“Cocka-fucking-doodle-doo my fucking ass!” I mutter to myself, upon being awakened by the mellifluous tones of the next door neighbor’s scrawny rooster’s excuse for Foghorn Leghorn. I am going to poison that damned bird one of these days. Can’t even kill it and eat it really, friggin’ thing’s just a pile of feathers and bones, and larynx and beak. Why the hell it starts crowing at 3:30 a.m. every morning I don’t know.
I roll over and reach for my cigarettes, time to kick start the lungs for another day. I notice, as I’m lighting the butt, that I’m drenched in sweat, like I had just emerged from the river down the street after a swim. What the fuck? Looking down at the end of the bed I see the fan is turned off. Goddamn it, why the hell did she turn off the fan? I glance at my watch on the headboard shelf, 8 o’clock. I yell to my lass, wondering how long I had been lying there sweltering in the bedroom now turned sauna. She appears in the doorway, smiling as always, and says “Good morning darling. Haew? (hungry?) Want bleakfass?” She always seems so happy in the mornings. Not being a morning person myself this sometimes irritates me. “Errrr….darling,” I grumble, “Why did you shut off fan while I’m sleeping?” “Oh sorry, I foget!” she apologises chuckling to me. “Have ab nam (Took a shower), too cold change clothes, me nooowww (she was cold), shut off fan, foget open fo you. Sorry darling!” she chirps, still smiling. What is it about her that makes me bite back my retorts? If that was my falang ex-wife I woulda chewed her ass out. Instead I smile and say, …. you guessed it, “No problem, darling.”
She asks again if I’d like to eat. I reply, “Sure! I’ll have two eggs sunny side up, with crispy bacon and well done home fries. Oh, and english muffins with butter and strawberry jam, lightly toasted please, butter on the side. Fresh brewed Turkish coffee too, with light cream and unrefined sugar. Okay?” She looks at me, smile slipping from her kisser now, and says, “Huh? No have! Wha…What you say darling?” I sigh, I am a mean bastard sometimes, and say, “What have we to eat darling?” “Have kow tom moo. Okay?” she answers. Fucking pork soup for breakfast, again. I’ll never get used to that. “Yeah, okay. Have egg for kow tom?” I query. “Have.” she says.
“Okay, I’ll shower first though.” I inform her. She leaves smiling and goes back to doing whatever she has been doing, since god knows what time this morning. She’s an early riser when in the village. Says the other ladies will talk “mi dee” (no good) about her if we stay in bed all morning.
I groan, drag my ass out of the sack, and walk to the bedroom window and open the wooden shutters. The sun comes blazing in the room like the fires of hell, causing me to cringe like the Vampire Lestat in an Anne Rice creepy novel. “Jesus H. Christ!” I exclaim, throwing my arm up to my eyes to protect my eyesight. “It’s like a goddamned oven out there already!” Four more hours to noon and it’s already a scorcher in Isaan. The sunlight bites the flesh on my arm with it’s radioactive choppers and forces me into retreat. Jeezus! I make sure the fan is on high and rummage through a drawer to select my day’s clothing. Definitely a tank top and lightweight shorts kinda day methinks.
Throwing on one of the silk, wrap around, plaid skirts my Thai family has presented me, I cover my nakedness, and head out the backdoor through the kitchen. Walking out to the patio, which seperates Momma’s house from ours, I go to the pump for the well and hook up the hose for my temporary cold shower connection that I’d installed for the time being until the bathroom plumbing is finished. Hey, a cold shower is better than no shower I say. Fuck that ladle shower shit! To hard to rinse yer ass crack and nuts that way. I connect the hose, throw the pump switch on, twist the faucet on, and head back in to the bathroom. A few minutes later it sounds like a wounded buffalo has been trapped in the hong nam. Ahhhh. The joys of village life. The water is invigorating though, and brings me to full consciousness in a relatively short amount of time. This will be the coolest I’ll feel today until the next shower, that’s for sure. I shower, dress, and eat my boiling hot pork breakfast rice soup, sans the requisite quarter pound of crushed red chilli peppers.
After eating breakfast I enquire of my lass what her plans for the day were. She tells me she is going to the temple down the road to see Mama, who is there taking care of some old sick monk. I swear I’m beginning to think Mama has a boyfriend at that temple she spends so much time there. My lass was going to go take some food for her, and help clean and do whatever. Seems I had the day for myself. I tell her I’ll figure out something to do to amuse myself while she’s gone when she asks me if I’ll be okay. She leaves a little while later and I’m alone in the house. I listen to some music and lay about reading a book for a while. Damn it’s hot! Even with the fans on full blast.
I decide to take a stroll about the village. Well, actually I decide to walk down to Sis Mun’s shop a few doors down and suck down a beer Chang or two with all the old drunk broads under the shade of the funky plywood and thatch hut they have in front of her make-shift “shop”. I wander down the road, ball cap shading my head and a pair of nice, soothing, dark sunglasses on to keep my eyes from fryin’ out of my skull. The dog from across the street runs up and challenges me to a stare down, growling a bit, until I grab a small rock and chuck it at his retreating, flopping, ball sack. I hate that mangy mutt. Fucker’s got balls that hang down nearly to the ground. Never seen anything like it. Fucking obscene it is. It would be like a guy who had balls that hung around his knees! He’s the top dog around the neighborhood, but this old dog ain’t never been afraid of dogs. This brings a few laughs and comments from the peanut gallery out in front of the shop.
I amble over to the gaggle of early morning lushes and say my sawadee krups. Seems they’ve already broken out the mekong and coke. Gotta love these ladies. Girls after my own heart they are. I wave away their offers of a whiskey and ask for a beer Chang. They all chuckle and giggle with each other as Ming goes to get my beer, as though discussing about what a wimp I am ordering a Chang when I could have had a free mekong coke. I’m hip to these old biddies though now. They know that if they get me buzzing on whiskey this early in the day that I’ll be springing for a bottle of black for all of us by noon. Didn’t take me too long to spot the methods of their madness on their free drink offers. Ain’t nothing free in this world. You pay for it one way or another. At least I always seem to. They should be ashamed of themselves for trying to take advantage of a poor old tipsy falang. Scheming wenches. We chat and drink, and fill in the gaps with sign language and slightly drunken laughter.
I love days like this. Nothing to do but relax, have a beer, maybe an early snooze in front of a fan. Sharing food with the ladies as they chat and sing songs. Watching the older lasses mix up their batches of betel nut chew while they all laugh and tease each other, and me. I still haven’t found a better way to leave the rat race of the so-called civilized world behind. My cares evaporate like the streaming sweat on my skin, I mellow out and kick back. I don’t watch the news, or read the paper much when in the village. What for? Same old shit, just a different day in falang land. I dread leaving.
These times in the village always seem to remind me of the long hot summer days of my youth in southern New Jersey. Farm country, broiling hot days, endless groves of fruit trees, the smell of the trees and grass, the musky aroma of the dusty dirt hanging in the air, the smell you can almost taste of water from a distance, the crackle in the air of the electric heat expanding the molecules of a lone, massive, thundercloud as it’s shadow passes overhead and cools the sweltering air for a brief few seconds, the taste of a fresh picked fruit in your mouth, the juice running down your chin and hands, the flashing of the fireflies at dusk, and the sound of children laughing and playing in the yards with their flashing smiles and sturdy legs blurring as they run while chasing a ball, or just each other in some game they’ve made up for the moment. The chatter of the women as they gossip, and the booming raucous laughs of the men as they joke around while playing a game of cards and drink their beers after a long, hot, sweaty day of working at whatever job they’ve done that day, fill the air at different times of the day.
The sounds of the village envelope me and take me back in time to the days when nothing much really mattered, except the ringing bell of the good humour ice cream truck, or how many frogs we’d caught down by the streambed, or how many bottles we’d managed to find and cash in to use on the next day to see a scary horror movie at the matinee, the air feels the same as it did then, the smells are all so familar to me, the sounds are the music of days long gone where I come from, the days and nights all blend together like the dog days of summer, which always felt like they would never end, like we’d never have to grow up, never have to go back to school, never lose our best friends, or our favorite dog. It’s a place where time seems to stand still. The village to me is a time machine, it brings me back to where I long to be, that one hot summer’s day that seemed it would never end. It hasn’t. It’s there in the village, in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Isaan.
A lot of guys I know who have Thai wives and girlfriends don’t like the villages they visit when going home to their ladies families. They are bored, don’t like the lack of creature comforts, miss the city life and excitement, can’t wait to leave and get back to their civilized world, the first world, the realm of modern reality. The high rises, and busses and cars, and planes and trains, and asphalt and concrete, sirens, honking horns, endless traffic, the crowds of humanity, the poisoned air and starless, bible black, night skies, awash in neon and the glare of the multitude of lights that turn the night into a false day, and blot out the sparkling universe above their heads. I’ll take the village over that rat race any day.
After a couple of beers with the ladies I decide to take a longer walk and excuse myself. Taking a fresh beer Chang with me of course. I strip off my tank-top shirt and tuck it into the back of my shorts so it hangs behind me like a bright red tail. I walk down the road, stopping now and then to say hello to people who I know, but don’t know their names. The sun beats down, darkening my flesh as I stroll towards the river. There on the riverbank I spot a couple of kids fishing. I stop and watch them awhile. I wish I had a pole of my own so I could join them. I vow to buy a fishing rod next time I see one for sale in Surin at the stores.
Further down the soi along the river I spy sisters Sow and Sai, part of my lady’s extended family, although exactly how they’re related is still a bit of a confusing mystery to me. They call me over to them and I stop and chat some, sharing the rest of my beer Chang with them. They have filled in a piece of the riverside with arable soil and have a plot where they grow chilli peppers along the water. Their faces are wrapped in black cloth, and their heads are covered with straw hats, to hide their skin from the burning rays of the relentless sunshine. They think me mad to go shirtless. I laugh and wave goodbye and continue on. Reveling in the sunshine and soaking in it’s heat. They’ve never spent four or five months of snowy, freezing, winter in Boston.
I’m here, in my village, the Village of the Sun. Sun Village to you.
Cent (The Central Scrutinizer)
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved by the author.
For more stories from the author and almost 1000 stories about Thailand by 150 authors, visit www.thailandstories.com.