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Pak Mul

Pak Mul. Now he was a Super Jaga. Of indeterminate age. Small, wiry and strong. He came with the property. We were instructed not to tip him too much, because the property owner paid his salary, as he had done for the last 50 years. He conveyed a beautiful expression in his gentle face. He occupied himself in the two-acre garden from dawn till dusk. He lived in the garden shed. He was always a very busy man, although now I come to think of it I never saw him actually physically work, as he always induced the trainee gardeners and house staff to do the manual hard slogs.

He was not really a servant. He was his own man, beholden to no one. Every day he would forget my preferences and make me my morning coffee too sweet so he could correct it and make one, no sugar, but would have to drink the sweet one himself so as not to let it go to waste.

He had three weaknesses - gambling on the TSSB (like an underground lotto), pinching my coffee, and he loooved kretek cigarettes. He seemed to be able to keep a butt going all morning. He smoked with such style – seated with his head tilted back letting the smoke lazily exhaust from his mouth - like Oscar Wilde on good day. He never knocked the ash off - gravity had no effect on it. I held him in awe - as my ash usually fell down my shirtfront – and most of my shirtfronts were fill of shot holes from burning sparks of cloves. Not Pak Mull! His clothes – his old shirt and shorts were always immaculate.

Usually after a yell “PAK MUL”, aimed at the garden, he would appear at the door ready for an errand. One hundred metres to the warung usually cost me one pack of 12 kretek cigarettes.

After an hour he would return with the requested goods and give me the change minus one 12 pack. Uang bensin (gas money) he called it. Usually he did quite well out of me for his smokes. He usually took a couple of trips a day to the warung, plus the ones he “borrowed” of me during the day.

I hate rats. Pak Mul’s main job for me was to keep our house clear of them. An ongoing job as we lived in a right-of-way property surrounded by restaurants. The rats were never ending. I paid Pak Mul a pack of kretek cigarettes for every five rats he killed. One August I was going bankrupt paying for his smokes as he was catching about 20 rats per day.

Now I’m smarter than the average bear and I knew that we did not have that many rats. And sure enough I found out through a paid spy (three packs of kretek) that Pak Mul was “buying the rats in” from a street kid at a pack of kretek for 20 rats. Also Pak Mul was recycling the rats caught in the live traps.

At the same time my wife told me that She felt sorry for Pak Mul, and that for the last year had given him extra cigarettes that he asked for every time he went to the shop for me. (Well he had such a pleading face and he would so graciously accept any cigarette going).

I “had words” with Pak Mul, cutting off his supply of rokok. I refused to “loan” him any either. I instructed our guests, friends and clients not to loan or give him any kretek either. Poor Mul was doing it hard ... cold turkey! I bought an air gun and pellets for about $75 and killed my own rats. I walked to the warung and bought my own kretek. Pak Mul didn’t drink my coffee or read my paper any more. Didn’t see him for 6 weeks.-------- missed him really.

One morning, wandering to the kitchen for breakfast, there’s Pak Mul sitting at the table reading my paper, drinking my coffee - like he’d never left. The pot cupboards were a bit of a mess with their contents spread all over the floor.

“Darling,” my wife calls from the bathroom. “Can you give Pak Mul a couple of cartons of Gudang Garam Super, he caught and killed a snake in the kitchen early this morning. That’s why it’s still a mess.”

I did. He slowly slit open a box, them slowly unwrapped a pack - triumph in his eye. Nay, his total being. He used my lighter and so lazily lit and smoked that cigarette. A serene look of victory exuded with the smoke as it drifted out of his upturned mouth. (I already knew through the grapevine (more cigarettes) that Pak Mul had paid a neighboring kid five packs of cigarettes for a road kill snake.)

I drank my coffee in silence I stayed quiet about it until this day. I know when I’m beat.

© rubbertree