I was up in the village for a few days during Songkran, the Thai New Year holiday. We were visiting the family, although not sleeping over as we now are staying in a new rental house in Surin mostly. We're still finishing moving everything in and getting it set up the way we want. So overnight stays were too much of a hassle because of the time it takes away from what we were trying to accomplish in the short time I was able to stay. Plus the added attraction of the new place is my bedroom has AC, which was handy this time due to the constant oppressive heat this time of year (April).
My Dad was still sick and I needed to return in three weeks time to help him finish getting back and forth to his chemo-therapy and radiation treatment appointments. My brothers filled in for me while I was away in Thailand. We did however spend a lot of time celebrating Songkran (the traditional Thai New Year) in the village whenever we could. I was sitting at Sis Mun's Isaan emporium and Lao Khao shop, sucking down a cold beer Chang, and trying to keep as cool as possible. No easy trick that. It was hotter than I'd ever seen in Thailand. Too hot actually, and I do love the hot weather really. This was brutal though. I sat under the trees and bushes in the shadiest area by the wooden shop front, fanning myself with my ‘Life is Good’ baseball cap, while crunching ice cubes with my teeth and letting the beer flow down my throat as it cooled itself with each swallow through the ice mush I held in my mouth. Did I say it was hot? Boy, it was! No matter how much liquid I drank it just all seemed to pour right back out immediately through my sweat glands. An occasional breeze would sneak by, teasing us all really more than providing any true relief.
Soon I would go in my house and stand under the cold shower for a few minutes respite from the heat. I'd already done this twice in the past few hours. We were visiting Mama before my trip back to Bangkok. She wanted to festoon my arms with more Buddha good luck strings. I'm happy to oblige. I always wear them for the requisite three days, and then cut off all but a couple, which I then wear on my right wrist until my next return to the village, sometimes months later. Mama gets a big kick out of the fact that I wear them so long. Shows some respect for her beliefs and superstitions though, and they do bring me good luck actually. This seems to please her no end. I rub them on my gambling tickets/lottery stubs and usually hit for a buck here and a few more there.
Every one of my friends at a pub I hang at always ask me to rub the strings on their football game pool picks. I win quite a bit, so the gamblers want some of the Buddha luck to rub off on them. No big deal. It's a good laugh, and all in fun.
As I sat there fanning myself, contemplating my lowering beer in the bottle before me, and whether I should ask for another soon, or wait a while, as I was getting buzzed and it was still fairly early yet, the chicken-bone seller wheeled his grimy cart up the street and parked his ass on the dirt right near my seat. Damn the heat! This guy sells the crappiest chicken pieces I've ever seen. They’re nothing but bones, gristle, and skin from what I can tell. I don't know why anyone buys the damned things really. I suppose it's because they are so damn cheap. The Thais seem to be able to digest any damned thing they eat, and have very strong teeth. They crunch away contentedly on this crap. I refuse the bits offered me. It takes me forever to finish one damned piece. The heat from his cart, not to mention the billowing smoke from the charcoal grill on board, drove me to a perch further into the open-sided shop, where I did grab another beer just for spite, and turned the lone battered plastic oscillating fan on a stand toward my glistening flesh. Did I say how hot it was?
The crappy chicken-bones seller and cart.
The children were bugging me to play with them. I started the fart game, which always gets them all excited and laughing like goons and running around making farting noises. Mama and her older sister always seem to get a chuckle out of our antics. I started a new game once I spied a bucket of ice cubes sitting next to me. I call it the ‘Ice Down Your Pants Dance’ which was an instant hit with the kids. We ran around trying to stuff ice cubes down everyone’s pants and shirts; a nice cool game I thought. My wife didn't like it when I got a few cubes down her undies though. Plus she said her Sis Mun was getting pissed off because we were wasting all her ice cubes with our playing around. Now I know a bucket of ice costs 20 baht (fifty cents), so I told the wife to chill out, lighten up, and go send one of the kids to get a couple more bags for Sis after our game was finished. Sheesh, like I wouldn't pay for it or something. I stuffed more ice into her bra and she shrieked and started laughing. Later she managed to sneak up on me and stuff a couple cubes down the front of my shorts onto Godzilla. It felt good actually, so I did the Godzilla Iceball Dance for her. Mama and her old monkey face sister laughed their asses off so much I thought they would choke.
Relaxing later with yet another beer, yeah, I was feeling no pain, hey, it was a holiday weekend, I noticed a woman walking up to the chicken-bone seller's cart that I had never seen in the village before. She had the most beautiful face I think I'd ever seen in Thailand. She had perfect skin, not a line or blemish, an oval face, her skin a color so close to dark honey as to be translucent; she shimmered with vitality, but something seemed out of place somehow. Her hair was cropped very short, and looked like it had been chopped off with a knife, or a blunt pair of scissors, which was a damned shame because the hair she hadn't cut was a gorgeous shiny black with full waves and curls. She was stunning. An aura of serenity surrounded her. She was dressed raggedly, in layers, which seemed odd due to it being so damned hot, but as she moved I could see she had a nice full firm body, lots of curves. This woman was a knock-out. I was stunned, as I always am when confronted with God’s own beautiful creations that seem more angel than earthly to me, but something seemed off somehow. Something niggled at my brain. I don't know how to describe it, but she seemed more animal than human. She radiated a jungle heat like a big cat and she moved like a wary animal. Her black onyx almond-shaped eyes flashed and sparkled, yet something was somehow missing. I pointed her out to my wife, asking her who the pretty lady was, which instantly got her attention.
"What pretty lady?" she said warily.
I pointed to where the woman stood.
"Oh, she." my lady said glancing her way, and then seemingly dismissing her instantly as any sort of competition for my affections.
"That is On. She is sister for lady of baby so and so. You know, down the street by Ming's house. She lives with her Mama."
"She is very pretty." I said, "Don't you think?"
My wife looked at me funny, and then spent almost a minute looking at this woman before replying.
"Yes, she very pretty. Pretty eyes. But pretty lady is not 100%."
I looked at her, not understanding at first. My wife laughed at me and said, "Yes, she pretty, darling, but not 100% in brain. Have brain same-same like baby." she laughed again, and walked away to do something or another.
I looked back to where pretty lady ‘On’ stood waiting for her chicken-bone bits. I wondered how many pretty ladies not 100% ‘in brain’ were working the beer-bars of Pattaya and Bangkok. I looked away, depressed by the thought, and, grabbing some ice cubes, started another round of ice-in-the-pants game playing with the kids.
The ice cream cart man pulled up next to the chicken bone guy's cart and I sprang for a round of ice creams for all the kids; and a few adults too.
It was hot.
(The Central Scrutinizer)
Written on 2/5/2003.
"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?"
Christopher Marlowe, Faustus