Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik. Tanti exploded her fabric through the imposing machine at breakneck speed. She could sense the boss' breath on her neck as she completed her 35th garment for the day. Being watched certainly made her move faster.
Fear was a persuasive motivating force, but in her head, she rebelled. Desperate to go to the bathroom, she tried to distract herself by contemplating where this T-shirt might end up. Australia? London? Maybe New York City, Los Angeles, or even Chicago? Who would its wearer be? What would their life be like?
'Wolfmother' was emblazoned on the front of the T-shirt, in a blue that was the colour of the ocean on a perfectly still day and a green that was the colour of fresh young coconut husks.
She wondered what that English word meant - 'Wolfmother'. 'Mother', she knew meant 'ibu'. 'Wolf', she was not sure about, but she thought it might be some kind of 'anjing' that they had in other countries, maybe even a 'serigala'.
'Ayo, cepat dong! Jangan malas Tanti, bukan main masih ada 10 baju!' the boss, Pak Elang, yelled at her, sensing her drop in speed as he gradually inched out of her field of view.
He had the peripheral vision of a particularly sharp-sighted hawk, and could see what people were up to, well above what people assumed he was able to. This skill in surveillance helped to fast-track Pak Elang's shining career into management. Being a hawk, he could survey his dominion of scared mouse-deer, and deftly escape the wolves.
Tanti fought back tears of exhaustion and lost pride, and worked her way through the pile of black fabric printed with this mysterious, vibrant blue and green word: 'Wolfmother'.
She tried to impel herself to go faster and lighten the mood by making the sound of a motorbike: tek tek tek tek tek. Pak Elang was not amused, and flashed a hawkish glare in her direction. Tanti put her head down and returned to looking serious.
Somewhere in the midst of her desperate attempts to whittle her way through the pile, the machine took on a life of its own, and appeared to be devouring the fabric like a hungry wolf making its way through a lost sheep. Afraid the wolf might bite at her fingers, she carefully fed the fabric into the machine from a safe distance, and kept one eye on its teeth to make sure they did not stray any closer.
Eventually, after a 14-hour day, clocking-off time arrived, and she snapped out of the hallucination. She shook her head, it must have been lack of sleep that induced the illusion. But how can I get more sleep when I am always working? she pleaded with herself dejectedly.
Tanti put on her rubber sandals at the door, and saw her husband Ari, and eldest son Wawan, ready to pick her up with the family's clapped-out old motorbike.
To pay for the bike needed to get them to their places of employment, Ari worked a second job, ferrying people on the back of his motorbike to and from work. After he dropped Tanti off at home, he would go back to work for a few hours. He was already getting ideas about buying a second bike for the family, but dared not tell his wife yet because of the dodgy loan shark they would become indebted to.
She put on her plastic helmet, jumped on, and gripped tightly to Ari's back, while Wawan held on even tighter to hers.
'Ayo, cepat dong!' Wawan yelled with a big smile on his face, happy to see his mother who he had sorely missed all day.
In Tanti's pocket was just enough money to cover the rice and fish for tonight's meal. Phew, just made it, she thought. This was a good day's takings.
The streets of Bandung were alive with: the sights of bustling night-markets selling sizzling satays, coal-smoked corncobs, and meatballs soups with dried onions sprinkled on top; and overloaded motorbikes (with families of four, or piles of furniture).
There was a soundscape of chugging motorbike engines and pathos-ridden guitar serenades, and the smells of petrol, incense, and peanut sauce wafting from the hawker stalls as they passed. Their bike mounted the pavement, and they stopped to buy fish and rice to cook at home. Indeed, there were lots of motorbikes in Bandung, crawling across the city like ants.
Towering half-built freeway flyovers had stalked the city like monsters throughout the 1990s. Back then government corruption combined with a development ethos to produce a fervour for building, but not finishing, concrete giants.
Now, the freeway was completed and it was almost surreal how quickly they could pass through this part of the city. She almost missed the years of endless traffic jams where hawkers would sell chopped up mango or fried tempeh to passengers in stationary cars.
Finally they arrived at their compound and after visiting the 'little room', and cooking for her family, she collapsed in a heap, knowing she would have to face it all again the next day. There weren't enough hours in the night to recover from the day. She longed for energy more than anything else.
In her dreams, she heard sky-piercing howls, then saw a wolf. Out of the wolf's mouth came gnashing sounds: Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik.
Chad reached into his wardrobe excitedly, and pulled out his prized Wolfmother T-shirt, never worn before, in pregnant anticipation of the concert of a lifetime.
Chad's best friend Eric had the same T-shirt, and they decided to wear goofy green sunglasses, even though it was overcast, just to bring out the green in the T-shirts.
It took Chad three hours' work to save the money for this T-shirt, and another 10 to pay for the concert ticket. So totally worth it, he thought, proud of how hard he had worked to get this just reward. Eric had been given the money by his parents. He doesn't know the value of the dollar, Chad thought. So spoilt. Unlike me.
Driving through the streets of Chicago, they passed a gushing river of cars streaming towards them, past a forest of towering skyscrapers, punctuated by mushrooming traffic lights.
They showed up super early, almost embarrassingly so, so they decided to wander off and get some beers. No luck, no ID.
By the time they went back, a mass of humanity was brewing and bubbling like a witch's cauldron. They snaked their way through the intense crowd. They were bursting with energy, pumped full of testosterone, infused with adrenaline, ready to go all night and party into the next week.
'Yo, faster dude! Use your elbows,' Eric advised him as they pushed their way confidently through the crowd, 'Use them like your elbows have never been used before,' he added. They found themselves in the front row. 'Potent real-estate, dude!' said Chad. They were proud of their achievement to beat the others to the space.
Finally, the band were on stage, and surprised the audience by opening with a low-key drum solo: Tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik tik.
AN: submitted for the June 2011 WCC.