A Snip In Time
Joe was a fairly unremarkable man, an ordinary Joe, a decent bloke. He held a middle management position in a middle of the road manufacturing company located in the Midlands of England. He lived fairly comfortably in the centre of a middle class housing estate.
He probably worked too many hours and spent far too much of his spare time involved in charitable work but he had plans to address this at some point in the future. When his long term plans came to fruition he had plans to eventually retire with his beloved wife in a rose covered cottage in the country and probably take up golf.
His plans however did not include becoming a widower at 44 when his wife was tragically killed by a Police car chasing a teenage joy rider.
The insurance payout gave him the opportunity to take a slightly less demanding job with flexible hours allowing him to care of his children. The task of bringing up his two teenage boys alone kept the grief at bay for a time.
After a couple of years as his boys' dependence on him diminished, his loneliness and natural instincts prompted him back into the world to seek the solace and comfort of a woman's company. However he quickly realised how western women had changed in the 20 years since he married his childhood sweetheart. Like Charles Handy's metaphor of the boiling frog, the changes in society, are slow and incremental. They are so imperceptible you do not notice them until they have occurred. He felt a sense of despair that the noble 30 year struggle for female emancipation advocated by women such as his late wife had merely resulted in the freedom of modern women to drink and swear like men and vomit in the street. Joe was a hard working and honest bloke who had kept himself fit and trim but he saw this cut no ice with the new breed of women. Their perception of entitlement and apparently infinite list of unrealistic expectations only served to deepen his feeling of hopelessness for his prospects of ever finding a partner.
But in his darkest hour fortune shone upon him. Joe's good nature made him a popular chap and he enjoyed a wide circle of friends. A work colleague sympathetic of Joe's plight introduced him to a friend who offered an alternative to his current fruitless endeavours with women. Sam was an Asia man of long standing with 20 years experience living and working in South East Asia. In recent years he had returned to live in the UK and confined his travels to the Kingdom of Thailand. He had become an aficionado of the Bangkok scene and had earned the nickname of Sukhumvit Sam.
Sam was a little older than Joe but of a similar disposition and education they hit it off immediately quickly becoming close friends. An intelligent and astute man Sam was initially cautious in his descriptions of his Bangkok activities but over a period of three months Joe became convinced the pleasures of Thailand were just the tonic he needed and agreed to accompany Sam on his next trip.
This first encounter with Bangkok was a real eye opener for Joe and he threw himself into the experience with the wide eyed enthusiasm that only a new convert can. Using the infamous Nana Hotel as a base and Sam's local knowledge they witnessed the pussy shows of Patpong, the pussy showers in the top floor of Nana Plaza and the showing of pussy in Soi Cowboy. They experienced the hostesses in Soi 33, the shop girls of the Thermae, the part timers in the Soi 7 Beergarden, the freelancers of the Nana car park and even had a good hiding in the Eden Club and all within the first ten days. A break in Pattaya even afforded Joe an introduction to the full on Thai girlfriend experience.
With his flexibility of employment in the next 3 years Joe managed 8 trips to the Kingdom. Now the archetypal sex tourist Joe availed himself of over 100 women in his first 6 visits. Sam good naturedly warned him they would have to bury his Tadger separately with full military honours. In fairness in the last two trips Joe had begun to moderate his hedonistic behaviour and relax a little. Joe was an amiable fellow and made friends easily. With Sam's contacts Joe's circle of friends amongst the expat community expanded. When one evening Joe was introduced to Alan he knew he had found a kindred spirit but had no idea how much his life was about to alter.
Alan held a senior position in the British Embassy and was married to a Thai lady only a few years his junior. Khwanruen was a highly intelligent and conservative lady. She held a senior secretarial position in a multinational company and was well connected in Thai society despite her Isaan origins. She liked Joe immediately, recognising a deep loneliness and seeing an innocent and innate honesty in him. She contrived to maximise the time he spent in their company, arranging, and at times inventing social occasions to keep him close to her and Alan. It was clear her aim was to minimise the time Joe spent in the fleshpots of Sukhumvit.
Khwanruen had plans for Joe.
Khwanruen had a baby sister she felt responsible for. Pan was 23 and had recently dropped out of university much to the chagrin of her family. Khwanruen knew that Pan was intelligent and inherently good-hearted, but appreciated the problem was the family had been over protective and had indulged her indolence. Khwanruen understood her younger sister was basically bored and that all she needed was a purpose, which required some influence from outside the family. She saw Joe as the answer and if events turned out as she suspected could provide a long-term solution to everyone's benefit.
From the moment Pan was first introduced to him Joe knew his heart was lost. She was the most delightful creature he had ever seen. With a captivating charm and the endearing innocence of a naive country lass he was totally enchanted by her. For the next few days Khwanruen organised a succession of social events that ensured Joe's attention was fully focused on Pan. With Khwanthorn always in attendance as chaperone, no intimacy occurred but by the end of the week Joe was smitten and suspected his life was about to change.
On his return to the UK his daily contact with Pan gave him a phone bill that would have maintained a small military campaign. Pan was flattered by his attention and her growing affection for him was genuine. She found his maturity a refreshing change from the young men of her acquaintance. The arrogance displayed by the sons of western diplomats dismayed her and the hi-so Thai boys were incredibly childish and seemed permanently tied to their mothers' apron strings.
Joe returned to the kingdom within 3 months to continue his courtship and was both surprised and delighted to find his attentions being reciprocated. The second week of his vacation he moved out of the Nana Hotel into a pleasant apartment just outside Sukhumvit and Pan moved in with him. They spent an idyllic week together enjoying some of the traditional tourist delights of Bangkok that Joe had never found the time or inclination for on previous visits. At the end of the week Joe conceded his days as a sex monger were over and his future was decided.
It was no surprise to Khwanruen and Alan when Joe announced his intention to marry Pan and take her back to England. It was also clear that Pan was entranced at the prospect of a new life with this considerate and caring man.
Khwanruen relished organising the wedding and Joe was a mere spectator in a whirlwind of activity. Alan's influence at the Embassy expedited Pan's visa arrangements. In less than 6 months of meeting Pan, Joe had returned to the UK with a new bride.
He moved her into his pleasant 3 bed semi-detached house he shared with his two sons. His sons had for some time acknowledged that their father would inevitably marry a Thai girl. They were genuinely pleased that their father had found happiness at last and quickly accepted their delightful new stepmother. Now 20 and 18 they saw no incongruity in the age difference and were quietly impressed with his choice.
Joe was pleasantly surprised how well and how quickly Pan settled into life in England. As a keen reader of the Stickman website he was acutely aware of the potential pitfalls. As a result he had become quite knowledgeable about the idiosyncrasy and needs of Thai girls. He ensured she had a twice-weekly dose of spicy Thai food even if it meant frequenting the ridiculously expensive Thai restaurants in the area. He even arranged for his sister in law to mail videos of the mindless Thai soap operas they find so enthralling.
For her part Pan had begun to idolise her new husband for the security and loving attention he bestowed on her. She adored her new home with its well appointed kitchen and small but well manicured garden. She could hardly believe the acceptance and warm heartedness she had received from Joe's boys and the rest of his family.
Joe was understandably anxious that Pan retained her innocent naive charm as much as possible. He was therefore careful to limit her contact with the English women of his acquaintance. This was an attempt to prevent her being tainted by the embittered disposition and air of disappointment that seemed to pervade in middle aged Western women. He was also careful she did not get too involved with the local Thai community for fear in particular of their gambling habits. Other than that Joe provided all the loving attention and security she craved and Pan reciprocated by being the very epitome of an affectionate, dutiful and loving wife.
With an almost innate sense of how to deport herself in any situation Pan was readily accepted and fitted in wonderfully in Joe's social circles. With a smile that could illuminate a small stadium she had instantly charmed all his family and friends.
Conscious that she needed some constructive activity to keep her inquiring mind occupied and prevent boredom (and mischief) Joe enrolled her in the local community college his youngest son attended. For a couple of days a week she studied English and a further two days she took a foundation course in Business Studies. The intention being that some time in the future she would return to her degree studies.
But his greatest delight was the way his sons had totally accepted his young wife into their lives. His youngest son took her to college every morning and met up with her in the college refectory at lunchtimes. He constantly checked that she was OK throughout the college day, waiting religiously to accompany her home at the end of classes. Pan had confided in Joe that this attention from her youngest stepson had impressed her classmates and they referred to him good naturedly as her bodyguard. In the evenings when he returned from work the eldest son would take over and take her food shopping to the local supermarket. He would regularly help Pan prepare the evening meal. He adopted a keen interest in Thai culture in general and in the preparation of Thai food that he appreciated his stepmother could not live without.
On Saturdays it was a tradition for Joe and his boys to go to a football match, then their girlfriends would take up the baton and Pan would accompany them on shopping expeditions or visits to the cinema. Sunday evenings seemed to be the only time Joe and Pan reserved exclusively for each other.
A slightly disturbing aspect was just how protective the two lads were of Pan. But they had recognised quite quickly the attitude of many English guys to Thai girls. It distressed them that there seemed a general perception that a Thai bride was somehow purchased and was therefore fair game to any scumbag lothario in the district. Even Joe could not fail to notice the number of distant friends, neighbours and passing acquaintances who had had their faces rearranged, noses broken or limbs dislocated. Joe had no idea that this occurred if his sons considered anyone had overstepped the mark or had not shown their young stepmother what they considered the correct respect. Joe was only slowly beginning to comprehend why everyone in the neighbourhood referred to his sons as Ronnie and Reggie or sometimes as the Mitchell brothers. But when Joe went away on the occasional business trip he did so in the knowledge that Pan was firmly under the protection of his boys.
The idyll continued for over a year. Joe was the happiest man on the planet and he could not conceive that life could be any sweeter. Then Pan told him she was pregnant. Joe was obviously pleased although it did not escape the brothers' attention that when he was first notified of the news their father appeared uncharacteristically disquieted which worried them a little. They attributed this to a natural apprehensiveness born from prior experience of raising a family, and of course to his advancing senility. However their concerns were somewhat alleviated when their father's previous euphoria returned the following day. They were not particularly religious but it was as if their father had received an epiphany and was now fully reconciled to it.
Throughout Pan's pregnancy his two sons continued to protect her like mother hens dancing attendance on her every whim. It was a source of amusement to Joe that his lads and their girlfriends insisted on attending all the ante natal classes with them.
In the fullness of time Pan gave birth to twin sons. There are no children on this Earth as beautiful as the luk krueng progeny of Thai women and western men but from their distinctive noses there was no mistaking the twins were members of Joe's family.
On the day of the twins christening Joe basked in the glory that can only be appreciated by a 50-year-old man who has become a father. The local church was filled with Joe's family and friends. Pan looked radiant that day and although claimed to be shy, was secretly delighted at being the centre of so much affection and attention. As usual Joe's two sons and their girlfriends hovered protectively around Pan and the twins taking hold of the babies without question whenever Pan needed her hands free. At the end of the service with the ubiquitous photo sessions in full swing Joe took the opportunity to catch a few conversations with old friends.
Standing around the doors of the church was a large group of his oldest friends whom he had known since his school days. As he made his way towards them he noticed one man he did not know chatting to Kevin. Kevin was Joe's closest friend despite earning his living as a lawyer.
Maybe a little younger than Joe, the man was tall with an air of confidence and authority about him. As Joe walked towards his group of friends he vaguely recognised the newcomer but could not place him.
On seeing Joe, Kevin turned to him and affected the introduction to his companion,
"Joe I would like to introduce Simon, a client of mine who has just joined the golf club."
"I am very pleased to meet you", Joe affirmed as they shook hands.
"Accept my congratulations on your new arrivals", Simon replied maintaining the handshake.
"We have actually met before but you may not remember me", he continued.
Seeing Joe's puzzled expression he explained, "I am the doctor who did your vasectomy operation 10 years ago."
Excellent short story. I really enjoyed it!