Sunday, 28 September 2014

Can Be Better: The Maze Runner Movie


Ok, seen the movie, read the books. Here're some quick comments:

The movie differs from book. (No big surprise here. Movie is movie, book is book; one is a visual medium, the other is literary. Let's get over this old and dumb argument.)

That said, I think the movie weakened the whole story. Why?

One, there are differences. I feel the movie does try to stay true to the book but it fails to emphasize certain key aspects of the story. It also throws away certain key elements. For those who do not know, the story of the Maze Runner and the WICKED experiment does not conclude in just one book. It runs through four books. 

So what got cut? (Spoilers ahead).

1) The Changing. Gally did not go through it in the movie which makes his resistance to Tom in the film feel a little 'small gas' (impetuous, Mandarin). In the book, Gally's resistance, and suspicion of, Tom was due to past memories threw up by his Changing. It also turned him into a stick of dynamite (bad temper). And Gally played a big part in the ending and in Book 3.

2) Order. Order in the Glade was paramount. This did not come across well in the movie. I think a big problem was that the so-called 'leaders' in the movie was not bossy or anal about it enough. It was kind of laughable when the boys decided not to enter the maze to help the two stricken boys (Minho and Alby). It suddenly became a no-no when the natural instinct (up to that point) was to run in and help.

3) Change. The change brought on by the arrival of Tom and Teresa, I felt, was not played out well. The director should have used that time tested method of 'sound off' - i.e. using dialogue between lead actor and minor character or conflict between two persons to elucidate stuff mentioned in the book, even if the point/situation could not be acted out in action on screen.

4) The Grievers. The boys did know before hand what a Griever monster looked like. There was a thick glass window in one of the walls for them to peek at. Not in the movie, though. Also in the book, a griever's electronic part did not help open up the maze exit. And in the movie, the role of the Bladers (spy cams) were not fleshed out.

5) One a Night. In the book, the grievers came into the Glade towards the end to take/kill one boy a night. It was basically to encourage the boys to leave the glade. Not so in the movie.

6) How Tom Killed A Griever. It was never shown in the movie but implied. 

7) Ending. How the kids got out of the Maze in the end was different from the book. I do not see how following the book would weaken the movie. Everything that was needed in the movie is well fleshed out in the book. And it is not complicated. Why I say this? Well, doing stuff right in the first movie can help with the 2nd movie.

8) Weather. Now, this is the weakest point of the movie. The whole Maze was supposed to be a controlled experiment, yet it is shown to be opened to the skies. 1) This makes the Start-of-the-End-of-the-Glade different from the book. 2) Hey, the outside was supposed to be so hot that nothing grew, making the farm on the Glade impossible. 3) In the book, the sky covering the Glade became gray in the end triggering the End-of-Glade scenario.

9) Tom and Teresa. More could be developed between these two in the movie as in the book. These two was implied in the book as prodigious disciples/workers of the WICKED experiment.

A few of these points I highlight is after gaining further insights from reading Book 3 - The Death Cure. Certain Glade characters are important, even in flashbacks.


But really, the Maze Runner movie could have been a better film if it stuck to the key emotional points in the book which are 1) Boys stuck in a maze, Order is paramount; 2) The ill-effects of the Changing (leading to disturbing-ness and extreme personality change); 3) Why Tom (and Teresa) is key; 4) The Maze, what it is and what it perceivably does.

The End

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Legend of the Axe Brand Oil



Legend has it that the history of the Axe Brand Oil is somehow connected to legendary Chinese hero Yue Fei. But actually, it was his descendant who played a major role. Read on to find out what happened.

*******

It is tough to be a revolutionary, Kai Fook lamented, as he searched for a place to hide. 

He had arrived at a large "chye fang" (firewood storeroom) after being chased by some Imperial troops. (No, not the Star Wars sort but the Chinese dynasty kind, circa early 1900s. -You know, the type where the troop commander wore a funny hat and a uniform with big sleeves that made him look like a "qiang shi" or Chinese vampire, an entity that became very popular in 1990s folklore.)

Kai Fook cursed his luck. He had the enemy troops nicely caught in a classic Sun Tzu "rocks-roll-down-the-valley" ambush when his migraine started up again. It blurred his vision and made him excited. An area of his loose pants began to bulge. He hated that. Having a headache was one thing but to be endowed as such was like being at a wonderful buffet and feeling too sick to eat. Either that or have numb tongue.

A passing maiden of ill-repute saw his burgeoning ambition and took interest. More than that, she thought he was someone famous. "Ah, what luck!" she must have congratulated herself; someone famous and in such a state!

And so, before Kai Fook could collapse from his Xinjiang-sized headache, this lady had already positioned herself under his arm to shoulder-heave him somewhere, preferably from the Imperial troops that seemed to be heading their way.

It might seem a fortuitous turn of events for Kai Fook but he had been operating in a dangerous region for months; a region that had become lawless in the past decade, no thanks to corrupt officials and wannabe bandits out to take advantage of a bad situation. 

If you did not know kung-fu (such as "heng gong" or cliff-leaping skills) it was better to stay indoors. Better yet, some folks had resorted to pretending to be mad. In the olden days, madness was seen as a contagious disease that folks avoided like the plague. The general belief was that crazy people was unpredictable and walked around with a chopper ready to cut you to pieces with the least provocation. Mostly it was an image pervaded by sane people doing the insane thing.

So in general, people tended to avoid these crazy folks and let them be. Even the knife-wielding and criminal ones knew better than to tangle with a "seow" one.

The firewood storeroom that Kai Fook found himself in was part of a farmhouse and a large compound through which he and his rescue-maiden had just trespassed. Who's this woman? he wondered, stealing a glance as she heaved him along on her slender but determined shoulders.

Two soft, rounded bags slapped his face and Kai Fook let himself be mesmerized by their scent and softness. They reminded him he hadn't had been in a soft bed nor hugged a soft body in months. Being a revolutionary had indeed taken a toll.

He glanced over at his lady saviour and for the first time (even though through his double vision) discovered that she was rather colorfully made up. Heavy make-up maybe, but definitely colorful. Perhaps even garish.

Kai Fook couldn't be sure as his head was still splitting like stones in a hot dessert sun. He didn't know how big Xinjiang was but wished it closed its borders so his headache would be manageable.

To be sure, Kai Fook was not a small man and he was walking as if tripping over a third leg (which in a way he was). His rescue-maiden could not help but noticed. A baton? A snake? A one-eyed snake? She redoubled her efforts to bring him where she wanted both of them to go.

If birds could talk, they would say Kai Fook winced all the way from whence the maiden found him. That's how uncomfortable he was and how his head hurt.

Throughout the rescue, there were many moments where Kai Fook thought he would faint. But he was slapped back into consciousness by those soft, great smelling baubles. At times the slaps were real. "Get up! I can't be carrying all of you if you want to live! Shift your weight!"

Again Kai Fook wondered who this woman with the soft and scented baubles was, so slender yet so pig-headed at the same time. Ladies of ill-repute usually were more hardworking when they first see cash. And Kai Fook had precious little with him. Being a noble revolutionary really sucked. Maybe he should have joined up with the Nationalists or some private brigade.

He could fight and not do the robbing bit.

At one point, through his blurred vision, he thought twins had come to his rescue. That made him smile again. Ah, what a day, he muttered, as his mind dived into delirium and naughty thoughts. A menage a trois? - which in Chinese was "2+1" - like instant coffee without the creamer.

F*** the mission! said Kai Fook as he became intoxicated with the sweet scents again. It was maddening to be toggling between pain and pleasure. Besides he had been fighting the enemy the whole of last year with nary a break, only through sheer exaltation from his mom. Whenever he faltered she would remind him of his stirring patriotic roots.

What would Mom think now, he thought, as he pictured again his painstakingly built ambush trap, and sighed. All those loose rocks prepped for nothing! A beaver-like creature had stared at him as if to chide him as well. It's a job half done you ass, it seemed to say.

Once into the storeroom, the excessively dolled-up lady (or ladies, as Kai Fook imagined) was trying her best to engage Kai Fook. Mostly, she was trying to get his pants off. 

Kai Fook, his head still throbbing, vision not yet 20-20, balance tipping at 30-70, could only protest weakly.

"You are Yue Fei, aren't you?" the lady asked, mistaking Kai Fook for the legendary Chinese hero. 

Yes, er, he is my ancestor, answered Kai Fook, surprised that he could still understand a thing. Truth be told, he did inherit the ancient fella's noble bridge nose and determined square jaw. But as for tattoos on his back, there were none. Not a signal letter, not a single word. His mom was not the sort to carve things on children's backs. She was too afraid to even slaughter a chicken for any festive occasion!

At Kai Fook's admission, the maiden's eyes opened wide and her mouth drew a mighty satisfied smile. The sort of smile anglers wear when they finally 'got the big one'. The woman's actions then became more gleeful and frantic. Kai Fook's pants were unceremoniously ripped from him.

Oh dear, oh dear, Kai Fook lamented. Not another Yue Fei fan, he said before collapsing on his back into a haystack with the lady mounting him like a wrestler in victory. Having famous ancestors can be such a burden, were his last thoughts as day became night and the throbbing of his head migrated south.

*******

The next morning Kai Fook woke from a troubled but lustful dream. In it he was courting his ancestral cousin Mu Lan, a warrior who seemed to be better than him in almost any weapon category. He then realised he enjoyed being beaten the crap out of him by more able females. In their presence, he became a wuss, not the mighty hero of recent folklore.

His head still felt hungover although it had reduced to the size of a small village, not a state like Xinjiang. There was also a dull pain below his waist. It felt as if he squirrels had been digging for nuts there...so sore he felt. 

He cupped his hands over those injured loins and wondered the age-old question men had been asking in the morning after finding themselves in unfamiliar beds: Did I? Did she? Did we...get it on?

At the other end of storeroom, where a fire stove took centrestage, was a lady dressed in homely samfoo. She was tending to a stewing claypot. From the smells of it, she had to be cooking some TCM herb tea.

Kai Fook struggled to his feet and promptly fell back down again. His backside hit another hidden piece of stone under the hay. Ow! he exclaimed.

The lady turned round and put down her ladle made of natural bamboo.

"Ah, I see you have woken up."

"Where am I?"

"Home. My home."

"What did you do to me yesterday?"

"You were bitten by a snake and panicking. And I think you were having a splitting headache as well."

"So we didn't..." Kai Fook looked at his own nether regions and then at those of his host (which wasn't the most polite of things to do to a woman you have just met).

"No, oh no. There was a snake in your pants still, so I had to get it out. Sorry, but I had to beat it with a stick! But then again, you were one horny son of a bitch, claiming to be Yue Fei and saying, 'Come to Yue Fei hero baby!'"

"What???"

The maiden pointed to a glass jar filled with Chinese wine and a fresh snake. The reptile will turn the alcoholic beverage into a tonic in about six months. A tonic that will heal anything from skin eruptions to intestinal hemorrhage. A fact known since the publication of the medicinal text, Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, in 100 A.D.

"I think you just had too much trauma in one day. But heck, it was tough getting you back here." The maiden rotated her stiff shoulder as if for emphasis, and then in a Yoda-like manner, said: "Sore I am." 

"And I think the Imperial troops didn't smell your plan or else it would be Bye Bye Beijing and Moshi Moshi Manchuria! And your Sun Zi Trap 101 is still sitting there pretty in the hot sun."

"Oh." Kai Fook shut up upon hearing about his failure. He sensed another headache coming.

"No. I think you'd better stop worrying about that and relax. I had been brewing something. But it's not for you. Your stuff is here."

Saying that, the maiden produced a wooden mug filled with fragrant tea. Kai Fook took a sip and immediately felt better. The tea smelt familiar....same as that on his rescue-maiden and those soft bags. Well, they weren't her lovelies after all! He had been slapped by bags of tea leaves!

Kai Fook subconsciously touched his cheek in regret.

"You look different," Kai Fook finally told the maiden.

"Oh. I was wearing a mask yesterday. People here know me as the physician's crazy daughter. They believed I went mad first, after my father died and then my mom. Of course my mom is still alive. I'd sent her to live with my aunts in the next province. It is a good story though. This province has really gone to the dogs, don't you think?"

Kai Fook nodded his head in agreement as he downed the last of nice tea.

"By the way, I am really Yue Fei.... I mean, I am his descendant. You can call me Kai Fook," he said.

The lady's eyes opened wide in astonishment. So she wasn't wrong after all.

"I am Shi Niang. Or people around here call me Sha Gu - The Crazy One."

*******

Feeling much better after the tea, Kai Fook looked around. The firewood storehouse was quite large and doubled as a convalescent room as was quite the norm then. It was equipped with a stove and a charcoal-fired bed that could keep someone lying on it warm in the winter months. At one corner were bales of medicinal grass. There were also bamboo trays of stuff that were either once dried in the sun or in the process of being sorted out. 

"Why didn't you just leave?" Kai Fook asked, his question directed at Shi Niang, who was now back at checking her claypot cooking.

"The hills behind this house are my dad's natural TCM herb garden. They are priceless. I cannot just leave and let these folks here spoil or damage through their fighting or squabbling."

"I don't think you have anything to worry about. They are considered quite wild and offers no route to any city or village. No military advantage, so you can rest easy."

Shi Niang looked at Kai Fook thoughtfully and knew he was right. He was after all a fighting man. But still, she could not risk refugees seeking to establish a kampung up in the hills there somewhere.

The word 'kampung' sounded foreign yet familiar to Shi Niang. She wondered why. The whole day she has been feeling as if someone was directing her actions and putting words into her mouth. At one point, she felt like a whore in bad make-up (and clothes) ready to accost anyone or anything. It was the weirdest feeling of all.

Or could it be that she was just having her period?

"Come, let me show you around," said Shi Niang as she offered a hand to Kai Fook. She led him out to the compound and on to the main house. They did not linger there long as it was mostly empty. Eventually they exited the back courtyard to stand in the same wild grass as those of the hills behind.

"Are you good with herbs?" asked Shi Niang, picking out some tall ones from a patch.

Kai Fook shook his head. "No, not really. But we did smoke some way back in recruit camp. 'Chasing the Dragon' it was called. But not really addictive."

Shi Niang crushed some of the tall grass for Kai Fook to sniff at. 

"This here is good for treating snake bites," she winked.

It was late morning and the sun bathed the whole hillside with its bright, cheery rays. The wonderful scene before him made Kai Fook forget all about his warring ways and his mocking trap. He began listening to Shi Niang intently without effort. Soon she began pointing out the various naturally growing herbs, roots and fruits all around the hillside. It was literally a goldmine of TCM stuff out there.

As Kai Fook listened it occurred to him that Shi Niang had a lovely voice. And as he was wont to do, he checked out her ass and breasts too. Lovely they were. Again he touched his cheek but this time, he felt impish and embarrassed. Is love in the air? 

He gave a skip and a hop. Not often you see a grown warrior do that.

====

As days passed, Kai Fook spent more time with Shi Niang learning about herbs and TCM cures. His restlessness began to slowly dissipate. However, every time he thought about battles and ambush traps, his headache would return prompting Shi Niang into action. She then sent him out to cut grass, er, herbs.

There was a particular patch on the hillside that Shi Niang always sent Kai Fook to. Although it was just a hunch from her medicinal brain, the ex-warrior reported that he felt better after each visit.

He would swing his halberg handaxe and cut the grass and release their oils within. The sweeping winds around the hillside did the rest, whipping the pleasant but pungent smell all round. It was almost like chasing the dragon but much less addictive, thought Kai Fook as he took deep breaths. More like a splash of cold water on a weary face.

After a couple of weeks, Kai Fook decided to be more deliberate with his reporting to Shi Niang. Said he to her one time: "Shi Niang darling, I thing these grasses have something to do with my headache going away. Should we make some medicine out of them?"

Shi Niang was elated that her hunch was right. She was even happier that Kai Fook called her darling and now took a keen interest in her family trade.

She then asked Kai Fook to collect some more of the grasses so she could distill a batch into a small bottle of application oil. She decided to tentatively call it Axe Brand Oil as a tribute to Kai Fook, and to market it easily to warriors suffering from headaches due to post-traumatic stress disorder or plain disgruntlement with the existing systems.

"We'll call it 'fung yew' - wind oil," said Kai Fook, recalling his pleasant experience on the hillside. 

"That's nice," said Shi Niang, "it has a ring of freshness to it."

And so each time Kai Fook thought about the warring situation in his country and feel a headache coming on, he would reach for a bottle of Fung Yew and feel much better afterwards. Applied to a knot on a handkerchief, it even helped him to sleep quicker too. That and the soft body of Shi Niang, who by then had become enthralled by the legend of Yue Fei and his descendant.

She did after all had a thing for that ancient hero with the noble nose, firm jaw and calligraphy on his back. Oedipus Complex not withstanding.

The End - Another myth imagined by TC Lai

Next: The Visit of the Haw Par Brothers and the Legend of Tiger Balm!

(Er, for the proper history of Axe brand oil, pls visit their website or contact their corporate pple. TQ)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Legend of the Shrimp Paste Boy



Legend has it that he was born in a fishing village not far from Desaru. There were signs that day that the boy was blessed. A giant frog stood in the doorway and left a puddle of water. A giant snake slithered by and hissed; it gobbled up the frog. Great clouds rose majestically in a fearsome sky to signal his arrival. Afterwards, the village was pelted with heavy rain for one whole week - turning the auspiciousness  occasion somewhat suspect.

Throughout that ordeal, the baby boy did not feel at all afraid. He giggled and gurgled as if nothing was going on. More worrying, he appeared to be in communion with something/someone greater. Shadows appeared in places where there were none before. 

His parents were nonplussed. Their overriding concern was the boy peeing too much. It got so bad his grandparents stopped carrying him and nicknamed him 'lai lui ha' - which in the Cantonese dialect means 'peeing prawn'. It was in reference to a certain kind of mantis-like prawn that ejected a stream of liquid when in danger. Hey, I might pee too if my life was threatened!

The old folks had to sit in the living room wrapped in sarongs after they were out of dry clothes in that inclement weather. They looked at Peeing Prawn with a mixture of gladness and nuisance - emotions not too unfamiliar with twice-over parents.

Growing up, Peeing Prawn's urinary habit did not abate. Fellow toddlers refused to play with him on the beach as he would wet and soil everything. The village kids somehow intuitively knew a sandcastle's moat was filled with crocodiles and such, not some kid's putrid pee. In reality, the stuff were much worse.

Pretty soon, Peeing Prawn was left alone to play all by himself. Crabs and seduced prawns roaming the surface became his only playmates. 

As time passed, a kind of reverse evolution happened. Peeing Prawn sat closer and closer to the water's edge to eventually end up playing in the sea and going to the Mantis Prawn kingdom to join his playmates. It all seemed like a scene from a Jap anime, but this was Asian and close to home.

Peeing Prawn was happy; he had never felt more at home. And as time passed again, a weird osmosis thing happened: his back began to exhibit a dark strip. The other prawn playmates were proud, noting that Peeing Prawn was indeed becoming one of them. But as maturing prawns were apt to do, they also teased him in a rite-of-passage way. "You are so full of shit!" Peeing Prawn could only gurgle in appreciation and blessed them again with a golden spray.

But even as Peeing Prawn became more crustacean, his old habit remained. The happier he was, the more he peed, which his playmates had come to ignore and accept. It wasn't like the sweet boy was ejaculating and calling Wolf! 

But the situation was inherently dangerous. One day, a complacent Peeing Prawn ignored the frantic peeing motions of his pals and got swept up by a passing trawling fishnet and brought back to his village.

His parents were relieved to see him even if he was somewhat wrinkled from all that time spent underwater. Other relatives felt the same and his grandparents doted on him with Rabbit brand sweets (like most grandparents were apt to do) and also new milk formula powder from China.

However, unaccustomed to his new diet, Peeing Prawn grew weak. His daily stream of putrid urea became a fizzle, and he eventually passed away. The dark strip on his back looked pale and stopped throbbing.

On hearing that Peeing Prawn had died, his sea pals were distressed. They organised a mass suicide in protest. Thousands beached themselves and subsequently died.

The villagers thought the death of Peeing Prawn had brought them a sort of blessing and so created a paste from all that shrimp to remember him by. They decided to make the paste blackish as a tribute to the boy with the special dark marking on his back.

So, even as the myth was believed by some to be more crap than actual, they would nevertheless rejoice in the partaking of this delectable shrimp paste which in dialect is known as "ha-gou" or "hei-ko". It is excellent in rojak and popiahs and also good for trapping rats. Chefs often wonder how these dishes ever got by without the paste (in much the same way they might wonder how in hell a rat got into their kitchen!). SBM members would agree too on its role in the many great tasting dishes they have come across in their itinerant postings.

The End - a myth imagined by TC Lai

(*Note: SBM - Singapura Best Makan) 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Sound of See Hum



A follow-up funny photo to The Sound of Sio Bak. ;-)

For Sound of Music song parodies go to this blog: A Singaporean Poem Box

The Sound of Sio Bak



Funny photo created on a whim from an SBM food posting to exalt the solid-looking roast pork crust. (See previous ones too) ;-) Below photo was also created in response to a subsequent FB comment. Haha.



For Sound of Music song parodies, go to this blog: A Singaporean Poem Box

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Split Ends - Apple or Android



(Originally 'One Hair Raising Day', a story inspired by the Snake Gourd Flower)

After months of neglect, it finally happened. Rapunzel woke up to find herself completely and utterly trapped in her own split ends. It trapped her so well, she looked like some dragon beard candy made from blond floss. Struggling only made it worse: the bonds grew relentlessly tighter.

Rapunzel laid in bed to ponder her options. But the words of her kidnapper stepmom returned to chide her (in song no less): "Brush your hair, Rap, brush your hair!" But brushing her head of mile-long hair was no joke. Her arm would get so tired that she too would fall asleep. One time, she developed tendonitis in her wrist and had to wear a sling for two months. And brushing her hair with her good left hand did not last long. The brush fell through a tower window and could not be found. Afterwards, there was no luck finding another left-handed brush.

Across the room was her study table, one made from Princess Pink oak. On it, the latest iPhone 6. Rap wriggled hard and sighed with relief when she managed to stand herself up looking like some mummy from Egypt, or zombie from New Zealand. With determined effort, she hopped to her phone.

Hands bounded by her side, Rap banged her head on the device to get it started. It woke from its sleep (mode) with a cheery "What a nice day it is!" Sure, the sun was shining outside but inside, the mood was one of frustration and impotence - feelings most familiar to kidnapped folks.

"Siri, call for help."

Help!

"No Siri, CALL FOR HELP!"

Siri then made the call, pouting as she did (or as much of a pout as she could muster).

"Allo, this is Call Centre Apple India. How may I help you today?" said someone with an unmistakable Punjabi accent.

"SIRI!!!"

The iPhone 6 was shocked at being shouted at and shutdown for a while. Being new, the iOS was still in sub-abuse mode and yet to be real-world ready. But since it was under a two-year contract, it had to return to its task in life. However, its mood was sour.

"Yes, my darling (*sarcasm) princess, what IS it YOU want THIS TIME?" it said, voice dripping with sarcasm.

"Call Flynn."

No action.

"Call Flynn!"

"Fine!"

Reluctantly, Siri proceeded to call Flynn. It went to voice mail.

"Hiya, this is Flynn. Flynn Rider, handsomest dude in the kingdom. I am unable to take your call at da moment, but if you leave me your name and vital statistics, I'll call right back!"

Darn idiot, Rap cursed. I knew it. He must be flirting with one of the chamber maids again. Dad warned me but did I listen? Noooo. Even my great white horse tried to tell me the same thing: It was always kicking Flynn.

Somewhat enraged, Rap then used her princess nose to nudge the phone off the table. It fell to the cobbled floor with a clatter. 

"Ouch!" said Siri, sounding hurt.

"Die, you stupid bitch," yelled Rap as much as she could under the circumstances. She then stomped on the machine until it flickered and passed out.

And as Rap was giving the machine a final stomp (just to make sure), she tripped and fell into the fireplace and onto the hearth.

In that instant, her hair flared up in great balls of flames, but they just as quickly (and fortunately) died out.

Free from her bondage, Rap checked to see what else of her was damaged. Hmm, nothing much except the hair on her head was now cropped short and her eyebrows singed. No worries, they will grow right back out! She would know!

And so, a short haired sans eyebrow Rapunzel picked up the broken pieces of her iPhone 6 and dropped them into a dustbin. She did a kind of robot dance to celebrate. She was always more an Android gal than an Apple. But would her stepmom listen?

(To be continued??? Haha...)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A Special Mid-Autumn Festival Tale


Of Snow White and her stepmom Lin Kok (osbeck horn nut, look at pix closely)). This story was originally written in parts as comments in a Facebook post. The story simply grew in the telling from that picture. ;-)

Part 1:

Not many people know that Lin Kok was Snow White's stepmother. She was a study mama from China made good, marrying a widowed king no less. Folks believed it was rather a rebound case, the king having lost his wife a few months prior. But rumours persisted that Lin was a gold digger. But who can blame a woman of limited means with two schooling kids?

Even the death of the beloved queen was blamed on Lin. She had eaten a bad apple and died in her sleep.

Lin hailed from Pingguo Zhai in Guiyang, one of the poorest regions in China. She helped her family sell apples at the village market. Her family had a modest apple orchard that provided an even more modest income. Over the ridge was a place called Xiaorenguo, where most of the inhabitants suffered from dwarfism. The two villages did not get along.

The folks from Xiaorenguo liked to crack nuts, but the people from Pingguo Zhai didn't like their nuts cracked, so the fights between them got more frequent and worse.

Over time, the people in Xiaorenguo remained short, the folks in Pingguo Zhai remained poor.

At one time, the latter folks even resorted to selling bad apples as good, something which the Chinese government tried to clam down on given the infamous Milk Powder Scandal that gave the country such a bad rep. That's when Lin learnt the dark arts of dabbling in poisonous apples. There's something about the red in apple that put people under a spell, much like the red lipstick on a woman and the red light some might hang in their living rooms. Bears to honey, ants to sugar, that sort of thing.

In any case, folks in China tended to make good with the color red and Lin soon found herself far removed from the poverty of her hometown. She got on the right apple wagon so to speak.

But her marriage to the king did not last long. Fed on a constant diet of Chengdu's famous mala hotpot and its fatty meats, the king soon grasped his heart and collapsed on the throne. This left the kingdom to Lin's care as Snow was too young to assume the role.

Lin could only laugh a hearty laugh and go:  "Wa eh, long chong wa eh, hahaha!"

Snow was no doubt upset, first losing her mom and then dad. She was particularly unhappy to have not learned all her mom's wonderful recipes that were handed down from her mom and moms before that.

Orphaned, she would stroll by herself in the garden and sing by the well, mesmerising creatures who happened to stop by for a drink.

Unknown to Snow, her stepmom would stare down from her chamber window and observe her by the drink hole. As she watched, her disdain became obvious. The reason was she detested Snow for looking fairer and prettier than her.

At first Lin was too busy redecorating the castle to notice. But as Snow grew older, her beauty became undeniable. Word spread in the kingdom that a new beauty was emerging, surpassing even the one from China, that is, Lin herself.

One day, Lin looked herself in the mirror and realised that something had to be done. 

Fat Ronaldo had his Half Moon haircut, Beckham his Cockatoo, Balotelli his Mohican. So why not Lin have her own special haircut to stand out?

Lin looked around and saw the statue of the cowherd boy and his water buffalo - a classic piece in most folks' aquarium and bonsai pot - on her antiquities shelf. She twirled her hair up and liked what she saw. "Hmm," she hmm-ed. "Evil." And she laughed her characteristic laughter which was both evil, witch-like and that of a smoker's.

The next day, old media reporters had a field day asking people in the kingdom what they thought of the Queen's new hair-do.

"Like gu," one said.

"Like tornado," another offered.

"Like lin kok," one observed, obviously caught up with present festivities.

A salon owner lady said it suited the Queen to a T. "She looks positively evil. I would not like to meet her at night in a dark alley," she opined. "Hiaz, when people have new money, strange ideas go to their head."


(To be continued...)

Part 2:

The onslaught of age can turn any woman anxious and it was the same with Queen Lin aka Ah Gu-soh. She was so desperate she would sneak out of the castle and see for herself the latest in facial creams and applications. Given that her skin used to be as dark as an apu-nei-nei's she would follow trends from the Indian continent. A popular whitening cream there was Lakme Perfect Radiance Intense Whitening Cream. A more affordable and one new on the market was Fair and Lovely Multi Vitamin. It was being sold by a lady at a weekend market.

Ah Gu-soh went there one long weekend when most folks had left the kingdom for holidays abroad. It bettered her chances of remaining incognito.

"Good, this one good," said the lady, who went by the name Ah Lian-soh, whose sister was Ah Huay-soh. "Buak liao sibeh sui." She said in her vernacular meaning apply already very pretty!

She then demonstrated on a water melon and presto! The green fruit became as white as a fishball!

Ah Gu-soh was impressed and ordered a dozen (not the watermelons). She also bought a so-called magic mirror from the woman. She claimed it was good for the ego and that it played and recorded MP3 too. "You could program it to say 'sui chaboh' every morning!" "It's like magic!" 

In any case, Ah Gu-soh aka Queen Lin with her new taller hairdo did indeed had need of a new mirror. 

Back at the castle, Ah Gu-soh hung the mirror on a wall in her chamber and tested it out the very next morning.

"Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"

Voice activated, the mirror replied: "You are, sui chaboh (pretty lady)."

Ah Gu-soh smiled and decided it was a very good way to start a day.

Snow saw everything from a window and was frustrated. "She's going to spoil my sponsorship deal with Laneige, I tell you," she said, already quite accustomed to talking to herself when alone. Being banished to a far dark corner of the castle did not help. She at times decided she was worse off than that cave creature Gollum, whom everyone thought was real.

Snow was especially hurt whenever sashimi (raw fish) was served for dinner, the meal itself passed through a slot in her door. She also called herself "my precious" at times, more so to remember her father by. He had often called her that and then given her a conspiratory wink. She missed her father's large eyes. They were as big as those like Frodo's, if not Gollum. They were especially big that day when he died.


(To be continued...)

Part 3:

One day, Snow decided she had had enough. While her stepmom was out at Chong Pang haggling with the market folk, she crept to her chambers and reprogrammed the mirror to say something else. At first it was "Chiak chaboh, you are the ugliest bitch of all!" but she was named Snow for a reason. Calling people names would make her Yellow Snow, not something her parents would be proud of. So Snow simply made the mirror say "Snow White. Snow White is the fairest of them all!" It was not very modest but Snow was tickled by it anyways and sniggered a schoolgirl's snigger. She was after all still a very young girl at heart and enamoured with the movie Frozen just like her peers. And her father's death was something she still could not Let (It) Go.

Ah Gu-soh returned to the castle her face in patches from the many creams she tried on. She quickly threw herself at the mirror - not unlike how a cougar might pounce on a toyboy - and demanded: "Wa sui boh?" The mirror replied, "Buay sui buay sui. Snow White jin jiak sui!" (Not pretty, not pretty, SW is really pretty!)

For a moment Ah Gu-soh stared dumbly at the mirror not sure what was going on. But when the mirror again gave the same answer, she jumped up from her bed and confronted the mirror, pulling a muscle as a result. "Ow, ow, limbeh....(wincing) tan lu si!" cursed her, seemingly wanting to strangle the uncooperative mirror.

The mirror it quickly went dark out of fear. More than just a playback recorder it was equipped with the latest OS from Apple. Fearing further the queen's wrath, it swiftly retreated to the safe confines of The Cloud where he could ogle at the nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebs at without care (their accounts somehow hacked and data stolen). But what he wanted most to do was meet the sexy OS from the movie Her.

"Snow must die!" screamed Ah Gu-soh somewhat unreasonably and a tad too venomously. The horns on her head strangely screwed a little tighter as if to reflect her uptight emotions. A bird on the windowsill saw this and promptly fainted, falling a few stories onto a flowerbed before being snatched away by a hungry cat. Horns can kill, as any seasoned bull runner at St Fermin in Pamplona can tell you.

But the higher-ups would never get their hands dirty and so Ah Gu-soh called for her fave huntsman whom she knew had a thing for her high cheek bones. He was blond and his name was (unsurprisingly) Brad. 

When the huntsman knew he was being summoned, he pulled on his tightest regulation leather pants and rushed to see the queen. "My Queen, what can I do for you, " he said, his leather pants squeaking as he bent low in greeting. A part of him wanted to burst.

"Turn around, I don't need to see your butt today. I've got a job for you."

Ah Gu-soh then gave her orders. 

Brad the Huntsman in Tight Pants was not sure if he heard it right. "You want me to go tapow pig's parts?" - thinking the usual late night supper after a romp in the sack.

"No! I want you to bring back Snow's HEART, you silly!" Queen Lin aka Ah Gu-soh had no heart to call Brad worst. Although she did not consider him very bright, Brad was exceptionally handsome and well sculpted in the right places. - why the tight pants he was ordered to wear. The other huntsmen seemed less endowed.

On hearing his queen's demand, Brad was stumped for a moment. It was exactly like the time the Queen first asked him to strip to his shorts so she could 'inspect' him. "I can't have you come in here with fleas, you know!" the Queen had offered as an excuse at the time. But now that uncertain moment passed quickly. Brad realised he had little choice but to say yes.

"Yes, my Queen, your wish is my command!"

Brad was about to leave when his Queen cooed, "But there's plenty of time still," and patted her bed to signal for Brad to approach. Brad responded like a well-trained puppy and happily squeaked his way forward, knees knocking, his tight pants barely able to hold at the seams. Apparently it wasn't the first time and for the moment at least, it helped Brad forget his new macabre task.

(To be continued...)


Part 4:

In a remote part of the castle, a young girl was giggling and happy. No, she wasn't doing what most girls her age did, that is, explore the wet and dark corners of some personal dungeon. Snow was pleased to have made her stepmom unhappy; it was not often she got a chance to do just that.

"See how you like that," she said, shaking her delicate fist in the direction of her stepmom's chambers. After that, Snow calmed down and took out her loom band kit to begin making a nice colored rubberband friendship band for a squirrel by the well. Being upset with stepmom usually got her all bothered - a feeling she did not quite enjoy. Snow is always pure at heart, her father had often reminded her when he was still alive. There's greater reward in forgiving, he had said.

But Snow told her father that snow could kill too, recalling the winter she had first picked up a frozen robin. She remembered too the bird her BFF Fiona had burst into a thousand pieces one day in the meadow singing in her alto voice. "Ah ah ah..." and poof! The bird was gone.

Could I do that? Burst Queen Stepmother into a thousand pieces with my song?

Snow concluded that she couldn't. With Ah Gu-soh's size she would have to do a Susan Boyle and sing opera. She didn't have so strong a voice nor the same huge bosom and the necessary air capacity.

But Snow's voice was still magical in some ways. Whenever she sang, little animals, kind animals would gather around. She wouldn't mind it so much if they didn't leave all their crap and poop behind. But at least the dwarves were contracted to clean up the place for her. And they would sing while doing it - nasty poop not withstanding. Dwarves are weird, she concluded. And they would tell her the strangest tales.

"If you go to the land of Zirconia, the streets are literally littered with diamonds. So much so that they cannot be bothered if you took them or not!"

"Our women grow beards too!"

"We men menstruate as well!" (No wonder they are always so grumpy!)

"Short men make the best lovers!" (A trait Snow could not imagine in her future Prince Charming (i.e. the shortness). He would have to be tall, dark, handsome and.... Snow could not bring herself to articulate. Only to acknowledge a trait common with guys in tights.)

Just as Snow thought her Prince Charming had burst through the door, she recovered from her daydreaming to see Brad the Huntsman in Tight Pants standing at the threshold. 

"Come," he said, in as casual a voice as he could muster. He was, after all, wearing  some very tight pants that made his voice trill 'different'.

"Okayyyy," Snow replied, eyes rolling at the oft-perceived clumsy but pretty huntsman. She didn't believe for a second that the man hunted at all! It was probably the costume that drew him to the job.

Brad led Snow into the nearby forest all the while thinking hard of the opportune time to bring up the subject of acquiring her heart. It was not something one gave up easily unless for love, he surmised. And he had given his heart out many times. The latest being to Ah Gu-soh, however impossible that seemed. It might all be about sex, but hey, a guy could feel love too!

Secretly, Snow brought along her can of 'OFF' anti-mozzie spray. It would keep the mosquitoes away and double up as a pepper spray should Brad behaved inappropriately with her. There's already too many paedophile cases in the media these days, thought Snow. Even the charming and ageless Cliff Richard was implied! Dang.

"Snow, please do not be afraid. What I am about to ask of you, is something you have and can surely give."

What? thought Snow, hard. Is he thinking of my pure-as-snow virginity? Snow drew her legs together instinctively as she thought of this.

She picked up a stout branch and brandished it in front of Brad. "My virginity is reserved for someone," she said. "Someone charming."

"What? No! I just want your heart. Afterwards you can go and do as you please," said Brad, not realising his Dumb Blond moment.

"My heart? What the.... Did the Queen put you up to this?" Snow asked, widening her eyes in disbelief. Snow also picked up her jaw and spoke some more.

"Brad, my dad was kind to you. Can you just let me go?!"

"Er, I guess so." Brad could never refuse anything a girl asked of him. He was sweet that way, why he wound up being easy cougar meat. 

"But I need to bring back a heart!"

Just then a squirrel ran past. "Take his!" Snow shouted. 

"Too small!"

A pig appeared from behind a tree. "His!" Snow pointed, somewhat in desperation.

"Too hard to catch!"

Wait, Snow told Brad the Huntsman. She told him she had something in her pocket that morning and forgot to take it out. It was a rubber heart she had snitched from a MOH Health Screening Carriage when it rolled by a year ago. Snow maybe pure at heart, but she too had her moments of weakness like most kids. Like her peers, it started with stealing candies and then pocket money.

"Here take this," Snow said as she showed Brad her pinched play heart.

"Will it work?" Brad asked, surprising Snow. Brad usually accepted whatever was asked of him with little question.

"Just get some red sauce from that Mutton Steak Indian stall by Sa Beh Lor - Three Horse Carriage Way - and smear it all over. It will look like blood."

"Thanks, Snow. I really didn't know what to do. I've never hunted, you know."

"I know," said Snow, softness in her eyes. Brad was after all just a DBG, dumb blond guy. "Now you go. Here, take my panty. Say I put up a struggle and you ripped it off."

Brad studied his hands. In one was a rubber heart, the other a slightly soiled panty. What to make of this, he wondered. It doesn't even rhyme! What was that song about the sanitary......

Snow looked up the forest path and skipped along. For once, she felt really free. Free from the confines of the castle, free from her sadness. A freedom that was also afforded by a discarded undergarment. Her final thought as she disappeared round the bend was: "I shud have done this much earlier!" The forest seemed to agree as it whipped up a whoosh of a breeze. "Oooh!" Snow cooed, doing a Marilyn Monroe Over An Air Vent pose. If the paparazzi were there, cameras would click, flashes would go off. But as it was an enchanted forest, only a unicorn neighed and a wood fairy farted. A girl in a red hood watched as she herself was watched by a wolf in garters. Ah, what a handsome huntsman that is, she sighed, admiring Brad. Will he be my hero some day?

(To be continued...)

Part 5: 

As daylight faded, Snow was beginning to feel hungry and a little worried. Where to sleep, where to bathe? Ahead a very colorful hut stood. It seemed to be made of candy. A bunch of familiar dwarves were tearing it down. 

"Hey, fancy meeting you guys here," Snow said, trying to sound like a supervisor not spying on his charges.

"Dead lady in oven. Hiaz, the old shud not stay alone lah. Die aledy also no one know." The dwarf who said this then took a bite off the roof he was holding. "Hmm, not bad. taste like that Reber Mozart chocolate that I like. Must talk to Cheoh Boo about this." With that, he scratched his butt and walked off.

Snow twisted a knob off the door and bit into it. "Hmm, rum ball, nice." Pretty soon, she was full and sat down to watch the dwarves cart off the rest of the icing sugar grout, the M&M tiles, maltese beads and whole Lindt sideboards.

She remembered the dead old lady. She featured strongly in stories she shared with Hanzel and Gretel when they were just kindergarten mates. They had thought she was an evil witch that liked to cook and eat children. Another story that went around was about huntsmen beheading children to use their heads to build Kallang Bridge.

Snow never bought into those stories although she was worried one time when Hanzel and Gretel disappeared for a long time. Turned out they had run away to Legoland, where magical bricks built themselves into fantastic but oblong shapes.

Bricks? I rather play with Barbie, Princess Snow attested, although her legs were not as long, her face not as sharp. She looked more like Licca, that Japanese Barbie-like plastic doll with the rounder face.

"Snow, are you coming?" said a dwarf named Gimli. "Light is fading and we hear there are wolves about in these parts. They wear garters and pimp shoes and listen to 50 Cents. Don't play play."

Snow accepted Gimli's offer and tagged along, even singing their favourite workalong song, YMCA, written by some village people.

The dwarves did not ask Snow why she was so deep in the forest at that hour, only assuming she was having domestic troubles.... again. It was a well know fact amongts the castle help. The Queen could be a bitch they know. After all, they worked for her.

"The mirror's not clean enough!"
"The apples on the dining table got no shine!"
"My throne room smart toilet broke down again!"

The dwarves accepted all the Queen's ranting without complaint. Hey, she paid us in Zirconias, so we better keep our mouths shut!

As last light fell, Snow and the dwarves finally reached their cottage. It had a scratched round green door and circular windows. "We bought it from a Hobbit fella who went off on an adventure," said Big Nose, whose best friend, Noddy, was a page boy at the castle.

"We dismantled it from The Shire and brought it here. Cute, eh? And it was the right size for us dwarves too!"

Snow looked round and immediately her eye fell on a golden ring. Trust a girl who likes pretty things to do just that! Snow picked it up and studied the inside ring. There was an inscription of the owner's name in some strange but not unfamiliar tongue. Monkey God King, it read.

Snow decided to try the outsized ring on her head. It immediately shrank to fit her size. Cool, Snow murmurred, and continued to rummage through the dwarves' things for something just as magical, which was not very polite. Dwarves usually kept their things hidden in caves or dungeons deep below ground.

In that chest were all sorts of trinkets, not excluding The Hat, Race Car, Dog, Boot, etc, from Monopoly. Soon Snow got bored and asked where she should sleep. All the dwarves wanted to say, With me! With me! but leader Big Nose glared at them to behave. Snow was after a guest, and he did not want trouble from the Queen. He has had enough trouble from Robin Hood, who kept asking for protection money to fuel, he guessed, a gambling habit. After that ugly casino ship marooned on MBS (a nearby hillock), folks have been flocking to its gaming tables hoping to strike it rich and buy a castle. Or a baron title or two. But most became poor, like the village lad Andy, whose dad betted heavily on soccer games. Germany would win the World Cup, he'd said. And sure he was right that time. But he lost it all again on Man U's first EPL match. That club has been disappointing a lot of folks recently, both fairy and ordinary muggers, losing matches they shouldn't and setting embarassing records. Even the magician/tactician they hired from Holland could not help. Wizard Giggs might have to put on his magic boots again. Or call on Peter Pan, that ageless wonder.

Snow took the top bunk of a double decker (there were seven dwarves, so one spare bed) and immediately fell asleep. Dwarf Pang Tang, who slept below, refused to sleep there that night. "Sway ah," he said, "to sleep under a girl with no panties on."

The last dwarf who did that, Dwarf Uppity Skirt, fell into a hole in a mine never to be found again. Fellow miners said he had his eyes on something else and never watched his step.

(To be continued...)

Part 6: 

Brad had just returned to the castle when he was summoned by his Queen eager to find out the conclusion of his task.

His tight pants was still tight but his discomfort lay elsewhere. What if the Queen discovers his betrayal? A bead of nervous sweat rolled down the side of his head.

Brad then quickly opened the tapowed pack of Mutton Steak and rolled the rubber heart into its gravy. The sauce was a sickly dark red more like Dulux than Al Amin. He then plonked the thing into a clear polystyrene bag and squeaked his way to the Queen's chambers.

"My, my, Brad. You are looking better the handsome and courageous huntsman I can depend on," said Ah Gu-soh, her eyes sparkling with new found lust.

If not for his tight pants, Brad the Huntsman would have 'Let It Go' there and then. He was THAT nervous.

The Queen went on: "I know, darling, I asked you to do the impossible. You poor poor thing. Look how exhausted you are." 

Ah Gu-soh slid off her bed and dabbed at Brad's sweating forehead with her iced towel. It calmed Brad down a lot and he began to be intoxicated by her perfume yet again - a peculiar bouquet of apple scent and bonito flake. Brad, for some reason, loved the 'lao chaboh' smell. Maybe because he was breastfed by a middle-aged woman when his own mom was busy selling Tupperware door to door.

"Here's the heart that you wanted," Brad said, holding up a plastic bag to the light. "It's rather yucky!"

"Ooh...let me see, let me see," said Ah Gu-soh, eager to seal the fate of Snow. She took the bag and turn it around. "Looks quite large for a girl's heart, doesn't it?" 

"Well, you know what they say about her, right? Like father, like daughter. Both were rather generous. And generous people tended to have big hearts!" Brad was quite pleased with his reasoning even though he knew not where it all came from. His bladder was tight, the tension killing him.

"Ok, let's put this yucky thing away." With a flourish, Ah Gu-soh threw that bag of bloody heart into a pretty mooncake container, one that she had recycled from past festivals. It was rather fitting as it was adorned with the picture of Chang Er, that a girl who gave her heart to someone only to float to the moon to live with a rabbit. She probably would have liked a cat or chicken. At least the latter could lay an egg. Single yolk, of course. Alas, The Moon Represents My Heart, Chang Er must have pined over the years. She sometimes met a woodcutter who was more interested in his career than mess with the only girl on the moon. A typical ancient nerd.

"I think you deserve a special reward," said Ah Gu-soh to Brad, who was so relieved he forgot to suck in his stomach, his six pack collapsing into one. 

"Do take off your pants and slide into this," encouraged the Queen. It was a sarong made with new climate-cool material. A Nike in the Kampung concept. Brad was glad. And like a Roman couple dressed in toga, he and the queen luxuriated in each other's presence and fed each other gua chi (melon seed). Snow's barbaric heart surgery was soon forgotten.

Back at the cottage, Snow's first week with the dwarves was not going so well. A girl living with seven guys is never a good idea. There was bound to be issues. The dwarves did not like Snow and her new found love of nudity and feminist liberation. At the dinner table, she would sit like a kopitiam Ah Soh with a foot on the chair seat. She also refused to bathe, causing a stink in the bunkhouse. And she took to smoking a pipe like the dwarves.

Big Nose was worried that she might soon grow a beard too! A snow beard. You know how girls tend to synchronise their menstrual cycle when they live together? Well, Snow was syncing hers with the men dwarves, although not all could give blood the way she did. Men dwarves just nosebled on a monthly basis. And their beard growth became tandem too. So they all went to the barber at the same time, much like how women tended to all go to the toilet during high tea.

Big Nose decided to have a word with  Snow, who by now was dressed more like Jane in Tarzan then a princess waiting for her Prince Charming. She again had one foot on her seat and smoking a pipe, a cockerel brand one from Cogolin, France. Wow, high end, admired Big. Where Snow got that, he had no idea.

"Snow, we need to talk."

"What about?" Smoke rings in the shape of a car floated up from Snow's lips. It looked like the one from Thelma and Louise.

"Er, I think we need to plan your comeback."

"A goback to what?" Snow was like a kid on marijuana with no idea of a past. Only the present dragon to chase mattered.

"Er, we heard Prince Charming is on his way!"

"WHAT? WHEN?" Snow was suddenly jogged out of her reverie. "ARE YOU SERIOUS?"

Big Nose kept up with the pretense. "Soon. Some say in a week."

Snow was in flux, feeling like a tomboy not sure if a dress was still the fitting thing to wear. Then all of a sudden, her Princess genes kicked in and she threw down her pipe and messed with her hair. "Quick, I need to get ready. I need to bathe, do my hair, wear make up...."

Big Nose was glad to see Snow's Kopitiam Ah Soh vanquished. He hoped to not see her again. Snow as Snow was much much better. He needed her to like Zirconias again.

But the truth of the matter was that Prince Charming was indeed on his way through the woods in his quest for a bride. Although it was easier to use a dating agency, Prince thought inbreeding a bad thing. Just look at the Austrian-Hungary royal household. The extreme jut-out of the chin was a sure sign that once upon a time, an uncle married a niece, a close cousin bedded a close cousin. No, his bride would be fair and beautiful and sing with a delicate voice that'll mesmerise forest animals. It's easier to hunt that way.

Prince Charming then arrived at a crossroad and studied his map. A new kingdom lay ahead. Beside the castle legend he had scribbled 'Snow White, 16, pretty (some say), can sing'. He decided to head that way and check her out. And so into the enchanted forest he rode. Up on a branch, a man in tights watched as Prince Charming passed by below. In his hand was a long bow and on his back a quiver of arrows. Tucked in his belt, a copy of Poker for Dummies - How to Win with a Straight Face. Robin of Loxley decided it was time again someone helped in his gambling tuition. His expressionless face looked botoxed, but one could never be sure in the tricky light of an enchanted forest.

(To be continued...)

Part 7:

When Prince Charming woke up, he found himself tied to a chair. A dull pain radiated from the back of his head. He surmised he must have been knocked out cold.

In front of him were a few merry men in tights. Skinny ones, not so skinny ones, but all bulging at the same place. That made him nervous. Was he homophobic, he wondered?

"Ah, our guest has awoken," said the man known as Robin, he of smaller bulge, longer bow. 

"I demand you release me at once!" demanded Prince, who looked around and saw that he was in some sort of treehouse. A one-room masionette.

"Ah, feisty, eh? The other guys in the room sniggered and laughed. They must have seen it all before.

Robin took out his dagger and tapped Prince on the underchin. Prince instinctively flinched away.

"I'm right, no? That you are some sort of a royal from the other kingdom - the one that the Thaksin fella ran away from."

Prince did not reply. It was true. He was from that place. A place known for its warm smiles, spicy soups and much elephant dung. But now that it has been taken over by the military, he was glad to go away for a while. At least no more trouble from the monochrome shirted people. He wished it was back to the old days when folks went shirtless and wore just a sarong.

Robin straightened up and pondered. Prince could see that he was a tall chap. Strapped to the chair, he was now eyeball to ball with Robin's bulge. He wanted to look away but was also strangely magnetised. He wondered if the other men in the room felt the same. They all looked clean cut with good skin and slim bods. THAT look.

Prince tried to recall the prettiest girl he has ever dated so as to keep gender focused. But all that came to mind were their even prettier brothers. Dang!

Robin emptied Prince's saddlebag and showed him the contents. There was a map, a leatherbound organiser, a compass, tubes of Dermalogica skin moisturiser and gel wash, a Keune hair hydration spray and little else. Oh, there was an iPhone but since it was borrowed from another story, it shouldn't count.

Robin watched the phone disappear in his hand and was amazed. "What the...."

"What was that?!"

"What was what?" asked Prince, somewhat perplexed. He thought the bulge spoke but it was from another organ higher up.

"That!" said Robin as he thrusted his hands in front of Prince. "That glassy thing just disappeared!"

Prince then remembered what was in his bag. "Oh, that. I found it along the way. Useless. There was a kill switch in it. All the new phones have that feature. Can't even sell it to the Cash Converter shops."

Robin stared hard at Prince as he could not comprehend what the man was saying. He might as well have spoken in Thai.

"What?" Prince asked Robin, this time really in Thai.

"Seng ti?" Prince repeated.

"Kenna sai," exclaimed Robin, surprised that Prince spoke gibberish.

"Meun-er?" translated the Prince.

"Meun-er your freaking head!" exclaimed Robin, still wondering what was happening. He touched his scabbard and found his dagger missing. "Now wait a minute...."

Pretty soon, one by one, stuff began to disappear from the room. In a matter of minutes, all that was left were a bunch of guys in full monty covering their genitals cowering in a corner of the room.

Prince, on the other hand, was still in his chair but the binding rope was gone. He was as surprised as Robin, who felt a chill through the window and took a step closer to his merry men.

It was indeed a funny sight, and a rather quick reversal of fortune for Prince. He rubbed the back of his head and wondered if the blow had anything to do with his new abilities.

Sure, he wanted to see the men naked but...Wait, was that it??? His plain wishing?

He decided to try it one more time. Give them goldilocks, said Prince in his head. Poof! Robin and his naked not-so-merry men now spotted goldilocks. 

Prince laughed an uncontrollable laugh. And laughed again.

Robin and his men looked at each other and their eyes were wide with fearazement - a mixtrure of fear and amazement. One fella uncupped his hands and saw that his pubes were gold down there too. He wanted to cry.

"Now, now....No need to get all upset," said the Prince, who suddenly remembered the girl he was thinking of a moment ago. Poof! Robin and his men were now dressed in frocks.

Genuine fear invaded their faces. One of Robin's men fainted and slumped to the floor.

"Hmm, I think I will have some warm porridge and some Teochew moi dishes. It's been a long day. I'm Teochew-Thai you know."

Soon the treehouse was furnished with a long table and chairs and steaming bowls of porridge. There were plates of stewed peanuts, glass cabbage and chicken feet in fermented red wine - his favourite.

"Hmm, this all reminds me Goldilocks and the Three Bears story," said Prince as he surveyed the whole scene.

On hearing that, Robin and his men all looked at each other with eyes wide. No one wanted to be a bear, and yet, that was precisely what happened. Robin suddenly developed falsies, the rest had bear masks on. They all slumped to their chairs in relief. Robin felt his falsies and let out a shriek. He promptly fainted.

"Move him to the bed then," said Prince. 

The 'bears' did as they were told.

And so Prince ate his porridge and bid the 'bears' farewell. They watched him leave and then turned their attention to their fallen leader who was now curled up fast asleep on the bed dressed as Goldilocks. On the table were three bowls of porridge that was fast becoming cold. A smaller bowl was left half eaten.

Prince must have been hungry and took seconds. Who would have blamed him after such a day?

(To be continued...)

Part 8:

In the morning, Queen Ah Gu-soh woke up feeling well fed and contented, not unlike a cougar after a feast of young, blond meat.

Feeling so wonderful, she did not even need reassurance from her mirror genie that she's the most fairest person in the whole kingdom (now that Snow has been taken out of the picture).

Then again, old habits die hard. And she was beside herself to ask again.

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" 

The mirror did not respond, did not stir.

"MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL, WHO IS THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?"

The mirror remained unperturbed until Ah Gu-soh was about to fling her comb at it. It then glimmered to life.

"Sorry," it apologised, "I thought I had the wrong candidate. She was a smelly, pipe-smoking kopitiam Ah Soh."

"My lady, the fairest, sui-est, is still Snow."

Saying that, the mirror ducked (well, as well as a mirror could). In reality, it simply turned itself off as quickly as it could. A heavy comb came flying its way.

"What the #$%^&* you mean!" screamed Ah Gu-soh, in colorful pasar malam language. "Didn't we just get rid of her?!!!"

A maid who was just carrying a tray of breakfast into the room panicked and dropped everything, causing a clatter so loud it scared the cat that scared the footman who accidentally set of the fire alarm.

The wails of the queen became drowned out by the extremely loud wails of the alarm, which was made of five cats on heat, two monkeys with balls in clamps, and an ostrich with rash on its bottom. Understandably, the sound they made was quite something.

Huntsmen Brad was just about to finish packing a suitcase when he heard that ungodly sound. Oh no, he thought. The Queen must have realised that he faked Snow's death! How now, brown cow??? Panic set in.

Brad then quickly grabbed his suitcase and fled by a secret passageway that led to the back forest, the same way he had led Snow out not so long ago. But progress was slow as his pants was rather tight. Rats looked up to see which relative was squeaking by.

Queen Ah Gu-soh was so angry the horns on her head twisted some more, making them look more menacing. She screamstructed (i.e. screaming out instructions) at her guards to bring Brad to her, and when the guards returned empty handed, she let out a roar so fierce the candles in the room melted. It would take some counselling for them to light up again. Magic candles have very sensitive wicks.

Slowly, sense returned. Ah Gu-soh reached for the mooncake container with the Chang Er portrait and took out the bloody plastic bag inside. She squeezed the organ for feel and realised that she had been tricked with a rubber one. She flinged the whole thing away in disgust, spraying her chamber interior with blood that was actually Indian mutton steak gravy. A pet cat snugged out to lick, turning its furry face into a macabre Joker from one Batman movie. An evil pet looking like its evil owner. Sans horns.

Ah Gu-soh let out a roar again (it hurt more candles), this time in frustration, and set down to consider her options. 1) Reprogram the iMirror; 2) Make use of her knowledge of the Dark Arts. 3) Do more facials so she'll become the fairest in the land.

After about two cries of the mockingbird, Ah Gu-soh decided 2) would be the surest way to get the job down. As for the iMirror, she would sell it to the next karang-guni fella to knock on her castle door.

With a sweep of her black cape, Ah Gu-soh stiffened her resolve and disappeared into a secret passage in her chamber leaving her candles cowered, pet cat halloweened, and breakfast on the floor. She will go to her witches' room to download recipes for making poison apples and Cosmoprof tips for enchanted forest disguises. Snow, you just watch, she determined. I will be the fairest of you all yet. 

In a corner of the passage, a wise owl hooted. "Lao kway bu buay cheng ee." Which in bird talk translated to 'Once a feather fades, one must accept one's fate."


(To be continued...)

Part 9:

At the dwarves' cottage, Snow was back to her old frocky self, much to the dismay of feminist elves in the forest. One broke her bow in anger, another swore celibacy for life, which in elvish terms can be many thousands of years (she might have to rethink this one). 

The dwarves were all out at the mines digging or telling filthy jokes. Snow was just putting the finishing touches (garnishes) to her Hainanese chicken rice when there came a knock on the door.

"Ka-rang gooni," an old crackling voice called out. "Newspaper, por jua, gu sar kor!"

Ah, the karang guni man! Snow cleaned her hands and rushed to the storeroom - an entity created by HDBians to keepsafe their unused stuff. Inside the storeroom were quite a few old pots and pans, pickaxes and handsome elvish disguises no doubt deployed to sneak into elf-only woodland parties. There was stuff left by the missing dwarf, Uppity Skirt, including a hidden camera that Snow didn't know existed.

Snow dumped some of the things into a sack and called out, "Karang guni, tan jeh!" (Mr Karang guni, wait!)

Snow then opened the door and was surprised to find an old lady standing there. With her was a cargo trolley of newspapers and old clothes, topped by a broken fan.

"Aunty, I didn't know it was you," said Snow, who was expecting Rubbishstiltskin, brother of Rumpelstiltskin, who made his rounds every two weeks.

"Ah, lang lui (pretty girl), that uncle cannot come, so I am here," replied the old lady, who, with her crooked nose, pimply face and big hungry eyes and bent hat made her look like a witch. But Snow, in her heart of gold, saw an old lady weather-beaten like an old oak tree. She even had bird crap on her shoulder that Snow was trying to clean off with a wet-one in her hand.

"Ah, thank you, kind girl," said the witch-like creature. She sniffed the air and said, "Chicken rice, is it? That reminds me of my days as an air stewardess in SIA, First Class. I think I still have my kebaya somewhere. But since I got involved with a karang guni man and changed jobs, life has never been the same. The things a girl would do for love, eh?" The old witch's eyes beamed with a mixture of sadness and gladness, the sort you see in old people when they recall the past or want money from you.

But Snow was young and didn't know. She thought the old woman liked her chicken rice and invited her in.

"Come in, come in. I've cooked more than enough for two aledy."

The old lady entered the cottage and looked around. The place was neat and tidy, not like most dwarf cottages she had seen. Even the windows had curtains that were frilly. It was only that fella, Tolkien, who thought all dwarves lived underground. Not true. And they also liked rice flavoured with chicken fat and lemon grass.

"Tell me, tell me. How did you cook it? Did you run the chicken through cold water? That's the Cantonese way, you know," said the old bird with the crooked nose. 

"I don't know. My mom was Cantonese-Hainanese, so I really don't know how it is really done. All I know is that it is delicious. Here, try some," said Snow, scooping a plateful for the old coot. She seemed to have gotten the chilli right as the old witch applied copious amounts of it on her rice, as well as dark sauce.

"Ah, solid deh," commented the old pimple wonder, masticating with delight. "Not often you find a young girl making chicken rice so well."

Snow blushed at that, her cheeks turning apple red.

"Would you like yellow mustard with the pak cham gai," asked Snow. "My mom says the older folks all liked that."

"Ah, you have? Thanks, that's very thoughtful," said the old karang guni lady, a little miffed at the 'old' reference. But her eyes were affixed on Snow's crimson cheeks. The colour reminded her of what she had in her bag and of her mission, which was to be the fairest person in the kingdom.

When the meal was over and dessert about to be served, the old coot took out an apple from her bag. It was a Granny Smith but the size of a Fuji.

"I really enjoyed the meal and it brought back many memories of my flying days. Here, I would like to offer you this as a token of my appreciation."

Snow looked at the apple in wonder. It seemed  years since she last had one. Back at the castle, there was an apple tree growing in the garden. But Stepmom refused to let anyone go near nor eat its fruits, saying it was her own 'special' tree. Even the birds avoided it.

A knife was brought out and the apple cut into quarts. Snow took a bite, smiled, and slumped to the ground.

At that, the old coot/karang guni lady/old witch threw off her hat and laughed an evil laugh. "Finally! I am the fairest of 'em all in the land!" Turns out, she was actually Ah Gu-soh in disguise. The apple was poisoned and put anyone who took a bite to sleep. Within 24 hours, if no A&E service was available, the person would die.

The old witch Ah Gu-soh snitched one last piece of pak cham gai and left the cottage, careful not to be seen. In the yard was left Rubbishstiltskin's cargo trolley of preloved stuff and Uppity Skirt's things, including a hidden camera in a walking cane that had a red light winking.


(To be continued....)

Part 10:

In the forest, a young prince lay on the ground with a bump on his head, his horse frightened but nibbling on grass nearby.

Prince rubbed the back his head and felt a dull pain. He tried to remember what happened. Did he just dream about that band of naked men who liked to draw bow and shoot arrows? Or was it just his subconscious questioning his gender orientation now that his mind was on a big fairy tale wedding to a copy-mold princess?

Prince was not sure. He remembered there was an altercation of sorts with some armed men on their way to fight for ISIS, but after an old wizard in white robe intervened, everything was a flash of brilliance and little else. Vaguely he recalled the old man leaning into a half-conscious him and whispering: "Your real name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, nephew of Blowhisownhorn."

He had not seen Uncle Blow since the last municipal elections some years back.

In any case, he groggily got to his feet and mounted his horse. The creature wasn't too pleased about setting off again. It neighed and farted, giving the place an obnoxious peanut smell.

The forest looked enchanted. Gold twinkling lights high above in the canopy made Prince wonder if there was a magic kingdom up there. Elves, he was warned as a kid, could be tempestuous and lay irreversible magic on a person. The pet dog they had for a long time was actually Uncle Scratchalot, founder member of King Arthur's Round Table at Camelot, a camel farm converted from ostrich. But a bad trade with the elves caused him to be turned into a canine with bad skin. Well, Uncle Scratch had always had bad skin and scratched his nether regions rather indiscriminately. Might as well that spell befell him.

In any case, Prince rode through the enchanted forest without incident, perhaps glimpsing a girl in a red hood closely followed by a wolf in garters. He dismissed it as just his tender head playing tricks again. But in reality it reminded him of a long-ago trip to Amsterdam's red light district looking for 'aquarium fish'.

Soon the forest thinned to reveal an opening. Prince rode towards it. At the edge, he found a kerosene lamp hanging from a short bamboo pole. A piece of white cloth was tied to it. Did someone die? he wondered, remembering the funeral customs of a certain provincial folk.

Ahead, in a clearing, a cottage stood. Outside the cottage was a funeral cortege. Prince was suddenly reminded of the tongue twisters he used to learn as a kid, but the memory vanished as soon as he thought it.

Prince could see that some dwarves were mourning a well-dressed person lying in an open glass casket. Hmm, glass. Classy. In actuality, it was a coffin made of Zirconia. The dwarves did not scrimp on the expense.

"Hello," Prince called out, trying not to sound too cheerful given the circumstances. He then dismounted and walked to the group of short folks with the sad faces. "What happened?" he inquired.

"Our princess is dead," said the dwarf with the big nose, trying to fight back the tears. "I'll miss her nasi lemak."

"Her chicken rice," another chimed in.

"Her pork-rib-lotus-root soup," said one.

"Her snow skin mooncake," quipped yet another. 

"She was a good cook then," said Prince, mentally ticking off a list of attributes a future wife should have, out of recent habit.

The best! - the dwarves all chimed in. Before Snow arrived, they only got baked beans and bread. One special occasions, the odd woodland squirrel roasted simply with twigs of rosemary.

Prince walked over to the head of the casket and looked down. There lay a beautiful girl with rosy cheeks dressed in a frock that reminded him of the many from Disney. It had puff sleeves, a lace collar and ribbons interlaced down the whole dress length. Disney was a brand popular with princesses everywhere and so Prince surmised that the unconscious girl in front of him must have royal underpinnings. In many ways, he should know. He had been match-made to so many princesses of late that he had trouble adding them to his Facebook. But of all the gals he had met, Princess Jasmine stood out as being the best dressed. Her father Sultan Bolkiah, after all, had oil money.

Then Prince noticed something. The princess the dwarves called Snow was not dead at all. She was breathing but ever so slightly.

"Look, she's still alive," said Prince to Big Nose. 

"Yes, we know. But we do not have the antidote."

"What happened?"

And with that, the dwarves replayed the video footage shot unwittingly by Uppity's camera hidden inside the walking cane. They also brought out the leftover apple quarts which had by then turned somewhat black. A squirrel was also poisoned after having sneaked into the dining hall and taken a bite.

Prince considered all this with an eye of a CSI and approached Snow. He held her gentle wrist and took pulse the way a TCM doctor would. The beats were indeed weak.

"How many hours have passed," he asked.

"Five," said Big Nose.

"Ah, that's still alright then," Prince said. "We still within that window of opportunity."

The dwarves all looked at him in puzmazement (i.e. a mixture of puzzlement and amazement). Who is this stranger who knows the ancient art of Ta-mark and now telling them not to worry? Are good times at the dinner table not going to end after all?

"Can you do anything?" asked Big Nose. 

"Yes, I think I can. But first, I would have to kiss her."

Big Nose thought the request queer but acceded to it. Prince then motioned forward and planted a light kiss on Snow's lips. They were soft and plum like how a princess' lips should be. They were also warm. That's what Prince wanted to know. "No worries, pretty darling. I will save you," he whispered to the unconscious gal. He then reached into his saddlebag.

Out came a condom. A red-faced Prince hurriedly put it into his breast pocket. The next thing was a leather roll of slim needles which Prince carefully laid out on top of Snow. He then took each needle and gently inserted them into her arms and legs. Not long after, Snow resembled a voodoo doll whose owner had too many grievances.


Around him, the dwarves looked on in bewildazement. Who IS this chap? they all wondered. Was he truly Aragorn, son of Arathorn, nephew of.... whatever that white wizard had said one day in the enchanted forest? A man who has travelled much, learned much and one day also rule over them as a king returned?

The dwarves stood by dumbfoundedly and watched Prince as he about his acupuncture business. 

In no time, Snow began to stir. She gave out a loud fart, always good indication that she was indeed alive and kicking. Nothing like a good stink to remind everyone of your presence (said one famous Chinese doctor). 

"Quick, we need to build a hot water bath under her," commanded Prince. "We have to force the poison out of her."

And so, like a scene out of a martial arts movie (specifically Lee Ang's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Prince did to Snow what Chow Yun Fatt did to Zhang Zhiyi; he used his internal strength to force out the poison in her body. Soon Snow's head began to steam and her sweat turned from black to blue and then clear, indicating an all-clear. 

The air around the cottage once again felt fresh with the scent of Chinese prayers flowers and a young girl's naive pubescence. Big Nose should know. He had been secretly sniffing Snow's handkerchiefs admitting to having a crush and mid-life crisis. Only if dwarf women didn't have beards and that preserved canna smell, he lamented.

When all was over, Snow turned to embrace Prince. "My hero!" she said, eyes liquid in a mixture of love, affectio, appreciation and cliche.

"Awww...," sighed the dwarves. There wasn't a dried eye in the front yard. In the distance, a wolf howled as if to celebrate the miracle but it was rather stricken and macabre. Perhaps constipated.

Prince embraced Snow and felt an instant attraction. He also felt something else burgeoning and was glad. He's not gay after all!


(To be continued...)

Part 11: (The concluding chapter)

After she left Snow for dead, Queen Ah Gu-soh got herself lost in the forest for some days. She then came upon another cottage with a dead woman inside. Talk about deja-vu!

But this dead woman was much older and looked to have slipped in her toilet and died. Old people shouldn't live alone, tsked tsked Ah Gu-soh. That's one reason why Brad was always on beck and call. If old folks could not afford a cabana boy, the least they should do is install a magic mirror that could keep an eye on the all the time. A mirror genie has no union and no off days.

After surveying the place, Ah Gu-soh decided to dump the old woman's body down a backyard creek. Having accomplished that, she returned to the cottage to clean up and rest. She had barely settled down when in barged a big bad wolf in garters and white pimp shoes.

"Are you Red's grandma?" it demanded. "She owes me money."

"What?" said Ah Gu-soh, before realising she was still in her old woman disguise.

The pimp wolf took a step towards her and bared his teeth. "I hate it when one of my girls play punk!" He then promptly ate her up. Ah Gu-soh barely had time to grab her old lady pants and run, let alone let out a scream. She disappeared whole into the wolf's belly.

Feeling less aggrieved, the wolf patted his tummy and laid down leisurely on grandma's bed to wait for Red to arrive. He took out a toothpick and cleaned his teeth. There were some stubborn horn bits stuck inside somewhere.

In another part of the forest, a couple was also sitting down leisurely but around a small fire roasting a dead squirrel.

Brad mused at what Red saw in him (well, he wasn't about to complain - the girl seemed genuinely smitten and was now starring at him with puppy-love eyes). "You are so handsome," she said, and not for the very first time.

She clutched at Brad's arm tightly and laid her head down to rest on his shoulder, feeling more secure than she had in days. The episode with the big bad wolf tailing her was already relegated to forgetdom.

"Let's go to my grandma's place before it gets dark," she said, heartfelt sweet in her new- found self.

Brad kissed her forehead and said ok. He liked Red. And for a change it felt good to be the man in charge and not one being ordered to do this or that by a needy older woman with horns for hair. He shuddered to think of that bloody heart episode again. But in many ways, it made him a braver man. And he was glad to be out of those tight pants. Never was a man so relieved to be in his own trousers.

Red smelt sweet, thought Brad. The only problem was her perfume which was quite overpowering and cheap. Brad decided he would buy her some real stuff in the next town. The girl could do with some nice clothes too, not garish red ones for walking in the forest or streets.

"My grandma's place is not far from here. We should arrive in no time," said Red. And so, cloaked in new-found love, the two walked hand in hand towards Grandma's cottage. The trees took cue and gently parted ways for them. Some birds tried to join in and sing, but since they were not songbirds, they simply flapped their wings and wagged their tails, showering the two human lovebirds with unintended confetti and a possible infection of bird-flu.

Well, we all know the story. Of how Red asked the wolf what big eyes it got, big mouth, big teeth, big shoes, big di**, etc....until it tried to attack her and was put down by a huntsman.

Ok, so it was a woodcutter. But let's not split hairs. Brad did chop wood as a chore in his spare time at the castle despite being constricted by his tight pants!

And so, after meandering here and there, this tale has a happy ending for both Brad and Red, Charming and Snow. 

They all had a wonderful mid-autumn festival under the stars with Snow's snow-skin mooncake being a hit and grandma's smooth Chinese tea washing it all down. And in the end, Prince Charming aka Aragorn, son of Arathorn, nephew of Blowhishorn... did become king and ruled over the enchanted forest and its surrounding kingdom. The dwarves sold their cottage to a guy named Shrek when it became clear that global warming was going to raise sea-levels and turn the place into a worthless swamp. 

The dwarves then returned to the Misty mountains after learning that a nasty dragon there had died and left them and their relatives a horde of fortune. Not sure if the gold made them happy, but it was said the uncountable number of Zirconias certainly did. 


The End