Ah Hock gets up at about five in the morning. His wife is already up getting breakfast ready for their two school-going children. By six the children will be on their way to school on foot. The school is only a mile away so the children can get there with time to spare.
After the children have left Ah Hock pedals his tricycle to the central market. At the market, he buys all sorts of fruits and titbits that he will sell later in the day. He selects the very best fruits for he does not want to get any complaints from his customers. Then he pedals the tricycle home.
Ah, Hock is a hawker. He sells drinks, fruits, and titbits under the huge tree next to the General Post Office. So in his house, his wife helps him cut up the fruits into little pieces and arranges them neatly in an ice-packed glass cage. Ah, Hock prepares the various drinks that he sells. Together they stock up the mobile stall that Ah Hock will later pedal all the one and a half miles to the GPO. The preparation is tedious but they get it done with practiced ease.
Nine o’clock comes and Ah Hock is on his way to the GPO. He pedals slowly for he does not want to spill any drinks or lose any of the fruits and titbits. It is so easy to swerve suddenly and a lot of the apples will go flying out of the stall. So pedaling carefully he finally arrives at his destination.
There are already other hawkers there. He greets them for they are all fellow-hawkers out to make a simple living. There is a cendol-seller, a “teh-tarik” stall, a sugar-cane stall and another fruits-and-drinks seller like Ah Hock. Ah Hock stations himself at his usual place and prepares for business.
Soon the hot morning sun drives people to the stalls. His pineapple slices are a particular favorite with his customers. In an hour he has to begin slicing up more pineapples because they are sold out. Drinks too are sold quickly. Some come to buy sweets and little packets of preserved food. The post office crowd is very generous with their money. So Ah Hock and all his fellow-hawkers do a brisk business.
Lunch hour comes and droves of people pour out of the offices situated near the GPO. They make a beeline for the eating-shops nearby. Then many of them adjourn to the stalls where they quench their thirst with fruits and drinks. Ah, Hock’s hands work feverishly to cope with the increased pace of business. His wife arrives at this time to lend a hand. One person simply cannot cope with the onslaught.
Magically, the crowd disappears as lunch hour is over. There are some stragglers who come and buy a thing or two. Now, most of the customers are people who have come to the GPO. So with the diminished pace, Ah ock’s wife goes home to look after the children who would be home by then.
The sky turns dark. Rain — the hawker’s bane, is about to Ah Hock mutters a few words of prayer for good weather, but he knows that nature must do its work. Soon the raindrops come thick and fast. Ah, Hock has already covered up his stall with plastic sheets. He himself is right .in the middle of the stall, he huddled under a lame sheet of clear plastic. Nobody will be coming to the stall now; so he just sits tight and let the rain pour itself out.
When Ah Hock opens his eyes it is no longer raining. Then he realizes that he must have dozed off. it does not matter anyway. He looks at the other hawkers They are busy removing the protective plastic sheets and getting ready for business again AhHockdoestheoarne
Evening comes and fitness. brigade shows up. Joggers, walkers, and other exercisers appear to have their workout on the field behind the GPO. Unfailingly they flock to the refreshment stalls when their muscles are tired and their throats are dry. Thus once again Ah Hock and his friends are deluged by this final onslaught of customers.
By the time the fiery red sun disappears behind the GPO, Ah Hock is ready .to pedal home. He has had a great day. There is no wastage of fruits or drinks They were all sold out. Silently he thanks God for a bountiful day.
Presently he sees the lights of his home from a distance. He. is tired but happy. So ends another day of work. He thinks of his wife and children and the hot meal waiting for him in the house. The thought makes him glad. He breaks into a whistle and soon he can see his wife at the door.
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