Many years before the 1920s Great Depression, a widow and her two children lived on the fringes of a jungle and remained below poverty line for ages.
She worked three jobs and every day, the resourceful and multi-skilled widow would start with catching fish at a nearby river. She would leave her two children at home by themselves, with her daughter babysitting her younger brother with the aid of an iPad and an obscure video game called ‘Angry Bird’.
One night, she had a weird dream of a school of dolphins in thongs doing synchronised swimming in the nearby river. This was particularly bizzare because synchronised swimming did not become an official Olympic sport until the 1984 Summer Games.
Anyway, she woke up the next morning with a desperate craving for the roe of a tembakul fish. She immediately set out to catch a tembakul fish with roe and spent days on end scouring the river, but alas, to no avail.
One fine morning – it was the first Thursday after Thanksgiving – her net finally found the desired catch. She was understandably ecstatic beyond words. She brought home the fish, cooked asam pedas ikan tembakul, and left it in a basket suspended high above the floor.
Before going out to start her second job of the day, she left a message on a Post-It Note to her daughter, which said, “You and your brother can eat the fish, but leave the roe for me.”
An hour after their mother left the house, the son woke up hungry and cried for food. Her sister gave him some rice, a small portion of tembakul fish and some of the roe.
It was such a delicious fare that the younger brother cried for more. The sister obliged and pulled the basket down, when suddenly the boy seized all the roe and dashed off, eating it all in a corner of the house.
The sister was horrified, terrified, mortified by what had happened. Knowing that they were now in neck-deep trouble, she decided to fry some fish fingers as replacement for the roe.
Later that day, the widow came home and asked her daughter to bring her some rice and roe. When – quite inevitably – only fish and fish fingers were served, she asked for the roe. Her daughter had no choice but to tell her that the little brother had eaten it all.
Needless to say, she was crestfallen and exceedingly distraught.
“I told you to keep the roe but you let your silly brother eat it all! Obviously you don’t you love me despite everything that I have done for both of you,” the widow said somewhat melodramatically.
Completely exhausted, the widow went to sleep in tears and had yet another vivid, weird dream. In this dream, she saw peacocks running in slow motion and then she saw a huge rock, gaping and yawning, calling her name.
She woke up dazed and confused, as she initially couldn’t figure out how the dream she just had echoed and amplified the things that were going on in her waking life, as well as the attendant stresses and upheavals.
Suddenly, she heard a voice inside her head telling her to go to the huge rock, so the widow bolted out of the house, still in a trance of sorts.
The daughter woke up with a start upon hearing her mother footsteps. She woke her brother up and they went in frenzied pursuit of their mother.
While running towards the rock, the widow cried:
“Batu belah batu bertangkup,
Ambil aku, telan aku,
Aku kempunan telur ikan tembakul.”
Which can be loosely translated thus:
“Split rock, conjoined rock,
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,
For I crave the roe of ikan tembakul so much.”
The widow kept running faster and faster towards the gaping rock, chanting the same refrain. Upon reaching the rock, she looked back for the last time at her beloved pursuers, and dashed into the rock’s cavernous maw.
The rock devoured the widow like a voracious, gigantic animal and was burping incessantly by the time the two hapless children arrived, betraying the gruesome and gory end to their mother.
Consumed by regret, the daughter vowed to never make the same mistake ever again, and the episode put her off caviar for the rest of her life.
As for the younger brother, he continued to be haunted by a weird dream of him swimming in the Caspian Sea, shouting “Beluga caviar for sale!” for the rest of his life.