Iewung’s Inheritance! – Chapter Three
Om composes herself and embarks on her story;
‘It all starts and ends with Chenda’.
I intercede, hating myself in an instant for selfishly interrupting;
‘No! No Om! It all starts with our parents, where it ends nobody knows’.
Seeing the conflict on Om’s face I add;
‘Sorry! I’m so sorry Om, that wasn’t helpful’.
Om continued, her confidence boosted by her irritation at my unwelcome interruption; ‘Anne’s father is a farang Angrit (Englishman), that’s why her skin is so white. At fourteen I’d never seen a farang before.
He was young and handsome. He picked me up outside of school. He chose me out of all the girls, I felt proud, so special. He gave me two hundred baht to go to the temple with him, after that he took me to a sing-a song café. You must remember
that night that I cam home so late after school? In the café he kissed me, I liked it so I kissed him back. He brought me home. He came into our grounds and make love to me in the gazebo. To me then he was wonderful. I thought I was in love
with him. Every day after school I used to look for him but I never saw him again. At first all of the girls at school were jealous, they wanted to know every detail. I thought I was the first one to have sex, but after me and the farang other
girls told me about their first time. It was amazing, some had it with their brother, others with their dad, and do you what, that Som, and she had sex with our school caretaker, behind the bicycle shed! Som got pregnant too; her parents threw
her out so she went to live with the caretaker. Her mum said that she was no good, but her dad wanted revenge and called the police, he didn’t know that the caretaker’s dad was a policemen or that was why the police did nothing!
Anyway I got pregnant too. I was frightened and ashamed. That’s why I ran away and threw myself into the Mekong, just like I told you before. When I regained consciousness I was on the river bank. It was dark, very dark. I cried. I thought
of all the trouble I would be in when I got home. I thought couldn’t kill myself again, I was so cold, I couldn’t face jumping back into the water so I thought that I’d have to go home. I stood up and looked around me. Everything
looked different. I thought that maybe I was washed down stream. I was still wondering what to do when I heard an engine. It was a long tail boat. I shouted out for help and the boatman heard me, cut his engine and drifted over to the bank. He
looked very stern at first but when he saw me his face broke into a smile. He said something, I couldn’t understand properly, he wasn’t speaking our language and it wasn’t Lao. When he saw the puzzled look on my face he spoke
again, this time in very bad Thai;
“Oh dear did you fall in?”
I said; “Yes”.
Well I could hardly of told him that I killed myself could I, after all I was still alive, wasn’t I? He burst out laughing and said;
“What do you want me to do about it?”.
‘I asked him to take me back up stream because I thought that I’d been washed downstream a long way. That’s when I realized for sure that I was on the Lao side of the river because the current was flowing to my left and
it should have been flowing to my right! I thought to myself, well I haven’t killed myself, but I have escaped!
He said; “OK I’ll give you a ride”.
‘So I got into his boat, nearly fell in the river! It frightened me, the thought at falling in, silly wasn’t it. In the boat I sat down and thought; I’m glad I’m not killed! Within minutes the boat passed the lights
on the Thai bank that I new was our town, I said nothing. I had a new plan’.
‘The boatman asked what my name was and I replied; “Om”.
He laughed and said; “Ok Om, I’m Chenda”.
‘I think he knew we’d passed my home. He didn’t seem care. His boat was full of packages tightly wrapped in black polythene sheeting and bound with parcel tape. It seemed odd to me, all of the packages were about the
same size. I thought he must be some kind of postman. After an hour we pulled over to the Thai bank. It was a dark spot. No sign of a moobaan. A man stepped out from the shadows of the bushes. He never spoke. Neither did Chenda, he handed one
of the packages to the man who hurried away. I think the man had given something to Chenda, money perhaps, but I couldn’t be sure. Chenda reversed the engine and backed out into mid river, and then we were off again. During the next long
hours heading up river I guess Chenda noticed the puzzled look on my face because he said, as near as I could tell with his funny accent;
“You want to stay with me on my boat, don’t you?”
Without hesitation I replied “Yes I do!”
‘Through the night we delivered many more packages to ghost like figures that appeared out of the shadows every time that we pulled over to the bank. Each time the man would put something in Chenda’s outstretched hand, without
saying a word, and then disappear with his parcel. The sky was beginning to lighten, dawn was not far off. The packages were all gone then. Chenda seemed relaxed as he turned the long tail back downstream’.
‘I lay back in the prow of the boat, looking toward the stern. The first rays of the sun were catching the ripples in the water burnishing the crest of each ripple and leaving its trough black as midnight. It reminded me of the hill
tribe ladies that stretch their necks, adding just one golden ring extra each year until at last they have long swan like necks bedecked with golden rings, equity and elegance ready for love and marriage. In the stern Chenda stood erect tilling
the boat with its long tailed screw. He looked just magnificent, his coolie hat shading his face, his bare chest golden in the rays of the morning sun. He was so slim. He looked so beautiful in a rugged and slightly threatening sort of way. I
just lay there with my hand trailing in the water, looking at the sky and dreaming. Those hours of the night were the most exciting experience of my life. Gone were our dreary routines at home, gone were the no you can’t, and don’t
do that and you can’t go to church with lipstick on, and you can’t go to school like that, and don’t eat on the street you’ll get sick. Really! I thought, I’d never been up all night before. The only real excitement
in my life had been the afternoon with the farang. By then I’d realized that Chenda was one of the smugglers on the Mekong that dad used to talk about. Dad said that they smuggled weapons, drugs and cigarettes. I wondered then what was
in those mysterious black packages we’d been delivering through the night. I was snapped out of my dreamtime, some four hours later, when the engine noise died away and a bump told me that we’d reached the shore. Chenda took my hand
while I got out of his boat and didn’t let go of it until he’d led me up the sandy beach to a small fisherman’s hut. Inside it was a real hovel, worse than what I have now’. Om paused, the door had opened and a neighbour
was standing in the open doorway, looking expectant. The woman spoke;
“Would you like me to take the children in to my place, it’s getting dark?”
‘Oh yes, please do’, Om replied
With that the neighbour was gone.