She barely noticed the old lady in the wheelchair at another table, who observed her with evident happiness. Was it a memory of her own childhood? Or of her middle-aged daughter, who looked after her? Perhaps just an instinctive response to an infant, not even four years old, enjoying a slice of cake, like it was the only cake in the whole world.
"Ho sik-ge maa" Does it taste good?
Evidently it did.
Mui-mui savoured her cake, despite the cloud of gasoline smoke from the concrete truck outside, that filled the bakery and made the air blue.
My milk-tea tasted industrial.
The boss-lady asked me to go speak to the workmen -- yes, I am typecast; clever kwailo and bilingual, therefore obviously the perfect choice for negotiator -- and after I came back inside (the smoke having lessened considerably, due to my minor skill at talking to gentlemen who deeply know their machines and how to make them perform optimally) she gave me another egg tart and some more milk-tea.
The wheelchair bound old lady said goodbye to the infant, who was too blissed-out to notice.
The little girl's mommy gaily signaled a friend who had just come in with her own little child. While the ladies chatted, the little boy eyed the cake.
The little girl carefully forked off another piece and conveyed it to her mouth. Her eyes closed in ecstasy as she smooshed it around.
Mmm. It was almost gone.
The little boy seemed dispassionate. He may have been fascinated by the process of forking and fastidiously conveying the tiny morsels beyond the perfect lips, to be intensely mooshed and swirled and oozily swallowed; a long fond farewell to each tiny bite.
Finally the child finished her serving of gâteau de mangue. She glowed and seemed, in her radiant sweetnes, to have absorbed the essence of the mango slices and angel food.
She looked dreamy.
She and her mommy left the bakery.
I finished my milk-tea and paid-up.
Two pipes. One after the other, while sitting on a bench in Hang Ah Alley. The mahjong parlours were locked, and other than two teenage girls over at the volleyball court, and a crazy lady operatizing at another bench, the alley and playground were deserted.
Halfway through the second pipe a little girl passed behind me singing about a little dog, and Dingo was its name-o.
Which is not here. Or there.
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