Young Nor is not listening. He stares into his phone, rubbing it with an index finger, the old man notes, the way one might stroke a parrot’s head.
Old Nor tips his wicker chair to take advantage of the shade cast by the broad-leaf elephant ear plant that has been next to the doorway for a hundred years.
“When the Royal Navy was in port,” says the old man, “this alley was as lively as any place in the entire city. It was called Barber Street. One would always see cobblers at their benches, fortune-tellers sitting on their Arabian carpets, ice-ball vendors and kachang puteh sellers, opera singers, and of course the monkeys.”
The boy looks up. “Monkeys, Grandfather?”
“Certainly. Monkeys made the finest thieves. A thiefmaster would set them to the crowd, where they would dart among the people and snatch whatever valuables they could before fleeing to the rooftops.”
“No!” says the boy.
The boy smiles.