Stickman Readers' Submissions May 25th, 2005

A Tale Of Two Thai Husbands

A Tales Of Two Husbands

The first time that I noticed Joi was one evening when sitting on the porch and beginning to unwind after a high speed day haring around Bangkok with no recourse to motorcycle taxis as I’d been stuck in the Landrover.

Nu had dropped me off at home as it seemed a bit daft to go all the way down to Pratunam to turn around then head back to Sukhumvit.

He Clinic Bangkok

All was quiet as I contemplated my navel and watched the shadows lengthen as the sun fell behind the buildings to the West of the city, when I saw a young woman appear through the gate.

Dressed very much in the style of an office girl, I noted idly that she seemed decidedly out of place in her present location and assumed that she was visiting.

She stood for a moment and looked around seeming a bit lost then noticed me and walked across to the edge of the porch. And asked me if there were any rooms for rent.

CBD bangkok

(As she phrased the question in Thai I assumed that she thought that no English speaking farang would be mad enough to live there.)

I grinned and replied that I wasn’t very sure, but if she went across to room 12 then Phet would be able to tell her as that was his department. She smiled a most lovely smile by way of reply and I was struck by her hair style which seemed very
out of vogue, being as it was a 50’s or 60’s fashion which we would automatically associate with Siam. Most of the girls of recent had opted to dye their hair red for some strange reason which I could never fathom.

This lady had kept hers, long, black and lustrous with a high wave across the right eyebrow which left her whole face exposed to view. And a most pretty face it was as well.
As she walked across to Phet’s room I wondered why an
office girl would want to live here, but maybe it was close to work or something. After all, in the Mango, always expect the unexpected.

Later on, Rob wandered across and we got down to the serious business of converting full bottles of beer to empty ones whilst sorting out the world’s problems and during a lull in the conversation I happened to mention the new arrival
and commented on her unusual hair style.

wonderland clinic

“Miss Siam eh?”, Rob commented whilst topping up his glass.

The following day I was out early and after spending the day in with the Civil Aviation people in Hua Hin returned home, removed my shoes and flopped onto the porch before giving my overheated feet a rub. Rob materialised beside me, handed
over an icy cold bottle of beer and as I took a long refreshing swallow mentioned that he had caught sight of Miss Siam earlier that day.

And that in his most considered opinion, she was most ricky tick a TFM.

He’d also managed to get her name which was, (lets say), ’Joi’, and alas, she was going to work in the ‘Happy Home’.

“You what?”, was my surprised response, ”I thought she was an office girl?”

He smiled and said, ”Well, it is an office of sorts when you think about it- just that the service is that bit more personal.”

The Happy Home, (House), being a brothel that was located up the street and a mere 3 minute walk from one of Bangkok’s premier hospitals. Only in Thailand you see:-a street layout in the following order; Hospital, gold shop, laundry, brothel….

So, she was one avenue out the window as no doubt she would soon become hard bitten and mercenary like the rest who worked there and we did wonder why she would choose the Happy Home as a girl with her looks would earn far more in a Thai hostess club.

But, we decided that ours is not to question why and got another couple of beers in and settled down for the evening.

Time passed, Joi worked the day shift and as all the girls do, duly found herself a sponsor or two who would sent her monthly stipends on the condition that she stopped working in that terrible place. (This was always a source of great hilarity
to Rob, Alain and, I, cos’ where did these guys meet the girls in the first instance?)

Naturally we wrote the letters for her to explain to the suitors how bored she was now that she wasn’t working and when were they coming to marry her? All in all, the standard marketing ploy – and no doubt she posted the letters on her way to work.

One evening she staggered through the gate laden under the weight of a case of Carlsberg which she deposited beside the porch with a sparkling grin and announced that we could drink ourselves stupid because she was celebrating.

“O.K., Joi, thanks a lot,”, I laughed reaching for a bottle, ”What’s the party for then?"
It appeared that she had managed to get three sponsors on the hook and as they were all paying a healthy stipend into
her bank account every month then there wasn’t any reason to continue working in a knocking shop. And for sure, if she was going to be horizontal then she’d rather be alone, ‘Thank you very big’.

Of course nothing is for free in Bangkok and now came the reason for the beer. Could we then, write to her sponsors and explain that if they were seriously interested in marriage then a dowry would have to paid, and how much it was to be.
She mentioned the sum and whilst not too great in Western terms we reckoned in Thailand she was pushing a bit.
But, as she explained, she wasn’t getting married to a Thai and what would a farang know?

Robert soberly pointed out that we were farang and we knew which caused her to giggle and pass comment that we might look like farangs – but were we really?

Well, we laughed and so got the writing pad out then began to write the oft written words…..

Some months later Rob and I noticed a stream of wimin walking back and forth across the courtyard to the shop and it seemed as though famine was imminent judging by the mounds of food and drink that were being procured and taken round the

We inquired what was happening and were told that Joi was having a party which seemed a likely excuse to snaffle a couple of beers and so instantly invited ourselves.

Joi’s room was mobbed with wimin, tarts and others of dubious gender and after the standard ‘Harros’, we managed to find enough space to sit down and enquire as to the reason for the shindig?

Joi it appeared was getting married in a week or so and as the sponsor had sent her a bunch of money to set up the paperwork, well she thought it best to spread her good fortune around a bit.

We wished her ‘Good Luck’, and got stuck into her Mekhong and the party.

Before too long she’d tied the knot three times, twice to Germans and once to a Brit, and need it be said that they were all blissfully unaware of each other?

You see, sometimes in Thailand people ‘forget’, ’by mistake’, to register a marriage and then of course there are all the different District Offices where a chap and chapess can get hitched.

One weekend we were all sitting on the porch having a laugh with Joi and wondering how she kept her various husbands from bumping into each other when she suddenly stood and darted round to her room to return with a neatly filled out year

We roared with laughter as she explained the details of how each husband was depicted in a different colour with blocks of two weeks filled in twice a year for each, which left a suitable overlap for changes of scheduling.

We laughed even more when she replied to my question of how she managed to arrange it so that they didn’t take their holidays at the same time.

“Easy”, she said grinning, ”The first one to say what time he come then I tell the others that I have go Tamboon or up country to see my family or help with the rice”.

“Any bullshit is o.k.. They always believe me”, she continued.

Now, Joi had already stated her intention to retire by the time she got to twenty six and judging by the bank book she gleefully waved in front of our faces, she was well on the way to realising her ambition.

Rob smiled and said, "Old Maggie would appreciate the spirit of private enterprise we see before us!" Wonder if any of her former Cabinet are the providers of Joi’s retirement fund"

Joi also had three gold wedding rings – each with the relevant husband’s name inscribed in Thai script on the inside face. (“So not getting confuse”.)

One Saturday lunchtime she wandered past the porch dressed to the nines and looked stunning with her hair styled perfectly and just enough make up on to accentuate her high cheekbones and flawless skin. I asked where she was off to and did she want an
escort, to be told that she was airport bound as German hubby No 1, was inbound but she’d bring him down for a beer later once she’d got him unpacked…….so as to speak.

Later that evening as it grew dark, Rob and I were sitting outside the shopette when he drew my attention to a vaguely familiar figure emerging from the gloom of the Soi.

“Who’s that again?”, he asked.

“Seems familiar”, I replied, “But not from round these parts.”.

The stranger walked directly up to us and said, ”Wotcher lads – Joi about?"

I exchanged a look of amused surprise with Rob as it hit home that here was the English husband come to play and unannounced at that.

We quickly went into, ’Lie through the teeth’, mode and explained that Joi had gone to her mum’s as she was sick but she would no doubt return later.

Hubby nodded sagely and said, ”Yea- poor old duck, she’s been poorly for a while now and I try to keep sending Joi a bit of extra money to help with the medical bills.”

This for some reason came as no great surprise to us and so we suggested that he get in the beers as he was on holiday and then we would retire to the porch where he would have no view of the side gate or Soi. This we hoped, would give us time to warn
Joi of her impending doom.

Robert had been thinking fast and making the excuse that he had to nip round to his room to score a packet of cigarettes quickly scampered round to the motorcycle taxi man and told him to scoot off to Joi’s hotel with the good news.

Perhaps a cultural thing, but in Soi Zero there were two smallish hotels which are/were located more or less directly opposite each other. The Brits and Americans would generally stay in the smaller but more salubrious one on the right side
of the street and the Germans and French in the larger one with the swimming pool on the left.

Why this was, I have absolutely no idea and if truth be told, I actually don’t give a damn either.

Now, Joi being an upcountry girl had an utter aversion to walking anywhere or doing battle with Bangkok traffic and so would lodge her various husbands in the hotels in the Soi which then involved her in a one minute, (or less), motorcycle ride in order
to fulfill her wifely duties.

Well, we chatted away dutifully with the English chap and he duly told us how he had been sent at short notice to a conference in Vietnam and had just thought to pop in and surprise the wife on his way back to Blighty. ”Surprise -yes, right, of
course”, I coughed as Robert turned his head to hide a smile. ”I’m sure she’ll be back around nine,”, I added, thinking that this is probably how long it would take her to get a jet lagged German unpacked, bedded
and asleep and thus regain her temporary free agent status.

I kept an amused thought at the imagined picture of her face when the motorcycle guy turned up at their room.

Shortly after nine a breathless Joi devoid of make up came rushing into the compound via the side gate and gave us, ”That look”, to which Rob and I imperceptibly shook our heads.
She then turned her attentions to her beloved
and gave him a sparkling smile and a big hug. We got jealous. Just for a minute, mind.

As the guy had already booked himself in for a week and was looking forward to her undivided attentions, Joi had a bit of fast talking to do which Rob and I followed with interest as we stared at her deadpan and trying not to laugh.

With a heavy heart she explained that her mother had taken a turn for the worse and would need constant day care for an indefinite period. However, she would be able to get back around 7pm every night but if he’d only given her more notice then
she would have been able to arrange some help.

We continued staring straight into her eyes, trying to provoke a reaction and could see that she was near cracking when the chap interrupted her tale of woe with a ‘Never mind- that’s life’, type comment and that he was
completely willing to accept the situation. Even better, he suggested that they go to the ATM and withdraw some loot so that she could take even more care of her mum.

(Who had been dead for many a year; but only physically you understand).

As we watched them walk up the Soi and into the darkness Rob swigged his beer and muttered something about dedication to duty and awards pending.

The following week was brilliant: Joi would appear in the morning on a motorbike taxi, rush to her room, change her clothes then rush back to the bike and thence to the German to attend his needs for the day . (Having told him that her mother
needed night care).

Every evening the same routine would be gone through except this time the Brit would be in receipt of her favours for the night.

Often as she ran past we would hold out a chicken leg or a bottle of water and shout, ”Marathon, marathon,”, which would be rewarded with a wry smile and the comment, ”Mye chai Caa-O-T”. (I don’t agree-it’s overtime!)

Daeng let loose one evening as she watched the show and shouted, ”Baa, Chan kiit Joi mee tuut rawn.”. (Crazy- I think Joi has a hot arse). We doubled up at that one.

The week duly passed and having returned from the airport to see off the English husband, Joi sat on the porch and sipped slowly from a can of Singha before sighing a long sigh.

“Work”, was her solitary comment.

“Here Joi, what are you going to do when all three arrive at the same time then?, I asked.
She flashed that lovely grin and replied, ”Wing Nee”, (flee), then started to giggle at the prospect.

Before long the German had returned home to continue earning the loot required to finance further visits to his wife and that night Joi had a party – a ‘stop work party’, as she so quaintly put it.

The party developed in grand style with a surfeit of grog and beer being guzzled with choice morsels from the Northerly parts of Thailand being freely dispensed.

At some point a glazed eyed Joi appeared and stood swaying decorously in front of Robert and I with what, could only be described as a smug looking grin on her face and handed Rob her bank book.

Rob laughed and laughed before handing it to me, saying as he did so, “Fucks sake mate, we’re in the wrong game here. Have a look at that.”

I looked then grinned back at Joi. No wonder she was retiring – she would be worth about 100,000 Baht for every year of her life I’d calculated, which was more than enough to see her far into a ripe old age where she came from.

Once the passbook had done the rounds the party kicked up a gear and the night disappeared in a frenzy of music, grog and laughter.

Late the next morning we sat on the porch surrounded by hung-over wimin and watched Joi pile up the possessions that she no longer required for people to appropriate as they felt fit and as she did so she shouted across at me, ”Coreen,
in my room for you and ‘Bert, O.K.?"

I nodded my thanks and wished her well in her retirement career. She’d been fun and had succeeded where so many do not.

I got Rob and we wandered round to her now vacated room to see a bottle of Johnny Walker Black and a bottle of Mekhong sitting on the floor making, ”Drink me, drink me”, noises and so handing Rob the Black I grabbed the Mekhong and wandered
back to the porch to pour a nip and see if the girls wanted a wee freshie to kick start their livers.

Rob appeared with a his glass full of Black-Coke and lit a cigarette. ”Well,”, he said,”, That was fun. I wonder what will happen next?"

After drinking a little I placed my glass on the bench and answered his question: ”Easy mate; There’s going to be three upset husbands looking for her isn’t there?"

“And,”, I continued, ”Guess who they are going to come and ask? They don’t know what town she’s from let alone what province.”

Rob laughed and noted this to be a fair deduction.

“Rob, you don’t actually think that she left the grog out of the goodness of her heart do you?"

He laughed again, ”Well, actually, now that I come to think about it – that’s another good point!"

He swigged from his glass then smiled before saying, “Bloody hell, this stuff seems to induce amnesia… I go and get the bottle then…….”

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