During the course of writing the final book in TBW saga, i also wrote lengthy back stories about some of the characters. I wanted to put it all into book 4 but if i were to do so, it’s going to end up being very draggy. So i removed a chunk of it.
I kept some of these back stories for my own reference, there are a couple which i think would be interesting to read, so i went ahead and developed them into a short read. This is one of them.
Don looked at his reflection against the glass door leading into the resident committee centre. He adjusted his shirt and took a deep breath as he got ready for his informal interview to become a grassroot volunteer. He has been waiting since 8pm but the interview could not start until the last resident’ who came to meet the MP is attended to.
Don chuckled at himself as being a grassroot volunteer is the last thing he wanted to do.
He didn’t want to become one, but he knew it will be good for his portfolio. Especially when he is a civil servant.
Nothing like a glowing appraisal from a member of parliament (MP) and a few photos on social media to remind your bosses about your contributions.
Don paced about the exterior of the centre as he waited for the weekly meet the people session to be over. The constituency he is in is a special one.
No, it’s not because it belongs to the opposition, nor is it managed by some hot and pretty MP that sets the hearts of men aflame.
The constituency he is in that day belonged to ‘the wolf’.
That is his nickname.
The wolf has set the political scene ablaze since his first victory as a candidate for the ruling party. For a newbie with no experience, it was said that the wolf is a backup candidate. Someone dropped out because of a scandal at the last hour, and so he was thrown into the ring.
They put him in a ward that they thought he stood no chance in. A ward fronted by a strong opposition candidate.
However, the wolf proved his capability during the campaign, gaining the hearts and minds of the residents within that estate. Even his opponent from the opposition party have to admit he is a formidable foe to go up against.
While the wolf only won by a small margin of 5%, he soon widened the gap to a full 15% by his 2nd election, taking the ward back into the arms of the ruling party from the opposition.
The wolf did not rest on his laurels, choosing to work harder than before. One would imagine he has a big team of volunteers and supporters behind him but the wolf kept his team small.
Aside from a core team, he only accepted less than a dozen volunteers over the years, turning away many who arrive in droves.
He offended many who he turned away, but like some dark magic political observers could not explain, those that were accepted, never left.
Don exhaled and watched the door to the resident committee open as another volunteer wannabe came out looking pissed as hell.
‘don’t get your hope up brother, his dogs are guarding the door, don’t even dream of seeing him…!’
The man left and Don blew out a breath of air. This is not going to be easy.
There is another reason why he wants to get this volunteer gig on his portfolio. It’s been years since he married his Thai wife but she has yet to gain permanent residency status in the country.
Don is hoping that after a short period of volunteering with the grassroots under the wolf, he can help him push things along.
Another lady exited the centre, spending less than 5 minutes with the team that screens potential volunteers.
Don : that’s fast
Lady : forget it…his dogs are all acting high and mighty. I rather go volunteer my time in another constituency…
Don gave her a polite smile and waited the last guy to come out. There were 3 candidates before him that day.
A few minutes later, the man came out looking like he was ready to punch something.
‘what’s the big deal ? bloody yaya papaya…’
The man gestured to Don and asked him not to waste his time going in.
‘they reject everyone no matter what you say…bloody snobs!’
An elderly man in his sixties pushed open the glass door and extended his arm inside the centre. He didn’t say anything, while he did not strike Don as someone who is being proud, he has an air of charisma around him.
Don mentally rehearsed his prepared script in his head as he was shown into a room with 5 other volunteers who have been serving with the wolf since he started his career in politics.
They spread out around 3 tables set in front of another door. Don could hear raised voices and some commotion going on behind that closed door but it’s nothing to be surprised of. Meet the people session do get heated sometimes.
Luke : Good evening Don, my name is Luke. I’ll go straight to the point. Tell us why you are here…
Don : hi everyone. My name is Don, I am an engineer with the public utilities board. I believe it is every citizen’s duty to …
Luke put up a hand to stop Don from reciting from a prepared script.
Luke : Cut that shit Don…tell us really why you are here?
Don stopped talking and looked at the men and women seated in front of him.
There is no hiding the tense atmosphere in the room. He has been assigned to meet the people session before, but none had this tension that he is feeling now. Sure, there may be some residents getting work up and all but this is different.
Luke leaned against a desk with his hips, both his hands are in his pocket. To his left sat a lady in her forties. One will easily mistake her as one of those aunties looking to get a photo with the MP but her sharp look in her eyes and her stern expressionless face speaks otherwise.
Another man with blonde hair and a fully tattooed arm is reading through a file without looking up. To Luke’s right sat another lady. A pen danced around her fingers as she twirled the writing tool so silently and so fast that Don could not tell if the pen writes in blue or black.
The last man is the only one that wore glasses. He typed away on his laptop furiously, but his eyes are not on the screen. They were looking at him instead.
Luke : Don, there’s no need to overthink the question. Just be honest and say why you are here…
Don : I’m here to volunteer my time and services…
Luke : In return for ?
Don immediately felt offended by the remark but he knew it was true. He had his own agenda for going there.
He could feel his anger rising, he’s not angry because they hit the nail on the head about him coming with an agenda. He was angry with himself for getting angry when Luke is right.
Luke : Don ?
Don took a deep breath and he chuckled. He’s not a man with a fine gentlemen’s temper. Since it has come to this, he thought why not give these people a piece of his mind while at it.
Don : yes I have an agenda for coming here… I have an agenda for coming to be a grassroot volunteer…
Don’s voice got louder without him realising it.
He jabbed a finger at the group in front of him.
Don : I have a personal agenda alright…and so does every fucking one of you…eh? Hahha…
Don : Get down off your high fucking horses and look at yourself in the mirror. You came here and volunteer without a personal agenda? Huh ? fuck off…everyone wants something…if we do not have something to gain, there will be nothing to give!
Don knew he probably shouldn’t be saying those words to the wolf’s team but he could not help it. He needed to get it out of his chest.
Don : I’m here because I want it to look good on my portfolio…huh ? that good enough for you Luke?
Don turned to the rest and told them he is also there because of his wife.
Don : My wife has her PR application pending for 4 years! All because she was arrested before for a petty crime her friend framed her for…I’m here to volunteer so perhaps one day, when the MP is in a good mood, he can write a fucking letter for me so my wife can get off her fucking social visit pass and we can finally start a family! That good enough for you ?
Don : Don’t fucking think you are so important when the public just thinks you are a bunch of cock sucking clowns selling mid-autumn festival tickets and handing out goodie bags during Chinese new year!
Don : Yeah…grant yourself that noble title of door knocking, pamphlet throwing pest. Wear it proudly on your chest while at it why don’t you?
Don glared at the group, expecting them to lose their temper or throw him out in return but they didn’t. They remained eerily calm, while they did not speak a single word, they never broke eye contact with him. Everyone he looked at had their eyes on him.
He knew he shouldn’t have said those words, he made it personal. It was unbecoming of an educated man, not to mention a civil servant. Still, it was too late to take back those words now.
Don : What ? staring ah ? gangster ah ? you going to beat me up?
Don jabbed a finger at Luke, asking him what the reason is he volunteered to be a grassroot leader.
He never expected Luke to answer him immediately.
Luke : My wife is from Vietnam…she was a sex worker previously, so her PR application has been pending for the past 6 years. I joined the wolf’s team hoping he may be able to help.
Don was shocked as he never expected Luke to answer his question, especially not with an answer so personal.
May : I wanted to take pictures with the wolf, and show off to my friends.
Beng : I need clients for my booth rental business, I rent out popcorn machines, bouncy castles, candy floss makers…I’m a balloon artist too..
Don : What the fuck…
Sophia : I wanted priority entry into a school for my children…
Marcus : I was hounded by loan sharks for a debt left by a previous tenant…
Don looked at the group in front of him, wondering if this is some sort of a prank. Not only is everyone admitting to their personal agenda for being a volunteer, they said it without hesitation.
Don : What the fuck is this…?
Luke : You are right Don…we all have our personal agendas…everyone of us is here initially because of our own selfish needs…
Luke paused and looked at the others who nodded their head. A nod of consent for Don to come onto the team.
Luke : The wolf’s has two pre-requisites for volunteers. One, come clean as to why they are really here…
Don : And the other ?
Luke : Don’t be afraid of speaking their mind…
Don : what…?
Luke : The wolf do not want anyone in his team that says things a politician expects to hear…He wants the truth, as raw as it may be.
Don could not believe what he was hearing.
Luke : Don…you are right…when you pointed out it’s our own selfish agendas that brought us through this door…
May : However, that is no longer the case, after we started working the wolf.
Don : why…?
Luke : Because we came to realise that the selfish needs of a few are insignificant when measured against the collective vision of many…
Don’s eyes went over each and every of the volunteers in that room again, the vibe they give is infectious. He could feel it spreading to him, this gnawing need to accomplish something. No one is there for fun and games, none of them are there for the glory or portfolio. Definitely not for priority access to mid autumn festival tickets.
They are on the wolf’s team because they believed in him. They are there for a greater cause they believe in
They are there to make things happen.
Don : and…what is that vision, may I ask ?
Luke folded his arms and replied with a cold measured tone.
Luke : That the wolf, will be the next Prime minister of Singapore…
Right at that moment, the closed door opened, and Don came face to face with the wolf himself. He has seen him on TV, heard him on the radio, but coming face to face with that man made him realised for the first time what the term charisma and presence really meant.
He looked at the ruffled shirt, the undone cuffs, the blood on his fist and the look of determination on his face as he stepped out of the room he used to meet the residents on a weekly basis.
Luke stepped aside and gestured towards Don, making the introduction to the member of parliament who is putting on his cuff links while paying no heed to the blood stains on his shirt.
Luke : Sir, this is Don…we believe he will be a good fit to the team…
The wolf smiled and extended his hand towards Don who quickly extended his.
Don : It’s…it’s an honour to be able to work with you Sir…if you would have me… Mr Chin…
Welly smiled and looked at the young chap who passed the quirky test set by him and his team.
Welly : Tell me Don…what do they call me…behind my back…?
Don looked at Welly in his eyes and replied.
Don : The wolf sir… They called you the wolf…
Welly gave Don a tap on his arm before adding;
Welly : Welcome to the pack…