See You Later

FREE short story set in Bangkok by Colin Devonshire

See You Later

“Are you coming tonight?” Jake asked. He guessed the answer but didn’t want to hear it confirmed.

Johnny turned with a smirk and that ‘you’ve gotta be joking’ look.

“Come on, it’ll be fun.” Knowing it wouldn’t be fun for his best mate.

A garish purple and green taxi pulled up. The window lowered. “Where you go?” The driver asked in his best English.

Jake looked at Johnny. “Well?”

“You go on. Maybe I’ll join you later,” Johnny answered, pushing his mate into the cab. They had been putting in the hours, selling non-existent shares in non-existent companies. It was Friday night, bonus night. Jake at least, felt they deserved to celebrate with a few beers. Better still Champagne, but where he planned on visiting, don’t stock any. Their wine came in tacky boxes.

The taxi pulled away. Jake’s ‘Fuck you then’, middle finger salute earned a brief smile from Johnny. He walked on through the busy crowd of office workers mixing with a smattering of tourists hunting street-side bargains of fake designer shirts and shoes. Johnny earned enough to buy the genuine gear from Bangkok’s upmarket stores. He didn’t.

Turning left, between two high-end boutiques, he was soon away from five-star tourist traps, bank head offices, and glitzy hotels, he was where rats lived side by side with three-legged dogs and cats with broken tails, and his friend, Busaba. She was dying.

“Hello, Khun Maah, how is your daughter?” Johnny’s spoken Thai was enough for day-to-day conversation.

Khun Maah’s tears said enough.

Johnny moved to the back room, he caught his breath, Busaba chest rose and fell. She was gasping for air, eyes shut, the nasal tubes and clear plastic face mask barely moved as the rasping oxygen intake agony for the once beautiful girl.

Unashamedly, tears ran down his cheeks. He looked around at her mother, his words would not come. 

“Khun Johnny, thank you for all you’ve done for her. All the medicine, and the oxygen machine, everything. It’s not working.”

“Let me take her to the hospital?”

“It’s too late. The doctor came earlier. There is nothing they can do. Better she dies here.”

Johnny thought back to one month ago. Jake fired her with the words, “You are no good to this company, here one day, sick the next. Better you find a new position. Goodbye.”

Busaba, too proud to cry in the office, merely touched Johnny’s hand as she walked past.

She had dated Johnny for a month before telling him of her mother’s tough life, how she bowed and scraped to get her through school and finally completing her accountancy degree. How she had sold the family Buddha image to buy clothes suitable for office work. How she owed her mum the world, only to fall sick. Her sister, older by a year, didn’t finish school, she worked to help her mum and little sister. She wasn’t proud of her job. She worked in a bar, offering drinks and extras. When Busaba started a job and soon after found a boyfriend, she treated herself to a rare gift. A glow in the dark fluorescent tattoo.

“I want to end Busaba’s misery,” Khun Maah said.

“What do you mean?”

Johnny knew.

Khun Maah looked at the electric switch. Johnny followed her glance to the emergency generator, thinking what a lifesaver it had been in the regular power cuts. 

“I’m a Buddhist. I cannot take life,” she said.

“You mean…”

Johnny knelt and grabbed Busaba’s right hand, Khun Maah held her left, tears flowed. Briefly, Busaba smiled and opened her eyes. She mouthed goodbye in Thai, then English before closing her eyes.

The generator chugged to a stop.

Johnny kissed her forehead, his wai to her, then he turned to her mother, repeating the gesture, the most painful actions he had ever experienced. Khun Maah got busy on her battered phone, she spoke to a monk about funeral arrangements. Johnny grabbed a container of powerful painkillers and slipped it into his pocket. Ducking, he went past the three-legged canine back to the flashy high street and signalled a taxi.

He steeled himself before tapping a number on his phone.

“At last. Are you coming?” asked Jake. “What the hell have you been up to?”

“Oh, nothing much, I’m on my way.”

“That girl with the fluorescent tattoos is here. Waiting for you!”

“Good, I want to speak to her,” said Johnny.

“Only talk, haha,” smirked Jake.

A few minutes later Johnny straightened his shirt, checked his cheeks were dry, and marched into the seedy club, offering huge fake smiles all around.

“Ah-ha, here he is. Get us two more beers. Make sure they are cold this time.”

Jake eased the scantily clad lass from his lap. 

“Now, let us enjoy that bonus,” Jake shouted. The pounding hip-hop music failed to drown his excitement.

Beer bottles clinked. “Heres to another big bonus,” said Jake.

“I’m looking for a little extra tonight, where is the flashing tattoo lady?”

“She’s waiting for you. I told her you were coming. Here she comes with our beers.”

Tilak, ja,” she joked with Johnny.

Johnny smiled and winked. 

“I need to talk to you. Wait until I signal you,” he said in Thai, knowing Jake never learned the language.

She skipped back to the bar, tattoo glistening with the strobe.

“Fancy a short?” Johnny asked.

“Why not, brandy and coke?”

Jake turned and gave the order to his conquest. Johnny undid the container in his pocket and counted out six of the pills. Jake’s ‘friend’ returned with a small bottle of Sang Som, two bottles of coke and an ice bucket. She mixed the drinks, then kissed Jake, long and hard. Johnny used the ice claws to smash his pills to powder. The powder sprinkled in Jakes’s glass. Then the girl broke from Jake’s embrace, pecked his nose, and started stirring the drinks, handing them to her customers.

“Cheers,” said Johnny, as he downed his glass in one. Jake copied. The girl was already mixing the next glass.

Before the brandy bottle and pill container were empty, Jake was empty of life. His girl tutted, “Drunk foreigners,” and stalked off. Johnny signalled Miss Tattoo across.

“He is dead. Don’t panic. He deserved it. Your sister died tonight. It was his fault,” pointing at his ex-friend. “You and your bouncer friend get rid of his body. As a payment for that service, you keep his diamond studded Rolex, his gold chains, rings and his credit cards. I know the ATM numbers, they are his birth year. So, for ridding the club of, what looks like a drunk, you can profit nicely. If your mother needs anything, she has my number.”

Miss Tattoo was fighting tears. She sloped to her bouncer pal, when they returned to the table, Jake held a piece of paper in his teeth, bank code numbers.

There was no sign of Johnny. He never returned.


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