Chicken’s Chicken, A New Year Tale 2
Back to Chicken’s ‘Happy New Year…….’.
Awaking the next morning, I thought of the holiday then snuggled closer to Gob’s back before returning to the Land of Nod with a smile and a thought of, ‘what’s a church?’
Some time later the door was flung open and a loud Aussie voice rudely interrupted my dreams with a, “Oi – you got a bin liner and a feckin cleaver?"
Eyes still closed I mumbled a, ‘yes’, and made to rise as he continued, ”Feckin hell mate no wonder yer so skinny with all these tarts in here, give it a rest and live longer."
Getting untangled and onto my feet I stepped around Goy, handed him the cleaver and a bin liner. “Cheers mate, want a whiskey?”, he grinned.
“Naw….what’s the time anyway?”, I replied. Whatever time it was it was too early and judging by the light streaming in the door it was probably late enough as well.
“Gone ten mate, oy, Goy ye useless sack of shit get up", this last directed at Goy’s sleeping form.
She spat an obscenity and remained eyes closed. Whatever had happened between them in the past was shrouded in rumour, but Robin did lock his door at night and word said that Goy kept a straight edge razor with his name on it. Whatever, it was an interesting subject for speculation.
Robin about turned and left the door open as he walked to the porch singing, “Colonel Saunders came to town doo-da…."
Daeng arrived with another bottle of Mekhong and passing me a glass said, ”Ice finish”, before pouring breakfast for the rest of the gaggle who were raising sleepy heads from cushions and beginning to groan. I drank a little and felt the warmth of the rum as it trickled down my throat and as it did so a muffled voice from behind my back said, ”He bad man, do no good kill chicken. Big probrem now."
“Morning Bier", I laughed, because if Bier knew then everybody knew and suddenly the Mekhong seemed a welcome anaesthetic.
Taking my glass I left the ladies to do their thing with the bottle and wandered out to the porch just as Robert hove into view clutching a bottle of Carlsberg: As he joined me he first looked at the sky then to his bare feet before shrugging and lighting a cigarette.
We listened in amazement as Robin prepared the chicken, the porch shaking as he pounded and hacked from the security of his room. His door opened and he emerged carrying a bin liner to which a few feathers stuck and as he did so Robert asked, ”Perchance needed tenderising?"
I laughed adding, ”Perchance needs binning."
After dumping the evidence further down the Soi, Robin returned and reaching into his room showed us the plate of neatly dissected chicken to which we complimented him on his previously unheard of surgical abilities.
An evil lop sided grin split his face as he said, ”Wait till we’ve eaten the fecker, then I’m gonna wire it back together again."
The rum and coke got caught the wrong way as I laughed and blew the lot down the front of my tee shirt in contemplation of the scene.
“Anyway”, he continued, ”You feckers getting the spuds done?"
Later after peeling the potatoes I sat in the sun watching the sweat pool in my navel, Alain’s door opened and his head emerged to look around quizzically. ”Coleen, you see Marc?"
Shaking my head by way of reply, he frowned and said, ”Merde"
Must have been a rough night.
Robin hove into view with a hoot bearing a barbecue of the type used by the gai yang sellers, and on asking where he had liberated it, received the reply that the lady down the street had lent it to him.
“But I promised to marry her daughter”, he leered.
Alain’s voice drifted out of his room, ”But Robeen, she is a nice young lady."
“Not for long mate, not for long", roared Robin. "Right who’s got the barbie fuel?"
None of the locals seemed to know the meaning of ‘barbie fuel’ although Da did mention something about crazy Australian men liking tuk a taa, (dolls), but between Rob, myself and Alain we managed to get the idea across.
After a couple of minutes a bag of charcoal flew down the stairs from Arun’s room to land at his feet, ”Thanks you Isaan monkey, no need to feckin hand it down." And with that he grabbed both barbecue and charcoal then disappeared around the side of the shower block.
I sat on the step of the porch sipping slowly and watched the mango tree beside my door; Robert sniffed his armpit then frowned and opened another bottle of beer as Alain came to sit beside me.
He put his head in his hands and said, ”Zis place……." Then was silent.
It was a nice day, quiet with most of the residents having gone up country for the holiday and no souped up water taxis howling up and down the canal at the end of the Soi. There is a strange, unnatural silence that hangs over Bangkok during a holiday, much I imagine as a city must feel before an impending air raid.
Looking around in thought, I saw the two story teak wood house who’s balcony I was sitting on and across from me was the stairway leading up to Joy and Arun’s room situated above mine. Around us stood the courtyard with the mango trees beside the wall and my door with the concrete growing hot in the noonday sun.
Mau, Lek and Paow sat beside the gate in the shade discussing something in hushed terms, perhaps some juicy scandal or more likely Robin’s potential demise. I thought that you don’t see many TV. documentary crews in this neck of the woods.
Tik sat beside me and smiled to herself. She was always doing that and I wondered what she knew that we didn’t? I often wondered about her silent smile, it could be unnerving.
The smell of grilling chicken was making our mouths water as Alain stood to reappear bearing an armload of bottles of red wine and an ice bucket then grabbing my glass opened a bottle then poured. Handing it to me he smiled then said, ”Salute"
Later that afternoon we lazed replete having enjoyed the chicken and chips smothered in a red wine and herb gravy prepared by Alain. Robin lay back in his director’s chair whilst Robert watched an ant slowly make it’s way along the porch rail. Alain and I watched the circle of girls who sat watching us.
“Maybye waiting for us to peg out”, I ventured.
“Could be", Rob agreed.
“Like fek", snorted Robin, eyes shut.
Siesta beckoned so I stood slowly and ambled to my room and on lying down was instantly asleep.
I jerked awake coughing and retching, tears streaming down my face as though I’d been tear gassed and was up and out of my room in seconds into the fresh air where I stood gasping, rubbing my blinded eyes, to roars of laughter from an unseen audience.
Someone handed me a towel as I stumbled away from the hideous stench that seemed to accompany the fumes and as I reached the far side of the courtyard I managed to open my eyes and gasp, ”What the fuck is that?"
Robert pointed to my doorway where the gas burner had a pot frothing away merrily on it and said, ”Bleach,we’re boiling the carcass in bleach cos’ it makes the bones whiter."
“But outside my front bloody door?”, I roared in reply.
“Well, you were asleep and didn’t object….." Was the laughing reply.
By now awake and unlikely to return to my room for an hour or so I took myself into the Soi, sat myself at a table where I could sit in silence with a cold beer and no chance of being gassed excepting a sudden coup, which could never happen on a holiday anyway.
Duly the pot was drained and the whitened remains carried away to Robin’s room with evil chuckles. Darkness fell, Alain disappeared on a mission and Robert joined me in the Soi which remained silent as a grave. Handing me a Marlboro and a cold beer he sat and as I lit up I noticed a familiar sweet taste and mentioned that it was nice to see that cigarette companies were adopting a more herbal approach to their products.
“All the rage these days", he replied, then, ”You know, Norman is going to go ting-tong maak. He’s going to lose it big time, nay; super big time."
I smiled before replying,” Well, don’t send him a card thanking him for lunch, just keep your door locked at nights."
Then we lapsed into silence again, enjoying the scenario of Bangkok on holiday.
Later that night as I lay thinking thoughts of home and the strangeness of the life there, my door opened and a soft giggle announced Tik’s arrival. Her roommate was away and like so many of the upcountry girls she was scared to stay alone, being scared of the ghosts that lurked for those not in company. ”I sleep here?" She asked.
“Sure", I replied, ” But no snoring."
She laughed quietly then said, ”What Robin do? Listen…."
I lay silent and concentrated and soon my ear caught the unmistakable, ‘whee-whee’, of an engineers precision drill coming from the direction of Robin’s room. Did he patent mayhem I wondered, then slept.
The following morning we sat on the porch drinking coffee and wondered what to do with day three of our holiday. As we normally worked six or seven days, the free time was beginning to run heavy.
A strange concept you may think, but certainly in my case, the line between work and pleasure was a non existent one.
Alain suggested that we go for lunch which raised a laugh, Robert commenting that we, ‘Were all out for lunch – full time here.’, so I shouted on Robin if he wanted to join us.
A muffled enquiry of ‘Where?’, escaped his room and Alain shouted back, ”The Heidelberg."
“Get fecked mate, bunch of German feckers in there, and you consorting with the enemy ye Frog git. I’ll see ya later…"
Then the, ‘whee-whee’, noises began again which caused us to wince and stand ready to go. A dentist’s drill sounds the same in any country.
Sitting in the dim interior of the Heidelberg we ordered beers and checked out the menu special: It was roast chicken which we laughingly declined and ordered accordingly.
After eating we passed an hour with the girls who seemed to spend their days propped at the bar awaiting a new catch and trying to cadge drinks off those who had struck lucky before we stepped out into the afternoon heat for the walk home.
As we waited to cross Nana junction a couple of half drunk Russians surrounded us and were effusive in their thanks for the party a couple of days previous, and yes the hammer and sickle flag had been ordered for us. Managing to escape their attentions we continued on our way and as we walked we exchanged sidelong glances until finally Alain asked if anyone remembered them.
Neither Rob nor I had the foggiest inkling of who they were but suggested that they were probably KGB, compiling dossiers on the reprobate behaviour of the Western Alliance.
We entered the compound and passed between the showers and the house then sat on the porch listening to the occasional, “Hoo-Hoo”, that emanated from Robin’s room.
The place was deserted so I assumed that the girls had bunked off to one of the parks or to an air conditioned shopping mall to await the fireworks show that night. Colourful things that make loud bangs are much beloved by Thais and whilst I have never been on the receiving end of a saturation bombing campaign, the experience of a Thai fireworks show lends one an idea of the concept.
Robin’s door opened and he emerged onto the porch, blinking slightly in the light, raised his right arm into the air to show us the skeleton of a chicken reassembled into a child’s mobile for the Adam’s family. (He was actually a Maritime Engineer).
The one flaw being that it was headless and wingless.
He sniggered and said,”Wotdya reckon’? Pretty feckin good eh?"
We cracked up and roared at the idea of Norman arriving home to find this resident in the coop and as we laughed Robin produced a lump of plasticine from behind his back with a flourish then said, “Eh voila: See Meester Alain, I speak the lingo as well. Anyway, a bit of this sticky round the leg bones and the fecker’ll stand up straight. Feckin’ Norman might not even notice!"
Tears of mirth ran down his face as he explained how he’d wired the major limbs back together then finished the job with super glue to fix the smaller items and legs in position.
Retrieving his glass, he drank then after asking Rob to hold the carcass he moulded two lumps of the plasticine and gently pushed the lower extremities of the skelton into them. As he eased his hands away it was apparent that the thing would stand upright causing us to applaud his attention to detail.
“You,”, this aimed at me, ”Feckin’ aeroplane engineer, real engineers fix ships and chickens."
Alain giggled, ”Chicken and ships eh?"
The Mekhong appeared and as we poured to drink a toast to the resurrected chicken, Goy appeared round the corner done up to the nines and looking gorgeous. As she walked past, she smiled, ‘Harro’, and on catching sight of Robin’s work let out a shriek and collapsed into a squat, laughing fit to bust. All she could do was point and say…”You-you-you…", as we smiled angelic smiles in return.
“Hey Robin", I said, ”It needs a head. Small detail maybe, but noticeable."
“Feckin’ right mate", he replied, ”I thought of that already", and ducking into his room he returned with a small skull filled with tiny rodent teeth which he perched on top of the skeleton.
The proportion was a bit out of perspective but lent the thing a slightly Jurassic Park look though the skull was a bit undersized to model an undersized tyrannosaur. ”Found a kids toy in a bin didn’t I?”, he cackled then produced the super glue.
That night as I lay reading, soft voices and footsteps passed my door to fade into the night.
The next morning I had a look at the calendar and calculated that I could easily head out of town for a few days then quickly packed a ditty bag, all the while thinking that out of town could be a good idea for the immediate future. Heroes never live long.
As I finished my coffee in the yard Alain appeared downstairs bearing a tote bag so we exchanged looks and I asked, ”Pbye nai?" (Where are you going?).
“Mae Sai”, he replied and laughed. I laughed along for a person could not really get further away than Mae Sai and still remain in Thailand.
“Et tu?" He asked. ”Lampang,”, I smiled, ”Visit some friends, they’ve got a shotgun."
We laughed again then headed off to the bus terminal and as we passed Chicken’s house I couldn’t resist a peek over the fence to see; the padlocked coop containing a dinosaur chicken skeleton on which hung a small placard bearing the words in Thai script, ”Gai hue." (Chicken hungry).
It stood erect fixed nicely in position by the plasticine almost as though it had always been there.
As we walked up the Soi in the direction of the bus stop to get to the terminus, Robin drew abreast of us in his car and drew to a halt. The car contained Robert also.
Robin laughed and said, ”Off then ye cowardly feckers? Rob and I just thought to head North to Korat, to see the wife like. Four hundred K’s should be far enough away when Norm gets back."
“Just like us", I replied, ”Get out the smoke for a while, see a bit of nature."
“Smoke?”, laughed Rob, "Smoke? More like a thermo nuclear detonation when that clown gets back."
We agreed to meet up in Nikkie’s on Thursday evening to return en mass assuming safety in numbers, an idea soon scotched by Alain who muttered something about M-16’s.
Thursday evening we were ensconced in Nikkie’s enjoying draught Carlsberg and listening to Alain wind up the black guys, ”Hey you, you sell zee ‘eroin? You have zee ‘eroin for me?"
Whenever some mug would say, “Yes”, Alain would bellow “Poleece…poleece”, at the top of his voice causing sundry dusky gents to dive out of the door and away up the street.
This was his party trick and nearly always successful.
Duly we left Nikkie’s but before entering Robin’s car had a good look down the Soi into the darkness, and seeing no signs of destruction or fire we decided that it was maybe safe to return.
As we pulled up outside the shopette we noticed four cops sitting at a table there but assumed that it was a social visit judging by the bottle of rum that stood between them.
We disembarked and joined the throng at the shop, every sense made aware to check for out of place glances, silences or other indications that our cover had been blown.
All seemed normal as we wished the returned residents a “Happy new mia" (‘Happy new wife’- a by now standard, jokey Thai New Year’ism).
After arranging another table and chairs next to the cops we got beers then sat down, nodding, “Harro”, to the cops as we did so.
Robin as always had to get right into them and in pidgin English began his interrogation:
“Hey Meester Polees-you shoot anyone today?" Always said ever so politely with a shit eating grin on his face.
The cops exchanged looks, then laughed and raised their glasses in greeting. One smiling more than the rest said, ”Chicken!" The other cops followed suit, chinked glasses and said, ”Chicken!"
Robert looked at me sidelong, whispered, ”Some bastard grassed us off"
Alain looked me a, ‘Say nothing’, look, as we sat relaxed and waited developments.
‘Mr Smiley’, one of the better local cops was present and nodding in our direction he said, ”Hey, you like Kentucky?”, he paused then drank, then,” Thai chicken good, yes?"
We figured that this was a wind up and moved our seats to their table and began to discuss Thai chicken dishes with great hilarity:- Many Thai innuendos being based on the subject.
Chicken House = Brothel. Gai khao = White chicken (Farang ladies). I’m sure you get the drift.
The night was warm, the beer was cold and surprisingly, none of us had managed to incriminate ourselves as our spoken Thai was passable and ability to read Thai body language somewhat well developed.
Suddenly the youngest of the bunch interjected, ”Hey farang, you like di-na-sor”, the pronunciation seemingly a bit of a problem, although it could have been the skinful of grog that he’d consumed.
“Yea, Sherlock feckin’ Holmes, I love ‘em on a barbie with some chips", roared Robin by way of a reply.
An uneasy silence fell as Mr Smiley produced a note book and pen, then nodding sagely he consulted his watch and then wrote the date and time.
He leaned back in his seat, pursed his lips then looked at us each in turn as the Soi crowd went silent behind us. ”Me, I like pizza", he announced.
We agreed wholeheartedly that pizza was much tastier than scabby old chicken any day of the week, but that Thai food was cheaper, much cheaper if truth be told, thus leaving us more money to spend on important things like beer and wimin.
“You want pizza?" he asked.
We got the drift straight off and whilst we weren’t actually hungry, we would be most willing to purchase for our hard pressed crime fighting friends who’s salaries didn’t run to such luxuries and indeed it was New Year and we would be deeply offended if they did not accept our hospitality.
This is a polite Thai way of saying: “O.K. you blackmailing bastard, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place"
Seconds later he was muttering away into his hand phone, the words tallay and yai being repeated as the order of the day. Shortly, a brightly coloured motorcycle came puttering out of the darkness and Rob suggested a 100 Baht each as our contributions, which we all duly produced then placed on the table.
The boy handed over the pizza, Mr Smiley put the change in his pocket then they got stuck in to the piping hot seafood pizza as we looked on awaiting the next development.
“Hey……meester Coreen”, split the night and on turning I was presented with the wall to wall grin of Jaeb who stood swaying gently in the Soi, a bottle of Chivas Regal clutched in a hand.
“Hey Jaeb-good to see you-what are you doing here?”, I asked surprised as Jaeb was an infrequent visitor to Bangkok and had never been in Soi Nowhere to my knowledge.
Jaeb recanted a long, confusing tale about going to a party in Pattaya which had moved along to our office in Bangkok and at some point he’d managed to lose the rest of the gang so headed to Nana looking for me. As a pinball makes it’s way around the table he’d been pointed here and there until he’d finally arrived in his present location.
Jaeb’s occupation was uncertain, but rumour had it that his family were old Eastern seaboard heavies who often drank with Generals and I had on occasion heard him refer to police as car park attendants. But he was a helluva nice guy and a great drinking buddy.
As his preamble came to a halt he noticed the cops we were sitting with and said, ”Nee arai." (What’s this?).
He then fixed the cops with a look which implied, ”These are MY mates you scum sucking, swamp dwelling, low life, morons", before introducing himself with a grin.
This is allowable when your Uncles can walk on water and witnesses can be produced in court to state the fact under oath.
The cops poured him a drink of the Chivas then added some to their own glasses before stating why they were there in a high speed frenzy of hilarity and gesticulation.
Alain, Robin, Rob and myself drank and listened quietly as the tale unfolded, the words, ‘rongpayaa bahnbaa’, seemed to be used rather a lot and I looked up at the stars and thought, ”Great, Norm’s in the nut house……thanks be, there is a god…”
Shortly the rest of the Soi mob had gathered to listen to the tale as Mr Smiley and co., embellished the details to suit the howling audience. Bottles and more bottles began to appear and noticing a nudge on the elbow from Alain we stood and slunk into the courtyard to find the girls ensconced on the porch twittering away in Puu Tai, which they knew we couldn’t follow.
Arun offered us glasses of Mekhong-coke and to sit, before Tuu-Tuu giggled then said, ”Hey, Chicken go crazy house- what happen?"
I shrugged, Alain shrugged, we feigned nonchalance as Joy broke in with, ”Good, maybe he no come back." This we agreed was a very good thing and dutifully toasted each other in time honoured Isaan fashion.
Goy and Da arrived in stitches with Goy waving a finger in our faces sat down and between shrieks of laughter, told us the story; the rest of the girls interjecting here and there with their own versions of events.
Anyway, it appeared that he’d arrived back in his usual foul mood, slamming the gate, rattling the padlocks to his enclosure and house then having the customary snoop around the rooms to let everyone know that Stormin’Norman was back in town.
He’d walked past the coop containing the flesh and feather devoid chook twice before heading round to his mum’s room to return with a dish bearing food and rice. The girls who’d been around had vanished in expectation of the impending wrath to come, but, his gate had banged shut and silence thenceforth reigned.
Much later in the night Daeng and Ae were woken by soft moans from below their window and on looking out saw Norman standing in his enclosure holding a torch which was aimed at the chicken coop. He was moaning softly and stood stock still, the beam not wavering by a millimetre.
The girls quickly assumed the attitude that out of sight was out of mind, snuck down the stairs thence over the wall and ofski to the late night noodle stall located up the street.
Some time later having decided that whatever was going to happen would probably have happened they crept back down the Soi and were relieved to see some police motorcycles parked outside the gate which at least assured their safety in the short term.
And of course, being Thai wimin, they just had to go inside for a good gawk.
Several policemen were sat on the porch with Norman sitting beside them silent as a mouse. Mr Smiley sat also, writing furiously in his notebook as various minions spoke hurriedly into their police radios. The photographer arrived and took some ‘evidence’ snaps of the Jurassic chook which some kind soul had affixed to the bench using the plasticine, and seemed careful to make sure that the despondent Norman was included in the shots.
Eventually the cops left and pop-popped up the Soi on their motorbikes leaving an occasional wisp of laughter in their wake as Norman slowly and leaden footed made his way back to his house.
The rest of that night was a sleepless event for the girls as they listened to the silence coming from Norman’s place, and as they insisted:- It was just plain spooky.
The Thai press are noted for having death, gore, mayhem and scandal plastered across the front page with photos it would appear, to come from confidential sources to accompany the story.
Such as life is, the next day Norman became a star: Somehow, someone in the Soi had managed to get some copies of the police pics and had photocopied them, and, naturally in the public interest had managed to dish them out a’plenty to the various noodle and rice stalls in the Soi.
In the pic sat a dejected looking Norman sat beside his pet skeleton with the caption, ”Gai dtye" (Death of a chicken.).
We’d missed the action, being out of town and all, myself sitting in Lampang watching the time idle by with a cold beer resting on my sweaty stomach, Alain, god knows where and Rob and Robin in Korat getting legless.
As told by the girls, Norman had emerged the day following his horrific discovery, dressed for work, resplendent in his uniform, just raring to go and kick impoverished ass when what did he see?
The photo. Everywhere he looked he saw the same photo…..all down the Soi everybody had a copy it appeared and sat facing him as he walked past. And as news travels fast in the Big Mango, by the time he’d reached the end of the Soi he’d probably passed about 500 hundred copies of the thing arranged for his maximum viewing pleasure.
He never returned that day or the next. His brother, the landlord let it be known that Norman was on ‘Holiday’ and unlikely to return in the near future therefore drinking could continue on the premises which to be said was accepted with unanimous cheer.
Some weeks later we were relaxing on the porch and having a last glass of Alain’s evidence when one of the owner’s scabby guard dogs came trotting past, as ill tempered and spoilt as a dog can be.
Robin yawned and chuckled his evil laugh before saying….”Hee-hee-hee, have I got feckin’ plans for you Fido…"
You guys sound like an odd bunch.