Monday, October 4, 2010

Hunting mice, buying bikes

After significant comparison shopping and two earlier close-call purchases, I am finally the proud owner of a gently used Yamaha Mio Soul motor scooter. Thing had about 4,500 kilometers on the odometer when we found it Sunday in Temanggung, a large village that my principal and several teachers from the school call home. Pak Heru invited me to spend the night Saturday with his family—Heru and his wife were welcoming their first grandchild home from the hospital—and to look for scooters. The guy is motorcycle and scooter crazy—he literally has three bikes parked in his living room and several others parked inside and outside his two homes—and he was determined to find a suitable scooter after a little too much screwing around the last couple weeks.

But before we could go bike shopping, we had some mouse-hunting to do. I spent part of the previous night in an upstairs guest room at Heru's house but gave up on it about 1:30 a.m. when it became clear there was at least one mouse and possibly several others living in the box spring. I could hear chattering and chirping and the enamel-metallic sound of little claw teeth on wire spring. Gross. And having just gotten over a late-night cockroach visit while sleeping, I wasn't in the mood to find some furry vermin sharing my pillow. I spent a restless night on the wood floor of an adjoining room and after breakfast told Heru I thought there was a mouse in the bed. A mouse?! In the house?! He was transformed into something like the maniacal tire-changing dad from A Christmas Story.

A physical change came over him and Heru became a kind of fevered mouse tracker. He enlisted two sons, two box cutters, several brooms, a ShopVac, a dress shoe, and a can of Indonesian Raid. We locked the bedroom door behind us and closed the windows--sealing the critter's death chamber--and then we went to work attacking the box spring. Cutting off the cloth bottom, poking into the springs, shining a Mag Light this way and that. We vacuumed out several nests, punched at the sides. We turned the box spring forward, then back. No mouse. More prodding, more cutting, and still nothing. Then, a black blur. The animal had been flushed. It made several laps inside the box spring ran until it finally bolted. The animal ran for the door and was trapped, it weaved back into the room, ducking a kick, dodging a broom swing, until it got under a desk. Heru's youngest son poked from the side and the mouse came scurrying out again, back across the room—I threw the dress shoe and missed—then doubled back, it's little feet ablur, racing for safety, when Heru stomped on its head. He just murdered the thing. Black dress shoe grinding into the floor, a gray-black tail twitching for a minute and then going still. Very, very dead mouse. Mouse brains, the whole bit. We tidied up, the youngest boy removing the carcass in a towel, and got the bed put back together. I am, Heru said, pausing as he often does after using the first-person, a mouse hunter. Well, you definitely hunted the hell out of that one, I said. No mouse, good mouse.

Rio cleans the Mio.

With the mouse dead and behind us, it was time to go bike shopping. Four of us went out, led by Heru's youngest boy, Rio, and we finally found the Mio Soul parked in the back of a nearby showroom. Heru immediately began working on the shop manager for a good deal. They went back and forth for about 20 minutes and the manager guy just wouldn't budge the last couple hundred rupiah. I pulled Heru aside and asked if the bike came with a warranty card; shouldn't the warranty card be good for a free checkup? If he didn't have the warranty card, he should give us the difference of a checkup in the price—about what Heru was asking for. Heru's gave me a look. You like bargain? Yes. Yes, I do. This made him happy, and it got him the deal he was after and we all shook on things and some of us went to get money. Like everything else in Indonesia, buying a scooter involved a lot of paperwork and stacks of cash but we eventually got it done and I drove off, following Heru and Co. to the nearest helmet store. We walked from there to a little restaurant for a celebration lunch, then headed home where Rio insisted on immediately washing the new bike.

Later that day, I followed in a rain storm as Heru and Rio led me on a 45-minute ride back to Magelang. The scooter's now here, tucked back behind my little house, and greater Magelang and beyond beckons.

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