Kong Kong’s “good boy,” Jimmy, was no better than my father, maybe worseat least my father could keep his whores in line.
One day, around the time of my mother’s disgraceful birthday party, I heard my Aunt Judy screaming hysterically from her house next door, “Kow meng, kow meng,” Chinese for “help, help.”
I ran out of the house to see a strange woman breaking the windows of Uncle Jimmy's house. From a safe distance, I asked her what she was doing.
Through her tears she sobbed, “I am in love with Jimmy Lee.” She was young and pretty, and not afraid of what she was doing. Not knowing what to make of me, she turned and walked out to where a taxi was waiting, got in, and left. Aunt Judy did not appear. She was either too frightened or embarrassed to venture out of her house.
Obviously, this was one girl who had gotten too personal with her client.
The problem of this girl was turned over to my father, who was very good at dealing with such situations.
The next day, my father convened a group of his friends at 69 Holland Road. Uncle Jimmy was not present.
The offending girl was a member of the “Butterfly Gang,” known by the butterflies the mama-san had tattooed on their thighsa form of cattle-brand.
It was decided by my father, guided by the wise counsel of his friends, that he should get in touch with the girl’s mama-san. Certainly, no self-respecting mama-san would condone such shameful behavior, not if she wanted to stay in business.
Several days later the mama-san paid a visit to our house. She came alone.
In the same way I had overheard my father and at other times, I hid near the top of the stairs, nearly, but not quite, out of sight.
The mama-san was an attractive woman in her thirties, very well made-up, very poised, and well aware of her importance. Uncle Jimmy, of course, was nowhere in sight.
My father spoke to the mama-san using a crude form of the Chinese Hokkien dialect, I suppose you could call it Street Hokkien. He said, "Well, ah, you know this girl come and disturb my brother. He got wife. He got children. Make him lose face. So shamefulwhat to do, ah?"
The mama-san responded with sympathy and respect. She replied in Singlish, “Oh, you say like that? You know, ah, you can always count on me.”
My father nodded. I could see that he was pleased. He knew the conversation was proceeding correctly and in accordance with the ways in which serious business is conducted among Asians.
My father withdrew a small red envelope from his shirt pocket. It was the ever-welcome ang pow, the red envelope containing money.
My father switched to Singlish. “Here, see what you can do to make her not behave like this, you know,” he said ceremoniously extending the ang pow, to the mama-san, holding it in the polite way, by the fingers of both hands.
The mama-san’s eyes followed the packet as it made its way to her two outstretched hands. She understood.
I watched the mama-san as she opened the red packet, and delicately removed from it a fat wad of cash.
The prescribed ritual completed, the mama-san said in comforting tones, “Ayah Jackie don’t worry, I will handle it personally myself, you tell your brother that this will never happen again. You tell him, ah.”
The offending “Butterfly Girl” was beaten up, and was heard of only once again. The Straits Times reported that she had gone to Saudi Arabia, where she disappeared.
Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Judy lived happily, well almost, ever after.