Final Writing: A Walk In a False City

Rifki Hafian Rasyid/180410150065

It was a small shack, but by no mean does the shack look cheap, decrepit nor dirty. Inside the shack are a lot of trinket, portrait and of course, the sage is here. The legend said that there is a sage that can tell the wisest of the wisdom.

He sat behind a rusty iron table, in an ornate chair. Alongside his gray beard and black attire, he evoke a mystifying aura. His wrinkle on his face tell the story of a man who have witness many years.

It’s honestly surprised me that the legends are true, but I shouldn’t let that distract me. Slowly I approach him. Lowering my voice, I start to speak.

“O wise sage, I came here to humbly asks your wisdom”

“You have come to the right place, young man. Wait are you actually a young man?”

“22 sir” I spoke truthfully, usually I lied about my age.

“Ah. You have come to the right place, mister. However my wisdom doesn’t come cheap. For I cannot live on just with farming. I need donation”

I already expected it, but I don’t know if it’s enough for him…

“A golden necklace? That’s pretty nice. It’ll do”

“Thank you. So what is your wisdom, o wise-”

“Can you get out for a while? I need some inspiration first”

“Wh-what?”

“I said get out. Shoo!”

That was something. The sage doesn’t seems to be as amazing as the legends said. From what I heard, he lives solemnly in this shack for about 50 years. Though the legend didn’t tell how the shack were decorated with painting, ornament, and trinket. I can’t imagined I living in this kind of shack.

“Come in” he shout from inside.

When I come in, the empty table before has been filled with dishes and empty glass. Looks like his way of finding inspiration is not so difference compare to mine: Eating.

“What is your name?”

“Donny. Donald Shortstack”

“Hahahahahaha”

Great, even a legendary sage like him would laugh at my name. That’s okay, it’s reasonable.

“Hahah. Now Donald, why do you came here?”

“I seeks advice O wise sage. It’s been four year since I finished college, and yet I still can’t find any permanent job. I want to have a permanent job but I lack… something!”

“Ah another one. Well you see, here’s what you should do first”

***

It’s not actually a big city. Quite small actually. I don’t know why the sage called this place a city. From afar I can see that the building is comfortable to lived in, well compared to the shack from before.

The path to the city is made from dirt and sand. It’s hard to described it, it’s like made like those in jogging track. It’s a bit unusual for a “city”. As I approached the city, I soon realized the reasoning behind this pathway. A horseman approached

“I can help but noticed that you came from the direction where the wise sage lives. So tell me young man, why do you came to this city” A man asks me from above a horse. He sits on a gaudy saddle.

“Well you see, I asks him for his wisdom-”

“Did you asks him how to get a job?”

“Yes. How do you know that?” The horseman seems unamused, even more than the sage.

“So I was told to visit a place called Cornsoup city in the west and then a man called John will aid me”

“Which John again?” The horseman asks

“The one that are known for being the greatest mayor in this region”

“That would be… Me”

“Well Mr. Filbert-”

“Do call me Mr. Mayor”

Oh boy. This will be good.

“Mr. Mayor, will you aid me?”

He smiled somewhat creepily and answers

“Sure. Let’s get breakfast lunch first. I’ll pay the bill”

***

“Say wanderer, what’s your name again?”

“It’s Donny, Donny Shortstack”

“Ha. No really. What is your name?”

“Donny. Shortstack”

I handed him my business card. And he won’t stop laughing

“Well you can’t blame me laughing at you! I mean why would someone pass such an absurd family name!”

“Well I could always change my surname. But my family are renowned. Abandoning that surname is like abandoning your fortune”

“Ah I see what you mean. I am after all inheriting my father’s fortune and position” he said with a face full of joy

“Wait, they didn’t do an election?”

“Nah, they respect my father’s will”

***

It was a nice looking restaurant, decorated with gold lining and copper lamp. All of the chair and table were made from the finest wood they could find. At least that’s what the banner outside said. Yes. The gold lining is there, but some have rusted and some were stolen. The chair and table were made from the finest wood, but only two of them. The rest of them are made from bamboo, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Seen from the inside, the door have a sign that says “CUSTOMER IS KING” made from silver, or maybe aluminum. Surprisingly it’s shine brighter compared to the gold lining or copper lamp.

So here I am, sitting in a fancy restaurant, being treated by the “mayor” of this “city”. I sit in a chair like a normal person, while the mayor sits… on his horse.

Yes, the owner of this restaurant build a door big enough for the mayor to get inside without dropping off his horse.

“Excuse me, what would you like to order?”

Oh well, let’s see. A mixed omelet sounds nice

“Mixed omelet ma’am”

“A grape juice, ‘ma’am”

Oh look, he mocked me again.

“Is that all?”

“That is all”

He’s a weird person, if the sage didn’t recommend him, I would–

“I see that you still are confused about my seat, and how the citizen tolerated it”

He smirks while he said that

“Did the people love you that much or did you paid them”

“I wouldn’t called it love as much as it’s…. Uh. Well let’s just say that these people owe me a lot”

“Owe you what? Money?”

“No. It’s more than that”

“Okay, but that didn’t explain a lot. Like, why are you sitting on your horse in the first place?”

“I like looking at people from higher position than them. It’s… cathartic”

Cathartic? What, did he have grudge with human in general? Is he angry at his citizen? Is that why he demand people called him mayor?

“Oh would you look at that” he said while pointing to the kitchen”

I can heard it faintly

“I’m sorry sir”

“That doesn’t excuse these OVERCOOKED omelet! Where do you think YOU are?”

It’s like watching that tv show, Hell… something something

“Well you better COOK it again, or I’ll decided whether YOU can still WORK comfortably here”

The cook ran straight to the kitchen. He immediately pulled an egg from the fridge, I think.

Is it really THAT tense for these guys to cook my omelet? It’s not like they are cooking for the president or something. They certainly took the phrase “Customer is king” to the heart. At least he treated–

*CRACK*

“YOU’RE FIRED”

Nevermind

***

After that debacle, me and the mayor here enjoy our nice meal. Well he certainly enjoyed it. I eat a bit slower than usual.

My parents would scold me for eating voraciously, they said that’s “unbecoming” for a future gentleman such as me. It can’t be help, I just like these food. I wonder if those food I used to eat with my parents were made like foods here: Made with a lot of shouting and dish throwing. Not sure if I could eat like I used to anymore, knowing thing like this.

“I see that you still worried about what happened before, I can assured you that there is a perfect reasoning for that”

“Such as?”

“They are just making sure they adhered to their ‘customer is king’ philosophy. When you have underling who are just so inept, you have to fired them”.

“Yeah but that guy’s behavior seems to harsh”

“Not at all. This “harsh” way is the only plausible way for these people to improve themselves”

Unbelievable, he approve that guy’s behavior

“And in what way do they improve?”

“They become more tougher, more braver, and more importantly, more prideful of themselves”

Hmm, maybe the sage are teaching me how to be more… prideful? Is that why he send me here. I mean the mayor had a point. All this time I behave more easygoing than other. If I had someone who would treat me more… harshly?

“Now, let’s move on”

“…To where?”

“You didn’t come here to just eat an omelet”

***

It’s a scary place. Really make you felt demoralized. But that’s to be expect from a place like this. People should be afraid to commit crimes, lest they be put behind bar.

My uncle used to scared me with his story. He said that everyday, prisoner would be forced to eat human waste, drink polluted water, breath poisonous gas. The scariest story that he said were that prisoner should behave nicely, or else the guard would whipped them twenty time per hour. Of course, those weren’t actually true. It just that people said my uncle used to be a prison guard, so naturally I believed in his story.

“Is the warden free?”

The mayor here is trying to called the warden through his assistant.

“No, I mean does he have enough spare time. What? Look just patch me up to him. I’m the mayor of this town you-”

“Hey mayor!”

“Hey, how’s it going. Your assistant told me you were busy”

“Oh, I am. I just gave up after the prisoners can’t stop screaming HARD enough”.

Okay, maybe my uncle didn’t lie at all, just exaggerating.

***

We walk outside the prison. I mean I walk, but the mayor still rode his horse.

“You didn’t seems to look well?”

An understatement. How can I “look well” when I just witness the prison warden watch in glee as an ex-gang member punch another ex-gang member, which results in a mini prison riot?

“But you do understand why I take you here right?”

“So that I can learn the ‘consequences of failure’ of real life? You already told me that while we were watching a prisoners gang war”

“Good, it’s nice to know that you understand how this city works”

“This city”, what a load of crap. It’s not even big enough to be called a city! It’s just a small–

“I guess it really is my fault”

Did he just admit his mistake?

“I shouldn’t have brought you to a prison. It was a demoralizing place”

Nevermind

“So how does a farm sounds like? Fun? Exciting?”

“Yeah sure”

“By the way, a prisoners who see us actually scream to me, calling me ‘High-horse filbert’. It’s nice to know that these people is still creative enough to complement people”.

I’m pretty sure that’s not a compliment.

***

“So he let those who he deemed a failure, to starved?”

“You made it sound like it’s slavery

Crack

“Oh yeah, that happened. Well–”

The farm owner whip the farmer he deemed to be slacking. Or so the mayor told me. I stopped hearing whatever he told me once I witness… this.

“The whip is unnecessary”

“Not at all. It’s the perfect way for the farm owner to maintain his superiority over these… peasants”

“Peasants? Why do you need to be demeaning to these people”

“Hey, it’s the correct term. These people are just being taught to be better”

Just as he was saying that, the farm owner kick one of the farmhand.

“He kick them? This is an abuse! It’s violation of civil rights at worst”

That’s it, I can’t stand this.

“Hey you! STOP”

The farm owner asks “Why would I?

“These people doesn’t deserved it! You can just kick and whip people for such inconsequential things”

“I mean that’s how they run it right”

“What? Who told you that”

“The mayor, obviously. He’s been the one who taught us all. How to farm, cook, heck even the prison warden were his ‘student’. It’s the way of Cornsoup”

As he said that, the mayor ran away.

“Why would you believe his words?”

“Well the sage told us to. He is after all the wisest sage. I have to followed his advice”.

That’s… what I have been doing to.

I noticed that the mayor disappear. I could find him and question him, but I felt I need to asks someone else entirely.

****

The sage doesn’t seems surprised. He already look angry before I said any word. I assume mister filbert already contact him somehow.

“I’m back old man, and I’m telling you something. You’re a fraud!”

As if trying to control his composure, he stroke his beard

“Really? Can you explain what do you mean by that”

“That mayor is nothing but a maniac! He and his citizen were a bunch of sadistic mob!”

The sage widen his eyes, as if he didn’t expect THAT explanation from me. To be fair, I exaggerated a bit.

“Cornsoup city will crumbled once he ran out of his father’s fortune, which is the only thing that maintain it”

“How dare you! iHe is a man with more wisdom than i. He is the most handsome man in this country. He is th-the smartest man in th-this region. He is mo-more than capable to run a ci-city! It was his own father who gave him the city”

He speaks more erratically. Have I touched a nerve?

“Oh yeah, what do you mean by ‘city’ exactly? It’s just a small complex of building. At worst it’s just a village”

“It is a city! It was what father always planned. Th-Those ‘legal’ people doesn’t have any right to stop me calling my city a city!”

Hahaha. Looks like the wise sage isn’t can’t stand people mocking his ‘city’

Wait. “‘Father’? ‘MY’ city?”

I pulled his beard. As I pulled his beard, so does his gray hair being pulled.

“YOU! It was you the whole time”

“YES IT WAS ME! What’s wrong with it? ALL I WANT WAS MORE PEOPLE! My father’s vision of making my village a city, WILL SOON BE TRUE”

“You pretend to be a sage, JUST so you can called your village a city?”

“AND THEY WILL LIVED IN IT! THOSE ‘LEGAL PEOPLE’ WOULD FINALLY ADMIT THAT I AM A MAYOR OF CORNSOUP CITY”

He ran straight to his horse, cackling.

“You will never catch me!”

He’s mad. I didn’t even tried to catch him. He left his valuable in this shacks. I just have to take it and left.

As I take my necklace back, I heard a horse scream followed by a man screaming. Looks like he trips on a branch.

I still can’t believe a man with a wig and make up fooled me.

Word Count : 2499

Final Writing: Kitchen Story: Beef Curry and Roti Jala (Fiction)

Haura Nabila Rinaldi / 180410150051

Kitchen is the most important part of our family. We share our stories, recipes, and jokes there. Other than dinner table and tv room, kitchen is the place where we talk about everything – days at work, school, and so on. Our kitchen isn’t that big – like those on IKEA with island and lamps hanging from the celling – but it is actually quite small and simple. Once you enter this square-shaped kitchen, the first thing you’ll notice is the kitchen door. It was from some kind of black metal net with some black metal ornaments. On the front door, you can hang (kain lap) and there is a small “Home Sweet Home” sign from clay hanging next to it. On the right side of the kitchen, there is a big spice cabinet from wood. It’s not full with bottle of spices, though. Across it, there’s a sink and drawers with spices, different kinds of flour, and cooking utensils. It’s a small but neat kitchen, though mom wanted the big ones.

Nana and I are the most kitchen users in the house. Mom uses the kitchen more on weekends rather on weekdays, but sometimes she cooks instant noodle or heating some leftovers at night on weekdays after she arrived from her workplace. Dad uses the kitchen more than mom, though, as he mostly do his work at home. He would made us lunch on weekends such as barbeques on the table which is my favorite. But the most favorite dishes of all time were the Sumatran dishes, which was nana’s hometown’s dish. She loves to make curries, daun ubi tumbuk, roti jala, that tauco thingy, and noodles. Not all of us can make those dishes. Those foods are only served when we asked for it or because there is some gathering, usually families or mom’s old schoolmates. But sometimes we like to request the food on non-special occasions.

The most favourite dishes that always served on gatherings were curries and roti jala. On family gatherings or special occasions like Eid Fitr day, people would like that more than any other dishes. It’s very unique, I could say; you can’t find it on any other house. Funny fact is we do know who do what. I guess it was part of our habits. Nana would be stationed in the kitchen as she made the curry. I usually helped her too by making roti jala. I would make it on the different side of the kitchen and using portable stove, so I would not distracted nana from her cooking. If I were not available, my sister would do. But she usually do it half ways only and suddenly disappear by claiming “I am done, I did lots of it and now I’m tired” and mom or nana would continue her work. Such irritating.

Nana made her curries special, I could say. She rarely used those instant ways and more prefer to the traditional ways. She preferred to use fresh spices and herbs such as chili pepper, lemongrass, coconut milk, curry leaves, coriander, cumin, red onion, garlic, cardamom, ground white pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Dad, on the other hand, tried to make nana’s curry, once. He preferred to use curry paste or powder from Malaysia, which he usually brought it there. It was fish curry paste. The result was way different. Nana’s curry was still the best.

Later that night, mom sat with me and nana in front of the television. Nana was knitting when mom just arrived from her work. She talked about the usual traffic jam between Pondok Indah and Lebak Bulus. There was a MRT construction along the road that disturbed people who passed by. Traffic was always bad, especially today on Friday. She went with her friend but she dropped her before she arrived home. And there is a long pause after she finished her story. Then she continued.

“Nan, I think my friend will come to the house,” She said.

“Your friends? When?”, asked Nana.

“About two weeks later my friends from my elementary school will come. You know some of them, right? They want to have the gathering here at the house. Is it okay?” she said while scrolling down her phone looking for her used to be best pal at her old elementary school.

“It’s alright. But you know, your sister asked me to visit her to Australia to help them move to another house, again” She explained. Mom’s sister is currently living in Australia with her husband and five kids. They moved a lot because her husband seems to have interest of their houses and sell it quite often. One of their children, Kate, once counted how many times they ever moved from houses to houses “because dad sold it to another person”, like she said – and it was around 13 times.

“They moved again?” “Yeah, I need to help her”

“But they want your curry and roti jala, I can’t make one”

Nan sighed.

“You want me to teach you?”, she asked. “Yeah but tomorrow would do, ‘kay?”, mom said. Then she stands and walked to her room, leaving a small click sound on her door. Nana continued her knitting while watching the television. I asked nana what did mom said before and she began to explain to me about her gathering. She adds some information about mom’s elementary school best friend and so on. Though, I didn’t really care about it.

The next morning, mom, nana, and I were in the kitchen. Nana already gathered some materials for her to cook curry and roti jala. Before, she went on her garden to pluck out some curry leaves, chilies, and kaffir lime leaves. She had lots of herbs and spices on her garden. It was next to the television room on the back. Still, I rarely went there even though nana or dad asked me to gather something because sometimes if you’re lucky there is a huge lizard passing by and once mom thought it was a komodo dragon – which shocked dad for a second.

Mom prepared the roti jala batter for me to cook. It was easy actually, the batter was the same as pancake batter – flour, eggs, water, milk or coconut milk, a dash of oil and a tiny pinch of salt – but it was more liquid. Usually if there is a gathering which has more than twenty guests, we use only a kilogram of flour. But if there are more than twenty guests, we use two kilos or even more.

The kitchen was busy. I love the atmosphere when the kitchen is active. Sounds of hot bubbles on the edge of the pot, whirling from hand mixer mixing the batter and the exhaust fan on the celling adds on my favorite list. While mom mixing the batter, nana put the cooked beef onto the boiling water and let it sit there. After a while, she adds the potatoes and some herbs to the boiling water. Then on the other stove, she heated the pan for frying the curry seasoning.

Dad suddenly showed up.

“What are you making?”, he asked.

“Beef curry and roti jala,” mom answered. The batter she mixed then strained to another bowl so there was no crumpling flour on the batter.

“What’s the occasion?” “Practicing for the upcoming gathering” “Isn’t it supposed to be nana who makes the curry?” “She can’t, she have to go to Australia”

Dad nods and asked why. Then he observed what nana and mom did. I started to prepare my space for making the roti jala.

“You should be the one who tried to make this”, Mom added.

“Ah, but I have the curry paste and it’s easy to make! It will take less time too!” Dad went to the fridge hurriedly and grabbed a medium-sized bag which says “Fish Curry” on English and Bahasa. It was blue and there was a picture of a red fish on the front.

She rolled her eyes. “But you never tried it! Might taste different because it’s a fish curry”, She gave me the batter that has been strained and I turned on my portable stove on the other side of the kitchen.

“Alright” and he asked nana how to.

“How long do the beef need to be cooked?” he asked, opening the lid that reveals the hot bubbly curry.

“Half an hour is enough. Or if you want for hours long, it would be better. The longer the beef is cooked, the tender it will be” Nana answered.

“Yeah, as long as he remembers it” I added. Mom giggled and dad gave us his usual sigh and glare. Yeah, last time he burned the pot that contains hard-boiled egg and his water kettle to make coffee. Long story short, it’s ugly.

He continued by helping nana fried the seasoning for the curry. She put a little oil, chopped onion, chopped garlic, spoonful of curry powder, half glass of water, some cumin, and galangal all in order. The sizzle sound excites me from afar. After it is done, he poured the seasoning mixture to the beef pot and stirred it. The smell of curry filled the air and made us hungry. Dad tried to taste it a bit but instead he filled up his bowl and eats up. Mom laughed.

I, on the other side of the kitchen, prepared the roti jala on the portable stove. I learned to make it since I was on junior high. Nana gave me the wide pan that we usually use for making roti jala. I spread some butter on the pan so the batter won’t stick to the pan. To make the web, nana gave me the funny looking funnel to do it. The mold was shaped like a cup made of aluminum, had three small funnel on the side and a handle on the other side. When the pan is hot, pour the mixture from the mold by moving it in circular shape and make it like a spider web. There’s no need to cook both sides because it’s thin. Once one of the edges was curled up, removed from the pan and put it on the plate. Nana taught me to roll it like a spring rolls – fold the sides and roll.

Making roti jala took a lot of time to do it. After a whole two hours, the roti jala was finally done. Nana gathered all of us to eat on the dining table. Mom then asked dad. “Did you still remember the steps? I might be busy for other stuff so you might do it yourself,” she said. Dad let a small cough and said “perhaps”.

It’s the night before mom’s old elementary school gathering and she already prepared anything. Nana was already at Australia couple of days before. Dad was just arrived from Batam, as he was quite often gone there for having a business trip.

“Tomorrow, the gathering will be start at ten and I want you to help me preparing foods, plates, cutlery, and so on. So wake up early. Dad will unroll some of the carpets and vacuum it” Mom explained throughout her dinner. She looked at my sister and said that she needed her help too.

“So you need to wake up early, too” she continued.

“Ahh… but I don’t want to. I’m so laaaaazy to wake up in the morning. It’s weekend,” she complained. Mom just gave her a glare and continued her dinner.

In the kitchen, she already boiled the beef for an hour or two and then the turn the stove off. She closed the pot with a lid and left it there. “Tomorrow, dad will just cook the seasoning and add it here”, she said. She looked at me and continued “we need to prepare the plates and cutlery, Bia” and then I followed her to the cabinet to prepare all the serving plates, cutleries, bowls for eating roti jala, and so on. Then, we went to our rooms to have a rest.

At six in the morning, we did what mom ordered yesterday. Everyone was busy except, well, my sister. Mom did the roti jala batter for me too cook it. Dad was still vacuuming the last carpet. After he’s done, he went to the kitchen with me. He took out his Malaysian fish curry and read the instructions.

“Shouldn’t you use nana’s curry recipe?”, I asked.

“Yeah but I’m so curious about this powder. It’s curry, too. I really want to try it”, he said.

“What about-“

“I did tell mom and she said it’s okay”, he opened the bag and added the powder to the cooked seasoning and when it’s done, he added to the beef pot. Just like nana did.

Mom popped up and tasted the curry. “It’s… different. Fishy.”

“I hope they like it, though”, he said.

Finally, it was around ten. The beef curry and roti jala was served at the table. Mom’s guests tried the curry and roti jala. It was the star of the day, I could say, because it’s finished for just couple of hours. Even though it tasted different, I guess they liked it. One of mom’s friend commented on the curry by asking me why it was different than she used to eat. I explained to her that it was dad’s curry and not nana’s and nana went abroad. Dad used different curry powder. Mom continued chat with her.

Her guests finally went home around three. We cleaned up the plates and all. It was a tiring day. Dad asked mom and I about their comments to the curry. Mom told dad “one of my friend realized it was different. She preferred nana’s than yours”. Dad let a sigh and said “it was just an experiment, though.”

I laughed and continued “yeah, nana’s better”.

“Next time, we’re using nana’s curry rather than dad’s”, mom said giggling.

He never used that fish curry anymore until today, even though the bag is still on the fridge.

Word count: 2342