
ki as it came to a halt, spilling out its occupants. Bob picked up his Jan and m
ade his way into the doctor's house.
After what seemed to be a long winter, Jan recovered fully from her illness but
Bob never recovered from his fright. They moved into the little town so as to be
near help in times of crisis, and have lived there ever since.
idyllic

simple and carefree

rack one's brains


batter

strain to find a solution

to damage as by heavy wear

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