The Catherine Lim Collection

The Catherine Lim Collection by Catherine Lim Read Free Book Online

Book: The Catherine Lim Collection by Catherine Lim Read Free Book Online
Authors: Catherine Lim
thought Angela as she drove off.
    The lift had broken down, so she had to walk
the seven flights up to the flat. She panted, wiped off the perspiration from
the forehead, looked into the little mirror in her powder compact to make sure
her make-up was all right and resumed her climb up.
    Who would believe, she thought, as she
looked at the dirty walls scrawled with graffiti and the corridor railings with
the paint peeling off, and stepped quickly aside, out of the way of a group of
noisy, dishevelled children playing about along the corridors – who would
believe that a couple worth more than a million dollars, with five small
children, would live in a place like that?
    It was people like Chinaman and his wife
that Singapore ought to be ashamed of – people loaded with money, renting out
their luxurious properties and staying in Government-subsidised flats meant for
low-income people. Chinaman had bought the flat in his wife’s mother’s name –
he could never have gone on to buy those two valuable properties otherwise.
Chinaman calculated his every move well. He and Gek Choo were always
complaining that their flat was too small, yet had no intention of moving. The
reason was plain: they would not have Old Mother. Well, the old one had decided
to continue staying in the wooden house with Ah Kum Soh and the idiot one, so
the question of which son she would be staying with never arose, mercifully.
Angela’s sense of relief was tangible; it translated into a continual flow of
gifts of food and money to the old one. The new house was being built: She had
got Dorothy’s cousin, one of Singapore’s most creative architects to design it
for her. They sat down for many hours discussing the special features,
especially the separate wing for the old in-laws, should the need arise. “A
separate wing,” Angela had said, “with its own entrances and facilities, such
as a kitchen. I will get them a servant to cook for them and keep the place
clean, but it will be quite separate from the main house, see? Then we won’t tread
on each other’s toes, see?”
    But the need had not arisen. The old
father-in-law had died, and the old mother-in-law preferred to remain where she
was.
    “I shall visit her often,” exclaimed Angela
in an exuberance of good humour, when the matter was settled to everyone’s
satisfaction. “I shall make sure she has good food to eat, and that the
irresponsible Ah Kum Soh does her work properly.”
    She had tried to get the troublesome woman
and her idiot son to return to their relatives after the funeral, but Old
Mother had shown displeasure, and so she had desisted. Anyway, even Ah Kum Soh
had her uses. She played mahjong all the time, but she was Old Mother’s
preferred companion. And it was yet another malady of her mother-in-law, in her
old age, to dote on the idiot foster-son.
    What a horror – a born imbecile – and Angela
wondered, with a thrill of shocked fascination – if the new son of the black
sheep of the family would also become an imbecile? The premature birth, and now
the operations that had to be performed. She had heard of old parents’ arms
reaching out for vengeance beyond the grave. Oh, how frightful.
    The baby was home from the hospital already,
but Gek Choo said, would have to be taken back for regular checkups. The
doctors would decide when to carry out the first operation.
    She spoke quietly, matter-of-factly, after
having thanked Angela for the gifts for the baby and her four little girls.
Angela was all effusiveness as she carried up the child, a weak, soft tiny
thing unlike any of his healthy, lovely sisters.
    The triumph of having the long yearned-for
son at last must have been considerably diminished for Chinaman and his wife.
But right now, Angela was all genuine concern as she held the pitiful little
thing in her arms and suggested that if they had any problems with the doctors
at the hospital, they could let Boon know, for he knew the top brass there.
Things were

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