No matter what some people say, I never go and look for trouble. Most of the time, trouble comes to me. Like this afternoon, Maisie Ong walked into my shop, ordered laksa, and started crying, “Aunty Lee, my life is hopeless!”
Of course I asked, “What’s wrong?” People who have been away from Singapore for a long time sometimes cry when they taste my laksa but this was different.
“You know Beng’s father moved in with us after his mum died, right?”
“Yes.” I remembered catering satay and spring rolls for her mother in law’s wake.
“The old man’s driving me crazy! Just now he told the boys if they let me boss them around like I boss their father around, next time their wives will also boss them around! I never boss anybody around!” Maisie wailed.
That wasn’t strictly true, but I wasn’t going to paint a target on my own forehead by saying so.
“I was so mad I just walked out of the house!”
“You don’t boss your sons around. You mother them,” I told her.
“That’s right. I mother my husband also.”
“It’s like teaching people to cook. Kitchen rules and house rules are there to keep people safe. He is their grandfather, but if he teaches your sons it is all right to ignore you, that means it is all right for you to ignore him.”
“So if he wants Beng and me to respect him, he should teach our boys to respect us,” Maisie stared thoughtfully into her laksa bowl. “Aunty Lee, this laksa gravy is cold. You should be more careful!”
Of course Maisie’s problem wasn’t solved just like that. Trivial problems tend to drag on and on. You just have to blow on them to cool them down each time they threaten to boil over.
Other problems are serious from the start. For example when my helper, Nina, told me there were body parts in the morning vegetable delivery.
“And the lettuce is wilted, Madam.”
“Maybe for the best. We can’t serve it in salad if it came in contact with raw meat,”
“Madam, we can’t serve it even if the body parts were cooked!”
I phoned Dolly Rodrigues, who runs the organic farm in Kranji which supplies our vegetables. Dolly said she would give us a refund but didn’t want to go to the police because she was afraid of losing her organic certification.
That is how Singapore is. The rules set up to protect people sometimes end up confounding us.
“I’ll come and get the box from you and leave it outside the police station. The police will know what to do.”
“Hiyah Dolly, this is Singapore. Everywhere also got cameras. If you are photographed leaving human body parts outside the police station they will arrest you as a terrorist threat!”
“Why should they think I am a terrorist? I am just a typical Singaporean who doesn’t go to church or temple too much!”
“Terrorist threat means they can hold you without trial forever without lawyer,”
“But if I bring the box in, they may suspect me!”
“I will come and talk to the police with you.”
The police didn’t seem to suspect Dolly. They wouldn’t even say officially that the parts in her vegetable box were human. But I doubt any species other than human wear diamond studs in their ears and noses.
I don’t know how that is going to turn out yet. I am going to help out at Dolly’s farm tomorrow. Nina thinks I’m meddling, but I’ve always been interested in growing things.
You can read more about Aunty Lee in Meddling and Murder, the fourth book featuring “Aunty Lee.”
Aunty Lee is on the case!
There is nothing Rosie ‘Aunty’ Lee, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved restaurant, loves more than solving other people’s problems. So when Beth Kwuan, an ambitious businesswoman, tells Aunty Lee her maid has disappeared, Aunty Lee is happy to let her own maid, Nina, help.
Only as the weeks go by, little clues make Aunty Lee worry. And as she digs into what is really going on behind the closed doors of Beth’s grand house, she starts to wonder—did Beth’s maid just run away, or did she meet a darker fate?
Now the race is on for Aunty Lee to get to the bottom of the mystery…and save Nina before it’s too late!
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About the author
Ovidia Yu was born in, lives in and writes about Singapore. After a happy childhood spent reading, drawing comics and dramatizing stories, she dropped out of medical school because while medicine is fascinating, she didn’t want to be a doctor.
Fortunately, friends and family have forgiven her for that as well as for writing about them. (Yes, even relatives who now spend family reunions claiming/denying Aunty Lee’s habits and quirks). Also, released in June was The Frangipani Tree Mystery, a new series from the author.
All comments are welcomed.
Meddling and Murder is available at online booksellers.