Fishing For Squid In The Gulf of Thailand
So me and a couple of other guys chartered a boat to go out at night and jig for squid. Actually, I didn’t get the boat, and neither did the guys – it was the Thai girlfriends that did the deed. You never know, when you leave these kinds of things up to them, just how much you’re being ripped off. The girls like to say that they can get a better deal on anything than us big, hairy, dumb farangs – the Thais just naturally want to gyp us when they see us coming. So say the Thai girlfriends. And I must say that my experience has taught me that any time more than a thousand baht is on the line the Thais get kinda grabby and pushy if they’re dealing with me, a farang. The smiles go away and the eyes shrink down to black pebbles. Who can blame them? To some Thais a thousand baht is a week’s wages.
My gf proclaims to all the world that she is interested only in doing good; that her heart swells with joy when she can swing a deal on a motor scooter or an apartment for a farang friend. But what I also notice is that after the deal is set she gets a cash gift from the seller.
So as I stepped aboard the S.S. Sweatband I couldn’t help wondering how much of my jack she was getting back from the boat’s owner – a wizened little monkey who had exactly two teeth in his head and wore a t-shirt that advertised the Full Moon Karaoke Bar with a lurid airbrush rendering of a saucy Thai wench curled around a pole like a viper. Not that I care a rat’s patootie about such pornographic art, mind you; it’s just that I was momentarily distracted and missed the gangplank my first time around. I got onto the boat just fine after they fished me out of the drink.
The problem, of course, was now I stunk like the water in the Ban Phe bay. And let me tell you something, laddy; the Thai nautical fragrance near shore is one of the most powerful olfactory sensations this side of a polecat nibbling Limburger cheese. That’s because of all the fish and squid they have drying out in the sun, and they don’t screen it, either. There are flies and bugs all over the shrinking, darkening flesh. Plus a boatload of durian husks is always somewhere near, which adds that piquant touch so cherished by gas chamber enthusiasts.
After we got out of the harbor and beyond the rip rap barrier I had Captain Monkey hose me down from the pump and felt as fresh as a spittoon. The smell was gone, anyways.
Next on the agenda was to bait up the squid jigs. It was a choppy night, the S.S. Sweatband was small and unstable, and so it is not to be wondered at that I dug several rusty hooks deep into the palm of my hand within the first minute of this attempt. Luckily, the good Captain had the standard Thai First Aid kit onboard: a bottle of rice whisky, a box of cotton swabs, and a piece of muslin that may have been part of Queen Victoria’s night shift. He cleaned and bound my hand skillfully, and then the electric generator went out, leaving us in pitch darkness, rolling on the waves.
Others might curse their luck and rage at the gods for such misfortune. But not I. A good crying jag was how I handled the situation, until the power was restored and we discovered our hamper full of fried chicken and sticky rice had upset and rolled into the scuppers.
This is when our Thai girlfriends proved their worth. They pitched right in, blaming us stupid farangs for losing all the goodies. Arms akimbo, their eyes mere slits of malice, they categorically told us how our useless, beastly, lives had intersected with theirs for the kind of karma usually reserved for mass murderers. The only thing that saved us farang men from a keelhauling was that the beer had been kept intact, on ice. The girls dived into it with gusto, forgetting all about us poor, hungry galoots. Wisely, we said nothing in reply to their accusations, but went back to the grueling labor of sticking little gobs of pink something-or-other on the squid jigs.
When we reached our destination out in the trackless wastes of water, the Captain turned on the searchlight and aimed it down into the depths. In a trice there were thousands of cephalopods writhing in the pool of light. We happily threw in our jigs and hauled squid back in by the hundreds. Two hours later, exhausted, slimy, and delirious with pleasure, we quit, and the skipper turned off the light as we headed back to shore. The gf’s, having consumed all the beer, were snoring pacifically on coils of rope and copra mats.
Back at the pier we hoisted the squid up out of the boat and into the hands of an elderly hag who we contracted with to sundry the squid for us in return for a portion of the catch. Now we would have ample supplies of calamari for seafood curries. This was an important part of our pleasure cruise, since the salary of an English teacher in Thailand, while adequate, needs frugal nursing to stretch over the school vacation months.
We had been out all night, simple men fighting against the raging marine elements, and we had come back triumphant, with food to feed our loved ones. As the sun burst over the nearby hills to sweep the sky with magenta images of castles and dragons, our girlfriends began to whimper for the love of Buddha get me a cup of coffee!
We trooped off to the coffee bar, the girls haggard and wan, we men all feeling like Ernest Hemmingway – hairy chested and alive.
Had Papa Hemmingway ever spent time in Thailand, he might have written some interesting books:
For Whom the Squid Tolls
A Farewell to BahtThe Old Man and the Young Thai GF