Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fish Out Of Water

"Sorrow is tranquility remembered in emotion."

Dorothy Parker, American writer and poet


It was 6.00 am and the expected tide of early morning breakfasters have yet to wash ashore the McDonald's of Pahlawan Mall. The sky was still inky black, indiscernible from every other chapters of the night but the strangely, I can tell that sunup was close - even without the help of clock. We can always tell when sunup is close. There is definitely something in the air at dawn - something tangible. It's just one of those things you can't put in words however hard you try.

I ordered a Sausage McMuffin with Egg like I always did for breakfast at McDOnald's - I have never ordered anything else. My ex-girlfriend favoured the Big Breakfast but I never did see the sense of that. The Sausage McMuffin with Egg has everything the Big Breakfast has, and it comes assembled to boot.

Besides, I prefer my eggs Teflon-circled.


Scooping up my tray, I headed out of the air-conditioned interior for the tables outside - for the outdoorsy types and the adventurous, and those who want to boldly eat where no man have eaten before.

"Today, I dine alfresco," I thought to myself. James taught me that word, I remember. He was my roommate for a year when I attended Taylor's College in Subang Jaya.

By then, the sky was no longer black, but was in a heraldic shade of navy blue. The frigidity of the night had changed into the crispness of daybreak, and I discovered - in that short moment of absentmindedness I spent soaking up the morning - that I have been joined by another early breakfaster;

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Oh, it's doing the eye thing. Potent shit.

I split a hash brown with it, and gave it a fair bit of my sausage patty. I wanted to share my coffee with it too but I didn't know if cats like it black. I borrowed a piece of paper and a pen from the counter to write down ideas I had for a novella, but I gave up after scribbiling a few random lines.

At about a quarter to seven, people started milling in; mostly school-kids with their moms and dads and high-school teens with P's on their cars and bikes. I noticed one Convent girl in particular, and watched as she came out of an SUV with her mother. She was really quite beautiful and looked fetching in a light blue waistcoat over her regulation pinafores of the same colour. Frankly, wearing anything over the god-awful pinafores is an improvement. Banes of the curves of feminine teenhood, I call 'em.

As the she walked in to McD's, I stood up and left for my car. I was overcame by a sudden desire to take a walk by the Malacca River.

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The Riverside Walk, just by the Stadhuys square.

Not too long ago, the river was little more than an oversized sewage drain - a funky-gunky obnoxious presence that wound through the ancient part of the city. It was so polluted that you'd think Godzilla descended from the monitor lizard population there (for some reason, the reptiles seemed to be thriving in the filth). It was hard to believe that one of the most renowned trading ports of the East in the 15th and early 16th century was based here, right over the waters of Malacca.

The tide was high this morning.
As I descended the stairs down to the Walk, I noticed small splash by the bank. It was a mudskipper, startled by my intrusion and so leapt from its perch on the shallowly submerged lower steps of the stairway.

The odd thing is, it swam right back to where it was lounging. As if it had suddenly forgotten a big, ugly bipedal monster had just tramped nearby its turf. I heard that fishes have really short memories but this is ridiculous.

I tried to photograph it and in the process, scared it away.

But it returned.

This happened a few times as I tried to get closer for a better focus (because of the pathetic zooming capability of my camera). Here's a short 10-second video of the bugger playing Homing Nemo. If you look closely, you can see it actually leaping out of the water at 00.02;

Trippy.

I managed to get as near as about one feet away from the mudskipper. It wouldn't flop away so long as I didn't move too quickly.

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Periophthalmodon schlosseri.

I identified it as a Giant Mudskipper (which isn't very gigantic at all considering that they only measure up to a piddling 27 cm) by the black stripe that trailed from its eyes and along its body. I thought it looked like an aquatic hamster, with its beady eyes and puffy cheeks.

The coolest thing about mudskippers, of course, is that they are amphibious - possibly the most well-adjusted air breather of the piscine world. In fact, they are so well-adjusted that they can't stay underwater indefinitely. I've always been fascinated by these awesome, freaky creatures ever since I saw them bouncing about the mudflats of the marshy seaside of Melaka Raya at low tide when I was little. Well, littler.

Another cool thing about mudskippers is their arm-like pectoral fins, complete with tiny "elbows" which they use to skip, a distinctive manner of locomotion which gave them their name. They would tense up their bodies, and with a flip of their fins, they would jerk off in a forwardly fashion (haha, jerk off). It is called crutching, for obvious reasons.

Sorry, I've always been a big animal buff ever since I could read. This was the first time I ever got so close to a mudskipper in the wild.

Oh, and I found out the reason why it kept coming back;

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With Jr. Check out the mom's dopey face.

See that little brown, teardrop-shaped sliver on the rail? That's a weally tiny mudskwipper babeh.

And there's many more darting about in the water near the hole at the side of the embankment (visible starting from 00.05 in the clip), which I suspect to be the entrance of Momma's brood burrow. Unlike most other fishes which lay gazillions of eggs and abandoning them - hoping that some at least would escape the fate of ending up as caviar and sushi garnishing - mudskippers are top-hole mothers and actually care for their fry. Since there are practically no air in the burrows, mudskipper moms would gulp mouthfuls of air and bring them home to aerate the muddy nurseries. The miniature mudskippers would usually remain near the burrow entrance (and near big Momma's protection) till they are big enough to get eaten by predators elsewhere.

After spending about half an hour watching the goggly-eyed little family, I finally decided to run along elsewhere. The deep tiredness I felt in my bones for not sleeping the whole night have disappeared, and I felt about ten years younger.

It's true after all. The secret to never growing old is to never give up the curiousity and wonderment of the child you were.

I wonder what's on Animal Planet now.



Staying seven,
k0k s3n w4i

10 comments:

bevE said...

miaor.

i'm consufed. =(

InnShan said...

wah..i tot mudskipper extinct dy. how does it taste like?

michelleg said...

sorry that comment was actually me =)

as i was saying, nice post and i saw alot of them at limbongan b4 they reclaimed the land. =/

baby mudskipper cute n tiny =)

aya said...

i like visiting mcD's earli in the morning too. :) as much as i hate to admit that im a morning person, but we get to observe stuff that.. not many ppl our age see anymore (because everybody simply sleeps at 6am. -_-)

baby sa said...

the baby mudskipper is so CUTE!!!
oh my god...it took about 10seconds for my sis to spot the baby.hehe

k0k s3n w4i said...

@beve
ur permanently consufed, you amobination >_>

@innshan
My grandmother said mudskipper soup tastes awesome.

@michelleg
Well, these mudskippers are living on the reclaimed mudflats now anyway. You can really see huge ones under the bridge that connects to Pulau Melaka.

@aya
Never seen you there tho, haha.
And you never cease to surprise me. I kinda imagine 6 am to be the time you actually go to bed xD
Too bad I'm going back to India this Sunday. We could have met for mcD breakfast or something.

@baby sa
It IS really tiny. I only saw it when I was editing my pictures.

aya said...

i only do that like..once a month.

i sleep at.. 4.

on other days (like today) i wake up at 10. scramble out from bed. leave u a msg. and rush to mcD before 11 for sausage mcmuffins. (see.i said muffinSSS.)

hahahaha

how come all the 'india ppl' go back around this time? my friend (hua min, if you know her) goes back on monday. =/


oh well. do take care and i shall see u next year (hopefully!)

k0k s3n w4i said...

@aya
I usually sleep at 10am, right after breakfast at McD's (or rice balls, or dim sum or whatever it is that I fancy eating).
Huamin and I going back to India at the same time is cos we're classmates xD
U didn't know that?
I'm going back a day early to beat the hassle.
I'll tell u the next time I'm back. Maybe we can go grab muffins together or something.

Lisa said...

OMG..the mama mudskipper is SUPER BIG!! never seen anything that big at all..it is pretty awesome to see them skip..I'm always amazed whenever i see them. tried to get near them..but they tend to skip far far away. ><

k0k s3n w4i said...

@lisa
well, the trick is to inch in real slowlike. Takes some patience, I can tell you that. You're Malaccan?