Alvin and a dead—Mark.

Argh fuck, the phone. Fucking surveyors. At this time? It's well dark... What's the time now? Is it the weekend?

Her thoughts scrambled as she dragged herself out off bed and took three dreadful steps towards the lousy horn on the ledge of the window. The damn ringing volume cannot be adjusted. Staring at the horn for a split second did she realize no one was calling; at least not through that device. No one does anyway, except for the persistent telephone surveyors of whom one operator she was once being too polite to and hung on the line much longer than promised, of which ultimately overcooked her pasta. From then on, Ron Isi had decided never to pick it up, ever.

Just bear with the ringing.

If it was an urgent matter, she would have been contacted on her mobile phone instead. Then again, the signal in her studio is mostly low and she could not remember the last time she topped up the phone credits.

In the slight consciousness of her drowsiness, she turned around and took ten quick steps towards the other horn. It was the door buzzer that never failed to startle her every time and anytime of the day it went off. Ron felt her heart beats racing like the muzzled greyhounds after the mechanical rabbit on the dusty tracks and the piercing buzz overwhelming the cheering spectators as she picked up the receiver on the wall.

"Erh hyy dhere, ehy lyv yhn phlatt 17...ehy phorgord mah kehys...erh..khan eyw bahhz mey yhn?"

He explained on the other end of the line behind the damn door which happened to be next to her window, next to her bed. No, she thought to herself as she unlocked the door for the stranger, her neighbor.

Not the record player? No, I've not gotten one on Ebay yet. Oh well...

Ron murmured. Yet more baffled was what Nana said as they stood by the swimming pool, stunned as they gazed at the body of Mark's floating in the middle—very dead.

"Lets go for lunch now."

Nana commented like nothing was out of the ordinary, as if Mark was not her child, as if it was normal to find dead persons under the covers of your private pool.

I'd only wanted to go for a swim all that time. Why am I the one who'd found him—dead. What's up with the bundles of dollar bills hidden between the wooden planks? Who were the 2 persons who vanished before everyone else turned up? Her sticking her fingers in the holes of the pages of the book does not make any sense. Do I know her? I might have. This is as disastrous as me walking away from an arson and possibly attempted murder of an infant and a nanny. Then on a seemingly familiar street and lost for that couple of hours.

Ron could not take Mark off her mind despite all the other bizarre incidents. All purpled, his neck dislocated; not unlike a driftwood, except only unmoved. Should she have been thankful for the unexpected alarming buzzer that almost snapped her guts out of bed or off that lunch-after-dead-son-found-floating-in-your-pool situation; she was unsure.

I mean, lunch in the market could have been well satisfying, after countless days of craving for the steamed Hainanese chicken rice served with a bowl of pork and prawns dumpling soup. Yummy. Mark's dead...

She pondered as she prepared coffee over the electric hob in her kitchenette.

He was my favorite of the two. For some time at least.

Alvin and Mark, they were almost but mostly not exactly their version of the Kray Brothers decades after and on the opposite side of the world. The late 80s/ early 90s were their heydays: owners of the very first generation of mobile phones (street-named Big Brother Big labelled one's status), Porsche 911, Lotus Esprit V8, Toyota MR2, bungalow by the beach (till the government couldn't stop reclaiming the tiny island and still), countless love affairs—they were the sons of a then rather rich man who later lost mostly everything in '97 to the economic crisis (or perhaps bad judgement in the stock market).

Mark was the younger of them two boys and youngest of the five children. Tall, tan and suave, he won the hearts of his love pursues and of his little niece, Ron Isi. She would sit on the steps admiring him as Aunt Ann adjusted the back tuck of his perfectly ironed shirt. The scent of his eau de cologne mixed with the traces of cigarettes he smoked, the polished black oxfords and gelled back hair. Ron had recognized these traits as of the perfect man.

Alvin was quite the opposite. Elder but much shorter and smaller in built, he was light-complexioned and slightly too skinny. As a child, Ron was fearful of this other uncle and she would not greet him like she did with Mark. He seemed to her as constantly being angry and the bickers with her Mahtr distanced her more. Nothing good came out of his rowdiness. His lovely but almost always upset wife was pregnant, drinking and smoking at the same time.

Patre would sit in the lounge, in the dark, in the middle of the day. I could hear the ice cubes shaken in the glass and I would see the cigarette smoke from behind the high-backed rattan roller chair. I didn't understand why she was suffocating my cousin. (Baby Cuz is 20 as of this summer and still kicking, that's alright.)

And all, he kept a baseball bat in all the cars he came to drive. Alvin was no baseball player type but sure was more of the road bully in the eyes of a little one at that time Ron was caught between the commotion on the road with the family. The 'after party' was at the police station but it was all alright too as there was a family friend as a lawyer in the district.

Wait. The night Alvin drunk drove himself home safely, he ran over Rosa (our beloved angsty Rottweiler Metzgerhund) while trying to reverse park his damn MR2. She cried like an infant and lost her hind leg after the accident With Thanks to Alvin.

It took quite many years for Ron to apprehend Alvin's loyalty, honor and protective instinct for his family and friends.

"Tell me where he lives and my brothers will whack him hard."

He assured his recently heartbroken niece. And if that was not enough,

"Which estate? It's okay, I'll burn down all the motorcycles parked in the area. Doesn't matter which."

He stood half-naked in his underpants, cigarette on his lips and a chain with too many Thai buddhist amulets on his boney chest as he vouched for her protection like a revengeful sworn brother in an italian mafia.

Alvin and Mark had the turn of their lives when their dad lost in stocks but that did not bring down them down for the brief period after. They grew up with silver spoons and sure were not ready to give up the glamourous lifestyle so easily and quickly. After all, Mark had a thousand or more guests invited previously for his wedding banquet at The Neptune, married a beautiful wife, drove a fancy blue Lotus that sticks out when parked in the not so fancy estate he went to 'work' daily—everyone (okay, not all but many) knew him. His ego was not to be challenged.

Day after day, he sat around the front of his dad's corner shop. A pack of Marlboro Reds on the shoulder under the tee shirt, bermuda shorts and a pair of flip flops. He sat there; silent, if like a worried bird.

I wondered what was on his mind.

Well, it seemed Mark had the perfect plan up his sleeve after days of sitting around when he demanded his share of his undead father's will. Empathetically they understood his desire to be successful on his own terms yet unsure of his disrespectful methods of acquiring his dreams. A spoiled child he always was, he got what he asked for. Mark went into setting up his car mechanical garage for couple of months—did not work out. Then he went into the snooker/arcade games/illegal underground casino business—did not work out, either.

Those days, I'd loved going through that discreet black-tinted glass door on the ground floor of a factory building into this other paradise of Puzzle Bobble and electronic pinball machines. Cold air-conditioned away from the tropical heat, the dim lights and stench of cigarette smoke, the sound effects from the slot machines and 8-ball stuck down the pool table—it was underground, it was what adults do, it was fun.

Ron recollected, as she took a drag from her morning fag.

It was part of the 5500 sq-ft that belonged to Grandpa's furniture showroom/ workshop. Goodness, I remember controlling my bladder just not to have to pass the dark, moldy and cobwebs infested hallway that led to the toilets out back.
For the couple of years that Mark left and lost touch with the family, he had divorced his wife whom they both share the love for a daughter who Ron had met her briefly when she was a few months old then the next time a few years later, of which Ron could not remember her face nor her name. Mark had went missing in action from the family as he spent some time in the remand prison for regular petty thefts and nights in the looney bin. In the last recent years, Ron saw him once in the blue moon on occasions she went home. Mark was no longer the same person Ron thought him to be as through the eyes of a child she once was. He lost his built, his tan cheeks pale and sunken like a junkie, his smile seldom and dissimilar, his droopy eyes—the state of despondency.
I wondered what was on his mind.
Ron thought as she sat across Mark on the dinner table, awkwardly just the two of them. Both were afraid or perhaps intentionally avoiding eye contact. No longer the man she idolized, she'd wished he was done with his meal so she could enjoy hers. She felt uneasy and did not know what to say as she watched him held the bowl to his lips and gobbled down the last bits of rice.
Had he felt uncomfortable too?
Those bad-mannered thoughts could not be controlled but Ron felt the bliss in Nana's heart each time Mark came by the flat. The family knew he was Nana's favorite and they saw how he broke her heart time and time again. It did not matter, he was out of trouble.

After breakfast, Ron had a Skype call with Mahtr, Darhdy, Nana and briefly with Alvin who said Hello then back to his cigarette, tv and gossips on the horn. They spoke of Mark and Ron could hear Nana's relief and content in her doubt as Mahtr told her how delightful Mark looked in his new job at the mall.

"Is that so?"