Saturday, February 6, 2016

How Much IOU? (欠债还钱)

In early 80s’ people in where I lived, Kuala Kangsar at that time and other small towns used to keep a small booklet indicating how much one owes a particular shop. My late dad has many those marked 555 small booklets indicating how much he owed the Hup Hua sundry shop, the Shell petrol station, the Ali coffee shop etc. In this way, people don’t need to bring plenty of cash to make a purchase. The total amount payable due is normally settled at the beginning of the month right after pay day. This system worked pretty well until fairly recently…

There were certainly many people who had broken this IOU trust but none is more bizarre than this one I am going to tell you:

There was a small coffee shop right at the corner of Talang Garden where I spent my younger days. I knew the shop owner, Ah Huat pretty well because his son was my classmate. As usual, Ah Huat gave his regular customers credits on what they consumed in his shop and the amount would be settled at the end of each month.

Amongst all the customers, there is an old customer whom Ah Huat called him Pakcik (uncle) and no one knows the Pakcik’s real name and where this Pakcik stays. All he knew was that this Pakcik will visit his coffee shop at about 9pm every Thursday night wearing white garment and a white hat to enjoy a cup of coffee-o (black coffee) and this Pakcik would just sat there alone in a corner for about half an hour or so before leaving.

On leaving Ah Huat’s coffee shop, the Pakcik would say to Ah Huat: “Hutang dulu.” (IOU first) And since the Pakcik only consumes a cup of black coffee every time he comes; Ah Huat didn’t pay much attention because some local gangsters also visited his shop for free meals too.

The Pakcik visited Ah Huat’s shop for about a year or so until one day, after the Pakcik had his usual cup of coffee, before he stepped out of the coffee shop; the Pakcik suddenly turned his head to Ah Huat and said:

“Tauke, berapa saya hutang?”
(Boss, how much IOU?)

Ah Huat said:

“$50 jadilah Pakcik.”
(Uncle you just give me $50.)

The Pakcik nodded his head and told Ah Huat:

“Boleh. Batu dua, Tanah Merah.”
(Okay. 2 miles off red soil)

It was indeed an odd instruction to Ah Huat but he didn’t question the Pakcik. On that day onwards, the Pakcik didn’t come to Ah Huat’s shop anymore. Ah Huat did ask many people concerning the ‘batu dua, tanah merah’ but no one can solve the riddle until one day a group of municipal workers excavated an old grave just opposite Ah Huat’s coffee shop. Someone shouted:

“Ada dua batu nisan lama!”
(Found two old tomb stones!)

Ah Huat was curious, so he approached the site and found there were two tomb stones wrapped in white cloths… and the soil was red! Ah Huat figured the mysterious Pakcik maybe the dweller of the tomb so he ventured to the place at night and asked for lucky numbers.

Indeed as he wished, he did get a lucky number and Ah Huat bet accordingly. Perhaps the luck was on Ah Huat’s side or perhaps the Pakcik did intend to pay his debt; Ah Huat won $50. Not a penny more and not a penny less.

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