Long-tailed macaque of Penang Botanic Gardens.
My cousin Ah Huat is a few years older than me. He was a head taller and scrawny, and tanned from running around the kampung under the hot sun most of the time. We lived just a five-minute walk apart, near to the Ayer Itam market and Kek Lok Si Temple.
Ah Huat’s mother is Mum’s second sister. I call her Jee Ee. When Mum’s chores for the day were done, she would take me on the short walk to Jee Ee’s place. While the two ladies chit chatted, I would follow Ah Huat as he went traipsing with the other kids in the neighbourhood looking for adventures to while the day away.
Dad invited him to go with us to Penang Botanic Gardens one day. Dad parked the car at the usual spot opposite the Cactus House. Ah Huat and I scampered all over the slope the moment we got out from the car. Our squeals could be heard across the lush vale as we quickly worked out a sweat with all that running.
Dad and Mum hiked up a short distance to their favourite place under some shady trees and made themselves comfortable. From where they sat, they had a vantage point of the undulating terrain and its surroundings. There were not many people that day. Ah Huat and I had a free run of the entire slope.
A troop of monkeys appeared from out of nowhere. Their noisy chatter broke the serenity and caught our attention. One of them jumped onto the car bonnet and began playing with one of the windscreen wipers. Dad cautiously approached the car and tried to shoo it away.
The monkey stood on fours and bared its fangs. Dad started clapping loudly and then waved his hands to scare the monkey off. We watched in horror as suddenly, without warning, the monkey yanked loose one of the wiper blades and ran off with it. Ah Huat, who was nearest to the car, raced down from the slope and went after the monkey who had by then made its way across the road towards the river.
The rest of the troop scattered upon seeing Ah Huat charging towards them. I was close behind Ah Huat with Dad fast catching up. A few monkeys together with the one with the blade scuttered up a tall tree, away from our reach and raising a ruckus as they peered down at us from the branches they were perching on.
Dad grabbed some broken branches from the ground and hurled them at the monkeys with the hope that the blade would be thrown back at us in retaliation. The monkeys were too high up. They continued to peer down at us, occasionally waving the blade and screeching noisily, seemingly mocking Dad’s futile effort.
After what felt like a very long time with Dad trying everything he could think of to make the monkey throw the wiper blade down, he gave up. My neck was already aching from looking straight up. We walked back to the car, stealing back glances, hoping against hope, that the monkey would somehow throw the blade down.
The windscreen looked odd with the blade missing from the wiper arm. Dad checked the remaining blade to make sure it was properly secured. There was nothing else we could do. The thieving monkey spoilt the day for us. As Dad drove off, I stole a last glance at the monkeys on the tree. The culprit was still holding on to the blade.