untitled 5-3-1 f

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OK... I cheated a little. I composed this at the laundromat this morning before checking the comment section. I will use those for the next section. Thank you for leaving them.

You can leave your 5 word sentence starter with every completed section posted.
For those of you who want to play "catch-up" here are the previous sections in sequence.

As is the case with most Malay funerals, the remains of the deceased had to be buried within 24 hours and the fisherman was buried in the early afternoon. However, unlike most funerals in other parts of the country the village always held a kenduri after the burial. Tents were erected on the padang that hosted a huge community potluck. People brought their best dishes to the event and rolled out mats under the shelter of the tents to partake in this picnic peculiar. It was said this tradition was yet another that found its roots in the old pirate days. Because of the various ethnic, cultural and religious traditions that co-existed there, the kenduri provided a common opportunity to celebrate the life of the recently deceased.

Mina had spent the rest of the morning cooking up a batch of keladi (tapioca fritters) which were a specialty of her grandmother. It helped take her mind away from the confusing events of the night before. She donned a baju kurong for the event mostly so she would not offend the local sensibilities. Due to a travel snafu she had barely made it to her grandmother’s funeral and was forced to attend it in her travel clothes consisting of a white shirt and jeans. The kurong was the attire of choice also because of the comfort afforded by the loose fitting traditional garment.
By the time Mina arrived at the kenduri, everyone was adding their dishes to the 2 long tables set up in the center. She made her contribution to the meal at one of the tables and was invited to join Mr. Osman on his mat. Although generally men and women sat seperately, this was not a hard and fast rule in the village.

There were no formalities at these gatherings except for the signal to begin eating. This was usually provided by the family of the deceased who took the first helpings of the food that everyone had contributed. There was never a rush for the food tables and as Mina had observed a week earlier there seemed to be a certain casual synchronicity to the whole affair.

Mina had already begun to eat when Mr. Osman returned with his plate piled high. He sat down looked at her and chuckled. “I met Mr. Kee Cheong, the fish broker at the table. He said if funerals happened in the village at this rate… we would never get any work done. The dead are going to put us all out of business!”

Mina giggled politely at his joke. She knew full well that this event was not to mourn the dead but to appreciate their lives and even to poke a little fun at them. As she ate Mina marveled and took delight in watching the subtle quirky customs of the funeral kenduri unfold.

The village folk would eat and mill about in a seemingly random fashion. Inevitably they would make their way to where the deceased family sat. Condolences had already been offered at the funeral so this was a time to share stories and enquire about future plans. It was about moving on. There was always a group of no more than three people sitting and chatting with the young widow and her 2 young children. By custom, 2 fisherman baskets were situated close to where they sat. One was empty and the other usually filled with something edible that was the dead person’s favorite. In this cas,e the second basket was filled with the mangosteen fruit.

“It’s a good thing for us Kamal liked mangosteens more than your chicken porridge, Mr. Chong. I would have liked to have seen you try pouring the porridge into that basket… … the widow would be sitting in a padang of porridge by now!”

There was a round of laughter by everyone within earshot and without missing a beat, Mr Chong who was sitting on the next mat came back with, “You can thank his wife. She threatened to leave him if he came into my shop to eat my porridge more than 2 times a week!” Of course this sparked yet another round of laughter.

Mina laughed along but kept her eyes on the widow and the children. Once the brief and casual chit-chat was done the 3 “visitors” wished the widow well, walked over and picked a fruit from one of the baskets and dropped a cash donation into the empty one. The donations were given to defray the cost of the funeral leaving more than enough to support a living for a year. Mina had already decided to donate the donations she had received the week before to the clinic in the village.

Within moments, like a strange dance yet another set of “visitors” took the place of the departing group on the mat with the widow and her family.

Mr. Chong suddenly said, “I think he’s going to do it.”

“Who is it?” enquired Mr, Osman not turning his head to look behind.
“Lim. He’s going to be the first one.” shot back Cheong.

“The carpenter?” quizzed Mr. Osman who had his back turned to the view.

“No, his son.”

“Well, they did go to school together. They’ve known each other since they were children.”

Everyone took a discreet glance at where the widow sat. Staring would be rude and disrespectful. Young Lim stood patiently out of eye-sight behind the widow. Out of the 2 others who had “visited” with him earlier, he was the only one who had not cracked open the fruit and eaten it yet. As soon as the current visitors got up to leave he placed the fruit beside the widow. By doing so he was announcing that he was prepared to “shelter” her from this point on. This gesture given to a widow, as was the case here, was also a proposition of intent on the part of the giver. That after a suitable span of time for mourning, usually no less than a year, she would place a broom outside her front door to indicate her readiness to be courted.

“That didn’t take long at all.” Mused Mina. “I didn’t receive my first one for at least 2 hours last week.”

“And I was the first.” Said Mr. Osman proudly. “By the end of the day you received at least 12 starfruit.”

Not letting the opportunity go Chong said, “So, you are planning on taking a third wife then, Osman!”

“Miss Mina is a western educated independent woman, Chong. I think she may have her own plans that do not include the waning virility of an old uneducated man!” came the quick retort from Osman.

Mina quickly followed up with, “Mr. Osman, you may be surprised by what my real plans could be. In 2 months I may be sitting where the widow sits now.” This of course ignited yet another round of laughter and good natured ribbing. This also made everyone around feel more comfortable with Mina and many thereafter began conversing with her.

Once their plates were free of food, Osman leaned over, “Miss Mina, I will be visiting the family now. Will you honor me with your company?”

“Yes, of course. Thank you. But, the honor will be mine” They stood up and strolled in a direction away from the widow. That was part and parcel of the choreography of this quirky village custom – one’s destination should always appear to be a happy casual accident.

As they engaged in this promenade, they stopped to chit-chat with other groups of folk. Finding themselves relatively alone at one point Mr. Osman slyly mentioned, “The widow is expecting another child, you know.”

“Yes, I think she would be about 4 months now.”

Osman looked at her impressed. “You have been trained well to notice that under her baju kurong. I only mentioned it because… perhaps this could be the topic of conversation between you and the widow when we visit. You could give her some of your expert advice.”

“Execellent suggestion… as always, Mr. Osman.” She smiled at Osman’s gesture to help her save face by avoiding awkward silences during the visit with the widow.

“Pardon my asking… have your plans changed?”

Mina looked at the old man and smiled. “I’m afraid not. I will be leaving in a few days.”

Osman paused for a moment, then smiled and asked, “Then time is of the essence. Later this evening, after the kenduri… if you wouldn’t mind… the other arrangers and I would like to speak with you.”

“About what?”

“A proposition… a business proposition.”

“Of course, Mr. Osman… of course.”

By the time they reached their destination there was a pile of at least 20 mangosteens next to the widow. Mina was hardly surprised. As they sat to visit, the widow who appeared so plain and unassuming from a distance was positively radiant up close. Mina could not help but admire how beautiful she was in her simplicity. She was indeed a worthy catch. By evenings end there was a pile of fruit had grown to 65… half of them from married men.

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