The Unwelcome Caller
This happened about 25 years ago near Sattahip while I was staying in a small beach resort. It was typical of the resorts at that time; with small Thai style thatched rattan and bamboo huts set in an acre or so of tropical gardens, with a wall-less seafood restaurant and a swimming pool by the beach.
On that particular evening I decided to stay in rather than take the free minibus into Pattaya. So, after a seafood dinner and cocktails it was off to my hut to tackle a novel and a bottle or two of cold Kloster waiting for me in the bar fridge.
Soon I was stretched out on my bed with book in hand, reading and occasionally admiring my tan, when I felt this overwhelming sense of someone, or rather something other than myself else in my hut.
So I put the book down and scanned the room…it was then I saw it – squatting in front of the bar fridge.
My first thought was… “My God, what is a capybara doing in my hut?
After rubbing my eyes and looking again I saw it wasn’t a capybara but rather a rat; a very large rat. A bolt of electricity immediately shot from the top of my head to my toes causing my body to stiffen appreciably.
I closed my eyes hoping when I opened them the rat wouldn’t be there. That it was all but a hallucination of sorts. But when I opened my eyes the rat was there. This was no hallucination. This was real.
With a look of dumb fascination on it’s face the rat stared hard at me: no doubt probing for weaknesses, flaws or a flinch, and weighing up whether it should attack me now or wait a bit. Through sheer terror I couldn’t help but stare back.
And by God it was frighteningly ugly. Apart from its huge size it had a face that looked like (pardon the cliché’) like 20 miles of bad road, with cold black lifeless eyes, on a scale somewhere between a jumping spider and a Thai mother in-law and long grey twitching whiskers.
One of its ears was half missing, probably torn off in a battle, and it had a long leathery tail, and large menacing claws which looked specifically designed by evolution to tear at farang flesh.
Had it had a hair-lip I’m certain I would have fainted.
As a result of the sheer terror I was feeling I suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to fart…or worse. I had to use all the strength my sphincter could muster to hold it in.
I was terrified if I didn’t the emitted odour might contain a pheromone of sorts that would trigger something in the rat’s brain and signal it to attack.
So there I was, lying on a bed wearing nothing but Mike Shopping Mall red boxer shorts, and a damn fine tan, locked in a death stare with a giant rat of sinister appearance and dubious intent.
After a period of hysterical paralysis – which may have lasted a half an hour, maybe more maybe less – something quite bizarre occurred; call it hysterical un-paralysis if you will.
An unknown force of sorts took control of my body. I inexplicably found myself slowly rising – this despite every fibre in my being protesting fiercely – until I was stood up on the bed and towering over my unwelcome caller.
Sub-consciously no doubt this involuntary puffed-up frog type display of size was fashioned to intimidate the rat, or at least appeal to it’s common sense, and somehow convince it I was too big to grapple with.
To heighten the display I believe I even turned slightly sideways, puffed out my chest and flexed my right forearm and bicep.
But to no avail: the rat was unmoved. I thought I even detected a hint of contempt on its face.
I suppose in hindsight standing on a bed noticeably shaking, wearing nothing but red boxer shorts and my heart pounding, I probably looked as menacing as a church going clam.
So the standoff continued. I started to experience a twinge of anger so courageously (at least I thought so) I started mentally abusing the rat, making silent snide comments about it’s age, weight and parentage, all the while of course maintaining the “ hi little buddy” look I had on my face.
At that point I was convinced it was only a matter of time before the rat launched an attack. And what did I have to defend myself other than a pillow and my enviable sun tan?
I began picturing the Bangkok Post report: Well-tanned tourist gnawed by giant rat and Wild Life Officers hunt rat wearing red boxer shorts. Accompanying the report was a picture of 5 or 6 smiling resort staff pointing at my hut and also a picture of my unflattering passport photo which was snapped by a fumbling teenage girl at my local pharmacy.
I needed a plan, and I needed it quickly.
I dared take one eye off the beast and looked toward the door. I calculated it was a long hop and a pirouette away. If only I could make it to the door un-gnawed, I could escape and alert the armed security guard in the restaurant and get him to shoot the beast.
I had to go for it. Calmness enveloped me, and I decided that if I was going to go down, I was going to go down running.
So after some deep breaths (and silent hysterical sobs) I quietly steeled myself. Then, on the count of 129, I took a leap of faith.
Still to this day I cannot remember how in an instant I found myself outside and running toward the restaurant.
That sense of freedom, that sense that I had cheated death was exhilarating but alas, when I got to the restaurant it was closed! All the main lights had been turned off and seemingly there was nobody there.
So there I was, standing on a table in the middle of a darkened restaurant, still shaken and wondering what to do next.
It was then I heard the sound of salvation; snoring. By God the security guard was somewhere close by: and on duty as it were.
I found him in a corner blissfully asleep on a camp stretcher. I shook him and he awoke startled to see a find a wild-eyed well tanned farang wearing nothing but red boxers standing there.
As he swung his feet to get up from the camp stretcher he knocked over two empty bottles of Kloster onto a dinner plate, spoon and fork; breaking the night silence. The noise awoke the heavily tattooed recently paroled mini-bus driver who was sleeping nearby and he, stretching and yawning, sauntered over to see what all the fuss was all about.
I started to explain how I narrowly escaped a grizzly end when, judging by the befuddled expressions on their faces, it became evident they could not understand a word a word of English. And of course I couldn’t speak a word of Thai.
I have to admit charades and / or mime have never been a strong point of mine but, I had to try something to explain my predicament.
But how does one mime the presence of an elephantine menacing rat in one’s hut? I tried a few mimes, which obviously were unenlightening since both the security guard and the driver gave me a rather strange look: the type of look you give somebody you suspect of being under the influence of some type of psychedelic drug.
The guard said something in Thai to the driver which of course I didn’t understand, but I suspected it was something along the lines of “I’m getting the handcuffs”.
In a flash of inspiration I asked for pen and paper which the security guard was able to provide. In a shaky hand I attempted to draw a rat, but since I was still in a state of terror my sketch looked more like an extinct species of sheep than a rat. Having looked at my sketch both the guard and driver were left scratching their heads.
I attempted another sketch and thankfully this one resembled a rat. Now they both understood. I motioned sleep by joining my hands and resting my head on them and pointed in the direction of my hut. They both nodded. I pointed to the sketch then spread my arms wide to show the size of the rat.
Seeing this, both the guard and driver, in military unison, took two steps back.
The guard then gave me some soothing motions with his hands as if he were reassuring a young child.
With that the guard straightened his grey coloured uniform; which was at least three sizes too large. Put on his black cap; which was at least two sizes too big, then slipped on his sandals which thankfully were the right size. He was now primed for action.
With jaws set forward the three of us then marched off in the moonlight to my hut. I sent a mental message to the rat. Here come 3 men and a gun. Prepare to die. I figured we would need at least 3 slugs to take him out.
I expected the guard to march straight into my hut with gun blazing, but instead, he very gingerly approached my hut, using slow fearful steps as if he were approaching a cornered king cobra that he was being forced to capture with bare hands for the first time. It was obvious the guard was more frightened than I was.
It took what felt like an eternity for the guard to inch his way to the door of my hut which was wide open. When he finally got there he ever so briefly poked his head through the door then beat a hasty retreat to where the driver and I were standing.
He triumphantly motioned the rat was gone and beckoned me to return to my hut. The guard and driver then returned to the restaurant leaving me standing there dumbfounded and unconvinced.
It took all the courage of this and my past lives to re-enter my hut and to my relief when I did the rat was nowhere to be seen.
Initially of course I couldn’t sleep. Every sound I heard fired my imagination and convinced me the rat had returned to take care of unfinished business.
After a few hours of cat napping I got up, showered and went to the restaurant.
It was obvious from the whispers and smirks that word had got around about the story of the mouse in the farang’s hut.
It seemed everybody was talking about me and how a mouse scared the big farang.
I usually spent an hour or so of tan time on the beach in the morning but on that morning I chose not too lest one of the gardener’s children kick sand in my face.
I felt so emasculated I might as well walked around wearing a diaper, a bonnet and clutching a large lolly pop.
After hiding from everyone the rest of the day, that night I took the mini-bus to Pattaya. Instead of sitting on the front seat with the driver as I usually did, I sat on the seat at the back usually reserved for children, the elderly…and the cowardly.
Walking around Pattaya thinking about the events of the previous evening, I wondered how I was going to cope without sleep and the possibility of another visit from the rat for my last 4 nights at the resort.
I sorely needed some form of protection; and went looking for it.
I found it slumped and disinterested in the corner of a small poorly lit bar in Soy 6 run by a slow-moving rather obese German and his granite faced Thai wife.
It was one of those bars that had a 6AM to 8AM reprobates happy hour and a Continental Breakfast special.
Her name was Noy and she was somewhat surprised when I motioned her over; not that I’m a Brad Pitt lookalike. She was built like a Samoan rugby player who for a time also plied the pro-wrestling circuit.
She had a pleasant appearance, a nice smile, despite missing an incisor, and a laugh that would cause 100 feeding sea-gulls to take flight
She looked as though she could eat tiny raw red chillies by the handful, wash it down with bath tub distilled Thai rice whisky, and whip a congress of motorbike taxi drivers into submission: and all at the same time.
I deemed her perfect for my needs.
Let the rat intimidate me and the resort staff mock me now!
When we arrived at my hut I pushed the bed against the wall, which got me a raised eyebrow and knowing smile from Noy. Little did she know I was (unashamedly) using her as a buffer between myself and the rat; should it return.
So by day I watched her eat, and by night I huddled behind Noy like one would lay behind a small dune in a sandstorm and I slept blissfully for the last 4 nights at the resort.
Despite the language gap Noy turned out to be good fun; a really nice caring funny lady. I really enjoyed the 4 days with her.
She drank all my duty-free liquor and ran up a seafood bill that had the local fisherman seriously considering having a festival in her honour.
As an aside, while looking at the food bill I was reminded of a pearl of wisdom dispensed to me by a sage long ago:
unless you are rich, never take a lady with fat ankles to dinner
But what the hell, she probably saved my life.
As for the rat, I hoped it crossed paths with a large Burmese python or the Bangkok to Sattahip bus.
The author can be contacted at : [email protected]
The author can be contacted at : [email protected]