“Fuck Thailand Michael, I’m tellin’ ya. Cambodia. Cam-fucking-bodia. I mean for Jaysus sake like, you can go to Phnom Penh and shoot a fucking water buffalo.” Mull exclaimed gleefully.
Mull was an old school friend who had spent the last few years travelling around Asia. He had taken on the look of a traveler, but it seemed a bit contrived. He had a shaggy head of light brown hair dyed blonde at the tips, wore kneck beads and carried an army-green bag with Ché Guevara’s face stamped on it. When I bumped into him in the long, pungent dole queue it was the first I’d seen of him since our school went on a piss up in the wake of our exam results.
“Would you fuck off,” I said disbelievingly.
“No seriously, for target practice like. Animals cost fuck all over there so the lads who rent you the guns sell buffalos for like fifty quid. And then you can mill one of the dumb bastards out of it with a AK47!”
“That’s a bit gross.”
“Yeah. I shot a chicken with a handgun. A Nazi Luger. I felt like shit after it but,” said Mull, his manically happy face sagged briefly by the thought of what he’d murdered.
“I wasn’t the worst of them though. There was this Aussie lad I was travelling around Cambodia with. He fucked a hand grenade at a cow. Didn’t even kill it, it didn’t. Just blew one of its legs off and the thing fell over. Fucking noise of it. The Cambodian lad finished it off with an AK, so he did.”
If it was anyone else I wouldn’t have believed a word of this madness, but Mull just wasn’t the sort to make stuff up. Even if he was you’d be able to tell; his big happy head was an open book.
“That’s a new one on me,” I said.
Robbing cash from terrorists isn’t the world’s easiest way to make a few quid. Unfortunately, all the other options I explored were dead-ends. To make things worse, Noy was getting increasingly anxious about me being so far away. She convinced herself that I had no intention of going back to see her in Bangkok and nothing I said seemed to persuade her that this was anything but the case. She was starting to slip away from me, and I just couldn’t let that happen.
The fact that she was still working in a bar down the road from Nana Plaza made the line attached to the fishhook in my balls all the more taught. I was walking home from the pub one night and out of nowhere an image of Noy with some gross old man on top of her flashed into my head. I just exploded. I started smashing the shit out of a car parked harmlessly by the side of the street. The owner came running out of his house and I started battering the poor bastard. I only stopped stamping on his head when his missus, screaming and in her nightgown, jumped on my back and dug her nails into my eyes. That shit wasn’t me. I had to get out quick or I was going to loose it. The next morning I decided to do four things: I was going to stop drinking and smoking, I was going to join a Muay Thai gym and I was going to con Irish republican dissident paramilitaries out of money they had just robbed so I could fly back to Thailand and be with the woman I loved.
A muddled, hopeless feeling broken occasionally by bouts of panicky desperation had dominated my life since I got home, but it lifted when I had something to focus on. I didn’t miss the drink or the smokes. In fact, when I was battering the shit out of the punch bag that dangled from the local community centre ceiling to the point where I gagged for a clear breath, I detested the thought of them. My instructor – a good-natured, animated Black English guy with a natural viciousness in the ring that belied his friendly appearance – seemed impressed by the way I threw myself into Thailand’s art of eight limbs. In my minds eye I would drag together all the barriers holding me back from where I wanted to be and solidify them into the corporeal form of that punch bag. So that was three down and one to go.
I tried to justify what I was going to do in all sorts of strange ways. One prominent thought was that these lads just didn’t know when they were beaten, and more and more young men were being thrown to the wolves with little or nothing in return. Anything that brought their end closer was doing them a favour. I toyed with that idea a lot, but there was really only one reason why I was doing this – I needed those fucking notes.
I had advantages. First of all, I knew these people. I grew up with some of them. I had sat in the pub chatting with them about politics. Also, I was one of the few people from Ballybrack who made it through college and I think this was something they had a grudging respect for. Sometimes, after speaking to them, I would walk away with the impression that I had just been probed for some form of usefulness.
To an extent, I actually had sympathies with what they were trying to achieve. Don’t get me wrong – blowing shoppers to bits was beyond the fucking beyond – but I was in favour of a British withdrawal and a united Ireland. I just didn’t think it was anywhere near worth killing for. But it never hurts to have the baddest bastards you know on your side, so whenever the subject of the ‘struggle’ had come up I always nodded along with them.
Another big plus was their run of luck. They had a few quid from a hold up but they were hemorrhaging weapons and had recently lost a key training facility. The recent firebombs they planted in the North had done damage but they were basically glorified fireworks slipped into pocket of a coat on display in a shop near closing time. A slow-burn fuse meant they would ignite after staff locked up. Those sorts of operations were hardly going to ignite the passions of Ireland’s youth. It was obvious they were short of the sort of heavy gear they once excelled with and the series of minor catastrophes they were being dealt were bound to have pushed them close to desperation. I was convinced. If I pitched this properly, they would go for it. They would bite my fucking hand off at the wrist.
To be continued
All rights reserved by the author