Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wrong Personified

One of the many true myths and legends in the close-knit community of New Heandunigna, also known as Hendon-on-Selarang.

Many call this man the god of Wrong.
Many believe him to be the offspring of Eris, goddess of discord;
Brother to Dysnomia, patroness of anarchy.
His name is Wrong!

If you make him a C++ boolean variable,
And assign upon him a value (true or false).
The value will be Wrong.
If you make him true, he will return false.
If you make him false, he will return true,
But still Wrong!

He is the Wrong Source of Information:
Everything he says is Wrong.
He will tell you his name, but it is Wrong.
He will show you his name tag, but it is Wrong. It's someone else's.
He will tell you he is a staff sergeant, and he will be Wrong.
He will tell you that he is an undercover, and he will be Wrong.
He will tell you that he is a ranger, and he will be Wrong.
He will tell you that he studied at a polytechnic, and he will be Wrong.
He will tell you anything, and he will be Wrong.
He is Wrong!

When he tells you it will rain tomorrow, there will be drought for three months.
When he tells you there will be drought,
The rain tomorrow will make Sungei Selarang overflow.
When he tells you all is well, the night will feature a turn-out.
When he tells you about an impending turn-out,
The company will slumber peacefully till Friday afternoon.

He tells you that he is sick, but he is Wrong.
He tells you that he is allowed to wear shorts to lunch, but he is Wrong.
He tells you that the doctor said so,
But only afterwards will he go to the medical center,
To coerce the poor feller.
So that he may partake in his own being Wrong
And sanction it upon paper.
And then he will tell you that he is Really Sick,
but that just makes it Wronger.

He says he is tired of your taunts, but he is Wrong.
He threatens to find your house outside, but he is Wrong.
He swears to seek revenge, but he is Wrong.
He will rant and he will roar at you, but he is Wrong,
And quite Unintelligible.

They wanted to bring the Lord of Wrong to justice.
They wanted to Right the Wrong --
But they were proven to be quite wrong.
Life with Wrong can be quite unbearable.
To be Wrong himself can be quite pitiable.
But Wrong is resilient.
All justice and truth bounces off the Wrong harmlessly.

Now he thinks that he owns the guard house;
That's Wrong too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Biking Double

Author's Note: This passage is entirely fictional; I've meticulously tweaked every last small detail!

It was past one a.m. at camp. The gates were closed. I was in charge of the gates. My buddy for that night was in charge of the gun. I had not slept before my midnight shift, even though I really should have. Instead, I stayed up all day and read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, which was addictive, you have to admit.

And I blame this for the fact that I saw myself on a bike coming towards the gate right now, riding with a passenger. Another bike followed. Four people on two bikes stopped before the gates I am in charge of, all of whom I knew, one of whom was me.

They looked at me sheepishly and eventually begged me to open the gates. It was 0137 hours, and all camp users coming in the wee hours has to report to the guard house. Book in, saith the RSM. Book in, all ye who enter between midnight and 7:30am.

The me who was on a bike was in his civvies. He wore a white t-shirt and a shiny black helmet. The white t-shirt had three chevrons emblazoned across his sleeves. This must be Andy, down the other trouser of fate! He who has a rank of sergeant; He who owns the place; at least, He who thinks so.

You know me, right? He said to me, the Gate IC.
I didn't know this Andy.
And I said to him, would you book in at the guard house?

We're in a hurry, he said, and looking very uneasy. In the morning the book will be flipped, and Lord have mercy on them if their unholy book-in timing was ever found.
But that wasn't very important to me.
I insisted that they talk to the Guard Commander, who was getting pretty damn bored in the guard room.

A car stopped at the barricades. It was outbound.
Andy, the owner of Heandunigna Camp: Let us through, we promise we will make no noise.
One of the other owners: No one will ever know about this!
Andy: Look, you're holding up the traffic now!

I looked at the outbound driver and then I looked at the bikers and then I had a pang of urgency and let the gates fly open...

The four lords of Heandunigna vroomed past us and out of sight. They could not believe their luck. They did not keep the noise down.

The outbound driver stopped right before me. He rolled down a side window and he said to me:
If I were you, I would surely have made them book in.
And he drove off into the night.
I looked towards my sentry buddy, his gaze calm and reproachful under the floodlight and flying ants. He said this:
I wouldn't have let them in if I were you. Those rotters deserve better; they do this all the time!

I thought about my parallel incarnation on the bike. Would I have proved a better person to have earned the chevrons that he even showed on his civvies? Am I not like him the way that I am, now? What have I learnt from my time here? That some rules that are tedious and uncritical can be circumvented! Yet, there are still people around who would do the right thing!

There always will have people around who would do the right thing, in all plainness and unceremony.

For the rest of my shift, I wallowed in shame.
Later on, when I woke up in rest barracks, that good-for-nothing Battalion Cat was meowing in my face again. begging for food, perhaps? Feeling absolutely miffed, I picked up the fella by the scruff and threw him away.
By the scruff, Bretodeau!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Route Remeasured

The 72km route turned out to be 86.3km long. Aergh! Just as I thought!
But the difference of 14.3km, it's exactly the distance on foot from home to Hwa Chong and back!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bells Tolling at Midday Mass

Midday Mass at Holy Cross: 1130 to 1230 hours
I rarely go to church at this timing, tied down as I am to my choir duties in the late afternoon, but today I have to be back in camp by 1900 hours, a timing which is killing my nerves. There was a retreat today and I skipped it, then I skipped choir too, and I went to midday Mass on my own.

Today I'm in the congregation's pews, not the choir's. I am by myself; there's hardly anyone that I know or even know the face of here. The choir is different; the singer who looks a bit like Canadian Inuit actress Lucy Tulugarjuk is on duty at this time. I am sitting near to the middle aisle, through which the entrance procession will pass.

I look at the wooden Holy Cross cross that would lead the procession, mounted on a wooden staff. The cross shape was formed by a rectangle with quadrants gouged out of the four corners. A golden crucifix adorned its center. Golden spikes (rays of light) adorned its periphery. I look at the altar boy who was bearing it; he wears a silly goofy grin and I wonder if at any time in its life the cross was ever dropped. Oh, did the golden rays ever bend! I wonder.

I wonder not for long, because the bells start tolling. Holy Cross doesn't seem to have a belltower, nor do we seem to have bellringers like they do in Saint Joseph next to Assumption English School, but it sounds authentic enough through the PA system or whatever. They were deep, sombre bongs; there were brighly chiming dings and dongs.

The tolling of the bells bent the fabric of spacetime within the church, throughout the hall up to but not really including the choir's computer terminal at the corner: that I know through experience. The noise of the crowd peeped through the gaps between bong and bong, O the sounds that paled all others in the church before Masstime. I remember my Confirmation day the pealing bells made everything in the church much more obvious, like what watercolour does to a line drawing:

bong the fella sitting next to me, 30 years my senior and my Confirmation godbrother,
bong a looming plumpness, a sad brooding face
bong a few pretty girls (confirmants) passing my pew and
bong sporadically bunching up and taking pictures the way guys will only do during school prom
bong I notice Ernest Teng three pews to the front
bong the choir sits in wait, the violinist gets his violin ready
bong the congregational noise goes right up to 1130 hours

I always feel a bit sad when the bells dither off.
Eventually the Gloria plays. My church has been using the Marty Haugen version for two years and some; I really hope they change to a better one.

Today's First Reading is from the book of Job chapter 3:

Is not man's life on earth nothing more than pressed service,
his time no better than hired drudgery?
Like the slave, sighting for the shade,
or the workman with no thought but his wages,
months of delusion I have assigned to me,
nothing for my own but nights of grief.
Lying in bed I wonder, 'When will it be day?'
Risen I think, 'How slowly evening comes!'
Restlessly I fret till twilight falls.
Swifter than a weaver's shuttle my days have passed,
and vanished, leaving no hope behind.
Remember that my life is but a breath,
and my eyes will never again see joy.