Isaan Thailand, and probably any tropical/sub-tropical countryside, can sometimes be found to be a little dangerous by those with a faint heart. Believe me, I really like it there, but some of the creepy crawlers tend to give me pause to think at times. Some of these varmints could cause you problems.
I was cleaning the front yard of the Surin rental house in July this past summer. The wife noticed me at my labors and decided to give me a helping hand, which I’d truly appreciate if she’d do things AFTER asking me what sort of help I need and want. Seems when she starts helping me out it’s usually likely to end up causing me more work than without her help. Luckily she bends over frequently when helping, she has a nice bum, so the view kinda evens things out, mostly.
At one point we were flushing and cleaning debris from the “ground gutter” which surrounds the house and yard. It runs beneath the cement fence walls around the property. The water inside it was still and stagnant I had noticed, and I wanted to clear the gutter and drain as rainy season would be soon upon us. I try to ensure there is no standing water on my property for mosquitos to breed in. Dengue Fever is a problem in the area.
My wife was bending over (see, that’s why I don’t bitch too much when she helps!) in front of me while pulling sticks and other debris from the drain hole which leads under the street out in front of the house. I was in control of the water hose and plastic rake, as I was flushing the dirt and stuff clogging the drain away, she would grab the larger pieces of crap floating toward the exit hole and deposit it in a pile next to the wall for later burning. She stood up for a moment and turned toward me. I was conserving energy by leaning with one hand against the white-washed concrete wall, and managing quite well with the other hand to employ the hose for the flushing of the gutter. Hey! It was hot out, and I was tired, okay? She had come out to help after I had already spent two hours bustin’ my hump in the yard. As she turned toward me I saw her eyes widen in alarm. She lunged toward me and grabbed my arm, pulling me toward her and away from my slouch against the wall, saying something excitedly in Lao. “What the hell ………?” I squawked at her. She pointed to the wall where my hand had been resting and said, “My dii mahk darling!” (no good very much)
I looked where she was pointing and saw a large crimson centipede scurrying up the cement fence. “What is it?” I asked her, wondering why she was so animated and seemingly concerned. She gave it some Thai name, I forget now what, (Tah Carp) and proceeded to tell me it was very poisonous. “Bite you you sick too much! Get headached too much! Go hospital.” “Huh!” I muttered, “Well thanks darling! I hate to get sick too much!” Fucking creepy-assed bugs!
She grabbed a rock from the ground and killed the centipede. So much for Buddhism. I’m always wanting to know about the flora and fauna around the area, just for this reason. If you aren’t born and bred to a place it’s good to learn what can harm you and yours. So you can avoid it, or kill it! Damned bugs.
Later in the week, maybe three days, I was taking a ladle shower. The drought and the drinking water seller down the street had lowered the water table levels around the city so much that the regular wall shower would only work late at night. So every night after we all had our normal showers we would fill two large plastic (new) trash cans with water for use during the day.
So this afternoon I was ladle showering away the day’s accumulated sweat and grime. I noticed the water in the bucket was a bit cloudy and murky. Thinking I had accidently gotten some soap in the bucket while rinsing myself off I decided to empty the remaining water, which was low anyway, onto the floor to drain, figuring I would rinse it and fill it later that night for the next day’s use. As the water poured out of the plastic barrel onto the bathroom floor when I upturned it guess what came wiggling out onto the floor by my feet. You guessed it! A four inch long multi-legged friggin’ crimson centipede! Ahhhhhhh shit!
The damned thing seemed intent on making its way toward my bared toes in the rushing water as it slithered its way about the tiled floor under me. I yelled and danced in consternation, quickly grabbed a towel off the door hook, flung it about my nakedness, and got my ass out of the hong nam (bathroom), pronto. Searching around for something useful to squish the poisonous bastard with, besides my bare foot, I grabbed a shoe by the front door and went back and dispatched the vermin. (For some reason the wife thought this hilarious.) I was creeped out for days after that, imagining the damned thing scooped up in my shower ladle and my pouring that nasty bug onto my shampoo lathered hair, and it biting my damned head giving me a nice dose of its poison. I had nightmares about this for a goddamned week after.
I now hate centipedes more than the damned hairy-assed monster spiders.
As a footnote to this centipede cautionary tale the next week we were staying in the village. My wife was telling the tale of the shower centipede to family and friends as we sat around over at Sis 2’s gossip shop quaffing a beer or two one night. (She still giggled when telling this tale, gaining a stern look from me.) One of the guys there at the time, a distant relative of Sis 2’s who was in the area for the next couple of days, spoke very good English.
As we were chatting later afterward he mentioned that it is always good to kill these red centipedes, as they can then no longer breed more of themselves. He also mentioned that the longer they live, the more poisonous they get. The older ones have so much poison that they no longer are reddish in color. They turn black. He said they call the black ones “Motherfuckers”, which I found amusing. I asked why they call these black centipedes “Motherfuckers” and he replied, “Cause when that motherfucker bites you you will be motherfucking sick, and wish you were dead, if you don’t die! Maybe die.”
I agreed that “Motherfucker” was an appropriate name for this motherfucking bug.
Another day I had spent the late afternoon seeing if there were any fish left to catch in the quickly evaporating lake by the house in the village. The dry season drought had shrunk the waters greatly. It was starting to get dark out. The setting sun was nearly gone in the purple sky. The light was low, and I finished up trying my luck and set my fishing gear up to walk back to the house. The land by the lake slopes down somewhat from the street to the shoreline and the bamboo dock. I took my tackle bag in one hand and my fishing rod in the other and trudged up to the road whistlng a song, mostly oblivious to my surroundings, but enjoying the lessening heat of the day and a slight breeze that came up with the setting of the sun. Stars were beginning to appear in the sky, and a sliver of moon was already rising over the village rooftops and towering palm tree fronds.
The scent of durian and frying Lao/Thai foods was carried on the breeze to my nostrils, making my stomach growl, and setting my mouth to watering. I wondered what my women were cooking for dinner this night, and wondered if there were any more cold beer Changs left in the refrigerator. I stopped to light a smoke.
My hands were full so this required my stopping, placing my gear on the ground, and digging out my ciggies and lighter from my shorts pockets. As I bent over with this task I noticed something shining on the dirt path directly across the street from me. It wasn’t only shining, but it was moving too. What the hell was it I wondered. In the deepening twilight I lit my smoke, grabbed my gear, and walked across the street towards the glinting movement.
Finally I could see, once I got close enough, what was shining and moving along the dirt path was …… a huge, to my eyes anyway, black scorpion, waddling along the dusty red path. The setting sun was reflecting off his hard shiny black exo-skeleton, flashing and twinkling as he moved. His thick rounded yet pointy tipped lobster-like claws were held forth menacingly before him. His tail, with its venomous barb, curled forward over his armored body. He was an ugly brute, clumsy and tank-like, nasty and evil looking. I glanced from him to my sandal clad feet, and vowed to never again walk barefoot around my yard of an evening. I can imagine his sting would be very painful if stepped upon. It seemed it would be intelligent to tread carefully where scorpions walk the land. Damned bugs.
I asked the wife about this scorpion later over dinner. In all the time I had spent in the village there I’d never seen one before, and I hadn’t even known they were indigenous to the area, Isaan. She told me there were plenty of them around the village, but you didn’t see them often during the day. One more creature to be on the lookout for when trekking through the rice fields while on the quest for the perfect fishing hole it seems.
I was also told about another little varmint, by a katoey who lives in the village now, that he described as a “white scorpion”, which he said was very small, but poisonous as hell. He said they can hide in your clothes. The wife said she’d never seen one though, and thought he was lying.
One day in July, well the end of July, maybe early August, I began to notice an inordinant number of very small lizards about the place. After I asked the wife she acknowledged that this time of year was when the baby lizards are born.
The little buggers seemed to be everywhere! Every wall I’d look at there would seem to be a half dozen little tiny lizards crawling around. They were so young and foolish they didn’t even have the sense yet to be afraid of most anything around them, including we humans. Being newborn babies they hadn’t yet mastered the art of walking on walls and ceilings yet either, and could be seen falling clumsily off the wall to the floor, or even off the ceiling into the wife’s hair, which did not endear her to the little darlings. She hates lizards. They’ll also fall from the ceiling onto the bed while you are sleeping, which if you sleep on your back, and snore with your mouth open, just might make for a nasty awakening one night. Yeech.
They seemed pretty focused and intent on gorging themselves on the plentiful bugs, and not yet aware that they too were deemed prey, and a delicacy to others. Especially the big hairy-assed spiders, of whom I noticed quite a few dining on these tiny lizards, and some not so tiny.
One night after dinner I saw that they are also prey to the fiercest of God’s creatures, Man, or to be more precise …………… young boy. The fiercest creatures to roam God’s green earth!
Little boys are the scourge of all other creatures large and small on this planet. God love ’em, the little monsters of our race.
After our evening meal one night the calm and quiet of our humble ktchen area behind the house was broken by the raucous cries of little village boys. It seems some of the boys have pet birds, the kind that crave fresh meat. (I have yet to see one of these pet birds, but will remedy this when I’m next in the village, I hope to anyway.) The boys had rubber bands linked together, and were running about the outside of our barred kitchen wall using these improvised sling shots as weapons to shoot and stun lizards on the outside walls and roof eaves. Once struck by this weapon the lizard would fall stunned (most times, they are quite accurate) to the ground, whence the lads would pounce upon the poor beasts and fling them into a plastic “game” bag.
When I saw this I asked wife and Sis what they were doing, and when the wife questioned the boys they explained to her about their pet birds, and the lizards being pet food for such. Ya gotta love the bloodthirsty little guys don’t ya?!!
I remember being quite the same myself all those many years ago.
So once my wife explained all this to me and what they were all up to I said, “Well, tell ’em to come in our house and kill the little lizard bastards that we have crawling all over our walls. Tell ’em I’ll give whoever can kill that bastard Lenny the Lizard a hundred baht!” (I’m still pissed off at Lenny for eating Jiminy Cricket on my wedding night. Asshole lizard ate my conscience!) The wife nixed that idea of mine pretty damned quickly, saying that the little lads were Baba Bobo (crazy), and she wouldn’t have them running about her house splattering lizards all over the walls. Which I couldn’t understand, because she is scared witless by the damned things! Plus I took offense at her calling the boys baba bobo. I was once a wee lad myself, and who was she to infer that all little boys are crazy? Why, …. she’s a damned girl….!!!!!!
I defended my gender by replying, “Ha! Sez you! Boys are not baba bobo! Puying ba! All girls are crazy!!” I said this forgetting that I was extremely outnumbered by the fairer sex at the time. Urk!
Look sow (daughter) giggled, after her initial shock, and joined in with the other puying, wife and Sis too, in disparaging remarks about us guys. Women! What would they do without us crazy men?!! They are demented!
The boys weren’t much help, they were locked outside and couldn’t help much, so they took this all in with much amusement and the occasional chorus of “Puying Ba!!” as they enthusiastically joined the verbal fray. Alas, we were outnumbered greatly.
Before the boys could be driven off by my mob of vituperating Amazonian vixens I told my wife to tell the boys to wait a minute. I had a present for them I wanted to give. She cast a scowling glance at me, but did as I asked. (SHE thinks I’m crazy as I give things to the kids all the time.) I had remembered something I had in the house that would gain me much face and prestige among the young lizard slaying warriors of the village.
I tore through the house and rummaged the drawers and cupboards searching for my remembered presents …….. three very large and powerful U.S. Postal Office Service rubber bands. (Used in the PO to bundle together large boxes of mail. I had used them to pack something or another on this visit.) Ah Ha! I found them stashed in one of the drawers in the TV stand. These are about 8 inches long and a good inch wide, and made of extremely strong thick rubber, yet very elastic. Perfect lizard slaying weapons of the first order!
I ran back outside with these and, calling over the eldest three lizard hunters, presented these weapons of mass destruction to them with the appropriate pomp and ceremony. I told my wife to warn them against using these against each other, as they do hurt like hell, (I know because on a slow day in work us older baba bobo boys used to have wars with the damned things. They do sting like hell!) and you can probably knock someone’s eyeball out of their head at close range with these babies!
With cries of glee, and a few cries of pain, as they just had to shoot each other in the ass and legs once my wife interpretted my warnings against this, boys being boys, and baba bobo to boot, they ran off into the night to slay some fierce creatures. These young little boys, these budding warrior hunters, these fiercest of the fierce creatures.
I grinned as they ran off laughing and yelling.
My wife hit me on the arm, and jabbered on in Lao about something or another.
“What?” I grumbled, as I rubbed my arm where she had slapped me.
“Baba Bobo!” she said, and stalked away muttering.
I laughed. “Puying bah! Mia Bah!” (woman/lady crazy, wife crazy) I shot back at her retreating wiggling bum.
Cent (The Central Scrutinizer)
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved by the author.
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