Chicken’s Chicken, A New Year Tale 1
The venerable chicken so beloved of those fast food aficionados is perhaps a greater part of Thai culture than your average farang would realise.
They are eaten in all forms, dyed black on certain festivals then eaten, used as watchdog chickens and even as a nickname for certain folks.
Chicken is also used as a jolly little jape sprung on unsuspecting naiveties in restaurants. When the host asks the stranger if he or she would like three kinds of chicken, then be warned. You will wait and wait and wait and see no chicken. When you eventually start to moan about the piss poor service, your host will point to a plate of peanuts, ginger, garlic and pieces of lime which are eaten as an appetiser or as drinking food.
This then, is the ‘Gai sam yang’. (Three kinds of chicken).
Naughty scamps are those Thais….
If you are not familiar with Bangkok, then let me give you a brief description of it: 10 million or so people crammed into enough space for 4. Within this area there is a place called Nana Junction which we could describe as either frenetic, or those of a more logical disposition may say is, mayhem.
Situated at the lower end of Sukhumvit Road, (not the Cambodian border end), with a major intersection, zillions of tourists seeking amber nectar in the Plaza complex , the accompanying touts, traders and pimps, and the normal ebb and flow of the locals trying to do their thing, well, it becomes a bit hectic on a hot day for those who are easily reduced to howls of frustration.
However, a mere five minutes or so from this madhouse there lies an oasis of tranquillity, where the traffic noise is hidden and the crowds are out of sight. Almost a village in the city of traditional Thai wooden houses, (downmarket style), porches and all, with mango trees by the gate and walls.
Sanity in Hades if you like.
The inhabitants were a varied lot, ranging from a gaggle of upcountry girls who worked in a beer bar across the street, a few wenches with no obvious means of support, a Frenchman who came and went quietly in the night, a couple of female students who remained as much as possible behind their locked door, an Englishman in the laser business, and latterly, an Aussie who created karmic waves of a kind unpopular with Thais by roaring a lot. Gosh he was LOUD!
The landlady was a wizened old crone who didn’t give a damn what went on as long as she got her rent money, one of her son’s was the handyman cum rent man and his family resided in our compound…and then there was the other son:- Gai.
‘Chicken’, to thee and me and he was as crazy as a coot. (Meaning no disrespect to coots naturally).
For a Thai he was a big lad and for a Thai he was extremely aggressive which is a bad combination.
As his mum owned the property he had adopted the position of Chief of Security which basically meant checking at frequent intervals that the gate to the courtyard was locked after 9pm.
This led him into many conflicts with the residents and the local fuzz as he would invariably call them to dub in any miscreants not obeying his decree to the second. The feds soon got bored with that particular scene and threatened to house him in a place where the doors were always locked…
His job as a ticket puncher on a railway platform allowed full reign to his fantasies of protecting the realm, and especially where foreigners were concerned as we were all a threat to national security and thence his.
Given that my job was involved with certain agencies, I had great enjoyment inviting some of the more lithe members of the armed forces home for a bottle of grog one evening, which we drank on the porch. As this was a super, major, NO-NO, the expected screaming outburst occurred.
There are actually times when an aggressively held .45 pointed at someone’s head accompanied by a few pertinent words can be hilarious and that was one of them. We were allowed to finish the grog in peace.
But leases were terminated over his attitude and to be fair he was no more than a major pain in the arse. Nothing more, nothing less.
Gai (Chicken) lived in a house within the compound which in itself was surrounded by a fence and secured by a locked gate, a compound within a compound you could say. Within his secure area there was a chicken coop containing Chicken’s pet chicken.
This fowl never came to realise that Bangkok is a late night sort of a place and not all people required being woken by a chicken giving it, "Cock a doodle doo", at five every morning. It’s habit of wandering around in the daytime and taking random pecks at people’s ankles did not endear it to the population at large or it’s habit of sticking its beak into whoever’s plate was left handy.
One afternoon we were all sitting on the porch drinking beer and enjoying a multi language conversation when Robin, the Aussie, spied the chook making its rounds.
"Ah’m fekkin’ sick of that scabby fecker,", he announced, "And, it’s feckin’ owner."
We laughed agreement and carried on with a lazy hot afternoon with nothing much to do except dip into the ice bucket for more beer and sort out the world’s problems.
After some time, Robin suddenly stood then without speaking, wandered away in the canal direction to return ten minutes later with a packet of rat poison.
Alain grinned then asked if he was after making Australian cocktails but Robin’s reply evoked bigger grins, "Naw, feed the feckin’ chook some poison and really drive Norman off the feckin’ wall!"
At this juncture I may add that Gai had been nicknamed ‘Norman’ after a boozy Sunday afternoon with the girls who had vented their disproval of his habit of walking past the communal showers when there was a woman within.
Norman in the lonely wooden house with only his mother able to control him….As Alain always used to say in his perfectly accented French, (well, he is French), "Master Bates, ‘ow are you today?"
Norman would always look at Alain somewhat confused by the Gallic smile and bonhomie.
The name suited him to a tee and knowing that he hadn’t a clue what we were on about when using the name was unlikely to send him bananas thus preserving the calm of the Soi.
However, as Norman was working nights and had already left for a hard shift ticket punching it seemed an ideal time to test Robin’s theory and so grabbing a handful of sticky rice he quickly mixed the poison and scattered it around the courtyard. We then silently watched as the chicken strutted around until it had duly swallowed the lot.
On an unspoken command we thought it best to leave for the interim, so duly stood to wander down to Nikkie’s for a pint and a pie.
We returned much later in expectation of a toes up chicken and the ensuing thermo nuclear meltdown of Norman’s cerebral cortex, which would lead to, (we hoped), a life in which we could live in peace, quiet, lechery and beer…
Norman being very anti lechery and beer.
We grabbed some supplies from the shopette and on sitting down once more on the porch were surprised when Robin’s bellow rent the night: "There’s that feckin’ chook."
Sure enough, there it was scratching away merrily without a care in the world.
Alain’s comment had us collapsed in laughter when he suggested that it actually was as stupid as it’s owner and merely didn’t know that it was dead. Enough rat poison to see off a pack of dogs and there it was happy as a pig in a shit pit…..We were in stitches as the evening continued with Rob and Robin getting wired into a bottle of grog and Alain and I destroying the evidence of some wine to which he’d lost the import certification.
Duly we drifted off to our respective rooms to leave Robin sitting on the porch ensconced drunkenly in his director’s chair and my last conscious memory that night was of a slurred Aussie voice drifting through the night. "Feckin’ chook."
Some months later it was New Year, the Western New Year that is as Thailand gets three you see.
Chinese, Thai and ours. Any excuse for a holiday and a party in Thailand and a cultural fixture of the Thai race in general.
There would be the usual five or six day holiday with the city emptying as about 60% of the populace legged it home to the provinces, which meant, no traffic, no work and bugger all to do for five days except sleep, drink, eat and be merry. Alas, a lot of the resident female forms would head home as well.
Naturally any form of enjoying oneself was completely verboten to Norman and as he could not bear to watch even Thais having fun, he would disappear into the boondocks somewhere unknown to the rest of mankind and wait out the festivities. Sort of a depressed survivalist I suppose.
This habit of his was to be honest, welcomed by those who lived in Soi Nowhere as it meant that the good times could roll, the music too and with luck what else?
Robin had decreed that for New Year we would have an international barbecue to celebrate the open arms policy of us cosmopolitan types and as long as the bastards brought grog then they were welcome. My comment of having an international piss-up every day was met with scorn and instructions were issued to the remaining girls to invite their sponsors for the party. Except Germans, who had to bring twice as much booze in the interests of war reparations.
Alain asked, "Which war?"
Kick off was set as 10AM for the 31st and on that day the girls had my door open by 9.30 and had tickled me out of bed, dragged me into the courtyard then thrust a glass of beer into my sleepy hand.
The sort of breakfast that your doctor warns you about.
Walking across to where Robert was leaning against the porch, I cadged a cigarette then lifted my glass to touch his and said, "Morning."
He pursed his lips, and nodded sagely before returning his attention to the crossword in the Bangkok Post, the pen in his hand trembling slightly due to an alcohol blood shortage.
As I sipped my breakfast, Alain and Robin were a whirl of activity, cutting, chopping and mixing on a table placed on the porch, Robin appearing to have found the magic glass by the way it seemed to constantly refill without his attention.
Marc duly arrived, sundry Americans, some Germans and even an Iraqi joined in, the sun warmed, the booze flowed….the day disappeared.
Some time later I awoke and after surmising that I was in my own bed became aware that my door was open and a bevy of bints were getting stuck into a bottle of Mekhong whilst sitting on my floor.
I asked for a cigarette and a drink which Tik, (‘Belly Button’), handed to me with ‘that look’.
Nothing immediately came to mind that may have involved me being on the receiving end of, ‘that look’, but just to be sure I looked at the rest of the girls, and lo, it appeared that they were all silent and giving me, ‘that look’.
Thai wimin have managed to get, ‘that look’, down to a fine art over the years and it can mean many things to many people, but most often involves imminent castration.
Not having the foggiest what I was supposed to have done, I rolled upright, took a drink and grimaced as the raw spirit hit my tongue then noticed that it was both dark and quiet outside. On stepping to the door all that I could see of the party was Robin snoring in his deck chair, Alain and Marc were engrossed in rapid fire French; you could tell that they were plotting something, being French and all.
David was on the porch also and stretched out full length with his head using Daeng’s tummy as a pillow which to be honest seemed to be a comfy place to be and as Robert was nowhere to be seen I assumed that he was out in the Soi at the shopette.
Wandering out the gate I saw that the usual mob were there getting wired into a bottle of Johnny and a plate of Som Tam, laughs and shouts cracking the night. Rob smiled as he saw me approach then said, "Made it then?"
"Yea, but where did the party go?", I replied.
"Yonder, about 3pm", he pointed up the Soi and continued, "But don’t worry, you made it until 2.30."
That was alright then, I thought as I signalled Kay, the shop owner for a beer.
Rob continued, "But you did near provoke World War three by taking sides with the Iraqi when he told the South African that he was a sheep shagging dogs afterbirth…"
"Errr, what South African?", I asked.
"The one who you told, that a South African was living proof that a dingo had had consensual sex with a jack rabbit and that the evidence lived before your very eyes."
"Amazing but true.", I laughed as I felt my face for bruising and finding none, surmised that the chap probably had a sense of humour.
"Anyway, if he sees you again he’s gonna poke yer eye out with a sharp stick and eat it…he told me to tell you that", Robert continued.
"Oh well, can’t say fairer than that can we,", I laughed again as a vague memory surfaced, "And anyway, why are the girls giving me ‘that look’, what else did I do?"
Rob looked from side to side then motioned me closer, then putting his lips to my ear said, "The chicken."
This was confusing; chicken, what chicken? My synapses ran around this and could not connect with an action, taste or activity. Not that I could remember that day anyway.
I looked at Rob raising my eyebrows as I did so and whilst waiting for an explanation drank a long swallow of the cold, cold beer.
Rob beckoned me away from the throng and spoke quietly. "The French Connection did a commando raid on the chicken this afternoon." I began to grin as he continued.
It appeared that Gai had stomped off to do whatever he did about noon and as the party was in full swing, Alain, Marc and Robin had quietly sloped off around the back to Gai’s enclosure and using their pooled military expertise had navigated the fence and into the chicken’s coop. Silently wringing it’s neck they replaced the section of coop and stole back to Robert’s room where they stashed the corpse under a pile of equipment.
I glanced at the locals sitting drinking and as they seemed to be paying us no attention, relaxed a bit as Thais are inveterate gossips of the kind, ‘who cannot tell a lie’. Especially when it lands someone else in the shit. Therefore, best that this was kept super secret, which in itself is a laughable concept in Bangkok!.
I warmed as the beer began to work and thought of the potential repercussions of a demised fowl whilst watching a couple of bints walk up the Soi and into the darkness, the mossies falling in droves as the reek of perfume washed over them.
I met Rob’s eye as we silently concurred on our Bint Approval Rating, (BAR), NFI, Not Fornicating Interesting as the perfumed wake was a dead give away.
BAR comes in four categories:- NFI, CFI, (Could be Fornicating Interesting),VFI, (Very Fornicating Interesting), and TFM. (That’s for Me). (Ahem – Copyright C. Jamieson 1995).
We calculated that there would probably be about four days before Norman returned and until that time we were safe as none of the locals were in the least interested in the chicken and in any event, were too short to see over the fence anyway.
"So, what’s the plan then?", I asked.
Rob grimaced and replied, "A barbecue…Robin cooks the bird and we do the chips." He paused, then, "Tomorrow is a holiday remember?"
So it was, a nice roast chicken dinner with chips and some of Alain’s non imported wine sounded like a civilised way to pass an afternoon, why, we could even do gravy.
Thinking it was bed time I put my bottle on the shop counter and mentioned, "That’s me then, see you in whenever", then walked to my room with the door still wide open to find the floor strewn with sleeping, drunken wenches.
Daeng was sitting back to the wall with a glass in one hand and an aromatic cigarette in the other as I poured myself a glass then pushed Gob and Bier across my bed to make room. "Where’s David", I asked. She didn’t reply but angled her head to imply that he’d left and passed me the cig.
Passing it back to her I drained my glass then lay back and the last conscious thought was, ’Who wrote Lord of the Flies anyway?’.
"Night Daeng", I mumbled, "O.K.", she said.
It sounds like you and your mates got up to no good often!