Short Stories: Bougainvillea By Martin Bradley



It was not always easy for John to understand Zoe’s English, but this time all he had to do was to look where she was pointing.

In the middle of the track was a large otter, standing on its hind legs. It was looking in their direction. John and Zoe, unable to move lest they disturb the creature, kept quiet. After some minutes, another large otter bounded from a pool to the right of the track, slowly passed across the track and into another pool on the other side. It was quickly followed by a troop of much smaller otters hastening across the track. When all the others had vanished into the pool, the guarding otter followed suit.

“Well, it’s the first time I’ve seen an otter traffic warden,” said John, as they both fell about laughing.

The sandy track became more defined as a road and, as the jeep climbed to the top of yet another hillock, before them lay a series of three huge, interconnected dredge holes. They had become filled with water; around them were trees and bushes. The expanse of water seemed to stretch for at least a couple of kilometres. Green islets, dotted here and there, added yet more mystery to that already intriguing expanse of water.

“There. Surprise.” Zoe grinned a huge grin, gesturing with her left hand towards some of the prettiest lakes John had ever seen.

“These are mining pools?” He enquired.

“Yes, Perak best secret,” his companion replied.

John, overawed, glanced at one tree beside the nearest ‘lake’ and on a small green island. It hosted white heron. As the couple watched, they witnessed herons taking wing, then dipping into the nearest lakes for lunch. Closer, almost directly above the jeep and on top of two high poles, sat two impressive hornbills, smaller than their jungle counterparts but still large enough to enthuse John. “Thank you, oh thank you so very much, this is amazing,” he laughed as he spoke.

Zoe kept quiet, but grinned a face-splitting grin.

“Do many people know about this?”

“No! Fishermen, fish farmers, pig farmers, all shhh, shhh,” Zoe replied.

“There are fish here?’ John said out aloud. Then, “oh well, obviously there are, because of the heron.”

“Got! Chinese bighead, Flowerhorn, Grass carp, Common carp, Silver carp, Mud carp, red and black Tilapia and Lampam Jawa.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll take your word on that,” John chuckled. He knew little of fish, or fishing, and was a little overwhelmed.

“Water flower problem, cut back, take lake.”

John was puzzled as Zoe pointed to the green and light purple hyacinth-looking plants surrounding the nearest lake. “But it’s so pretty. Thank you again, for bringing me here,” John gushed.

They sat for a while, in silence but for the jeep’s motor and the air conditioner struggling with the day’s heat. In that rural Malaysian idyll, heron dipped and caught fish while, occasionally, a bright blue-green kingfisher stabbed into the lake as two heavy headed Hornbills looked on.



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