Sunday, May 31, 2009

Revisiting & Reuniting

Last week when I dropped by at my publisher's place, he asked if I would be interested to read through a collection of short stories' drafts submitted by my co-author & comment on the logic, as well as language. Yeah, he beat me to it, so it looks like I would the last to publish my solo book, among the three of us. LOL!

I had to attend a dry 2-day course so I brought the drafts along. I actually finished reading & commenting on all his 20 stories in 2 days. I have to say that his type of stories are not in the local market yet. He had found his niche - surreal/fantasy element mixed with another element eg relationship, crime, etc. However, this batch is not as gripping and shocking as his previously published bunch. Nevertheless, I think they would appeal to a wider group of readers, and not upset so many people. LOL!

As for me, I am nearly done with my first drafts. I have 22 complete stories, these are enough & they meet the minimum number of words given by my publisher at 60,000. However, I would like to squeeze in at least 2 more because these are different ie Hide & Seek and The Kid.

Fate also had it that I reunited with a friend from boarding school whom I have not met in 20 years. He had a solo exhibition recently, his third. He paints as part of a therapy for his schizoprenic and bipolar disorder. Coincidentally, his favourite painting matches the title of one of my stories - Hide & Seek. I requested to use it for my book cover and he agreed. He wants royalty should I sell more than 100,000 copies though, LOL! Later on, my publisher advised me to go for a more abstract piece. I found a simple but yet distinct one using the 3 primary colours only. Mr Designer is working on the cover design right now. I can't wait to see it.

The story below is not part of the last 2, I am still not sure of it. I first started writing it around 2 years ago, during Raya holiday. Those who follow my blog would know who inspired it. I had a problem continuing it though. I only picked it up around 2 weeks ago and re-wrote it completely. The cotton castle of Pamukkale, Turkey had inspired the background of this fantasy world. Yeah, it had turned into something else. No more a simple alien-psychology story. I didn't plan for it to be a romance - fantasy/sci-fi - psychology piece, but it became that way, LOL! It may still not have the element of a romance, who knows, I still have a long way to go:)

A Liar's Brain - 2nd Cut

Today is the last day I am allowed to walk around on my own. Tomorrow, I will become someone’s wife. The realisation hits me, as much as I try to ignore it. Nervousness, fear, doubt and all sorts of feelings force its way into my mind.

“The stranger whom you will marry is due to arrive soon.” That’s what The Hat announced during the people’s assembly last week. The human has been identified from a foreign land and will be brought here to enrich our community. As curious as I am, I dare not question his decision. He has led our land for many centuries, he knows best.

I use a plastic basin to scoop the chalky mineral water and pour it onto my Hat. After repeating it a few times and ensure that I have covered my whole body, I lay in the deep and narrow calcium pot for a while. The top comes up to my shoulders. The snowy sand stretching for miles and miles away was breathtaking. Ivory mountains wave at me. The equally white trees dance around me. “Good morning,” I shout out to them and laugh when my voice echoes back at me.

I squeeze out some fragrant algae powder and shampoo my hair. I reach for another container and pour out some star fish powder. I use it to scrub my body. Several more scoops of chalky water and I am done. I climb out of the pot and sit on the sand, allowing the cool breeze to dry my body. I run the tortoise comb along my hair. Being early means that I have the whole bath to myself. And I love the calmness of the dawn, it is so quiet.

I wonder what my husband to be is like. I shall find out soon. The Hat had asked me to be at the People's Hall to welcome him when he gets here later.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Awful, Awful April

I've put off writing this entry for a while. April had been a really tough month for me, work wise and personally. Gosh, even in 2007, Ad 'died' in April.

On 23 April, I had another episode with Mr Designer, quite a definite one. I came close to not seeing the RM3,000 that I lended him (short-term for 3 weeks only). And if that is what it cost to get over him, it might just be worth it. He claimed that a relationship would ruin our friendship. I beg to differ, I think money would ruin it instead. On the other hand, I'm also doing copywriting for his business and the fee is quite substantial as compared to the little time spent, though payment can be late.

He said if we are friends, we can be friends forever. He did care about me, a lot, and he'd help me in any way that he could. Relationships, on the other hand, burn bridges. And under pressure on 7 April, he finally blurted out that there were other women pursuing him too, and clueless on what to do, he gave them the same answer that he gave me. That hurt like hell. Furthermore, I have to finish off the copywriting on a brochure for his business that same night, I stayed up till 2.00am. Anger nearly caused me to throw it back in his face, deadline or no deadline.

On his 41st birthday on 11 April, I only gave him a greeting card, through his partner. They were attending his late father's tahlil, which his mother had combined with his birthday. My words were deep though. I reckoned that if he meets the right woman, he'll open up his heart again. And he hadn't yet. Anyway, I'm too tired to share all the details here, and I think readers are also tired of reading about him & how I still have a soft spot for him, despite everything. Probably, I should open a new blog, LOL!

Now on work:
On Friday, 17 April, on the LRT back from work, I had a call from a stranger. It was past 8pm and I was damn tired. At first, I thought it was a supplier, then he started giving a 'ceramah' and I thought it was a salesman and naturally, I cut him off, asking him to get straight to the point. He said he didn't like me pressuring his wife, yeah, just like who the hell are you!!

It was my staff's husband. He said he was taking his family to the mosque and I shouldn't be calling his wife after office hour. Furthermore, she is a Mualaf, he had to guide her. Hello, his wife left the office without meeting a work deadline. Not to mention, she had been avoiding the tasks delegated to her in a new role, she wasn't doing well in her former role either. His wife claimed that I was rude to her. The thing is that before he told me, I didn't know his wife had a problem with me specifically, though she always complained about the workload.

Her husband threatened to complain to the MD. Hence, I had to alert him, and my MD finally returned my call at 10.00pm. He was calm, and he took it easily though. Luckily, I decided to meet up with an ex-collague, whom the Muaalaf sabotaged from moving to my department. She was the one who asked me to call my MD. I also made like 10 calls to the Human Resource Manager that night. The incidence was kind of terrifying, it had me shaken. I spent the whole Saturday pouring out to the sensible woman at my publisher's place. I was kind of trembling until Monday.

On Monday, 20 April, I lodge a report with the HR Manager on harrasment and threat. He asked me to consult the legal head, which I did. The woman amended my letter, stressed on how my staff was not cooperating to achieve the department KPI and the company's. But her advice is to let HR take care of it, and the best way was to push my staff to another department. How was she going to work? I assigned work to her through email every morning and made her come up to my office before leaving. That was torturous enough, I think. This was the same woman who betrayed me before, and I shouldn't have given her a second chance.

On Wednesday, 22 April, HR interviewed my staff on the incidence. The next morning, she tendered her resignation. That same afternoon,HR interviewed me on the incidence. At first I thought they pressure her into leaving. But that couldn't be, it was conducted neutrally. So, perhaps she was embarassed. I thought that was the end of it, but I was so wrong.

On Friday, 24 April, my other senior staff threw a tantrum and walked out at 5.00pm (office hour is until 5.30pm). Why, because I made him re-write a proposal 5 times. Well, he is really careless with writing. Regardless of how productive he is and how fast he moves, in PR, writing is no 1. I extended his probation because of that, and because of insubordination which I stated clearly in his appraisal form. Also, he missed a handover meeting before I left for my long Turkey holiday, and he immediately went off for a week holiday without a handover. He also tend to ignore my phone calls when he is out. Plus, he had a habit of going straight to Popeye and vice versa, and I couldn't do quality control.

Anyway, he returned to the office an hour later, all emotional, saying that I purposely 'nak kenakan dia'. None of his four female ex-bosses had extended his probation before. Well, I'm honoured to be the first. LOL! He rambled on and on like a woman, half apologising and half egoistic about the whole thing. He said I can cold-storage him but I cannot fire him immediately.

Hmm, I tried to explain to him that extending probabation didn't mean you want to get rid of someone, it just to give staff a chance to improve. From where I come from, it is something very common, even for a mere reason like my English wasn't up to it. I actually hired a tutor to help me. I didn't throw tantrum to any of my all-female bosses. He also blamed me for not being able to fill up the vacancies in my department quickly.

I met HR Manager but due to the current 'political scenario', he cautioned me against giving my staff a warning letter. Well, the week after, I think the outburst sort of made him nervous, and more cautious. I now have one point against him, and I can report him anytime.

And concluding April, Popeye, my idiot immediate boss, suddenly decided to conduct my appraisal on the 27th. I knew he was up to something. It was 17 months after I came onboard, and 11 months too late. I heard that he wanted to extend my probation many months ago, but my MD refused to sign the letter due to the personal nature of his remarks. Luckily, he had HR manager and executive in the room, so I took the opportunity to fire him directly and later, put my counter attacks to his remarks in black and white.

He threatened to relocate me, saying that I couldn't handle my staff. When asked, he said he'd create another position under him, but I won't have to supervise people. To cut a long story short, I dared tell him he couldn't do certain things at whim. It was easy because he didn't follow the proper procedure. He would have been able to get rid of me already if he had.

And last but not least, the Muaalaf retracted her resignation a week later. Air head! I had over-estimated her. To date, there is still no black and white from the MD to accept it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Onion on the Wall

I haven't had time to update on the consecutive blows that I faced during the last 3 weeks. Emotional outbursts at work where they don't belong plus the lack of emotion in my personal life where I could use some... hmm... a trying month indeed.

And I had just returned from my school reunion in Perak a few hours ago. There's more to that too.

In this entry, I just want to quickly share an excerpt from a short story that I started during my 3-day corporate video course on Wednesday. This experimental piece combines romance, supernatural and violence.

Onion on the Wall - 1st cut

The clock is unlike any that she has seen before. Resembling a two-dimensioned onion, it hangs flat on the wall at the outer front of the cafe. Its' body had been meticulously crafted from thin sheets of brightly coloured metals; these unfold horizontally like a rainbow. At its' centre, two tiny white arms spread out to 2.30pm.

Rose takes a deep breath and tugs her feet underneath the rough wooden carved table. Despite the drizzle, she chose a spot outside. She sits back on the stool and leans against the big damp tree trunk behind her. Her flip flops lay apart on the wet earthen floor. She flips Murakami's 'At Night' novel in her hands several times before putting it down again.

“Hello.” The cheerful voice belongs to a petite waitress. She hands over a square orange menu. “What do you want to order?”
She reads the first line. “Just some Hot lemongrass tea, please.” The girl takes the menu and walks off. 10 minutes later, she returns with a full tray. “Thanks,” she stares at the beverage. The big glass plunger carries enough cloudy lime green liquid to fill up at least five cups. Somehow, it reminds him of the moss that grows at the side of the lake. She pulls the holder up and pour a bit into the small red cup. Her fingers shiver slightly.

She looks up at the clock. It is 2.55pm. She wipes the trickles of water on her brows and nose. It was raining heavily when she left the gallery 15 minutes ago. Funnily, it was her third time down the lane and she had never noticed the tiny cafe before. While her hair, clothes and flip flops are drenching wet from the rain, her cheeks are equally wet from tears. After going back and fro three times, she decides to stop by. The first thing that caught her attention was the onion clock.

As she sips her tea, she wonders where Zack is at that moment. He has asked her not to worry, assured her repeatedly that he has everything under control. She doubts it. She knows that he has not received the payment for his last job yet. Even if he had, it was far from enough. There is nothing else she can do. She had dug deep into all her bank accounts and scrapped the last bits of her savings...