Previously on “A night in Penang”: Felicity the flamingo, Gary the gecko and Sock the Gremlin have asked for Stéphanie Lung’s help to free their friends abducted by animal smugglers. Their first stop was to liberate Twiggy the giraffe and Tony the vegetarian tiger. As a guard came shouting they all fled to the street.
They came out running on Church Street, behind Pinang Peranakan Mansion. Found a large mango tree to hide under and catch their breath. Laughing did not help. Stéphanie was holding her ribs and laughed and laughed.
“Did you see that?” Sock asked. “Did you see that? Stéphanie got the guard smack in the eye. Good shot! Lah!”
“Very good tokek, Stéphanie. I mean shot. Tokek.”
“I’m actually a bit ashamed of that.” Stéphanie said. “I hope I did not hurt him.”
“Haha!” Tony roared. “Do not worry Tetikus, he will be all right. Lah.”
“Why do you call me ‘Mouse’, Stéphanie asked. “I am not a mouse!”
“You were born the year of the Rat, Tetikus, so you are a… mouse.” Tony said with a wide tiger smile. Quite a scary smile actually.
“But how do you…” Stéphanie started.
“Tigers know lots of things, Teti… Stéphanie.” Felicity said. “Now, let’s hurry. We have to go to Little India and meet Stewart.”
A flutter of grey wings interrupted: “I’m right here Felicity. Quite a show you put up at the Mansion!”
“Stewart you fool! You scared the bl..dy hell out of me. Why do you always do that? Sneak on people?! The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool ++”
“As you like it++, Felicity? Well, well. Seagulls fly silently, my dear. Not like you guys.”
“I have bad news and good news,” Stewart carried on, tucking a feather back in place with his beak. Stewart was always very high on elegance. He called himself a “Hipster mouette”. In French. English was so… ordinary. “Which do you want first, Felicity?”
Felicity sighed. And realized she was sighing a lot that night. Hopefully, all would be well that ended well and she could then undertake her annual migration to Lake Hannington or Baringo or whatever they called it now, in Kenya, and rest at her parents’ cottage. Yes. Cottage. Can’t flamingos have a cottage? Great, lovely pink shrimps over there. Good for the colour. She was feeling a bit pale. But… Back to the matter at hand. She shook her head and said: “’tis none to you for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…”
“And to me Denmark is a prison?” Stewart finished. “Hamlet now? My compliments Felicity. Ever so British. Even in the worst situation. Keep a stiff upper beak. Bad or good, it is all the same. Let’s start with the good news then, I have found our friends.”
“And the bad news?” Stéphanie asked. “I’m getting a bit tired… (of flamingos and geckos and socks and giraffes and tigers and seagulls and…)”
“The bad news, little girl…” Stewart started. Stopped in mid-sentence. Looked at Stéphanie. Turned to Felicity. Whispered: “What is a little girl, an Orang, doing here?”
“Long story mate,” Felicity said, giving Stewart the equivalent of a flamingo elbow kick in the ribs. “But pray tell. What’s the bad news?”
“Actually, no bad news anymore,” Stewart said. “I was going to say that they are in cages and we can’t open them, but the little girl has hands. Problem solved.” Wide seagull smile. Less crooked than a flamingo smile. And less scary than a tiger smile.
“The little girl has a name,” Stéphanie said. “Stéphanie, please. Or Tiffany when she’s in a good mood. Which is not the case now. And she has tools.” Stéphanie lifted her backpack.
“Well, that’s settled, then,” Felicity said. “Let’s go. Where to, Stewart?”
“Er,” Stewart said, “that could be a problem. They’re in a house near Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. It is a bit of a walk. Or a fly. But Stéphanie can’t fly…”
“Hop on Stéphanie,” Tony the Tiger said. “We can run faster than those feathered breakfasts. Lah.”
“I will not comment on the term ‘breakfast’, Tony.” Felicity said. “Let’s go.”
Stéphanie hopped on Tony’s back, Gary on her left shoulder, Sock on her right. Tony said: “Ready, Tetikus? Grab a bit of skin on my neck. Let’s RUUUUN!”
And run they did. Tony the Tiger ran and ran and ran. First on Penang Street, then left on Lebuh Light, leaving Fort Cornwallis behind. Twiggy ambled at an easy canter. Felicity and Stewart flew above. Past the park, past the white colonial buildings, they flew and ran. Stéphanie laughing as she clung on Tony’s fur. They ran and they flew past the Friendship Park, turned left on Lebuh Leigh. Stopped in front of Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, a beautiful Georgetown blue affair of a house. Tony was not even panting. He asked:
“Now, my little feathered breakfast friends, where is the place? Lah.”
“Tony,” Stewart said, “if I didn’t know you were a mushroom-addict, I would take offense. But enough said. It’s the house next door. To the right. Behind the white walls.”
“Oh.” Stéphanie said. “The walls are too high. I can’t climb that. Wait, wait! Twiggy! Come here. Right by the wall. I’ll climb on your neck.”
Twiggy obliged. Stéphanie started climbing on Twiggy’s long giraffe neck, Gary and Sock hanging for dear life on Stéphanie’s dachshund T-shirt. The little girl climbed easily. She always competed with her brothers at home, climbing as high as she could in the tall mango tree by the pool.
“Tony, Tony!” She said. “Come on up. There’s no broken glass on the wall. Climb on Twiggy’s back! Quickly!”
“Er,” Twiggy said, “I’m not so sure… Tony has biiiig claws…”
“Don’t be a sissy, Twiggy,” Tony said. “That wall’s a joke. I’ll just jump. Lah.” And jump he did. Landed easily on the wall, besides Stéphanie.
“Now, little girl,” he said, “I could jump down easily, lah, but that is a bit high for you. Let’s walk to that tree over there, so you can climb down. Shhh. Not a word. We don’t know who might be down there. Lah.”
Stéphanie walked swiftly on the wall to the tree. Found her step on a sturdy branch then climbed down the trunk. She ran to a fountain inside the huge garden inside the walls. Tony jumped down easily. Felicity and Stewart landed by the fountain. Felicity whispered:
“Stéphanie! What are you doing? Hurry! Someone may come any minnit!”
“I’m reloading my water-gun. It was useful the last time, wasn’t it?
“Hurry. Hurry!” Stewart said. “This way.”
Past the fountain, Stewart led them inside a shack. Stéphanie froze. There were rows and rows of cages. Animals of all kinds trapped inside: lizards, owls, langur monkeys, what have you, packed a dozen a cage. A few bigger cages at the back held larger animals. All silent. Terrified.
The unlikely party stood facing the cages, appalled.
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions +++”, Felicity said.
“There’s too many of them,” Stéphanie said. “It will take me hours to open all the cages. What if someone comes? Wait, wait. The monkeys. They have hands too. If I open the monkey cages first, maybe they can help?”
“Monkeys are not reliable,” Sock said. “Only humans are worse.”
“They’re as reliable as you are, Sock.” Felicity said. “Let’s do it.” And to the monkeys and the other encaged animals, she said: “Hush, friends. We’re here to set you free. Not a word. And you monkeys, behave. Or Tony here will have you for supper.”
The monkeys opened big, big eyes and nodded. Stéphanie cracked the first padlock open. The monkeys grabbed sticks, whatever they could find to break the padlocks. After twenty minutes, Stéphanie’s hands hurt but they had opened all the cages.
“Jambo, Jambo, Felicity! Habari gani?” A large grey-pink unlikely hippo said to Felicity.
“Asante sana Felicity”, a pretty Thomson gazelle and an elegant zebra said.
“Jambo, jambo marafiki. Hello, hello, friends. Stéphanie, meet Henry the Hippo, Tommy the Gazelle and Zoe the Zebra. They’re from Tanzania, they only speak Swahili.”
“Jambo! Jambo Stéphanie. Asante sana…” All three said in unison.
“It means hello, thank you in…”
“Swahili. Yes, I imagine.” Stéphanie said. “Can we get out of here? I have a bad feeling…”
“APA YANG BERLAKU? What is happening?” a loud voice shouted. Again. A bewildered and sleepy old man in a sarong was standing in the garden. With a machete in hand.
“Don’t move!” Stéphanie shouted, pointing her water gun, “or I’ll shoot you!”
“With a water-gun?” the old man laughed.
“Let me handle this, lah.” Tony said, walking calmly towards the old man. “Drop the machete, Orang Tua. Now. Lah.”
The old man (orang tua) wavered. Then bent down and put the machete on the ground. Ever so slowly. Tony said: “Now turn around, Orang Tua, and walk to that cage. That’s it. Open the door. Get inside. Stéphanie? Is there still a padlock in working conditions? Good. Lock him up. Lah.”
Once the old man was safely locked up in a cage, all turned to Felicity. A born leader, Felicity clapped her wings to applaud her team, then said: “Off with his head! (King Richard III). Er, no. Wrong quote, people. You’ve done a brilliant job. All of you. Now let’s get the bl..dy hell out of here. Tommy? Is there a back door to the garden?”
“Ndiyo.” Tommy the gazelle said in Swahili “There is, but it’s locked. And sturdy.” (I’m not sure Tommy said “sturdy” in Swahili. Maybe he said Mkubwa? Huge?)
“I know the solution,” Stéphanie said. “Henry?”
“Felicity, can you ask Henry if he can crash the door down? I would imagine he can…”
A quick exchange followed in Swahili. Henry said Ndiyo, which we can now safely assume means yes, backed off a few yards, ran with all his might and crashed the door down with a loud thud.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” Stéphanie and Felicity cried. “Hurry, with that noise the mata-mata will be here soon!” (Mata = eye; mata-mata = police, in Malay.)
And the lizards ran, and the monkeys ran, and the owls flew out on the street. And Henry and Tommy and Zoe. They gathered under a banyan tree on the street. The four-legged under, the birds and the monkeys above in the tree.
“Well done, friends!” Felicity said. “Brilliant! Now, everybody run. Spread out. Hide in the trees or the bushes during the day and keep moving at night. Small groups. Don’t attract attention. You know where to go.”
“And where will they go?” Stéphanie asked.
“First to the western road cemetery.” Felicity said. “Plenty of hiding places there. Then ever so quietly, and only at night, to the Botanical gardens. I don’t know what we will do with Twiggy, she kinda stands out, but we will figure out something. Now, go! Everybody! Go! We will take Stéphanie home.”
“There was a young lady of Niger
“Who smiled as she rode on a tiger
“They came back from the ride
“With the lady inside,
“And the smile on the face of the tiger.”
“Sock!” Felicity said. “Shut up. A limerick, and that one in particular, is hardly appropriate. You will scare Stéphanie.”
“She is fast asleep,” Sock the Gremlin said. “She’s taken Tony as a mattress. A walking striped mattress. And Gary is asleep too. Tss. Geckos.”
“Well, yes, harrumph,” Felicity said. “She is asleep. Brave little girl. And we have arrived. Stéphanie? Stéphanie? Wake up. You are home.”
“Hmm? Oh Yes. Thank you Felicity, Thank you Gary, Tony, Stewart. And Sock. Sock?”
“Yes?” Sock said.
“I will need my lost socks tomorrow, please. Not tonight. I am sooo tired, but that was fun.”
“I promise, Stéphanie.” Sock said. “Terima Kasih, little girl. You’re my hero.”
“All the world ‘s a stage,” Felicity said, “and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts. ++”
“Felicity! Shut up! Let the little girl go to bed. Lah.” Tony said.
But Felicity would not stop. This was her final act. She cried: “Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow. ^^^”
They had to drag Felicity away. “Selamat malam, good night.” They all said.
“Selamat malam,” Stéphanie answered as she stumbled sleepily inside her house.
“Good morning, Dear, good morning boys.” Daddy said as he sat at the breakfast table. He picked up his customary newspaper, The Star. “Where is Tiffany? Is she not up yet?” Stéphanie’s brothers were fighting over corn flakes, as usual. Mummy said:
“She is fast asleep, Dear. I just went up to her room.”
“Tiffany is lazy, Tiffany is lazy,” one of her brothers chanted.
“Hush, hush,” Daddy said. “That is very unusual. Is she running a fever?”
“No,” Mummy said. “I touched her forehead. As cool as one of your red roses.”
“A reminder that your birthday is coming soon?” Daddy smiled. “No need to remind me. They’re already ordered. But what about Tiffany?”
“Remember she is not Tiffany any more…” Mummy said.
“Ah! Yes! I keep forgetting. Our little girl is growing up, but still…”
“I managed to wake her up, for a bit,” Mummy said. “She told me ‘Mummy, I’m so, so sleepy. Can I not go to school? Please. Please.’ She turned around, grabbed her favourite stuffed flamingo and fell back into deep sleep.”
“Ha! Felicity the Flamingo?” Daddy said. “It is her favourite. Well, let her sleep for today. Her grades are very good. Better than some I know around this table. Hmm Boys? She can miss school for a day.”
“That’s what I thought, Dear. Now… before she went back to sleep, she told me: ‘Mummy I want to be a Mata-mata when I grow up. Catch bad people and put them in prison.’”
Daddy smiled. “A police officer now? Last week she wanted to be a vet…”
“And the week before that, a doctor, and the week before that, a painter.” Mummy smiled again. “And I suspect she spent part of her night drawing. Her moleskine sketchbook was open on the floor. You know, the one you bought her in London? She’s drawn a tiger, a seagull, a tokek, a giraffe, none of those I’d seen before. Quite good drawings actually. Let’s let her sleep for this one. Anything interesting in the news?”
“Apart from the customary rubbish, there is a strange story. Listen to that:
‘The Georgetown Police (speaking of Mata-mata) have dismantled an important animal smuggling ring on Lebuh Leith. Several arrests have been made, including a guard found inside one of the many cages, who was indicted as a prime witness, though Police sources state that the individual is slightly incoherent. When asked why he was inside a cage and all the other cages – where animal DNA was found – were empty, the witness came up with incoherent statements that the animals had freed themselves. An unnamed Police source confirms that the cages were empty when they arrived at the site, tipped by a neighbour who’d heard the guard screaming for help. The same source advanced the hypothesis that a rival gang had stolen the animals and locked the guard inside a cage before leaving. Police officials insist that intense search will be conducted across Georgetown to locate the animals. Arrests are imminent, the Police says.’
“Hah! Imminent!” Daddy laughed. “They always say that!
“That is a strange story,” Mummy said. “Would you like more coffee, Dear?”
“Thank you, please. It is a strange story indeed. Now here’s something scary:
‘In an unrelated event, a tiger was found outside his cage at Pinang Peranakan Mansion by the wardens. An unnamed source says the tiger is quite tame, harmless, actually, and one of the wardens, missing at work this morning – an inquiry is under way – had probably left the cage door open at night, allowing the tiger to roam the grounds freely during the night, only to return to the cage in the morning and wait for the wardens…’
“Unbelievable!” Daddy said. “Do you remember we wanted to take the children there over the next weekend so they could see the animals? Imagine if one of those idiots were to leave the tiger’s cage door open!”
This is a work of fiction and but the mere product of the authors’ bonkers imagination. There is no ménagerie at Peranakan Mansion, and no animals are being held captive there or near the Blue Mansion. Or anywhere in Georgetown for that matter.
All characters and illustrations, © Tiffany Choong and Bulan lifestyle. Visit Tiffany’s site at: https://bulanlifestyle.wordpress.com/
Text and story © Brian Martin-Onraët and Equinoxio.
You can read another Stéphanie Lung adventure, “Breakfast in Istanbul” by clicking on this link:
Felicity’s Shakespeare quotes come from the following plays:
“The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves”
**King Henry IV, Part I
“The better part of valour is discretion”
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, rounded with a little sleep”
+The Merry Wives of Windsor
“This is the short and the long of it”
++As You Like It
“All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts”
“True is it that we have seen better days”
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool”
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions”
^Antony and Cleopatra
“My salad days, when I was green in judgment.”
^^Troilus and Cressida
“The common curse of mankind, – folly and ignorance”
King Richard III
“Off with his head!”
^^^Romeo and Juliet
“Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”
Many, many thanks for those quotes to: